January 1, 2007 to . . . (date)
Go back to 2006
1/1/07 through 1/11/07
The new year started off nicely when the guy in our site pulled out first thing in the morning and we moved our rig onto (what we regard as) our regular site. Also, security gave us an extension on our expired base sticker until everything reopened on January 3 (actually they said we had a two week grace period but we got a new one on Tuesday anyway).
Since then we have been enjoying pretty nice weather, as has most of the Country. One day we drove up to Florence to have lunch with my cousin Bobby and his wife Teresa at the New China Buffet. Two weeks earlier they had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, and the following day was Teresa's 70th birthday. All that, plus Christmas and New Years within a two week period -- Wow! We like Chinese and eat out at Chinese places fairly often. The New China Buffet in Florence is far and away the best Chinese buffet we have found anywhere. Anytime we're in Sumter we make it a point to drive up to Florence at least once. If you're ever in Florence SC check it out (in the middle of Town on US-52 maybe a mile south of US-76).
Since I got my bike back in August I've been wishing that Sharyn had one also so she could ride with me. She wasn't crazy about the idea, but we went to a local bike store here in Sumter and she got a 2007 Specialized Expedition Sport. It's basically the same as mine except a women's 2007 model. It's quite nice, but so far she's only ridden it three times. Bicycles sure have come a long way since we had our last bikes back in the early 70's (a Raleigh and a Peugeot).
It had been our plan to be in Quartzsite AZ by mid-January, after which we were going to go back to San Diego (actually Coronado) for awhile before heading north through California as winter turned into spring and then spend the summer in the Puget Sound area of Coastal Washington. Our oldest grandson is graduating high school in New York in June and, rather than change of whole itinerary, we were going to fly to New York from wherever we were at the time. It has now developed, however, that we also have a wedding in Georgia in May and another one in Jersey in October. Cumulatively all this has required a rethinking of our West Coast plans. We don't really have a plan now but whatever materializes will almost certainly involve staying in the eastern part of the Country. We are now considering returning to the Navy Base at Mayport, near Jacksonville FL. We were there back in November and liked it. Sharyn particularly enjoys being on or near the water.
Stay tuned to see what happens -- I'll do the same!
Our bikes at Shaw
Odometer reading = 83,255
Miles for day = 0
1/12/07 to 1/25/07
Well now we have a plan, of sorts. This morning we received a phone call from Bill and Cheryl (friends we met in Gillette WY in 2000 and have traveled and visited with numerous times since then) who are going to be at the Allegro factory in Red Bay AL the week of February 19. They have some things they want to have done to their Allegro Phaeton, so we'll met them their and while their unit is going worked on the four of us can tear up the town of Red Bay (if you've ever been to Red Bay you know that's a joke -- but we'll have fun anyway). They're also going to bring their bikes so we can ride around town. I'm sure we'll also go to Swamp John's for breakfast at least a few times. As you may have suspected, that's what's called genuine "country cookin'."
As for between now and then, who knows?
In the meanwhile, since the last entry on this page our activities have been somewhat mundane. Sharyn has sort of taken up knitting and crocheting and seems to really enjoy both. I have continued to ride my bike on most days and have gotten Sharyn to accompany me on several occasions. I have further enhanced my Bike Stats spreadsheet (created with OpenOffice.org's Calc) with another cool graph. Of course I don't really need all that information, but I find it interesting. Besides I like to play with numbers and I figure that just as riding the bike keeps my body functioning, playing with creating spreadsheet keeps my mind functioning. In both cases the question is, "for how long!"
Several weeks ago we saw an Airstream Bambi pull into the FamCamp here at Shaw. It was Denis and Mary, the couple we had had met at Wright-Patterson FamCamp on September 28, 2006, just before we left there to come here. We had wine and cheese with them the night before we left and talked a lot about RVing, places to go, etc. We told them how much we enjoyed Shaw. Well, they were here because we had told them how nice it was. We sure were glad when they told us they agreed with our evaluation of Shaw's FamCamp -- whew! Anyway, we enjoyed their company for about a week before they had to leave to go to their daughter's in Florida.. I'm sure we'll meet up with them again.
This weekend Sharyn was supposed to go on a tour/trip (or whatever) to a large shopping mall near Myrtle Beach but it was canceled today when they did not get the required number of people to sign up.
We just now received an e-mail from Gerard and Sherry, a couple we met after they had been following this travelog for a number of years and invited us to visit them as he approached his retirement from the Air Force (see travelog entry 11/5/05). They're now full-time RVers and we're going to see if we can't get together at Mayport in early March as they head north from Key West.
Sharyn (avoiding camera), Mary, and Denis
http://www.stringbean.com/BikeStats.ods (requires OpenOffice.org Calc to open)
Odometer reading = 83,255
Miles for day = 0
1/26/07 to 1/29/07
As I've mentioned in the past, we take lots of pictures as we travel, plus we had a lot of pictures before we started, plus a year or so ago I scanned a big bunch of slides (going all the way back to the 50's). Bottom line -- according to Photoshop Album, one of the software applications we use to view our photos, we now have a little over 11,000 photos on the computer. The reason we originally bought Adobe Photoshop Album, and the feature I probably like best about it is the "thermometer-like" timeline across the top of the main screen. You can go directly to the pictures of any month in any year. Anyway, the other day I was up early and for whatever reason started the slideshow function beginning with the first slide (Harry Shannon sitting in his 1950 Mercury on March 15, 1956). With four second intervals the entire slideshow would run for something over 24 hours, so it was still going when Sharyn got up. As we had our coffee and conversation we continued to watch the slides until sometime around noon. We concluded that, indeed, life is an ongoing phenomenal experience!
While I try to ride my bike every day, riding doesn't do for Sharyn what it does for me, but the other day we rode up to the BX for ice cream and pizza and then continued around the flightline and back to the FamCamp, for a total of just over eight miles. That's pretty impressive for what's only her 4th or 5th bike ride in 30 years!
Yesterday we went on another "check out an old house for sale" drive. This one had a small photo in the paper with a "$50,000 as is" caption. We found it with no problem -- talk about out in the sticks! What I found most interesting about this one was that it did not face the road. At one time this was a proud and stately home that faced out over the vast cotton fields that surrounded it. Today the cotton fields are still there, but judging from the dilapidated wire fences separating the fields from the house, I suspect that the land was sold off long ago so that today this once majestic home sits in decline on a small overgrown piece of yard.
The door latch was inoperable so that a push on the door caused it to swing open. Walking through the somewhat dark interior I commented to Sharyn that this would have been too much of an undertaking for us even 25 years ago (we've done several of these over the years). When she continued walking around and replied, "I'm not so sure," I got nervous. However, after a short while she said she didn't like it. I have to say, that did not make me sad. Anyway, we took some pictures and left.
On the way back we talked about the probable past and future of the house. It's past, at one time, was grand. It's future -- it probably doesn't have one. It's out in the middle of no where where no one is going to want to put into into it what it would take to bring it back. The small piece of land it sits on is probably not worth the cost of removing the house so we think it's destined to remain unsold for decades until it eventually collapses into itself. Maybe we're wrong.
A once proud home
Once upon a time . . .
Odometer reading = 83,255
Miles for day = 0
1/30/07 to 2/14/07
At this point we've been here at Shaw for about six weeks but will be leaving in the morning. While we like it here a lot, we would prefer that it be a little warmer than it has been. However, looking at the weather around the rest of the Country we really don't have too much to complain about with daytime temperatures mostly in the 50's and 60's. Still, warmer would be better and we plan to be sitting on the Gulf Coast in about two weeks.
Several days ago I decided to try a longer distance bike ride than the eight mile rides I'd been doing around the base perimeter. I took US-76 towards Sumter to see how far I could go. The problem is that you don't want to go more than half the distance you can ride because you need the second half to get back again. Anyway my round trip was 17.52 miles. I thought that was pretty good but I also thought 20 miles would have been a good round number. Two days ago I did a 21.68 mile ride (with a stop at Baskin Robbins for a pint of ice cream)!
For the last several years I've been doing some on again - off again genealogical research on my mother's family (the Broadways of Clarendon County, South Carolina). About a year ago a third cousin and I discovered each other's existence. Margaret has been researching (in a much more intense manner than I have) the Owen Family who came to South Carolina from England in the 1800's. It turns out that Margaret's great-grandfather and my great-grandfather were brothers. Anyway, Margaret has invited us to her annual Valentine's party just outside of Atlanta for couples who have been married for a minimum of 30 years, so that's where we'll be Saturday night.
When we're at Shaw, weather permitting we frequently leave the door open. Yesterday was such a day and yesterday afternoon when I went back into the motorhome I heard a scuffle under the table. It turned out we had an unexpected visitor who eventually found the still open door and left. Unexpected visitors would be of particular concern in moose country.
Our unexpected guest surveys his predicament
Odometer reading = 83,255
Miles for day = 0
Had I given it more thought I would have gotten myself into gear earlier this morning so we could have arrived here with more daylight time remaining. We didn't get out until a little after eleven and I had some initial concern that we might not get here until after dark. We're at the FamCamp at Dobbins AFB just north of Atlanta which is a small, heavily wooded campground with hills and twisting narrow roads. Getting into a site here after dark would have been somewhat difficult.
The trip was pretty straightforward and uneventful. The only stop we made was at the Georgia welcome center where we had lunch. Because of the heavy tree cover we have no satellite TV and I didn't even try to set up our Internet satellite. Tomorrow we'll pay for our site and check out the area.
Our campsite at Dobbins
Odometer reading = 83,525
Miles for day = 268
2/16/07 and 2/17/07
This campground would be much nicer in the spring or fall when it's not so cold. In fact with nice weather it would be quite pleasant. Sharyn likes the area quite a bit as we discovered lots of shopping opportunities along the I-285 loop. We also made a dry run past Margaret's house Friday afternoon so we would not be trying to find it for the first time in the dark. Not far from her house we found a Goldberg's Bagel shop where we stopped for coffee and real bagels (what else?).
The Valentine's party was very nice -- we enjoyed it and the other guests very much. We think it's amazing that, in this day and age, you could get together such a large group of couples married for thirty years or more. The fact that this was a church Sunday school based group has a lot to do with it! Margaret has been put on my short list of "preferred relatives."
I've not been too successful in my attempt to ride my bike every day. It probably has to do with not trying hard enough, but when it's as cold and windy as it has been my enthusiasm gets somewhat diminished. One day I tried to ride around the base perimeter but ran into several dead ends and locked gates and eventually just backtracked the route I had traveled. My total ride was 8.23 miles including one long steep hill that dead ended at a locked gate. One result of pedaling up that hill is that I have had to adjust my "maximum heart rate" (MHR) which I have been figuring at 150 beats per minute. One's MHR is generally said be be 220 minus your age in years. That would make mine 152 but I've been using 150. Climbing that hill I was running 153 which I suspect makes my actual MHR in the upper 150's, but I really don't know. Knowing the percentage of MHR you are working at tells you the level of exertion you are at. It's also useful in determining your lactose threshold (LT), another measure of level of work or exercise. Oh well, so much for all of that!
This would be very nice when it's not so cold
Odometer reading = 83,525
Miles for day = 0
2/18/07 to 2/21/07
(Red Bay AL)
Dobbins FamCamp does not have sewer hookups at individual campsites and we had not taken on water or dumped our holding tanks since leaving Shaw. Since we knew the water would be turned off at the Allegro campground in Red Bay we decided to fill our tank before leaving Dobbins. While the water hookups are wrapped with insulation the valve itself it exposed and was frozen. In order to get the water to begin flowing we had to pour hot water over the valve to thaw it out. Anyway, having done that we filled our tank and took off for Red Bay to meet up with Bill and Cheryl.
It turned out that they, instead of starting out for Red Bay this morning as planned, had left from Benton AR at midnight last night (Bill said he couldn't sleep). Anyway, sometime around five o'clock this morning, when only 30 miles from Red Bay he said he was too tired to continue and need a "quick catnap." They pulled into the Walmart in Fulton MS and went to sleep. An hour later they awoke to start again only to discover that while they were sleeping someone had stolen their bikes and the bike rack off the back of the jeep they were towing. The bikes were locked to the rack but the rack was not locked to the jeep. They were, understandably, pretty upset about that. Because they had parked way off at the outside edge of the parking lot they were outside of the viewing area of the security cameras. I would have thought that by 5:am all the "bad guys" would have gone home -- I guess not.
Anyway, when we arrived at Allegro the campground host told us that Bill and Cheryl had already checked in and had saved us the site next to them. The last time we were here was at Thanksgiving 2005. Because the Allegro campground and repair facility is located on what used to be the Red Bay Municipal Airport, the RV sites are all on the old runway and and adjacent hard surfaced areas and I could not properly anchor my Internet satellite system and tripod to the ground. A fast moving thunderstorm moved through the campground and blew the tripod and dish over. While the tripod was damaged the dish and transceiver luckily survived. It's been pretty windy since we've been here, and with possible thunderstorms in the forecast I have not set up the system. This is probably the longest length of time we've gone without being online since we bought the system four or five years ago. In addition to our regular e-mail communication we also do our banking, bill paying, get weather forecasts, keep this website up to date, and a number of other miscellaneous activities via our Internet connection. We have on occasion talked about a Wi-Fi card but with the satellite it would be used very infrequently. There is Wi-Fi here however so right now we'd be using it. We may reconsider getting a card.
In the meanwhile Bill and Cheryl had all their work completed and we had a few odds and ends tended to, including having a new kitchen sink and upgraded faucet installed. Tomorrow we're all off to the casinos at Tunica (about 20 miles south of Memphis).
With Bill & Cheryl at Allegro campground
Cheryl unknowingly models as I show Bill my 70-200 lens
Odometer reading = 83,804
Miles for day = 278
(Red Bay AL)
Last night the four of us had dinner at O'Ryans Steakhouse just down the road from the campground. We always eat there at least one time when we're in Red Bay and I always have the Cajun style catfish.
This morning we decided not to go to Tunica. Sharyn wasn't feeling too well (she's NEVER sick), plus having spent more time here than anticipated there would be less time to spend in Tunica (Bill and Cheryl have to be back to work on Monday). Since our next destination is the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area of the Florida panhandle, Tunica would be a 300 mile detour. For the two days we'd have there it's probably not worth it.
Yesterday and today have been two beautiful sunny days with comfortable temperatures. It's about time.
Since it's at least a two day trip to the Panhandle we decided that would really be too long to be off-line and out of contact with the world so we set up the satellite. It's now mid-afternoon and while Sharyn still doesn't feel well she says it's getting better -- that's good!
It's time to upload this to the server and go for my bike ride..
Odometer reading = 83,804
Miles for day = 0
This morning we had our leisurely coffee and conversation after which we got things ready to leave. When we were all set Sharyn went up to the office to pay our bill while I took the motorhome to the washing pad to fill the water tank and dump the holding tanks (the water is turned off at the individual campsites for the winter).. I believe it was about 10:30 when we pulled out of the campground on our way to the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area of the Florida panhandle.
At some point between Birmingham and Montgomery we pulled into a rest area for lunch. While having peanut butter and conversation we changed our destination to Biloxi MS, reprogramed the GPS (188 miles to Biloxi), and pulled back onto the highway.
Prior to hurricane Katrina Biloxi had been one of Sharyn's favorite places to visit. The last time we were there was in January 2006, several months after Katrina. The devastation was beyond comprehension, and in spite of all the TV news coverage of all the damage we were completely overwhelmed seeing it firsthand (see photos we took on January 2, 2006). At this point we have no idea how much may or may not have been rebuilt.
The sun was still shinning when we pulled into a Walmart just off of I-65 at exit 130. After parking in a far corner of the parking lot we went in to do some grocery shopping. Red Bay is a great place to buy a motorhome but for anything else there is very little selection.
Having had dinner I'm now doing this while Sharyn is reading her magazine. I suspect we'll go to bed early and get an early start in the morning as well.
Odometer reading = 84,057
Miles for day = 253
(Fort Walton Beach FL)
As I suspected, we were in bed by 8:30 last night and up at five this morning. Even with coffee and conversation we were on the road well before seven o'clock. During coffee and conversation Sharyn said she changed her mind about Biloxi (I tell her she sometimes reminds me of the "Orca" lady on TV), so we're back to the Destin/Fort Walton Beach plan.
After checking out the Maxwell-Gunter FamCamp at the north end of the Mid-Bay Bridge we opted not to stay there. The appeal for that campground has to do with the sites right at the edge of the water, but since there was only one site available and it was way in the back, we decided to try the main FamCamp at Eglin (Maxwell-Gunter is also part of Eglin AFB).We were here at Eglin several years ago when the new FamCamp was under construction. The old FamCamp was right on the water -- beautiful location but severely lacking in physical amenities. For quite some time now Sharyn has been wanting to come back and see the new facility. Unfortunately there are no available sites at either the old or the new campground but two people are scheduled to leave the new campground tomorrow and we're #2 in overflow. Overflow (dry camp) is located down by the marina about 50 yards from the beach. The wind, however, is coming across the water at 20-25 mph, so with dark and cloudy skies and the temps in the low 60's it's really not beach weather.
Of course we checked out the BX which is massive. Eglin AFB is the largest Air Force base in the world covering 724 square miles, almost half a million acres! We knew it was large but only found out how large from some of the literature they gave us. I don't know if there is a road around the perimeter of this base, but if there is it's one perimeter I will not be encircling with my bike! I did do fourteen miles worth of exploring with my bike this afternoon.
Hopefully we'll get a site tomorrow.
Waiting in overflow
Our site in old FamCamp in 2004
Odometer reading = 84,198
Miles for day = 141
(Fort Walton Beach FL)
We lucked out this morning in that the guy who was #1 to move into the FamCamp decided to leave so we got the first spot that opened up.
After we got relocated Sharyn went back to the BX and commissary while I just messed around the motorhome and campsite, set up the Internet satellite, etc. The only thing that might be considered a downside with this site is a pine tree a hundred yards or so away that seems to be blocking our TV satellite. Since that dish is permanently affixed to the roof of the motorhome we can't really move it to "a better place." We tried moving the motorhome back a forth 8 or 10 feet but that apparently still not clear the tree. The only thing I'll miss is "24" and "Boston Legal." I can still get Fox News via satellite radio so I'm happy!
While it rained for a few minutes this morning it soon cleared up. It sure is nice to be enjoying sunshine and 75° -- I guess that's why people come to Florida in the winter!
We occasionally get e-mail from some of the readers of this site and I always respond even if it's just to says thanks for visiting. However, in the last two weeks, when I tried to reply to e-mail received from people using hotmail and msn.com I had my e-mail returned to me with the message:
"Connected to 220.127.116.11 but sender was rejected. Remote host said: 550 Your e-mail was rejected for policy reasons on this gateway. Reasons for rejection may be related to content such as obscene language, graphics, or spam-like characteristics (or) other reputation problems. For sender troubleshooting information, please go to http://postmaster.msn.com. Please note: if you are an end-user please contact your E-mail/Internet Service Provider for assistance."
Going to the suggested website provided no useful help whatsoever (I usually find that to be the case when I go to a Microsoft help site). Anyway, if you are using hotmail or msn.com as your e-mail provider, please know that I will (at least for now) not be able to respond.
I should also mention here that today is the first day of our eighth year full-timing. It was on February 25, 2000 that we pulled out of the driveway of the house we had sold the day before. We had no plan then, and still have no plan today, as to how long we will continue this for, but I don't think either of us expected it to continue for as long as it has.
Odometer reading = 84,199
Miles for day = 1
2/26/07 to 3/2/07
(Fort Walton Beach FL)
Yesterday we spent a good portion of our time watching a giant storm system pass by just slightly to the west of us. Watching the satellite imagery at http://www.wunderground.com we could see that we were inside the outer edge of the system that was vast in size and seemed that it would never finish passing through while the weather radio kept beeping new tornado warnings every 15 minutes. This was the system that destroyed the high school in Enterprise AL, about 60 miles northeast of the Eglin AFB, killing a number of students. It was 11:pm before the last of the tornado warnings expired and we went to bed.
Sharyn is really enjoying her crocheting and has made a number of very pretty scarves and is now working on an afghan which will take considerably longer to complete.
Several days ago we bought a new chair to replace one of the two barrel chairs in the "living room." It's much nicer than the one it replaces and the color is perfect.
Gerard and Sherry, a couple we met several years ago when, after following our travels via this travelog for several years, they invited us to stop and visit with them as we passed through their neck of the woods (see travelog entries 11/4/05 and 11/5/05 ), will arrive here at Eglin this weekend. Gerard is just retired from the Air Force and they have been full-time for a month. As Gerard says, they're in their shakedown mode. We're anxious to see them again and find out what they think of it so far.
Other than that, I've been riding my bike pretty much every day, most often doing the 12 miles around the flightline. On several occasions when Sharyn rides with me we go a shorter distance and I'll do a longer ride later in the day. In February I did 203 miles!
Some of Sharyn's scarfs
Our new chair
Sharyn & Sherry going "shopping" in November 2005 (slightly Photoshopped)
Odometer reading = 84,199
Miles for day = 0
3/3/07 to 3/9/07
(Fort Walton Beach FL)
One day this past week (I forget which one) we went to check out Destin Commons, a semi-upscale shopping village in Destin. We actually spent more time in the Bass Pro Shop than any other place. One big advantage of living in a motorhome, as I see it, is that you cannot buy any or all of that cool stuff you see when shopping with wives -- there just isn't any place to put it!
Gerard and Sherry arrived here as scheduled and we all enjoyed each other's company during their stay. The day they arrived Sharyn made pizza (as shown her by Mary back at Shaw AFB some weeks ago). The following night we all went to The Crab Trap, a local seafood restaurant where we had dinner, followed by a stop at Baskin Robins on the way back to the base. The third night we all enjoyed Gerard's propane campfire followed by dinner in their 5th wheel.
The other day I rode my bike to the post office on the other side of the base to mail Phil's birthday present. By the time I got back I had passed the 1,000 mile mark with the bike. I'm still trying to ride every day and keep my Bike Stats spreadsheet (created and maintained with OpenOffice) current. If I was starting the spreadsheet over again I would do some things different, particularly the graphs. I may still redo them at some point but now I forgot how I got some of them to work.
By the way, you may have noticed that Microsoft, ever since it set out to bury Netscape more than ten years ago, has been seeking to take over the world, and has met with more than a little success. If this does not make you happy you can do your small part by joining, what I regard as the growing resistance movement, and downloading and using OpenOffice. It basically does everything that Microsoft Office does (it's components equate to MS Word, Excel, Access, Power Point, Etc), plus it's free and totally compatible with the Microsoft products. OpenOffice can open and edit documents created with Microsoft Office and people who use Microsoft Office can open and edit documents created with OpenOffice. Forty million people can't be wrong!
While I'm on the topic you might also dump Internet Explorer and switch to Firefox. It's better, faster, more secure, and you can download it for free from here. You can also get away from Outlook Express (which can be a real spam collector) and go with Thunderbird as your e-mail application. Thunderbird, like Firefox, is better, faster and cleaner than it's Microsoft counterpart. Again, it's free and can be downloaded from here.
Okay, back to the travelog. There is a great deal of flying that goes on here at Eglin. I guess some people might find the noise a problem, but I love it. I also like that this base seems to have a greater number of F-15's than most of the places we stay at (I like F-15's). Unfortunately, the only good opportunity I see for getting close up photographs would be from photos taken on base and I'm not comfortable with that -- even from areas with no camera restrictions.
