My wanderings for Summer, 2017

Welcome to my trip journal! As the heat and humidity of South Florida approaches, I tend to disappear. Actually the heat was early this year with most days in March being in the 90’s. However the humidity so far as been very low and we are experiencing drought conditions. There have been numerous wildfires already in Collier County the largest of which is still burning as I write. It is the Cowbell fire in Big Cypress and so far has burnt about 19,000 acres and has been burning about 2.5 weeks. It is east of me so when the breeze is out of the ENE, there’s plenty of smoke and smoke smell. 

Leaving home. Apr 18, 2017

The first part of this trip will be a repeat of last year. I will spend most of the month of May at Ocean Waves Campground in Waves, NC – on the Outer Banks Hatteras Island. What will be different is that daughter Deb and her dog Tibbi will not be joining me as they, at the present time, are in Vancouver BC on their way to a summer in Alaska. She visited me in Port of the Islands FL during the winter and left in late Feb heading west and then NW.

Me? I got my motor home out of the storage lot this morning and brought it home. I had gradually been accumulating the stuff I wanted to take with me for the past couple of weeks. Even so, it took me until about 2:30pm to finish packing and loading the motor home leaving for last all the refrigerated/freezer items. Had to give the RV frig/freezer time to get cold first. It was hot work and tiring for me. I wanted to get some miles on yet today so as to leave home behind but close enough that if I had forgotten something major (like locking the condo up) I could easily return. My mind hasn’t failed yet so there was no need to return.

Sebring, FL. Apr 18, 2017

I drove about 130 miles up the spine of FL (Rt 29/27) to Sebring, FL and pulled into the local hospital. Stopped at the ER and spoke with security which directed me to a nice quiet spot for the night. I have found that for those times when you just need a place to sleep and don’t need the comforts of a campground (pools, electricity, water etc) that a hospital in a small/medium town is a good place to “camp” for the night. Their parking lots are big and empty out fairly early in the evening (as opposed to a truck stop or Walmart, etc). They are reluctant to turn a tired traveler back on the road where the traveler might return later after having fallen asleep while driving. If you tell security you are there, they won’t knock on your door in the middle of the night but they will include you on their regular nighttime security tour. And, if one is so disposed, hospital cafeterias can be an inexpensive and fast place for a relatively decent breakfast. So anyway, I got a nice quiet spot for the night, watched a bit of TV and read some and then had a long comfortable night sleep.

Nothing worth taking a photo though.

Savannah, GA. Apr 19, 2017

So today I continued up Rt 27 to I -4, west of Orlando. The drive through Orlando was very slow. I thought I left late enough so I’d miss the traffic but I guess Mickey just draws crowds all the time. From there up I-95 through Jacksonville and up to Savannah, GA. I’ve stopped at the Cracker Barrel in Pooler – just on the north side of Savannah – for dinner and for the night. Deb & I stayed here with our motor homes last year and it is very quiet, away from traffic noise, good security lighting and easy in and out. Looks like I have two neighbors for the night. On edit – make that 3 neighbors.

Oak Island, NC. Apr 20, 2017

Stopped at the Elks Campground in Oak Island, NC. Dry (no hookups) camping but no charge either. Decent restaurant on site so overall a good overnight stop.

Journey from Oak Island to Waves, NC (OBX). Apr 21, 2017

So this morning, I left Oak Island to head to Ocean Waves Campground in Waves, NC. Ocean Waves will be my ‘home’ for about 5 weeks. The route choices were either an approximately 280 mile overland drive north to cross over to the OBX at Manteo and then back south to Waves NC or a shorter drive to Cedar Island NC, catch the ferry to Ocracoke Islands, drive 15 miles to the north end of Ocracoke and catch another ferry to Hatteras Island and drive 30 miles north to Waves, a total drive of approximately 150 miles. Both land portions of the drive are fairly difficult as in non interstate roads.

So I opted for the shorter drive and arrived in time to catch the 4pm ferry from Cedar Island to Ocracoke. It turned out that it was going to be the last ferry for the day because of winds and rough water. The ferry ride was about 2.25 hours long and cost $45. for my MH and car. 

