[ Note: This post consists of 13 photographs with captions. All photos were taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone and post-processed with Faststone Image Viewer. ]
TUESDAY 01 – MONDAY 14 November
[ Note: This post consists of 13 photographs with captions. All photos were taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone and post-processed with Faststone Image Viewer. ]
TUESDAY 01 – MONDAY 14 November
[ Note: This post covers updates on the accessory building (barn) project for the 14 days from Tuesday, October 18 through Monday, October 31, 2022. There are three photos with captions. ]
TUESDAY 18 October
The accessory building (barn) is so close to being done that I am getting a bit impatient for it to actually be finished. Which is to say, to have all of the stuff the builder is taking care taken care of. Once he is done, there will still be a lot for us to do, but most of it cannot be started until all the permitted details are complete and he has gotten the final inspections. Top of the list, for me, is all of the electrical work that I still have to do, and the first step is arranging for our electric utility, DTE Energy, to run power to the building. I put in my service request with them on Wednesday, October 12, and expected to hear back from a planning consultant not later than tomorrow. I now have to design the electrical plan, which I will do in QCAD (the same software I used to design the building).
In the meantime, the one thing I can do is prime and paint the walls in the shop and storeroom, as well as the risers on the stairs, and then prime and paint the floor in the storeroom and the treads on the stairs.
WEDNESDAY 19 October
The HVAC technician (Mike) from Lakeside Services (Lakeside Heating and Cooling) arrived around 1 PM today to service the Bosch hot-water baseboard heating system for the house, and the heating portion of the Bryant HVAC unit for the library. He was here until about 3:30 PM.
I spent most of the day at my desk working on the final post for our trip and a parallel post for the activities this past week related to the accessory building (barn) project. I knew that the electrician might be here sometime this week, and by mid-afternoon I had it in the back of my mind that I should check to see if he was on site. I went outside around 2:45 PM and saw several vehicles down by the barn, so I walked down to check it out. I could hear the unmistakable sound of a circular saw, so figured it was probably not the electrician. I was right.
What I found instead were three vehicles and three carpenters. The crew chief was Rob, who is Patriot Builders lead finish carpenter. (Chuck, the owner, is a framing carpenter, and Garrett, who I met last week, does both framing and finish work.) A bit to my surprise, they were installing OSB on the inside of the studs for the sides of the staircase, and also installing OSB on the interior of the shop and storeroom walls. I had not realized they were going to finish off the stairs, and had (apparently) forgotten that they were going to finish off the walls. All of which was great. I had a brief, but very nice, chat with Rob and then left them to work in peace without any more interference from me. I texted Chuck to let him know the guys were here and that I met them briefly.
THURSDAY 20 October
Sometime around this date the DTE planning consultant assigned to our work order showed up on site (unannounced). I was in the middle of painting, but obviously stopped to give him whatever time he needed. We had a very nice chat about what I was trying to accomplish. By the time he left, it was clear that he wanted to have DTE run power to the barn from the same transformer that powers the house. It also appeared that he had determined that we needed a larger transformer, but also needed a new utility pole, possibly taller than the current one, located within ~5 feet of the current one. As best he could tell from the ground, he thought our current transformer was 10KVA and said something about switching it to a 25KVA. He indicated that wire from the junction box to the barn would be $10/foot (I would need close to 100 feet) and there would be a charge for the new/larger transformer, but probably not more than $1,500.
I pointed out that the house already has a 240V/200A main load center and 240V/100A, secondary load center (not a subpanel), and that the barn would have a 240V/200A load center as well. I noted that 24KVA is only 100A at 240V (or 200A at 120V), so a 25KVA transformer would still be far below the capacity of my three load centers, and that my total existing loads exceed the load center capacities. This is actually typical, as load centers never draw their full rating, and probably rarely draw half of their full rating for more than a short period of time. Still, as long as we are going to the trouble and expense of doing this work, I wanted to make sure the new transformer was adequately sized. (My research later revealed that the next size up from DTE is 50KVA.)
As I understood the order of events, it would go something like this: 0) Get confirmation that the meter can, load center, and an outlet have been installed in the barn by a licensed electrician and the installation has been inspected and approved by the permitting authority (Livingston County Building Department, in this case). 1) Deliver new pole to the site. 2) Install the new pole, transformer, and terminal strip. 3) Install a junction box in the ground about 5 feet from the new pole. 4) Disable the power to the existing transformer. 5) Move the existing wires to the new pole. 6) Run wires from the new transformer to the terminal strip. 6) Run new/large wires down the pole from the terminal strip to the junction box. 7) Connect the existing wires from the house to the junction box. 8) Pull the new wires for the barn from the meter box to the junction box. (I will have the 2” PVC conduit already installed in a trench.) 9) Install the new meter for the barn. 10) Energize the new transformer.
He indicated that it would likely be a month before this got done, but to get the process moving along, and provide me with the cost estimate, he needed the LOAD SHEET, asap. He also ‘suggested’ that I include any/every thing I thought I ‘might’ possible ever want to power. I got the sense that this LOAD SHEET was part of a justification/approval process for the cost of whatever work has to be done, determining what our share of that initial cost will be, and what payback the utility company can expect.
I already had the LOAD SHEET pdf, and it indicated that most of it has to be filled out and signed by a licensed electrician. I explained that the meter can and load center were being handled by the builder’s electrician, but that I did not have my own electrician for the job. I explained that I have an EE background, but am not an electrician, and asked it would suffice for me to fill it out myself? He didn’t say ‘no,’ which I took to mean ‘yes,’ or at least ‘okay, not great, but I’ll work with that.’ He also made it clear he needed it sooner rather than later.
From this meeting forward, I continued painting during the day when it was warm enough and I had some daylight to work with. In the evenings, I worked on determining the loads I would need to power and filling in the LOAD SHEET.
FRIDAY 21 October
The floor joists for the storeroom floor are exposed on the underside in the shop, and I do not plan to install a flat ceiling onto them. With that in mind, I thought it might be easier to prime/paint the joists and the underside of the OSB storeroom floor with a paint sprayer. I don’t own one and have never used one. Thinking this might be a one-time use, not wanting to spend a fortune, and not having an air-compressor with adequate CFM or an oil/water separator/filter, I got a Wagner Control Pro 130 airless sprayer at the local Lowe’s. I chose Killz-2 for the latex primer and Valspar Pro Storm Coat semi-gloss acrylic latex for the paint. Even though I will be using the paint inside, this exterior paint is formulated to deal with outdoor temperatures with cracking. It can also be applied down to 35 degrees (F), so well suited to what I needed to accomplish given the time of year.
FRIDAY 28 October
Towards the end of the afternoon, I finally uploaded the LOAD SHEET to my DTE planning consultant, along with an Excel Spreadsheet I had created to catalog my current and future loads, both for the house and for the barn.
MONDAY 31 October
For the balance of this post, I am going to just include a few photos.
[ Note: This is an update post on the accessory building (barn) we had built while we were traveling in Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England. It is long, and contains 12 photos with captions. ]
TUESDAY 11 October
Our barn builder (Chuck) was due to come by today to meet with his insulation sub-contractor (Mike), and then meet with us. He texted me mid-morning to let me know that he and Mike would be here at 11:30 AM. Mike got here first, so I walked down to the barn and introduced myself. Chuck showed up a few minutes later. The three of us looked at the insulation part of the job, and discussed a few options. When it sounded like we were all on the same page, I left them to discuss business.
We were not insulating the entire barn (that would be a big/expensive job), but we were insulating the shop room on the main floor and the storage room above it. The original plan was to spray foam the walls of both rooms with closed cell foam, and use blown-in insulation above the ceiling of the storeroom. After talking it through, Chuck and Mike agreed that it made more sense to go ahead and spray foam the top side of the storeroom ceiling, which would have a layer of OSB on the underside anyway. That would make the entire envelope for the two rooms really tight against air infiltration or leakage, so I was OK with that change. (Note that the floor of the shop is concrete with 4” of foam insulation underneath. The floor of the storeroom is plywood, and the joists are exposed and will not be insulated.)
Once Chuck and Mike were done, and Mike took off, Chuck, Linda and I walked the barn. It was the first time since we left on our trip that we were able to talk to him face-to-face, and in the barn. We had a few questions, which he answered, and there were a few details to discuss, which we did, and he gave us an approximate timeline to finish the job.
There was a modest list of smaller things that needed to be done, including removal of some of the OSB that currently enclosed part of the underside of the stairs to the storeroom (which my plans indicated should be open on both sides). Most of the tasks should be completed by the end of October, but the job won’t be completely finished until the two large roll-up bay doors are installed sometime in November, the driveway and finish grading are completed, and the final inspections have taken place. The driveway and grading work will happen as soon as Phil (Precision Grading) is available and the weather allows the work to be done properly.
Chuck indicated that the next building inspection might happen as soon as this coming Friday, but the storeroom ceiling had to be installed before the insulation could be installed. The insulation will likely be installed early next week (if the storeroom ceiling is in), followed not too long after that by the electrician, who has to install the meter can, the 200A distribution panel, and one electrical outlet (per code). The tunnels and diffusers for the four sun tunnels still have to be installed, along with three insulated entry doors: The main entrance (between the two big bay doors) and the doors for the shop and storeroom.
WEDNESDAY 12 October
The lead carpenter (Garrett, I think) and his two assistants were here today, so I walked down and introduced myself. By the time I got to the barn, they had already installed the OSB ceiling in the storeroom, including the sun-tunnel and diffuser, and were working on cutting out the portion of the OSB on the sides below the staircase that I wanted removed. I spite of having just the door opening (no windows) there was enough light to see clearly. Artificially lighting will be needed, of course, but I was pleased with the effectiveness of the sun-tunnel/diffuser. I only stayed a few minutes as they were clearly busy. I texted Chuck to let him know they were here and that I had met them briefly.
THURSDAY 13 October
Yesterday, I finally managed to get on the DTE website and locate the information I needed on the process/procedure for getting electrical power to the barn. I had printed off the instructions and called one of the indicated numbers, but it was already after hours, so I had to wait until today to pursue this further.
After breakfast I made the call to DTE. Actually, there were two phone numbers, one for commercial and one for residential. I called the commercial number first, as that’s what the instructions seemed to indicate I needed to do. The voice menu made it fairly obvious that this number was for builders and I needed to call the residential number, so I did.
I spent about 15 – 20 minutes with Jennifer, the customer service representative, at the end of which time I had a work order number and a phone number for the service center. She said to give them four business days to contact me, but to call them if I had not heard from them by then. She reiterated the information in the website instructions: I will have an initial phone call with a planning consultant and then do whatever I need to do as a result of that. There will then be a site visit, after which we will have costs and then make decisions and service commitments. Getting power to the barn is a big deal, and doing it in the best, but also most economical, way is important to the overall project, both in terms of capability and cost. There are really only two main options: 1) Have DTE run a cable to the barn from a transformer, or 2) Pull a cable from the house to the barn. This second option does not involve DTE directly, unless we would need to upgrade the power to the house, which is likely.
I think the most straight-forward approach would be to run power directly to the barn from the existing pole that feeds the house. (This pole is actually closer to the barn connection point, at 88.5 feet, than it is to the house service entrance, at 95.5 feet.) DTE might be able to piggyback off the existing transformer, install a larger transformer as a replacement for the current one and then piggyback the two feeds, or install a second transformer just for the barn.
Regardless of those options, which would be determined by DTE, we would end with a second meter. Our neighbor has this exact setup, and the readings from the two meters are combined into a single residential rate bill. The main disadvantage is that we would not have any backup power to the barn, at least initially, if the grid goes down. That would be a major issue in terms of a heating system for the shop and storeroom, and more minor issue for the chargers that maintain the batteries in the bus and travel trailer.
The main advantage to pulling power from the house is that we have a 20 KW Kohler whole-house backup generator with grid-monitoring and an automatic-transfer switch. One of the downsides, however, is that the closest straight-line distance between the house (garage) and barn is ~155 feet, and the required wire run could be 30 to 40 feet longer than that. That’s a long run, and would require really large size wires in order to properly support the 240V/200A main distribution panel in the barn. The other downside, which relates to the first, is that we already have a 240V/200A main distribution panel (for the house) and 240V/125A main distribution panel (for the garage and library). I doubt that the existing service entrance cable from the transformer to the house is adequate for that total (525A) potential load. Of course, some of the loads will be shifting location as I relocate the shop from the garage to the barn, and the reality is that we never draw anything close to 325A now. And we never will, but everything has to be sized correctly to work safely as a system. It’s going to be an interesting process, regardless of the final solution.
FRIDAY 14 October
Around breakfast time, I got a call back from Sharon in the DTE Northwest Planning office. She confirmed that the work order for my service request had been created, and verified my information. She followed that up with an e-mail giving me the name and contact information for the planning consultant (John) who will work with me. She requested that I send/e-mail him a site plan and that it identify the location of the current electrical service (pole/transformer) and distances to the house (existing) and barn (new).
We were outside working on the trailer when a vehicle pulled in the driveway by the barn. I suspected from the lettering on the doors that it was the Livingston County building inspector, who Chuck had indicated might be here this week, so I walked down and introduced myself. He needed the approved plans for the building, which I did not have, but then he spotted the 2’ long piece of 4” plastic pipe with the rubber end caps, and surmised that the plans were probably in there. I had picked up this tube on Monday when I saw it, but it was very light and I don’t recall opening it to see what was inside. It was, indeed, the plans for the project, which were required to be on site at all times.
I was helpful, to the extent I could be, but was careful not to say too much as I was not the builder and the permits were not issued to me. The inspector was confused initially by a notation about a 12×42 something, until I explained that the building was sitting on 12”W x 42”D trenched concrete footing. He then had a moments hesitation when he realized the 16’ tall 6×6 engineered posts did not extend below the surface of the concrete. (I think he was expecting this to be a pole barn.) Again, based on my conversation with Chuck on Tuesday, I was able to explain the anchoring system used to secure the posts. The only thing he found, and wrote up as a “deficiency,” was the lack of proper handrails on the stairs going up to the storeroom. Deficiencies do not halt the project, but have to be taken care of before the final inspection.
I texted Chuck to let him know the inspector had been there and what he had cited. Chuck called me back to discuss handrail options and we agreed on a straight wooden handrail with a gripable profile that could be applied to the top of the 2×4 cap that is already in place.
SATURDAY 15 October
My existing site plan for the barn project did not include the existing utility pole location, or distances to the house and barn service entrance points, that DTE needed, so I spent part of the day modifying my QCAD drawing to include those features. Although I had determined the location and this pole, and the approximate distances involved, on more than one occasion, I was unable to immediately put my hands on that information. It was thus easier, and less time consuming, at that point to get my 100’ tape measure and a stake, and just measure it again.
The distance to the service entrance point near the southeast corner of the barn was ~88’6” and the distance to the house service entrance point (southwest corner of the garage) was ~95’6”. I had previously told DTE the distance to the barn was less than 100’, so I was relieved that this was actually the case. Also, as the service entrance points were now both known locations, knowing the distances from each of them to the pole allowed me to draw auxiliary circles centered on each point with the corresponding radii, and thus accurately locate the pole on the drawing. (I was pleased that the pole ended up adjacent to the north side of the west driveway, where it is actually located.) While I was at it, I marked the (approximate) location of the other three utility poles on our property, as well as the pole just off our property near the northwest corner, and added notations for some of the other things on the drawing. (The distribution line was already shown, as was the location of the Consumers Energy gas line.) Once I was satisfied with the revised drawing, I saved it as a QCAD dwg file, and then again as an 11×17 PDF. I then e-mailed the PDF to John, the DTE planning consultant.
SUNDAY 16 October
Today was Sadie’s 4th birthday party for family at her parents’ house in Ann Arbor. (Her “Buddies party” was last weekend at Domino Farms). On the drive home in the afternoon (Linda was driving) I texted Phil at Precision Grading, to let him know we were home and to check on the completion of the driveway and finish grading for the barn, as well as the possible timing for redoing our French Drain in the valley behind the house. Phil has done all of our driveway and septic tank work since we bought the house, and built a French Drain for the west portion of our property that works really well. But he is also the sub-contractor for the excavating, grading, and driveway work on the accessory building. Indeed, Phil referred us to Chuck (the builder).
MONDAY 17 October
I had to drop-off the Airstream at the dealership in Grand Rapids today. When I got home at 3 PM, there were two trucks and a trailer in the driveway by the accessory building (barn). I suspected it was the insulation sub-contractor, as Chuck (the builder) had said last week that they would probably be here early this week. I walked down to see, and that was, indeed, the case. They were in the middle of spraying closed-cell foam in the shop, however, so I did not linger or talk to anyone.
I went back down later when it appeared they were finished spraying, and got to see the finished result of their work. I was also able to chat with Mike (the owner) and his assistant for bit while they were cleaning up the site and packing up their equipment. Per his agreement with Chuck (the builder), Mike had foamed the walls to ~2” thick and the space above the storeroom ceiling to ~3” thick. He had actually sprayed the exterior walls (two for each room) slightly thicker and the interior walls (two for each room) slightly thinner to maintain an ~2” average use of material.
Although I would have liked a thicker application of the spray foam everywhere, it would have cost more and wasn’t really necessary for the intended use of these spaces. For much of the winter they will be maintained at 40 – 45 degrees (F) except when I want/need to work out there, and the amount of spray foam that is there will allow me to do that fairly economically.
Phil (Precision Grading) called me around dinner time and we had a nice, long chat. We don’t talk too often, as Phil is a very busy one-man business and works long hours, but we always have a good conversation when we speak. Phil has done all of our driveway and septic tank work since we bought the house in February 2013. He recommended Chuck (Patriot Builders) for our accessory building project, and is the sub-contractor for all of the excavating, grading, and driveway construction. I also have him lined up to replace the failing drain in the valley behind the house with a properly constructed French Drain to get the water away from that part of the yard and out to the wetland at the northeast corner of our property and then into the pond to our east. That was one of the reasons I had texted him yesterday.
[ Note: This is a long post without any photographs. There will be a separate update post, with photos and captions, about the accessory building (barn) project. ]
TUESDAY 11 October
The driving portion of our grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England ended yesterday, but the trip itself wasn’t really over until all of the post-trip tasks had been completed. This post covers the seven (7) days following our arrival back home. A big part of returning home, of course, was the accessory building (barn) we were having built in our absence, but I will cover things related to that in separate, ongoing posts.
Top of the list was emptying out the trailer and moving back into the house, much of which we did as soon as we got home, and some of which I described in the post for October 10. But there was a great deal more to do than I described there, and today we continued with the “things that must be done.”
Foremost for us was washing and Walbernizing the Airstream, as the weather forecast was for a dry, partly sunny day with an afternoon high temperature in the 70s (F). But it wasn’t the only thing on the list; high on my list was laundry. After coffee and bagels for breakfast, I sorted the soiled laundry into the requisite categories (white-hot, white-cold, dark-warm, dark-cold, bedding/linens-warm, and blankets/bedspreads-cold), and put the white-hot load in the washing machine.
Washing the Airstream wasn’t a matter of simply turning on the outside water. I had to get the tall (8’) step ladder out of the shed, along with the 100’ hose/reel and one of the wheelbarrows (to use for moving stuff between the trailer and the garage). We have a 2-tank water deionizing system, so I had to get that out of the library. Other items included: McGuire’s Automotive soap; the spray nozzle for the hose; the long-handle brush; the bucket for soap; and the medium (6’) step ladder, all of which had to be moved from the garage to the wash area in the driveway in front of the house (where the water faucet is located, and the gravel drains well). And, I still needed to empty the three outside storage bays in the trailer, and empty out the back of the F-150. Linda helped with many of these tasks, of course.
On top of all that, our barn builder (Chuck) was due to come by today to meet with his insulation sub-contractor (Mike), and then meet with us. He texted me mid-morning to let me know that he and Mike would be here at 11:30 AM. Tuesday was also grass mowing day, so our lawn care guy (Keith) would be showing up sometime around noon. We have not seen him since the Tuesday just before we left in June, so we knew there would be some catching-up conversation. Besides maintaining the yard, Keith had sent occasional photos of the progress on the barn. At a minimum, he had already mowed more times than we prepaid, so we owed him payment for services rendered.
But I digress. We wrapped up our conversation with Chuck, as described in the separate post on the barn project, and he went on to his next appointment. By then, it was lunch time, so we had grilled cheese sandwiches. Very tasty. I transferred the laundry from the washing machine to the clothes dryer, and then we turned our full attention to washing the trailer.
While not as big as the bus, it was still a lot of work. I started with the roof (of course), which required me to work from the 8’ ladder. Even then, it was sometimes an uncomfortable reach to get to some of the areas, and almost impossible to reach others. For as streamlined as the Airstream trailer is, the roof is littered with stuff that is not very aerodynamic, and is hard to clean. Too make matters more difficult, walking on the roof is ill-advised, and you have to be very careful where you step.
Linda stayed on the ground (she doesn’t like ladders) and managed the soap bucket, brush, and hose. The procedure was as follows: climb the ladder, get the hose from Linda, spray an area, give the hose back to her, get the soapy brush from her, scrub the rinsed area, give the brush back to her, get the hose from her, rinse the area I just washed, and give the hose back to her. Climb down the ladder, move it to the next location, and repeat; at least a dozen times, probably more.
(Once we have the bus and the trailer in the barn, I will be buying a taller step-ladder, probably 14 feet, and some sort of adjustable platform that can go between two ladders to provide a stable work surface. Alternatively, I might but some scaffolding with wheels.)
Once the roof and the end caps were done, I could reach the rest of the body from the ground. Working from the top down, I did the upper half and then the lower half. (This is not true for the bus, as the upper half still requires a ladder or work platform.)
We were busy enough all day that I wasn’t keeping a close watch on the time. I think we actually started washing the trailer around 1 PM and finished sometime around 5 PM, but that included an extended time-out to chat with Keith. It was probably 5:30 PM or later by the time we had cleaned up our equipment and put everything away. But the trailer was clean and ready for the Walbernize One-Step Cleaner & Sealer.
AMAZON was having their 2-day pre-something-or-other event today and tomorrow, so Linda put some things in our cart. Among them was a new 2-slice toaster with openings wide enough to toast bagels. It also had a bagel setting, so it would only toast on one side, essential for proper bagel toasting. She also ordered a new frying pan, some baking sheets, and a pair of adjustable carbon-fiber walking/trekking poles. I had been keeping an eye on a propane tank level monitoring kit. It was still available, and still on sale for the same price I had seen previously, so I investigated a bit further into how it actually worked. It turned out to use sonar, and was made by a company that makes various products using this technology for industrial applications, so I put it in the cart as well.
As I did not finish the post for this day until a week later, I no longer recall what we had for dinner, but whatever it was, I’m sure it was delicious, as always. Being Tuesday, after dinner we watched the FBI shows on CBS.
WEDNESDAY 12 October
The forecast for today was for intermittent rain with cooler temperatures and overcast skies. We had planned to treat the exterior aluminum on the trailer today with the Walbernize One-Step RV Cleaner & Sealer, but the weather was not conducive, either to the task or to our mood for doing it. We were both a bit tired after the last two days, and decided to take it easier today. Besides, I still had laundry to do, and wanted to work at my desk for a while to wrap up my blog post for Monday (October 10th).
I needed to get the F-150 in for service, specifically to have the brakes checked/repaired, so I called Brighton Ford and made that appointment for Monday 24 October. We also needed to pick up Linda’s car, and our mail, from our daughter’s house, and drop off some gifts we had picked up in our travels. Linda contacted her to check on timing and the reply was “any time after noon.” It’s a nice, 45-minute, drive in the country to get to her house, so we timed our departure to arrive around 12:30 PM.
Before we left, however, I noticed a blue car in the driveway by the barn, so I walked down to see who was there. There was at least one other vehicle there, and it was the lead carpenter and his two assistants. I introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes and then I left them to their work, which I will describe in separate posts about the barn project.
We visited with our daughter for a bit, but did not overstay our welcome as she was in the middle of a project. She is redoing floors (wood and tile) and bathrooms (vanities, fixtures, wallpaper, etc.) and has already redone most of the lighting and installed smart switches and dimmers throughout the house. She also put in remote controlled window shades, and has done a lot of painting. She’s incredibly handy, has excellent taste and color sense, and is meticulous in her work.
On the way home, I ran some errands while Linda did some grocery shopping. I topped up the fuel in the F-150 ($4.49 for regular / 87 octane) and then got the truck washed. I used the same drive-through car wash I have used for a long time, but this time the final overhead brush in the drying area bent my antenna in two places. That had never happened before, so something had obviously changed with their equipment. But it won’t happen again, at least not there. I did not even bring it to their attention (there would have been no point) and instead drove directly to Brighton Ford to see if I needed to add this to my service list for the 24th. It turned out to be an easy, user-serviceable, job to replace the antenna, so I went to the parts department to get one. They were on back-order (of course), so I ordered (and paid for) one. I picked up a pair of replacement windshield wiper blades while I was there, and replaced them as soon as I got home.
Back at my desk, I finally managed to get on the DTE website and located the information I needed on the process/procedure for getting electrical power to the barn. I printed off the instructions and called one of the indicated numbers, but it was already after hours, so this had to wait until tomorrow. I will cover the details of this in my accessory building project update post, as all of this has to do with the barn project.
I did contact our friend, and fellow bus owner, Chuck (not-the-builder) to arrange a dinner get-together so we could catch up with him and Barb. Saturday, 5 PM was agreed upon at the La Marsa in Brighton. I also contacted our friend, and my former co-worker, Kate about getting together. Tuesday the 18th was agreed to, with the place TBD. Part of being gone for so long is that we were eager to reconnect with friends and family in person and (hopefully) they with us.
For dinner, we had breaded chicken cutlets, brown rice, and corn, with turkey gravy. All vegan, of course, and all very tasty and satisfying.
After dinner, we had a ZOOM call with Paul and Nancy. They had finally taken delivery of their 2022 Alliance Paradigm 370FB 5th wheel trailer (RV) and had it delivered to the RV park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, where they plan to keep it, and will have it moved in/out of storage seasonally for their use. They had been busy getting the things they needed for it, and getting it set up to live in. It was great to chat again, and get a real-time video tour of the interior. It was very nice, of course.
Wednesday is not one of our regular TV nights, but this past Sunday we missed the 3rd/final episode of Van Der Valk (for the season), so we streamed that. It was followed by an episode of NOVA on Computers and Crime, so we watched that as well, and then went to bed.
THURSDAY 13 October
Today was someone’s 4th birthday; Happy birthday, Sadie Rose! She was in pre-school all day, of course, so a happy birthday Facetime call had to wait until after dinner.
