Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mystical Connecticut

We arrived in East Lyme, Connecticut on Thursday, 6/26 after a short drive from Littleton, MA. We are in a nice RV Park that is centrally located to many sights along the coast. Yes, Lyme is the city for which Lyme Disease is named.

Our time in Connecticut has been refreshing after days of rain in our previous locations. We realize that there are many areas in desperate need of rain (we hear ya in South Georgia), but we are very grateful for a few days to venture out of the cozy but close confines of our home on wheels. We have had two beautiful days of sunshine with warm breezes.

We have enjoyed some down-time and half-day excursions to visit the Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium. During our visit to the Mystic Seaport, we happened upon the Wooden Boat Show that was being held along the Mystic River. So, in addition to visiting the ships along the river, we were able to see some really beautiful wooden boats sailed/brought to the area just for this event.

A highlight of the day was being able to climb aboard the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world. Built in 1841, she is jewel of the watercraft collection of Mystic Seaport, presiding over a fleet of more than 500 historic vessels.

Mystic became famous as one of the few remaining shipyards for building huge wooden ships. We took a water taxi from one end of the museum to the other. The museum has 17 acres and a recreated village along the river. The train still operates on a turnstile bridge that opens across the river to let boats pass. The slave ship used in the move Amistad was built in Mystic. The Mystic River flows into Long Island Sound. During our visit the river was alive with sailboats, peapods, kayaks, water taxis and all manner of boats. We saw a wooden catamarand from Scotland, which had been built in England. Lots of wooden boats were down from Maine just for the show. There are lots of sailing programs for children and young teens in the area.

Visiting lighthouses has always been intriguing for us. The more challenging the walk or hike, or the more stairs to the top, the better (for Jerri). While the Mystic Lighthouse was easily reached and visible, it still was beautiful in its own way.

Friday was pretty much spent in Mystic Seaport, about 15 miles from our campground home. Saturday we had a wonderful down day in the campground taking it easy. We rode our bikes through the campground and rented a paddle boat on the lake. Today (6/29) we ventured to the Mystic Aquarium and Olde Mystick Village. This aquarium is like a mixture of Sea World, a regular aquarium, and a theme park. Exhibits were indoors and outdoors. There was an indoor marine theater with a presentation of California sea lions; a 3-D dive experience which was like a theme-park ride; outdoor tanks with Beluga whales and African penguins. We are also in close proximity to the Submarine Museum, the US Coast Guard Academy at New London, the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation and Museum, and Foxwood and Mohegan Sun casinos. Connecticut has lots of state parks in the area to choose from but the price for non-residents is higher and higher still on the weekends. Some state parks charge by the car and others by the person.

The 4th of July holiday changed our plans a little with campground reservations difficult to get this late, so we'll be leaving Connecticut on July 3rd and traveling to Mt. Pocono, PA for the holiday weekend, then continuing southward.

Happy in our mystic travels,

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bye Bye Boston

The Minuteman Campground was our favorite New England campground so far. We had a lovely corner lot with lots of big boulders and tall trees, we could have enjoyed it much more without the daily incessant rain. On the one really nice day (6/25) we went to Boston. Drove to the Riverside parking complex and took the green line into Boston where we signed on for the Super Trolley Tour. We toured through much of the city and saw lots of sights, like Fenway Park [yes, there was a Red Sox game that night]. We didn't have tickets to the game but definitely rode the train back with every single Red Sox fan. We were packed on the train like sardines until after the Fenway stop.

We saw the Bull and Finch Bar which was used as the opening shot for the long-running television series, Cheers. The bar is actually downstairs but doesn't look like the TV version which was created in Hollywood. We hopped off the trolley and toured through Boston Common and the Public Garden to visit 'Cheers.'

Everyone in Boston was elated that the Celtics won the NBA title. They had a downtown parade a couple of days before we arrived and banners and signs were hanging all around town.

Apple must have a headquarters in Boston. Every train and billboard around town had bright colored Apple and iPod ads.