Arriving at the ferry dock, I drove through the quaint tourist town of Ocracoke and then to the north end of the island in time to catch the 7pm ferry (free) to Hatteras Island. That ferry ride is 1.25 hours long after which I drove the 30+ miles on Hatteras Island to my destination, Ocean Waves Campground Turned on the generator and made myself some supper while on the ride. 

Though the cg operator knew I’d be a late arrival and was to have left out the arrival package for me, they forgot so I had to track down the owner to find out what site I had. I am located 3 sites from the small (10-12′) dune separating the cg from the beach. A great site. So I got my rigged parked, hooked up and tucked in by about 9:15pm and look forward to a relaxing stay. Since I’ll be relaxing here for awhile, I probably won’t be updating that often until I leave here near the end of May.

Ocean Waves Campground and surrounds. Apr 25, 2017

Tuesday 4/25/17 

Last night was a wild night – as in wild weather, not wild me. It had been a windy and somewhat rainy day yesterday but around 3 am the storm really hit. Heavy heavy rain and steady wind of 35mph straight out of the east. Frequent, as in all the time for two hours, gusts in excess of 50 mph. I am oriented N/S so the winds were hitting me broadside with only one RV between me and the beach and dunes. With the hydraulic jacks down, the rig was steady but the slides were being tested as the gusts tried to push them in (unsuccessfully). By afternoon most of the front had moved through and the rig and car got a fresh water rinse from the hose. Interestingly, the west, leeward, side of the rig had lots of sand on the paint while the side directly in the wind was pristine. This evening I drove the 25 miles north to Nags Heads for dinner and in those areas where the road is right next to the dunes, it was like driving in tracks on the beach. The road was pretty much covered with sand. But I’m sure that won’t last since they’re as experienced down here getting sand plowed off the road as they are in Michigan plowing the snow.

Saturday 4/29/17 

I’m settled in for the long haul now. I was on site 45 

– the third site closest to the beach/dune (for those that haven’t ever been to the OBX, the narrow land mass is at or within a foot or two of sea level and on the ocean side it is protected along its entire 100 mile or whatever length by low sand dunes – ranging in height from maybe 6′ to 20′ – here at the campground, the dune is probably about 15′ high with about 300′ of beach at normal high tide). Anyway, on Thursday the motor home on site 52 left and the office was kind enough to let me change sites. 52 is the closest RV site to the dune 

(there are 4 tent sites around the cul de sac in case you’re trying to figure out the numbering) and is on the opposite (south) side of the drive. Three benefits. I like being closer to the water; my awning, picnic table, yard side faces east 

which means that in the heat of the afternoon, my chairs etc are in the shade of my awning and rig; and I have no neighboring rig blocking my view (or wind)

Took less than 10 minutes to do the move. I am well within sight and sound of the beach. 

It is early in the season here – but hot already – nearing 90 degrees today. Probably here in the lower OBX (vs the more populated, commercialized and touristy northern Nags Head/Kitty Hawk area) 40% of the businesses won’t open until May 1st and around the end of May the county will lower all the speed limit signs by 10MPH for the summer crowd. 

The “lower” OBX that I’m referring to is south of the Hatteras National Seashore which is a narrow, unpopulated 19 miles stretch of island just south of Nags Head/Manteo. Then south of the National Seashore there are another 40 miles of narrow land mass south to the small quaint village of Hatteras. In that stretch of 40 miles, there are another 10 or so little villages. The three contiguous villages (Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo) where I’m staying are immediately south of the Nat’l Seashore preserve. From southernmost Hatteras village, you can pick up the free NC DOT ferry to take you south to Ocracoke Island (a bit over an hour ride). That island is about 15 miles long terminating on the south side in the equally quaint village of Ocracoke. From there, you can take another ferry south (about 2.5 hour ride) to Cedar Island which is on the ‘mainland’. (That route in reverse is how I arrived). The other two ways off the OBX are via the road/bridges across Pamlico Sound either at Manteo or further north at Kitty Hawk.