The weather forecast still had a possibility of rain today, so we deferred the Walbernizing of the trailer for another day. Our main focus instead became finishing the job of completely emptying the inside of the Airstream and then thoroughly cleaning the inside as well as everything that had been stored in it, especially items that had to do with food (storage, preparation, consumption, cleaning, etc.). That also included laundry, of course, which I continued to work on. Before that happened, however, I was able to chat with Erich, the Service Manager at Woodland Airstream, about our upcoming appointment and list of issues, most notably the furnace and the transverse hump/bulge/ridge in the kitchen floor.
Breakfast was waffles with some of the Maple Butter we got at Domaine Acer in the Gaspé Peninsula. It was just as delicious as we remembered, and brought us back briefly to the wonderful discovery of that place and its products.
After breakfast, I called the DTE phone number in the instructions. Actually, there were two phone numbers, one for commercial and one for residential. I called the commercial number first. The voice menu made it fairly obvious that it was for builders, and that I needed to call the residential number, which I did. I will cover the details of the conversation, and follow-up actions in my accessory building update post, as all of this had to do with the barn project.
As long as we were on a roll, we both logged in to our MyChart app on our iPads and set up our Annual Medicare Wellness Visits with the HFHS Columbus Medical Center Internal Medicine Department in Novi. Our primary care physician retired in July, so we will both be seeing new, and different, doctors now. I then used the CVS app on my iPad Pro to schedule both of us for our seasonal flu shots and the newest bi-valent CoVID-19 booster next week.
We also did a partial winterization of the fresh water system and the drain traps in the Airstream, which went something like this: Drained the fresh water tank; Opened the hot and cold low point drain valves; Removed the drain plug from the water heater; Used an air-compressor to blow out the fresh water lines and water heater as best we could; Drained the little bit of water in the gray tank (onto the ground); Filled the two sink traps and the shower trap with enough potable antifreeze to make sure some of it ended up in the gray tank; Added potable antifreeze to the toilet flushed it into the black tank, and left some on top of the valve to keep the seal moist. (The reason for the antifreeze in the waste tanks was to keep the knife valves from freezing if there was any residual water left in the tanks.)
Lunch was leftovers (chicken cutlet with gravy, rice, and corn). Yum.
We were done working on the trailer by 5 PM, and ready to quite for the day. We continued to be amazed by how much stuff we had brought into the house and garage as a result of emptying out the trailer and truck. Linda continued to sort and separate stuff, setting aside things she does not intend to put back on board, and ran several loads through the dishwasher. We wanted everything to be clean before we packed/stored it until the next time we use the tailer. And at this point, we do not yet know when that will be, exactly or even approximately.
I was still working on this post the following week, and no longer recall what we had for dinner. Whatever it was, it was undoubtedly good, after which we Facetimed with her Sadie, and sang happy birthday to her.
We didn’t have any Thursday evening TV programs we were watching at this point, so we streamed Masters of the Universe – Dr. Strange: The Multiverse of Madness.
FRIDAY 14 October
Around breakfast time, I got a call back from Sharon in the DTE Northwest Planning office, regarding the service request I had initiated yesterday. More details about this call will be in the separate update post about the accessory building project.
Late morning, we finally got around to putting the Walbernize One-Step RV Cleaner & Sealer on the exterior of the Airstream. It was cooler than we would have liked, and a bit breezy, which wasn’t great. But it was also cloudy, which was good, as the product is not supposed to be applied in direct sunlight. I worked on the upper half of the body, using a ladder, while Linda worked on the lower half from the ground. It was an easy enough product to use: wipe on, let dry to a haze (doesn’t take very long), and wipe off, always working with the grain of the aluminum. The results are always very nice, and the body is slick to the touch afterwards, it’s just a lot of surface area and takes a while.
I was still working this post on Tuesday, the 18th, so I no longer recalled details of what we had to eat today, or other such minor considerations. I do recall that after dinner we watched an episode of Star Wars: ANDOR and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and then the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show. Our tastes in TV and movies are, if nothing else, eclectic.
SATURDAY 15 October
We were finally getting back into our normal “at-home” routine, starting the morning with coffee and our iPads. Saturday mornings are also the weekly breakfast gatherings of members of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC). We did not go today, but I am looking forward to resuming our attendance at these gatherings.
Breakfast was scrambled eggs (Just Egg) with bacon, two slices of toast (expertly toasted in our new toaster), and an orange, split equally between us. There might have been orange juice involved as well, but I don’t recall at this point.
We had enough recyclables to warrant a trip to Recycle Livingston. Our membership had expired last month, so Linda made out a check for the renewal before we left.
My existing site plan for the barn project did not include a few pieces of information that DTE needed. I spent part of the day modifying my QCAD drawing to include those features and e-mailed it to the DTE planning consultant (John). Further details about this will be in the accessory building project update post.
The final task in cleaning the Airstream was to apply 303 Aerospace Protectant for the window and door seals, and adjust one of the window latches. It was chilly outside, so this was a less-than-completely-comfortable task, but I got it done. Except for the seals for the three bay doors; I forgot to do those, and just let it pass for now. The window seals tend to stick, but the bay seals do not, so it was merely for preventative maintenance and could wait until spring.
We both got showers and left around 4:40PM to join our friends, Chuck and Barb, for dinner at La Marsa. It was great to see them again. We were glad we could all fit in dinner as quickly as we did, as they have an early November departure planned for their winter RV resort in Naples, Florida. They plan to be back, however, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, so we should have another opportunity to get together with them yet this year. The meal (food), however, was a disappointment.
We both had Koshary, a dish we have had many times at this, and other La Marsa locations, and it was not as good as normal. The caramelized onions they put on top had been burnt to a crisp and were not tasty. The dish has always included some amount of capellini (angel hair or fine pasta) but this time seemed to be made with spaghetti, which was too thick, and there was too much of it. Linda also thought it had too much tomato paste, so both the taste and texture were “off.” We didn’t complain, but I doubt that we will order it again any time soon. They have other things on the menu that we can eat, and like, so we have not given up on the restaurant. We were reminded, however, of how quickly a restaurant can lose their regular customers if someone is not paying attention to the consistency and quality of the dishes, especially ones (like Koshary) that are both signature items for this chain, and a dish we have never seen on a menu anywhere else.
Back home we watched Father Brown and Midsummer Murders on PBS. Death in Paradise had been moved ahead of Father Brown and Broadchurch, which we had already seen, was put in the 10 PM time slot. It was fabulous (another great Nicola Walker role), but we had no desire to see it a second time. We might have streamed something else instead, but I no longer recall what we did.
SUNDAY 16 October
Today was our grand-daughter Sadie’s family birthday party and brunch. She turned 4-years-old this past Thursday, and it was the first time we were able to see her, and big sister Madeline, (and son, Brendan and daughter-in-law Shawna) in person since we got home. Our daughter (Meghan) and son-in-law (Chris) were there, along with Shawna’s brother, Rob, and his family (Becky, Jack, and Juniper). It was nice to see everyone, the food was wonderful, and the kids made sure it was an energy-filled gathering.
On the drive home (Linda was driving) I texted Phil at Precision Grading, to let him know we were home. Phil has done all of our driveway and septic tank work since we bought the house, and installed a French Drain in the west portion of our property that works really well. But he is also the sub-contractor for the excavating, grading, and driveway work on the accessory building. We are on his future project list to replace the drain in the valley behind the house with a proper French Drain, so I needed to check on that as much as anything else.
At home, I went ahead and put the stinger for the Propride 3P Hitch into the receiver of the F-150 and lined it up with the hitch on the Airstream. Linda then came out and assisted with the actual hitching up process, following the procedure we had now used for almost four months. With the trailer secured to the truck, we removed and stowed the chocks and the tongue jack stand, and the combo was ready to go in the morning. I was going to finally need to use the Lot Bar, which we bought at the same time as the hitch in October 2019, so I made sure I had the necessary tools in the truck to install it once I got to the Airstream dealer tomorrow.
For dinner, Linda prepared home-made Raman from scratch (except for the noodles, of course). It was amazing (naturally), and I suggested it be added to some regular menu rotation for the coming winter months.
Sunday evening is one of our two PBS nights, featuring Masterpiece Theater. Tonight, was the first episode of the new season of Miss Scarlet and the Duke, followed by the premier of the Magpie Murders and then the US premier of Annika, staring Nicola Walker, whose work we have come to really enjoy and respect.
Tomorrow would be an early/busy day for both of us, so I set an alarm on my phone for 7 AM before turning in for the night.
MONDAY 17 October
I took today as the final day of our post trip tasks, as well as the resumption of some of our “at home” routines. My me that meant taking the travel trailer to Woodland Airstream in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the scheduled appointment to take care of our list of service items before the factory warranty expired on November 8, 2022. For Linda, that meant the first trip (of probably many) to Ann Arbor to provide child care for one or both of the younger grand-daughters while their parents worked. Today, that meant watching (playing with) Sadie, as her Montessori pre-school was closed today. She also had to hang around long enough to also spend time with Madeline after she got home from school while dad took Sadie to her ballet class.
I was scheduled to arrive at Woodland Airstream between 10 and 11 AM, and Erich (the service manager) had me on his calendar for around 10:30 AM to go over the repair list. I pulled out of the driveway at 8:15 AM for the approximately 1-hour and 45-minute drive to the northeast side of Grand Rapids, Michigan. There was a light mist as I pulled out, and I drove in and out of rain of varying intensity for the entire trip. I missed the morning rush hour traffic in and around the Lansing, Michigan area, and the trip went smoothly even with occasional construction zones.
I arrived right around 10 AM to a very light-to-intermittent rain, and parked the truck-trailer combo in a convenient spot that was not blocking traffic or parked vehicles. I checked in with Joyce, the service writer, and then checked in with Erich to see if they had chocks and blocks I could use to secure the trailer while I unhooked it. (I did not want to leave my personal chocks or jack stand, if possible.)
It was probably 10:30, or a bit later, by the time I had the truck unhooked and the Lot Bar installed. The Lot Bar is an accessory for the Propride 3P Hitch that allows the trailer to be moved around (at low speed) by a tow vehicle with a conventional trailer ball, such as on an RV dealer’s parking lot (thus the name of the device). Woodland Airstream has several of these devices, but they now charge $50 to install and uninstall them. Which is fair, as it involves some amount of time of their labor to do this if the customer doesn’t take care of it themselves. I didn’t mind doing it, even in the very light rain, as I have had this accessory since we bought the hitch, and had yet to use it. I knew exactly how it had to be installed, but had never actually done it. It was very easy. We never leave home without. In the event that we had to have unexpected repairs attended to while traveling, it is highly unlikely that most RV service facilities would have one.
Erich met with me around 10:45 AM and I walked him through a few of the items on our list that I thought would make more sense if I could just have him look at something while I pointed to the problem area. He was very attentive and, in spite of always being very busy, took the time and gave me his undivided attention. I then met with Joyce to go over the paperwork, sign it, and give her the keys. The estimated time to turn the trailer around was 3 to 4 weeks, but I told her we had no plans to use it again until spring, and it was fine with me if they took the time they needed to address everything correctly. Most of the items were already identified as warranty, but I anticipate there will be things we have to pay for, beyond the winterization. At a minimum, I want to get a couple of spare “sail switches” for the propane furnace and a spare fresh-water pump to carry as spare parts.
I had hoped to chat with Steve, our salesman, but he was tied up with a customer. I was standing near the front door, waiting to see if Steve was going to have a break, but perhaps looking a bit lost, when a gentleman standing there asked if he could help me in any way. Long story short, it was John, the CEO of Woodland Airstream, and the GM of the Grand Rapids location. We had a really nice chat, but since he asked, I shared my concerns about the bulge in the floor. He was confident they would be able to take care of it. I made sure he knew how pleased we were with all of the employees we have interacted with, starting with our very first contact with Steve in August 2019.
Woodland Airstream recently opened a location in Indianapolis, Indiana and John said it was doing very well. I also learned that they are about to break ground on a location in Clarkston, Michigan (much closer to our house) that will allow them to conveniently serve the whole southeast Michigan market, and possibly take in northwest Ohio.
While I am not completely happy with Airstream at the moment, as I think there are way too many items on our list for a 3-year-old trailer with no more than 10,000 miles on it, Woodland Airstream has been an absolutely top-notch, first-class group of people to deal with. Woodland Airstream is an Airstream exclusive dealership, as a result of which they have a great relationship with Airstream and their customers ultimately benefit from that.
It was 11:45 AM by the time I was done at the dealership. I texted Linda that I was about to head for home, but then decided to drive the short distance in the opposite direction on Plainfield Avenue NE to Anna’s House. So, I texted my change in plans. Anna’s House is local chain of restaurants that is well known for their breakfast offerings, including vegan ones. I was in the mood for lunch, however, and ordered their vegan hamburger with French fries. I should have ordered breakfast, as the burger was very disappointing. I texted Linda again when I was ready to leave the restaurant, and again when I got home around 3 PM. It’s been a long-standing practice of ours, ever since we finally had cell phones with text messaging, to let each other know when we are on the road and have reached our destinations.
Back at the house, there were trucks and a trailer down by the barn, so I figured the insulation crew was there, and walked down there to check on things. There will be more details on that in the separate accessory building project update post.
Phil (Precision Grading) called me around dinner time and we had a nice, long chat. We don’t talk too often, as Phil is very busy and works long hours, but we always have a great conversation when the opportunity presents itself.
For dinner, Linda made sandwiches of vegan deli slices and cheese with lettuce and vegan mayo on toast. We had a few Fritos and orange slices on the side.
Monday is one of our two CBS nights, so we watched our usual programs and then went to bed.
MONDAY 10 October
The forecasted low last night was mid-30s (F), so during the evening we switched the HVAC controller for Zone 2 from heat-pump to furnace and set the desired temperature to 64 (F). I set the thermostat to 58 (F) before going to bed around midnight. The furnace ran perfectly all evening and through the night, as it has all summer, until sometime in the early morning. I was half asleep and heard it short cycle, which is to say, the blower came on, ran for about 15 – 20 seconds, and then shut off. That was a sure indication that the burner had failed to ignite. As soon as I heard that, I was wide awake and got out of bed to investigate.
The temperature in zone 2 was 56 (F), confirming that the furnace had failed to run, as the actual temperature never drops 2 degrees (F) below the set point. I turned up the desired temperature to 62 (F), but the furnace still did not come on. (ABIR, I think it has a lockout feature that prevents repeated attempts to start after some number of failures.) I thought that perhaps we had used up a tank of propane (highly unlikely) and that the valve on the other tank was shut, so I turned on one of the burners on the range to check. It lit right up, so I knew we had propane. I went outside anyway and opened the valve on the 2nd tank. I came back in, now slightly chilled as it was 34 (F) outside, and put the water on to boil (electric kettle) to make coffee and wait for the sun to warm up the outside air to the point where we could run the heat-pumps in heating mode.
The most obvious reason the furnace had failed to ignite was that the “sail switch” had failed to detect air flow. If so, it was not the first time this had happened; the switch is (apparently) delicate, and we have had this switch replaced once already. I also do not know how to access it and replace it, but was feeling like it was time to learn, and carry one or more spares when we travel. I would not, however, have undertaken that repair this morning as it was last travel day of our grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England. By mid-afternoon, we would be parked in our driveway and moving back into our house, thus no longer dependent on the trailer for a creature comfort. The failed fresh water pump was actually more of an issue, as I could not fully winterize the fresh water system without it.
Last night was our 117th night on the road, and today was our 118th day. As of this morning, we had put close to 10,000 miles on the truck since we left home on June 15th. We had estimated the towing miles at just under 6,000 and the touring miles (not towing) at ~3,000, so we were a few hundred miles over that, with the difference probably in the touring miles more than in the towing miles.
We were both up early enough to have a cup of half-caffe coffee and a light breakfast. Checkout time was noon, but we had no reason to stay at the Streetsboro-Cleveland KOA Holiday until then. We were not in a rush to leave either, however, as we wanted to let it warm up enough outside to be comfortable when breaking camp.
Our drive home was ~210 miles, almost all of it on Interstate and US highway with speed limits of 65 – 70 mph. Our estimated travel time was 3-1/2 hours. That meant it would probably take us closer to 4 hours to make the trip, so we targeted an 11 AM departure time. Our departure preparations were smooth and unhurried and we pulled out of our site just before 11 AM.
We reversed our route from Saturday, heading east on OH-303 to OH-14 and then north to The Ohio Turnpike (I-80/90) Toll Road. We got on the Turnpike heading west and set the cruise control at 64 – 68 mph, depending on road and traffic conditions. We passed through a few short construction zones where we had to slow down to 40 – 55 mph, but then did not cause a significant delay. At Toledo, Ohio, we exited the Turnpike onto I-75 North and then took I-475 West to US-23 North towards Michigan. The toll road was in excellent condition, as was US-23 in Ohio.
US-23 in Michigan was a different story. Although it is a limited access (4-lane divided) all the way to Saginaw / Bay City where it merges into I-75, the section from the Ohio border to Ann Arbor was in the same terrible condition that it has been in for years. This is what visitors to our state first experience when coming in by this route, and it’s a sad embarrassment.
We exited US-23 at M-59 (Highland Road), headed west towards our house, and a few minutes later pulled into our driveway. I had pulled into enough pull-through RV sites over the course of the summer that I had pretty much figure out how get the truck and trailer aligned, essentially for unhitching, with the trailer positioned where I wanted it. I am glad to say that I got it right on the first try this time.
Linda reminded me to take a photo of the information screen for the odometer reading. I used the Trip-1 Odometer to record the total mileage for the trip. When I shut the engine off, it read 9,987.7 miles. We had averaged 14.2 mpg, and the engine had run for 273 hours 6 minutes, and 14 seconds (~173.1 hours). That computed out to ~703.3 gallons (~2,662.3 L) or ~2.575 gph. (I have no idea what we paid for that gasoline, but Linda can figure it out from her entries in Quicken. Fuel wasn’t cheap but, no fuel, no trip.)
The very first thing on our list, after unlocking the house, was to move Juniper-the-Cat inside. Linda let her out of her carrier by her litter tray in basement bathroom, just the make sure she remembered where it was located. We had remotely set the heat-pump (main floor of house only) up to 65 (F) before leaving this morning, and turned it up to 68 (F) when we got home. I then turned the water to the house back on, plugged in the water softener and filter/sanitizer, and reset the date/time to the correct values. We had also turned off the main (hot water baseboard) furnace before we left. That meant we had no hot water, so I turned the main unit back on. It was cool in the basement, so sometime later I turned on the basement zone and let it start to warm up.
Before turning our full attention to unloading the trailer and the truck, we walked down the west end of the pull-through driveway to see the RV-Barn/Workshop-Storeroom for the first time. Although we had followed its progress via photos, it was exciting to finally see it in person. Since I had designed it, and we both had a clear sense of the size of the bus and travel trailer, we had a sense of its scale, but architecture is 3-dimensional and has to be experienced in person to really grasp. That said, it was both impressively large and surprisingly not large at the same time. It’s had to describe the feeling of designing something and then seeing it as an actual, 3-dimensional, functional object. It’s a great feeling, really. I took a few photos, some of which I have included in this post.
We like to get our RVs emptied out as soon as possible after an extended time away. As we moved things from the inside of the trailer and into the house, and unloaded the truck (back seat and bed), we were amazed at just how much stuff we had carried around with us over northeastern North America. The trailer has more interior storage than it appears, and we made full use of it. Ditto for the F-150.
After we had unloaded as much of the inside of the trailer as we wanted to for now, I checked the furnace again. It lit right up and made warm air, but I also heard the blower on the Zone-2 heat-pump running. The way the HVAC controller is designed, the furnace is on Zone-2, so we cannot run the furnace and the Zone-2 heat-pump at the same time. After looking at the information screen more closely, I noticed that the FAN mode was set to Low. Normally it’s set to Auto. I switched it from Low to Med with no change, and then from Med to High, again with no change. I then switched it to Auto, and after a few seconds the heat-pump blower shut off. The furnace had continued running this whole time.
We have owned this trailer for almost exactly three years, and this was the first time I had ever observed this behavior. I also had no idea why the furnace had failed to run this morning but was able/willing to run now. The only thing I could think of was that the trip home, which had its “bouncy” sections (especially on US -23 in Michigan) had jarred the sail switch (or something else) loose. (I did find a 1-1/2” pan head wood screw with a white painted head on the floor at the air return opening for the furnace, so who knows.)
While Linda was dealing with the kitchen, putting away containers and appliances, I went to my office to resurrect all of the computing and networking equipment and start a second load of laundry. I had sorted the clothes, bedding, and linens into at least six baskets, and it would probably take me until Thursday to get it all washed, dried, and put away.
By this point we were both a bit tired, so dinner was Amy’s Pad Thai and small glasses of the Auslese Riesling we had bought in Hudson, Ohio. Always tasty.
At 7:30 PM, we Facetimed with our son and his daughters, but mostly with the older daughter, Madeline. The younger daughter, Sadie, is about to turn 4-years-old, and is at that age where she understands a video call, and sees it as yet another opportunity to be a clown. Madeline, however, who is almost 10, was able and willing to give an account of her recent activities, in and out of school, and how she feels about them.
After our online visit, Linda got a nice, long, hot shower while I went to basement to get the SONY TV system operating. As soon as I turned it on, I was presented with a software update, so I initiated the installation, which took quite a while. When Linda was done, I also got a nice, long, very warm shower. The shower in our trailer is fine, and we don’t mind using it while traveling, but …
Being Monday night, we watched our usual CBS programs. When the last one ended at 11 PM, we were off to bed.
SUNDAY 09 October
(There are 11 photos in this post, distributed throughout the text with captions. They were all taken on a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)
True to the forecast, it got cold last night and it as chilly in the Airstream, 58 (F) to be exact, when I got up. Linda was still sleeping, so I only bumped the thermostat up t 62 (F), but it was enough to take the chill out of the air and warm the floor up a bit. (Some of the hot air from the propane furnace is blown into the belly pan, where the tanks are located, and then finds its way from there up into the living area. As such, it also heats the underside of the floor, at least above the belly pan.)
Linda got up a short time later. I made coffee for both of us, and bumped the thermostat up to 65 (F), and a bit later up to 68 (F). Linda made scrambled eggs (Just Egg) with chopped up vegan bacon and baby gold potatoes added in.
Although it was chilly outside, the forecast for the afternoon was for temperatures in the 60s (F) and sunny skies. Perfect weather for the last sightseeing day of our grand tour. And our main objective today was to visit the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
First established as Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area in 1974, it became a National Park in 2000. It’s 32,575 acres are just a small piece of the much larger Erie & Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area that encompasses the Cuyahoga River Valley from Cleveland to Akron, OH.
The NHA was designated by Congress to help preserve and celebrate the rails, trails, landscapes, towns and sites that grew up along the first 110 miles of the canal that helped Ohio and our nation grow. The original canal ran 309 miles to the Ohio River. The Ohio & Erie Canalway is an affiliated unit of the National Park Service. From the following website:
“The Buckeye State is home to eight national parks in Ohio managed by the National Parks System. Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located between Cleveland and Akron, is the only park designated as a National Park. Ohio has two National Historic Parks, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, and Hopewell Culture National Historic Park.
There are three national historic sites, First Ladies National Historic site, James A. Garfield National Historic Site, and William Howard Taft National Historic Site, along with two national memorials David Berger National Memorial, and Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. In addition, there is the North Country National Scenic Trail that goes around Ohio and is part of a seven-state trail system.”
We left around 10:30 AM and headed west on OH-303, through the towns of Hudson and Peninsula, Ohio. Hudson was unexpected and amazing; clearly an affluent area. At Riverview Road we went north to the Boston Mill Visitor Center.
The parking lot was full and we did not get to go in ☹. We drove to Brandywine Falls instead. It was also crowded, but we got a place to park. (The park is, apparently, always crowded on nice weekends, and a marathon was being run on the tow path as well.) We walked and took some photos. It was nice. There were steeper trails available, but we passed on those.
From the waterfall, we then headed towards the north end of the park to the Canal Exploration Center. We spent time in the Information / Museum building, which was a former canal-side inn adjacent to lock #38, learning about the history of the canal system. The lock was fully intact, including the gates at each end, both of which were open. The downstream lock and pond had water in them. The upstream pond was mostly grown in with reeds, but a small tickle of water was flowing into the lock chamber and on towards Lake Erie.
Like so many places we visited this summer, there was a great deal more to do than we had time for at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and in the surrounding area. Hiking and biking for sure, as well as lots of history. It was a wonderful park, and a bit of surprise, tucked in-between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio as it was.
But we had seen and done enough for a first visit. Unlike most of the places we visited this summer, CV-NP is only a 3 to 4-hour drive from our house, so easily revisited at some point in the future.
We headed south back to OH-303 and then east back towards the KOA. On the way back, we stopped in Hudson at the ACME Fresh Market (for wine, a 2020 von Wilhelm Haus Auslese Riesling) and the Shell station (for fuel).
Back at camp, it was sunny and pleasant, so I got the two camp chairs out and then took a few minutes to put the stinger back in the truck receiver and line it up with the trailer hitch in anticipation of our departure tomorrow morning.
Linda prepared a couple of bowls of snacks, and we sat outside and each had a small glass of wine and a few munchies. (The wine was really good.) Scattered clouds eventually moved across the sun, bringing a distinct chill to air each time. As the sun finally dropped below the tops of the trees to the west (duh) of our site, the temperature dropped along with it. Linda went back and I put the chairs back in the truck bed and then joined her.
I copied the photos I had taken at the CV-NP from my phone to my computer and then finished the blog post for yesterday, assembled it in WordPress, and published it. I then processed the photos from today and started working on the text for the blog post.
We had fish sticks and Daiya Mac & Cheese or dinner (both vegan, of course). We would normally watch PBS programs on Sunday night, but did not have a usable OTA TV signal, so we streamed another episode of Star War: ANDOR and then an episode of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. We had a second glass of the Riesling wine with some Hershey’s Dark Chocolate with Almonds.
It was going on 10:30 PM by the time the second program was done and Linda headed off to bed. Our sleep needs and schedules are slightly different, so I doodled on my iPad for about an hour and then lowered the thermostat setting and climbed into bed. We return home tomorrow, so this was our last “sleep” of our 117-night grand tour of Eastern/Atlantic Canada and New England.
SATURDAY 08 October
I was up at 6:45 AM this morning, a bit earlier than the last few weeks. Juniper-the-Cat was prowling the beds looking to get someone up to feed her, even though she still had some kibble left in her bowl. She also likes to have her water freshened, even though the bowl is not empty. We had left the main (larger) heat-pump on last night in heating mode with the thermostat set to 60 (F) as the overnight low was forecast to be 41 (F). The heat-pump can operate at that temperature, but is close to where it will switch into a “defrost” mode occasionally. I was already half-awake because of the cat, and heard the heat-pump go into defrost mode, so I figured I would just get up and switch the system to the propane furnace, with is much more effective than the heat-pump below 40 (F). As long as I was up, and put the kettle on and made a cup of half-caffe coffee. Linda got up around 8 AM, and made her cup of coffee.