We still have no satellite TV because of that pine tree blocking our dish but last night we did watch this past Monday's episode of "24" on the computer via the Internet. It's definitely better on the TV, but you make do with what works. Sharyn's not happy because she can't watch Gray's Anatomy. And life goes on . . . .
Sharyn doing her knitting
Sitting around Gerard's propane campfire (unfortunately Sherry is in the shadow)
Finishing dinner with Gerard and Sherry in their 5th wheel (photo compliments of Gerard)
F-15 over FamCamp
"Retired" F-15 on display
Sharyn waiting patiently as I take preceding photo
Odometer reading = 84,199
Miles for day = 0
3/10/07 to 3/11/07
(Panama City FL)
The evening of March 9th we were still undecided whether we'd extend our stay at Eglin or move on to Tyndall AFB here in Panama City. Yesterday morning, however, during coffee and conversation we decided to leave. For all the usual reasons (mostly we don't move fast) it was noontime (11:am by the pre-daylight savings time clocks in the motorhome) before we were actually underway.
We tried to buy gas on base at $2.48 per gallon but had to back out when the motorhome would not clear the canopy. On the way from Red Bay to Eglin we had bought gas in Alabama for $2.07. Having traveled over 500 miles since our last fill-up we needed gas and found the price to be pretty uniformly $2.59. However, about 25 miles out we found a Walmart with gas at $2.45 where we took on 64 gallons for for $156.
Anyway, we arrived at the Tyndall FamCamp where, as expected, there were no available sites and we were #2 in overflow. However, the lady in the office said the #1 guy was leaving in the morning so we'd get the first site available, and there were several scheduled to leave in the morning -- unless they extended. Overflow is just a wide unpaved area adjacent to the campground, but there are water connections and 20 amp outlets available so it's really not so bad at all. We didn't mess with the water (we have 75 gallons on board) but did plug into the electric. Since the overflow is out in the open without any tree cover our TV satellite had a clear view of the sky so we had our TV back again.
After checking out what was new in the clubhouse and riding our bikes through the campground we decided to go to the Hong Kong Buffet in Panama City where we have eaten on several prior occasions. We each ate a bunch -- probably too much -- mostly because of all the seafood selections; muscles, numerous kinds of shrimp, several kinds of crab, and giant oysters on the half shell.
We were unaware of Panama City being a dangerous or high crime area, but coming through town yesterday afternoon we saw several police officers in a parking lot putting a handcuffed guy into a patrol car. Then tonight on the way back from the Hong Kong Buffet we saw more officers putting a handcuffed women into a patrol car. Maybe there's more going on in this town than we're aware of.
Odometer reading = 84,280
Miles for day = 81
3/12/07 and 3/13/07
(Panama City FL)
First thing yesterday morning they told us we could move into site #42 which we did.
Tyndall was one of the first bases to get the new F-22 Raptor and the ones flying over the FamCamp were the first one's we've ever seen. In order to get some better photos (the campsite is heavily wooded) I took my camera and rode my bike down US-98 to a more advantageous location. After taking several photos of the F-22's flying over the highway I then rode down to the beach (Tyndall AFB includes about 12 miles of beautiful Gulf Shore beach) where I took a few photos before returning to the motorhome.
This morning we checked out the BX, did some grocery shopping at the commissary, and bought a number of bottles of wine at the Class 6 (sort of like a liquor store). Someone asked for a picture of me and Sharyn and it seems that the only picture we have of the both of us was one taken at Phil and Kim's wedding about 15 years ago. Since we seem to take well over 1,000 pictures per year we decided to set up the tripod and take one of the two of us. It actually came out pretty good, but we certainly have changed in the last 15 years. This afternoon, other than doing the picture, we pretty much just hung out at the campsite.
In the interest of full disclosure I should say that while typing this up I asked Sharyn what did we do yesterday (to help my memory). She said that while I was riding my bicycle she did the ironing, cleaned, scrubbed, made dinner, changed the bed, did the dishes, and broke her fingernail!
F-22's over US-98
Sand Piper on beach
Little girl at beach
Me and Sharyn (today's photo)
Me and Sharyn (15 years ago)
Odometer reading = 84,280
Miles for day = 0
We stopped to dump our holding tanks as we let Tyndall's FamCamp and proceeded east along US-98. We stopped for lunch at what has become our "standard" stop at Carrabella Beach's rest stop/picnic park right on the beach. This time Sharyn did not walk on the beach and it wasn't too long before we were once again on our way.
We pulled into Walmart in Chiefland in time to watch the Fox News shows before having dinner , etc.
The last time we spent the night in Chiefland was November 1999 when we had the 1985 27' Travelmaster. We were on the way from Sharyn's mother's to Red Bay AL to follow our new motorhome (the one we have now) as it proceeded down the assembly line at the Allegro factory. Several miles outside of Chiefland there was a loud "BOOM" from somewhere under the motorhome, followed by lots of severe vibration with what appeared to be white smoke coming out from behind. To make a long story shorter, a wrist pin had broken, allowing the piston to come loose totally destroying a front quarter of the engine block. After sitting behind a gas station in Chiefland for two days (a tow service had towed us into town), and not coming up with any viable alternatives, we rented a car and paid another tow company to tow the motorhome back to Virginia for $1,600. We ended up replacing the engine with a rebuilt for an additional $3,000. Several weeks later we sold the Travelmaster with 50 miles on the new engine. On January 17, 2000 we took delivery of our Allegro Bay.
This visit to Chiefland was much less stressful.
Odometer reading = 84,502
Miles for day = 220
3/15/07 to 3/18/07
(Apollo Beach FL)
We pulled into Diana and Carl's driveway sometime around noon, happy to have arrived. Diana is Sharyn's cousin and their lifestyle has always been as interesting, fun filled and non-conventional as our's. The first full day we were there we went to the Wine Warehouse where we bought three gallons of Opici Homemade Style table wine together with several smaller bottles of other stuff. We were introduced to Opici Homemade several years ago here in Florida (in Boynton Beach actually) but have never been able to find it again since then. Three gallons should last quite awhile. Diana bought more than we did (not Opici). It's too bad I had not brought my camera as this store was the size of a small Walmart -- by far the largest wine store either of us has ever seen.
From the Wine Warehouse we went to Circuit City where I bought an Linksys Wireless-N network adapter so that when we are somewhere where there is a wireless signal we can be online without setting up the satellite. We've talked about doing this every time we're in a campground with Wi-Fi. Since Diana has a router set up to provide Wi-Fi throughout her house and pool area we figured this would be a good time to go for it. Sitting in her driveway we were picking up five signals. We latched onto the strongest one (which was not Diana's) and it worked very well. We don't know whose signal we were on, but since everyone in the neighborhood has cable it's safe to assume that we were accessing the Internet through someone's cable connection. It sure was a lot faster than our satellite!
On Saturday, St. Patrick's Day, we loaded four bikes into Carl's truck and drove to Fort DeSoto Park, a beautiful family oriented beach/park with bike paths and walkways throughout where we rode our bikes, watched the wind surfers (you stand on a surfboard and use a giant sail/kite type thing to pull you across the water), and ate some ice cream. It was a beautiful day, sunny and nice but very windy. The wind surfers were having a time.
That evening we had corned beef and cabbage at Aunt Phyliss and Uncle Harold's (Diana's parents - Sharyn's aunt and uncle) with Jenny (Diana's daughter) and Steve and their two daughters. If I was going to steal some little girls it would be them (see pic's below).
We had planned to leave on Sunday but then decided to stay an extra day. We have done a lot of visiting during the years we've been traveling, but this was one of the most enjoyable visits we've ever done.
Diana and Carl's front yard this past weekend
Diana, Carl, and Sharyn at Fort DeSoto Park
Sharyn and Diana plan our ride
Checking out one of the beaches at Fort DeSoto Park
End of ride
Carl caught this fish in Aunt Phyliss' back yard with a bent pin tied to a piece of string
A beautiful Sunday afternoon . . .
. . . but too cool for boating
Odometer reading = 84,643
Miles for day = 141
This morning we said good-bye to Diana and Carl, thanking them for a great visit, before moving on the 28 miles to the FamCamp at MacDill AFB where the southern tip of Tampa sticks out into Tampa Bay. We were here several years ago but the FamCamp is unrecognizable today from what it was then. We are already talking about maybe making a reservation for next January/February even though that would preclude all the activities in Quartzsite in January. We'll see what happens.
Unfortunately, here at MacDill the Wi-Fi is just at the marina at the other end of the FamCamp so we're now back on our satellite. I suspect that the Wi-Fi will still turn out to have been a good purchase.
Tonight we're going to go to bed early. We can't believe how tired we are!
While I was checking in at the office Sharyn photographed this osprey (too bad the longer lens was not on the camera)
Odometer reading = 84,681
Miles for day = 38
3/20/07 through 3/25/07
When we first arrived here we registered for several days but have since extended to leave on Thursday the 29th. However, since there is a two day air show (open to the public) scheduled for the following weekend we might stay for that. The Navy's Blue Angels will be the main attraction and while we saw them at El Centro, their winter base, I wouldn't mind seeing them again. Particularly since I have since purchased a Canon 70-200 f/4 lens that should allow me to "reach out" and get some real great photos.
We did try to make reservations to stay here for an extended period next winter but they are already booked up. It seems that when people arrive here (usually shortly after Christmas) they check-in and simultaneously make their reservations for the following year. You can make reservations for a year in advance and for a stay of up to six months. We're going to wait until December and then make reservations for the following winter. Since we seldom know where we'll be until we get there that's pretty long range planning for us.
A few weeks ago we were speaking with Irene and Harry, friends from New Jersey whom I've known for over 50 years, and found out that they were going to be here in Tampa at the same time we were. Also, they were going to be here visiting Manny and Grace, mutual friends whom I've probably known for over forty years but haven't seen since the wedding of Harry and Irene's son Brian about ten years ago. Anyway, the other day we went to Manny and Grace's where the six of us enjoyed the afternoon together, a visit to a neighborhood park, and ultimately followed by Grace's lasagna. It took a number of coincidences all coming together simultaneously to make all that happen! It was a very nice afternoon/evening.
One afternoon we went to the beach that borders the FamCamp but only stayed for about a half hour as the breeze was offshore and it got too hot in the sun. It's a beautiful white sandy beach where, from the people we saw in the water, it appears that you can walk out quite a ways and still reach bottom. A great beach for kids/families.
Another day we visited the Florida Aquarium in Tampa. We spent several hours there, including lunch, after which we drove out to Camping World about 10 miles east of town, just of off I-4. We had no particular need or purpose to go there but we, as most RVers tend to do, just like to walk through and see what's there (it's always the same stuff, none of which we need). This Camping World, like many of them today, is located at a major RV dealership (or maybe the dealership is located at Camping World -- can't tell which is which). This dealership was Lazy Days, certainly one of the largest RV dealers in the Country -- they have a number of locations. Of course we gravitated to Lazy Day's Allegros where we again checked out both the Allegro Bay (we have a 2000 Bay) and the Phaeton. I really do like that 40' Phaeton QSH. Too bad money matters. Anyway, when we were ready to leave Lazy Days we could see that the traffic on I-4 was quite heavy with work traffic so we decided to eat at the Cracker Barrel that was right next door. Later we were sorry we had, not because the food wasn't good, but it's just a much heavier (less healthy) kind of cooking than what we prefer. Also, Steve (Diana and Carl's son-in-law) had recommended we eat at Tinapapas (make sure have your speakers on if you click on the link) several blocks from the aquarium and we would have stopped on our way back if we had not already eaten. We still plan on eating there at least once while we're here.
It seems that every RV here in the FamCamp has two bicycles parked next to it. I've done pretty well with my daily ride (about 8 miles here at MacDill) and we've ridden a number of shorter rides together.
The day after we arrived at MacDill we realized that our refrigerator wasn't working. The freezer was 40° and the refrigerator itself was hardly cool at all. Luckily we hadn't done any grocery shopping so did not have a great deal in it (we did have to eat all the ice cream but that was okay). This refrigerator problem is one that seems to pop up periodically. From what I understand it's probably crystallization that forms in the cooling tubes (it's an evaporative system). Usually if I rapidly run a heavy rubber mallet up and down the coils a bunch of times (like running a stick along a picket fence) that seems to fix or correct the problem. This time I was afraid it wasn't going to get fixed, but after two days of repeated tries it slowly cooled back down to the proper temperatures (0° in the freezer and 38° in the refrigerator). When this first began occurring Norcold, the manufacturer, said the "cooling unit" was bad. When pressed for an alternative solution to replacement they said we could try turning the unit upside down which would allow the liquid ammonia to run up into the coils and dissolve and crystal formation that might have formed there. There were two problems with this suggestion; first, they said it probably wouldn't work, and second, this is a built in refrigerator so turning it upside down means first getting it out of the wall! If anyone really knows what the problem is please let us know.
Sharyn, having finished switching the summer and winter clothes, is now at the commissary buying replacement groceries as I do this website. (And I thought full-time RVers were not supposed to EVER see winter)!
Me, Sharyn, Manny, Grace, Irene, Harry (photo compliments of Grace)
Sharyn on the beach
Another view of the beach
Last view of the beach
Dragon fish (it's a real fish!) at Florida Aquarium
Aquarium scene shot at f/4 1/40sec at ISO 3200 (pretty much a "shot in the dark")
Floor plan of 40' Phaeton QSM
Odometer reading = 84,681
Miles for day = 0
This is kind of an add-on that really has nothing to do with the Travelog
Some time ago I wrote this as what I thought should be the way one approaches life as one gets older. Later, I superimposed it over the picture of Sharyn and our two oldest boys at White Sands NM in 1970. Of all the photos we have I thought that this one best reflects happiness and fulfillment.
It has been suggested several times that I should make prints and sell copies. Instead I have posted it here, along with a higher resolution version that can be downloaded and printed for noncommercial use only. The downloadable file is 2100x1442 (623KB) and will make a 5x7 print at 300dpi.
Click to download
3/26/07 and 3/27/07
The reason I'm posting this entry is because I've got some cool pictures to put up. Being right on Tampa Bay I suspect that there are a good number of osprey in the area. The photo Sharyn got the other day was one of the pair that have a nest just outside the FamCamp office. The other evening I rode my my bike over there to see if I could get some close up photos with my 70-200 mm lens. I positioned myself near where the one seems to spend a lot of time and waited for him to show up. I could see that one of the pair was sitting on the nest but pretty much all you can see is the bottom of the nest. After about a half hour I gave up, got on my bike and started back to the motorhome. At that point the shadow of the big bird with outstretched wings crossed over the grass in front of me. By the time I got off the bike and able to point the camera he was too far away to get the picture I wanted. Each time he perched on a pole or piece of equipment I walked over towards him and he, not being too happy with my presence, would take flight again. Since I was always approaching from upwind he'd take off pretty much flying over my head. Two of the photos are posted below.
That same afternoon Sharyn spotted an armadillo in the grass across from the motorhome. I walked over to see if I could get some pictures without scaring him off. At first he kept turning his backside towards me which wasn't the angle I was looking for. Eventually he started moving in my direction and actually came up to the edge on my shoe, which was too close to focus. I don't know whether he was even aware I was there. I asked him if he was blind, but he didn't answer so I guess he's deaf as well as blind. His picture is also posted below.
As we go back into Tampa we always drive along Bayshore Blvd, basically from the FamCamp, through the Bayshore gate, and then pretty much all the way into downtown Tampa. It's a pretty ride with the last several miles in Tampa being like a waterside park with a pedestrian/bicycle promenade along the waterfront. It's an inviting looking area, but when driving through there's no place you can stop, so I decided to make myself a sandwich and ride in with my bike so I could sit at one of the benches and have my lunch while looking out over the water. That's what I did, and while eating my sandwich there was a sudden commotion in the water right below where I was sitting. A school of porpoises had moved in by the concrete bulkhead and (I don't know what they were doing)! It would seem that they were feeding, except instead of eating the fish they caught they'd throw them into the air and then go catch them again. While I took a bunch of pictures, most of them aren't too good. The porpoises were moving fast as they frolicked in the water and I never knew where they were going to surface until they were already on their way back down. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed watching them. A few of these pictures are posted below also.
Finally, and unrelated to pictures, I have fixed my Bike Stats spreadsheet (requires OpenOffice to open) so that the graph "Miles by Month" actually does show ALL the miles I ride and not just the "measured" miles where I record all the data (heart rate, speed, etc). That's what it was doing before and I thought that fixing it would be easy. I was wrong. The complexity of some of the things I'm trying to do exceed my skill level with Calc (OpenOffice's spreadsheet program). Eventually, with the help of Stephane, a contributor to the OpenOffice forum from Siberia, that graph now works as I want it to. Since I've made it that heart rate data also records as the % of maximum heart rate, a more relevant figure, my "Heart Rate" graph no longer works properly. I'll work on that next. BTW, I'm not obsessed with that spreadsheet and all it depicts -- it's all for fun. Some guys like golf, I like numbers!
Osprey in flight
Osprey in flight (a better shot)
A deaf and blind armadillo
End of the promenade (exactly 10.0 miles from the FamCamp)
Where I had lunch (promenade ends at bridge)
One porpoise throws fish
Another has a fish
Odometer reading = 84,681
Miles for day = 0
3/28/07 to 4/1/07
The big event going on here at MacDill is Airfest 2007, the annual two day air show hosted by MacDill and open to the public. The main attraction this year is the Navy's Blue Angels. We went yesterday (the same show repeats the second day) and sat right at the edge of the taxiway from about 9:am to 4:30 pm. In addition to the 247 photos we got we also got some sun! The show begins with what you'd have to describe as the less exciting exhibitions and culminates with the Blue Angels. Some of the earlier shows are performances by older, vintage aircraft which Sharyn says she likes the best. I enjoy them also, but I much prefer the stuff that shakes the earth with the roar of the afterburners! In any event, there's plenty for everyone, whatever your preference. (As I'm typing this Sharyn is outside watching today's show from in front of the motorhome).
[. . . time out for drive into Tampa . . .]
Well we finally got to check out Tinatapas in town. It was good and we'd go there again. The restaurant is part of a complex called "Channelside" which seems to be located and set up for the cruise ships that tie up right there. If you go by car it costs $5 to park and the overall small size of Channelside doesn't warrant the parking fee.
In the morning we're going to cross over to Patrick AFB on the east coast of Florida where we figure to stay for several days while we visit Sharyn's sister in Palm Bay (at least that's the plan right now).
Blue Angels over FamCamp the day before show (photo by Sharyn)
Opening ceremonies began with jump by Special Forces (the lead man carried the flag)
Sharyn liked the performance by Otto the helicopter (in this photo picking up his yo-yo that he actually plays with)
As I have mentioned in the past the F-15 is cool
"Heritage Flight" consisting of P-51, F-86 Sabre Jet, F-16 (from Shaw AFB), and F-15 (from Eglin AFB)
F-104 (privately owned and one of only two still flying)
Blue Angel Team just prior to take off
Blue Angels flying in close formation
This pink flamingo did an unannounced flyover at the show
Entrance to Tinatapas
Sharyn having lunch at Tinatapas
Sunset over Tampa Bay as seen from FamCamp beach
Odometer reading = 84,681
Miles for day = 0
4/2/07 to 4/4/07
(Patrick AFB FL)
Monday morning, before leaving the base we stopped to fill up the gas tank where we took on 61.9 gallons before heading across Florida for the FamCamp at Patrick AFB which is conveniently located about 15 miles from Sharyn's sister in Palm Bay. With winter winding down up north, the FamCamps, like most of the campgrounds in Florida, are beginning to thin out. At Patrick we got a site with partial hookups (30 amps and no sewer) but the day after Sharyn spoke with the campground host a vacancy occurred in a full hookup site and we got it.
Yesterday afternoon we went to Carol and Roger's where we stayed for dinner and enjoyed visiting with them, their daughter, and grandchildren. Today Sharyn and Carol both went to a hairdresser who works out of her house. Sharyn is very happy with the outcome -- says it's the best cut and coloring that she's had in a very long time. It sure looks great!
The big story, however, is that our refrigerator, after years of periodic shutdowns, has breathed it's last. After several days of trying to decide what to do about it we ordered a rebuilt cooling unit which we plan on installing ourselves. The rebuilt unit was $480 (+ $49 shipping) vs $1,087 for a new unit, vs $1,380 to have the RV repair place do it, vs $1,400-1,600 for a new refrigerator. UPS should have it here on Monday. We plan to do the job on Tuesday.
One thing we have noticed is that without a refrigerator we tend to have less food around, and with less food around we are eating less. Oh well . . .
Sharyn watching sun go down from FamCamp this evening
Odometer reading = 84,839
Miles for day = 158
4/5/07 to 4/8/07
(Patrick AFB FL)
Today we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary! That's a really long time, but it's been great!
Sharyn after 40 years
Odometer reading = 84,839
Miles for day = 0
4/9/07 through 4/13/07
(Patrick AFB FL)
The big news is that our new (rebuilt) cooling unit arrived and, starting around 9:30 in the morning, by 5:pm we had pulled out the refrigerator, replaced the cooling unit, and reinstalled the refrigerator. We lucked out on this job in that our neighbor had changed his unit several times and came over to help. The best part came when we finished the job and saw that it was actually working! The next day when it was still working we went to the commissary and restocked our grocery supplies. I suspect it will be quite a while before we taken refrigeration for granted again.
One day we went into Melbourne where I went to Barnes and Noble while Sharyn checked out shopping opportunities. On another day Sharyn and Carol had a "sister's day out" kind of day that I think they both enjoyed.
A week or so ago we stopped at Beach Bicycle Works where US-192 meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was a neat bike store and yesterday I decided to ride there with my bike, more because it gave me a destination to ride to than anything else. There and back was 26½ miles and took me 2½ hours. That was my longest ride to date.
I've ridden over 1300 miles (see BikeStats) since I got the bike the end of last summer and never had a flat until we came to Florida. Two weeks ago I had my first flat at MacDill AFB when I picked up some kind of sand burr. After that I bought a self sealing tire tube but did not get around to putting it on the bike. Yesterday morning, as I started to the bike store I had another flat. There was a thorn in the tire and it had evidently gone flat during the night. I swapped out the leaking tube with the new self sealing one (both of these flats had been on the front wheel) and off I went to the bike store. On the way back to the base I met another thorn and got another flat; my third in two weeks. This time on the rear tire. Luckily Jordan had given me a small tire repair kit which also contained two CO² cartridges to reinflate the tire after patching it (I obviously didn't have the compressor with me on the bike). Anyway, after three flats I now have self sealing tubes in both tires.
This morning Sharyn and I rode our bikes to the food court at the BX to have coffee and donuts at Dunkin' Donuts but by the time we got there we were more in the mood for cold drinks than hot coffee so instead we bought the second self sealing tube and a water bottle bracket for Sharyn's bike. By the time we got back to the motorhome we had gone 9½ miles. Like Sharyn said, if you go slow and easy you can go pretty far.
Anyway, as of right now, the plan is that we're leaving here in the morning and heading back to Shaw AFB in SC.
Sharyn displaying the old cooling unit
Odometer reading = 84,839
Miles for day = 0
I pulled out of our site at the Patrick FamCamp just after 11:am. Sharyn had gone to the BX to pick up some last minute stuff and we met each other (as arranged) on the road to the truck inspection gate where we hooked the car onto the motorhome and left the base, heading north on I-95.
It used to be that we avoided the Interstate system and always traveled the "two lane"roads. However, with the dramatic increase in fuel prices over the last several years we have made some changes in the way we travel. Most prominently, we tend to stay longer in one place and move less frequently. Also, if the Interstate is the obvious best choice to get to our destination, we'll take it. Previously we'd have taken alternate routes.