I’ve gotten out the little one person grill that Deb gave me a year ago and have been using it (I carried it with me all last summer but not sure I used it). I’ve grilled on it twice so far and it’s big enough for a few burgers (or a big steak), an ear of corn and american-fried potatoes.

The fresh fish markets opened up for the last two weeks here so I got to add grouper, red snapper etc to the menu. The little grill works very good! Too bad I didn’t use it or use it more last year! I’ve used the grill for probably 80% of my dinners in my month+ time here. Deciding what to cook has been the big agenda item for the day and takes lots of thinking

— that and doing laundry every 10 days or so.

Ocean Waves Campground, where I’m staying is about 90% occupied while the nearby, far bigger, KOA and Camp Hatteras campgrounds appear to me to be about 5% occupied. This mom & pop campground facility is nicer than both of those, IMO. It has been well maintained and upgraded over the years. I’m guessing we first camped in this campground around 40 years ago when the kids were little. We must have borrowed my brother Pete and SIL Mary’s motor home back then. I remember that trip fondly. I remember going out for breakfast with the kids one morning at, probably, the lone restaurant and it took forever. Vicki had ordered French Toast and it turned out that the restaurant was out of bread and rather than saying so, they sent an employee out to the not so nearby grocery store (or somewhere) to buy bread. Good for a laugh and a memory!

Having been here a number of times before, I did very little – or none – sightseeing and spent most of the time just relaxing. The month here has gone fast and tomorrow I pull up stakes and move on towards DC to visit daughter Vicki and 2 grandkids for a couple of days. (SIL Jon is out of the country and grandson Tim has returned to U of GA for the summer)

Windsor, North Carolina. May 26, 2017

My time in the OBX is over but this weekend is the Memorial Day weekend and the first summer holiday weekend is going to create super busy campgrounds. So the trick is to find a place to ‘hide’ where other campers aren’t. I found one in Windsor, NC which is about 100 miles west of the OBX and a dozen miles off the main highway between Rocky Mount and the shores at Manteo. 

I couldn’t find much information on line about it nor could I find even one campground review – generally not a good sign. Looking at it via Google Earth was equally perplexing (it turns out Google Earth is about a half mile off and shows what is a Frisbee golf course). So I called on Monday to ask. It turns out that it is an older campground that the City recently took over from the prior owner. I was told the City has and is in the process of improving the sites, that they’ve built a brand new bath house and the person I spoke with was proud of the ‘tree houses’ they had for rent. 

They took my name but didn’t need a deposit (also generally not a good sign) and told me when I came that I should take site #7. I mentioned that I couldn’t find much information on the park and that there hadn’t been any reviews and I hoped it was a good place since I’d be writing their first review. The City spokesman didn’t know much about campground web sites and reviews and seemed happy that I would write a review – took that as a good sign. 

So I showed up after the long 100 mile 🙂 drive. A park of 11 or 12 sites arranged as spokes around a hub (five of which are being regraded and it looks like new water and sewer hookups). Full hookups. Modern electrical pedistals (30amp), but where I’m at, the water and sewer hookups do need repair – useable but in need of work. But my water tank is full and my waste tanks empty so all I needed was the electric hookup anyway. The bathhouse is indeed new – open about 2 weeks – and nicely done. Covered porch in front of it with tables being installed. $20/nite

So what about these tree houses?? Opposite the campsites is a small parking lot with a sign for ‘treehouse parking’. Next to it is a brand new boat launch with a canal out to the river. All along the canal and out to the river is marsh and water with heavy woods and flowers growing in the water. Above it all is a long elevated brand new walkway that seems to not end. So I walked it and at the river, the walkway does a 90 degree bend and ends with two stilt one room houses with trees piercing their decks and even larger trees piercing the actual tree house. Nice modern decks with builtin picnic type table and other seating – all with a great view of the river. Inside is a floor pedestal for a double bed and above that with a wood ladder is an elevated double bed. The beds were not yet in the houses. There was also a small seating area. No water, lights, electricity – just quiet isolation – all for $60/nite. Sure beats all the KOA rental cabins I’ve seen.