At 8:30 AM. we had a light breakfast of Linda’s homemade granola, which we managed to make the granola last the entire trip.
Today was another travel day, one of the very few times on this trip we have had back-to-back travel days. Our destination was the Streetsboro / Cleveland KOA Holiday in/near Streetsboro, Ohio. As with yesterday, our preferred route was almost entirely toll road, I-76 and I-80. Our EZ-Pass is actually from Ohio, so we will sail through the electronic toll plazas with “ease.” The Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) becomes the Ohio Turnpike (I-76) and then I-80 becomes the Ohio Turnpike where I-76 and I-80 meet.
Google Maps indicated the driving distance today was 136 miles, and estimated a travel time of 2 hrs. 9 mins. Check-in time at the KOA was 2 PM. That might have been a problem except that check-out time at Fox Den Acres was noon. That allowed us to target an 11:30 AM departure (we almost always miss our target and pull out a bit later). Also, the overnight low temperature was 41 (F) and was forecast to only be 45 (F) by 11 AM. Burrr. But we had the gloves we bought yesterday at Walmart, so we were prepared to deal with handling things in the chilly temperatures.
We started our departure preparations in earnest around 10 AM. We had full sun and no wind so, in spite of the mid-40s (F) ambient temperature, we were very comfortable working outside, thanks in part to our newly acquired gloves.
We had studied Google Maps ahead of time, and so I had a clear mental image of how we had to get back on I-76 W. It was still confusing, and I thought I missed the entrance ramp to the toll road, but the road I was on also went to the entrance ramp, so it was all good. The only other unexpected thing on or route was near the end. We exited I-80 W and had our EZ-Pass scanned as we rolled through the toll booth and then immediately found the ramp to southbound OH-14 (the one we needed) closed. We took OH-14 North instead, because we didn’t have a choice. Less than mile later there was an exit and a posted detour. We crossed over OH-14, made the left turn, and got on OH-14 South. After that, it was just a matter of turning on Market Square Drive to cut over to OH-303 and head west to the KOA.
The entrance to the Streetsboro – Cleveland KOA Holiday was easy to spot, thanks to their iconic sign (large, yellow, with red teepee that looks like an X) and was wide enough for an easy turn. Most of the campground was set far back from the road, so there was a long, winding drive to get to the registration building and access control gate. It was just after 2 PM when I stopped and Linda went in to register us.
We were assigned site #507, a full hookup / 50A pull-through site in the far back of the park. They only have 15 pull-through sites, all in this area, and it appeared that they were used for shorter-stay transient campers, like us. The campground also had 12 cabins and 16 tent sites, two playgrounds, a swimming pool, and three lakes (two for fishing). There were also an (uncountably) large number of back-in sites, many of which were clearly in seasonal (permanent) use.
I was able to locate the trailer on the site so that it was level, side-to-side, to within 1/4”, so we did not have to use our leveling devices. It was about 4” low in the front, so that was easily handled by the trailer tongue jack. Since it was early in the day, and we had no plans to leave the campground, I did a full exterior camp setup (electric, water filer/softener, and sewer). They only thing I didn’t do was deploy the awnings, which we have not had out for many weeks now; no need with the lower sun angle and cool temperatures.
We had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Linda searched for OTA TV stations, but was not able to find a PBS affiliate with a usable signal.
The “Holiday” designation identifies the campground as a destination, not just a place to stop. To that end, the campground, and many of the sites, were decorated for Halloween. A sign listed all of the activities that were taking place today, including a central gathering, and hay wagon ride, and trick-or-treating from 6 to 7 PM. It was fun to watch everyone in costume, children and adults, walking through the campground.
For dinner, we had oriental dumplings with soy-ginger sauce and corn kernels on the side. As the sun set and the outside air temperature dropped we ran the main (zone 2) heat-pump to keep the chill at bay. The forecasted overnight low temperature was 36 (F), so 34 was not out of the question. As the outside air temperature approached 40 (F) during the evening, the lower limit for the heat-pump, it finally went into a “defrost” cycle. Once that cycle completed, I switched the system to the (propane) furnace and set it to 65 (F).
After dinner, we streamed two episodes of Star Wars: ANDOR and one episode of Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Linda headed to bed after the programs, and I lowered the thermostat to 62 (F). I worked for a while on this blog before turning in, and lowered the thermostat again, this time to 58 (F), to keep the furnace from just running continuously all night. The bedroom end of the trailer is always cooler than the kitchen/dining/living end. When it is cool/cold outside, the bed is always chilly when I first get in, but I have more than adequate covers, and warm up quickly once I do.
FRIDAY 07 October
Today was another repositioning day. After five (5) nights at the Hersheypark Camping Resort it was time to move on. Marilyn had been staying at Ron and Mary’s house, but it was time for her to return home as well. Linda and I each had a cup coffee as soon as we got up. We had toast and jam for breakfast and split our last banana.
Because we spent all of our time here visiting with family, we never walked or drove the campground. We like to stretch our legs before driving for hours, so we went on a short walk around the front part of the resort and I took a few photos. Back at the rig, we were working on our final departure preparations. Linda turned on the fresh water pump and … nothing. Bummer. I could hear a faint hum when the switch was on, and the hum went away when the switch was off, so it appeared that the unit was getting power. I suspected that the diaphragm had failed, as this is a common failure on RV water pumps, but I was not going to take the time right then to diagnose the issue, and I had not repair parts with us anyway. Linda made a note to add this to the list of warranty/repair items for the dealer when we get back. (The trailer goes back to the dealer on October 17, an appointment we made back in May.)
Our destination today was the Fox Den Acres Campground in/near New Stanton, Pennsylvania. The distance was 183 miles, but it was almost entirely on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so the estimated driving time was ~3 hours. We knew it would take longer, and figured on 3-1/2 hours. Check-in time was 1 PM, so we targeted a 10 AM departure.
We were ready to go on time, but had to exit our site differently than we intended. I have mentioned previously that the interior roads (at least in the Carrousel Circle section) at Hersheypark Camping Resort are narrow and the sites are short. As a result, tow vehicles (for trailers) and towed vehicles (behind motorhomes), end up parked across the front or rear of the sites rather than inline with the main unit. This also means that when reattaching vehicles, they are out in the street blocking traffic from getting through. The roads are also one-way.
The camper to our left had his truck parked with the rear end protruding into the front of our site such that I could not pull out forward and get around him. That was not a problem, however, as the sites behind us had been vacated, and I could back straight out of our site into the site behind us and then go forward to the left to exit. As we were getting the rig ready to go, the neighbor let me know that he was leaving to go to the AACA meet, and would not be in our way. Great! I could just pull out after all. But right after he left, another camper a few sites down to our left (naturally) positioned his pickup truck in front of his trailer and proceeded to hook up. We were ready to go, so I followed ‘plan B’ and backed out of our site at 10:15 AM. By the time we got to the stop light, at the exit from the park, and turned right onto PA-39, it was 10:30 AM.
PA-39 only went a short distance in that direction (S/E) and we were very quickly on US-322 West. This highway was posted at 50 to 55 mph, but a disabled motorhome at one of the stoplights had a lane blocked and traffic backed up for quite some distance. I think it took at least 15 minutes to get past the restriction, but it seemed a lot longer. I felt sorry for the motorhome owners, but a police car was positioned behind them with the emergency lights flashing, so they were safe while they waited for the tow truck. Still, we knew the feeling of being broken down
From US-322, we took I-283 South to I-76 West, southeast of Harrisburg. I-76 is the Pennsylvania Turnpike (toll road). It no longer has toll booths and operates on the EZ-Pass electronic tolling system or Toll-by-Mail. We have an active EZ-Pass transponder, so we were able to roll right along; 161 of our 183 miles were on the Turnpike.
The Turnpike was in much better condition that we remember from years ago. It was posted 70 mph in most places, and the road surface made that a realistic speed. I set the cruise control at 64 or 65 mph unless the maximum speed was posted lower. That was just fast enough to allow the transmission to shift up into 9th gear and drop the engine rpm back to around 1,700 rpm. The weather was nice initially, and it was an easy, beautiful drive through the mountains.
Between Harrisburg, where we got on I-76, and New Stanton, where we got off, there were four tunnels: Blue Mountain, Kittatinny Mountain, Tuscarora Mountain, and Alleghany Mountain. Atlantic Canada doesn’t bother with tunnels, they just run their roads straight up and down the sides of steep terrain. U.S. Interstate highways, on the other hand, generally limit the grade to 6%, up and down. After spending most of the summer in Atlantic Canada, the F-150 pulled the Airstream up and down the modest grades of I-76 with ease. We had researched tunnel restrictions, and paid attention to the signs while driving, and concluded that we did not need to shut off our propane refrigerator to go through the tunnels. We made it through all four tunnels without incidence. (Obviously if we had had a problem we would have been on the evening news.)
We stopped at the Sidling Hill Service Plaza but all of the truck/RV parking was back-in, so we didn’t stop. We finally stopped at the North Midway Service Plaza, which had pull-through Truck and RV parking, to use the restrooms and stretch our legs. (Remember, our fresh water pump decided to fail this morning.) Those two stops, combined, added about 20 minutes to our arrival time at Fox Den Acres Campground.
I-70 comes in from the south and joins I-76 in Breezewood. The Turnpike carries both names until they separate in New Stanton, I-70 heading west towards Columbus, Ohio while I-76 heads NNW towards Pittsburg. Somewhere after this merger, we finally caught up to rain, which varied from light to heavy enough that I had to put the windshield wipers on the slower continuous speed. At New Stanton, getting from I-76 to Fox Den Acres Campground took us through one of the most interesting (and convoluted) set of highway interchanges I had even driven.
We arrived at Fox Den Acres Campground at 2 PM. The office was closed, but our site information was on a posted list and campground maps were available. We were assigned site 110 in the pull-thru section (W3W = ”lifesaving.mixture.circulation”), which was mostly empty. The pull-through sites appeared to be about 100 feet long. Our best guess is that each site used to be two back-in sites, as there are still double water spigots, double sewer connections, and double cable TV hookups but only one electrical box, all with 50/30/20A power.
Even though we were only here for one night, we did a complete camp set up. We had left the rain behind by the time we arrived, so we did not have to make camp in the rain. I presumed the campground was on a well for fresh water, so this included the water filter and softener, the sewer hose, and the grey hose that we use for the black tank rinse connection. I filled the black tank to 80% of its capacity, dumped it, and then filled it to 50%. We have been getting false readings of 35% full after I dump the black tank, indicating a buildup that confuses the sensor, so tomorrow morning I want to get it full, dump it, refill it, and dump it again before we pull out.
When camp was made, Linda located a Walmart Supercenter in Greensburg, about 5 miles away. We have overnight lows in the 30s (F) starting tonight, and needed some basic gloves for working outside when we break camp. It was 3 PM when we left, and traffic was crazy heavy, on the narrow, twisty back road we decided to take. We stopped at a Sheetz filling station in south Greensburg on the way back to camp and re-fueled the F-150.
Dinner was leftovers from last night’s meal (vegan Italian sausages with sauteed onion and red bell pepper, and broccoli) plus Wegman’s Baby Gold Potatoes (microwaved). After dinner, I e-mailed Woodland Airstream with three additional repair items, including the water pump, and then worked on this blog post after dinner while we finished the open pack of Golden (Lemon) Oreos for dessert. We had popcorn later while watching the newest episode of The Great British Baking Show.
MONDAY 03 October
(There are 8 photos in this post, distributed throughout the text with captions. Seven of them were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone. I don’t know what phone was used for the barn photo.)
Juniper-the-Cat is not really fond of travel days, although she has gotten to be a much better traveler over the course of our trip. She doesn’t like the motion of the truck, especially on bumpy roads (who does?), and she does not like being confined in a carrier, even though we use the one we got from Paul and Nancy, which is about 4 times the volume of the small one we use to move her between the truck and trailer, and allows her to sit or stand as well as lie down and easily change positions. I think it’s more a question of being resigned to her fate, but she no longer complains very much like she did early on.
Or perhaps it’s because Linda started keeping her informed about our travel and camping situation. She tells Juniper the day before we move the trailer that “tomorrow is a travel day,” and when we get where we are going, she tells her how many “sleeps” we have before we have to move the trailer again. Sleeping is very important to Juniper, at least I presume it is because that is what she spends most of her time doing. Juniper is a very smart cat, of course, so I’m sure all of this makes perfectly good sense to her and relieves the anxiety of the unknown.
Our main reason for being in the Hershey, Pennsylvania area was to visit with Linda’s brother, Ron, and her sister, Sr. Marilyn. We had planned to visit with Ron’s wife, Mary, too but she had to travel back to Connecticut to help nurse her oldest brother following a kidney transplant. Mary is actually a nurse, with a Ph.D. so highly qualified to provide the needed care and assistance. We were sorry to miss her on this visit, but understood the necessity of her being away.
We are in the Carrousel Circle section of the Hersheypark Camping Resort. All 86 sites in this section are pull through 50A FHU with cable TV. The entire RV park lies along a roughly NE to SW line, and our site is oriented with the front of the trailer pointing ~EES, such that this time of year we get the morning sun coming almost straight in the front/bedroom window, which is nice, actually. The entrance is off of Hersheypark Drive / PA-39, which runs N-S at this point (even through it is an E-W highway). Swatara Creek runs along the N/NW edge of the park and a Freight Line (train track) runs along the SE edge of the park and is marked as “Operational 24/7” on the park map. It’s a much bigger park than just the section we are in, but due to rain, and wanting to spend time with Linda’s siblings, we never managed to walk or drive the rest of the park.
We left around 10 AM to drive to Ron and Mary’s house. We brought the Instant Pot and a couple of bags of food items, to be used later to prepare dinner. Today was mostly a day to just sit and visit and catch up on the big and little aspects of our lives since last we saw each other in person. But one of the reasons Marilyn was here, was so the three siblings could go through the many boxes of possessions Ron brought back to the house when their mother moved into assisted living almost 20 years ago.
The boxes were all stored in a crawl space off of Ron’s woodworking shop in the basement, so step 1 was to get them out of there. Ron worked in the crawl space, moving boxes to the opening. I stood on a workbench at the opening and moved them down to the extension table on his table saw. Linda and Marilyn then moved them to the floor. All told, I think there were about 3 dozen boxes. Fortunately, most of them were labeled.
At 3 PM I drove back to the Hersheypark Camping Resort (HpCR) to give Juniper her afternoon kibble and refresh her water. I tend to take PA-422 back and forth as it is the most direct route between the resort and Ron’s house. PA-422 goes through Hershey and Palmyra and is posted 35 mph except in those two areas, where the speed limit is 25 mph. From mid-morning to late afternoon, it is chocked with bumper-to-bumper traffic that often does not even move at the posted limits. I took a slightly different route back using Hersheypark Drive and PA-39 east, which took me past the Hersheypark complex with the Giant Center where the Antique Automobile Club of America’s (AACA) Hershey Meet (antique car show and meeting) would take place starting tomorrow and running through Saturday. It’s a very large gathering, and there were vintage vehicles driving around on the streets in town. We had even seen them heading south towards Hershey on US-15 yesterday.
For dinner, Marilyn made a salad and Linda made Pozole. Mary called sometime after dinner and we had a group chat with her.
TUESDAY 04 October
We each had a cup of coffee this morning, but did not have breakfast in the rig. We left around 9 AM to drive to Ron’s house, but stopped at the Panera near the RV Resort and got some Hazelnut coffee (our favorite). Linda got an everything bagel (her favorite) and I got cranberry orange muffins (my favorite). There was a WEISS supermarket in the same shopping plaza, so we popped in there for a few things for lunch, snacks, dinner, and dessert. At Ron and Mary’s house, there was no room in the freezer for the Marie Callender’s Crumb Top Apple Pie (which happens to be vegan), so Ron baked it right away.
The three siblings spent most of the day going through the boxes of their mother’s things and sorting them into disposition categories: trash, donate, sell, and keep. Linda was tasked with seeing if our daughter would be willing to handle selling things on Ebay.
I kept my nose out of their business, worked puzzles on my iPad, and checked on propane restrictions on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which will be the major portion of our next re-positioning. I drove back to the RV Park around 2:30 to check on Juniper-the-Cat. On the way I stopped at Fine Wine & Good Spirits (state wine & liquor store), in the same shopping plaza we had visited this morning, to buy some Black Tower Rivaner wine. I had checked online, so I knew they had it in stock, but it turned out they only had one bottle, and it was the larger size. I really like this wine, however, so I bought it. If nothing else, it will serve as a reminder when we get home that I need to find a way to get locally, or have it shipped from somewhere if that is possible. I then stopped at the Sheetz filling station on the other side of PA-39 to fill the F-150. I hung around the trailer for a while to spend some time with Juniper and work at my laptop computer. While I was there, I got a text message from our lawn care guy (Keith) with a photo of the barn.
When I returned to the house, the crew had knocked off for the day and were watching a movie, Margin Call, so I got to see the second half. One of the more interesting things they had found while I was away was something than none of us had ever seen or even heard of before; fractional currency. From Wikipedia:
“Fractional currency, also referred to as shinplasters, was introduced by the United States federal government following the outbreak of the Civil War. These low-denomination banknotes of the United States dollar were in use between 21 August 1862 and 15 February 1876, and issued in denominations of 3, 5, 10, 15, 25, and 50 cents across five issuing periods.”
For dinner, Marilyn again made a salad and Linda made vegan Cioppino (fish stew) in the Instant Pot. We had the Marie Callender’s apple pie (with Cool Whip) for dessert. Yum. After dinner we played Bananagram. It’s a word game, so it was not my forte. Mary called while we were playing. We stopped to have another group chat with her, so I got a temporary reprieve.
Back at camp, we caught the last half of FBI International and the full episode of FBI Most Wanted. Linda headed off to bed right after that. I stayed up and put the finishing touches on the blog post for Saturday and Sunday and published it. I also copied the most recent photos from my phone to my computer and selected/processed some for this post.
WEDNESDAY 05 October
Breakfast was egg and cheese sandwiches using bagel thins. Because they are bagels (hole in the middle), it’s important to have the cheese side up. We learned this lesson the first time we used them for a heated sandwich.
Since we would be at Ron ad Mary’s house again for most of the day, and they have a clothes washer and dryer, today was laundry day for us. Since I wasn’t involved in the selecting and sorting of their mom’s possessions, I took on the laundry duty. I do the laundry at home, but the task seems to have fallen to Linda on this trip. On previous trips south during snowbird season, I usually did the laundry. I think the difference this time was that we were initially using the machines in Paul and Nancy’s American Eagle motorhome, so Linda would take it there and then hang out with Nancy and work on meal planning and/or preparation. It is also often the case that RV park/campground laundry rooms are being used by women. Not exclusively, of course, as there are solo male RVers, but that has never deterred me in the past.
We left around 10 AM and went by way of PA-39 west and Hersheypark Drive. This route took us past the Hersheypark complex where the AACA Meet was taking place, and I wanted Linda to see it. The meet started yesterday and runs through Friday, and is a really big event. The complex includes the Giant Center, Hershey Arena, and Hersheypark Stadium, as well as the Amusement Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World attraction and store. The extensive parking lot was packed, and the grass area on the other side of Hersheypark Drive was in full use for additional parking and dry camping. This venue is also used for the Hershey RV Show is held every September, which vies with the Tampa RV Supershow (in January) for being the largest RV show event in the country.
When we arrived at Ron and Mary’s house, Ron, Marilyn, and Linda resumed working on their mom’s possessions. They had unboxed everything yesterday and Linda was using Google Lens on her Pixel 6 smartphone to identify objects and research what value they might have. Ron went out for a while at 11 AM to deliver food boxes, something he and Mary have done for a while. As I mentioned earlier, I started doing the laundry, and worked multi-Sudoku and Pic-a-Pix puzzles on my iPad, to pass the time. Linda and I both made use of the guest bathroom to take nice, long, hot showers.
By early afternoon, the siblings trio had finished what they wanted to get done and come back upstairs from the basement. Linda had chatted with our daughter (Meghan) to see if she would be interested in trying to sell any items of value on Ebay. She was, so we will have to return to Ron and Mary’s at some point in the future with just our F-150 so we have room to transport everything.
We had leftovers for lunch and then Marilyn prepared a batch of brownies in a 9”x9” glass baking dish and put it in the oven to bake. We then settled in to play a few rounds (10) of Mexican Train using and set of “double-nine” dominos. A standard set of dominos only goes up to a double-six, while Mexican Train is often played with a set of “double-15” tiles. Ron’s son, Brian, had called while Ron was out and Ron called him back.
At Mary’s (long distance) recommendation (last night), we went out to Sawasdee Thai restaurant in Hershey for dinner. Linda had also found it using the Happy Cow app and it had 4-1/2 stars on Trip Advisor. With the AACA Meet in town, we were a bit concerned that all the restaurants in the area might be slammed at dinner time, so Ron had called and made a reservation for the four of us at 6 PM. It turned out to be unnecessary, but it was nice to see our booth waiting for us with a “Reserved” sign on it. The restaurant was on the small side, seating perhaps 40 people when full, but there were about half that many in the time we were there. It had a clean, contemporary décor with small touches of Thai culture, and I found it a pleasant place to eat.
One woman was handling all of the tables. She was busy, but very good. Linda ordered (vegan) Drunken Noodles, a stir-fried dish made with wide rice noodles, tofu, dark soy sauce, bell pepper, egg, onion, carrot, broccoli, and Thai basil. I ordered (vegan) Thai Smoked Chili and Cashew , also a stir-fried dish with Thai smoked chili, tofu, carrot, pineapple, cashew, onion, and bell pepper with dark brown sauce. Marilyn ordered Pad Thai with pork (a classic), and Ron ordered Pineapple Fried Rice with shrimp (also a great choice). Linda and I shared our dishes, while Marilyn and Ron shared their dishes. It was agreed by all that the food was very good.
We had dessert back at the house. Linda and I had the last of the apple pie from yesterday, while Ron and Marilyn had some of the brownie that she had made earlier in the day. We had just finished dessert when Mary called for her evening chat. Ron put the call on speaker so we could all be part of the conversation and we all talked for quite a while. When that was concluded, Linda and I took our clean laundry and our iPads and returned to our trailer. I took PA-422 most of the way, as it was basically deserted at 9 PM.
As soon as we got back to the trailer, we put all of our clean clothes away and then slipped into our evening “comfy” clothes to relax for a bit before going to bed. I worked on this post for a while, adding the bits and pieces from today and filling in details from the previous two days.
THURSDAY 06 October
The weather forecast for today was for partly cloudy skies, no rain, and a high temperature in the low 70s (F). Linda had originally planned to get out our propane grill and cook / serve the main meal of the day for the four of us at our trailer at the Hersheypark Camping Resort. She changed her mind yesterday, realizing that it would be more convenient and comfortable to prepare, serve, and consume the meal at Ron and Mary’s house. We wanted Ron to see the trailer, however (Marilyn had seen it before) so we devised a plan.
We drove back to Ron and Mary’s house around 10 AM and stopped at Duck Donuts on the way. I didn’t know anything about before going in, other than the fact that it was o PA-422 in Hershey and looked like an interesting place. And it was. They only made/sold cake style donuts, and they were all made to order. They had a machine that featured a depositor and frying tray and you could watch your donut(s) being made. They were not filled with anything (cake donuts never are) but they had a wide variety of topping combination. I got a maple cinnamon sugar donut. It was still very warm when they put it in a box for me, and I took it with us to Ron and Mary’s house.
At the house, we moved our Hersheypark Camping Resort hang tag from our truck to Ron’s minivan. Ron then drove the four of us to Hershey’s Chocolate World so Linda and I could shop for some souvenirs / gifts. From there, we went to the RV Resort so Ron could see the campground and our trailer. We left our Chocolate World purchases at the trailer and headed back to the house to have lunch, which consisted of various leftovers.
After lunch, we headed to Quittie Creek Nature Park in Annville for some easy hiking (walking). Ron lent Linda a pair a good/adjustable hiking poles and showed her how to set them to the correct length. We then headed east from the parking lot on the flat trail along the north edge of Quittapahilla Creek. When we got to where the trail crossed South Spruce Street, we started back and then picked up a branch trail through the woods, which eventually rejoined the Creekside trail. Back at the parking lot, we all walked out onto the wooden bridge over the creek for the view, and I got a nice photo looking upstream from there.
Before heading back to the house, Ron stopped for gas and then drove to the nearby WEIS supermarket. Linda and I picked up some plant-based Italian sausages, an onion, and a red bell pepper for our main meal, and a Marie Callender’s Crumb Top Cherry Pie (vegan) and Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” non-dairy “ice cream” for dessert. Ron already had chicken and pork chops at home, but he and Marilyn picked up some broccoli and bread for the meal.
Back at the house, Linda started the oven, set it to 400 (F), and got the cherry pie out of its plastic wrapper. When the oven was up to temperature, she put the pie in and set a timer on her Fitbit. We then sat outside on the patio under the pergola in the back yard and enjoyed the lovely weather as we had a nice chat. Around 5:30 PM, Ron lit the grill and started preparing the chicken and pork chops. Marilyn made a salad and Linda sauteed the onions and red bell pepper to go with our Italian sausages. Ron sliced and buttered (vegan) the bread and put it in the oven, and then handled the grilling of the various meats / substitutes. When Linda’s timer went off, I pulled the pie out, added the crumb topping, and put it back in for 15 minutes.
Somewhere in the midst of all that dinner preparation, Linda got a call from our son. He was on the way back to their house, having just collected his two daughters from their respective schools, and they wanted to chat with us. Sadie, who will be 4 next Thursday, knew when her birthday was, and how old she was going to be, but both girls also knew that we would (finally) be back home in just 4 more days.
Our last supper (for now) with Ron and Mary was really nice. It had been both a productive and fun week for all us, but especially for them. It had been quite a while since they were all together, and they really enjoy each other’s company. We helped clear the dishes and then gathered up our stuff, which included Linda’s Instant Pot and other cooking related things she had brought over earlier in the week. Hugs and goodbyes for now, and we were out the door, in the truck, and on our way back to camp.
SATURDAY 01 October
We had originally planned to visit Letchworth State Park today, but the forecast was for cloudy conditions and we were both feeling like we could use a ‘down’ day in camp. We had made good use of our time for the last three days, visiting museums and wineries, and I had not been able to keep up with the blog posts. It was not that I didn’t work on them, I did, it was just that I took a lot of photos, and we saw some amazing things, and it was taking me more time than usual to process all of that into blog posts.
Linda had scanned for TV channels when we first arrived on Tuesday and found quite a few, most importantly, CBS and PBS. Besides watching some TV shows in the evening this past week, she was able to watch the University of Michigan at the University of Iowa football game today.
