I haven’t posted anything for a while so I have a lot of stories to share. About a six weeks ago, I came down with a cold. Lynette had had one for about three weeks and finally went to the doctor to get some antibiotics because it was actually a sinus infection. After two weeks with my cold, I realized it was much more than that. I found a doctor’s clinic in Brattleboro, Vermont and they were able to get me in. It turns out I had a sinus infection, ear infection, bronchitis, and pneumonia. It’s no wonder I was feeling so crappy. The closest CVS pharmacy that had all the medicine I needed, antibiotics, steroids, cough medicine with codeine, etc. was over in Keene, NH, about 30 minutes away. I thought there was a CVS on every street corner throughout the country, not so.
While we were in Winter Harbor, Maine, our daughter Erin flew up for a visit. She was on fall break from school, so the timing was perfect. We made the three-hour trip back south to Portland to pick her up at the Portland Jetport. I am guessing it was named when jets were first coming out and “Jetport” made it sound really futuristic. Now, it just sounds a little cheesy. Trusting a GPS is sometimes not the wisest thing to do. We put in the address of the “Jetport” and it took us to a residential street on the wrong side of the Fore River which has a draw bridge over it. So we used a different GPS, went back over the river, past the area we had just covered and took a different turn. Luckily, we got to the airport about five minutes before Erin walked out to the curb. We picked her up and started the three-hour trip back to Acadia National Park. We had so much fun on the way back, catching up on what we had all been doing. We got back to the campground about midnight and all just hit the sack.
The next day, Erin and I took a ferry over to Bar Harbor and Lynette drove over. We were meeting Chris and LaSydia Patterson from our church for lunch. They were taking a Princess Lines cruise up the east coast and Bar Harbor was one of their stops on their way to Nova Scotia. It was a bit strange meeting at the Route 66 Restaurant. Lynette and I had taken various parts of Route 66 on our trip out west, and Bar Harbor looked nothing like it. However, the restaurant was pretty authentic and looked like it would have fit right in in Oklahoma or Arizona. We had so much fun and after lunch, spent some time walking around the city and just exploring.
Bar Harbor is a beautiful little town and we met a couple from Scotland while we were there. They talked about the little coastal towns in Scotland that were much like Bar Harbor, but did not have the visitors or fishing industry anymore and were slowing dying out. I could feel the sadness in their voices as if a part of them was dying as well. We all took the car ride back to Schoodic Woods because the last ferry ride back, left well before we were planning to return.
The view from Cadillac Mountain down into Bar Harbor overlooking the Princess Cruise Ship. It was so large, the other ships had to clear out of the harbor for it to come in.
We spent the next day back over in Bar Harbor exploring the main part of Acadia National Park. We drove up to Cadillac Mountain which is the tallest coastal mountain on the east coast. On the way up we stopped several times to look out over the ocean and just breathe in the views. At one stop, we saw a car with Gwinnett County license plates. I asked the folks where they lived in Gwinnett and they started laughing. They were actually from Blue Ridge, Georgia, had flown up to Boston and that was the rental car they got. Small world and a funny coincidence. Erin and I got out at Cadillac Mountain and did some hiking along the rocks. It is such a majestic pace.
The cruise ships normally travel between ports at night and offload their passengers during the day. Most times there are two or three in port at any given time.
In another part of the park, we were driving down one of the interior roads and off to one side was a six-point buck standing majestically as if to say, “I know I am in the park and no one can mess with me.” So then he just strutted across the road in front of us.
On the way back, we stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant for dinner. You go in one side to order, walk back outside to another area where they are steaming lobsters and shrimp, and pick up you order, and then walk back into another dining area. It was a fun little place where everyone talks to everyone else.
We spent several more days seeing the sights and taking in the atmosphere and then it was time to head back to Portland for Erin to take her trip back. We were all having such a wonderful time, we hated to see her leave and she hated to go back. She had never ridden in our coach, so Lynette gave her the passenger seat up front so she could experience the view from the five foot by eight foot windshield. We had a great trip back, set up the RV in a local RV park and then dropped her off at the Portland Jetport. That still sound a little funny.