Going through Jacksonville on I-95 we were backed up for miles due to construction when we eventually came to one of those flashing highway information signs that said there was an accident ahead that had closed two of the three northbound lanes. With traffic almost not moving at all it took quite some time, but eventually we came to an exit and got off. Using the GPS (displayed on an ancient Dell laptop) we negotiated our way through downtown Jacksonville to Us-17 which we took for 15-20 miles before reconnecting with I-95 well north of the accident.
It had been our plan to stop for the night somewhere in SC -- keeping open the option of continuing all the way to Shaw. Listening to the continuing weather updates, however, it appeared that the giant storm system heading for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern part of the Country and causing tornado watches and warnings all through the southeast seemed to be headed more for South Carolina and Northern Georgia. We were just a little south of Savannah when we decided that the further we proceeded the worse weather we were likely to encounter tonight and tomorrow morning so we pulled into a Walmart at the southern edge of Savannah for the the night. Sharyn counted 15 other RV's sharing that distant corner of the parking lot.
Going into Walmart, as we always do when we spend the night in their parking lot, we bought some Slime (a tire tube sealer) for Sharyn's bike, some fresh strawberries, and a half gallon of French Silk ice cream (which we finished before we went to bed).
GPS display on computer screen -- photo taken in Sumter SC
(Scale: top to bottom; left screen approx 10-12 miles, right screen approx 1 mile)
Odometer reading = 85,139
Miles for day = 299
Last night was not a good night for sleeping. With the driving rain we couldn't leave any windows open and it was kind of warm. Plus, the weather radio kept going off all night with new/updated tornado watches for Savannah and surrounding counties. Had there been a tornado warning I don't know what we would have done -- probably nothing, and that's probably dumb. I guess it has to do with my concept of probabilities; I don't think Sharyn is going to win the lottery, and I don't think we're going to get hit with a tornado. Of course she might and we could.
Anyway, after a prolonged coffee and conversation period we decided that it wasn't going to be a nice day, but that it probably would get better as the day progressed (but also get worse as we moved north). The winds were reported at 35 mph out of the south, and judging from the look of the trees that was probably right. The amazing thing was that it was a tailwind -- we never have a tailwind! At one point we were catching up to some really bad looking stuff so we decided to get off at the upcoming exit and have breakfast rather than continue to the rest area we had planned on which was still another 10 miles ahead. That turned out to have been a good decision because we had no sooner pulled into an area where several big trucks were parked than the sky opened up with a torrential downpour that cut visibility to probably 20-30 feet. By the time the rain stopped we had eaten, but Sharyn said we weren't going to get out because we were going to be stuck in the mud. The place certainly was flooded but the ground under the water hard and, much to Sharyn's relief, we pulled out with no problem.
We arrived at the FamCamp at Shaw AFB early this afternoon, got set up, went to the commissary to get some milk and bread (plus more ice cream), and haven't done much since. I suspect that tonight we'll go to bed early.
We've finished eating and the rain has basically stopped
Odometer reading = 85,305
Miles for day = 166
4/16/07 through 4/19/07
Since arriving at Shaw we haven't done a great deal, but we both acknowledge a kind of feeling like we're back home (me), or enjoying a feeling of familiarity (Sharyn). I guess that's what happens when we spend so much time here -- but that's good.
I got to ride my bike my "usual" route around the flightline and saw that I could shave three minutes off my previous best time back in February; 33:52 vs 36:58 on a 7.85 mile ride (see Bike Stats).
The really BIG event was that Jordan has been bugging Sharyn for some mother-daughter time together so, the opportunity being at hand, Sharyn left Shaw this morning to go on ahead to Jordan's (we were on our way there anyway so it was not such a big change in plans, at least not destination wise). In spite of her concerns I assured Sharyn that I could really take care of myself for the several days involved.
Odometer reading = 85,305
Miles for day = 0
Today was my mother's birthday and if she was still alive she would be 97 years old. Unfortunately she died from breast cancer 41 years ago when she was only 54 years old.
I started off the day by washing the motorhome and then spent some time on the computer. The original plan was that I would stay here at Shaw until Sunday (day after tomorrow) and then take two days to get to Virginia. However, by yesterday afternoon I was thinking that maybe I should leave Saturday afternoon so I could get a head start and arrive in Virginia on Sunday. Anyway, to cut the story short, at 3:30 I decided "I'm going now." After 40 years of marriage, the last 7 years in a 36' motorhome, you kind of get used to the other person being around. It's certainly not the same when they're not there.
Anyway, by the time I got everything ready to roll and filled the gas tank at the base gas station, it was 4:44pm when I pulled out of the gate. I drove until just about dark, by which time I was approaching Dunn NC on I-95. My GPS showed a Walmart in Erwin, three miles west of Dunn, so I exited and went to Walmart to spend the night. After eating dinner I took a shower and then turned my attention to the dirty dishes that had accumulated since Sharyn left. It was a pretty noisy parking lot with lots of young guys showing off and comparing the cars and trucks, revving their engines, squealing their tires, and generally hanging out in a small town on a Friday night. Not only did the noise not bother me, but I had to smile at some of the loudest noises -- it all reminded me of myself and what I was doing some 50 years ago. Boy did we have fun!
Odometer reading = 85,472
Miles for day = 167
4/21/07 through 4/25/07
Although Sharyn and I spoke on the phone several times a day I did not tell her I was going to get here early. The last time we spoke it was only for a few minutes, in large part, because I didn't have too much to say, not wanting to tip my hand to the fact that I was only a half hour away. Sharyn and Jordan were both surprised to see me. Jordan said she would not have thought I could have "pulled it off" (whatever that means).
Not wanting to interfere with that mother-daughter time I pretty much stayed away from the house (except for dinner time) for the first couple of days (I actually prefer the motorhome anyway; it's been home for a long time.)
The other day Sharyn and I went to Short Pump (just west of Richmond) where I bought a new printer, a Canon iP6700D. It turns out super quality color prints and has several features that I like a lot. First of all it has two paper feeds so I can keep plain paper in one while I feed photo paper in the other. Next, it does two sided printing (I only use this for non-photo applications) where the printed page comes out, then gets drawn back into the printer where the reverse side is printed. I also like the driver functions. My old printer was a Canon S820, also a great photo printer that I've had for a number of years. That printer now belongs to Jordan.
Today I rode my bike to Kent's Store where I met two guys on bikes who left Yorktown VA on Sunday. They're following the TransAmerica 76 Bike Trail that runs 4247.5 miles from Yorktown VA to Astoria OR. While I rode with them for a couple of miles I don't think I would have signed up for a 4,000+ mile bike trip even when I was 20 years old. These guys are in their 50's and their goal is to complete the trip in 100 days! I wished them good luck and told them that when they get their webpage up I'd link to it.
Odometer reading = 85,712
Miles for day = 240
4/26/07 to 5/10/07
It's time to update this site if for no other reason but to establish that we're still alive and kicking -- i.e.: we haven't fallen into a canyon somewhere.
May 3rd was Sharyn's birthday and we all (Phil, Shane, and Jordan) arranged to meet at a local restaurant for a birthday get-together and dinner. It was not a surprise (since Sharyn picked the restaurant) but it was nice to get everyone together. The following day I sent them all an e-mail saying that if Sharyn and I lived here we'd make sure that at least once a month we'd have a family get together where we'd all gather for dinner and conversation and suggested that they do the same.
Two days ago we drove down to visit our friend Jean who has and maintains a very lovely place. Like us, she is not as young as she used to be and says she can see the day coming when she will no longer be able to keep up this beautiful place. Life goes on.
We were going to leave here this week but with Mother's Day being on Sunday I suggested that we should stay until Monday which is what we're going to do. We're both getting kind of "antsy." It's time to move on.
Bob and Dick, the two guys I met at Kent's Store who are bicycling across the United States have their website up and running. As of May 8 they were 450 miles from their starting point at Yorktown VA and about 3800 miles from their destination on the shores of the Pacific Ocean!
Old barn on US-250
Main intersection in Kent's Store VA
Part of my bike ride route
Sharyn calls these "Oreo" cows
Gift giving took place in the parking lot after dinner
Driveway to Jean's house
Jean's kitchen door
Odometer reading = 85,712
Miles for day = 0
5/10/07 to 5/13/07
Mother's Day is just about over, as is our visit to Virginia. At some point tomorrow we'll get set to leave and probably leave here sometime mid-afternoon. Since we have a wedding in Athens GA next Saturday our plan is to go back to Shaw AFB where we can then leave from Friday morning for the four hour drive to Athens.
The grass is cut, the tomato plants are in, the place looks good, it's time to leave.
Odometer reading = 85,712
Miles for day = 0
I had thought that we'd leave Louisa mid-afternoon and then drive until dusk. That would have put us half way to Sumter, just as when I left Sumter several weeks ago I left late afternoon (4:44 to be exact) and drove until dark. Anyway, Sharyn said she didn't like the just hanging around killing time concept so when we were otherwise ready we just left. It was one o'clock. That actually worked out pretty well as when we were approaching the 200 mile mark (half way) we were coming up on a Walmart Supercenter. As we traveled the three miles or so from the Interstate to Walmart I commented to Sharyn that I recognized where we were and that we had stopped there in the past.
Once we were parked Sharyn went into Walmart to get some milk and I watched the news. After dinner we watched "24" and went to bed.
Odometer reading = 85,905
Miles for day = 192
5/15/07 through 5/17/07
We arrived here at Shaw without incident (the best way) and got ourselves organized for what we knew was going to be a very short stay in as much as we have a wedding to go to in Athens GA on Saturday. Yesterday Jordan arrived here from Virginia as she is also going to the wedding and will be riding and staying with us.
Odometer reading = 86,120
Miles for day = 215
5/18/07 and 5/19/07
We were all up and ready to leave fairly early Friday morning as we were to be at the rehearsal dinner in Athens at six o'clock. According to our GPS mapping program (DeLorme's Street Atlas) which calculated our route to the Pine Lake Campground some 12 miles south of Athens, the trip was to be 215 miles and would take four hours. That turned out to be right on the money (which it usually is) and we were all set up at Pine Lake in time to relax for a bit before changing and finding our way to the hotel in time for the dinner. Actually the dinner was preceded by a lengthy period of cocktails and hors d'oeuvres with much celebration and gaiety as people who had not seen each other in years met up with old friends, etc.
The bride, Sarah, and her sister, Susie, had been in nursery school with Jordan back on Long Island when both we and their family lived in Southold way out on the east end of the Island. Then, back in the 80's, we moved to Virginia and they moved to Georgia, but we have all kept in touch and remained good friends over all these years. Because of all the relocations involving all the parties there were people from (I believe they said) seventeen different states and five different countries there to celebrate the wedding. To better accommodate all these out of town people there were over 100 people invited to the rehearsal dinner at the Georgian Inn. It was quite a dinner and experience for everyone.
The wedding was on Saturday at the University of Georgia Catholic Chapel followed by the reception at the Jennings Mill Country Club with considerably more people in attendance than at the dinner the night before.
The reception could not have been nicer, nor could the food have been better or in greater quantities. Long after I had been over stuffed and finished eating I had cause to walk past the table where the raw oysters were still being served. I had to take another large plateful. In spite of my best efforts I still could not finish all that was being provided!
The music and dancing was nonstop all night long. What was interesting was that periodically the tempo of the music would change from something that was very loud and unrecognizable to something like Earth Angel or Party Doll. When that latter was played the average age on the dance floor tripled (that's when we danced).
After the reception we went to Sheila and Jim's home (the bride's parents) for some quieter visiting and to say good-bye until next time. By the time we got back to Pine Lake (having gotten lost on the way back) it was well after midnight, and 2:am by the time we got to bed. It was a terrific weekend!
Jordan, Sarah, and Susie (together again)
Jordan and Sharyn approaching chapel
Sarah and Tom getting married
Bride and Groom arrive at reception
Their first dance
Jim and Sheila dance
I got to dance with Sharyn . . .
. . . and with Jordan
Back at the house
Odometer reading = 86,335
Miles for day = 215
I set the alarm when we went to bed last night because we certainly would not have woke up early on our own accord and it was necessary to get a fairly early start back to Sumter. While time doesn't matter to me and Sharyn, Jordan has to be back to work at 7:am tomorrow and has another six hours of driving from Sumter to Virginia. When we got up we had Jordan move into the bedroom where she could continue to sleep while we traveled. That worked well as she slept until past ten o'clock.
I also used the occasion to point out to Sharyn that the motorhome actually can move down the road when someone is sleeping. I'm a morning person while Sharyn is not, and there have been times when we have been traveling and I've been up before daylight and would have liked to get started while Sharyn continued to sleep. I think we have a rule against that(?)
Anyway, we arrived back a Shaw, somewhat tired but otherwise okay. After a little while Jordan got her car from where she had left it by the office and headed back to Virginia. Sharyn and I didn't do much for the rest of the day, but we did go to bed early. We plan on staying here for a week.
Odometer reading = 86,550
Miles for day = 214
5/21/07 to 6/3/07
It was about a week or so ago that we went to the Sumter Iris Festival here at Swan Lake. It's an annual affair that takes place when the iris gardens at Swan Lake are at their peak. We did not know it, but apparently people come from all over the United States (and a number of other countries) to view these gardens which are free and open to the public. Also of interest were the swans. There are eight species of swans throughout the world and all of them are represented in Swan Lake. While the Iris Festival is over, we intend to go back to the park again to take more pictures and maybe this time pack a picnic lunch (as soon as the rain stops). Rather than writing more about Swan Lake and the gardens (not just limited to iris's) I'll just provide this link to the Swan Lake Gardens website maintained by the City of Sumter.
While I don't specifically recall, I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned that for several years now I've been doing some genealogical research on my mother's family, the Broadway's, mostly from in and around Clarendon County, SC. In this effort I've had a great deal of help from Bobby, a third cousin in Florence SC, who has doing this for years and has over 55,000 names in his database, all confirmed or documented descendants from Abner Broadway (my 4th great-grandfather) who died in 1810. Abner's son, William Broadway, served with the 3rd Regiment of the South Carolina Continental Army from July 24, 1776 until 1782. On September 6, 1784 he was issued "seven pounds, thirteen shillings & four pence Sterling for 115, one hundred and fifteen days Militia duty done in 1782 & in Gen. Marion's brigade."
Somewhat over a year ago I discovered Margaret, another third cousin (or we discovered each other), who is an Owen from my maternal grandmother's side of the family. She has been researching the Owen family for almost ten years and has exhaustive detail surrounding the lives members of the Owen family. The Owen's having come from England starting in the late 1800's, much of Margaret's research has been in England. Prior to meeting Margaret I had very little information on the Owen side of the family in spite of the fact that I knew many of the names of cousins of my mother's generation from stories she had told. For the last several days Sharyn, Margaret, and I have been driving around Sumter and Clarendon Counties looking for, and at, places of family history, and of course several cemeteries. The other day we all went up to Florence where we visited and had lunch with Bobby and his wife Teresa. While Bobby and Margaret are not related to each other they did enjoy meeting, talking, and "filing in some blanks" as they both do this in a very serious and professional manner (much more so than I do).
Lily near entrance to Swan Lake Iris Gardens
Black swan and white swan swim together
White swan in solitude
Iris's at water's edge
Sharyn, Margaret, Teresa, and Bobby in Chinese restaurant in Florence
Margaret and me after breakfast at IHOP this morning
Odometer reading = 86,550
Miles for day = 0
6/4/07 to 6/10/07
I went back to the Iris Gardens to spend more time there and take more pictures but that didn't pan out too well. First of all the iris's were well past their peak and while they still had their color the petals (if that's what they're called) were beginning to wilt and droop. Second, it was very hot and it wasn't too long until I was beginning to droop also.
One day we went into Columbia, primarily because I wanted to go to Columbia Photo Supply, a "real" camera store conveniently located pretty much right where we enter into the City of Columbia. Except in large cities, camera stores seem to have become a thing of the past. Today it's Wolf Camera or Ritz Camera, which are to camera stores what McDonald's is to restaurants. Anyway, I wanted to see and handle two camera bags that I had checked out online. They had one there, a very nice Lowepro, that Sharyn then bought me for my birthday present (but I can't have it or play with it until my birthday).
While in Columbia we went to the PX at Fort Jackson and had lunch in the food court. Of course we also went to Barnes and Noble where I did some reading (I even bought a book) while Sharyn walked through the small mall that B&N is a part of.
Sharyn's daily walks and my bike rides had to be somewhat rescheduled to early morning or just before dark to accommodate the rather high temperatures reaching into the high 90's on a number of days.
As we were leaving Shaw to head to Charleston we stopped at the base gas station to fill up the motorhome. While I was filling the tank Sharyn, who was standing on the other side, saw and pointed out to me, that several hundred yards away there was an Air Force Honor Guard removing a flag draped casket from a railroad car and placing it into the back of a hearse. As she said, It was very sad to see. It's one thing to read about the military casualties taking place in Iraq and understand that young people are dying. It's quite another when you are spending time on a military base, seeing all the young men and women (don't call them "kids") with their kids and families going about their daily lives, and then seeing in real time that one of them will no longer be there for any of that. Knowing how it affected us, I cannot imagine how it affected those who knew him, and who realized right from the beginning that that was the price that some of them would pay. Yet they undertook the job anyway.
Odometer reading = 86,550
Miles for day = 0
6/11/07 to 6/13/07
With all the time we spend in Sumter SC we have on numerous occasions talked about going down to the FamCamp at the Naval Weapons Station (NWS) in Charleston to see what it was like, plus to see our granddaughter Mary and check out the Charleston area. Until now we have never acted on the idea.
We picked Mary up on our way to the NWS where we checked into the FamCamp for a three day stay. We liked the campground and thought that the area, particularly its proximity to the Greater Charleston area, warranted a longer stay than the three days we have. While we usually have no time frame and can spend whatever time we wish in any particular place that's not the case this time. We have to be back in Virginia by Saturday, June 17.
It was a good thing that we brought Mary's bike along with Mary as bike riding seems to be her favorite thing. The FamCamp is adjacent to base housing which makes for excellent (and safe) bike riding both on the streets and along the several bike paths that wander through the housing areas. We went for bike rides several times a day. When she wanted to ride to the swimming pool I didn't think that was a good idea, telling her I didn't think she could ride all the way there and back, a distance somewhat over two miles. She had no problem and could easily have gone twice that distance. I didn't know little kids, she's nine years old, could ride that far and do it so easily.
About a week or so ago the linkage arm that connects the motor and gear assembly to the steps for the motorhome broke in half. This is the system that automatically retracts the steps when the motorhome drives away. Without this arm the steps sort of hang loose, neither extended nor retracted, so I've been using a short piece of 2x4 to keep them extended while we're parked and a nylon strap to hold them retracted when we're underway. The automatic system certainly is a lot more convenient. Anyway, there is a newly opened Camping World four miles from the base that miraculously had that linkage arm in stock. For over 40 years what is now Camping World was Sonny's RV Center. The part was one that had been stocked by Sonny's. Unfortunately the part did not solve the problem because, as I had anticipated, two of the four screws that hold the gear assembly housing together broke off rather that come out (in spite of the fact that I kept them saturated with WD-40 for several days before attempting removal). After seven years and 86,000 miles of exposure to rain, dirt, and road debris being kicked up by the front right tire the screws had become one with the aluminum housing. When we get back to Virginia I'll see if I can drill them out and hopefully get the entire step mechanism back in operation.
After returning from Camping World Mary and I were getting ready to ride to the swimming pool when the sky turned dark and the rain started coming down. We waited for it to clear up but it never happened -- rain and thunderstorms continued for the rest of the day. Since we're leaving here in the morning it looks as if Mary will not get to go swimming.
Mary working intently at the computer
Odometer reading = 86,659
Miles for day = 109
After we all got up, dressed, etc., Mary and I went for our morning bike ride and got things all ready to go. Leaving the FamCamp we first went by Mary's house to drop her off before heading north. While for three days she had been wanting to know why she could not "travel the United States" with us, it only took about 30 seconds of being back home to forget about that.
It wasn't too long until we were on I-95 heading north towards Virginia. It was probably sometime around 5 o'clock that we got a call from Shane who was on I-95 heading south for Savannah. He has a job coming up down there that he has to start sometime next week and was taking some tools and equipment to the jobsite. Since we were going to pass each other in about a hour we tried to get him to stop and spend the night with us but he had a guy waiting to help him unload so he had to keep going.
Having started out quite late, it was about 6 o'clock when we pulled into the Walmart parking lot in Smithfield NC where we watched the news, had dinner, took a shower, and went to bed a little earlier than usual. Going to bed is not the same thing as going to sleep because we always read for an hour or so before turning the lights out. This time, however, for some reason, Sharyn was not comfortable with where we were and kept getting out of bed to investigate sounds or other things "going on." I heard little and didn't think anything was going on. Once she fell asleep, however, she slept like a rock, so I guess it was okay after all.
Odometer reading = 86,921
Miles for day = 261
Since we awoke in Walmart's parking lot we decided it would make sense to do our grocery shopping there before getting back to Louisa. Then, having purchased whatever we needed we got back out on the road and arrived at Jordan's early in the afternoon.
We're back in Virginia for several reasons (one big one being it's too hot in South Carolina!). We're heading north both for Scott's graduation on Long Island, and because that's the way to Newfoundland. Also Fathers' Day is on Sunday and my birthday on Monday. Sharyn said that for the last several years it's just been the two of us on my birthday, and this time it would be nice to be able to be with the kids.
Sharyn had suggested to me that a combined Fathers' Day/Birthday celebration would make it easier on Phil and Shane as they would not have to drive out to Jordan's house two days in a row, and I agreed with that. However, after we had finished with Father's Day, I was surprised to learn that everyone was coming back again on Monday -- they had rejected the idea of combining the two events! That really made me feel good, and I appreciated it a lot. Being a father can be a cool deal!!
It was also time to deal with the repair of the step mechanism which had begun to develop into something I didn't want to have to deal with. Those broken off screws turned a job not much more difficult than changing a light bulb into a job where I wasn't sure that I would not end up having to buy an entire new unit (approx $400). The problem was that when you try to drill out a piece of a small (#10) steel screw that broke off in an aluminum housing, the drill bit inevitably will slip off the hard steel and drill into the soft aluminum. Shane had an excellent suggestion -- put both halves of the housing back together using the screws that came out without breaking, then use the empty screw holes in the top half of the housing as guides for the drill bit which will go a long way towards keeping the bit focused on the broken off screws. That suggestion, plus using Phil's drill press, worked well -- even if the bit still moved part way off of the broken piece of screw resulting in a hole that was somewhat curved and slightly crooked. By running the drill bit up and down several times the "curve" became somewhat less pronounced. Plus, being crooked doesn't matter, because I put a nut and washer on the protruding end and it still worked. Without the drill press and the bit guide idea, I would not even have come close to getting it.
Odometer reading = 87,136
Miles for day = 215
(New Jersey Turnpike - Mile Marker 78)
Getting onto or off of Long Island is always a royal pain in the neck, particularly with a motorhome. It requires passing through New York City where the roads are horrible, and the traffic is even worse. I always worry about physical damage to the motorhome as a result of damage either from the pounding that comes from the road condition or from the crazies driving the delivery vans as if they were in a demolition derby (on three occasions we have had to visit a welding shop for repairs after being bounced along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and/or the Long Island Expressway).
Our plan for this trip was simple: we would drive to the northern end of the Jersey Turnpike, spend the night in a rest area and get a very early start the next morning to get through NYC before the daily traffic got going.