By the afternoon, the clouds had cleared out and we had blue skies and temperatures in the upper 50s (F), so a visit to Letchworth State Park might have worked out after all. But no regrets for not going. We did leave the RV park for a while mid-afternoon to make one last run to Wegman’s supermarket in Canandaigua and fuel up the truck for our travel day tomorrow.
By the time we got back to camp, there were five (5) Airstream travel trailers in the RV park, including ours. Two had been here since before we arrived and several others had already come and gone. Even though a lot of rigs had come in yesterday and today, it was still an unusually high number of Airstream units (not in a caravan), and had been that way all week.
One new arrival was just two sites down from us, and we were able to make the acquaintance of Paul and Amy from London, Ontario. (Airstream owners tend to be especially friendly towards other owners, and have a tradition of flashing headlights as sign of recognition when passing in opposite directions on the road.) They had recently purchased a 2012 Flying Cloud 27 Front Bed unit, and this was their first big outing. They were headed to Liberty RV Park in New Jersey (the Statue of Liberty is visible from there) and planned to visit Manhattan. They were clearly excited to be on the road we enjoyed interacting with that excitement.
The unit looked brand knew, something that Airstreams are capable of maintaining for a long time with appropriate care. Amy had done something interesting with interior window covers and we were invited in to have a look. Paul and I had a quick conversation about RV electrical utilities, “surge” protectors, and turning the powerpole circuit breaker off when connecting and disconnecting. I wish we had been able spend more time getting to know them, and to make the acquaintance of all the Airstream owners who passed through the park, but we were busy/gone, and/or they were busy/gone, and/or it was chilly outside as the sun got lower in the western sky and we just were not outside very much under those conditions.
Before dinner, and before it got dark, I checked the level of the propane tank we had been using for a quite a while now. It was close to empty, so I manually switched to the other tank and removed the empty one to have it filled. I carried it over to the RV parks filling station and they returned it on one of their golf carts. The guy called in the amount to the office, 6.1 gallons. At 4.2 lbs/gal that was 25.6 pounds. It was only the second time we had bought propane since we left in mid-June. The last time was only 8 pounds, so we had only used ~34 pounds of propane in 109 nights of camping. We had 8 nights and 9 days left in our grand tour, and will arrive home with plenty of propane to spare.
I went to the office to pay for the propane. While I was there I bought a couple of sewer hose accessories that I needed. One of them was a replacement for something I already had that was broken, and I put it in the trash.
In a repeat of last night, the sun and clouds put on another dazzling display of color at sunset so I tried to grab a few photos.
SUNDAY 02 October
Today was a major repositioning day for us as we moved the rig from the Canandaigua-Rochester KOA Holiday in Farmington, New York to the Hersheypark Camping Resort (HpCR) in Hummelstown, Pennsylvania. It was a longer day than we usually plan, ~250 miles and a little over five (5) hours driving time. This was our 6th State of the trip (including Michigan). We targeted a 10 AM departure as the check-in time at the HpCR was 3 PM.
Paul and Amy (from the 2012 Airstream Flying Cloud) were also leaving this morning, but before pulling out we exchanged e-mail addresses with them. I chatted briefly with Paul about Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome. They had heard of HH but not BW, even though it is now part of HH. They live relatively close to us, so perhaps we will see them at our BW host site someday.
Our route in New York started with us headed west on Canandaigua Farmington Townline Road and then jiggy-jogging our way south to NY-21 South, which we followed through Naples (a lovely town) to Cohocton. From there we took NY-371 S to I-390 E to I-86 E (through Bath and Savona) to I-99 S / US-15 S. The drive through New York was both beautiful and dramatic, along deep valley floors bordered by long, high ridges. We had fair weather the whole way, which was a plus, and saw increasing signs of fall colors in the trees. We were still a bit early for full fall colors, but the weather was decidedly chilly. Had we stay at the KOA this evening, the low was forecast to be 34 (F).
The I-99 designation ended at the PA border, but the road continued as US-15 S. It was still a good 4-lane, divided, limited access freeway. We speculated as to why Pennsylvania had not sought to make this I-99. Linda wondered if it might have grades that were too steep to meet Interstate Highway design parameters, but we did not look for an answer to that question.
A few miles into Pennsylvania, we stopped at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center around noon to use the restrooms and stretch our legs. Besides information, it was a truck weigh scale, a scenic overlook, had food and beverages available, and was just a really nice building with a great view of a lake, dam, river, and valley to the west. Because of the length of the trip, we snacked on pretzels and veggie sticks, something we rarely do while traveling.
Most of our trip in PA was on US-15 S, until we got near Harrisburg, as it was the most direct route between our starting and ending points. It was a good road and another wonderful drive through deep valleys, occasionally climbing up and around small mountains. Eventually the limited access aspect of the road disappeared and then the divided aspect as well, but it continued to be a good road with moderate traffic on a Sunday.
Somewhere along US-15 in Pennsylvania we finally caught up to the rain and it was with us, in varying strength, for the rest of the trip. Starting in Williamsport, US-15 roughly followed a river that eventually joined up with the Susquehanna River in Northumberland, affording us views of the Susquehanna River Valley and the river itself.
The only place we encountered stop and go traffic (mostly stop, it seemed) was going through the long, commercial stretch of US-15 S in Selinsgrove, home to the Susquehanna Valley Mall. As we approached the greater Harrisburg area (from the north), we eventually left US-15 for US-22 to I-81 N to I-83 S to US-322 E to PA-39 N and, finally, to Sweet St. (no kidding), which was the entrance to the Hersheypark Camping Resort.
We arrived at the HpCR and queued up behind several rigs at 15:21. It took about 10 minutes for Linda to get us registered as there were three check-ins ahead of us. The rig in front of us pulled out, and I pulled up, just as she returned to our truck. We were assigned site #200 (W3W=”suave.cleared.actor“) in the large section of 50A FHU pull-through sites that bordered the entrance road. The campground is just off PA-39, but was very quiet.
The campground was already busy and expected to be busier, as we had (unknowingly) booked our five nights here to coincide with the annual Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Antique Car Show—the largest show of its kind in the U.S.—at the nearby Hersheypark Arena and Giant Center complex. This is the same venue used for the massive Hershey RV Show each September.
The interior roads at HpCR were a gravel embedded asphalt while the sites were a hard-packed gravel. Both were a bit narrower and more closely spaced than we expected, and this section of the Resort was heavily treed. That might have been a challenge, but the sites were angled, which made it relatively easy to get the rig into the site and get the truck aligned with the trailer. The sites were also short, so once the truck was unhooked we had to park it at an angle across the front of the site/trailer to get it off the road.
From what we could see, it was a nice enough RV park, just not what we had expected given the price and that it is owned/operated by Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company. I think we had envisioned something a bit more like Walt Disney World’s Fort Wilderness. But it was fine for our needs, and was in a prime location.
We had to make camp in a light/spotty drizzle, but were glad it was not a heavy/steady rain. We had the trailer leveled and the truck unhitched, water and electrical power connected, and the trailer ready to use, inside and out, by 16:01, just 40 minutes from when we arrived. Because the Resort is on municipal water, I did not hook up the fresh water filter and softener. If I had done that, the complete set up process would have taken an hour. The utilities were all conveniently located close together, and the 50A RV electrical socket was in good condition (often not the case) allowing for a tight connection. The box also featured cutouts on the bottom edge for the shorepower cord, allowing the cord to hang straight down and the lid to be (mostly) closed. That was a nice feature that I rarely see. (Even our RV electrical boxes at home lack this feature).
Once we were settled in, Linda called her brother (Ron) to him know we were here. After a long travel day, and with persistent rain, we were content to just relax at home for the evening. We had left-over vegetable soup and hot dogs for dinner and watched a couple of PBS programs later. After the TV programs, I finished the blog post for September 30, as well as a special post with some miscellaneous photos that Linda took over the last week or so, but not make it into blog posts at the time.
HpCR lies between a small tributary to the Susquehanna River and an active rail line. The trains came through every now and then, but rarely sounded their horns. Mostly we heard and felt the deep rumble of the locomotives and a faint clickity-clack of the wheels. I was unaware of them once I went to bed and fell asleep.
Special Blog Post
At the end of September 2022, I was going through our photos (Sony SLT and two smartphones) to make sure they were backed up to our Western Digital Passport portable disc drive, as well as backing up the Word documents and processed photos for each blog post. I try to keep up with this task on a daily basis, but sometimes I get behind. In backing up the photos from Linda’s phone I came across some that I really liked but had not used in a blog post at the time they were taken. We take a lot of photos, and only a small percentage of them end up in the blog. Here are six previously unseen photos, all taken by Linda on her Google Pixel 6 smartphone.
FRIDAY 30 September
(The wine trail photos were shot on a Google Pixel 6. The Watkins Glen SP photos were shot on a SONY SLT a99v. The sunset photos were shot on a Google Pixel 6 Pro. All photos in this post shot by Bruce.)
I was still working on this post on Sunday evening, so some of the details had already faded. As best I recall, our day started much like most other days, except possibly for the Just Egg scramble with potatoes that Linda made for breakfast. Beyond that, our day was mostly about wine and related beverages, with a brief pause in the middle to visit Watkins Glen State Park.
We originally intended to venture as far as Ithaca and dine at the Moosewood Restaurant, but that didn’t happen for several reasons. First, and foremost, was that they were only open for lunch and dinner but not in-between, when we would have been there. Secondarily, it is primarily a vegetarian restaurant (not vegan) and it was a long drive to get there and back. Ithaca is a lovely town, of course, and home to Cornell University, so we would have liked to visit there again, but it was far enough out of our way that we needed a compelling reason to go. Linda looked online and found another vegan place, but it was carry-out only, and you had to order online. Eh, no. We decided we would just taste wine, and buy some if we liked what was on offer.
The rest of this post is mostly photos with captions.
There are dozens of wineries just around Seneca Lake, and over 100 wineries / tasting rooms, as well as cideries and distilleries, in the Finger Lakes region. But many (most) of them do not belong to the Wine Trail associations (one for each lake), so we did not have much information about most of them. The meadery and winery mentioned in the two photos above were the only ones where we planned to stop, so from there we just enjoyed the drive down to the Village of Watkins Glen to visit the eponymously named State Park.
Our first real look at the Gorge from the Gorge Trail on the other side of the bridge. This is as far as we went. The full trail was a mile long, wet, and had over 800 steps. We had not budgeted the time, nor brought the appropriate clothing, for such a hike, but were glad to see what we saw.We left Watkin’s Glen State Park and continued up the Seneca Lake Wine Trail on the east side of Seneca Lake. We only stopped at one winery but enjoyed the drive. “Wine country” has it own special look, with acres and acres of vineyards (and orchards) and a wonderful variety of winey tasting rooms.
We returned to Seneca Falls briefly so Linda could pick up a few things at the Women’s Rights NHP gift shop. We were headed back to the KOA and decided to vector off to one last winery on the east leg of the Keuka Lake Wine Trail.
We had a nice drive back to the KOA, where Linda started preparing dinner and I reorganized the back seat of the F-150 to properly store/transport all of the wine/mead we had collected throughout our grand tour. We were finishing dinner when an otherwise ordinary sky exploded with color. I grabbed my phone to see what I could capture.
THURSDAY 28 September
(There are 11 photos in this post, all related to the Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, New York. They are distributed throughout the text, with captions. I have used the mnemonic ‘WRNHP’ in place of the full name of the park. All of the photos were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)
Our plan for today was to visit The Women’s Rights National Historical Park (WRNHP) in Seneca Falls, New York, and then visit a few wineries on the west side of Seneca Lake. The morning was cool and cloudy, and Seneca Falls is near the north end of Cayuga Lake just a bit east of the north end of Seneca Lake, so we figured we would start there and do the wineries in the afternoon, when the sun was supposed to make an appearance. We ended up spending most of the day at the WRNHP. The only winery we made it to was Belhurst Castle & Winery on the west side of Seneca Lake, just south of Geneva, New York., but we did not taste or by anything.
We left around 11 AM and had a leisurely drive through the countryside, taking Canandaigaua Farmington Line Road east to County-28 north to Shortsville Road / County-13 and heading east. We passed through Shortsville and Clifton Springs and then joined NY-96 east. Just after joining NY-96, we stopped at the Byrne Dairy & Deli to fuel the truck, and then continued on through Phelps before getting to Waterloo, where we turned east on US-20 towards Seneca Falls.
All of these towns have a history, of course, and New York has a lot of these towns. Clifton Springs, for instance, was once one of the many ‘health retreats’ that dotted the state. Passing through downtown was like driving through a canyon whose walls were made of impressive hotels, now mostly re-purposed, but still very much in use and in decent condition.
The WRNHP (National Park Service) consisted of four distinct properties in the Seneca Falls / Waterloo area. The main site consisted of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and Chapel, with the Visitor Center building in-between, located on Fall St. (US-20) at Mynderse St., in the heart of the quaint downtown district along the north side of the Seneca River (Cayuga-Seneca Canal). (The falls for which Seneca Falls disappeared underwater as a result of the canal construction from 1905 to 1918). We found free street parking close to the Visitor Center. The other three sites were the Elizabeth Cady (& Henry) Stanton Home, on the other side of the canal, and the Thomas (& Mary Ann) M’Clintock House and Richard (& Jane) Hunt House, both in Waterloo.
The WRNHP was authorized in 1980 to preserve the key historical sites associated with one of the most significant events in American History, the beginning of the organized movement for women’s suffrage, which ultimately became the movement for universal suffrage. The first Women’s Rights Convention was held in the Wesleyan Chapel on July 19-20, 1848, with some 300 people in attendance over the two days. Notable attendees included Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglas.
But the story begins well before that, of course, and is the reason that the Hunt and M’Clintock properties are part of the NHP. On July 9, 1848 Jane Hunt hosted a social gathering at her home in Waterloo, just down the road from Seneca Falls, in honor of a visit from Lucretia Mott, who had traveled to the area from Philadelphia to visit her sister in Rochester, New Yok. In 1833 Mott, along with Mary Ann M’Clintock and nearly 30 other female abolitionists, organized the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. By 1848, Mott was a nationally known figure, but she and Elizabeth Cady Stanton had already crossed paths at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England; a significant event for both of them. Thus, the abolitionist and suffrage threads that run though American history were intertwined early on, and the Visitor Center tells the story of the struggle for women’s rights in this larger context of the struggle for human rights for all people.
Over the course of two days, over 300 people attended and participated in the convention, so this building was packed with people. The Declaration of Sentiments, patterned after the Declaration of Independence, was read, amended, and adopted. Eleven resolutions were then introduced, discussed, and voted on. All of them were adopted, with only one having less than 100% support.
Besides the Wesleyan Chapel (and Church), the NHP includes three residential properties. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton House is also in Seneca Falls, while the homes of Mary Ann M’Clintock and Jane Hunt are in nearby Waterloo. (Neither of these houses were open to the public during our visit.) It was through M’Clintock that Lucretia Mott came to be involved in the convention. At a social gathering (tea) at the Hunt home on July 9, 1848 that the idea of a convention was discussed and the decision made to organize it. The dates, July 19 and 20, 1848 were selected because the Wesleyan Chapel was available, and so was Lucretia Mott.
The whole story of the fight for women’s suffrage in the U.S. has been documented and written about extensively, and the WRNHP Visitor Center gift shop had an excellent selection of books on the subject. I will simply end with these facts, followed by a few more photographs: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress on June 5, 1919 and finally ratified by enough States on August 18, 1920. Michigan was the second State to ratify the amendment.
WEDNESDAY 28 September
(All photos taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)
I was in bed before midnight last night, unusual for me, so I was up this morning just after 7 AM. Linda did not go to bed until 11 PM and got up around 7:30. We had our usual two cups of coffee, but Linda made pancakes for breakfast, with a side of fresh bananas, blueberries, and strawberries. A special treat, and a nice way to start the day.
The weather forecast for today was for cool, overcast conditions, with small possibility of rain, but was much nicer for the following three days. We thought we would visit some of the wineries on Canandaigua Lake as we are camped just north of it, so we spent some time researching the six establishments on the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail.
One of them was not open today, one was basically a wine store in Canandaigua, one had what appeared to be fruit juice infused wines that could be used to make spritzers, and one was a “boutique” winery that required reservations, and all of them appeared to be tasting rooms, not the actual wineries. So that was: no go, no, no way, and not interested. Most of them indicated what grapes were used to make each wine but some didn’t, an absolute non-starter for us, and most of them were based on grapes that fairly commonly used in the products we can buy at good wine stores at home.
It didn’t seem worth the time and fuel to drive down just for the other two wineries, so we scraped the wine trail idea for today and decided instead to visit the Eastman Museum in Rochester, New York, just a 30-minute drive northwest of our campground. I took up photography as a serious hobby when I was 16, so I’ve been trying to be a photographer for some 54 years now and the Eastman Museum seemed like a good place to spend an otherwise dreary day. We left the KOA around 11:30 AM and were at the museum by noon.
The Eastman Museum is located on the grounds of George Eastman’s Rochester, New York 10-acre estate on East Avenue. East Avenue was obviously the place where the wealthy of late 19th-century Rochester built their magnificent homes and mansions. A trip to that area just to look at the architecture would have been worth the time, but we were they to visit the museum.
The museum complex included his magnificent home and gardens which are open to tour with paid admission. Indeed, the museum (galleries, archives, offices, and labs), theater, gift shop, café, and lobby are joined to the house to form a single building. The collection, small pieces of which are periodically rotated into the publicly accessible galleries, contains over 400,000 photographs and 28,000 motion pictures, including the original negatives for Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. The museum also has an extensive collection of photographic technology going back to the earliest days of photography in the 19th century. It’s an excellent museum, and we spent about 2-1/2 hours going through the house and all of the galleries.
When we arrived at the Canandaigua-Rochester KOA yesterday, Linda research vegan dining options and discovered that Veg News had rated Rochester, New York “the best small city in America for vegans.” That did not automatically translate into lots of vegan dining options, but she did locate the Red Fern, just 0.4 miles from the museum, so we went there for lunch.
The Red Fern was a small place in a half-basement (the upper half of the dinning room was above grade level), in a nice neighborhood, with a nice selection of items on the menu. Linda had the ABLT (Avocado Bacon Lettuce Tomato) sandwich with a salad on the side, and I had the Buffalo Blue Cheese Focaccia sandwich, also with a salad on the side. My sandwich was huge, so I only ate half of it and got a to-go box for the other half. Linda had a chocolate brownie for dessert, and I had a crumb-top apple cider jam bar thingy. The brownie was huge, so she only ate half of it and got a to-go box for the rest. Everything was very tasty and reasonably priced (in our opinion).
From the Red Fern we set our navigation system for the Wegman’s supermarket in Canandaigua. It took about 45 minutes to get there, including long slow rolls through the town of Victor and then Canandaigua itself.
This was our first ever visit to a Wegman’s and all I can say is “Wow!” The store was very large and the variety of items they stocked, including some we had never seen before, was almost overwhelming. Their whole-foo, plant-based (vegan) offerings were as good or better than we had ever seen anywhere else. They also had a restaurant (drinks and live music on the weekends), a sub sandwich shop, and extensive deli section that included a “burger bar”, an “Asian bar”, and a “Sushi bar.” You could even order Food to Go and drop by to pick up your prepared meal. We didn’t actually need anything, but we found a vegan parmesan cheese, and picked up a container of Just Egg, some vegan butter, and a pack of paper bowls. We will probably go back on Saturday and restock the refrigerator and panty before heading to Hershey, Pennsylvania on Sunday.
What we did not find was the specific Dr. Elsey’s cat liter than Linda likes. There was a Petco across the street, so we went there and, voila!, there was the specific liter that we had not seen since leaving home in mid-June. Our shopping done, we returned to camp.
Back at camp there was another airstream travel trailer in our row, in addition to the one three rows back. Another one came later, making four in our section of the RV park, including ours. There was another one in the far west section when we arrived yesterday. We didn’t notice if it was still here, so there might be five of them here. That would be a surprisingly high percentage of the total occupancy at the moment.
For dinner, I finished my sandwich from lunch while Linda had a cheese sandwich and finished her brownie from lunch. After dinner, she read while I worked on the blog posts and photos for yesterday and today. At 8:30 PM, we streamed the next episode of The Great British Baking Show. Linda headed off to bed at here usual 10 o’clock hour. I stayed up long enough to finish and publish the blog posts for yesterday and today and made it to bed just after midnight.
TUESDAY 27 September
Linda was up this morning around 7:15 and I got up at 7:45. Since it was a travel day, we each had a cup of half-caff coffee as soon as we got up, and a slice of toast with Mango-Peach jam for breakfast. Check-out time was 11 AM, and the check-in time at our next location, the Canandaigua-Rochester KOA Holiday in Farmington, New York, was 1 PM. We had less than 100 miles to travel, and all but ~5 miles would be on the New York State Thruway (I-90) at 65 mph. Linda called the KOA to see if we could arrive early. There was someone in the site, but they were required to be gone by 11 AM, so no problem arriving after that. We targeted a 10:30 AM departure in order to be there by 12:15 – 12:30, and started breaking camp around 9 AM.
I often do not have too many photos (if any) for travel days, and we rarely venture out after we arrive and set up camp, other than a quick grocery and/or fuel run. That affords me the time (luxury) of being able to wax philosophical, to contemplate and reflect on the more general experience of being extended-time RVers. Thus, I seem to have the most to say on the days where we have had the least to do.
This was our second of two, two-night stays in a row. We had a very nice stay at The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park in Verona/Oneida, New York. It was an attractive, and well-maintained park, and we were able to do our laundry in their nice laundry room. There wasn’t much for us to do here, however, as we had no intention of visiting the casino, the resort restaurant, or the live music venue. Still, we could have sat here another day, especially if the rain let up and the sun re-appeared. But also, because a two-night stay is actually more work than a one-night layover.
We go through the same process, and the same amount of work, for a two-night stay as for one of much longer duration. For a one-night stay, we can often leave the truck and trailer hitched together and just plug in the shorepower cord. We always travel with enough water in the fresh water tank that we can easily run off of that for a night or more (depending on how full the fresh water tank is, of course). We also do not need to dump waste water before we pull out the next day. That’s not a complaint, just the reasons we prefer to stay three or more nights wherever we stop. It helps if there are also interesting/accessible things to see and do in the area.
The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park was on a municipal water supply, so I did not hook-up our freshwater pressure regulator, filter, and water softener when we arrived. I also did not hook up the sewer hose because it was raining, and it wasn’t necessary that it be done right then. But the tanks needed to be dumped before we pulled out, and that was my second departure task. (My first one was to pack up my laptop computer and move our technology to the truck.) We had prepared the trailer/truck for departure enough times by now that we had a good handle on how much time it would take; 1-1/2 hours allowed for a deliberate, but leisurely pace.
It took me quite a few small adjustments to line up the truck/stinger with the trailer/hitch, but I got it done. The problem was the way the site curved out, restricting how far I could pull straight forward in front of the trailer. I do better when I can start from farther away. Even so, we were ready to go by 10:30, but decided to walk over to the office building and use the restrooms, as much to stretch our legs as anything else. We pulled out of our site at 10:45 AM.
The drive on I-90 was smooth and uneventful, just the way we like it. We took exit 43 at Manchester and dropped down onto NY-96, headed west to County 28 / Macedon Road, and then south to Canandaigua Farmington Town Line Road, which only ran west from there. It was just over a mile to the KOA. I was disappointed in our fuel economy, 10.5 mpg average, but we did travel at 65 mph for most of the trip, and the transmission shifted down frequently as we climbed grades.
We pulled into the KOA at 12:30 PM. As usual, Linda got us registered while I sync’d my phone app to the LevelMatePro+ in the trailer. We were assigned site 18, a 50A/FHU pull-through with a patio (W3W=”hottest.sesame.dishing“). (This was the second time we had site #18 on our trip.) It was clear how to get to it and pull in, but a man from the campground insisted on leading us there and directing us in. Neither service was necessary, but the escort to the site was appreciated, and he was helpful in getting me on the gravel with the truck somewhat aligned with the trailer. He was surprised, however, that our trailer door was towards the rear and positioned us in the site where he thought we would want to be, with the door/stairs opening onto the patio. He was wrong, but that was OK. Sometimes the best/only thing you can do is say “thank you.” I indicated that I needed to reposition the rig slightly, both to level, side-to-side, and position it so the truck would fit in front of it. He returned to the office to help the next arrival.
As it turned out, I was able to back the trailer up to a position where it was level, side-to-side without having to use any of our leveling components. And it was only 3.75” low in the front, so that was easily adjusted after we secured the trailer tires and unhitched. As a bonus, this location put our shore connections exactly opposite the utility hook-ups. Winner, winner, tofu dinner. I plugged in the shorepower while Linda moved Juniper-the-Cat to the trailer. This is always a necessary first step, as I have to lift the rear seat in the truck to get to the tools we use to for the hitching/unhitching process.
There was rain in the forecast for later in the afternoon, but for now, it was sunny with a breeze, so I went ahead and hooked up the water and sewer hose. We had seen fire hydrants along the road, so Linda had asked in the office if the park was on a municipal water supply. It was, so once again I did not hook up the fresh water pressure regulator, filter, and water softener. I powered up our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi and moved it around the rig to find the best signal. It ended up on the nightstand in the bedroom this time, with the Netgear flat panel antenna attached looking north towards Farmington, and the Thruway. All told, it took us about an hour to “make camp.”
For lunch, Linda reheated the leftover risotto from Sunday night’s dinner, and served it with a banana and a slice of Italian bread. Yum. We went for a stroll around the campground after lunch, and watched as additional RVs rolled in every now and then. The park was far from full, but also far from empty.
The center of the rear section of the park was clearly seasonal sites, with a variety of RVs that had obviously not been moved in a long time. Most of them had wood patio decks, and the usual paraphernalia that clearly identifies a seasonal (permanent) RV/site. But we understand that seasonal/permanent RVs provide an important and reliable income stream for an RV park, while requiring minimal park employee labor. Also, seasonal sites almost always have metered electric, so the RV park does not have to be concerned with how much power they use. They do, however, have to read the meter (usually once a month) and collect payment from the customer.
Our walk took us by the office, where we chatted with the woman on duty (presumed to be the owner). She gave us a variety of pamphlets and brochures on things to see and do in the area, especially wineries, as we expressed an interest in those.
Back at our rig, we both set up our computers. I checked e-mail and then started working on today’s blog post while Linda checked her e-mail and then worked on entering and reconciling our financial transactions.
For dinner, Linda made black beans & rice in the Instant Pot. (She also used this for the risotto on Sunday.) I always find beans & rice a tad bland, but Linda had anticipated that and put the Chipotle Tabasco sauce on the table. She put a little on hers too, and agreed that it “kicked it up a notch” (‘props’ to Emeril Lagasse). After dinner we relaxed for a bit with our iPads until our Tuesday evening FBI programs on CBS started at 8 PM. Linda was off to bed as soon as the shows ended at 11 PM, and I was in bed before midnight.