Lynette and I only stayed one night in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, and then it was on to our next stop in Freedom, New Hampshire. I love driving the back roads and going through small towns. In one little town, there was a sign out front at the local Elk’s Club, advertising a benefit dinner for a local family. I have no idea what need that family had, but I do know the community wanted to help them.
Another place on our trip, I noticed a car parked alongside the road and there was a couple out by a pasture fence taking pictures. To my surprise they were photographing a double humped camel. What? A camel in New Hampshire?
While in New Hampshire, we took a ride along the Kancamangus Highway. It is a 34-mile scenic highway that stretches from Conway to Lincoln through the White Mountains. I saw in one travel magazine that it was one of the Top 10 scenic drives in the U.S. When you think of autumn in New England, this is the poster child. It switches from tree lined canopies to wide open mountain views that seem to go on forever and everything in between. There is a river that flows along most of the highway and reflects the beauty of the trees off it crystal clear water.
My friend Bob Andrew has been up this way several times and taken some incredible pictures. He is a real photographer whereas I just take pictures. When I told him I was going to be up here and see the leaves, he had only one word to describe the area, “WOW!”. He was so right. It is just not a place to see, but rather an experience to enjoy. I definitely want to come back here.
Leaving New Hampshire, we drove westward and camped at the Kenolie Campground in New Fane, Vermont. When researching campgrounds in the areas we want to visit, we never really know what we will get until you get there. This was such a place. We turned off the main road and soon got to the turnoff for the campground. After about 100 yards, the paved road turned to dirt and just wide enough for two cars to pass in opposite directions if they wanted to become really close friends. Fortunately, me made it the mile down the road without any traffic before we tuned up a steep incline that took us into the park. At the top of the hill, the campground was a large open meadow with some large tree. It was a pretty place with mostly travel trailers of people who camp there all summer and everyone seems to know everyone else.
As we arrived at our site, one of the residence told me, “I was wondering when you were going to deliver my new rig.” We had a good laugh and got set up. She invited us over to share their campfire that evening, but I was still under the weather, so we told her we wouldn’t be able to make it.
It turns out that weekend was the weekend for the town’s annual fall festival, celebrating all things Vermont. We stopped at one place where the local middle school was selling fresh pressed apple cider and freshly baked apple pies. It was a fund raiser for them to take a trip to Costa Rica next spring. When I say the cider was fresh, I mean there were piles of apples on the ground, and an apple press right beside them. As the apples were smashed, they would fill gallon jugs with the fresh elixir. It was $6.00 for a gallon and it was by far the best cider I have ever had. Just to help out the kids, we also bought one of the apple pies as well. Yeah, help out the kids.
Just like everywhere we have been, the people here are wonderful, friendly, helpful, and fun to be around. I asked them for a recommendation for a good local restaurant. They said we needed to visit the Dam Diner for sure, just five miles up the road. It gets its name from a nearby dam that was built to raise the water level in a local lake. The Dam Diner was great. It is definitely a local hangout as everyone that came in always stopped at two or three table to talk to their friends. There were lots of folks talking politics and I saw a “Bern with Bernie” t-shirt. I’m not real sure what it meant, Burn?
The diner had a huge collection of maybe 200 kitchen utensils hanging from the wall with green wooden handles, the kind your grandmother used to have. It turns out the owner collects them. Also, there was a collection of maybe 150 green glassware items placed on the shelves in the front window. One little boy about 5 years old was there with his dad who had a big crocheted hat covering what I suspect were his dreadlocks. It was obvious there were regulars as well. The boy went straight for a glass jar that held little toys, like bowling pins that were maybe two inches tall and a little ball to knock them down. None of the chairs matched, most were wooden but there was one porcelain metal table. It made a great surface for the bowling pins. This was definitely my kind of place.
One thing I keep learning over and over in life is to not judge people by their appearance. The man with the dreadlocks is not someone I would normally have been drawn to, but this guy had a great smile and a peaceful presence about him. He was very tender with his little boy and this is something I have always admired. As we left, I made sure to tell him he had a great little helper with him. He gave me a great smile and thanked me.