We pulled into the Joyce Kilmer Service Area at mile marker 78 just as it was getting dark and found a parking space among the tractor trailers. We went inside to the TCBY where, for $8 and change, we each had a dish of yogurt. By the time we were ready to return to the motorhome, the thunderstorm that had been approaching was directly overhead, and the rain was coming down in torrents. While I ran back to the motorhome, Sharyn walked, but it made no difference -- we were both soaking wet.
Odometer reading = 87,431
Miles for day = 295
6/22/07 to 6/26/07
We were up at 4:20 this morning, and even with our coffee and conversation, we were on the road at 5:10. Our plan worked well. Except for traffic congestion at the George Washington Bridge (where countless lanes of traffic are reduced to 3 or 4) we actually had clear sailing through the city and all the way to Southold at the east end of Long Island.
Arriving at Greg and Paulette's house we backed in on the lawn next to the driveway so as to leave the maximum amount of parking space available for the graduation party. Preparations for the party had been underway long before we got there (we actually had to wait for the landscape guys to finish mowing the grass where we were going to put the motorhome), and continued all throughout the day with the crew coming in and erecting the tent, the caterers setting up their cooking grills, the Porta-Potty delivery guys doing their thing, Greg, Phil, and PJ setting up the coolers, serving tables, etc. All that was either finished or put on hold that evening when Greg barbecued a bunch of steak, hot dogs, and hamburgers for dinner. There was substantially more than could be eaten.
A great deal of preparation continued on graduation day until later in the afternoon when we all had front row seats to see Paulette, who is also vice-president of the school board, present Scott with his diploma. I think they were both overcome by the emotion of the moment and the event.
Following graduation we all returned to the house for more celebration and a dinner catered by Pepe's Restaurant in Greenport.
Preparation was still going on the day after graduation, getting ready for the 150 some odd people coming to the party. The first guests began arriving even as preparations were winding down. It was a great party that apparently continued on long after Sharyn and I had gone to bed. This was confirmed the next morning when Greg was cooking breakfast for all the leftover guests from the night before. Eventually they also began to leave and the day evolved from cleanup in the morning to fall asleep in the afternoon.
For probably a decade or so Greg had a picture of a Black Fin 31' stuck up on his garage wall -- it was his ultimate fishing boat. Several years ago he got one, and the day after the party he took PJ, Phil, Jordan, and his friend Paul out for a day of fishing. They left fairly early in the morning and were to have been back at the dock by 3:pm. We had planned a small "surprise" 6:pm 30th birthday dinner for Jordan at Pepe's Restaurant, which is on the bay and adjacent to the marina where Greg keeps his boat. As things evolved they didn't get back from fishing until 6:pm, at the same time the rest of us were arriving at the restaurant. It worked out fine as they just went from the boat (no time to shower and change) to the restaurant. I think that Jordan was particularly surprised and enjoyed seeing Charlie, her godfather, whom she had not seen in a number of years. Charlie was also surprised at how much both Jordan and Phil had changed. He had not seen Phil since we left Southold 22 years ago and he had no idea who he was.
All told, it was a great four days and I left town weighing five pounds more than I did when we arrived!
Paulette & Scott as she presents him with his diploma
PJ, as part of the high school band, blows his horn during the ceremonies
Scott poses with Aunt Jordan for photo
Scott poses with Grandma for another photo
The balloon girls decorate the tent
PJ packs the cooler chests (beer was only for those over 21 -- which did not include PJ)
PJ, Phil, Scott, and Greg getting things ready
Grandma enjoyed it all
Parking was tough
It was a nice crowd of nice people
Some of Scott's friends
Sharyn and Greg
Breakfast the next morning
Hooking a big one
Jordan's first fluke (what a fluke)
Greg and Paul -- heading back to the dock
Jordan's birthday dinner
When all is said and done -- Greg, Jordan, and Phil
Photo taken while riding my bike around Southold
Another such photo
Odometer reading = 87,579
Miles for day = 137
6/27/07 to 6/29/07
The parties are over, the visiting is over, and it's time to get back to routine. For Greg and Paulette that means going back to work, for Phil and Jordan that means driving back to Virginia so they can be back to work tomorrow, and for me and Sharyn, heading down the highway.
We started out around 10:am (about an hour and a half after Phil and Jordan left), making a stop at a campground in Peconic, about five miles from Greg's, where Woodalls Campground Directory said there was a dump station. While at Greg's we had been running our gray water out onto the lawn, but now we wanted to dump our black water before getting to Harry and Irene's. The campground was very small with perhaps only 20 units occupying all of the immaculately manicured sites (they all appear to be there for the summer), but no dump station. At this point the term "they are full of it" begins to take on new meaning (or maybe just becomes more literal)!
Anyway, after making our way back down Long Island and through New York City we arrived at Harry and Irene's in Jersey. As I've mentioned before I've been friends with Harry and Irene for 50 years (since high school), while Sharyn only met them more recently when she started dating me in 1966. The day we arrived Irene had George and Bunny over for dinner (more friends from high school days) and the six of us enjoyed good food and good conversation.
The next morning Irene, Sharyn, and Bunny went shopping to find a dress for Irene to wear to her son Neil's wedding in October. It caught Harry's attention when they said their first stop was going to be Neiman-Marcus. He commented that their dresses probably started at $1,000. No one seemed to pay attention. Many hours later they returned from a very successful trip -- Irene had her dress!
We wrapped up our third and final day with the four of us going out to dinner at the Peking Restaurant, Harry and Irene's favorite Chinese restaurant. It was a very pleasant evening out. As I have said for years, when you go out for dinner the food is only incidental to the occasion -- it's the people you are with that make it enjoyable.
Our "campsite" at Harry and Irene's
Sharyn, Bunny, and Irene return triumphantly from Neiman-Marcus or wherever
Irene models her new dress (that she'll wear to Neil's wedding in October)
Odometer reading = 87,715
Miles for day = 136
(West Point NY)
It was a great visit. Not only did we get to visit with Harry and Irene, but we also got to see their three sons, together with assorted spouses, girl friends, and grandchildren. Since we've known their kids as long as we've known our own it's always nice to see how they continue to progress through life with expanding families and good fortunes. It's the youngest son Neil's wedding that we're coming back for in October!
Anyway, after an extended breakfast, coffee, and conversation we pulled out of their driveway and headed for the FamCamp at West Point. It was a short and easy drive but that's okay. We've got more than three months to work our way to Newfoundland and back to the wedding.
During the course of the morning Brian had brought his two daughters, Madison and Erin, over to visit. After we had left and were talking about our visit I told Sharyn how cute those little girls were and that "It makes you wish you were young again and could have another bunch of kids," to which her instant response was, "No it doesn't."
Anyway, arriving here on the Saturday before the 4th of July we were relegated to an overflow site, but that's fine and perhaps even better. Almost all of the campsites are heavily wooded, while the overflow is merely parking on the blacktop in front of the maintenance building. Since we already emptied our black water at the dump station (that was getting critical) and we have 30 amp service service plus water in overflow, the only difference that matters is that instead of trees, we have a clear shot at the satellite that gives us Internet access. Since our number priority right now is to get this travelog up-to-date, that's an excellent trade off.
After getting all set up we checked out the PX and then went to the commissary to do some grocery shopping. The FamCamp is situated around a small lake, so after returning to the motorhome I rode my bike around the lake. Lots of ups and downs, some of the pretty steep, but only 8/10ths of a mile around -- all of it quite pretty.
Irene with granddaughters Erin and Madison
Odometer reading = 87,768
Miles for day = 52
When we went to bed last night our plan was to head northwest and go through Binghamton NY and Syracuse NY then on to Fort Drum up near the Canadian border, then east to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. By the time we were ready to leave, however, we were back to our original plan which was to go east to I-95 and US-1 pretty much following the coast. That's what we did.
Having worked out our route from West Point to the ferry slip in North Sidney NS on DeLorme's Street Atlas 2007 on the desktop we were all set. The problem arose when we attempted to put that route onto the laptop that is connected to the GPS. The laptop is eight years old and is running Windows-98. SA-2007 will not install on a Windows 98 system so we're still running SA-2003 on it. Problem is SA-2003 ends at the Canadian border. What a bummer! I guess we'll have to use a map after we cross the border -- how unique!
Anyway, as soon as we got into New Hampshire we started looking for a place to stop for the night. Since we were only looking for a place to park we were not looking for a $30-40 campground. Knowing that Portsmouth has an ordinance that precludes Walmart from letting RV's park overnight in their parking lot, we stopped at Walmart in Seabrook, about 15 miles south of Portsmouth. Apparently Seabrook has a similar prohibition against such overnight parking as the "no overnight parking" signs were there (Walmart's corporate policy is that RVers are welcome to spend the night in their parking lot). Anyway, we continued north on US-1, until about eight o'clock, to a Walmart in Beddeford NH where we, along with several other RVers, spent the night. We have a problem with municipalities (they are very tiny percentage) that say "stop in our town, eat in our restaurants, fill your gas tank, spend your money, but leave before dark."
Odometer reading = 88,069
Miles for day = 301
I woke up this morning at 4:50 but stayed in bed until 5:50 when I got up and plugged in the coffee pot.. It was colder inside than it was outside so I got dressed and walked around the sunny parking lot to give Sharyn some more sleep time. We've definitely moved into long pants and long sleeves country. It wasn't very long until Sharyn got up and, after coffee and conversation (I had already finished my half of the coffee), we pulled back out onto US-1 and continued north.
The water both in Southold and at West Point contained significant amounts of chlorine, to the point that Sharyn could not drink the water and did not like coffee or tea made with it, so we stopped in Rockland ME to buy several cases of bottled water. The shopping center we stopped at also had a TJ Maxx, a place that Sharyn cannot ignore. While she was checking out TJ Maxx I went to Staples and bought some Canon 4x6 glossy photo paper.
Machias ME was our target destination for the day. Years ago my cousin Myra told us that if we ever passed through Machias we should be sure to stop at Joyce's Restaurant for the best wild blueberry pie ever. The first time we got there we did stop at Joyce's, had dinner and wild blueberry pie, and the owner gave us permission to remain parked there for the night. To show our appreciation we returned for breakfast the following morning. Upon our arrival earlier today we again returned to Joyce's only to find that it was under new ownership with a new name. Also, there were no cars in the parking lot -- not a good sign. We ended up eating at "Helen's," another restaurant that someone had recommended to Sharyn. I had liver and onions while Sharyn had a lobster roll. We both enjoyed our dinner.
After eating we decided to go to the FamCamp at the Cutler Navy Station, about 12 miles east of Machias. The problem there arose from the fact that while Woodall's new campground directory lists the campground, it was closed down 6-7 years ago. In fact, the bulk of the Navy installation is now in civilian ownership. The manager of the condo complex (that used to be base housing) told us we could stay in the parking lot adjacent to what once was the baseball field. The surroundings were quite nice and totally quiet.
It was cold in the motorhome when we got up this morning
Our overnight parking spot in Beddeford ME
Odometer reading = 88,307
Miles for day = 237
(St John NB)
This morning, for the first time in a long time, we left without the GPS and laptop in operation. Since we were only about 60 miles to the Canadian border when our mapping program would run out of roads we decided not to bother with it.
Before we got to the border we topped off the gas tanks in both the car and the motorhome for $3.099/gallon. That was well worthwhile because in Canada the price was $1.08/liter, or about $3.84 per gallon after factoring in the dollar conversation. With today's conversation $1.00 (Canadian) costs 95¢. When we were here in 2004 we'd get $100 (Canadian) out of the ATM and our bank only took $77.12 out of our account. That kind of exchange rate basically subsidized our time in Canada.
Anyway, after crossing the border we proceeded to Rockwood Park, a city owned park and campground in St John where we've stayed on several occasions in the past. Actually I was here on 9/11/01 (Sharyn had flown to Florida to visit her sick mother) when the World Trade Center went down. The following day there were more American flags flying in St John than there were Canadian flags. I will never forget that.
We've paid for three days here at Rockwood Park, set up our satellite systems for TV and Internet, had dinner, and now we're relaxing and doing nothing (except this website). Unfortunately the weather is predicting rain and showers for the next three days.
Between Cutler and the Candian border
Odometer reading = 88,445
Miles for day = 138
7/5/07 to 7/7/07
(St John NB)
The first two days here we woke up to dark clouds, rain and drizzle.. The first day we stayed at the motorhome with Sharyn doing laundry (we're only 100' from the laundry room) and catching up on her ironing. I kept trying to get back online as the tripod our satellite dish is mounted on, which was standing in 2" of water, kept sinking into the ground and losing its alignment. It actually wasn't until the next day and two relocations that we obtained a signal that stayed.
The second day (cabin fever comes quick in a motorhome, although Sharyn didn't feel it) we drove into St John where we spent a number of hours walking around what is called "Uptown St John." I like the uptown area a lot -- it's nicely done, close and compact, yet not crowded with people.
The City Market has been in operation in the same big old brick building since 1876. Mostly local produce and fresh seafood, there are also a few small niches where you can get a sandwich or a bowl of soup. All very nicely done. Of course there are also some vendors of sweatshirts and touristy gifts, but that's not the focus.
Then there's the Market Square; a large complex composed primarily of large 100 year old brick warehouses that have had their interiors redone so that they enclose a hotel, convention center, shops, restaurants, and a museum.
Finally, as I see it, there is the Brunswick Square Shopping Center. A beautiful, multilevel complex (pretty much a mall) with over 70 tenants including banks, shops, restaurants, etc. The architecture is very cool; modern without being grotesque. All of these places are within a several square block area, and to a large extent you can just walk across the street (or use the elevated "pedway") to get from one to another.
There is also, right across the street from one of these places, a real camera store which is very heavy on Canon and Nikon and has lots of high end gear. I checked out a Canon Speedlite 430EX, trying it on my camera and taking pictures with it for comparison with my camera's built-in flash. The price was $385 Canadian, plus 15% tax that brings it to $395 US. Looking online I can buy it from Amazon.com for $219, no tax, and free shipping. It's a really nice store and I like the hands on "try it out," but the prices, at least on that flash unit, are kind of painful.
We were supposed t0 leave here this morning, but the sun is shinning (at least a good part of the time) and it's cool and pleasant. We decided to stay another day even though we have no specific plans for the day. Actually, as I'm typing this Sharyn is sitting outside reading her book and looking totally content. I guess we'll leave tomorrow.
A rather crummy day
Uptown St John in the distance (as seen from top of hill in campground)
Sharyn in the City Market
Interior courtyard at Market Square
Brunswick Square Shopping Center
Odometer reading = 88,445
Miles for day = 0
When we crossed over into New Brunswick from the US we entered the Atlantic Time Zone which is one hour earlier than Eastern Time. We have not changed our clocks, so this morning when we pulled out of Rockwood Park in St. John at 11:30 we were actually 1½ hours beyond their 11:am checkout time. Oh well . . . .
We had a non-eventful trip from St John to Truro where we exited Route 104 and pulled into a large but sparsely occupied parking lot in front of a Zeller's, which was itself part of a large strip mall. Sharyn wasn't too comfortable there so we went on to the next exit, which was also in Truro, where someone told us there was a Walmart. When we got there, however, the parking lot was posted with a "No Camping" sign which we took to mean no overnight RV parking. We then went back to a truck stop we had passed about a mile before Walmart. Parking between two big rigs (we had no room to put our slides out) Sharyn made dinner of fish, rice, and vegetables which was very good and hit the spot.
During the course of the day we experienced both dark skies with light rain as well as beautiful clear skies and sunshine. Right now, looking to the west, there are some black clouds coming our way so we could be in for some more rain. Once we're parked, however, as we are now, it really makes no difference. By the way, earlier today our weather radio came on to warn us of something bad -- it only comes on to tell us about bad things happening or about to happen. The voice was speaking in French so we didn't garner too much information from him, however, the warning light is on the front of the radio is still on and the display says "Severe thunderstorm warning." I guess that's what he was telling us.
Here it is, the rain has just hit us!
Our truck stop parking spot
Odometer reading = 88,648
Miles for day = 204
We were both up quite early this morning (just before and just after 6:am) and knowing that we only had about 100 miles to go today we skipped breakfast and were on the road pretty quick (after coffee and just a little conversation). The truck stop exited onto the ramp to Trans Canadian Highway (TCH) 103 so we lost no tie in getting up to speed. With the price of gas in Nova Scotia running about $4.75 per gallon in American dollars it's now costing us over 60¢ per mile just for gas. Accordingly, "up to speed" means no more than 55 mph. We've also taken note that thus far (two campgrounds) campgrounds with full hookups are running $30 per night. Since I drink a lot of milk I have also taken note that skim milk costs $7 per gallon. We may have to find jobs and work our way back to America!
Anyway, we arrived here at the city owned campground at 10:am and decided on a dry site (no hookups) for $20. We have full water, full batteries, and empty holding tanks, so we really don't need to connect to anything at this time. Plus, when we leave here we can fill our water and dump our tanks.
When we pulled up to the site that had been assigned to us it was occupied by three guys on motorcycles who were working on one of the bikes. It's funny how you can have instant impressions and how wrong they can be. These guys, one in particular, seemed a little rough and gruff -- he was the one working on his bike. He had just installed a cruise control and was putting back on all the fiberglass sections that cover the bike itself. On the back of the bike he had a big sticker that read "Real Men Love Jesus." They were nice guys, two from Detroit, on a three week vacation on their way to Newfoundland. In order to maximize their time in NF they've been riding 700 miles per day. I don't know how anyone can endure 700 miles per day on a motorcycle. But like they said, if they something like our 200 miles they'd have to turn around and head back to Detroit before they ever reached their destination.
We discovered that our solar panels are not putting out all the amperage that they are supposed to and when I went up on the roof to check them out I discovered that one panel is not putting out anything at all. I checked out all the wiring on the roof and behind the control panel and everything seems to be as it should be. I'm not exactly sure how to check or what to do further, but I guess I'll have to do something. While the panels are guaranteed for 25 years (we have two 120 watt panels) the bummer is that it's not too often that we're counting on them to do their job, but this trip is one of those times.
Anyway, after getting all setup in our campsite and checking out the solar panels we drove out to see our friend Leon. We met Leon in Greenport, Long Island, in 1972 when we were all sailing, and have been friends ever since. We did some catching up on whose kids are doing what, how grandchildren are growing up (Scott graduating high school), etc.
The motorcycle guys heading for Newfoundland
Odometer reading = 88,755
Miles for day = 106
7/10/07 to 7/11/07
We've taken a pretty good number of pictures in the Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, and Blue Rocks areas. Those that we took today were taken in some pretty heavy fog that never burned off. According to Leon, July is a rather cool, damp, month in NS with lots of foggy days. The pictures posted here are only a small sampling of what we did and saw.
Last night on our way to Leon's house we stopped at an auto repair place and asked the owner and his wife if we could spend two nights parked in the area adjacent to their building. Not only did they say we could, but they said if we parked closer we could plug in to their electric. We told them that just allowing us to stay was enough.
After dinner we returned to the campground and were talking to our neighbors, Gene and Carol, a couple from Virginia who live less than 100 miles from Jordan. This morning they had gone to see Peggy's Cove and while they were there someone had broken the side window out of their car and had stolen her pocketbook with all her identification, debit, and credit cards. The pocketbook had been out of sight and apparently someone had been watching and knew it had been left in the car. They had spent the entire day making phone calls back to the US to cancel credit cards, arrange for money transfer, file insurance claims, etc. They had also arranged to have the window replaced tomorrow in a nearby town. As we were talking with them it began to get dark and cool off a bit (they are camped in a small round popup tent about 6 or 7 feet in diameter) so we invited them into the motorhome so we could all sit down and be comfortable while we continued our visit. It was a nice visit with nice people and we intend to stay in touch.
First thing this morning we dumped our holding tanks and filled our water tank before pulling out of the campground and moving over to our new spot. After getting setup (about 5 minutes) we went to a small supermarket down the road to get some stuff we needed before returning to the motorhome and having lunch.
A little later Leon came by and we all went to Mahone Bay, a touristy but nice little village about 7-8 miles away. Leon and I walked around taking pictures while Sharyn checked out all the little shops. We then moved on to Blue Rocks, an incredibly picturesque area that I remember from the last time we were here. There I took a lot of pictures; boats, docks, fish shacks, and other related scenes, all of which were shrouded in fog. It's too bad the camera didn't capture the sound of the fog horn which would rounded out the pictures perfectly.
We had dinner one last time with Leon, after which we lingered and talked for a considerable period of time before returning to the motorhome for the night. We told Leon that seeing as how we were here in 2001, 2004, and now 2007, if that pattern holds true we should be there for dinner in 2010.
House on water near Lunenburg
View from Leon's back yard
Kayak place in Mahone Bay
Leon taking a picture at Blue Rocks
Someone's front porch at Blue Rocks
Perhaps my favorite picture from Blue Rocks
Maybe this is my favorite
This was not from Blue Rocks
Me and Leon
Odometer reading = 88,758
Miles for day = 3
(Ecum Secum NS)
We woke up this morning to wind, rain, and fog. As it became time to leave we decided to take the Marine Drive Scenic Route, the winding, narrow road that basically follows the coast from near Halifax as we head for the causeway to take us to Cape Breton and eventually the ferry at North Sydney. All went well until we got to the end of Route 103 in Halifax and saw no hints as to where Route 107 might be. On the map it looked almost as if one began just where the other ended, and seeing that they were both major routes into and out of Halifax we figured the transition would be well marked. I had even remarked that, "one probably runs right into the other." Forget that. We got lost right in the middle of Halifax. Eventually, with some help from some very nice people in a gas station we were headed for the bridge that would get us out of town and headed in the right direction. Problem was that what looked like the ramp to the bridge turned out to be a road that ducked down and ran under the bridge, not over it.
Anyway, eventually we got on track and were headed in a general easterly direction along Route 7 a/k/a Marine Drive. Now the major reason we took Marine Drive was that the map showed a continuous line of small villages all along the coastal route and we thought that would make for a very pleasant and interesting drive. In fact, every several miles we'd come upon a sign with the name of the village followed by "Welcome to Our Community" underneath. How nice is that? The only thing wrong was that there was nothing beyond the sign -- no village, no community, no nothing. Eventually we'd come to another sign just like the last one -- the only thing different was the name of the village.
As it got later we began to look for a place to stop for the night, but there wasn't even a place to pull off the pavement. At one point I turned onto another road going towards the water. Several miles later we came to a sign saying "Road Ends" and it did! As I turned onto that road Sharyn said it was going to be a dead end, but I figured how can she know, she just worries a lot. The road ended at a small dock at the edge of the water. Even after unhooking the car we barely had enough room to get the motorhome turned around. Luckily it had stopped raining while we were doing all the hooking and unhooking of the car. For some reason it all struck me as very funny and I was laughing (not my usual self).
Eventually we came to a rather broad intersection where a small side road came down the hill at an angle and merged with the main road. There was a closed up gas station on the side and it made a pretty nice place to spend the night. Plus, Sharyn found it satisfactory. At the bottom of the hill was a big homemade sign advertising a place selling hamburgers, chips, ice cream, wings, cotton candy, and all kinds of stuff, and it was open until 10:pm. The sign had an arrow pointing up the hill that said "1 minute." Since, as I described earlier, there was nothing on this road except signs, and now this closed up gas station, I could not imagine what could be up that hill. Especially what would be open until ten o'clock. I told Sharyn that while she was making dinner I was going to take my camera and walk up to see what was there. It turned out the place (it really wasn't a place) was a shack about 6'x10' sitting on a luggage trailer kind of thing and they did have all the things they advertised. It was basically a take out restaurant that really smelled delicious. They even had a customer who was picking up his dinner. We were all talking and the owner said he'd give me a ride back down the hill (about a mile) so I wouldn't have to walk back in the rain -- it had started to drizzle. The customer said he could take me since he was going that way anyhow. I told the owner that after we had dinner we'd be back for dessert.