We are not in “vacation” mode, because we don’t take vacations, but we have migrated into a kind of “tourist” mode, and a “returning-to-life-at-home” mode as we have approached the end of our summer/fall 2022 grand tour. (I think this started with the Pirate Cove Adventure Mini-Golf in Bar Harbor, Maine.) Indeed, one of our main foci in the Finger Lakes region of New York will be visiting wineries/meaderies. This region is known for its Riesling wines, and related wines like Gewürztraminer, so we will certainly be on the lookout for those, but probably won’t buy very many bottles of either as they are common wines easily found at good wine shops. We will be looking for wines that are a bit different from our everyday choices, but still to our taste and within the price range we are willing to pay for fermented fruit juice. This will include “fruit” (non-grape) wines, meads, and grape wines like Cabernet Franc and Rivaner. (Black Tower Rivaner is supposedly available at the State Liquor Store in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, so I hope to buy some there if we don’t find another Rivaner wine before then.)
SUNDAY 25 September
(The six photos in this post were all taken on September 26, under better weather and light conditions, with a Google Pixel 6 Pro phone. Some of them are inserted into the post for the 25th because that’s where they apply.)
Today was another travel day for us, so we had one cup of half-caff coffee and a Kashi Honey Almond bar for breakfast. This is only the third time we have had back-to-back two-night stays, but our next two destinations are five nights each. Only twice have we stayed somewhere for just one night, but they were followed by longer stays. We have one more one-night stay, followed by a two-night stay, just before we get home.
The camp ground we just left, Brookwood RV Resort, was selected as one of two convenient waypoints between Stowe, Vermont and the west end of New York’s Finger Lakes region, but we made good use of our one full day there, and it was simply a nice place to camp with wonderful owners. Clearly there was much more to do in the area, including the Fort at Ticonderoga (which we have visited before) and the whole Lake George area. For that matter, Lake Placid was about an hour’s drive northwest of the RV Resort, and we have not ever explored the enormous Adirondack State Park. But we have a target date for being home, and there is only so much you can see if a 4-month trip through six provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland & Labrador) and six states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio), not including our home state of Michigan on each end of the trip.
Today’s destination, The Villages at Turning Stone, was also a convenient waypoint enroute to the Finger Lakes region of New York. But we had also stayed here at least twice before, so we knew it was a very nice RV park, and very convenient to the New York Thruway (I-90) while being far enough away to not hear any noise. It’s part of the Turning Stone Casino & Resort complex, an Enterprise of the Oneida Nation.
Our next destination had a 1 PM check-in time, so we targeted a 10 AM departure and set about getting ready to leave around 8:30 AM. Because the service attachments were so conveniently located near the driver side tires of the trailer, we decided to use the black tank flush feature and fill the black tank to 85% of full (~30 gallons) and give it a good flush before dumping the grey tank. The last couple of times we have dumped the black tank, the level sensor system went down to 10% and then jumped back up to 35%, and then went down to 5% and jumped back up to 55%. RV tank sensors are notorious for giving erroneous readings (and then eventually failing altogether), but that is mostly due (I think) to the tanks never getting full before dumping and/or never getting cleaned. While we would rather not “waste” 30 gallons of potable water, we would also prefer to have a correctly functioning tank level monitoring system. And the only way to do that, without having a tank cleaning service or installing an aftermarket whirligig, is to fill it with clean water and then drain it, multiple times if needed.
Even with a bit of neighborly chatting, we were packed and ready go in time to pull out of our site at 10:15 AM. We set the destination in the F-150 navigation system and selected “fastest” route, knowing that we were going to immediately not go the way it plotted, and that it was going to persistently try to put us on its calculated route.
Rather than head south on NY-9N we headed north, back through Ticonderoga, all the way to NY-74, and took that west to its terminus at I-87 in Severance; 21.1 miles with an estimated travel time of 29 minutes. It was a beautiful, winding road through a valley with Eagle Lake and Pharaoh Lake to the north and the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness Area to the south. It was mostly posted 45 mph, but got us through/over the mountains and was also the shortest way to get from our RV park to I-87.
From there we took I-87 south all the way to the interchange with I-90 just northwest of Albany; 87.76 miles with an estimated travel time of 1 hour 29 minutes. The GPS was fine with that until we didn’t leave I-87 for the more direct (and presumably faster) route(s) it wanted us to take. It tried to take us off I-87 at every southwest road option that we passed, and turn us around when we “missed” it. (It eventually occurred to us that we had the navigation system configured to “Avoid Toll Roads,” and it was doing everything it could to keep us off of I-90 (the New York Thruway), which is how we planned to go.)
I-87 was posted 65 mph most of the way, with an occasional slow down to 55 mph, so I set the cruise control at 65 mph, and only backed off as traffic or speed limits dictated. Although counter-intuitive, we get good fuel economy at this speed because the transmission can shift up into 9th gear and drop the engine rpm back. (Except when climbing hills, where it downshifts and raises the engine rpm.) Southbound traffic continued to increase the farther south we traveled, and was heavy, but manageable, by the time we came into the Albany area. (We presumed that a lot of the southbound traffic was probably folks booking it back to civilization after a weekend “up north” in the Adirondacks.) The transition onto I-90 west involved a keep-right, keep-right, keep-left in fairly quick succession, but we knew about it ahead of time and I was able to maneuver the rig without any issues. (We study maps before making routing decisions, and zoom in to make sure we can see details such as interchanges.)
I-90 is the New York Thruway, and uses EZ-Pass for electronic toll collection. (Indeed, we never saw any evidence of toll actual booths.) We had our EZ-Pass stuck to the windshield and sailed through the full speed overhead readers. (Before we left home, Linda had put money in the account and made sure it was linked to a valid credit card.) From where we got on I-90 to the entrance to The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park was 112.7 miles, with an estimated travel time of 1 hour 49 minutes. The total mileage for our drive today was 221 miles and the estimated travel time was 3 hours 47 minutes. We arrived at 2 PM with an actual travel time of 3 hours 45 minutes, and we averaged over 12 miles per gallon. Not bad.
The Villages at Turning Stone RV Park is a really nice RV park, and you see/sense that as soon as you turn in to the entrance road and pull up to the office building. As usual, Linda went in to register us and I popped into the trailer to turn on the LevelMatePro+ and sync my phone app to it. This was the first place on our trip where they offered discounts for membership in several RV groups. Linda said we were members of FMCA and Escapees, but didn’t have cards in her wallet for either one. They applied the discount, but said she needed to return with a valid membership card.
We were assigned Site 102, a paved, 50A/FHU, pull-through (W3W=”opened.delights.carries“). The site was long enough, but had a curved entry from, and curved exit to, the roads. This made it difficult to get the truck lined up with the trailer (it’s a hitch thing) AND get the combination position nicely on the pavement. In the end, I opted for aligned over perfect position. (If the truck and trailer are not aligned fairly well we cannot lower the trailer tongue jack.)
We drove through off-and-on rain the last hour before reaching The Villages, but quit by the time we got there. We started setting up without precipitation, but it started to drizzle lightly as I was hooking up the utilities. I got the shorepower connected and just made a direct water connection (no filter or water softener). (I left the sewer hose for the morning of our departure.)
We got set up inside (it was raining outside) and were glad to see that we had a decent cellular signal for our phones and Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi. Linda checked our travel wallet, and it turned out that we didn’t have printed cards with us for either FMCA or Escapees. We were able to log in to both websites and “print” them to PDFs, which I then e-mailed to our phones.
Linda walked over to the office only to find that it had closed on 5 PM. Indeed, that was when it closes Sunday through Thursday, staying open later on Friday and Saturday. No problem, we would just deal with it in the morning.
For dinner, Linda made mushroom risotto with greens and we had a little wine to go with it. After dinner I worked on the blog post a bit. We then spent the evening watching a couple of shows on PBS, the new seasons of: “Lucy Worsley Investigates – The Black Death” and “Van der Valk.”
MONDAY 26 September
Since this was just a layover stop for us, we had no plans to do any sightseeing or visit any attractions in the area. We also had no plans to visit the casino, even though they run a free shuttle between the RV park and the Casino. As such, we were in no hurry this morning. We did, however, have chores and errands to attend to.
First up was laundry. Check-out time was 11 AM and check-in time was 1 PM, so Linda figured morning would be the ideal time to do the laundry. We both got showers and then gathered up the laundry, including towels and such. We had enough for two baskets, but only had one basket with us, so we sorted the laundry into two loads. We don’t normally bother, but I wanted to run a ‘hot’ load.
We carried one basket over to the laundry room in the main office building, which is relatively close to our site. The laundry room was spacious, and had four washing machines, four dryers, and a large table for sorting and folding. None of the machine were in use, so we split the first load into two washing machines and started them. We then walked back (with the empty basket), got the second basket full and returned to the laundry room and split it between the other two washing machines.
In-between baskets, I opened up two windows and the ceiling/exhaust fan in the trailer to let it air out and some of the humidity. The weather here has been rainy and cool, requiring us to keep the trailer closed up and run the furnace or one of the heat-pumps. Somewhere in there I took some photos and we brought our iPads along to use while we waited.
As we were walking back to the trailer with all of the clean/folded laundry it started to rain. It was light, but it was still rain. I took the basket and made for the trailer, as I could move faster by myself than with both of us carrying it. We made it back without getting the laundry wet (we had the dish drying mat on top). The vent/fan had already closed (automagically) and I closed the two open windows.
We also needed to do some shopping, but wanted to wait until we had a break in the rain, which had gotten heavy at times. Linda made ham and cheese sandwiches, with mustard and greens, a potato chips on the side. I my case, however, it was also potato chips on the sandwich. I’ve eaten ham sandwiches that way since I was a kid, and that is still the way I prefer to have them.
The rain had stopped (temporarily) by 2 PM, and we headed out. Our first stop was the Walmart on the west end of Oneida for groceries. Their organic produce was limited, but Linda picked what she could and got most of what she was after. The one thing they did have was wine.
We have found the different way that each state and province handled the sale of alcoholic beverages very interesting. In some places, just like in Michigan, we could buy anything in a grocery store. I other places we could only buy alcoholic beverages in the official state/province store. In other states, like New Hampshire and New York, we could only buy beer in the grocery store; anything with a higher alcohol content had to purchased at a Wine and Liquor store, but these were not official state-run outlets. Finally, there were places where we could buy beer and wine at a grocery store, but anything stronger could only be acquired at a liquor store.
Linda stopped an older gentleman in the store and asked if knew where we could buy some wine. He directed us to go east on NY-5 and look for the store on the left side near Main St. We were headed that way when I spotted a Byrne Dairy & Deli filling station and pulled in. We had passed on Lenox St. on our way to Walmart, so I knew what they looked like. I intended to stop there until we took a different route back.
Tomorrow is another travel day and, like always, I wanted to pull out of the RV park with a full tank of fuel in the F-150. I had problems with the credit card reader, as three of them were “no read” or “chip not detected.” I knew that wasn’t possible, so I figured it was a problem with the card reader at the pump and went inside to pay. That resulted in the whole “how much” (gallons or dollars, I’m not sure) conversation, to which I could only answer, “I don’t know, I want to fill it up.” But the clerk had to put in a number, so I figured 20 gallons at $5 per gallon. “So, you want a hundred dollars?” “Well, no, not really; I want to fill the tank whatever that takes.” “$120 then? If you don’t use that much it will only charge your card for what you actually purchase.” “Oh, OK. Make it $130. I don’t want to have to do a small top up; it messes with the miles-to-empty calculation on the display screen.”
Back at the pump I realized that I had needed to insert the cards “upside down” with the stripe and chip (on the back) facing up. Who designs and builds a machine like that? I splurged and got 20.086 gallons of premium, NO Ethanol, fuel for $4.58/gallon; only $92/.38, and it was only 90-octane at that, but I wanted to get some in the tank. Only time will tell if that’s what hits my Amex card or not.
Our next/final stop was the Oneida Wine & Liquor store a little farther east on NY-5. We were at the top of a hill with a warmed-up engine when we left Byrne’s, and I basically coasted to down to the bottom. At its highest, the information display showed a 78+ mpg average! That was the first time I recall seeing a number at or above 30 mpg (average), and probably the last time I will see a number anywhere near that (unless I reset the display at the top of mountain with a 10-mile downgrade).
All we wanted from the wine & liquor store was bottle of wine so we could have some with dinner for the next couple of nights. Linda had checked the weather/radar and we had more rain headed our way, soon and possibly heavy, so we did not linger in the store. We were looking at white wines and noticed shelf with a small selection of Gewürztraminer. I was considering labels and prices when Linda said “get one with a screw top.” Right. That’s actually important; much easier to open and much easier to reseal and store in trailer’s refrigerator. We selected a relatively inexpensive one, that happened to come from the Finger Lakes region, where we are headed next.
Back at the RV park, we unloaded and stored the groceries and settled in to work, read, or play games before dinner. The rains came, as expected, which kept us inside. But that was OK. We needed a day to sit and relax, and I needed the time to work on the blog.
For dinner, Linda made Gardein ‘turkey cutlets’ that we had just bought at Walmart. She uses a variety of Gardein products, but had never seen this one before. She baked a few small potatoes as a side.
Now that we are back in areas where we can get over-the-air TV, Monday night is one of our two nights for CBS programs, the other being Tuesday. (Saturday and Sunday are PBS nights.)
SATURDAY 24 September
This is the second of two posts for this date, the “B side” so to speak. The ‘A’ post was about our very enjoyable morning visit to the amazing Original Series Star Trek Experience in Ticonderoga, New York. We returned to the trailer afterwards to open it up and let it air/dry out as the forecast for temperatures in the upper 60’s and no threat of rain. We then headed back up NY-9N all the way to the Crown Point State Historic Site (SHS) at the Lake Champlain Bridge to Vermont.
Crown Point SHS is both a historical landmark and archeological site that was gifted to New York State in 1910 for preservation. Based on the brochure/map we received, it is jointly managed by New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
The main reason the site exists is the presence of the ruins of two military fortifications: Fort St. Frédéric (French; construction 1734–1737; occupation 1737–1759; destroyed and abandoned 1759), and His Majesty’s Fort of Crown Point (British; construction 1759–1763; occupation 1763–1775, 1776–
1783). The site has a trail system that leads visitors to some of the outlying features, or just provides nice walking paths. There is also a small museum building. The site was free to enter, but the museum was $4 admission per person. We skipped the museum, but not because of the cost. The historical significance of this site, however, was older than just European powers vying for control of northeastern North America. From the brochure/map:
“The Landscape before you has served as a boundary between cultures for hundreds of years. It delineated territories between the Kanien Kehaka (Mohawk) Nation of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy to the West and the Abenaki Nation of the Algonquian peoples to the East.
Samuel de Champlain was the first known European to travel this vast lake in 1609. Waterways were the dominant transport routes in the seventeenth century, and command of this narrow channel could control trade and settlement between Montreal and New York City. Since 1731, this area has been occupied by Indigenous, French, British, and Colonial forces all competing for strategic and commercial control of this corridor.”
I would add that the site occupies the northern tip of small peninsula with nice views of Lake Champlain, New York and Vermont.
Following are eight photos from our visit, all shot with the SONY SLT a99v (DSLR). They are not a complete visual documentation, just a few photos that I liked.
SATURDAY 24 September
We had two very different things on our agenda for today. The first one was the Start Trek Experience in Ticonderoga, New York. The other was a visit to Crown Point State Historic Site on the New York side of the Lake Champlain Bridge. This post only covers our visit to the Star Trek Experience. There will be a second post for today’s date about the State Historic Site.
Most of this post is photos with captions. All 30 of the photos were taken on my Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone and processed with Faststone Image Viewer. By way of introduction, however, the Star Trek Experience is a full-scale reproduction of the permanent set at Desi Studios that was used to film all the scenes that took place aboard the Starship Enterprise in the 79 episodes of the Original Series. The reproduction was built from copies of the original blueprints for the set. A second soundstage was used for all of the scenes that took place off of the ship. As these were different for each episode, the were disassembled and replace for each one.
We had reservations for the 10 AM tour. As you will see in some of the photos, our tour guide, whose name I failed to get, resembled and older William Shatner. As a disclaimer, not being a Trekkie, I might have a few details wrong in the captions. If so, feel free leave a comment with the needed correction(s). According to our tour guide, there are about 200 things (devices, etc.) that were created for the series that did not exist at the time, and were considered very futuristic, but have since come to exist. Think cellular communications and iPads. We also found it interesting that William Shatner comes to this venue about twice each year. As a final comment, the Reproduction was very well done, our tour guide was excellent (knowledgeable and funny), and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
FRIDAY 23 September
Today was a relocation day for us. Our next campground was the Brookwood RV Resort in/near Ticonderoga, New York. We decided to take the faster/easier route, with an estimated travel time of about 2 hours. Check-in time was 1 PM, so we planned to pull out of our current site at 11 AM.
The temperature dropped overnight and we still had rain in the area, so we had the trailer closed up and one of the heat-pumps running in heat mode. The rain had paused during the morning, so we did not have to contend with that while breaking camp, but it was cold enough to be uncomfortable handling all of the equipment, and we both commented that we needed to get some warm work gloves for this kind of situation.
We pulled out on time, and headed south on VT-100 towards Waterbury, where we picked up I-89 north towards Burlington. This stretch of I-89 actually ran WWN until it got close to the Burlington area, where it turned north. We exited at that point onto I-189 which ran west for a short way and ended at US-7. We turned south on US-7 and took it as far as Vergennes, Vermont where we picked up VT-22a towards Addison. At Addison, we turned right/west on VT-17 and followed that to the Lake Champlain Bridge. The bridge connects Chimney Point, Vermont to Crown Point, New York. At the border (on the bridge) the road became NY-185, which ran a short way and ended at NY-9N/NY-22. We headed south on 9N and just stayed on it to Brookwood RV Resort. Before getting there, however, we drove through the small town of Crown Point, and the larger town of Ticonderoga.
When we pulled in, Linda went to office to register and I got out of the truck to turn on the LevelMatePro+ and sync the app on my phone. When I returned to the truck a man was waiting there. It was Mark, one of the owners, and he was there to help us get into our site (T6). The other owner is Buffy, who runs the office (they’re married).
We had the 50A full-hookup pull-through (W3W=”postings.universe.horsepower”) site we had requested. It was easy to get in and the truck and trailer aligned. We were actually completely level, side-to-side and front-to-rear. I was pretty sure that was the first time that had every happened, and would have been perfect for a one-night stay, but we planned to do some things in the area tomorrow so we still had to unhitch the truck and re-level. We ended up having to use our Andersen rocker levelers on the driver side of the trailer to raise it an inch.
Mark was friendly as well as helpful, and we chatted with him for about 30 minutes before we finished setting up camp. He had some suggestions for things to do in the area, which we appreciated. It was a sunny, but chilly afternoon, so our only activity was to go for a walk through the campground. There were 85 sites on 28 acres, and few rental cabins. Over half of the RV sites were in use as seasonal or permanent sites, but they were mostly in the back part of the property. We met and chatted with several of the “residents,” and they were all very friendly. Still, Mark and Buffy have been thoughtful about not arbitrarily mixing “residents” with “transients,” which we appreciated.
One of Mark’s suggestions was the Star Trek Experience in Ticonderoga. Linda and I are not “Trekkies,” but were certainly fans of the original TV series as well as the movies and subsequent series. We look it up online to find out more about it. It looked interesting, and was certainly close by. Reservations appeared to be required for the guided tour, so Linda bought two tickets for the 10 AM tour.
The weather forecast for tonight was for temperatures to drop to 41 (F), so we had another night ahead of us with the trailer closed up and one of the heat-pumps running.
THURSDAY 22 September
(There are 9 photos in this post. All of them were taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)
I was up later than I intended last night. As I was thinking about going to bed, it occurred to me to check for updates from Microsoft. Normally these are available on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month (security and general, respectively). I had installed the security updates last week (the 13th ) as soon as the were available (and I had enough Internet connectivity to do it). The 20th was only the 3rd Tuesday, but there was an “optional” preview update available, which was effectively an early release of an update I was going to get eventually anyway. Even with the relatively good Internet we have through our Verizon Mi-Fi hotspot, the download and installation took about 30 minutes. I worked on puzzles while I waited.
We were both out of bed by 7:30 AM, had our morning coffee, and had some of Linda’s homemade granola with fresh fruit for breakfast. We have managed to stretch the granola this far in the trip by not having it very often, so it’s a real treat when we do.
Even though we were here for one more full day and night, our waste tanks were starting to fill up, especially the grey water tank (75% full). We both wanted to take showers before going out today, so I partially drained the grey water tank back to 35% of full. We will get it back up to 70%+ before dump tomorrow as the tank rinse themselves out better the more water they have in them.
Today was our last full day in Vermont for this trip, and we had three and half-and-a-half things on our agenda, all in and around Burlington. There was still a threat of rain, but the weather was otherwise acceptable, and the clouds were pretty amazing, so not a bad day at all for driving around and doing a mix of inside and outside things. It was cool, however, and temperatures would be dropping from 4 PM on, so we dressed in layers and took our warm hoodies and raincoats. Given the weather forecast and the timing for our last destination, we left camp at 11:30 AM.
Even though we were camped between Stowe and Waterbury, with the highest mountains in Vermont between us and Burlington, the area was surprisingly easy, and quick to access. The first part of our route was VT-100 south to Waterbury (~7.5 mi) to get on I-89 N to I-189 (~19 mi), and then a short drive on I-189 to its terminus at US-7. From there, about 8 miles south on US-7 and we were at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in Shelburne, Vermont. US-7 through Shelburne was 35 – 45 mph with lots of stoplights, but most of I-89 was posted 65 mph, so trip only took about 40 minutes.
The drive up I-89 was new for us, and was especially beautiful as it ran along-side the Winooski River through a long valley. As a bonus we saw two mature Bald Eagles. They were a mile or so apart, but we figured that was close enough together that they were probably a mated pair.
Like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company is an iconic American business and a fun place to visit and shop. You can buy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in supermarkets, and you can buy Vermont Teddy Bears online, but it’s just more fun to do it in person if you can. Our shopping concluded, we headed back to the truck and saw a couple of beautifully restored old cars in the parking lot. (Over the course of the afternoon we saw several more classic cars, and figured they were headed to a meet, probably at the Champlain Valley Expo Center in Essex Junction, Vermont. The Expo Center was the location for the summer 2016 Escapade rally (Escapees RV Club). We were there as volunteer staff, Linda in the office and me as the official photographer.
Before leaving the Vermont Teddy Bear Company parking lot, we set our next destination in the F-150 navigation system; Snow Farm Vineyard & Winery on Crescent Bay in South Hero, Grand Isle, Vermont. Our route was US-7 north to I-189 east to I-89 north to US-2 west, and then several small roads once we were on the island. Grand Isle is one of the Lake Champlain Islands that occupy the middle of the north half of Lake Champlain, but are on the Vermont side of the border with New York. Grand Isle was the southernmost of these islands, lying northwest of Burlington and east of Plattsburgh, New York.
I did my Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps field training at Plattsburg Air Force Base in the summer of 1975 (ABIR), but have not been back to that part of New York since then. The 5,000-acre base was decommissioned and closed in 1995, and then redeveloped. This Wikipedia entry gives the pre-military, military, and post-military history of the base:
We selected Snow Farm Vineyard and Winery to visit for several reasons. A main one was that they were open every day from 11 AM to 6 or 7 PM (depending on the season), which allowed us to plan a visit. (Many of the wineries we checked were closed Monday through Wednesday and opened at 5 PM on Thursday, which didn’t work for us.) We had also looked at their wine offerings online, and saw that they used grape varieties with which we had little or no acquaintance. We are not wine aficionados by any measure, but we know what we like and are always looking for something different that appeals to us. Finally, we just thought it we be nice to visit the island, and maybe see one of the “fairy castles.”
Founded in 1996, Snow Farm was the oldest commercial grape vineyard and winery in Vermont. They only sold wines that they made, and they only made those wines with grapes that they grew, and that as the kind of winery we like best. Most of their wines were finished dry or off-dry, with a few slightly sweeter ones, as well as a late harvest Vignoles and an ice wine.
The wine tasting process was a bit different from what we usually encounter, but in a good way. Four wines for $5 or eight wines for $9, selected from their available stock (with a couple of exceptions). We each had a 4-wine flight; reds for Linda and mostly whites for me. Suitably small quantities of each wine were poured into small, stemless wine glasses which were set in a “paddle board” with indentations for each glass, dry to sweet, starting from the handle. This allowed us to carry the board to a table and sit down while tasting them. Two of their wines were sparkling, fermented in the bottle (champaign style). We did not include it in our flights because we thought we couldn’t (we were wrong), but they allowed us a small cup to taste (think ketchup cup at MikeyD’s.) We bought a box of Carr’s table water crackers to cleanse our palette between wines.
We bought four bottles of wine: Snow White (one of the original Snow Farm wines, a blend of Cayuga and Seyval Blanc grapes); Fox Hill Maple (a sweet blend of Seyval Blanc and maple wine produced from maple syrup made from the sap of the maple trees behind the winery) ; Pétillant Naturel, or Pet Nat, made with Seyval Blanc grapes and bottled before complete fermentation. It is unfiltered and the natural yeast sediment can be shaken into the wine and consumed, or the wine can be poured off the sediment., and; 2021 25th anniversary Late Harvest Vignoles. They also gave a small sample of the Vignoles before we decided to buy it. We have picked up an occasional bottle of wine at the supermarket or state/provincial beverage store to have with diner, but we are transporting all of the wines we have purchased from wineries back home to re-stock our wine refrigerator and provide a reminder of where we were when we tasted and purchased them.
Our final destination for today was Revolution Kitchen at 9 Center St. in downtown Burlington. We left Snow Farm around 3 PM and were parked in the Main Street Lot at the intersection of Main St. and S. Winooski Ave, next to a Burlington Fire Department Station, by 3:30 PM. It was a pay lot, $1.50 per hour. Credit cards accepted. Just enter your license plate, and get your receipt.
It was a short walk from there to the restaurant, but our reservation was at 5 PM, which was when they opened. One block to the west, however, was Church St., which had been turned into a pedestrian corridor from Main St. all the way north to Pearl St. Linda knew this corridor was here, and wanted to walk it before dinner.
It was not our first time in Burlington, but it was the first time we had time to walk the pedestrian friendly city. The Church Street corridor was surprising devoid of people, but it was a somewhat dreary day. There was an interesting assortment of shops, including food and beverage establishments, but most of the bars and restaurants were closed today, or did not open until 5 PM, which partially explained the light crowd. We strolled through a few of the shops (to get out of the damp and cool for a few minutes) but spent some time in Fjallraven, a high end Swedish outdoor clothing store. They sold the kind of clothes that made us wish we were young enough, fit enough, and adventurous enough to justify the price by actually using them for the purpose for which they were intended. They were not busy, and we had a nice chat with the young man on duty.