Included in our trolley tour was a boat tour of the Charles River. This ended up being the highlight of the day. The weather was beautiful, there was a nice breeze and the boat wasn't crowded. It happened to be 'Community Boating' day on the Charles. Anyone under age 18 could
rent a sailboat for $1.00 (that's right, one dollar) and sail on the Charles River. We saw lots of children of various ages sailing. All along the Charles colleges and universities (Harvard, Cambridge, MIT) have their own boathouses on the river. Some of the boathouses cost upwards in the millions to build. Boston has 68 institutions of higher learning.

We road over (during the trolley tour) and under (during the boat tour) the Henry W. Longfellow bridge which is also known as the 'Salt & Pepper Bridge' because the supports resemble large salt and pepper shakers. There is a story that the bridge was named after Longfellow because he traveled the bridge so frequently between his wife on one side and his mistress on the other side.

Our boat tour traveled under a lovely foot bridge and past the Harvard campus. This is a picture of the married student's dorms. The Boston trip was great and there's a lot to see and do. Boston deserves another trip to the area to do it justice...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Littleton, Massachusetts

We left Maine behind yesterday (6/23) under cloudy skies, traveled briefly through New Hampshire and arrived in Littleton, Massachusetts in a horrendous downpour with almost zero visibility.

The 'hubcap' bird of Skowhegan/Canaan will surely miss us, probably more than we miss her. Every morning beginning around 5:30 AM we were awakened by metallic tapping sounds. Peaking out the window revealed nothing and no one - opening the coach door revealed nothing but the sound stopped only to resume after the door was closed. Finally, the culprit was discovered - a small bird pecking at it's reflection in the right front hubcap of the coach - and only our coach - not any of the neighbors'. Later we observed this same small bird feeding its half-grown baby on the ground. We thought the baby must have fallen from the nest or something, but we found no nest. After mentioning it to the campground hosts we were told there is a bird in Maine that feeds its young on the ground.... We felt honored to have been chosen. We finally saw a Maine sunset the only evening it did not rain and it was quite lovely.

Leaving Maine we discovered the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association) national monument located at Good Will-Hinckley, Maine. Maine shows distance in both miles and kilometers on major roadways. There is a 5-cent deposit charged on every 2-liter or can of soda and the only way to get the deposit back is at a redemption center. This was the only form of 'recycling' we saw in Maine.

We're now in Littleton, Massachusetts at the Minuteman Campground, and FYI, actor/comedian Steve Carell was actually a rural mail carrier in Littleton before hitting it big - and he was born just over in Acton, MA. Littleton could become famous one day soon (or not).

Today (6/24) we ventured out to West Fitchburg, Lunenburg and Shirley (Shirley was incorporated in 1715) and other small villages in the area. Tomorrow we plan to take the train into Boston and walk the Freedom Trail.

Until next time - travel for the fun of it and seek joy in the small things.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Enjoying Maine

We travelled from the Maine coast inland to Fairfield for coach repairs. Had the electric step motor replaced and now life is sooooooo much better. We arrived in the Skowhegan/Canaan area in the middle of a vicious thunderstorm. It's never fun leveling and setting up camp in the rain, but we managed.

Today was an absolutely 'wicked' good day with mild temps and lots of sunshine. We ventured forth to Waterville, then to Skowhegan to see the 62 foot tall statue of a wooden Indian. We visited OPB [Oak Pond Brewery] a local microbrewery housed in a remodeled chicken barn. The beer got two thumbs up, especially The Nut Brown Ale. New Balance footwear headquarters has moved from Skowhegan to somewhere in Massachusetts. We carried our passports just in case we ended up in Canada, but maybe another day... Somewhere near here is the Benedict Arnold trail which goes on up into Canada, but haven't found it yet. Stephen King is reported to have homes in Bangor and Portland but we weren't looking for him today - but the 62 foot Indian was a MUST SEE!!