After dinner we did go back up the hill and Sharyn had a $2 ice cream cone while I had a $2 dish of ice cream. For $2 you got two of the biggest scoops either of us have ever seen. Plus it was good ice cream -- the same brand we had enjoyed at Leon's.
One of the "Welcome to our Community" signs
The end of the dead end road that Sharyn warned me of
Parked in front of the closed up gas station (if you can see through the fog)
Wild flowers are everywhere
The take out "restaurant"
Odometer reading = 88,922
Miles for day = 164
(Port aux Basques NF)
This morning as we were getting ready to leave two ladies walked by on their morning "constitutionals" and we began talking with them. When we mentioned all the signs for nonexistent villages, they laughed and said it was true, that only 300 people live in Ecum Secum and the nearest real place was 30 miles away. The people in Ecum Secum are very friendly.
Because of our experience getting lost in Halifax, we set up the GPS to work with the desktop computer. While I can't see it from the driver's seat, if the need arises, Sharyn can go back and look at it.
We drove pretty much without interruption until we were only several miles from the ferry terminal at North Sydney when we decided to top off both the gas tank as well as the propane on the theory that it would cost substantially more to do so in Newfoundland.
Arriving at the ferry terminal we confessed that we had no reservation. The attendant didn't say so, but his overall response, as our conversation ensued, was that he was thinking "what a jerk." However, our failure to have a reservation was the result of two things: First, we just don't do reservations because we frequently (almost always) change our plans and/or time table. Second, from reading the RV forums, it was our understanding that even if you arrive without a reservation you have a good chance of getting on a boat that day anyway, and if not, the next day. In our case, we were boarded on the next boat ($271.00) and within two hours after our arrival in North Sydney we were on the ferry and on our way to Newfoundland.
Our boat left at 5:15pm and arrived in Port aux Basques NF six hours later. Upon docking, the captain announced that the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) had asked that he warn passengers that the entire area was encased in extremely dense fog, that driving was very dangerous, and that moose were on the highways (?). Driving off the ferry we had no idea where we were or where we were going. I could not see more than 100 feet. On the ferry we had met John and Janet, a couple from Ontario. They farm, plus he drives big rigs all over the eastern part of Canada and the US. He had told us that there was a truck inspection station just a few miles from the ferry on TCH 1, and said that with the visibility being what the captain had described they would almost certainly allow us to spend the night there.
Since almost all truck traffic off the ferry would be following TCH 1, as we exited the ferry I told Sharyn that I was going to follow the truck pulling out ahead of us -- in 30 seconds he had disappeared into the fog. Creeping along with both of us trying to see through the fog, we followed the road for several miles and, after trying to get off the road and into a visitor's center parking area after missing the entrance ramp, we came to the inspection station. Pulling in we saw that it was closed but we parked along the back edge and with no further adieu, went to bed. It was 1:am.
Sharyn on the ferry to Newfoundland
North Sidney waterfront as the ferry pulls away
Odometer reading = 89,112
Miles for day = 190 (+108 via ferry)
7/14/07 to 7/16/07
(Port aux Basques NF)
We awoke in the morning to a completely different world from the one we went to sleep in. We could see where we were and what was around us -- very reassuring.
Leon had told us that one place we had to see was Rose Blanche, a small fishing village about 35 miles east of Port aux Basques, so after breakfast we headed back past the ferry terminal and east along the very hilly, narrow road that actually ends at Rose Blanche. The small villages that lie along the coast east of Rose Blanche are accessible only by boat -- there are no roads going to these villages.
It had been our plan to stay in Rose Blanche for several days, and when we first got there we parked in what we thought would be out of everyone's way and suitable for a two day stay. We asked the lady in a nearby house and she said we'd be fine where we were. After unhooking the car we drove around exploring the village and taking numerous photographs. We also drove up to where the lighthouse was but you had to pay to walk out to it. We declined. It was not much more than an hour later that we felt we had seen all there was to see and that we might as well leave. The people we saw were not particularly friendly and, I think, looked upon us as unwelcome intruders. -- which I guess we were. It reminded me of 25 years ago when we lived in Southold, Long Island, a place where the influx of summer people pretty much overwhelmed the community. One of our sons bought a sweatshirt that said "Summer People Go Home." I suspect that was the feeling of the people in Rose Blanche and I fully understand how and why they felt that way.
The only thing I felt sorry about as we headed back towards Port aux Basques was that the fog was lifting and I would like to have been able to get some fog free pictures in Rose Blanche (more vivid colors). Anyway, coming back to Port aux Basque we pulled into the visitor's center (the one we missed in the fog the night before). When we left there, after spending some 20 minutes with Don, we had a set of guide booklets for all the different areas of Newfoundland which had been described in detail, along with a suggested list of priorities. Don is excellent at his job and has the perfect personality for it.
From there we drove on about two more miles to the Provincial Park and campground where we figured we could stay for a day or so and get some organization and direction. There are 19 Provincial Campgrounds throughout Newfoundland, and with a $20 annual pass (which we bought) you can stay in any of them for $13 per night for a no hookups site. None of the Provincial parks have hookups. Before setting up on our site we dumped our holding tanks and topped of our water tank.
We have not been online since we left St John's NB over a week ago. This far north and east the satellite for our Internet access is only 12½º above the horizon and I was not too optimistic about getting over the tree tops. Sharyn suggested setting the tripod up on the picnic table which is what we did and it worked. We're online. Since we have no cell phone service, e-mail is our only connection to the rest of the world. Also, we use the Internet to do our banking, pay some bills, etc. It's just better having Internet access.
There is a sign near our campsite with an arrow pointing to the "Beach" so we decided to walk down and see what was there. It was a longer walk than we had anticipated and the beach was a little cold and windy, but it was a nice walk. We also got to enjoy more wild flowers along the way. The woods here seem to be loaded with what we would call Japanese Iris if they were in a commercial or residential landscape. It would not seem that Japanese Iris would be growing in the wild in Newfoundland so I guess that's not what they are
The truck inspection station when we awoke
Fishing boats at rest in Rose Blanche
Waterside shed in Rose Blanche
Fishing shacks in Rose Blanche
Me at the beach
Wild iris along the roadside
We can't explain this, but Sharyn calls it "Left Behind" (get it?)
Odometer reading = 89,182
Miles for day = 70
Over the last several weeks we have gotten into the habit of going to bed about 9 o'clock and getting up around 5:am. It's daylight when we go to bed and it's daylight when we get up. We assume that somewhere in-between it gets dark. I told Sharyn that the way we're going we'll soon be going to bed at 4:pm and getting up at midnight.
We had a great experience today. It was sunny and beautiful all day long. We have had other sunny days on this trip but neither of us can remember when they were.
We spent several hours this morning trying to get both solar panels working, but after all the time we spent on the panels, wiring, controller, etc., we still only have the one panel working.
It was past lunchtime when we finally pulled out of the campground and headed north on TCH-1 towards a campground in Kippens that has full hookups and a laundry room. Kippens is a tiny village just a few miles past Stephensville. We decided that since we would be arriving pretty late in the afternoon it might make better sense to just park somewhere in Stephensville and then move in to the campground in the morning when we'd have the benefit of being there the entire day and night. Asking about a place to park for the night we were directed to a location about a mile away where we told there was a whole bunch of RVs. It turns out that in a big parking lot by the beach were all the Airstream owners and their caravan that we had run into at the provincial park in Port aux Basques. There are over 70 rigs from the US on a 59 day trip that cost them just under $4,000 each. Because 70 rigs would be kind of unwieldy traveling together they have split into two groups. This is one of the groups. We're counting on them staying here tomorrow because we'll then leave our motorhome here and explore locally by car, leaving the campground until the following day.
After getting setup in the parking lot (5 minutes) we rode our bikes back to a shopping center about a mile away where we bought some picture frames. After returning to the motorhome we noticed that beyond the parking lot the road continues on down along the beach and has separate lanes marked for cars, bicycles, and joggers/walkers. We rode along this road for a short distance until we came to a sign that said riders had to wear helmets. Since we were not wearing our helmets Sharyn said we had to go back, which we did. We had some left over soup and scones for dinner while we listened to Fox News via satellite radio. We can't find the satellite for DirecTV. That's mostly because when we enter the latitude and longitude coordinates we get an "invalid entry" instead of the azimuth and elevation settings. On several occasions we have been able to find the satellite by swinging the dish and looking where we thought it should be, but lately that has not been successful.
We also have had no cell phone service since we arrived in Newfoundland and I'm pretty unhappy about that. Before we left Maine I had called Cingular (I guess now it's AT&T) and told them that the last time we were in Canada we had no service and that this time we'd be in Newfoundland for an extended period and I wanted to make sure we wouldn't have the same problem again. I was assured that we would have no problem. Without a phone I can't even call to suspend the service.
Sharyn riding on beach road without a helmet
This guy flew over to check us out
Odometer reading = 89,300
Miles for day = 118
Another beautiful and sunny day. After breakfast I rode my bike down the same road we started out on yesterday, but the road ended after three miles. There were quite a few walkers and joggers on the road, a few bicyclists, and one pretty girl on roller blades. It appears that most of these people drive here and park their cars in a small parking area adjacent to where we and all the Airstream people are, and I suspect that this is their daily routine.
Our first day in Newfoundland we made a mistake when we drove the motorhome to Rose Blanche. Although it had been our plan to stay there for several days, it would have worked out much better insofar as being able to stop on the side of the road or make quick U-turns to take pictures, plus it would have saved copious amounts of gas. Anyway, we learned from that experience, so today we left the motorhome here in the parking lot and took the car exploring the coast of the Port au Port Peninsula. We made numerous stops along the way, more than a few U-turns, and stopped at Kathy's Restaurant at Cape St George for lunch. We did all that (90 miles) for about 3 gallons of gas, none of which would have been possible with the motorhome (could not pull of the road, could not make U-turns, could not fit in Kathy's parking area). Just as we learned from our trip to Rose Blanche, we also learned from today. Today's lesson -- pack a lunch! There aren't any places to eat in some of these areas and if Kathy hadn't been there we might have starved to death.
Arriving back in Stephensville we went to Dominion's, which is a chain of large grocery stores that carry lots of non-grocery items. In the seafood section we bought some fresh seafood salad. Then in the bakery section we bought two rolls and some hi-fat, hi-calorie, delicious Hermit Cookies, most of which we had for dinner. After I had four of the cookies Sharyn took them away saying that at 190 calories each, I had had enough.
A derelict rowboat on the beach
Road to Kathy's Restaurant
Typical small lobster boats on the beach
A rocky shoreline
Sharyn at Kathy's Restaurant
Odometer reading = 89,300
Miles for day = 0 in motorhome (90 in car)
(Lark Harbour NF)
After two beautiful sunny days we woke up this morning to a somewhat dark and overcast day. Sharyn and I had talked last night of going for a bike ride this morning, but we had planned on another nice day. Since my daily bike rides, and my 200 miles per month, seem to have gone out the window several weeks ago, I decided to ride the beach road anyway. This time I went past the end of the road onto the gravel road that continued for several hundred yards and ended at a small inlet with some docks and tied up fishing boats.
Shortly after I got back it started to rain so we decided to leave. The fire hydrant at the edge of the parking lot had been set up with a regular garden hose adapter so we used it to top off our water tank. About 100 yards from the hydrant was an RV dump station which we also used. It seems as if the hydrant, dump station, and large parking area have all been made available for the free use of RVers passing through the area. That certainly puts Stephensville high on the list of RV friendly places to visit.
As we were getting set to leave we had some intermittent rain, and we had not gone very far when it started raining for real. We had not yet gotten back out to TCH-1 when a cow moose trotted across the road in front of us. We didn't have to slow down as she was not that close and she crossed rather quickly. A truck coming towards us, however, did have to stop. I would really hate to hit a moose. The bad thing about them is that they weigh as much as a small carthe good thing is that they don't seem to run out onto the roadway, but rather amble along, or trot, giving a lot more time to respond. We had an otherwise uneventful trip to Corner Brook where we exited TCH-1 into town. Once we exited, however, we had no idea where we were in town or how to get through town to Route 450 that would take us to Blow Me Down Provincial Campground about 30 miles west of town. Again, the map we have has all of Newfoundland on one side which makes it about 12 miles to the inch. Since Corner Brook is only several miles across it gets less than a ½ inch on the map. That obviously compromises some detail, so we pulled into a shopping center where we turned on the desktop and the GPS to get us through town and out onto Route 450. Route-450 from town to the campground was extremely narrow with tight turns, mostly short steep hills, and not such good pavement. Second gear was very popular, and one hill required first. With the price of gas being what it is I cringe whenever we downshift to second gear for a long slow climb.
Arriving at the campground, when we went to pay the camping fee, we had two of our debit cards declined. That was not good. We're too far away from "home" to be cut of from funds. We later called the bank to find out they had frozen our accounts because of the flurry of out of Country purchases. That's probably good, but we're still glad it's been straightened out. In the meanwhile we had used a credit card to pay the fee. The very friendly ranger gave us a map of the place and told us that since we were self contained we could, if we wanted to, park down at the beach. We are parked right at the edge of the water in what may be the most picturesque setting we've ever had. Sharyn is concerned about high tide. We met and talked briefly with a couple who relocated from Massachusetts to Aiken SC four years ago. They came to Newfoundland via the 14 hour ferry from North Sydney to St John's and now they're making their way to Port aux Basques where they'll take the short ferry back to Nova Scotia. They can't believe we've had bad weather as they've had nothing but sunny days. Hopefully, as we proceed east we'll have the same experience.
Our camping spot right on the beach
This man is fishing in our front yard in the rain
Then the fog rolled in
Odometer reading = 89,383
Miles for day = 83
(Lark Harbour NF)
It was another foggy, rainy day, not too conducive to any kind of outdoor activity, so we took the car and drove into Corner Brook to get a few things at Staples and to buy some needed groceries at Dominion. This is the second time we've shopped at a Dominion and it's a really nice grocery store. Their bakery section is pretty extensive, not just with cakes and cookies, but with many kinds of fresh baked breads, rolls, muffins, biscuits, etc. Their produce also looks fresher and is more extensive than most of what we see in the States.. One thing Sharyn has commented on in several stores is that the fresh chicken is white, like what she used to buy when we were first married -- not the yellow skinned chicken that they sell today.
Since we have no cell phone service we bought a prepaid calling card that lets us call the US for 4¢ per minute. We also called AT&T to complain and to put our $80/month service on some kind of suspension until we get back to the States. We have two phones and were assured before we came here that we would have good service. After getting through to the right department they told me the problem was that out telephones were not compatible with the system they use here. It seems that they should have told me that when I made my initial inquiry -- we might have upgraded our phones. I asked to have our service suspended until we got back to the US since we couldn't use it anyway. They said there was nothing they could do about it and we'd have to continue paying the $80 anyway.
After everything else we decided to get something to eat and thought we'd try Tim Horton's, a very popular chain up here that we thought was like an Appleby's. It wasn't what we thought so we went to a Subway instead. When we eat at a Subway we usually big a large sandwich and split it, but this time we each got a large, ate half and then took the other half home which we later had for dinner with a bowl of soup.
If it's still raining tomorrow we'll probably leave.
Frenchman's Cove (on road back to campground)
Fisherman cleaning catch (note hill going towards Corner Brook)
Village on side of hill on road to campground
Odometer reading = 89,383
Miles for day = 0
(Deer Lake NF)
Another rainy day. We keep saying it can't rain forever, but it keeps raining anyway.
When I was using the pay phone up by the office yesterday afternoon I took note of a sign on the bulletin board for Marlaine's Cafe in Lark Harbour, a tiny village at the end of the road, about a mile from the campground entrance. After coffee and conversation we decided to drive over to Lark Harbour (you can see it across the water from the campground office) and check it out, and have another cup of coffee at Marlaine's. There's not much more to Lark Harbour than what you can see from across the water, but Marlaine's was kind of neat. In fact, we had five cups of coffee and a homemade cinnamon bun (she only charged us for two coffees -- refills are free).
When we returned to the motorhome I went back up to the pay phone and called AT&T again. I restated my complaint and was again told there was nothing they could do about it. I told him I didn't want to terminate the service because I didn't want to lose our phone number, but I wanted to drop our second phone (we have two phones) and switch to the cheapest plan they have until we get back to the States. He asked me told hold on while he went to check something. When he came back he told me that "what they are doing to you is not right," and he was going to credit our account with two months billing. They sure change their approach when you're going to switch to another carrier. It's ironic, we started with AT&T when we started full-timing because back then no one else had a comparable "nation wide" plan. We didn't like AT&T then and as soon as it got to where you could switch carriers and take your phone number with you we switched to Cingular.. Now AT&T has bought Cingular and we're right back to where we started.
Yesterday we had said that if the weather improved we would take the kayaks out and go around the point to the other side.. Also, I wanted to get several hundred yards off shore to get a picture of the motorhome with the mountain behind us. Anyway, the rain did not stop so we decided to pack it up and leave , which we did. We only went as far as a truck stop here at Deer Lake, which also happens to be the turn off to go to Gros Morne National Park, an absolute must stop, must see, place according to everyone we've spoken with, including Leon.
Maybe the sun will come out tomorrow!
Sharyn didn't like these guys hanging out by Marlaine's
Photo by Sharyn
Odometer reading = 89,452
Miles for day = 69
We were up early again this morning, had our coffee and conversation, and talked about our "plans" for the day (whatever that means). We were only about a mile from the Gateway to the North Campground with it's 50 amp service and wireless Internet. When we pulled into the place the office was closed and it appeared that everyone in the place was still sleeping. We turned on the computer to see if their wireless signal reached out over the entire campground or just the few sites nearest the office (which is not unusual for a "wireless" campground). We had a very strong signal and a fast connection, but the sign on the office said that checkin was 3:pm. Since that was about six hours away we just downloaded our e-mail and continued on our way.
In and about Gros Morne National Park there are numerous campgrounds, both government run and privately owned -- the government campgrounds have no hookups. We thought that Lomond River Campground sounded good in the book so when we came to it we pulled in. We have full hookups, and even though the electric is only 15 amps it's the first time we've had electric in about three weeks. It's really nice to have. The biggest plus, particularly since we're online, is that I don't have to turn the computer off to save battery power -- we're online 24/7, at least for as long as we're here. It's kind of interesting that while we have no TV or cell phone, we can still set up our dish and get Internet via satellite, but what's even more interesting (at least to me) is that satellite radio has been with us constantly without the need to set up any dish or locate the satellite. It's just there, even when there are no other radio stations available.
As the day progressed today, the sky cleared up and the sun came out. How cool is that? The humidity in the motorhome has actually returned to normal, although my Omega-3 fish oil capsules are still all stuck together.
The biggest deal of the day, as far as I am concerned, is that the travelog is up to date.
Odometer reading = 98,478
Miles for day = 25
It was another nice day today we're really on a roll!
We decided to drive out to Trout River which is where this road ends. We had been told that it's a beautiful old fishing village where the fishing is still the mainstay of the economy. Based on what people have told us we also stopped at the Discovery Center on the way. It was okay, but not something I'd tell anyone they had to see.
Trout River was another story. If you're looking to take pictures of a genuine working fishing village, Trout River is the place to go. We spent several hours there, driving and walking around and taking lots of pictures. At one point I asked a man who was painting his lobster pot buoys if I could use his dock as a platform for taking some more pictures. He said I could, and I asked him if the people there ever got tired of all the picture takers roaming around their community. He was nice and responded, "we don't get tired of it."
Before we started back to the campground we went into the Seaside Restaurant where we had some excellent seafood chowder, a sandwich, and ice cream. Apparently this little restaurant is well known as a place to go to whenever you're in this part on Newfoundland and has been written about in the Travel Section of the New York Times. We enjoyed it!
On the way back to the campground we took some more pictures, but eventually we got back. We plan to leave here in the morning and travel to L'Anse aux Meadows at the tip of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula where the Viking were supposed to have established their first North American settlement about 1000AD. That's somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 miles from here and we have no specific plan as to how long we'll take to get there remember, our next scheduled event is a wedding in Jersey in October so we're not in any real hurry. Also, we'll have to come back this way again because there is only the one road going up the peninsula and, except for a ferry that goes to Labrador, that road is a dead end. All of that means there's no telling when we'll be back on line again to update this travelog, but sooner or later it will happen.
On the road to Trout River
This poster at the Discovery Center caught our eyes
Lobster boat tied up a low tide in Trout River
Fishing boats tied up in Trout River
Lobster gear belonging to man who said I could use his dock
This toll gate in Trout River cost us $2
Sharyn liked and took this picture
We watched as they unloaded and weighed the fish
Wool socks for sale in Trout River
On the way back to the campground
Taken from a much closer vantage point
An interesting arrangement
Odometer reading = 89,478
Miles for day = 0
(Sally's Cove NF)
This morning we decided that before we left we'd walk down the foot path to the river. You can hear the river from the beginning of the footpath so we figured it was only a few hundred feet away. That was probably the case, but the path didn't really go to the river, but rather followed along the river bank about 30 feet above the water. Eventually we came to a place where we could climb the embankment to the water which was fast running and crystal clear. Sharyn thought it would be a good kayaking river, but I think that the multilevel waterfall just upstream, as well as most of the rest of the river, is well beyond our skill level.
We didn't stay by the river for very long as we had seen several piles of moose droppings along the path, plus a rather large hoof print in the mud. I told Sharyn the droppings looked like from a baby moose but that didn't relieve her concern. As she said, a cow moose with a calf is extremely protective and can be quite dangerous.
We were all ready to pull out of the campground when a couple from North Carolina pulled into the site next to us. They were on their way back down from St.Anthony's (where we're headed) and she didn't think it was worth the drive upthat if you've seen one fishing village you've seen them all I definitely don't agree with that. We had one person tell us to just get on TCH-1 and go straight to St. John's, that there's nothing in-between Port aux Basques and St. John's that's worth seeing, while another guy says St. John's not worth the trip. Others have said that it's all the little side trips to the coastal villages that make the trip to Newfoundland such a great experience. I tend to go with the latter. For the most part, if you wrote off all the places that someone said weren't worth the trip you'd just get off the ferry and turn around and take the next one back.
Anyway, we're on our way to the northern tip of this peninsular, worth it or notI think we're going to enjoy it.
Driving Route 430 along the coast of Bonne Bay we encountered steep grades, one right after the otherthe kind you climb at 15mph in second gear. Then of course every uphill has a down hill. Right after we started into the hills we came to a large billboard warning to watch out for moose on the roadway, that there had already been eight moose/vehicle accidents so far this year on that stretch of roadway. Once we got past Rocky Harbour at the mouth of the bay, about 40 miles, the road then ran along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and was much less hillyalmost flat in some places. At Sally's Cove we saw an out of business restaurant with a big For Sale sign out front where we pulled in to spend the night. The restaurant was across the road from the water and I would have preferred being on the water side, but there were not too many places along this stretch where we could pull off the pavement . The wind was really whipping up a storm and we'd probably have gotten everything coated with salt if we had stayed on the water side. I rode my bike back up the road a ways to take some pictures and both the bike and the camera (and me) got coated with a fine salt spray. I washed of all the camera surfaces but I wasn't too happy about that.
About 100 miles across the water is the Provence of Quebec.