This was not our first visit Revolution Kitchen. We dined there with Norah and Howie Glover back in the summer of 2016 when we were all working as volunteers at the Escapees RV Club Escapade Rally in Essex Junction, and remembered liking the food and the place. It’s a vegetarian / vegan restaurant that uses local ingredients. It was as we remembered it; Linda even remembered where we sat last time.
It’s a “small, wood-accented eatery crafting innovative vegetarian & vegan dishes from local, fresh, sustainable and organic ingredients.” While not an “upscale” setting, it’s a serious restaurant that required a reservation; not the bohemian sort of place that we usually find near college campuses. For the record, the University of Vermont campus was just on the east edge of downtown Burlington, a short walk from the restaurant.
We both had hot tea, to ward off a little bit of chill. For starters, we split the Kale Caesar Salad, which was very good. For our main dishes, Linda ordered the Seitan Picata while I ordered the Wild Vegetable Ravioli, but we each tried some of the other dish. Both of them were excellent. For dessert, we split a slice of chocolate layer cake with black raspberry “cream” filling between the layers. The cake was moist with a wonderful texture, even without the cream layers. Simply amazing.
Our paid parking was set to run out at 6:35 PM, but we were back at the truck from 6:20 PM. Main St. was also US-2, which was our route eastbound through the University of Vermont campus back to I-89 north. Sunset tonight in Stowe was 6:48 PM, so it was dark by the time we got back to camp around 7:20 PM. We were a bit later than that as we drove past the campground a couple of miles to the Irving filling station to top up the fuel tank in the F-150. We were back in our trailer by 7:45 PM and settled in for the night. For me, that meant processing the photos and writing the blog post for today, as well as putting the finishing touches on the post for yesterday. We noticed on the way in to the campground that it was considerably busier than it was on Monday and Tuesday.
WEDNESDAY 21 September
(There are 13 photos in this post, all shot on a Google Pixel 6 Pro. As always, they are captioned and distributed throughout the text. )
I stayed up last night to publish a couple of blog posts, and did not get to bed until 1 AM. Nevertheless, I was up at 7 AM, did my morning chores, and heated the water for coffee. I was quiet, as always, and Linda got up at 7:45. We nowhere we had to be during the morning, and I would have slept longer if I could.
With no blog posts to work I, worked a few Pic-a-Pix puzzles on m iPad. Small, easy ones at first, and then a larger and more difficult B&W one. We try to keep up with updates for our devices and I had another nine for my phone. Two apps wouldn’t update (Android System Intelligence and Private Compute Services). Both apps were Android components from Google, and the list of things to try resolving the problem was annoyingly long. We really liked our Google Pixel 2 / 2XL phones, and we have really liked our Google Pixel 6 / 6 Pro phones so far, especially the camera and image processing, but this kind of thing is just plain annoying and, frankly, stupid for a customer to have to deal with. Arrrgh.
We had bagels for breakfast (with butter and cream cheese) and fresh fruit (bananas, black raspberries, and strawberries), with some orange juice. On a recent walk around the campground, we were able to chat with one of the three people who work here (and probably own it). We mentioned how empty it was on Monday and Tuesday. He assured us it was very busy all summer, would be busy again by the weekend, and in another week or so, when the fall colors finally appear for real, it will be full.
We finally got a neighbor on our driver/left side this morning, which seemed odd at first as it was way before the 1 PM check-in time. We chatted with the them briefly before leaving for the day. It turned out that they were already in the campground yesterday but decided to extend their stay through Thursday night, which resulted in them having to move to a different site. They were from S. Carolina and were driving a 2008 Winnebago Destination but did have a “toad.” It turned out that they were traveling with friends, who were parked about 10 sites down and were towing a car behind their motorhome.
Our first destination today was Moss Glen Falls. The Falls trailhead was approximately a mile east of VT-100, about 5 miles north of Stowe, Vermont. Most of the road after leaving VT-100 was gravel. Just before reaching the trailhead parking lot, the road was being worked on and was down to one lane. The construction zone was only about 30 feet long, so the workers also acted as traffic control. The parking lot was small, and about 70% full, but I had no trouble finding a spot.
The trail to the Falls was ~1/4 mile, with almost no elevation change until the end. It followed the river from the outflow of the Falls, but also traversed a lot of marshy area. A very nice system of boardwalks kept our feet dry. The area had an active beaver population, and while we did not see them, we did see evidence of their tree felling activities. Towards the end of the trail, we had to hike up about 75 feet to get to the viewing area for the Falls, which drop about 125 feet.
Our visit to Moss Glen Falls concluded, we headed back towards Stowe to pick up VT-108 to Jeffersonville via Smuggler’s Notch and Smuggler’s Notch State Park. As we were coming into Stowe we saw a sign for VT-108 and turned. A short distance later, we had to make a decision to turn left or right. We went right and almost immediately were on a gravel road. We were supposed to be on the main road to the ski resorts west of Stowe, and my instincts told me this could not possibly be that road, which is open all winter and sees a lot of traffic. Still, It took us a few miles to figure out (convince ourselves) that we were not where we had intended to be.
We doubled back to the intersection where we had turned the wrong way, and thought we were now on track, but soon realized we were still not back on VT-108. Linda was navigating on her phone by this point, and could see that we were at least on a track that would eventually lead us to VT-108. Besides, we got to drive somewhere we hadn’t planned to visit, and see nice mountain side homes on large properties. Some days are like that. (Stowe is a small, but upscale iconic Vermont village, and driving around in a residential area of the mountains underscored that there was a lot of money in here.)
VT-108 is the road to the well-known Stowe, Vermont ski area. As expected, the road was in excellent condition. As we climbed up towards the base of the ski slopes, we saw more and more, and nicer and nicer, B&B’s, Inns, Lodges, Resorts, and vacation homes, as well as the ski slopes and lifts. Mount Mansfield, at 4,393 feet AMSL, is the tallest mountain in Vermont and anchored the Stowe Mountain Resort.
All of that was nice, and interesting of course, but the main reason for coming up here was to drive through Smuggler’s Notch and the State Park that encompasses it. Megan and Scott, from Timberland CG in Shelburne, New Hampshire, had strongly recommended that we do this drive; and they were right. At 2,162 feet AMSL, Smuggler’s Notch is not the highest auto-drivable road in the State. That honor belongs to the Lincoln Gap, at 2,424 feet AMSL, between Lincoln and Warren, Vermont. But that road is not open in the winter, whereas VT-108 is open year-round. And Lincoln Gap is not Smuggler’s Notch.
“Smugglers’ Notch, Vermont is a mountain pass located in Lamoille County. The notch separates Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, from Spruce Peak and Sterling Ridge. Some locals refer to the area as “the quiet side of the Mountain,” and the road through the notch, Route 108, is one of two officially designated scenic highways in the state.”
It was an amazing road through the notch, and the scenery was also amazing. The sun had come out and there were just enough clouds to be interesting, with some still hanging around the peaks of the mountains. The road was narrow often barely one lane wide, with no shoulder and with tight hairpin turns, some of which had huge boulders on the inside of the curve and a sheer rock face on the outside of the curve.
In fact, this stretch of VT-108 is length restricted; fixed wheelbase vehicles cannot exceed 40 feet, and articulated vehicles cannot exceed 45 feet. And there are hefty fines if you ignore these limits and get caught. (If you get stuck, the fine is $2,400, but having driven it, I wouldn’t take a fixed wheelbase vehicle over 25’, or a travel trailer of any kind or size, through the notch). Alas, all of the places to pull off the road or park were taken, so we just drove through. But that was OK; we enjoy a nice scenic drive, and this was one of only two designated scenic roads in all of Vermont.
VT-108 intersected VT-15 in Jeffersonville and we took it east towards Johnson and on to Morristown to pick up VT-100 south back to camp. There was a truck route to bypass downtown Morristown, but we stayed with the main route as we wanted to see downtown. Morristown was actually fairly large, and VT-100 wound through what seemed like three separate downtown area. (This was another example where we “be a truck” if we had been towing the trailer.)
Coming back into Stowe from Morristown, we saw the same sign for VT-108, but this time was also saw the “ALT” on the sign. “ALT” makes all difference. Going through downtown Stowe, we finally saw were VT-108 actually came off of VT-100.
As we were getting close to our campground, we decided to keep going and visit the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory in Waterbury. We had been there before, but it was a long time ago. Reservations were needed to tour the factory, but we did not feel the need to do that again. What we wanted, and what we got, were ice cream cones. We sometimes have non-dairy ice cream at home, and have had it in the trailer a few times on this trip, but actually going out and getting an ice cream cone was a rare treat.
We got in line at the Ice Cream Shop and waited 20 – 30 minutes before ordering. They currently make 18 different non-dairy “frozen desserts” but the only one available at the window was “Colin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled.” We wanted waffle cones, but they weren’t vegan ☹ The sugar cones were, however, so we each one 😊
Most of their non-dairy products were made from almond milk, but the “Colin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled” was one of only four that was made from “Sunflower Butter.” We had never heard of this but, based on our experience, it was the best non-dairy “ice cream” we had ever had.
We had just finished our treats when we ran into our neighbors from the campground and their traveling companions, and chatted with them for a bit. They had made a day of visiting the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Lake Champlain Chocolates, and a few other places between Stowe and Waterbury. Ben ^ Jerry’s was their final stop for the day. We then visited the “Graveyard of Retired Flavors” on our way back to our truck. Set up like a cemetery, each retired (discontinued) product had its own “headstone” with a clever inscription (as some headstones are want to have) and the first and last year of production (as all headstones have). A few of them had been “resurrected” and then retired again (something not seen on most headstones). One had been in and then out of production three times.
Back in camp, Linda e-mailed Revolution Kitchen in Burlington to see if we could get a reservation for 5 PM tomorrow. Her request was answered in the affirmative, so our plans for tomorrow fell into place. I copied photos from my phone to my laptop computer and started working on this blog post. We were eventually hungry enough for dinner and got the WeberQ grill out of the truck. Linda grilled the vegan kielbasa and roasted some mixed fingerling potatoes on the grill, and heated up some sauerkraut in the microwave oven. We had Barefoot Riesling wine with our meal and piece of chocolate for dessert.
Linda needed an S.O.S. pad to clean the roasting basket and I suggested we drive up to the Shaw’s in Stowe. I noticed some nice color in the western sky, but when I looked closer I found an amazing sunset in progress over the mountains. I grabbed my phone to get pictures, and I wasn’t alone. At least a half-dozen other campers had come out to do the same thing. Pictures taken, we loaded the grill back into the bed of the truck and headed off to Shaw’s on the north end of Stowe.
PHOTO – PXL … stitchh4_1680x404_sunset-1 … This is a composite of four images. (It’s 1680 by 404 pixels; click to enlarge.)
The Stowe’s Shaw’s was not nearly as large, or as nice, as the one on the north end of Waterbury, but it had what we needed, and more. We always go up and down the isles in a new-to-us supermarket, and we inevitably find things to buy.
It was dark by the time we got back to the campground, and I mean really dark. The entrance sign F-150 navigation screen. We had also driven this road enough by this point that I knew where it was.
No TV tonight; just reading and writing and photo editing and puzzle playing. I got this post mostly written, and the photos selected and edited, but did not get them placed and captioned. I hope to get that done in the morning before we head out for the day. The weather forecast was calling for rain overnight and into tomorrow, with the possibility of thunderstorms after 1 AM. The temperature was predicted to hover around 60 (F) until 4 PM and then fall to 43 (F) by 8 AM on Friday. Before heading to bed, I checked that all of the windows in the truck where closed and that the windows and exhaust fan vents were closed in the trailer. The sky was dark and clear, the only light pollution coming from the exterior lighting on many of the RVs. Both the Big and Little Dipper constellations were visible, which is often not true for the Little Dipper, as was the Milky Way. Not bright, but clearly and distinctly there. This was only the 3rd or 4th time during our entire trip (to-date) that I have seen the sky this dark and clear.
TUESDAY 20 September
I was up a bit later last night, but managed to get the blog posts for the 17th and 18th uploaded and published. As a result, I slept in until 7 AM, and Linda was actually up before me. We had coffee and some fresh fruit, but held off on anything else to eat as we planned to go the Cold Hollow Cider Mill for their apple cider and cider donuts and some hot apple cider.
Linda checked the vegan restaurant in Burlington (Revolution Kitchen). They were closed M-Tu-W, and are only open for dinner, so our first opportunity to dine there would be Thursday evening. I spent some time searching for wineries near us, and the best option I could find was the (Snow Farm Vineyard and Winery.) in South Hero on Grand Isle, an island in Lake Champlain between Burlington, VT and Plattsburg, NY. It was only 52 miles away, and it was actually open every day starting at 11 AM. We made a tentative plan to go there on Thursday and then go to dinner in Burlington. Most of the wineries in the area were closed during the week and re-opened on Thursday for the weekend. Some appeared to be closed for the season, which seemed very odd to us as the fall color show has yet to really begin.
Our first stop was the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. We got six of their ‘legendary’ cider donuts (cake style) and two small apple ciders for $8 + tax. The hot (or cold) cider was unlimited refills, so we took advantage of the bargain. Both products were fresh and tasty, as there were a lot of people there and they move a lot product.
As long as we were going out to get cider and donuts for breakfast, we decided to do a little grocery shopping. Our next stop was the Farmers Market, at little closer towards Waterbury. It was a small grocery with a mix of fresh and processed items. We just looked around, as we were also headed to the Shaw’s supermarket farther in towards Waterbury.
At the Shaw’s location, there was also a True Value Hardware Store. I needed an adjustable wrench or pliers to keep with the water system components, so I went in search of one. I ended up buying a Vise-Grip channel lock pliers. Not too large, but with adjustable jaws that could open wide and lock shut. Perfect.
When I rejoined Linda in the supermarket, she was almost done shopping. We checked out and headed back towards camp. We were near the Ben & Jerry’s factory at this point, so she checked online about tours; reservations required and they had to be made online. No reservation needed if you just want to visit the “graveyard” (of retired flavors) and by ice cream at their shop. But we were not done yet. We stopped at the Farmers Market again, and Linda bought some mushrooms for tonight’s dinner. But we still had one last stop to make before getting back to our trailer; the Lake Champlain Chocolate factory outlet store. We were only out for a couple of hours, but accomplished what we had planned to do, and the rain had held off during that time, so it worked out well.
Back at the trailer, we had hummus and Fritos as a quick, easy lunch/snack. Perhaps due to the dreary weather, we both decided to take naps during the afternoon. After my nap I continued working on a Multi-Sudoku ‘combo’ puzzle I had started earlier.
For dinner, Linda made a pasta dish with Garofalo Lumachine pasta, mushrooms, onions, greens, and vegan meatballs in arrabbiata sauce. We had a few pieces of the chocolate we bought earlier today.
Now that we had access to TV signals, and the new season has started on CBS, we spent the remainder of the evening watching the three FBI shows. Linda headed off to bed as soon as they were done, and the cat followed her, as she does every evening. I stayed up long enough to post the blog entries for yesterday and today.
MONDAY 19 September
I was tired and went to bed around 10:30 PM last night; early for me. I was awake by 4 AM this morning, of course, but managed to stay in bed until closer to 7 AM. I put away the dishes and cutlery from last night, and put the kettle on to boil (filled and pushed the START button). I think I also fed the cat, as that is usually part of my first-thing-in-the-morning routine.
Today was a travel day, and we had our sights set on a 10 AM departure. If I was going to have coffee and something to eat, I had to do it right away. I one of the scones that we got yesterday at the Village Vegan in Conway, New Hampshire. I was part way through my cup of coffee when Linda got up. She made her cup of coffee and ate her scone right away as well, and then we each had a cinnamon twist pasty. All vegan, and very tasty.
I took a break from working on the blog last night, so after breakfast I picked up from where I left off. I was inserting all of the photo references into the text for our Mt. Washington Cog Railway trip yesterday, including writing the captions, and realized I had not yet finished writing the post. I had set it aside yesterday to start the post for our drive to Conway, New Hampshire and had not returned to it. As the clock on the microwave convection oven counted up the minutes towards 10:00 AM, it was obvious I was not going to get the post finished and published before we left. We really wanted to be on the road by 10 AM, so at 8:30 AM we started our final departure preparations. Priorities, even (especially?) when camping.
While I was moving our technology from the trailer to the truck I had a chance to chat briefly with or neighbors on either side, both of whom had pulled in yesterday early evening, one behind the other. That turned out to be coincidence, as they were unrelated and unacquainted prior to arriving here. The older couple on our passenger side was from Ontario, and were also leaving today for Vermont; Waterbury, specifically. The younger couple on our driver side was from the Cleveland, Ohio area, and were staying through tomorrow night.
Our destination today was Gold Brook Campground in Moscow, Vermont (south of Stowe and north of Waterbury). The reason we were so focused on a 10 AM departure was: a) Check-in time was 1 PM; b) We estimated it to be a 3-hour drive, and; c) A massive rain system was forecast to move through that area during the day, but it looked like we might have a window from 1 to 2 PM to set up camp with little or no rain.
We looked at, and considered, various routing options, but opted in the end to just take US-2 all the way, except for a detour around St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and the last 7.6 miles on VT-100. Our current campground was literally on US-2, so it was a matter of exiting the campground, turning right, and staying on the designated route.
Rain was forecast for last night, and through this morning, with high percentage chances but, as has often happened on this trip, it did not pan out exactly that way. It rained, but not between 8:30 and 10 AM this morning; we’ve been lucky that way. We were hitched up and ready to go by 9:45 AM. Linda took the trash to the dumpster by the office and returned our gate card in exchange for our $20 deposit. While she was in the office, Megan and Scott gave her a list of places we should be sure to visit in/around Stowe and Waterbury, as they used to live in that area. We both made use of the campground restroom, and were finally pulled out of the campground onto US-2 at 10:04 AM.
The weather was heavily overcast, with low clouds obscuring the tops of all the mountains, including many of the lower ones. US-2 was still a wonderful drive, however; up and down, left and right, alongside rivers, and through small towns and villages. We were even high enough in elevation at a few points to drive through the clouds. The rain was moving in from northwest and we eventually drove into it. It was heavy enough at times that visibility was low and water was ponding on the roads. No problem, though; lights on, wipers on, slow down a bit. The truck-trailer combination handled flawlessly, for which the Propride 3P WD Hitch got a lot of the credit.
Our only deviation from US-2 was getting around St. Johnsbury, Vermont. We had seen on the map that the route through town involved a number of sharp turns in a downtown area; not ideal for a 50’ long articulated vehicle. I commented that, if I saw a sign for a truck route around St. Johnsbury, I was going to take it. And sure enough, there it was as we came into the edge of town. (Once again, the concept of “when are we a truck and when are we not a truck,” which was especially important with the converted bus, but still applies to any RV. At issue are weight, height, width, and turns. If a tractor-trailer, can make it, so can we.) The US-2 West Truck Route took us a short way south to I-93 north, which ended a few miles later at I-91, where we continued north and finally exited back on to US-2 West.
As we got to the west side of Montpellier, we almost had a navigation error. I saw a sign at the last minute for US-2 West and made the right turn (from the through lane), but then wasn’t sure I should have done that. Just after the turn ,there was an area on the left where it looked like I could turn around, so I pulled in. It turned out to be Montpellier High School. Linda figured out fairly quickly that I had, in fact, turned when/where I needed to. I looped around in front of the school and back to the road, made a left to continue our direction of travel, crossed over the river, and then almost immediately turned left again to stay on US-2 West. The “detour” cost us a minute or two of travel time; no big deal.
By the time we reached Waterbury, the rain had basically quit. We turned north on Waterbury Road (VT-100) for the final 7.6 miles to our campground, just shy of the small town of Moscow. Along the way we passed the entrance to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream factory and the Lake Champlain Chocolate outlet store (not the factory, which is near Burlington). Shortly after that we passed a ‘Welcome to Stowe’ sign and then saw the sign for our campground, pulled in, and followed the signs to the office.
While Linda went to the office to register, I went in the trailer to turn on the LevelMatePro+ and sync the app on my phone. The office was locked, with a note on the door directing arriving guests to a mailbox for their information packet. Our stay here was fully pre-paid, so this approach worked just fine for us.
The interior roads were gravel, but in decent shape, and the sites were all grass, with a bit of gravel in evidence. We had been assigned site #66 (W3W=”encircling.gadgets.submerged”), a 50A, full-hookup, back-in. The campground was mostly empty, with maybe 12 sites in use out of 79, so we had open sites on both sides of us. The utilities were set up side-by-side, which is generally not a good arrangement, but we noticed that all of the RVs were spaced out. Closer examination revealed that all of the trailers had been assigned even numbered sites, which allowed them to back in and have the hookups on the correct side, whereas the motorhomes had been assigned odd numbered sites, which allowed them to pull in and have the hookups on the correct side. I thought that was both clever and thoughtful, but something they would be unable to maintain at full occupancy.
It was a rainy Monday, of course, but it still seemed strange that the place was mostly empty as it was a nice enough campground, with good utilities, and was located about half-way between Waterbury and Stowe. We noticed more trees changing color on the drive here today, but were probably still a week or two from the kind of fall colors that draw millions of visitors to the Northeast U.S., and perhaps 3 to 4 weeks from peak color.
Knowing that heavy rain was on the way, possibly as early as 2 PM, we were anxious to get set up. It always takes me a few tries (if I’m lucky) to get the trailer backed into a site the way I want it AND with the truck lined up with the trailer. We did pretty well this time and lucked out, once again, in finding a place for the trailer tires that was level side-to-side. We were only off level by 6.5”, front-to-rear, well within the range our equipment could handle.
I got the shorepower cord out of the trailer while Linda moved Juniper-the-cat into the trailer. We then got the trailer tires chocked, the truck unhitched, leveled the trailer front-to-back, and put the stabilizer jacks down. After we moved all of technology from the truck to the trailer, Linda set about getting the inside ready to use while I hooked up the shorepower and got the fresh water components connected. I was going to hook up the sewer hose as well but, as I was finishing the fresh water setup, there was a loud rumble of thunder and it started to drizzle. It started to rain harder just as I closed the trailer door behind me. It was 1:45 PM, so we had completed most of our arrival preparations in just 45 minutes from when we pulled in off of VT-100. By 2:06 PM it was raining hard, so we had done very well taking advantage of the break in the rain.
While setting up the interior, Linda found a small steel ball on the floor. It was a ball bearing, which I figured had to come from a drawer slide. There are only six drawers in the trailer, so I will have to try and figure out which one this might have come from. (The drawer under the dinette seat by the entry door was open when I went in to turn on the LevelMatePro+, so that would be my starting point.)
The other new issue I noticed this morning was water dripping from the exhaust fan in the shower. The inside of the housing was wet, suggesting the water was not getting in around the outside of it. I checked it while it was raining, and it didn’t seem to matter if the vent was open or closed, so I wasn’t sure what had happened. We didn’t bring a ladder with us that was long enough for me to get up high enough to examine the vent cover from the outside. I had to replace the vent cover on the bathroom exhaust fan before our trip as the foam seal around the inside of it was crushed, so perhaps this was a similar issue. The vent covers are held on by two screws, so perhaps one of them had come loose. But at the moment, there was no way to know for sure. Fortunately (?), it was the vent fan in the shower, and not the one in the bathroom.
We had Amy’s Alphabet Vegetable Soup for lunch, along with crackers (with butter and peanut butter) and red grapes. After lunch, I set up our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi and my computer, and got back to work on the blog posts, including this one. Around 4:00 PM we checked the weather. It wasn’t raining at the moment but more was on the way. I fed the cat and then set up the sewer hose. I was just finishing that task around 4:25 PM when it started raining lightly.
When I came back in, Linda showed me the radar. We were right at the eastern edge of A Big Yellow Blob, which was moving east towards us. Missed it by ‘that’ much, again. Rain was in the forecast for all four nights we will be here, but wouldn’t spoil our fun, as we were not planning on hiking here. Instead, we planned to do more “touristy” things, like go to: Ben & Jerry’s (they make vegan ice cream); Lake Champlain Chocolate (no explanation needed); the Vermont Teddy Bear Store; the Cold Hollow Cider Mill and Donut Shop that Megan and Scott recommended (which we also passed coming up VT-100), and; other such “points of interest.”
When we were in Essex Junction, Vermont in the summer of 2016 for the Escapade Rally, we went to a vegan restaurant in Burlington. Linda did a search and thought she found it. We are not that far from Burlington, so we might go there for lunch or dinner one day. (I was looking at the map for this area, and we are actually not that far from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.) She also scanned for TV signals (not that I’ve missed TV that much) and found quite a few. Being Monday, the important channel was CBS, and we ended up watching the first episodes of the new season for several of our favorite shows. I worked during the TV programs, and managed to get the blog posts for the last two days uploaded, assembled, and published.
SUNDAY 18 September
We did not have to be up early today, so we slept in a bit. We had our usual morning coffee when we finally got up, but did not have breakfast. Our plan for today was to drive to North Conway, New Hampshire. We had two destinations in mind; Valley Vegan (café and bakery) and the White Mountain Winery tasting room. The winery was our original reason for going. With Sunday hours from noon to 4 PM, Linda checked Happy Cow to see if we could also find somewhere to eat. She found Valley Vegan, and one other place that had a few vegan options. Valley Vegan was open from 9 AM to 3 PM, and had breakfast and lunch items in addition to bakery items. Our plan morphed into going to Valley Vegan at 11 AM for breakfast and then going to the winery.
We left around 10 AM and had an easy drive down NH-16 from Gorham through a long, winding river valley with the Presidential Range on our right/west side. The road was in fabulous condition, was posted 50 or 55 mph most of the way, and traffic was light, so it was a fun drive as well. It was overcast, the distant views were misty, and some of the mountain tops were shrouded in clouds, but that sort of weather just shows the mountains in a different, mysterious light.
We arrived at Valley Vegan, on the north end of Main Street (NH-16), a little before 11 AM. The only person working there was the owner, and he was busy. It was a carry-out place (we knew that before we arrived), with a few picnic tables outside. It was also a “new age” shop with crystals, stones, and other such things. Fun to look at, but we were there for the food. Several orders were already in the queue when we placed our breakfast order; oat flour waffle with chaga maple syrup for me, and a breakfast sandwich for Linda (just egg patty and sausage patty on an English muffin). We also got two triple-berry scones and four flaky cinnamon twist sticks “to go.” We sat outside and ate two of the sticks while we waited for our main dishes, which took about 30 minutes to get. The sticks were very good and so were our meals. A bit overpriced, in our opinion, but we did not mind supporting a small, all vegan (and partially gluten-free) business.