We've been brushing up on local lore and found that pot-hole season peaks in April but occurs throughout the year [yep, we know all about that]. The word 'wicked' is used as an adjective meaning 'very' - just like in Massachusetts. 'Down-east' is a Maine term, but we haven't quite figured out what area it references.

Maine has one of the highest moose populations, second only to Alaska. There are signs along all the highways warning of moose in the area, as well as in the newspapers and campground literature [so this is wicked serious business]. Moose are vegetarians; a bull moose can weigh 1,000 pounds or more; they are unpredictable and described as fairly stupid, which is why there are so many accidents involving vehicles and moose. Moose eyes can reflect light, but at six feet tall, car headlights usually shine between their legs; the hood of the car usually strikes the moose under the belly with the body falling heavily against the windshield. We are trying our damnedest to keep away from loose moose along the highway...

We are still adventuring in Maine [which can be a wicked scary place with all the moose on the loose].

Until next time - seek joy in everything, even the small stuff.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Rain in Maine....

Falls mainly all over Maine... Mother Nature has blessed Maine with days and days of rain, cloudy skies, and very cool temperatures [mostly in the 50s]. We retreated indoors and had to forego the Puffin Adventure, eating outdoors, hiking outdoors, and most other outdoor activities for most of our stay. Rain is to mosquitoes as fertilizer is to crops here.

The Maine coast is currently experiencing a Red Tide with warnings about eating mussels, European oysters and carnivorous snails [not a problem for us...] and they are cautious about clams. There is also toxic algae being blown in from the Bay of Fundy. These apparently are natural occurrences and have nothing whatsoever to do with our visit.
We ventured down to Camden Bay this afternoon for lobster rolls [make that lobsta rolls]. We've also learned how to pahk the cah...
We're off tomorrow, Friday 6/20, to Fairfield, Maine for replacement parts for the coach steps, then on to Skowhegan/Canaan until Monday. We are eternally optimistic that everything is happening and unfolding just as it should. At least that's our story and we're sticking to it since we are unable to control the weather.
--Variety is the soul of pleasure.
Apra Behn
Until next time - seek joy...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Maine.... We're Here...

Finally made it to Maine late Friday (6/13). Left Vermont and travelled east across the northern tip of New Hampshire, then across Maine to Rockport. Although the drive wasn't so far distance-wise, road-wise it was an eternity. We only thought the roads were bad way back in New Jersey - even New Hampshire's roads are really rough and Vermont's no-pavement sections were rough - but so far Maine roads are the definite winner. We travelled mostly at 35 mph because of the roughness and ruts in the road. We absolutely thought WhooHoo was going to shake apart. We are very happy to finally be here.

It's still off-season here so the campground is fairly empty and very quiet. Saturday (6/14) drove to Rockland Harbor for a look-see. Rockland is a quaint town with traffic lights and a bustling main street. Visited a few galleries and the Maine Lighthouse Museum. The museum is fascinating with information on many of the lighthouses in Maine and their lively history protecting the coast. Maine has 63 lighthouses along its coast although some are no longer in use and are managed by the U.S. Coast Guard. Happened upon the Project Puffin Visitor Center by accident where we learned about puffins and the endangered Piping Plover, which we first learned about in Ocracoke, NC. There are lots of artists in the area and the galleries proudly promote resident artists with very few outsiders' work included.

Haven't made it to the Farnsworth-Wyeth Gallery yet, but apparently the Wyeth family owned several islands on the Maine coast. There are many coastal tours, but most become available next week. We definitely plan to visit Freeport, Maine and the LL Bean flagship store (about an hour from us).