Sharyn looking down at the river from the footpath
The waterfall just upstream from where we climbed down to the river
Where we parked for the night
Where I rode my bike to take pictures of the water
One of the pictures (and where I got the salt spray)
Odometer reading = 89,523
Miles for day = 45
(Port au Choix NF)
We had a good night's sleep, not getting up until 7:30 (even though Sharyn woke up at 5:30 and plugged in the coffee pot before getting back in bed). With the high winds, we had expected it to be cold last night, but it wasn't, and we awoke to a beautiful sunny day.
As we continued north on Route 340 we stopped half a dozen times, mostly to take pictures, but also for lunch, etc. We turned off the main road twice, one time to go to Cow's Head, and the second time to go to Port au Choix. At Cow's Head we stopped next to a small botanical garden next to a church. We asked the ladies working in the garden about the wild iris' we see everywhere that look like Japanese Iris. They are a wild native species that the Newfoundlanders call Blue Flag. When we turned off to go to Port au Choix we still had a few miles to go when Sharyn saw some of the trees that we have seen on occasion along the coast that are growing nearly horizontal because the wind never lets them stand up straight. I'd been wanting to get some pictures of these trees but never could find a spot to pull off in time. This time, however, the trees were growing along a narrow gravel road that forked off to the left towards the water so I made the turn. The road followed the edge of the water and dead ended about a half mile from the highway. We had anticipated that we would not be able to turn around without unhooking the car, but when we did unhook and get turned around it was such a beautiful spot that we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon and night.
After getting turned around, rehooking the car, and running our slides out, we walked down to the edge of the water. There is no beach, just flat smooth rock It must be that with the incessant wave action against the shoreline all the soil and softer material has eroded away leaving nothing but the flat rock surface that looks like a giant lava flow had come down the hillside and hardened at the water's edge. I guess that's why Newfoundland is sometimes referred to as "The Rock."
A hundred yards from where we parked we found some remnants of a dead moose, including a giant bone that I thought would bring joy and happiness to Jordan's dog Jill. Unfortunately, Sharyn told me I was sick and that that bone wasn't coming in the motorhome. A sad day for Jill. The wind was really blowing. Trying to take pictures I could not stand still or hold the camera steady, the wind was buffeting me so hard. When I tried to brace myself against the motorhome I found the motorhome was moving around more than I was.. I can see why the trees grow flat to the ground
Small harbor on road to Port ax Choix
Boats and fishing shacks along the bulkhead
Along the way we stopped to look at "The Arches" along the coast
Some of the horizontal trees
A view of our "campsite"
Looking back up towards the motorhome
Sharyn making herself a cup of tea
The moose bone that Jill will never get to see
Odometer reading = 89,613
Miles for day = 90
(L'Anse au Loup NL)
For whatever reason we were both up at 4:30 this morning. That's probably an all time record for an early start to coffee and conversation. Last night the wind never let up but continued buffeting the motorhome all night long. Sometime during the night it began to rain and the rain continued even as we pulled out onto the highway a little before 6:am. It was still not 6 o'clock when we got to Port au Choix. It was dark and rainy and there was no one moving about. Not knowing what to do we parked the motorhome in the school parking lot and drove around with the car, eventually driving out to the lighthouse and visitor's center. The visitor's center was not yet open and the rain continued, so we decided to continue on our way and revisit Port au Choix on our way back down (when maybe it won't even be raining).
About 60 miles down the road we came to the turnoff for the Labrador ferry and by this time the sky was getting brighter and it looked as if the sun might even come out. Since there was no one in the ferry terminalapparently there is only someone there two hours before departure timewe went across the road to an RV parking kind of place. You can stay in your RV there or just leave the RV while you just take the car to Labrador. There are only two 30 amp spots in the parking lot, but several where they will run a 15 amp extension cord to your unit. When your RV is there you also get the use of the new, very clean and neat building with a large sitting room, kitchen facilities, laundry room, showers, etc. Our plan was to leave the motorhome there and just take the car across on the ferry to Labrador for the day. To make a long story short, while the lady at the "campground" suggested that we do an overnight to Labrador with just the car, staying the night at a B&B, against her and Sharyn's advice I pushed for taking the motorhome, which we did. That was a mistake. For what it cost to take the motorhome on the ferry ($90.25CA with two seniors) we could have spent two nights in a B&B and not have to deal with where to put the motorhome while we explore Labrador. From where the ferry docks in Labrador there are only about 100 miles of a single paved roadabout 55 miles running north to Red Bay, and about 40 miles to nowhere in Quebec where the road ends. Beyond Red Bay the road on to Cartwright is gravel
Anyway, we were there with the motorhome and I saw a great place to camp. It was a dirt road that ran out along the edge of a cliff overlooking the water. It turned out to be not as suitable for a non-4-wheel drive vehicle as it had appeared. I should say "as it had appeared to me." To Sharyn it had not seemed suitable right from the time I suggested it. It seems they are doing some site preparation work for something they're going to build thereit's a phenomenal spotand this was the "road" the construction equipment is using to access the site. It was much rougher than it looked, but more importantly, there were some soft spots. We did get the motorhome there all right. It was my plan to park it there and then use that as our base of operations while in Labrador. At that point Sharyn said that if it rained we'd never get out, which was 100% true. Long story shorter, we did manage to get it turned around and back out to the paved road, disrupting everything in the overhead cabinets. Sharyn was much relieved and I was a little bit too.
Further on down the road we asked at Earl's Grocery if we could park on the side of their property and were told we could. However, while leveling the motorhome we blew a hydraulic line to the front right jack. Apparently when it went it sprayed hydraulic fluid all over the exhaust manifold which instantly vaporized the fluid which to Sharyn, who was standing nearby, appeared to be smoke billowing out from under the motorhome. She thought it was on fire and didn't know why I wasn't getting out. The fact is that I was watching the level indicator (which had stopped moving towards level) and had not seen outside the window. We were extremely fortunate that the fluid did not ignite.
After getting setup (but not level) we drove around the village of L'Anse au Loup for a few minutes and then headed north along the coast. In doing so we saw a number of icebergs, and at one point watched what must have been half a dozen small whales feeding right by the shoreline.. While we got a number of pictures none of them captured a clear image of the tail which is what I was hoping for. We understand that the Straits were heavy with icebergs several weeks ago and the from early June to mid-July the iceberg traffic is at it's peak. By this time they have either melted or become quite small.
At one place where we were photographing an iceberg we asked someone if there was anyone in the area who could make up a new hydraulic line (hose). The man was very helpful in telling us whatever it was he said, but when the conversation was over all that either Sharyn or I had gotten out of it was over a bridge and turn right. While the people here have a very pronounced accentSharyn says it's a broguethis man did not appear to be speaking English. Of course he was, you just couldn't tell.
On the way back to the motorhome we stopped for dinner at Robert's Family Restaurant right at the edge of the village and just over the bridge. Both the waitress and the other lady working there were extremely friendly and talked with us almost the entire time we were there (there were no other customers). One of the things on the menu was codfish tongues. We didn't know that codfish (or any fish) had tongues. The one lady brought one out to show us what they were. Sharyn things the concept of eating fish tongues. is gross. Anyway, we're going to go back again tomorrow night and I'll have the codfish tongue dinner. Sharyn says she'll try one.
Fishing boats in Port au Choix at 6:am
More boats in Port au Choix
Port au Choix lighthouse
Can we get turned around without getting stuck or going off the edgesure we can
Fishing boats in L'Anse au Loup
Some of the first icebergs we saw
Odometer reading = 89,705
Miles for day = 92
(L'Anse au Loup NL)
After coffee and conversation, where we finished a pot of coffee, we went as planned, to Dot's Bakery, about 100 yards down the road, for breakfast. After breakfast we went to O'Brien's Fishing Supply where we were told they could make up a new hydraulic lineand which turned out was the place that man had been telling us about. When we asked the lady behind the counter if they could make up the line she said she'd drive up and take a look at what was needed. Sharyn and I were both surprised. It turned out that she, her name was Mary Jane, is O'Brien's Fishing Supply and the hydraulic mechanic. The "fishing supply" part of the name has more to do with the commercial fishing boats at the dock, not hooks and sinkers for fun fishing. There's a good bit of hydraulic equipment on some of those fishing boats. As she explained it, the women here can do most anything, and they have to, because the men are often at sea for months at a time.
Mary Jane made up a new hose, 135" long, and the three of us got it installed in the rain. When the job was done she gave us a jar of dried fish, basically sardine like fish that she nets, salts, sun dries for two days, then bakes on a barbecue to get out all the fat before putting them into jars. She said that was so we'd have a "little bit of Labrador." They were delicious.
Later on Sharyn and I drove up to Red Bay, about 35 miles north of here, where the paved road ends. We took a number of pictures, went to the gift shop, and had lunch in the restaurant. I had Rudolph on a bun, a/k/a a caribou (reindeer) burger. It was good, perhaps better than beef, but not as good as lamb burger (as once produced by Sharyn's Sheep Farm).
When at the restaurant last night the waitress had told us that if we wanted to see whales we should be up at the lighthouse around 6 or 7 in the evening, so from Red Bay we drove back down to the lighthouse just south of L'Anse au Loup. We got there right at six o'clock and were there for an hour and a half. We weren't there too long when we saw what we first thought might be a school of porpoises, but turned out to be a pod of orcas, or killer whales. There must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or so and they seemed to be herding up, or encircling , a large school of fish. There was a lot of splashing going on with one of them occasionally getting high enough out of the water so that the distinctive black and white color pattern of the orca could not be mistaken. With all the pictures we took we failed to capture a clear image of this color pattern. They were probably there for about 20-25 minutes, gradually moving further out from the shoreline where we really couldn't see them very well.
A short time later Sharyn spotted a much larger whale that was much closer in to the beach. It turned out that there were two of them, and we later learned that they were humpbacks. They performed marvelously for more than a half hour. Slapping the surface with their tale flukes and staying right in front of us. It was a great display and far better than anything we would have hoped for. They were still there and still performing when we left. The black flies are horrendous, and while I have gotten some bites, they have really been doing a job on Sharyn. In fact, one of the things they sell here are hooded shirts where the front of the hood is netting to keep the flies away. They're not just a nuisance, they're painful. Had the flies not been there we would have stayed longer.
From the whale show at the lighthouse we went back to the Robertson Family Restaurant to tell the waitresses how right they had been about the whales showing up. The two waitresses from the night before were off, but we stayed anyway, talking to tonight's waitress instead. Sharyn had the shrimp dinner while I had the seafood platter, including three codfish tongues as add-ons, just so I could see what they were. They were okay, but I probably won't have them again. I had partridgeberry pie for dessert. After dinner we returned to the motorhome to look at our whale pictures.
Breakfast at Dot's Bakery
Sharyn and Mary Jane working on the hydraulic line
Waiting for lunch in Red Bay
Harbor scene in Red Bay
Growing in the weeds at the water's edge
Lighthouse that led us to the whales
While waiting for the whales this fishing boat passed by
Humpback whale's tail (severely cropped)
Another shotone of my favorites (severely cropped)
I took this picture just because I liked it
Odometer reading = 89,705
Miles for day = 0
(L'Anse au Loup NL)
This morning we had considered walking over to the bakery for breakfast but decided not to. Yesterday's breakfast was quite good, we had sausage and egg on a roll, with coffee, but they charged us for a coffee refill which bothered us both. I walked over anyway to get a fresh blueberry muffin. There was a different lady there so I asked her if you have a breakfast with a second cup of coffee if you're supposed to be charged for the second cup. She said you were. I told her that was something we had never experienced and that it was because we had been charged for the second cup of coffee yesterday that we didn't come for breakfast today. She said she'd pass that information on. Anyway, Sharyn made a second pot of coffee and the blueberry muffin was good. It's questionable whether or not we'd have gone to the bakery today anyway. The black flies have been terrible. Sharyn, who always seems to get bitten, is having a particularly hard time with these flies. She has been getting bites all over her neck, legs, and hands, and this morning her right eye is practically swollen shut from a bite in the corner of her eye. Benedryl seems to help a little, but she is hurting.
The engine was running, the bikes were away, and one of the slides had already been brought in. We were just about to leave for the ferry when Randy, the owner of the property, came over and was talking with us. We thanked him for letting us stay there, we talked about the village (he's also the mayor and Mary Jane is on the council), the general area and the people. He told us we should feel free to "stay for a week or a month." We decided to stay for another day. We took the car back to the ferry terminal at Blanc-Sablon (just over the line into Quebec) and made reservations back to Newfoundland on the 10:30 ferry tomorrow morning. Newfoundland and Labrador have their own time zone. While the other Canadian Atlantic provinces are on Atlantic Time, one hour ahead of Eastern Time, Newfoundland and Labrador are 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic time. I guess if you're Newfoundland and Labrador you can do whatever you want.
Anyway, after making the reservation we continued on south along the paved road for about ten miles into Quebec. We again took a number of photographs before returning to L'Anse au Loup and the motorhome.
I really like those dried fish that Mary Jane gave us, but I don't know what they're called, so I drove down to her house to ask. They're called "caplin," but she says they're not something you can find or buy in a store. However, she gave me two more jars, plus some frozen filets (I forgot the name of the fish). I suggested that while the local people would not be interestedthey make their ownthat mail order over the Internet could have great potentialI'd certainly buy them. This year she made 4,000 of them and has given away two cases to people passing through. In speaking with her and her husband, who had just returned home after having been at sea since April, I had said that Sharyn wouldn't eat them because she says she can't eat any fish that looks like a fish (e.g. sardines). About an hour later she and her husband came by the motorhome to bring Sharyn a dish of homemade cakes and cookies so that she should have something too. We have heard and read of the extreme friendliness and hospitality of the people in Newfoundland and Labrador.The village of L'Anse au Loup certainly has shown that to be true.
As an aside, while I'm writing this an iceberg has come into view off the beach. It's probably one of the ones we saw the other day a little further north.
Fishing boats at dockside in Quebec on a Saturday afternoon
Exploring a small fishing community in Quebec
This harbor is all based on flat rock
Odometer reading = 89,705
Miles for day = 0
(St. Barbe NF)
Because we had the ferry reservation for this morning we had discussed setting the alarm clock but, since we were already in bed and didn't know where the alarm clock was, decided that we wake up pretty early anyway. We did, had our coffee and conversation, and were at the ferry terminal an hour and a half before departure. It was foggy (of course) and from the time we pulled out of the ferry slip at Blonc-Sablon in Labrador, until we pulled into the slip at St. Barbe, we didn't see a thing. I told Sharyn that I could see how, in the days of sailing ships, with no real aids to navigation, shipwrecks upon the rocky coast of this part of North America would almost be commonplace. I also wondered about when a sailing ship left England bound for a particular port on the East Coast of the United States, how close would he be (north and south) when he made landfall. I have no idea.
Anyway, the ferry made it in with near zero visibility and we drove the half mile to the top of the hill where we stayed at the RV place we had considered leaving the motorhome at on the 26th before deciding to take it across on the ferry. The owner, the lady who had suggested we not take the motorhome to Labrador asked how it had worked out. I told her that while my initial reaction had been that it was a mistake to take it across (I think the round trip cost differential was $120), that, based on our experience, I now think it was the better choice. For instance, without having the motorhome with us we would not have spent the third day in Labrador.
While Sharyn was doing the laundry I set up our satellite system to see if we could get online. We have not had good success getting online since we left St. John's NB back on July 8. We have only been one time since then, and on that occasion it was the tech help guy at HughesNet that that got us on from his end. Sharyn had greater success with the laundry than I did with the satellite. I suspect that we're just too far north and east for the particular satellite we're onwe're actually about 1100 miles east of Washington DC.
Anyway, that was about it for the dayof course it was raining when we got here and it pretty much continued while we were setting up.
Approaching the ferry for the ride back to Newfoundland
Odometer reading = 89,726
Miles for day = 20
(St. Barbe NF)
We're just over 100 miles from the northern tip of Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula where the Vikings established the first European settlement in North America about 1000AD at what is now known as L'Anse aux Meadows. We wanted to see both the Viking site as well as St. Anthony's, a small village not too far from there that is supposed to be another place to see, but we were pretty sure we could do them both in the same day. Since from the tip of the peninsula we will have to backtrack all the way back to Deer Lake, 135 miles from here, but 235 miles from the tip, we decided to just take the car up for the daywe did pack a few things just in case for some reason we wanted to stay the night there we'd have that option. The day trip turned out to have been a good choice.
As you get close to St. Anthony's and the Viking site there is basically a "Y" in the road were you have to decide which one do you want to do first. We opted to do St. Anthony's first. Had it been a sunny day, or at least if it had not been so foggy, we might have gotten a different impression. I suspect that most of what St. Anthony has to offer would be magnificent views from it's rocky bluffs. Also, there are supposed to be more and larger icebergs drifting through "iceberg alley" just off the coast. With the fog we could see none of that. In fact, from the high point of the bluff, looking back towards town we couldn't see that either. Nevertheless, we did drive around and take pictures. We also looked for a restaurantour kitchen was back in the motorhomeand opted for the very attractive restaurant by the lighthouse on the bluff. The only problem was that a bowl of chowder was $10. Kind of steep when you consider that two or three nights ago we had two seafood dinners in Labrador for just over $20. We left the restaurant and went to a Tim Horton's, the chain that we have seen all over the place but never tried. It was the only other eating place in town and turned out to be pretty good.
Anyway, we left St. Anthony's and went to L'Anse aux Meadows. That was excellent! Well worth while and a "must see" for anyone coming this way. The museum, or display area, in the visitor's center has a lot of really displays even though a lot of the articles are reproductions. There are several reconstructed buildings that are believed to be faithful reproductions of the original structures using all the same materials and building techniques. The walls are constructed of peat and are six feet thick. A big disappointment, but something that I guess makes sense, is that all the excavations that were done back in the 70's have been covered over to protect them from further deterioration from the ravages of time and the elements. The idea is that future technology and improved knowledge will enable more to be learned from the site if it can be better preserved by reburying it. In reburying the site that have preserved the outline of the original structures so you can see where they were, their size and shape.
Driving back down to St. Barbe we saw ten moose off the side of the road (we stopped for most of them) and got numerous photos. We concluded that we would not want to drive that road at night. It's questionable whether or not you would be able to see a moose crossing the road in time to stop. Anyway, arriving back at the motorhome just at dusk, we had hot soup from our own kitchen, and went to bed. We had covered 208 miles with the car.
A foggy harbor scene in St. Anthony's
Cooper's Island II tied up at dockside
St. Anthony's fisherman repairing their nets
Inside the Viking dwelling
Exterior view of the dwelling
One of the moose we saw on the way home
The last picture of the day
Odometer reading = 89,726
Miles for day = 0
(St. Barbe NF)
Today was a layover day. We decided to just stay here and basically not do anything or go anywhere.
Sharyn did some ironing while I updated this travelog. I've been keeping the daily log on a yellow pad so as not to have to run the inverter and computer on a daily basis (when we're not hooked up to power). Today I typed in all the stuff from July 24 through today. Then we went through the pictures we've taken on all those days to see which ones we'd use. After that I process them through Photoshop, if appropriate, and then reduce the file size to something more appropriate for web posting (basically, e-mail size files).
Of course since we're not online none of what I type, nor any of the photos, can be uploaded to the server. The next time we do have Internet access all this will go up.
Odometer reading = 89,726
Miles for day = 0
(Deer Lake NF)
This morning as we were preparing to leave we saw the owner of the campground and told here we had enjoyed our stay at her place. She was a very nice lady (as are most of the people we meet).
We backtracked all the way back to Deer Lake where we will again pick up TCH-1 as we now head east towards St. John's. As the day progressed the sky cleared and the sun came out. It was a beautiful afternoon. Gateway to the North, the campground we're staying in is brand new with full hookups, including 50 amp service (I think the first we've seen in Canada) and wireless Internet. While a number of campgrounds offer wireless in the office or some central building, that only helps if you have a laptop to take into that building. The wireless here is broadcast throughout the campground so we get to use it with our desktop in the motorhome Quite a treat for us.
We only use Mobile-1 synthetic oil in the motorhome and over the last several years the price has gone from $4.50 a quart to about $7, even in Walmart. This afternoon we stopped at a NAPA place where I bought two quarts for $23. Wow! Also, this morning Sharyn paid four dollars and change for a half gallon of skim milk. We are finding prices here to be so high that Sharyn is suggesting that we cut our trip short and head back to the States. I don't think we'll do that, but if we had fully realized how high prices were going to be we might have developed other plans for the summer.
Driving along Bonne Bay
Odometer reading = 89,908
Miles for day = 182
(Deer Lake NF)
After coffee and conversation we began to get ready to leave. Again the bikes were away, one slide was in, and I was dumping our tanks when the campground owner walked by and we began talking. Sharyn came out to join us and pretty soon we had a map spread across the picnic table as he was showing us what places we should see and things we might want to do. He strongly recommended the boat ride into the fjords about 50 miles back up the Northern Peninsula. We decided to stay another day and take the boat ride.
After doing some grocery shopping at the local market we headed up to where you get the boat tickets at a motel about 10 miles south of where you actually get the boat. As I understand it there is a 40 minute walk from where you park your car by the highway to where you actually board the boat. I say "as I understand it" because we never got there. By the time we started to go get the tickets we weren't sure what the exact name of the motel was but we figured there'd be a sign on the highway. Well, big mistakewe didn't see any sign and did not find any motel. When it got to be be 3 o'clock and we were still looking we knew that we were not going to make the last boat was was scheduled for 4 o'clock. The whole deal was pretty dumb on our part so I probably shouldn't even tell the story. Today was a spectacularly beautiful dayif we had special ordered the weather it could not have been nicer. Hoping that tomorrow might be the same, after we got back to the motorhome, we decided that if it was we would stay another day and do the boat trip.
Not finding the motel we headed back down the road to the motorhome
Odometer reading = 89,908
Miles for day = 0
(Cape Saint George NF)
We woke up this morning to the sound of rain on the roof. That took care of our boat trip plan. With another day of rain the conversation part of our coffee and conversation had to do with whether we have been up here long enough and should head back to the USA. Decision making is not our forte (largely because we're each trying to accommodate what we believe the other wants) and it was only as we were pulling out of the campground that we decided to turn back towards Port au Basques and begin moving back towards the States.
I wasn't feeling too well, so by early afternoon, and only 75 miles, we pulled into a Provincial Campground about 20 miles east of Stephensville. We got the motorhome into a very nice, but rather small, site right on the lake. We considered putting the kayaks in the water but while the rain had stopped the wind had picked up considerably, to the point that there were whitecaps on the lake. We decided that if the weather was nice tomorrow we'd stay here for another day, but when she checked with the office we were told that someone has this site reserved for tomorrow.
We hope that this wind is not a prelude to some worse weather coming our way.
Odometer reading = 89,982
Miles for day = 74
(Grand Falls-Windsor NF)
As I mentioned yesterday, decision making is not one of our strong points. Last night, before going to sleep, we decided that it would be a mistake not going on to St. John's as previously planned. We then decided to wait and see if we still felt the same in the morning. This morning, the topic was obviously which way do we go. If we could just get a break from the weather we would not even be considering going back early. To go on to St. John's would entail either taking the long (17 hour) ferry back to North Sydney in Nova Scotia, or driving almost 600 miles back to Port aux Basques and taking the short (6 hour) ferry that we came over on. The cost differential is substantial.