We finished our breakfast at noon and then drove into the main area of North Conway. It was an unapologetically upscale tourist town, chocked with vehicles and with lots of people on the sidewalks and in the shops. We lucked out, and got an angled parking space on the street not far from where the winery was supposed to be. We did not see it on Main Street and figured it must be around back somewhere.
It was, and it was definitely a tasting room in a city, as we saw no evidence of the actual wine production. They had a bewildering variety of offerings—reds, whites, and fruit “flavored”—all bearing their label. I told the lady behind the counter that we were looking an actual blueberry wine and was informed that all of their offerings were made from grapes; the fruit (flavored) wines were infused. We’ve had less expensive versions of this approach to wine, and they were terrible so, no thanks. (The exception would be Sangria and mulled wines.)
Since we were there, we spent a little time looking at what they had. I spotted a Caménère, which I had never seen or heard of before. Linda looked it up online, and found that it was a grape variety originally from Bordeaux, France but now mostly associated with Chile, although it is also grown in Italy, California, and Washington State. What that said to me was, these grapes did not come from anywhere near here, (and maybe the wine didn’t either). In any event, we were both turned off by the large number of fruit infused wines on offer. Indeed, the labels said “natural fruit flavor,” whatever that meant. We left without tasting or buying anything and returned to our truck by way of the front entrance, which was on a small courtyard connected to the street by a small pedestrian alley.
Linda checked their website again on the drive back, and it indicated that they ”made” all of their wines, so I guess we have to take their word for that. We were in agreement, however, that we like tasting rooms that are part of the actual winery, especially ones where we can see the tanks, or tour the building where they located. Even better, is when we can see the vineyards where the grapes came from to make the wine we are tasting. (All of our favorite wineries in Michigan’s Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas meet those criteria.)
Rain was in the forecast for Shelburne starting mid-afternoon, with the percentage chance jumping from 17% at 2 PM to 47% at 3 PM, and going up from there. Once it started, the chance remained high through the night and into tomorrow morning. That left us with the choice of possibly breaking camp in the rain tomorrow morning, or getting some of that done today before the rain started, and operating off our fresh water tank and pump. We had encountered this situation several times already on this trip, and opted every time to partially break camp ahead of time. Our choice was the same today, which required us to be back in camp not later than 2 PM.
When we got back to US-2 in Gorham, we headed west towards the Walmart. Linda wanted to get some more paper towels, and a couple of inexpensive bath towels to put on the rug in the trailer when we stored the shorepower cord there for travel. Before getting there, Linda spotted the Dollar Store and I pulled in. As a bonus, the NH Liquor & Wine Outlet store was in the same building. I went there to see if they might have the Black Tower Rivaner that we discovered at the Masstown Market in Nova Scotia. They had a lot of different wines, but only four from Germany, all of them Rieslings. They did, however, have two Taylor Fladgate Tawny Ports, a 10-Year-Old ($23) and a 20-Year-Old ($42). I opted for the 10-Year-Old. Taylor Fladgate is Portuguese and has been making port since 1692. They also make a 30-Year-Old and a 40-Year-Old, with prices to match.
On the way back to the campground, I pulled in to the Irving fuel station and topped up the tank. On the short drive back from there, the fuel economy calculation reached 29.9 MPG. That was as close to 30 MPG as it has ever been. The slightest uphill grade, however, and it dropped back down, but was still above 28 MPG when we pulled in at 1:30 PM.
We had driven through rain coming up NH-16, but it had not yet reached Gorham or Shelburne. I got busy with my outside tasks, and enjoyed not having to rush or do them in the rain. Linda cleaned the interior and mopped the floor while I worked outside. I dumped the black and grey waste tanks, put the sewer hose back in the storage compartment in the rear bumper of the trailer, and put the hose support accordion back in the front storage compartment of the trailer. I then disconnected all of the fresh water components, drained them and stowed them for travel in their designated places.
I removed the covers from the hitch and WD jacks, put those away, and then put the stinger back in the truck receiver. I backed the truck up to the trailer and had to make 2 or 3 minor adjustments to get the stinger lined up with the hitch. (It usually takes me quite a few more adjustments.) At that point, I had done everything I could until we were ready to hitch up in the morning and leave.
I was still intrigued by the Caménère grape wine we saw at White Mountain Winery, so I did a bit more research online. One wine review website described it as having a distinctive taste, but went on to mention “smooth tannins” (no thanks to tannin) and “green pepper” (yuck). (I like bell pepper, but not the green ones.) Another wine review website said it had found a particularly good home in Chile, and was poised to surpass Merlot as Chile’s number one wine.
I spent the rest of the afternoon working on blog posts. The first rain drops came about 4:30 PM, but were light and did not persist. Linda planned dinner for 6:30 PM so I stopped at 6 PM, and put my computer aside. Dinner was a green salad, baked potato, and Gardein Stuffed Turkey roll (vegan, of course). We finished the Ménage à Trois Midnight red wine blend with the meal and had a few cookies for dessert. The rest of the evening, Linda read and I worked puzzles, as I wanted to take a break from working on the blog. And that was our day.
SATURDAY 17 September
(There are 17 photos in this post, distributed throughout the text. All photos taken with a Google Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.)
I got up around 0615 this morning. The zone 2 heat-pump blower had just shut off but the compressor sounded like it was still running. It should have shut off before the fan. I needed to get up anyway, but, the change in sound/behavior of the unit got my attention right away, at which point I was wide awake. The overnight low was forecast to be ~40 (F), but when I checked my phone it indicated 38 (F) in Shelburne, New Hampshire. I had set the thermostat to 63 (F) before going to bed, so the heat-pump was trying to maintain a 27-degree difference with the ambient temperature outside. It had cycled on/off all night without any apparent problem.
I was not sure what the lower temperature limit was for the heat-pump (in heating mode) so, out of an abundance of caution, I turned off zone 2. I then went about the business of clearing the kitchen counter of last night’s dishes so I could fill and start the kettle. Linda was awake by then, so I put zone 2 on furnace mode and proceeded to make our morning coffee. (The furnace is loud.) By the time she got up, both of our phones indicated the ambient temperature was 36 (F). We have been in below freezing temperatures with our trailer before—so we knew the trailer could handle it as long as we had propane and did not let the water hoses freeze—but it’s not something we choose to do on purpose. I saw 35 (F) briefly, but the temperature started rising once the sun was up.
By 7:30 AM our phones were indicating 41 (F) with a forecasted high of 69 (F). The forecasted high temperature for the summit of Mt. Washington, however, was 46 (F) under sunny skies, with moderate winds under 20 mph. And that mattered, because that was where we were headed today to ride the cog railway to the summit. Assuming this all went to plan, it would be our second visit to Mt. Washington. The first time, many years ago, I drove our Taurus station wagon to the top. Linda made it clear that she would never do that again, then and now. We were not going to hike up (to 6,288 feet), thus the cog railway. Besides, it the rail line has an average grade of 25%, with sections as steep as 37.4%, and we wanted to ride it just for the experience.
Linda was checking the route to get there, and discovered that Hwy-16 out of Gorham was NOT the way to go. Both her iPad and phone indicated that we had to go west out of Gorham and around to the west side of the mountain. She checked the website, and it clearly stated the many GPS mapping apps do not know how to find the train station, which “is in a remote mountainous area.” The key was to select Fabyan Station (Restaurant) in Carroll, New Hampshire, as the destination.
I thought I recalled, from our first visit year’s ago, driving north on some road and turning left to get in. We saw a sign on US-2 going into Gorham that said to go left/south of ME-16 for the “Mt. Washington Auto Road.” We eventually figured out (read somewhere) that the auto road and the cog railway are on opposite sides of the mountain. Mystery solved; memory still pretty much intact.
Yesterday, Linda made reservations for the 1 PM bio-diesel train. (The steam train was already fully booked.) The website said they board 15 minutes before departure, but suggested we check-in an hour ahead of time. We left at 10:45 AM for the 50-minute drive. We were there and parked in plenty of time. The steam train had left just before we arrived, and we watched it chug its way slowly up the mountain, belching great quantities of black smoke and white steam condensation, before going into the Station.
In the station, we got our boarding passes and then went back outside to the loading platforms and watched the three noon trains, all bio-diesel, load their passengers and pull out. The trains were lined up, nose-to-tail, and there was a designated loading area for each one. These areas were referred to as Platform A, B, and C, and each passenger car had a corresponding sign on it. (I noticed later than the signs were part of a flip-board system, so any given car could be designated A, B, or C as needed.)
Back inside, we passed the time in the gift shop and museum. There was also a café, but we were not in need of food. The museum was small, but big enough to tell the story of how the cog railway came into existence. Construction started in 1866, and it was opened to the public in 1869. It was the first cog railway ever built. The first one in Europe was opened in Switzerland in 1871.
As the 3/4-hour mark approached, we moseyed out to Platform A. Many of the passengers for our car were already there, but no worries about being at the front of a line; all seats were reserved. We had seats A/11 and B/11 for the round-trip. The passenger cars were all set up with two seats on one side of the aisle and three on the other, much like a smaller airliner. When boarding a conveyance, one would normally look for their row (11) and then their seat (A or B). For whatever reason, the railroad company printed their boarding passes with the seat and then the row, and this seemed to confuse a lot people (rightfully so). People also seemed to be confused about the fact that if “A” is by the window on one side (it was) then “E” would be by the window on the other side.
One of the things we wondered about was how the seats would work, given the steepness of the grade and the fact that the passenger cars could not be turned around at either end of the track. The answer was reversing (flip-over) seat backs. Brilliant! Each time a load of passengers disembarked, the engineer went through the car and flipped all of the seat backs. Thus, the passengers were always facing in the direction the train was moving.
The bio-diesel trains left Marshfield Station (usually three at a time) on the hour from 9 AM to 3 PM. (The steam train was slower and left at 8:30 AM and 3 PM.), and operated in such a way that passengers got exactly 1-hour at the summit. We had seats A/11 and B/11, on the 2-seats side of the passenger car, for the 1 PM, Platform A train. The ride up took about 45 minutes (approximately 3 miles at 4 mph), plus a 15-minute delay at the switch for downbound trains to get on the second/parallel track to Marshfield Station. As soon as we disembarked, at 2 PM, the conductor called “all aboard for the noon train.” These passengers had left Marshfield Station at noon and arrived at the State Park at 1 PM. Their 1-hour visit was up, and it was time to go back down; same boarding pass for the same Platform and seats, but a physically different passenger car. One hour after our train arrived, a conductor called “all aboard for the 1 PM train.” All of the seats were reserved, so no need to stand in line or jostle for position.
The ride up was wonderful. The cog railway itself is an engineering marvel. Started in 1866, it opened to the public in 1869. It was the first cog railway in the world, and has been in operation ever since. It’s been updated over time, of course֫—most of the trains now use the bio-diesel engines, and the passenger cars are enclosed with operable windows and heaters—but it is genuinely historic, and the operation retains much of that flavor. And the views … “on a clear day you can see forever.” Maybe not forever, but we had a very clear day, which was unusual in and of itself, and we could see a long way, up, down, and out.
On our visit many years ago, we were told that on a really, really clear day, you can see the Atlantic Ocean. We didn’t then, and we didn’t today. A sign today said that on a clear day, you can see 60 miles in every direction. There was distant haze today, ad my guess was that that we could probably see about 50 miles, at least in some directions. I remembered from our last visit that those kind of viewing conditions exist less than 30 days each year, so twice lucky.
An interesting fact about this whole operation was that 60 acres at the top of the mountain was the Mt. Washington State Park. Two interesting sub-facts were that this property was acquired from Dartmouth College, and there was no State Park entrance fee. (My guess was that it was included in the price of , our tickets.) Another interesting fact was that a large number of trails lead up to and around the summit, one of which was the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Besides train and car visitors, there were a lot of hikers on top of the mountain, and we saw many more on the various trails below. The facilities in the Sherman Adams Building were very much in use by the hikers, whether mailing a post card or letter, or getting something to eat. There was even a “pack room” where they could leave their packs while they were there. They could not, however, stay overnight. The only people who get to stay on the mountain overnight are the meteorologists that work there.
While we were “up top” the air temperature was ~47 (F) and the wind was very modest at under 20 mph. But the recent flash ice event was still very much in evidence, and 20 mph at 47 (F) has a bit to it. We had anticipated this, and dressed in layers. Indeed, Mt Washington is known for its extreme, and changeable weather. Hikers need to know what they are doing, have the right gear, check the weather forecasts, and pay attention to them. Above the 4,000-foot level, cover starts to get thin, and above the 5,000-foot level it is non-existent. The trails at this level amount to picking your way through rocks between cairns, which are placed about every 30 to 40 feet. Visibility can get so low, that hikers cannot see much beyond the next cairn, and there are places where the trail is near the edge of 2,000-foot cliffs.
There were things we did not do at the summit. There is an actual summit rock with a sign, and there was a long line of people waiting to take a picture there. Our conductor had suggested we not waste our hour waiting to do that, which was god advice. We did not get anything to eat, and we did not visit the museum. Linda did, however, make use of the U. S. Post Office. She had a couple of post cards with her, and stamps, so she used a pen at the State Park Visitor Information Desk to fill them out, and dropped them in the USPS mailbox.
Although the Mt. Washington Cog Railway seemed a bit pricey at first ($87 for each ticket), by the time we got back to Marshfield Station it felt like it was worth the price. It’s a large, complicated, and no doubt expensive operation. It was also unique and it is a private enterprise that needs to make a profit.
On the drive back we started to take the Old Cherry Mountain Road, but changed our minds. As soon as we turned onto it, we could see that it was gravel and narrow. Our F-150 XLT 4×4/FX4 could have handled it easily, but we were not up for more adventure at that moment. We returned to our campground via the reverse of the route we took to the Mt. Washington Cog Railway Marshfield Station through the stunning Presidential Range.
Back at camp we settled in and I started working on photos from our train trip. For dinner, Linda grilled hot dogs and corn-on-the-cob, with fresh fruit on the side a some more of the Menage a Trois Midnight wine. After dinner, Linda scanned for TV channels but didn’t come up with anything. We had a good enough Verizon signal that she was able to stream the first episode of the new season of The Great British Baking Show. It was thoroughly delightful, as always, and a nice change of pace.
FRIDAY 16 September
We were both up just before 7 AM. I switched the zone 2 controller from heat-pump to furnace. The heat pump was dropping the voltage from 118-119 to 108-109; not ideal, but it ran all night (off and on) without the Hughes Power Watchdog disconnecting the trailer from the shorepower.
We did not have any specific plans for today so we used our iPads and were not in a rush to have breakfast. When we got around to eating, we had bagels and fresh fruit (bananas, blueberries, and strawberries).
Linda really wanted to ride the cog train to the top of Mt. Washington and re-checked the weather forecast. Today was still a “no go” but the forecast for Saturday now looked promising. She got online and made reservations for tomorrow on the 1:00 PM bio-diesel cog train at Mt. Washington. (The steam train was sold out.)
Scott came over and I went out to meet him. He pointed out that the 50A electrical outlet was in the meter box. Duh. (Sometimes it feels like my parents wasted their money on my EE education.) We had a nice chat; he was a former boat mechanic with a lot of electrical experience. He and Megan just bought the campground this past May, and plan to be open for approximately 5 months every year; mid-May to Columbus Day (October). The wiring to our site, and the one on either side of us, was new/upgraded and he said voltage drop should not be a problem. (I later confirmed that this was, indeed, the case.)
I learned a few interesting things. The campground was built starting in 1970 and opened for business in 1972. All utilities were buried, but the tree roots are starting to push them close to the surface, which is a problem, especially for tent stakes. The increasing demand for 50A electrical is also problematic for them, and will require some effort and expense to address. He said the previous owners also did not keep up with tree maintenance, so they have quite a bit of work ahead of them in that department as well. Megan runs the “front of the house” and Scott takes care of the “back of the house.” They are experienced campers, whose camping aesthetic does not require 50A power (or any shore hookups at all).
Our driver-side next-door neighbor was out preparing their rig for departure, and he joined the conversation for a few minutes. They are headed to the Bar Harbor KOA. Our best guess was that they are headed south after that, as it starting to get cold here at night, and they have yet to visit the Southeast U.S.
Linda decided she wanted to get a haircut, and her online searched turned up a salon at the local Walmart. So, our big plan for the day was to drive the ~3 miles to Gorham, NH and take care of that. She called to see if she needed an appointment, and was told there was presently a 5-minute wake for walk-in. We made quick to depart, and were on our way to town.
Linda was happy with her haircut, after which we did a little grocery shopping. We pickup up two bottles of wine, nothing special by brands and style we like (Ménage à Trois Midnight Dark Red Blend and Barefoot Riesling). (The red one went in the refrigerator when we got back to camp, to chill down for later.)
We thought we might do some sight-seeing, but with fresh and frozen food in the truck, we decided to return to camp and didn’t feel like just driving around anyway. Linda had looked for wineries in the area last night, but didn’t find any nearby. (We would really like to find a bottle of blueberry wine, and should have bought one while we were in Bar Harbor, Maine.) We searched again this morning, and found that the closest winery was in North Conroy, about 40 minutes south of Gorham on NH-16. Their website said they had “fruit wines” (not made from grapes). And there were open on Sunday, noon to 4 PM. Linda also found two vegan café/bakeries!!! One of them was open 9AM – 3 PM on Sunday and served breakfast. Bonus! The weather forecast for Sunday was favorable, so a trip to North Conroy on Sunday for breakfast and wine was the plan.
Mid-afternoon, we explored the River Walk (and found the bear scat Scott had told me about this morning). The campground starts at the level of US-2 and drops slightly towards the River. Behind the last, long row of sites, the terrain drops off sharply and then flattens out for the train tracks before dropping off again to get down to the flats by the River. The area by the River is where most of the River Walk is located.
The rest of the afternoon I worked on the blog and Linda read. It was beautiful, but chilly outside, and we were content to stay at home and stay warm. The 50A electric service was a winner; maintaining 119 Volts AC or better with the larger heat pump running and the electric element for the water heater turned on. We enjoyed a cup of tea and didn’t have to manage our power in order to use the kettle to boil the water. I guess that meant we were “glamping” (glamor camping), but to us it’s just the way we camp these days.
Dinner was baked potatoes with all the (usual) fix’ins of sauteed vegetables, vegan cheese and sour cream. We each had a small glass of the Ménage à Trois Midnight Dark Red Blend with dinner. We had Oreo cookies later for dessert.
The forecasted low temperature for tonight in Shelburne was 40 (F), with a Frost Advisory from 0200 to 0800 Saturday morning, so we were glad to have the 50A electric service as the zone 2 heat-pump was going to run quite a bit overnight.
By 11 PM, I was ready to upload the blog posts for the previous days and appeared to have a robust enough Internet connection to get it done efficiently. I had them both published by 11:35 PM and turned in for the night.
THURSDAY 15 September
(There are no photos for this post.)
Today was another travel day, but with slightly different timing than usual. Yesterday morning, we signed up for the “honey wagon” service for this morning, as it would be a lot more convenient than stopping at the sewage dump station on the way out of the campground. The campground provides the service, and they start emptying waste tanks at 8 AM. They prioritize rigs that are pulling out that morning, but could not tell us more specifically when they would get to us.
As an aside, it is the 15th of the month. We started this trip on the 15th of June, and this was our 93rd day/night on the road. We will be home in 25 more days (24 more camping nights after tonight).
We had an estimated 4-1/2- to 5-hour drive to our next campground, which had an earliest check-in time of noon. We would have had to leave at 7:30 AM to be there by noon, but there was no reason to do that, and we needed to have the waste tanks emptied before we pulled out. There was a chance we would be the first rig they emptied, so we wanted to be up and ready in case they got to us early. Linda set an alarm last night on her Fitbit for 7 AM, but we were both awake and out of bed a little before that.
We each had one cup of coffee, half-caffe for me and high-test for Linda, and I had a banana for breakfast. We then started working on our departure preparations. While Linda started getting the interior of the trailer straightened up and battened down, I started on outside tasks. I moved the hitch stinger from the back seat floor of the F-150 to the receiver and secured it. I then packed up and moved our technology to the truck for travel, along with our wine box. (All of that sits flat on the floor in the back seat.)
Linda had finished the dishes, and our fresh water tank was at 56%, so I started disconnecting and stowing our shore water components. I hadn’t gotten very far when the honey wagon showed up around 8:15 AM. It was one of the older guys who works at the campground. He was very pleasant, and hoped we had enjoyed our visit to the area and our stay in their campground. Except for the initial problem with our original site (#24) we had, in fact, had a very nice stay. (The annoying things, like $4 for a load of laundry and pay showers, weren’t actually annoying as we did not need to use them.)
I finished disconnecting the shore water components and Linda helped drain the hoses. With all of that stowed away, I positioned the truck in front of the trailer with the stinger lined up with the hitch. I got it close on the first try and close enough to work on the second try. It usually takes more tries and adjustments than that. Linda turned the LevelMatePro+ on and I used the app on my phone to recall the hitch height for connecting the truck and trailer. It was only slightly off from the hitch so I adjusted it by eye, and proceeded to back the stinger in with no problem.
We secured the hitch and connected the safety chains, breakaway switch cable, and umbilical cord. When then set the WD jacks to the pre-determined height that we have used the whole trip (3-1/2” protruding). We pulled the rubber chocks and removed the X-chocks, and stowed them in their respective places. I then needed to pull forward to get the Andersen Levelers out from under the driver side trailer tires. Unfortunately, we had done some things out of their normal sequence and had stopped referring to our hitching list, which resulted in me pulling forward without raising the trailer tongue jack. That was a big mistake that could have had very undesirable consequences. Thankfully, it didn’t, but it was a mental lapse on both our parts, and the first time we had made this particular mistake.
The last steps were to move Juniper-the-cat from the trailer to the truck (Linda) and disconnect and store the shorepower cord (me). A final walkaround, inside and outside, and we were ready to go. We pulled out of our campsite at 0920 with an ETA of 1348. Five miles, and 10 minutes later, we crossed the bridge on ME-3 over the Mount Desert Narrows and said goodbye to Mount Desert Island and all that it had to offer. We had thoroughly enjoyed our visit, but we had a schedule to keep and had to move on.
Our destination today was Timberland Campground in Shelburne, New Hampshire. We had looked at routing options last night, and initially thought we would travel north from Mount Desert Island to Bangor, and then SW on I-95 to Augusta, and then head west on ME-219, picking up US-2 in Bethel, Maine. The detailed directions, however, seemed to involve more road changes than that, and I wanted to simplify the navigation today. We decided to take ME-3 north to Ellsworth, pick up US-1A north/west to Bangor, and get on I-395 west. At the interchange with I-95, I-395 ends and becomes US-2. Timberland Campground is on US-2, so that should have been the end of that.
To get the navigation system in the F-150 to go the way we wanted, we had to choose the “shortest” route option. We should have known better, as that inevitably leads to some strange routing decisions where it takes us off of a main road, like US-2, onto smaller backroads (or through subdivisions) in order to save 0.1 miles. Linda was following along on her phone, and spotted most of these diversions, but we both missed one for lack of a road sign indicating how to stay on US-2. No worries, though; the system knew our campground was on US-2 and took us back to the highway. My reason for wanting to stay on US-2 was that US highways are usually truck routes, which means then have the height clearances and weight capacities needed for semi-trucks. And if they can make it through, we can make it through. In this case, I was also trying to minimize the number of different roads we would have to navigate.
We were still driving through low mountains for most of the day, so the roads had lots of curves and lots of up and down. The entire drive was very nice, however, with partly cloudy skies, cool temperatures in the low 60’s (F), and signs of fall in the colors of some of the trees. We did, however, have strong, gusty winds that made us feel like we were back in Atlantic Canada. It also reminded us how well the Propride 3P hitch works, and how glad we were to have it. Did I feel the wind? Sure, just like I feel bad road surfaces. Did the trailer ever give any indication that it might sway? No, it did not; because it can’t (it’s mechanically impossible).
Timberland Campground is owned/operated by a young couple, Scott and Megan. Linda registered with Megan in the office while Scott moved a picnic table out of our site (#18). (W3W=”digesting.cheaper.reached”.) The campground is gated, and required a $20 (cash) deposit for a Gate card, but we were aware of that ahead of time, so Linda was prepared. Scott also told her to not leave any trash or food outside the trailer, as “the bears are real here.” (There are black bears in this area.)
Our pull-through site was another one of these sites where you “pull-through” an open grassy area to get in or out. (In our case it would be out, and won’t be a problem.) It did not look promising at first, but I managed to easily position the trailer so it was level, side-to-side, and only 3/4″ off in the front. Linda moved Juniper back to the trailer and put out her food and water bowls, and then rejoined me outside for the unhitching process.
Following our unhitching checklist, we put the tongue jack down to take some of the tongue weight and proceeded to install the rubber chocks and the X-chocks on the trailer tires. We then disconnected the safety chains, breakaway cable, and umbilical cord. I set the hitch height for disconnecting using my usual technique of feeling and watching for the trailer tongue to pull away from the hitch and the ball hitch latch lever to move. The over-center-latches (OCLs) released without the truck or trailer moving, which is usually an indication that I have the trailer tongue height set correctly.
However, when I pulled the truck forward, and pulled the stinger out of the hitch, the trailer dropped an inch or so. I never let things like that pass without trying to figure out ‘why.’ My analysis of the situation was that the truck was sitting over a high spot. As I pulled forward, the front/steer axle was going slightly downhill and the rear/drive axle was going slightly uphill, raising the rear end of the truck relative to the trailer and lifting the hitch. Linda would not have seen that unless she was looking for it. Again, no harm, no foul. I adjusted the tongue jack to get the hitch opening height aligned with the stinger height, and saved the setting in the LevelMatePro+ app. I then adjusted the trailer tongue jack to level the trailer, front-to-back.
Linda went inside to start preparing lunch, which was a hot dog, potato chips, and red grapes, while I connected our shorepower. Our “50A” full-hookup site turned out to be a 30A full-hookup site. Not a problem; I have 30A(shore)à50A(trailer) adapters and have used them a lot on this trip. But we booked and paid for a 50A electrical service, which this clearly was not. The price difference was $3/day, so not a big deal for a 4-night stay, but as a matter of principle, Linda went to the office to get the $12 refund.
Scott had left the campground to run errands, but Megan walked down to our site. Megan was surprised that it was only 30A as Scott had assured her that there were outlets for both 50A (4-wire) and 30A (3-wire) service, and she understood the difference. We have managed on 30A service quite a bit over the last 3 months, but were looking forward to the convenience of the 50A service. She said Scott would look at it tomorrow, which was fine with me.