Rockland has a very nice harbor walk with beautiful views of the harbor and far-off views of Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. We found a delicious lunch at the Rockland Cafe of hand pressed fish cake sandwich and an open-faced crab melt sandwich. We're saving up for a fresh lobster dinner one evening.
There is definitely a slight language barrier, mostly noticeable when we speak. Even the slightest Southern drawl is very pronounced in New England. There is a noticeable distinction in dialect and tone - even in laughter and we have to listen closely to understand everything being said.
We're staying in the mid-coast area which seems to be a perfect location for exploring the Maine coast. It's all good so far.
--Indulging wanderlust and a life without limits--

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another Day In The Green Mountains

As mentioned in our last post, we extended our stay in Vermont by one day so we could visit a few more sights. We could NOT leave the area without taking a tour of the Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory. What a fun place and plus we got FREE ice cream! We learned all about how two young boys met in 7th grade gym class, remained friends throughout high school and afterwards. After neither could make a go of it in college or medical school, they pooled their money to pay for a $5 correspondence course on ice cream making and the rest is euphoric ice cream history. The company has a three-part mission statement which has an environmental, social and financial focus. A very inspiring company with a focus on giving back to the community and world. We came. We saw. We ate ice cream.

After indulging on decadent ice cream, we rode on down the road to the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. We tasted samples of cider, mustards and Legenday Cider Donuts. Across the way from the cider mill was Grandview Winery. Once again, we could not pass up the opportunity to taste-test the wines that are produced there. We had to taste a variety of wines before deciding on the one to purchase. There are actually many other places along Route 2 to stop and sample syrups, jellies, and candies. Many call this tour the "belly ache" tour. Fortunately for us, we called it quits after the ice cream, cider and wine.

In our travels today, we went through the state capitol of Vermont - Montpelier. A bit of trivia should you need it in a future Trivial Pursuit game - Montpelier is the smallest of all the state capitols in the U.S. It is really just a small town and could be mistaken for any other little village in the area except for there being a building with a gold dome on it as you pass through. Burlington, VT is actually the largest city in VT with a population of 60,000.

We wanted to mention the amazing number of people we have met from Georgia in our few short weeks of travel. While in Northern Virginia at the birthday party we attended, we met several ladies who live in Peachtree City. In Pennsylvania, we were parked next to a couple in the RV Park who was from Anderson, SC. Then, while on the Amish Experience Tour, we sat in front of a man who used to live in Athens and then Habersham county on a chicken farm. He now lives in Texas but would love to live in North Georgia again. We tried to sell him our house but he wasn't ready to make the move just yet. Now, in Vermont we met a couple who lived 31 years in Douglasville, Ga. but who have recently moved to Hershey, PA due to a job transfer. They remain huge Georgia Bulldog fans and say they miss Georgia. They were very friendly and provided us with a list of things to see and do in the area. Tonight they came over to visit and informed us of two more campers in this small RV Park who are also from Georgia. It is definitely a small world!

There remains much to be explored in this beautiful area but we will be moving on over to Maine in the morning. It is amazing how much unique beauty we have found in each of the areas we have stayed. It only gives us impetus to keep doing what we are doing so we can keep visiting places again and again to see what we didn't get to see previously.

As Ben & Jerry would say...

If it's not fun why do it?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Green Mountains of Vermont

We left Saugerties, NY and traveled from the Catskills up to the Adirondacks seeking cooler weather. Stayed at the Adirondack Village Campground on the edge of the Adirondack National Forest, a six million acre area of scenic beauty in upstate New York. Even the elevation did nothing to dissipate the sweltering heat and humidity. We arrived right after 'Americade' which we were told was the largest multi-brand motorcycle event in the East with over 50,000 bikers in town. The weekend before Americade was a convention of Elvis impersonators - - and we managed to miss both events...