Last night we were about 100 miles from Port aux Basques, but almost 500 miles from St. John's. If we had gone back to Port aux Basques the short ferry would have cost us $370. Going on to St. John's we have another 500 miles to go (at just over 60 cents/mile for gas), plus the long ferry would cost $951, plus either $36 for two reclining chairs, or $137 for a cabin (or we can sit in the cafeteria for 17 hours). Of course we can avoid the long ferry by driving back to Port aux Basques from St. John's.
When faced with these kind of choices we like to go on the assumption that whichever choice we make will turn out to have been the wrong choice, so to minimize the consequences of the "bad choice," we try to choose the option that will have the least bad consequences when it turns out to have been wrong. Using that approach we figured that if we cut this trip short and go back to the US nowand that turns out to have been the wrong choicewe will regret it forever. On the other hand, if we go on to St. John's and that turns out to be the wrong choice we'll say that we blew all that additional moneybut that gets forgotten pretty quickly. So, on to St. John's, in spite of the fact that we woke up this morning to thunderstorms.
Over the last several weeks we've been experiencing a "thumping" sound that seems to match the rhythm of the wheel rotations. I checked several times but the tires (it seemed to be he front left) seemed to be okay with no bulges or uneven wear. However, as the sound became more pronounced, and I could feel it in the steering wheel, we decided to put the spare on the front left and see if that solved the problem. Having done that, after washing up and having lunch we again pulled out onto the highwaywith the spare on the front left the motorhome was a totally different animal. Hopefully it's just an out of balance tire. A trucker told us about a tire place in Gander that might be able to address the problem. We'll see when we get there. (Also, while changing the tire at the Deer Lake truck stop we discovered that they had wireless Internet which we used briefly).
In the meanwhile we continued on to a small Irving station just past Grand Falls-Windsor hoping they would have wireless also. They didn't, but we're spending the night here anyway. Since we're at the far edge of their parking lot and only 50 feet from a Tim Horton's, we went there and got take out sandwiches for dinner.
Yesterday, Sharyn was checking the "thump-thump-thump"
Sharyn grabbed this quick shot of a moose running across in front of us
Odometer reading = 90,192
Miles for day = 211
It was probably 9 o'clock before we pulled out of the Irving truck stop and again headed east on TCH-1. It wasn't too far to Notre Dame Junction where we turned off onto Route 340 and headed north. Before turning onto 340 we pulled into the visitor's information center to pick up literature on local things to see and do. We checked in at Dildo Run Provincial Park, about 15 miles south of Twillingate, having previously decided that would be a good centrally located place to have the motorhome while we explored the surrounding communities.
Being as how it was still early in the day we drove the car up to Twillingate, Crow Head, and other, possibly unnamed, little communities that dot the coast. At Crow Head we checked out the Long Point Lighthouse, which happens to be one of the very few remaining "manned" lighthouses in Newfoundland. The lighthouse keeper invited me and half a dozen other people up into the tower where the actual light is located. While the original (1876) mechanism that rotated the beacon is still there, the rotation is now done with a small electric motor. The fresnel lens enables the light from the 20 watt bulb to be seen for 16 miles.
There was a fairly good size crowd at the lighthouse site, in part because the Airstream caravan group were there at the time. From the observation deck across the parking lot from the lighthouse everyone was looking at a large distant iceberg, that until yesterday had been grounded just off the point. Sharyn spotted several whales off in the opposite direction which got the crown attention from icebergs to whales.
By the time we returned to the motorhome we had taken a slew of photographs and were quite tired. We had BLT sandwiches for dinner, and at 8:30 Sharyn is already in bedI'm only 10 minutes away.
Our campsite at Dildo Run
Long Point Lighthouse at Crow Head
View from base of lighthouse
Lighthouse lens (and lighthouse keeper)
Lighthouse keeper took this photo of grounded iceberg in 2002
Driving into Twillingate from the north
A lily growing along the roadside
Wild flowers grow everywhere
Tillingate neighborhood from across the harbor
Small boats at rest on a Sunday afternoon
Odometer reading = 90,263
Miles for day = 71
We woke up to a gorgeous, bright, and sunny daywe were elated! We decided to ride back up to Twillingate and Crow Head and maybe reshoot some of the photos we took yesterday in somewhat overcast conditions. We also thought we'd make reservations for the dinner-theater at the Crow Head Community Center, but before we got there Sharyn changed her mind (I call her "The Orca Lady" from the TV commercial).
Anyway, while riding around we met some of our campground neighbors in one of the small villages and they told us about an iceberg in a small village just south of the campground where there is a guy who will take you out to it in a small boat. We went there and followed his homemade signs until we dead-ended at a small dock. There was a man standing there and I asked him if he was the iceberg boat man. He said he was. Having told us that the boat ride was free unless we wanted to give him a tip, we got in the boat for the several hundred yard trip to the iceberg. Hehis name was Ernesttold us it had been there for 14 days and was now only half the size it had been. From the boat, we circled the iceberg slowly, taking pictures from all angles. Between the sun and the wind it was melting rapidly and the clear water running down all the surfaces made the whole thing glisten beautifully in the sunlight. This particular iceberg is grounded on the bottom, some 100 feet below the surface. Because 90% of the mass of an iceberg is below the surface you want to be careful about getting too close since they will occasionally shift their position and roll over. When that happens you don't want to be either on it or under it. I thought it would make a very cool (no pun intended) picture if Sharyn was standing on the flat portion of the iceberg that is almost flush with the water's surface.
Anyway, at the dock Ernest had several chunks of ice that had broken off and he had us put one to our ear. You could hear the fizzle as tiny air bubbles trapped in the icesupposedly for thousands of yearspopped as the ice melted. He offered us a chunk about twice the size of a football, but having no way to carry it or keep it from melting, we declined it. Back at the campground, our neighbors, who had a cooler with them, had taken a chunk, had melted it, and were drinking the water.
While in Labrador we had seen "iceberg water" for sale in a grocery store for $1.50 a bottle. We later read in a local newspaper about a fishing family who, with some kind of a government moratorium on fishing, were using their boat to bring in large (like 1,000 pound large) pieces of icebergs and melting them and bottling the water for sale. We don't know if it was their water being sold in the store or not, but it probably was.
After leaving Ernest we slowly worked our way back home where we had dinner. Now I'm going to take a shower and go to bed.
Small fishing shack in Twillingate
Reflections at Twillingate
Ernest's iceberg up close
This view shows the flat surface (probably 50 feet wide)
One last fishing shack
Odometer reading = 90,263
Miles for day = 0
(George's Brook NF)
After dumping our tanks and topping off our fresh water tank we moved on to Gander where we looked up the truck tire place we had to told about. Unfortunately, they told us that the tire had developed flat spots that were causing the thump-thump-thump and that was not correctable. It seems that we now have a spare tire that still has 80% of the rubber remaining.
Moving on from Gander, it was late afternoon when we came upon a pull over area where there were two motorhomes parked. We pulled in thinking that they were probably there for the night and that we'd stay there also. It turned out that they were two couples traveling together and had left their motorhomes there while they took a day trip to Bonavista. They were from California and we spoke with them for awhile when they returned. However, they were not staying there for the night because they had reservations somewhere in St. John's for that night. While Sharyn said she was still comfortable staying there after they had left, I don't think she was so we moved on to an Irving truck stop that had a very strong wireless signal (100%), but one that was secured. When we inquired about paying for access (in the US for example, most Flying-J's have wireless, but you have to pay for access) no one knew anything about any wireless signal. How weird is that? There wasn't anything else anywhere around so the signal, it seems, would have to have been coming from there. There was a small Ultramar truck stop/restaurant a quarter mile further down the road so we moved to there thinking that if the signal wasn't coming from Irving it must be from the other place. The Ultramar had no signal at all. The great unsolved mystery!
Odometer reading = 90,432
Miles for day = 168
8/8/07 and 8/9/07
(St. John's NF)
Approaching St. John's we went to Butter Pot Campground, another Provincial Park. After getting set up, we drove into St. John's where we walked around the downtown area and had lunch at the Celtic Hearth where our table was in front of the open window looking out over the sidewalk. For dessert we walked down the street to Auntie Crae's where they have some kind of machine that squeezes out fruit flavored yogurt.
After spending some time in the downtown area we started back to the campground but got lost and found ourselves up on Signal Hill with Cabot Tower overlooking the entrance to St. John's harbor. The harbor is pretty much carved out of solid rock, and the narrow entrance passes between near vertical stone bluffs. In the days of sailing ships I don't see how an enemy naval force could ever penetrate the harbor. However, I'm told that at some point the English successfully drove the French out. I'll have to wait until I can get online to find out exactly what happened and how they did it. Anyway, we did eventually make our way back to Butter Pot Park.
Back in June when we were visiting Irene and Harry in New Jersey, they told us that when we got to St. John's we should look up an aunt of Irene's friend Peggy. Irene even called Peggy to get her aunt's address and phone number. We called "Aunt Louise," who said we should come right over, which we did. After visiting with her in her home for a period of time, Louise (that's what she said we should call her) drove us around St. John's showing us a number of places of interest.
Sharyn in the window at the Celtic Hearth
Me eating frozen yogurt in front of Auntie Crae's Coffee Shop
Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill
Fisheries Patrol vessel entering St. John's Harbor (taken from top of Signal Hill)
View of the harbor with St. John's in the background (also taken from top of Signal Hill)
Fog rolling into St. John's harbor
Odometer reading = 90,509
Miles for day = 77
8/10/07 to 8/15/07
(St. John's NF)
We decided that Butter Pot Park, at 25 miles from St. John's, was too far out of town so we relocated to Pippy Park Campground right in town. In addition to the close proximity, Pippy Park also has water and electric at the campsitesa very nice perk, particularly when we're going to be here for more than a few days.
Pretty much every day we did some driving around, some days more than other days. Probably most of the driving around was with Louise driving us all around St. John's and surrounding communities and places of interest. On several occasions we ate at different restaurants, Louise's house, our motorhome, and even had afternoon tea in the crypt at St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral where Louise and her family have been major supporters for decades. Louise, who has the keys to the entire building, gave us an extended private tour, and detailed history, of all parts of the cathedral. Apparently Louise told the Church Archivist of all the photos we had taken and several days later we were back again taking more photos for the archivist.
Louise also gave us the tour and history of the Roman Catholic Basilica. Kept in the Convent adjacent to the Basilica is the amazing marble sculpture, "The Veiled Virgin." We were there late in the day and the convent was closed. Louise wanted us to see this sculpture and she went to "see if we can get in." Sharyn and I waited in the car and I told Sharyn that if anyone answers the door she'll get us in. Not only did we get in but they sent for the nun who could tell us the story behind the Veiled Virgin. Another private showing.
I have to say that I'm 69 years old and throughout my lifetime I have met many very interesting (read not run of the mill) people. Louise is right up there near the top of the list. She is 87 years old, and except for 30 years when she lived and worked in New York City, she has lived her entire life here in St. John's. There are few people alive today that know more about St. John's (and probably Newfoundland and Labrador as well) and its history than she does. I'm sure there's no one who knows the detailed history of the Cathedral as well as she does. Sharyn and I had considerable difficulty keeping up with her, and as Sharyn said, she carries herself and moves around better than I do. Anyway, she was our companion and private tour guide during our entire time here, and now is our very good friend as well.
One of the places we visited was Cape Spear, just a few miles southeast of St. John's, and the most easterly point in North America which lies 1,315 miles east of Washington DC (only 2300 miles west of Ireland).. From the bluff where the lighthouse is located we watched a number of whales that were feeding or playing in the water between the point and St. John's harbor. Whales are really everywhere.
I would have great difficulty describing everything we did and all the places we saw. Suffice it to say that Louise and St. John's are, and will remain, the highlight of this trip. Hopefully, the photos below will convey some sense of what we did.
Sharyn and Louise climb steps to Cape Spear lighthouse
Whales spouting off of Cape Spear (should have had my other lens)
Sharyn listening as Louise tells a story
View from Beachy Cove Cafe where we had tea
Louise gave me theserecommends 2 tablespoons of whisky in a jar of Seville Orange Marmalade
Inside the Anglican Cathedral
Louise describing the Catholic Basilica to Sharyn
The Veiled Virgin
Having tea in the Crypt
Sharyn and Louise ready for dinner
The waiter took our picture
Harbor entrance as seen from restaurant window at dusk
A small piece of downtown as seen from across the harbor
Old downtown residential neighborhood
A residential doorway
Another residential doorway
"Main Street" St. John's (that's not the name)
Odometer reading = 90,542
Miles for day = 8
Checkout time was 1 o'clock and that's when we pulled out of the campground. As Sharyn was finishing up getting us set to leave I ran over to Louise's to give her some more photos of the cathedral that we printed for her last night.
At around 3:pm we pulled off to make a cup of coffee before continuing on to Clarenville where we pulled went into town planning to spend the night in Walmart. It turned out that Walmart was closed and that the Airstream group that we keep bumping into was was parked in the parking lot. We pulled in anyway. It turned out that Walmart has relocated to a new location, while the old Walmart has been turned into a small mall. We talked about moving to the new Walmart location, but decided we're happy where we are. When we leave here in the morning we'll probably go by Walmart anyway so Sharyn can get some more yarn.
Coffee break time
Odometer reading = 90,663
Miles for day = 120
(Deer Lake NF)
Since we were going to pass through Gander today as we drove west, we decided to stop at that Walmart instead of going to the one in Clarenville. The one in Gander seems to possibly be larger than the norm. Anyway, we did stop there and Sharyn got the yarn she wanted (she said they had a greater selection of yarns than she's seen anyplace), plus some Jiff peanut butter which has been hard to find (we had to buy Skippy).
Not too far from Gander we passed another government truck that had just finished loading a dead moose from the side of the highway. We do keep keep a lookout for moose, and there are plenty of signs telling you you better. Maybe they need some signs about caribou also. We were probably going about 55 mph when a large caribou (reindeer), with a big rack, ran across in front of us, going from left to right (with caribou, both sexes have antlers). I hit the brakes hard enough to avoid hitting her, but within two seconds her calf ran out also. I thought the calf (not too small) was going to take out the front left corner of the motorhome, but at very last moment he saw us bearing down on him and took an emergency left turn that apparently did the trickthe sound of his crashing into the motorhome never came. That, I'm sure, was a great relief to the three of us.
As we were getting ready to leave St. John's Louise gave us a spray bottle of Rain-X to apply to the windshield. For most of the day today we were driving in intermittent rain and drizzle, accompanied by heavy cross winds, and never had to use the windshield wipers. The wind just blows the beaded raindrops off of the windshield. I really like that because I can't stand the noise the wipers sometimes make.
It was not our intention to go so far today, but since it was raining we just kept going. Shortly before getting to Deer Lake we came out from under the dark cloud cover and into the sunshine. We are now in the Irving Truck stop (with wireless Internet) where we'll spend the night. Tomorrow we'll probably go to the Gateway to the North Campground, about a half mile north of here.
Odometer reading = 90,943
Miles for day = 280
(Port aux Basques NF)
This morning it was again foggy and drizzling. Actually, when I got up shortly after 6 o'clock I could not see the truck stop building about 50 yards away. Checking the forecast for Deer Lake (we were online) we saw it was supposed to rain this afternoon and tomorrow. A big part of the reason we thought we might stay in Deer Lake for a day was that if it was halfway nice we'd do that boat ride into the fjords that we missed last time. With the weather what it was, and the forecast what it was, we decided to keep moving towards Port aux Basques and the ferry.
After about 100 miles we stopped and got 40 liters (about 10½ gallons) of gas for $45. We anticipate that gas will be much cheaper in Nova Scotia than it is here on Newfoundland, a/k/a "The Rock," or "The Island." It was raining lightly as we pulled into the gas station, and it began to pour when we pulled out. We're now set up at Chessman Provincial Park, about 6 miles from Port aux Basques, and it's still pouring down rain. The guy in the campsite across the road just moved because his site is now a small lake. We are backed up to the river, which we thought made it a cool site when we selected it, but now with the river running a little high Sharyn is concerned that we'll get washed away. Since we're only several hundred yards from where the river empties out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence I don't think that's a problem.
A few hours ago we drove the car into Port aux Basques and went to a small grocery store where we bought ten packages of Harvest Time Soup Mix, mostly different kinds of dry peas, barley, and rice. Sharyn bought several bags last time we were here and we really liked it a lot (she added some other stuff) but we have been unable to find it anywhere else. That's why we bought 10 bags.
We called the ferry company to get a reservation on the 10:am ferry tomorrow, but the first available space is on the 5:pm boat. We have reservations on that boat.
Sharyn watching the river rise
We're pretty close to the river
Odometer reading = 91,103
Miles for day = 160
We awoke to a sunny day, which was nice. We also noted that the river had almost receded to where it belongs. We had planned that if it was nice we'd drive back out to Rose Blanche and take more pictures, possibly retaking some that we took on July 14 when it was so foggy, but by the time we finished our coffee and conversation a somewhat heavy cloud cover had moved in so we canceled that idea.
Since the ferry company wanted us there at least an hour before departure we really didn't have much time to do anything else anyway, plus there isn't a lot to do in Port aux Basques, particularly when we were here about five weeks ago, so we figured we'd just get ready and go down to the staging area. After getting there early, the ferry didn't leave until 7:pm, two hours late. The six hour ride seemed a lot longer than that, and a lot longer than the trip over. Anyway, we got in to North Sidney at 1:am and only went a few miles to the gas station where we had fueled up on our way to Newfoundland several weeks ago. We pulled around to the side of the station where we put out the slides and went straight to bed. I guess we were both overtired and/or not relaxed because neither of us fell asleep very quickly.
Odometer reading = 91,118
Miles for day = 15
I woke up at eight o'clock and, after plugging in the coffee pot, went into the gas station to tell the man who we were and why we were there. He said he hadn't even seen us and it was fine that we were there. Shortly after I got back to the motorhome Sharyn got up and we had our coffee and conversation + breakfast. After buying some gas, we thanked the man in the gas station for his hospitality and were on our way. We stopped in Antigonish were we bought some bread and salad before continuing on again.
We made one final stop on the side of the road near Truro where Sharyn made another pot of coffee which she put into our mugs so we could drink it as we drove. At Amherst we got off the highway to buy gas. After getting the gas we pulled in to the adjacent parking area of Canadian Tire where we're spending the night. After dinner we walked through Canadian Tire to check it out. They are great stores that I wish were in the USsort of a mixture of Southern States/Advance Auto/and Lowe's without the lumber. I bought a six foot piece of 1/8th inch steel cable and some cable crimps to make a locking cable for my bike that would be the size and weight I want (I've bought two in the past that I ended up not liking).
It seems from our daily progress since leaving St. John's NF (not to be confused with Saint John NB which is where we're headed) that we may be afflicted with "the horse heading back to the barn" syndrome .
Odometer reading = 91,367
Miles for day = 249
8/21/07 to 8/24/07
(Saint John NB)
It was probably 10:am when we finally pulled out of the parking lot at Canadian Tire, headed for Rockwood Park, the city owned campground in St. John. It had been our intention to only pay for three days and then play it by ear from there. However, seeing that the cost was $28/day, but only $128/week we decided to do the week. The fact is we probably would have stayed a week anyway, just adding several days at a time (like we do in lots of places). Rockwood Park here in St. John seems to be our regular stepping off point both coming into and going out of Canada. It's just a giant gravel parking lot (although with full hookups) that we feel comfortable at.
Since arriving here we've been to Staples, Walmart, and several supermarkets, but have yet to go into downtown (actually they call it "uptown") St. John. If the rain stops we'll probably do that tomorrow. The first three days here we had beautiful weathersunny, clear, and 75ºbut since late last night it has been raining nonstop. Actually, we were not online this morning as the legs on the tripod the satellite dish is mounted on had sunk into the wet ground beneath the gravel to the point that the dish was no longer on the satellite. We realigned the dish and hope it doesn't move any further.
Yesterday was a *major* "clean the motorhome" day. Every interior surface, from the toilet to the windshield, was either vacuumed or washed down and scrubbed, things were reorganized, put away, or thrown away. The sinks and shower look brand spanking new. The entire place looks quite nice and uncluttered.
A new addition to this website is our granddaughter Katlin's journal of the ten day trip her church youth orchestra took back in June. I think she plans to edit it and perhaps include some photographs, but in the meantime, here it is.
Our rather wet campsite
Odometer reading = 91,502
Miles for day = 135
8/25/07 to 8/27/07
(Saint John NB)
After several days of rain and fog, today was a pretty, sunny day, and our last day in Canada. Several days ago we talked about leaving early because, once again, we were tired of the rain and fog, but once again, we stayed and eventually the sun came out. Our week here at Rockwood Park is up tomorrow and we'll be heading back to the US via the crossing at Saint Stephen/Calais It will have been eight weeks since we crossed into Canada on July 4th.
Yesterday we went into town (the "uptown" part) for a Sunday breakfast and to just walk around. We did both, but most places were closed. Being such a tourist destination we were surprised. Anyway, we went back again today (it's less than 2 miles from the campground), did our walking around, including the City Market and the wharf, bought a newspaper, had a cup of coffee, and just had an easy day (I know, they're all easy).
A portion of the City Market
Some of the produce
A view of Uptown Saint John from the wharf area
Sharyn reads the paper while I take pictures
I like this picture
Odometer reading = 91,502
Miles for day = 0
We took our time getting ready to leave Rockport Park. Having been there for a week it's taken longer to get underway than if we'd only been there a day or two. Anyway, we were in no hurry so it didn't matter that it was past one o'clock when we pulled out.
It was 71 miles to the US border where, when we were inspected, they confiscated a rather old orange that had gotten lost in the back of the refrigerator. There was also some question about Sharyn's Christmas cactus, a plant that she has had for years. The girl said that it was clear that this was not a plant that had just been purchased in Canada, which would have had to been confiscated, and that in the exercise of her discretion she was going to allow Sharyn to keep it.
A few miles inside the US we stopped to fill our gas tank71 gallons for $202. That was a lot cheaper than the $4+ we had been paying in Canada ($5 in Labrador). I guess wives and husbands, males and females, have certain gender traits. About 30 miles before reaching the US border, Sharyn wanted me to stop and get some gas so that we'd be sure not to run out. I pulled into a gas station and put in 18 liters (almost 5 gallons) for $20. While I was pumping the gas I was talking to the guy on the other side of the pump (another American) who was putting gas into his car that was towing a small popup. I told him that ideally you'd cross the border into the US and pull into a gas station with your tank on reserve. He said that's what he was going to do but that his wife made him stop. I laughed and said, "mine too." He bought $15 worth.
It was probably around 5 o'clock (Eastern time) that we pulled into Walmart here in Newport ME where we bought groceries including milk and ice cream, both for half what we would have had to pay in Canada. I would not buy ice cream in Canada because at $7 for a half gallon I would have had to cry while eating it.
A few other thoughts or comments about this latest trip into Canada: (1) The price for gasoline, milk, and ice cream were particularly egregious, although almost everything seemed to be quite expensive. It may be that this was also the case on our prior visits and that the US/Canadian dollar exchange rate (then very favorable) sort of hid the factsbut I don't think so. (2) On top of the prices there is a 14% sales tax (they call it 14% HST) on everything. That 14% tax is even added to traffic tickets and postage! (3) The people are very friendly throughout the Maritime Provinces (Atlantic Canada), more so the further east you go. (4) We had too much rain. We certainly didn't expect all nice and sunny days, but more sun than rain would have been nice (it actually got that way towards the end, possibly, in part, because of the time of year). (5) The two most memorable segments were Labrador and St. John's NF the two places we almost didn't go. Labrador would not have been as good if we had not blown the hydraulic line which caused us to meet Mary Jane, the hydraulic repair person, and extended our stay there. Louise not only made St. John's a great part of the trip, but she herself will always be the most memorable part. It's all far away, but we are already talking about returning.