By the way, the food at the Dam Diner was great. That’s just fun to say. The weather was definitely getting cooler up here with the low temperatures at night getting down to the mid 30’s but warming up during the day to the high 50’s and low 60’s.
The view from Hogback Mountain. I felt like I was standing in a Bob Ross painting. We bought some Vermont syrup at the at the store on top of the mountain.
Next up was Wolf’s Den Family Campground in East Haddam, Connecticut near Hartford. I wanted to visit this area to see one of my former students, Nicole Douglin, that I had met when I was teaching in AT&T’s Business Sales LeadershipDevelopment Program. Lynette and I met her for lunch in West Hartford, which has a great little small town atmosphere. It is definitely much smaller than its namesake and a fun place to visit. We spent a couple hours talking about old times and catching up on what each of us was doing now. One of the fun things with friends is that you can just pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it has been since you last saw them. It was just that way with Nicole, she is an exceptional young lady.
While in East Haddam, one of our neighbors was a lady who had starting full-timing with her husband two years before. After they had been on the road for a year, he unexpectedly passed away and now she was doing it on her own, sort of. She had two dogs, three cats, and a bird. The bird had learned to mimic the sounds of the big diesel engine and the transmission shifting. Sometimes when she would be driving down the road, the bird would chime right in with the sounds. Occasionally, it would get to be a bit much and she would shout out a big, “Shut up bird.” We really admired her for her courage and tenacity. She was on her way to New Jersey for her son’s wedding and then heading south for the winter.
From Connecticut, it was down to the Pennsylvania Dutch Campground in Bernville, Pennsylvania. We had only planned to stay there one night but it turned in to two. About midnight on our first night, the power to the coach went out. I got up and checked the power pedestal outside and my surge/fault protector indicated a hard ground. I was glad we had six six-volt batteries in our rig that could keep the refrigerator going and had a propane heating system because the low temperature for the night was going to be in the low 30’s.
I let the park office know about my problem and they had their maintenance guy come out and “fix” it the next morning. I asked them about a free night since I didn’t have power the night before and they were fine with that.
Later that day, a saw a familiar coach pull in. It was Loyce and Diane, two ladies that had attended the Freightliner school in Gaffney South Carolina, the same time I was there in August. We shared where we had been and what we had been doing and then swapped information on which RV parks to stay at in different states. They were headed to Virginia for a couple of weeks and then making their way back to their homes in Florida for part of the winter.
That night, the same thing happened with power again. I didn’t realize it, but the power had gone out at my site earlier in the day, and the batteries were almost drained. I have a system on the coach that automatically starts the 10 kw generator if the voltage in the batteries get too low. It kicked on sometime during the night and we stayed nice and cozy with the heater fans blowing when they needed to. It was time to move further south, so I didn’t worry about the power at this campground any more.
Our next stop was Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground in Natural Bridge Virginia. It was supposed to be a five-hour drive, but because of one wreck, turned into a seven-hour ordeal. We had to endure creeping along in bumper to bumper traffic for a solid two hours. I would have preferred the road being completely blocked so I could have laid on the couch and taken a nap. I’ve done that before and it is so relaxing, just park on the interstate, turn off the engine, lay down on the sofa, and sleep. By the time we got to the campground, we were beat. Then it was nap time.
The main reason for staying hear was to visit our friends, Kent and Sheila Heath, who live about an hour away in Forest, Virginia. Our kids grew up together and we all have such wonderful memories of those times. We went out to dinner and laughed about the old times and caught up with what is going on with our children now. Even though we haven’t talked in about a decade, we just seemed to pick up right where we left off. It is funny how time and distance really never separate good friends. We are all going to do a better job staying in touch.
While at the campground, we met Joe and Maggie, who were new to the RVing lifestyle. They were learning the ropes and so I shared some of the things I had learned like the best squeegee for cleaning a big front windshield and not letting your rear tires lift off the ground when leveling your coach. Those are the wheels that have the brakes applied when you park and lifting them off the ground while leveling could let the coach roll backwards. They were super people and fun to be around. I wish we could have spent more time with them but they were moving on as well.