Monday (6/9) we ventured out to Lake George Village and Queensbury looking to experience local culture. Lake George Village was a disappointment in its commercialism. It costs $1 per hour to park the car near the lake, no picnic tables to be found, and access to the 'beach' was thru a pavillion and locked gate after paying an entry fee. The 'beach' was a narrow strip of sand on the lake. For a fee, one could ride a steamboat across portions of the lake and back. There was absolutely no breeze and we were miserable from the heat. We took our picnic lunch and tried to go to the picnic area next door at Fort William Henry, but that gate was closed. Apparently after Americade the streets roll up until school gets out [yes, school is still in session until mid-June here]. The area is quite beautiful and there were many things we wanted to see and do but the heat was just too much.
Tuesday (6/10) left Lake George, NY and traveled across to St. Johnsbury, Vermont via US4 across the Green Mountains. Initially the roads were wide and not alarmingly steep. However, just outside of Killington, VT we encountered a blinking sign that read, 'Use Caution - Pavement Ends.' Well, the folks in Vermont are very concise with their signs and tell no lies. For several miles and through several villages, the pavement was removed, leaving a very bumpy gravel roadbed with no guard rails and only one lane traffic in some spots. The Green Mountains are considerably taller than the Appalachians in our area. Even so, we survived. We passed through several ski resort areas with no snow, of course, but many tall ski lifts and such (many elevations over 3,500 feet).

We arrived to 95 degree heat at Moose River Campground, set up camp, put out the awning, kicked up the A/C and were settling in when the campground hostess came knocking to let us know a huge storm was coming and advising us to take down the awning. We had two rounds of rough weather, with tornado warnings, lots of lightening, lots of rain and high winds. The power went out around 4 PM and didn't come back on 'til 2:38 AM this morning. By the way, the sun rose at 5:24 this morning and we enjoyed temperatures in the mid-70s today. We are about 45 miles from Canada and 27 miles from Littleton, New Hampshire. What a difference a day makes. It's supposed to reach 30 degrees overnight.

We visited Stephen Huneck's Dog Mountain today. We have been huge fans of the artist for a long time and are amazed we actually got to visit here. Dogs are welcome here in both the chapel and the gallery and there's also a pond and agility course just for dogs. People come from all over the world and post notes about their pets and pay tribute to much loved, deceased pets. The chapel has stained glass windows featuring dogs; the steeple is an angel dog; benches are carved dogs; there are statues of dogs everywhere.... After all, it is Dog Mountain...

On the way back down Dog Mountain to the highway, we saw a mother moose and offspring trot across the road in front of us. It took a second or two to realize they were much taller than deer and have a thicker, longer nose. These didn't have any antlers. No pictures since it was such a quick and unexpected encounter, but we wanted to include a picture of the campground moose...

There is so much to see and do in this area that we extended our stay another day. In addition to Dog Mountain, we toured through St. Johnsbury, VT and went to see The Birdman outside of Danville, VT. Edmond Menard is 'The Birdman' and hand carves small birds, such as humming birds, chickadees, pelicans, ducks, etc. from the cambrian layer of white cedar. He is a very nice, somewhat reclusive artist that is more than happy to show you how he creates his art. We bought a humming bird from him. What is most amazing is that the entire bird is carved from once piece of wood, with the feathers fanned out individually. He uses NO GLUE as it is carved from ONE piece of wood. Our visit with Edmond was very interesting. The picture does not do it justice. The actual bird is about 4 inches long and probably weighs less than an ounce.

We visited Maple Grove Farms. They do not make maple syrup, but do make things from maple syrup, like salad dressings, spreads, maple sprinkles, fudge, etc.

We drove on to Cabot, VT to visit the Cabot cheese factory. This tour is only $2 and worth it since you can eat your weight in cheese samples (YUM!) both before and after the tour. Cabot is a farm co-op and receives milk from about 1,300 dairy farms. They make umpteen thousand pounds of cheese each and every day in lots of flavors. They also make yogurts, sour creams, spreads, and other perishables that are sold only in the New England area.

FYI, Vermont folks are very proud of all their local Vermont things and happily send you around to experience different places. Vermont is also home to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, King Arthur Flour, Green Mountain Coffee (processed in Vermont), and of course, maple syrup. There are many local farms that have sugar bush farms to harvest the sap to make syrup. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to reduce to 1 gallon of maple syrup.