Our driver-side neighbors were a somewhat younger couple with two younger children, but apparently retired and on the road full-time for the last 18 months. The husband noticed the Propride 3P hitch and offered his approval. A quick glance confirmed that he also had one on his F-250 and travel trailer. They also had X-chocks, Anderson levelers, and a Hughes Power Watchdog. He approvingly told Linda later that we “had all the cool toys,” as did he. They were pulling out tomorrow morning and heading to Mount Desert Island where they have reservations at the Bar Harbor KOA. I told him about the Island Explorer bus service, downtown Bar harbor, and the Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf.
With the trailer set up, and lunch taken care of, Linda stripped the beds and added the bedding and towels to what was already in the laundry basket. The laundry room here had four functioning washing machines and four functioning dryers. That is not a given in many RV parks. The washers were $1.75 per load (there were $ 4 at the last place) and $1 for a 30-minute cycle on the dryers. Very fair pricing. I set up our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi and got my computer set up to use.
The high temperature here never made it much above 60 (F), and started dropping well before sunset, so we never opened any of the windows in the trailer, and closed the door sooner than we normally would. I turned the furnace on, and set it for 68 (F), but still traded in my shorts and short-sleeve shirt for my sweat pants and shirt.
Dinner was Amy’s frozen entrees, Indian this time, with mixed vegetables, dahl, and basmati rice. Quick, easy, and tasty, but not large servings. We had popcorn later.
The only thing we had discussed wanting to do while in this area was take the cog train to the summit of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire, but it appeared that might not be possible or desirable, due to the weather. Winds of 60+ mph, with hurricane force gusts, were pummeling the summit and forecast to continue tomorrow. Temperatures were dropping into the 20s (F) and ice was forming. We have “warm layers” in our clothing arsenal, but we were not outfitted for those kinds of conditions. The weekend looked to be warmer and less windy, but overcast with a strong possibility of rain. If that forecast holds up, we won’t go but, as has been the case through our trip, the weather/forecast often changes by the time we get close to an event or destination. We will look at this again tomorrow for Saturday or Sunday. Otherwise, we will likely take the truck and go sight-seeing, and possibly search out a winery and/or vegan restaurant.
WEDNESDAY 14 September
(There are 20 photos in this post, distributed through the text.)
Today was our last full day, and our last night, on Mount Desert Island, Maine. The weather was forecast to be good, partly cloudy with cool temperatures, the best of our short stay here. Having used the Island Explorer bus system on Monday, we thought that would be an ideal way to re-visit Acadia National Park. There are lots of routes with frequent buses, several places where they cross and we cold transfer, and it was all free. After studying the Island Explorer bus schedule last night, our plan was to tour the one section/road we had already visited, and another section/road we had not yet seen.
We decided to take the 9:25 AM #1 Bar Harbor bus from our campground to the Hulls Cove Entrance Visitor Center. We walked up to the bus stop, which was at the campground office, at 9 AM and stopped in the office to see about signing up for a waste tank pump-out tomorrow morning. The cost was $12, which was fine, and they started at 8 AM, which sounded great, so we signed up.
The #1 bus arrived right on time, and pulled into the Visitor Center parking lot around 9:40 AM. There were already a lot of vehicles there, but not as many as on Monday, and it didn’t matter anyway as we were riding the bus! We disembarked and walked up to the Visitor Center building (52 steps) and had a look around. I picked up another hang tag pass holder, as a spare. We spent a few minutes in the small gift shop, but did not see anything that we wanted to buy and carry around with us all day. I had also chosen to leave the SONY SLR behind, and just capture images with my Pixel 6 Pro smartphone.
From the Visitor Center (parking lot) we caught the 10:20 AM #4 Loop Road bus. We had driven the Loop Road on Monday when we drove up Cadillac Mountain, but parking was insane and we did not even attempt to stop along the way. Our main interests on the Loop Road today were Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, but first we got off the bus at Sieur du Monts (finally, some French again) to visit the Wild Gardens of Acadia and the original/old (closed) Abbe Museum.
The Wild Gardens of Acadia had not been on our radar at all, but what a wonderful stop it turned out to be. It is a private operation that has been run/maintained by volunteers for the past 50+ years. The gardens are laid out in sections, defined by meandering paths, for the various environments and their plant communities found within the park. The old Abbe museum building dates back to the 1920s and is permanently closed, all of the artifacts having been moved to the newer/larger museum in Bar Harbor.
The #4 Loop Road bus runs on a 20-minute schedule, so we boarded the next available one to continue our journey to Sand Beach. Like much of Maine, much of the shoreline of MDI is rocky. Sand Beach, however, was an exception to the rule. Located in a cove with unique natural conditions, it had a fine sand beach. It also had a 12’ tide swing and water that was 45-55 (F) year-round. But the weather was lovely and, in spite of the water temperature, someone was in the water swimming. The south side of the cove had some dramatic rocks, and I took a few pictures.
We reboarded the next available #4 Loop Road bus for the short drive to Thunder Hole. This is one of the most popular “attractions” in the park (along with Cadillac Mountain) for non-hikers, and non-bikers. (Hikers and bikers have a LOT of options for what to do in the park.) We spent some time there, and I got a few more photos, but our timing was off. The best time to experience Thunder Hole is ~2 hours before high tide, especially with strong waves out of the ESE. Neither of those conditions were present, but a lot of people had taken up position anyway to see the phenomenon. (Water pours into a cave and traps air which then gets blown out in a dramatic spray and makes a sound like thunder, hence the name. Under certain weather conditions, the area becomes dangerous and the Park Service closes it off to visitors.)
Back on the next available #4 bus (we never had to wait long) we rode past Wildwood Stables to the Jordan Pond House, and the southern tip of Jordan Pond. We did not have a reservation, but decided we would try the Jordan Pond House Restaurant for Popovers and Tea, which has been a tradition here since the 1890’s. The restaurant had both indoor and outdoor seating, and the “grand thing” to do here is have your popovers and tea “on the lawn.” We added our name the waiting list at 12:50 PM for “first available,” and were given a pager. The wait time was one (1) hour, so we used the time to walk down to the Pond and take a few photos.
Back at the restaurant we studied the menu and the bus schedule while waiting to be paged. We were seated at 1:50 PM, and would like to have had lunch, but wanted to make the 2:40 PM #6 Northeast Harbor bus. We each ordered the “Two popovers and beverage” special, and each got blueberry iced tea. The popovers came with butter and strawberry jam, which we both used. We asked for the bill when the drinks were delivered, and our waiter took care of it right at the table.
The #6 bus went south from Jordan Pond House to Seal Cove, where it picked up Hwy-3 going west along the coast and then followed the east shore of Northeast Harbor to its northern end where it took a spur to the southwest into the Village of Northeast Harbor. According to our bus driver, Northeast Harbor is where the money is on MDI. (He mentioned names like Rockefeller, Stewart (Martha), and Travolta (John).) We had a 10-minute layover at the marina which afforded the opportunity for a bathroom break.
The bus returned to Hwy-3, and continued NNW up the east side of Somes Sound to its terminus at Hwy-233 near Mt. Desert Campground. The drive from Jordan Pond House to here was the part of the Park we had not yet seen. We headed east on Hwy-233, going past the MDI High School, ANP Headquarters, the north end of Eagle Lake, and through North Ridge, finally arriving at the Village Green in Bar Harbor. At the Village Green we only had a short wait for the #1 Bar Harbor bus and were on our way back to our campground.
It was still early enough in the day, and not that long after our diminutive lunch, that we decided to drive a few miles back towards Bar Harbor to Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf (mini-golf) before dinner. PCAG had two 18-hole courses; The Captain’s Course, and Blackbeard’s Course. Bluebeard’s Course had more obstacles and was considered more difficult. A ticket for one course (either one) was $10. A ticket for both courses was $15. We were not sure we were up for 36 holes of miniature golf, so we chose to play Blackbeard’s Course.
The facility was in very good shape, generally, and the two courses were cleverly intertwined. There were other people there, but it was not crowded. All of the pirate themed stuff was fun. I had one hole-in-one and Linda had two. Our worst hole for both of us, was 15, a Par 3 that took her 5 strokes and took me 11 strokes. It was a Par 42 course that took me 56 strokes and took Linda 51. But it was not a competition, and we enjoyed the hour it took to play through.
Back at camp, we got the Weber-Q propane grill out of the back of the F-150 and set it up. Dinner was a simple affair of hot dogs and grilled corn, with mixed fruit cups. We had So Delicious Vanilla Bean non-dairy ice cream with pineapple topping for dessert.
Linda had been texting with Nancy about their return to our part of Michigan on Friday to pick up their Winnebago BOLDT. They planned to spend the night in it, in our driveway, and then visit with their son and daughter-in-law, as well as our son and his family, on Saturday. They will have access to our house as they have things stored there, as well as in our shed, and will need access to some of the facilities. I shut off the water to house when we left in June, so I called Paul after dinner to go over how to turn it back on, maybe. It’s been three months since I turned it off, so we agreed that he would take a photo and send it if what I was describing didn’t match the reality in front of him.
At some point in the evening, I copied photos from my phone to my computer and began looking at them. I deferred editing them in favor of sketching out the blog post before I forgot the details of our day. We needed to be up by 7 AM tomorrow morning, so Linda set an alarm on her Fitbit before going to sleep.
Of course, all good stories involve pirates, so this post ends with a picture of a pirate ship.
TUESDAY 13 September
Breakfast was toasted slices of Rob’s walnut date bread with butter and fresh blueberries. (I think I have referred to this in previous posts as cranberry walnut bread. It’s not; it’s walnut date bread.)
We had woken up to fog hanging above us in the campground. After checking the weather forecast, we decided that today was not the day to use the Island Explorer bus service to re-visit Acadia National Park (ANP). We looked at our map of MDI/ANP and decided to drive to Southwest Harbor and up the western side of MDI and on to Ellsworth. I worked on the blog post for yesterday but did not get finished before we left to go explore more of Mount Desert Island (MDI).
We left around 10 AM and drove back into Bar Harbor on Hwy-3 where we picked up Hwy-233 over to Hwy-3/Hwy-198 and on to Hwy-102, bearing left to Somesville. We did a slow roll through town, because there was a lot a traffic and pedestrians. It looked like a cool place to stop, with galleries and shops, including food and coffee, but parking looked to be a problem.
We continued traveling south, parallel to the west edge of Somes Sound, and stopped at Echo Lake Beach where I took a few photos. There were two people swimming in the Lake wearing wetsuits. A sign warned that the water was “wicked cold.”
We continued on to Southwest Harbor, which impressed us a working harbor in a working town; definitely not upscale MDI. The harbor, however, really caught my eye as it was shrouded in mist. I turned in to a small roadside pull-off and spent a few minutes looking at the scene.
We then took Hwy-102A to the left through Manset, and on towards Bass Harbor. We turned south onto Lighthouse Road, which led down to the Bass Harbor Head Lightstation; a 19th-century cliffside lighthouse that is still in operation as an aid-to-navigation at the southernmost point of MDI. We had encountered very little traffic up this point in our drive (except in Bar Harbor) but the way-too-small parking lot was full with a few vehicles waiting to get in, and no easy way to turn around. When we were finally first in line, I managed to turn around and we left. It was practically fogged in, so we weren’t really going see much anyway, and the building is not open to the public.
We continued on Hwy-102A into Bass Harbor, which ended at Hwy-102 at the north end of town, and continued west and north past Bernard. We continued north as far as Seal Cove, where we stopped at the US Post Office so Linda could mail two postcards. The post office was a small white clapboard building that shared a parking lot with a somewhat larger adjacent white clapboard house. We presumed that postmaster lived in the house. We continued north and east on Hwy-102, eventually going back through Somesville.
The drive up to this point took us in and out of the western part of ANP. It seemed less crowded than what we experienced yesterday, although the parking at major trailheads was full to overflowing.
We eventually rejoined Hwy-3 just before crossing the Mount Desert Narrows, and drove through Trenton enroute to Ellsworth. Our destination was John Edward’s Market on Main Street in downtown Ellsworth, Maine. Main street was quaint and busy; very different from the impression we got just driving through the new part of town on ME-3. Street parking was in full use but there were large free public parking lots just behind the stores on either side of the street. Finally, free public parking! We walked through the space between two buildings, looked to our left, and there was the store! (IMO, there should be a nationwide designation for “tourist/visitor friendly city” and one of the requirements to get this designation should be a LOT of FREE parking. Other requirements should include pedestrian friendly, etc.)
The John Edward’s Market specializes in organic food, has an amazing spice department, and a small but very good wine selection, including vegan wines. (Mostly wines are not vegan because of the way they are filtered.) Our only disappointment is that they only had grape wines, and even then almost nothing from Maine wineries. We were hoping to find a selection of good blueberry wines, which seem to be available in regular supermarkets. We bought a few onions, some non-dairy cheese, some fresh and dried fruit, and a few other things, and opined how we wish we had a market like this close to our house.
It was approximately 13 miles back camp. We through about stopping in Somesville to grab a bit to eat and something to drink, but somehow missed the very quaint downtown area. (We studied maps later and still had no idea how that happened.) We were hungry by this time, so we had the left-over pasta from last night for lunch. The foggy, overcast weather had persisted all day, and we closed up the trailer against the slightly chilly, humid air, and the misty drizzle that eventually developed. We each had two cups of decaf tea between lunch and dinner.
I worked on the blog post for yesterday and finally finished it. I started assembling it in WordPress, and was about half-way to done, when Chuck-the-barn-builder, called. We had a long chat and pinned down some important details about the barn. We also agreed to deal with the added cost of the roll-up doors for the RV bays in a way that was acceptable to both of us. We have had a great working relationship with Chuck, and have complete confidence in the barn being built while we are away, and I wanted to make sure we maintained that to the end of the project, and beyond.
We wrapped up our conversation and I finished assembling the post and published it before we sat down to eat. Dinner was Amy’s “chicken” noodle soup (vegan) and crackers with vegan butter and peanut butter. Dessert was pear wine and cookies.
The rest of the evening involved reading for Linda, and some photo processing and writing, for me. Today was “patch Tuesday” for Microsoft products. I had checked several times throughout the day to see if updates were available. They were not, but I checked again and there they were! There were four of them, and I went ahead and initiated the update process. We had both been seeing a lot of app updates on our iPads as well. That usually means an iPadOS update is imminent. I also saw a news item about the recent annual Apple product event, which covered the new features in upcoming release. I checked for the update, and there it was! We are very glad to have our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi back in service (it doesn’t work in Canada) as it has an unlimited data plan and it’s generally pretty fast. Even so, all of these updates took quite a while and kept me up latter than I intended. I started working on a new multi-sudoku puzzle, but was too tired to concentrate, and finally went to bed.
MONDAY 12 September
(There are 11 photos in this post, distributed throughout the text.)
I woke up around 3 AM to the sound of light rain but went back to sleep. We were both up by 7 AM and had one cup of coffee each. Breakfast was fresh blueberries (jumbo size) and a slice of Rob’s Cranberry Walnut Bread, lightly toasted and buttered.
Our main activity for the day was a visit to Acadia National Park. The Hulls Cove Visitor Center is on Hwy-3 (Bar Harbor Road) on the NE coast of Mount Dessert Island (MDI). Hadley’s Point Campground is also on Hwy-3, at the northern tip of MDI. We left at 9:45 AM and it took ~5 minutes to get the Visitor Center. The parking lot was very full, but there were spaces at the far end (of course), where we prefer to park anyway. The Visitor Center was mobbed, and there was no way we were going to get to the front of the line and still make our timed entry onto Cadillac Mountain Road. Linda got one of the park staff to give her a map, but he didn’t seem very happy about doing it.
We headed into the park on Paradise Hill Road, which became the Park Loop Road a little way before we arrived at the Cadillac Mountain Road Entrance Station at 10:30. (Our timed entry reservation was for the 10:30–11:00 AM window.) We were cleared through at 10:40 AM, and picked up a plastic park pass “hanger” in the bargain. (The hanger holds one of our Senior Pass cards and hangs from the rearview mirror so it can be seen through the windshield.)
Cadillac Mountain Road was very cool to drive. It had some nice scenic pullouts, but we passed those by on our way to the top. The parking at the summit was already crowded, since once you are there you don’t have to leave until you want to. We pulled in to a spot in a small parking area just before the main lot, and walked the short extra distance to the summit.
It was a very sunny but hazy day, not ideal for pictures, and quite warm on the summit, with no shade. We walked the Summit Loop Trail, an easy and well-defined 1/2-mile loop around part of the top of the mountain. BTW: Cadillac Mountain is the highest mountain on the eastern U.S. seacoast at 1,527 feet AMSL. On the way back down, we pulled into a couple of the scenic pullouts (or Lookoffs, as the are called in eastern Canada), but did not get out.
Once back down to the Park Loop Road, we headed back towards the Visitor Center and stayed to the right for the one-way Park Loop Road. (Most of the Park Loop Road is one-way, going clockwise from its northern starting point at Paradise Hill Road, except for the stretch from there south along the western edge of the park the Wildwood Stables.) The road was two-lane, and parking was usually permitted in the right lane near major attractions, but prohibited elsewhere. And the street parking was absolutely needed, as the park was mobbed. Fortuneatly for us, we were only doing a scenic drive-through today.
We had only visited Acadia NP once before, almost 20 years ago, and did not recall it being this crowded. (A local supervisor for the Island Explorer bus system told us later that it has only become overwhelmingly crowded since about 2017.) Our recollection was that we just drove up Cadillac Mountain when we wanted to, and had no difficulty finding places to park at the attractions, such as Sand Beach and Thunder Hole. (The operation of the National Parks is a delicate balance between protection/preservation and access/recreation, and the massive number of people now seeking to visit the larger and more famous parks has become a real challenge for park managers. It looked to us like Acadia NP was doing a good job, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they ultimately have to institute a reservation system just for park entry.)
We were going to stop at the Hulls Cove Visitors Center on the way out of the park, but the parking lot was still packed. Part of the reason it was full is that visitors doing serious bicycling through the Park, park here and start their rides from here.
Back at camp we had Fritos and roasted red-pepper hummus for lunch, and each had 1/2 of a pear.
One of the things we learned about upon arrival yesterday was the Island Explorer transit bus system. The service began in 2002, and has received massive support from L. L. Bean since the beginning. It is free to use, and has 12 bus routes linking Bar Harbor with hotels, inns, and campgrounds, destinations in Acadia NP (including campgrounds) and neighboring village centers. The buses currently in use run on propane, which burns much cleaner that petroleum fuels.
Our campground was one of the scheduled stops, so we caught the 2:55 PM pick-up and rode the bus to the Village Green in Bar Harbor. I like to ride on buses. I don’t mind driving (we’ve put over 7,300 miles on the truck this trip), but I don’t like parking in cities, especially tourist towns like Bar Harbor. The Village Green was a grass square with trees and crisscrossing paths. One whole side, and part of a second side, served as the central “terminal” for the bus system (routes 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, & 10). The other main “hub” was the Hulls Cove Visitor Center (routes 1, 4, & 5) and the Southwest Harbor / Tremont area, which had a dedicated bus (route #11). (Take the #7 Southwest Harbor bus to get there.) (Route #8 is the Schoodic Woods area of the park. I was unable to find any information about route #12.)
We arrived at the Village Green around 3:20 PM, and walked the main commercial street for about 90 minutes. It’s a quaint place, in a touristy sort of way, and we enjoyed strolling through town and down to the harbor. As it was Monday, some of the shops and eateries were closed, but most were open and had customers. Indeed, there were a lot of people in downtown Bar Harbor this afternoon. Some of them were almost certainly passengers from the two cruise ships anchored out in Frenchman Bay. The larger one was the Celebrity Summit (1950 passengers) and the smaller one was the Regent Seven Seas Navigator (490 passengers). But even without cruise ships, there are a LOT of hotels, inns, cottages, B&Bs, and campgrounds in and around Bar Harbor, and the rest of Mount Dessert Island, and Bar Harbor is the place that many visitors, like us, gravitate to at some point.
While walking, I spotted a pillow in the display window of My Darling Maine with embroidered Puffins on it. Linda really liked it, so she bought it. They put it in a protective plastic bag and set it aside for us to pick up later on our way back to the bus. At the Espresso shop across the street from the pillow place, Linda got an iced coffee. I wanted something like a Frappuccino, but none of the coffee shops in town had anything like that.
When we had walked all we cared to, we found a shaded bench in the Village Green and watched the world go buy while we waited for the 5:30 PM pick-up of the #1 Bar Harbor Road bus. We had the same seats going back, with the same couple seated just in front of us. Small world.
We were back at our trailer by 6 PM and Linda started working on dinner right away. We started with a nice green salad with peanuts, vegan blue cheese, and raspberry vinegarette dressing. The main course was organic Lumaca Rigata pasta (from Napoli, Italy) with arrabbiata sauce and mushrooms sauteed with dried shallot flakes (we forgot buy onions yesterday). The arrabbiata sauce had a bit of kick, which we both liked.
The rest of the evening was the usual reading, games, puzzles, photo processing, and writing.
SUNDAY 11 September
Today was a travel day, taking us from Rockwood Park Campground in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada to Hadley’s Point Campground in Bar Harbor, Maine, USA. Our planned driving distance was 177 miles, with an estimated time of 3-1/2 hours, not including the time to get through the Port-of-Entry (PoE) at Calais, Maine.
ABIR, we got up at 7 AM, and had one cup of coffee each (mine was half-caff). We finished the fresh blueberries and bananas for breakfast, as we could not take them across the border. I finished off the coffee creamer as well. We disposed of some grapes, greens and an apple.
Earliest check-in time at Hadley’s Point CG was 1 PM EASTERN time. We were starting our drive in the ATLANTIC time zone, so we would “gain” an hour when we crossed into Maine. Paul and Nancy used this border crossing on August 27, and reported that they were boarding every RV. Not knowing how busy this POE would be on a Sunday, we estimated it could take 30 minutes at the border. We targeted a 10 AM departure, aiming to arrive at Hadley’s Point CG around 1 PM local time.
As we were preparing our rig for departure, a group of three RVers walked by with their dogs and we ended up chatting with them for about 15 minutes. They had just arrived from the U.S. They were headed to PEI and beyond and were curious about our visit there. One of them was from the Finger Lakes region of New York, so we were curious about what to do there. Wine was the answer. By the time we were ready to leave it was going on 10:30 AM. We made our way slowly out of the campground and in less than a mile we were on NB Hwy-1 West.
It did not take long to move beyond the limits of Saint John, and the maximum speed bumped up to 110 km/hr (~68 mph) at that point. NB Hwy-1 was a 4-lane, divided, limited access road and was in fabulous condition all the way to the border. I set the cruise control at 64 or 65; fast enough to get the transmission to shift up into 9th gear. We cruised along easily and comfortably at this speed for most of our last 72 miles in Atlantic Canada.
The Port-of-Entry in Calais is not huge, with six lanes for passenger vehicles and RVs, and a couple of separate lanes for commercial trucks. There were two cars ahead of us (in the RV lane) and it took 5-10 minutes before we could pull up to the booth.
The young female officer was pleasant and chatty, and was joined by a young male officer who was equally friendly. She boarded the RV with Linda and had a quick look around, including the refrigerator and freezer. We declared the 2,625 ml of wine we had on board, which was 625 ml over the duty-free limit, but she let it pass as inconsequential. We were on our way after about 10 minutes, so a 20-minute total time to get through the PoE.
Our route in Maine was US-1 to ME-9 to ME-179. ME-9 was a good, 2-lane road that rolled and curved through the heavily wooded countryside. ME-179 was also a really good road surface that looked like it was recently paved, but was narrow with no shoulders, and was really hilly and curvy as it ran along the top of ridge. The sights along the way were a slice of rural Maine.
We pulled into Hadley’s Point Campground around 1:30 PM EDT, and that is when what had been a lovely day started to fall apart. It started with our assigned site (#24), which was right on the entrance road where RVs lined up to register, and was a back-in water/electric. We knew all of that before we got there, but what we didn’t know was how unlevel the site was going to be.
I tried to pick the best placement for the trailer, but couldn’t get backed in. The longer this took the less well we were communicating, and the more frustrated and, frankly, deeply annoyed we got with the whole situation. We had leveled side-to-side and were getting ready to unhitch, when I finally determined that we would not be able to get the trailer even close to level, front-to-rear. (I would have had to raise the trailer tongue 14.5”, which was beyond the capability of our equipment.) IMO, this was not a usable RV site and the campground had no business trying to sell it as one.
Linda finally went to the office and explained our situation. Even though they were “fully booked” (Linda had called while we were driving) they had a site they were not planning on using and the older gentleman, who had tried to help us get into the site, drove me down to look at it. It wasn’t great either, but it looked manageable and I said we would take it. (We really did not have any other options as all of the other RV parks in the area had no sites available to book.) Since we had not yet unhitched the truck from the trailer, or hooked up any services, we did not have as much work to do to move to the new site, but it was still extra work to get the trailer ready to move again.
I had a rough idea of where I wanted to place the trailer on the new site (21 & 22) but had a really difficult time getting the trailer positioned where I wanted it. (W3W=”trial.increments.drizzly”) But I finally did (sort of) and we got it level, side-to-side within 1/2”, and level front-to-rear, which was good enough for the refrigerator and for our comfort. By the time we had the rig ready to use, including 30A electric power, it was 4 PM, so 2-1/2 hours to “make camp” versus our usual one (1) hour. It was very warm, and we were both sweaty by then.
We still needed to register and pay for our four nights here, and go buy some groceries, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. We stopped at the office on our way out to take care of the first item. Linda had a nice chat with the woman in the office, and let her know (politely) about the issue with site 24. We then headed to the Edwards Brothers Supermarket in Trenton, about 5 miles back up Hwy-3. The Market was small, but had a decent selection of the things we needed most. We also bought a bottle of Pear wine. Now that we are back in the States, we no longer had to be concerned about buying and traveling with wine, other than our limited storage space.
When we got back to the trailer, I hooked up our shore water equipment, which was my last setup task (we do not have a sewer connection at this site). While I was working outside, I heard what sounded like our TV. Linda had turned it on and found at least one usable station! It had been a long time since we could tune in a TV station, especially in English, but I haven’t really missed it. I finished my water task at 6 PM, 4-1/2 hours after we arrived here. We were both beat and, frankly, more than a bit annoyed with the campground and with each other. It happens sometimes. We ended up having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Fritos for dinner, which was fine; it was quick, easy, and tasty.
The day ended on a good note, however, as we were able to get our Verizon Jetpack Mi-Fi online and use it to Facetime with Brendan, Shawna, Madeline, and Sadie. Once we signed off, we each had a glass of the Pear wine we had just bought at the supermarket.
The rest of the evening followed its usual routine; Linda read and played word games for a while, and I caught up on some of the blogs I follow. She managed to stay up until 10 PM, which actually felt like 11 PM, and then went to bed. Juniper-the-cat followed her, as she does every night. I set up my computer, connected it to our Mi-Fi, and uploaded, assembled, and published three blog posts covering the last two days. I backed those up, and then started working on this one before finally going to bed.