Our next stop was Heiskell, Tennessee, just north of Knoxville. We try to keep our trips about three hours a day if possible. Since leaving Maine at the end of September, our main goal was to arrive in Red Bay, Alabama around November 1. We have a bunch of warranty work to get done before our one-year warranty period is up and also want to be back in Georgia in time to vote. The only two things we really planned to do along the way was visit Nicole in Connecticut and Kent and Sheila in Virginia. The rest was just a trip to Red Bay. As you can imagine, no matter how wonderful the scenery is, traveling every day or every couple of days gets really tiring. We were pretty much getting to that point, so we stopped here for about a week.
It was nice not having to go anywhere or see anything. We did go to Walmart to stock up on groceries but other than that, I just did chores around the RV. Most campgrounds don’t allow their campers to wash their cars or RVs, but this one did. So I took the opportunity to wash the car so the white color would actually show through all the road grime from Main to Tennessee. I also spot cleaned the camper but didn’t see much point in doing a thorough cleaning since we were going to be back on the road in a few days.
When owning an RV, there is always something that needs to be done. I had to repair a camping chair, clean the RV windshield, (about a 45-minute job), and check the tire pressure in all 10 tires. Of course, some of the tires needed more air, so I had to pull out my air compressor and top them off. I have a tire pressure monitoring system that broke, so I had to reprogram all the tires into the replacement. Then came planning the next couple of campgrounds. I’m not complaining, it’s actually quite therapeutic and gives me a sense of accomplishment. Lynette takes care of the inside and cooking and my job is the outside and driving.
One of the things I admire about Lynette is that no matter how far we have driven or what we have done during the day, and how tired we are, she always seems to come up with a great meal for dinner. Most of the time, we just prefer to eat in the RV instead of going out to restaurants unless it is something a place in famous for, like lobster in Maine or seafood along the coast.
Once again, we met some great people here and got some recommendations for campgrounds in different parts of the country. One couple in particular had spent this last April through September in Kalispell, Montana, just south of Glacier National Park and gave me some ideas on where to stay and things to do in the area. Another couple spent time volunteering in State and National Parks in return for free camping. They shared with me the process for getting those jobs and what to expect. It’s not something we plan to do right now, but it’s definitely a possibility in the future.
Yesterday, we made the three-hour trip from Heiskell, Tennessee to Parnell RV Park in Woodville, Alabama. We stayed at this park in July of 2013 when we brought two of our granddaughters, Hannah and Emily, to the Space Center in Huntsville. They tried to wear out the water in the swimming pool, and spent a lot of time giggling. It was so much fun. We are only here for a couple of days since we both of us hate to travel on back to back days. The park is family owned and we try to support these types of parks whenever we can. The owners are super friendly and accommodating and the park is right on our way to Red Bay.
So tomorrow we should arrive in Red Bay at the Tiffin factory. I suspect we will be there about a week or so since we have a lot of work to be done. Most of it is pretty simple stuff but just takes time. There are a couple of major things, like a sizeable bad spot on the paint and the floor heating not working, but Tiffin has the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry, so I am sure they will take care of us. They also have their own campground that is free for customers who are still in their warranty period, so I looking forward to saving a little money.
All Caught Up
I know this is a long post, but it’s been about a month since I have felt much like writing. The bronchitis and pneumonia made me feel tired most of the time and I haven’t felt like doing too much. I was usually feeling good for a couple of hours and then crash for a few hours. I still have a cough but I think I am finally about to get well.
Life on the road is good as we have had a great time moving from Maine to Alabama. I missed a lot of things that would have been fun to see but now I have an excuse to make the trip again, not that I needed one.
From Red Bay, the plan to is to head back to Georgia for the elections and the holidays and then down to Florida in January. From there we plan to be winter Texans and head to south Texas for February and March and then start making our way out to visit Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. That’s about as detailed as our plans are right now.
Next year we are planning to stay in places longer to get a deeper experience of the areas we visit and not travel so many miles. Several years ago I read an article that said there is only one right way to RV, and that is the way that is right for you. Sage wisdom.
Lynette and I are loving our new traveling lifestyle and are trying to make the most of every place and every day as we are RVingthecountry.