Vermont may be a small state, but it's packed with stuff to do.

Until next time - - find joy even in the small things....


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Moving On Up

The area of Pennsylvania in which we were staying had much to see and do. We spent several more days so that we could visit Gettysburg National Military Park and then take a tour to Philadelphia. Gettysburg was interesting and one of those places that we felt we needed to visit since we were so close. One could take a 24-mile driving tour to visit exhibits, monuments and various battlefields. Twenty-four miles of history was a bit much for us so we hit the sights that most interested us and moved on. It was interesting even though we're not hugely interested in Civil War memorabilia. The cemetery was very quiet and moving. Imagine a small town finding itself in possession of thousands of dead bodies after three days of battle and having to find ways to bury the dead and care for the wounded. It must have been a daunting task. Gettysburg remains a small town today.

Our guided tour to Philadelphia was fun. We were both able to ride and look at the sights along the way rather than one having to drive and the other one having to read a map and navigate, with both of us missing a lot along the way. We visited "the most historic square mile in America" which included Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross House, Old Christ Church, a Quaker Meeting House and several other key sights. One very interesting point of interest were the "busy-body mirrors" that were on the houses in Elfreth's Alley during Revolutionary times and now. This alley is lined with row-houses that have been continuously inhabited since the 18th Century. Even back then, there were 'nosy Nellies' who wanted to keep up with what was going on around them. It would have been nice to spend another whole day visiting the Museum of Art and the Rodin Museum. We did see the steps that Rocky ran up at the Museum of Modern Art but we were not allowed to get off the tour bus to run up them ourselves. A funny thing about the 'city of brotherly love' - if the traffic is stalled just lay down on the horn (no, it did not speed things up), but apparently it's how this city shares the love.

# # # #

On Thursday (June 5) we drove up to Saugerties, NY to stay in the Saugerties/Woodstock KOA. We have enjoyed a little down time during our stay here. The little town is at the southern edge of the Catskill Forest Park. Jerri did some hiking and visiting waterfalls. There was a moderately challenging hike to Kaaterskill Falls. The rocks, roots and mud were well worth the steep climb to the top to see the 260 feet high waterfall, the highest in NY.

Today we visited the Saugerties Lighthouse. Who knew there was a lighthouse here? It is a stone lighthouse on the Hudson River at Esopus Creek originally built in 1838. The lighthouse is a half-mile hike best done at low tide since the trail is only four feet above sea level and high tides can cover part of the trail. It has a full-time keeper and the upstairs is a B&B now [really expensive].

We were a little disappointed in the village of Woodstock. Not sure what we expected but what we found was not it. Lots of shops with antiques and tie-dye stuff (even head shops) but it was very touristy. Most of the shop owners were either really old hippies or newbies to the area. We passed a couple of 'old' hippies on the sidewalk and couldn't help but notice that personal hygiene is still not a priority. The Woodstock Music Festival in 1969 was originally scheduled to be held here but the venue was changed to Bethel, NY. There's a new museum at the Bethel Center for the Arts paying homage to 'Woodstock,' but it was a whole day trip in itself with advance tickets highly recommended. At least we can say we've been to Woodstock, NY....

We really wanted to visit Opus 40 and Quarryman's Museum, a six-acre environmental bluestone sculpture built from an abandoned quarry over 40 years' time. Just our luck, Opus 40 was closed when we arrived because a wedding was being held there. Maybe another time.

So, we are off to Lake George, NY in the Adirondacks tomorrow. We will spend a few days there and then move over into Vermont, where we want to visit Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, VT. We have admired the work of the artist who founded and who lives and works at Dog Mountain. There is also a Dog Chapel there where we and our dogs will be welcome.

For those of you wondering about our three dogs Troubie, Homer and Frannie, they are doing fine and have adjusted to the traveling life pretty well. It seems that one couch is about as good as any other one. "Home is Where the Couch Is."

"Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate."

- J.R.R. Tolkien

Until next time...

our journey continues.