Stayed here two nights. Not that much to do but it was a place to wait out the holiday weekend. The restaurant in town had a permanent “special” – Pig’s feet. I did not opt for the special! I spent the next night at a Cracker Barrel east of Richmond and from there will go to Bull Run Park in Centreville and visit with Vicki, Charlie and Juliana.

Bull Run Regional Park. May 28, 2017

So as the nice campground at Bull Run empties out for the holiday, those of us who aren’t governed by weekends or holidays move in. Made the short run from Richmond area to Centreville, VA and got settled into a nice water and electric site in this massive county park which has its 150 site campground 2.5 miles into the park.

Got to spend two days with daughter Vic and grandkids Charlie and Juliana. What a treat! I haven’t seen Charlie since last September or so when I got to see him at his dorm in Norman, OK. Charlie’s first year is now ‘in the can’ and he’s home for the summer – and job hunting. Juliana and Vic I saw about 8 weeks ago in W. Palm Beach FL where Juliana’s robotics team was competing. Since then her team competed in the VA/MD regionals and she also went to Worlds Finals in St. Louis. Vic/Jon’s duties as chaparone and transportation driver are over for another year. Didn’t get to see Timothy as he had already been home from school for a visit and had left to go back to Athens GA for his summer job. I hope to see him on the tail end of this trip.

Jon was not around as he is out of the country, again. This summer bodes to be a busy travel summer for him. Vic had just had her series of shots in her lower back a week or so ago and was doing well. I’m thankful for that! We got to go out for dinner twice and that’s fun – not only to be with them for dinner but also to not be eating alone. I really enjoyed myself. This morning (Weds), on my way out of town, I headed for Rt 15 north and on the way, took a couple block detour to see what might be new with Deb’s old house. It looked the same except a number of the little trees she planted were missing.

Had to drive past daughter Deb’s former home

Cracker Barrel. May 31, 2017

Dinner and overnight at another Cracker Barrel.

Cracker Barrel. Jun 1, 2017

Beginning to see a pattern here? Another uneventful travel day ending in Watertown, NY. Very windy day and quite chilly – doesn’t feel like June.

Massena, NY. Jun 2, 2017

Travel day from Watertown NY along the St Lawrence Seaway. Massena is the northernmost location of the St. Lawrence before it goes into Canada. Not that many viewing locations along the road of the waterway. Saw zero ships. Weather degrading to rain and cold.

Elk CG, Ballston Spa, NY. Jun 3, 2017

So the weather forecast was for more rain and high temps in the mid 50’s so I decided to head a bit south to try to pick up a little more warmth. I drove southward through the Adirondacks mostly on hilly, winding two lane roads – the type of drive I enjoy most. I passed through, for those of you who are from MI, Saranac (Lakes) and the Ausable River. I also went through the bustling town of Lake Placid where the remnants of the 1980 Winter Olympics abound. I did succeed in finding temps in the mid to upper 60’s but the forecast was that it wouldn’t last and it would be a week before weather in the NE got back to normal. There was no one here when I arrived so I found an electric outlet on the outside of the bldg and hooked up. I got awoken in the morning around 8am. Appears that all the painted markings on the pavement indicated upcoming construction and it was upcoming by 10am. Time to head out.

Portland, ME. Jun 4, 2017

Another day for a nice drive – or it would have been if it hadn’t turned colder again with drizzle and sometime rain. I decided if the weather wasn’t going to comply with my expectations, I might just as well head east. I drove through the Green Mountains of Vermont and the White Mountains of New Hampshire on winding two lane roads. I enjoyed this drive but wished it had been better weather. I stopped for the night at the Elks CG in Portland, ME

Ellsworth, ME. Jun 5, 2017

A first for me. I ‘camped’ at a Walmart. Quite a number of campers here and Walmart is very accommodating. Large parking lot, not very busy and lots of spots along the curbs. A good place to park and run the slides out over the grass. Did a little grocery shopping while here. Took the car and drove the perimeter of Mt Desert Island, home of Acadia Nat’l Park and Bar Harbor. Sharon & I had traveled this area before and done a lot of exploring so, with the cold weather, I was content to stay in my car. I did get started though on my lobster eating.