Odometer reading = 91,701
Miles for day = 199
It didn't take too long to drive to Augusta ME where we sought out and pulled into the shopping mall that included Barnes and Noble where I spent most of the day reading. Basically Sharyn did the same except for a short time she went to walk through some of the other stores. I've often said that if I had to live in one place it should be an apartment upstairs over a Barnes and Noble.
Shortly before 5:pm my cousin Myra, who we had talked to earlier on the telephone, stopped by the motorhome (which was parked in front of B&N). We all talked for several hours before deciding to move to Myra's driveway in Gardiner, about 7 miles south of Augusta, where we spent the night.
Odometer reading = 91,757
Miles for day = 56
Myra drives a Toyota Prius, which is a hybrid car. When she leaves the house in the morning there is no sound of a starter engaging the engine, but rather the car moves forward out of the driveway powered by a silent electric motor. She never made a sound and we didn't know she was gone Anyway, when we got up we didn't know if we'd be leaving today or not. Sharyn wanted to go to Freeport to check out the stores and outlets, and of course, LL Bean. With this being Labor Day weekend we figured that if we were going to go to Freeport it would be a good idea to be in and out before the weekend started.
I arranged to meet Myra to help her buy a laptop computer since the only one she has belongs to the State of Maine and she will not put any personal stuff on the State's computer. After Myra had bought her computer Sharyn and I returned to the motorhome, hooked up the car, and headed for Freeport. Arriving in Freeport we were met by a sign directing us to "Bus and RV Parking," which we followed. Walking the 100 yards from the parking lot to Main Street, we found ourselves in front of the LL Bean bicycle storeI didn't even know that LL Bean sold bicycles. Not being in the market for a bicycle or any bike accessories we didn't stay too long,but I did look at a nice Specialized that I picked up to see how light it might be. It weighed very little, but cost $2,000. I told Sharyn that for $2,000 it shouldn't weight anything!
We then went to the main LL Bean store where Sharyn walked around and bought a few things while I sat and waited on a bench. The main store is quite nice, but I don't think it's the same one that was here the last time we were in Freeport. In fact, it seems to me that the bike store is what used to be the main, and at that time the only, LL Bean store. After leaving LL Bean we walked around for a bit but Sharyn said that all the other stores were the same as the outlet stores in all the outlet places so we went back to the motorhome and left town.
Heading for Manchester NH to visit our grandson Scott, who is a brand new collage freshman, we drove as far as Sacco ME where we spent the night in the same Walmart we had stopped at when heading north several months ago.
LL Bean's Courtyard at Main Store
Odometer reading = 91,828
Miles for day = 71
8/31/07 to 9/2/07
(New Boston NH)
Arriving at the FamCamp at the Air Force Tracking Station on Labor Day weekend it was not surprising that they had no available sites. The host, however, was very helpful and told us we could set up on the lawn in front of the office where there was another unit, or he could put us by an equipment shed about ¼ mile away, which would be ugly, but where we could plug into 20 amps. We opted for the 20 amps, but while we were setting up a major (who turned out to be the deputy base commander) drove up and wanted to know who told us we could park there. To make a long story short, the campground host got chewed out and we ended up on the grass, which was a far nicer setup, but without any electric (water and sewer aren't too important for several days, but electric is nice to have). This really isn't a base at all, there are no barracks, mess hall, or anything like that. Just the big satellite tracking antennas and lots of security carrying automatic weapons. We wondered if perhaps there should not even be a campground there
Anyway, the next day we went to visit Scott, picking him up in front of his dorm and taking him into town (Manchester) for lunch. After lunch we brought him back to the motorhome for awhile before returning to campus where we checked out the bookstore and allowed him to return to his dorm to do laundry. Since his roommates were still sleeping (it was only about 1 o'clock) we didn't get to see his dorm room.
The next day we drove up to Concord NH, about 25 miles, where we spent a big chunk of the afternoon at Border's Books. Greg and Paulette had given me gift cards from Border's and I used the cards to buy several books and a magazine.
Dry camped on the grass
Sharyn took this picture of Scott in front of his dorm
Odometer reading = 91,915
Miles for day = 87
It was only a short drive to the Walmart near Portsmouth (there is a Walmart in Portsmouth but the City of Portsmouth has a law that says RVers may not stay overnight in Portsmouth except in a licensed campground) where we stay whenever we visit my sister in Portsmouth. Parking the motorhome in the area behind the building, we drove the car to my sister's apartment where she had prepared a luncheon for the three of us. After lunch we drove downtown where we walked around for awhile and sat at a sidewalk table where we talked and watched all the people milling around. Later we walked across what my sister refers to as "my bridge" (where US-1 crosses the Piscataqua River) before going out to dinner at a waterfront seafood restaurant. After dinner we returned to the motorhome where it took us quite a while to get to sleep because of the heat that had built up during the day.
This has to be the coolest car in Portsmouth
This flower was growing in the parking lot
Dock behind the restaurant where we ate
Odometer reading = 91,973
Miles for day = 58
9/4/07 to 9/8/07
It was around midday when we arrived at the FamCamp at Hanscom AFB about 13 miles (as the crow flies) northwest of Boston. There were no full hookup sites available but they gave us a very nice no sewer site (that's not much of a problem)in the trees that was close enough to the office that we were able to get on their WiFi Internet connection. That evening the host husband came by and told us we could move to a full hookup site the next day, which we did.
The FamCamp is off base and I have taken up riding my bike again, after a two month hiatus, going to the commissary for milk or the BX for auto polish. There has clearly been a deterioration of endurance since I stopped riding. I'll have to get that back. For the most part we've just been enjoying the luxury of having all our utilities, including cell phone, satellite TV, and satellite Internet, all or most of which was unavailable for much of the last two months.
Sharyn has a warm spot in her heart for witches, so today we drove over to Salem (about 25 miles) to check out the Witch Museum and other witch related stuff. Well, it was clear to both of us that the Witch Museum is as fraudulent as the witch trials themselves. Our expectations were not too high, but we thought it would be a museum with stuff on display. It wasn't. It was a large dark room with multiple balcony like alcoves depicting the trials, secret meetings, etc., that were illuminated one at a time as the taped story was told. Not to be too critical, but it was like a poor imitation of Disney World. Actually the high point of the trip was our stop at Ben & Jerry's
Yesterday and today the temperature topped out in the 90's, but prior to that the weather could not have been nicer. Even with the 90's, they were beautiful days. Right now, however, the leading edge of a cold front is pushing severe thunderstorms down upon us.
Also, today is our granddaughter's 10th birthdayHappy Birthday Mary!
Sharyn walking through "downtown" Salem
A witch offering directions ?
Just a nice photograph
Odometer reading = 92,039
Miles for day = 66
9/9/07 to 9/18/07
We've now been at the Hanscom AFB FamCamp for two weeks and we're really enjoying everything about our stay here; the surrounding area, the historical sites, the weather, and the bike trails. We have even commented that maybe we should come back the same time next year and stay for a month!
Pretty much everyone in America is, to some extent, aware of the the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere and the battles at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 (for a brief refresher/description which will put much of this in context click here). The FamCamp is located about two miles north of the road between Lexington and Concordpretty much smack in the middle of where the American Reveloution beganand we have been traveling to both Lexington and Concord, mostly by bicycle, for a number of days. A portion of the road between here and Concord runs through Minuteman National Park and within the park several miles of the original road (Battle Road) have been preserved and can followed today by bike or on foot, which we did when we rode to Concord. While this old road has been preserved, it does not look as it did in 1775. The road from Lexington to Concord, Battle Road, is today largely a road through the woods. At the time of the Revolution the road ran through open fields and farmland. All the trees has been cut down for fuel and building material probably 100 years before the battles of Lexington and Concord.
There is also a great bike trail that begins about two miles from the FamCamp and runs for eleven miles, about half way to Boston. This is a "rail to trail" route that used to be the railroad from Bedford to Boston. Today you can ride the trail to the end, at which point you can still take the train the remaining distance to Boston. Anyway, about 3½ miles from here the bike trail runs right through Lexington and we have ridden it several timesit's really quite nice. We also like Lexington. It could be a Norman Rockwell town.
By the way, the other day as we were just getting into Concord on our bicycles, we met another couple coming the other way along the trail. As they went by the lady smiled and said "good morning." Sharyn said she looked and sounded like Doris Kerns Goodwin, perhaps my favorite historian/author. I said I hadn't noticed her face, but that it did sound like her and that she did live somewhere in New England. Well, it turns out she and her husband live in Concord and it was her..
Bike path on way to Lexington
Sharyn and tour guide at Lexington Green beneath statue of Capt. John Parker
The North Bridge in Concord
Sharyn at Minuteman Monument at far end of North Bridge
Minuteman Monument as seen from middle of bridge
One of the numerous graves of British Regulars
Sharyn at site of Paul Revere's capture
Historical map of battle route Boston to Concord
Map of Minuteman National Park
Hartwell Tavern on Battle Road - a popular stop for travelers going to and from Boston
Waiting for lunch in Concord
Sidewalk restaurant in Lexington
Lexington sidewalk as seen from my bench
A "traveling 'bent" for two
Odometer reading = 92,039
Miles for day = 0
9/19/07 to 10/2/07
We've been here for almost a month which is quite a while for us to spend in one place. We really have enjoyed the area and our stay here. In fact, in spite of the fact that the people of Massachusetts continue to elect people like Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to represent them in Congress (can't figure that out), we have found them to be very pleasant, friendly and helpful. In fact, we had been talking about maybe coming back again the same time next year and spending another month. That has now morphed into the possibility of our hosting here for six months next year, from May 1 through October 31, 2008. We met and enjoyed the present host couple, Davvy and Bernie, who say that they're not crazy about having a full time job for six months straight. If this works out, next year we'll both be here and take turnse.g. two weeks on; two weeks off, etc.
We, maybe most people, tend to get caught up in the area where we are at the time. Being here has gotten me looking into more about the American Revolution, events leading up to it, etc. Reading Thomas Paine's Common Sense (which I was probably supposed to read in school a lifetime ago) I was impressed with his writing and expression of thought. I'm also reading John Adams by David McCullough which contains portions of letters written by Adams, his wife, and other people of the time. As I told Sharyn, people today don't and can't write like that (clear, precise, expressions of thought set forth with beautiful use of language). Probably because written communication between people seldom occurs anymore. You just call on the phone and speak, and spoken words tend to be much less precise or thought out. Anyway, those are just some thoughts that probably have nothing to do with anything.
We've continued to do quite a bit of bike ridingeven Sharyn who rides very little and says she doesn't enjoy it has, on several occasion, proposed we ride to this place or that, usually via the bike trail. I rode the length of the Minuteman Bike Trail all the way to Cambridge, and several times beyond Cambridge (some 20+ miles) several times. By the skin of my teeth I made my 200 miles for the month of September after doing almost no riding in July and August. (See Bike Stats -- requires OpenOffice.org). I have to mention that the people here are very accommodating to bicycle riders on the roadways. Approaching an intersection or trying to cross a street, drivers, perhaps without exception, are quick to stop and signal you to cross. An entire line of oncoming traffic will stop and wait for you with no one seeming to be impatient or bothered by the delay. I find that quite amazing, particularly in that there seem to be no exceptions.
Other than all the above we've just been living our lives doing routine kind of stuff that doesn't bear writing about.
Minuteman Bike Trail between Lexington and Cambridge
Another intruder in the motorhome
Odometer reading = 92,039
Miles for day = 0
After meeting with the director of Hanscom AFB Outdoor Rec about our hosting next year we said good-bye to this year's hosts, Davvy and Bernie, (who we would be co-hosting with next year) and pulled out of the FamCamp around one o'clock. We had a pretty uneventful drive through Massachusetts and Connecticut, eventually picking up I-287 that enables us to totally bypass the entire New York City metropolitan area. As it worked out, at dusk we were approaching Boonton NJ where Harry and Irene live. It's their son Neal's wedding that we're going to in Atlantic City on Saturday so we called ahead to see if we could spend the night in their driveway. Not getting any answer we opted for Walmart instead. Normally we would just have pulled into their driveway and let them come home and find us there, but we were afraid that with the wedding just days away, coming home and finding us there, Irene might think that we had showed up three days early. We didn't want to shock her with that fear so that's why we went to Walmart.
A short while later while Sharyn was in Walmart buying some knitting yarn they called and invited to their place but I told them we were all set for the night.
Odometer reading = 92,275
Miles for day = 236
10/4/07 and 10/5/07
(Fort Dix NJ)
Fort Dix being not too distant from Boonton we arrived here well before noon and checked into Willow Pond FamCamp. Fort Dix has two very small campgrounds, each with only eight sites. We haven't seen the other one, but we like it where we are.
After getting set up we rode our bikes over to the BX which turned out to be located on McGuire AFB (McGuire AFB is located within the confines of Fort Dix just as Pope AFB is located within the confines of Fort Bragg). It's one of the largest BX's we've seen and I ended up getting new Ralph Lauren slacks and jacket because Sharyn said I needed them (I've lost over 25 pounds since I bought my suit), plus even I had to recognize that it was too good a deal to pass up.
Halfway to the BX I realized that I had forgotten to wear my helmet. As we were leaving the BX to ride back to the motorhome I was stopped by security and told that I could not ride on base without it. It being too far to walk, I used Sharyn's helmet to ride back and get mine, then ride back to the BX to bring Sharyn her helmet so we could both ride back to the motorhome. It was a good ride.
The unrelated bad thing is that we have a leak in our hot water tank that was discovered when Sharyn went into the bedroom barefooted. The carpet was damp! Luckily it seems to be a slow leak, but one that has probably been happening for several days. Anyway, we have an appoint with a Camping World not too far from here to have the tank replaced on Monday. In the meanwhile we keep the water to the hot water tank turned off unless we're taking a shower.
Tomorrow morning we're moving 50 miles to a private campground that is less than two miles from the wedding and reception.
Willow Pond Campground
Odometer reading = 92,367
Miles for day = 92
We left Fort Dix a little after 10 o'clock and arrived here at Shady Pines Camping Resort just before noon. At $40 per day this is definitely one of the most expensive campgrounds we've ever stayed in, but it's less than two miles from the Marriott Seaside Resort where both the wedding and the reception took place (six miles to Atlantic City). This isn't a campground in the usual sense of the word in that while they have some sites for RVs, the bulk of their 140 sites are occupied by more permanent "park models" that are never moved. When checking in I noticed that the seasonal rate was $2800.
Anyway, one night will work for us. We took showers, got dressed, and went to the wedding. Neil is Harry and Irene's youngest son, well into his 30's, and the last to get married.
Watching what I think of as "all these young people" (mostly in their 30's and early 40's), guys in their suits and tuxes, pretty girls in their gowns and dresses, I can't help but think that in their minds they are where it's atthat's what we thought when we were that age. We were right, and so are they. Time moves on, and that's good. I've always used the analogy of the leaves turning brown and falling from the trees to make room for the new spring growth.
Unbeknowingly accentuating the point, Danny, their oldest son, grouped four of us together to take our picture. Harry, George, Manny, and myselffriends since high school, more than 50 years ago. Danny's going to e-mail me that picture, and when he does I'll post it here.
Odometer reading = 92,425
Miles for day = 68
We unhurriedly left Shady Pines around midday and drove to Camping World here in Swedesboro, ten miles north of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, where they are scheduled to replace our leaking hot water heater sometime tomorrow. The temperature was well into the 80's but we managed to park in the shade of the building and it wasn't too bad, particularly with the good breeze that was blowing. However, as it began to get dark, the air got still and it became somewhat uncomfortable. While the outside air temperature may have cooled off, all the blacktop surface of the parking lot which had been acting as a giant heat sink all day began radiating back all the accumulated heat of the day.
Before going to bed I took a cold shower which helped a lot. By the time we were in bed and reading (we always read at night) it was quite comfortable.
Odometer reading = 92,491
Miles for day = 66
It was Monday morning and we were up and ready well before Camping World opened at 9:am. It seemed that there had been no need to hurry as they did not get to us until a little past 1 o'clock There is nothing anywhere near Camping World so until they were ready for us we pretty much just hung out in the motorhome and read. I was not too happy that we could not remain in and with the motorhome while it was being worked on, but we did it their way. Once they took our unit into the shop we were stuck with nothing to do and nowhere to do it. We did the obligatory walking around their retail store, but at this point there isn't too much that we need so we didn't buy anything. It was a good walk around, however, as Sharyn spotted a sign on the hot water heaters that said if you bought a heater before October 17 you'd get 50% off on installation. They had not mentioned that to us, but had quoted an installation fee of $213.
At 5:pm, when the job was finished and it was time to pay I reminded they guy doing the invoice about the sign we'd seen. As he redid the invoice he said he wished I'd mentioned it before he had started. It seems that he/they should have told us. The installation fee went to $106.
Anyway, after a dinner (we were hungry) of salmon roulade, asparagus, and salad, we took hot showers and went to bed.
Odometer reading = 92,491
Miles for day = 0
We were up by 6:am, on the road by 8:am, and in Jordan's driveway (actually on the slab adjacent to the driveway) by 2:pm. Shortly after Jordan got home we had finished hooking up all our utility lines and connected to the TV and Internet satellite dishes that are permanently attached to the back of the shed (tree branches block our usual setup procedures). As the three of us sat in the yard talking Phil stopped by to see us and stayed for dinner.
It was a nice day!
Odometer reading = 92,728
Miles for day = 237
Two pictures from the wedding on 10/6/07, compliments of Danny
10/10/07 to 12/3/07
This has probably been the longest interval between updates since we've been traveling. Normally we would arrive here in Central Virginia just before Thanksgiving and remain until just after Christmas. This year, however, a November 2nd appointment with the eye doctor required us to be here earlier than we would have.
Bill and Cheryl, friends from Arkansas that we first met at the first Great North American RV Rally in Gillette WY in July 2000, came with their motorhome for Thanksgiving week. We all enjoyed their visit which, in addition to Thanksgiving dinner, included a trip to the Museum of the Confederacy and the Confederate White House in Richmond, and a day trip to the Norfolk Naval Station (the largest naval base in the world). We were surprised to see the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, which we had seen in Mayport last year, being decommissioned at Norfolk.
Several days ago Sharyn and Jordan went to New York where they are going to visit our son Greg out on Long Island and then spend several days in Jersey with Harry and Irene which is to include a "girl's trip" into Manhattan to shop and see the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center.
Rather than try to find some other things worth writing about I'll just put up some pictures (with commentary where appropriate).
Virginia's summer drought becomes apparent when Jordan mows the grass
One of the roads I travel along my bicycle route
A little further on I pedaled past this scene
Red maple leaves in fall color
Bill at the entrance to The Museum of the Confederacy
USS Nimitz what a giant ship! (We had been right up to it but were not allowed to take pictures while in that area)
Phil, Bill, Cheryl, Sharyn, Jordan, and myself have dinner at Romano's Italian Restaurant
Jordan and her hound dog Jill
Cheryl and Sharyn on Charlottesville Downtown Mall
The motorhomes seem larger than the house (it's close)
Shane, Jordan, Phil, and me (I can't believe I didn't change)
Odometer reading = 92,728
Miles for day = 0
12/4/07 to 12/28/07
Sharyn and Jordan returned from their trip to New York and New Jersey where they had a great time. Sharyn is very much a "people person," plus she loves the Christmas Season, so walking the streets and stores of midtown Manhattan, including Macy's , Lord and Taylor's, FAO Schwartz, Tiffany's, the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, etc., with all the festive Christmas shoppers was the best of everything for her.
This was a rather unique Christmas as our kids were spread out all over the Country; from Long Island, to Kansas City, to Savannah, Georgia. Jordan was the only one in Virginia. While it was not a big table for Christmas dinner, we all enjoyed the day, the company, and the occasion.
Today, while I was getting all the motorhome related stuff ready to leave, Sharyn helped Jordan get her house back to its "before my parents got here" condition. Tomorrow morning we're leaving here and heading to South Carolina.
Sharyn opens a Christmas present while Jill sleeps
Jordan with her father and her dog
Lots of work in the kitchen
Odometer reading = 92,728
Miles for day = 0
This morning Jordan joined us for coffee and conversation in the motorhome which went on for some time as we were all enjoying it, and saying good-bye at the same time.
It was midmorning before we actually got going. After about 40 miles we stopped for gas and saw that the right rear tires were running hotter than the other tires (we use an inferred pointer kind of thing to measure the surface temperature of the tires) and appeared kind of low. It turned out that the outside tire only had 20 pounds of air. We then checked the remaining tires, all of which had the proper 90 pounds. Checking the pressure in the rear tires requires pulling the wheel covers so it's not something I do as regularly as I should. It was actually on my list of things to do yesterday in the getting ready process, but because it was raining I didn't bother.
The air hose at the gas station (50¢ for air!) would not go on to the tire valves so we used the small compressor Sharyn gave me for Christmas several years ago. It took awhile to get that tire up to 90 pounds, but at least we were able to do it. Several years ago we needed air and could not find anyplace (it was a rural area) that had enough pressure. One place we did try we found the air was leaving the tire and running back into the air take which turned out to only have 35 pounds! It was after that that Sharyn gave me the compressor.
It was about noon by the time we were back on the road again, but the rest of the trip was non-eventful. We stopped at the North Carolina Welcome Center for lunch, and later on, at dusk, we stopped at a Flying-J for propane. We briefly discussed whether we should continue on or spend the night at Flying-J, but opted to continue on it was only another 75 miles.
It was a week or so ago that we called the FamCamp here at Shaw AFB to reserve our favorite site, which we were told was available, and which we then paid for. When we got here, however, we found that site to be taken by someone who has been here for a number of months. Since it is the weekend the office is closed so we just took another site. I'm not sure what's the purpose in prepaying for a particular site. Oh well . . . .
We're not sure how long we'll be here since we really have no specific plans for the period between now and May 1, and then only if we do the campground hosting at Hanscomb AFB in Massachusetts.
Jordan at early morning coffee and conversation
Odometer reading = 93,132
Miles for day = 404
12/30/07 and 12/31/07
We've only been here for two days, and those days could not have been more different. Yesterday it poured down rain, practically nonstop, all day. Today, on the other hand, was beautiful, bright and sunny, with temperatures in the upper 60's. Sharyn did her walk around the base fitness trail and sat out in front of the motorhome reading her book and enjoying the sunshine. I rode my bike around the Perimeter Road before joining Sharyn on our "patio.". It sure is flatter terrain here than what's in Virginia.
There isn't anything else to write about, but this is a necessary entry to wrap up the 2007 Travelog.
It's also the date I have been considered terminating the Travelog. In fact, several months ago I told Sharyn that I'd wrap it up the end of this year. It seems to be more difficult coming up with things to write about than it was several years ago. I suspect that's the result of two things. First, since we seem to be moving around somewhat less than we used to, staying in one place for more extended periods of time yields less to write about that is of any interest to many people. Second, and this I'm not sure of, but having been writing this for eight years (actually 7 years 10 months) and it seems to me that there's less to write about that's new. Like I say, that may or may not be true, but it seems to be the case. In large part, this Travelog has become a place to post photographs that I like. (I guess since it's my Travelog that's okay too)!
Anyway, I think that what I'm going to do for now is continue the Travelog but change the format. I'm not sure what it will be, but I won't be trying to follow the same format that I've felt somewhat locked into. We'll have to see what develops.
In the meanwhile, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
Odometer reading = 93,132
Miles for day = 0
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January 1, 2008
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2000 through last December
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