June 9, 2017

Well, when you’re traveling you need to be flexible. I thought I would be leaving Ellsworth the morning of the 7th. Instead I write this on the evening of the 9th and will instead leave tomorrow morning. I’ve been ‘camping’ in Walmart’s parking lot the whole time. Why the delay?

I woke up Wednesday morning and got ready to leave. I had hooked up the car Tuesday evening. So all I needed to do was raise the hydraulic jacks, put in the slides and leave. A slight turn to the right to miss the fellow camper in front of me and go…3-4 feet and I hear a loud noise behind me. I looked at the rear camera and the front of my car is basically torn off. My car brakes were locked up and the car remained where it was while the front of the car accompanied the motor home by being attached to the tow bar. The passenger side of the car front was still attached. 

I got the tow bar disengaged from the car front (not a small feat since the car and the motor home were at an angle to each other and not meant to be unhitched that way). I threw the grill in the car passenger seat, shoved the front of the car back towards the hood and fender and then reparked the motor home. Got on the iPhone and googled “collision shop near here” to find that there was one about a half mile away. The car was carefully drivable as long as I didn’t hit a pot hole or a grade change that would interfere with a front end 3″ from the ground.

A little explanation of how one tows a car behind a motor home might be in order at this point. The motor home has a “Y” shaped tow bar and the two prongs of the “Y” attach to the front of the car. To do that, there needs to be something in front of the car to connect it to ( a bumper etc would be too weak) and so there is a base plate that goes all the way across the front of the car (out of sight) and is bolted to the side frames of the car. Two solid steel prongs extend from the base plate out in front of the car’s bumper to which the motorhome’s tow bar is attached creating an extremely strong connection between motorhome and the car frame. Then in addition to that, there are break away cables, electric brake and turn signal connections and cabling for the car’s brakes to operate in conjunction with the motorhome brakes.

So I drove the car to the collision shop and they looked it over (they were not familiar with RV base plates) and then put it up on a hoist for a closer look. The base plate was snapped on the driver’s side. The shop said they’d install a new base plate and fix the car but they didn’t know where to get a base plate (had never worked on one). Not that many cars are towable with 4 wheels on the ground but even so, with each make, model and year of car having different specs as to distance between frame members, number and placement of bolt holes and places in the grill facia to put the attachment prongs through, there are hundreds of different base plates. Each base plate costs upwards of $300-$400 and no local RV shop or collision shop would carry any in stock. And so I called Blue Ox in Nebraska (the mfr of my base plate – I’ve been to the plant twice in the past 3 yrs) and told them the make, model, year of my car and ordered a new base plate to be shipped overnight, morning delivery to the collision shop in Maine.

They drove me back to my motor home and later in the afternoon, remembering that the shop had never installed a base plate before, I got on the computer and downloaded the install instructions for the plate I ordered and printed a copy and brought it to the shop. 

Their shop is on a narrow side street and as I was turning into the street I was forced to turn tighter because a car was coming and I scuffed the curb. Leaving the shop after delivering the instructions, I noted a laundromat across the road so I thought I might as well get some laundry done. Started a load and went back to the motorhome to get more change and – oops – my rear tire looks flat. I figured I broke the bead between the tire and rim when I scuffed the curb. Ah. There’s a tire shop across the next door business parking lot so I drove to the tire shop – looked at the tire and saw that there was a nearly 3″ gash all the way through the tire. The tire store had a replacement tire but did not have the capability to jack up the MH so they arranged for me to buy the tire and for another shop a couple of miles away to mount, balance and install it. So off I go following my new tire in the back of their pickup truck to the other shop and got my new tire installed without incident. Took the opportunity to also check inflation pressures on all of the other tires. On the way back, I checked the curb I scuffed and built into the curb was a steel catch basin with about a half inch of a steel corner protruding past the concrete. I suspect that was culprit that punctured the tire.

So Thursday morning I pull up the UPS Tracking number to make sure it “out for delivery” only to find that it appears to be in Georgia that morning with delivery by end of day – FRIDAY! So back to the phone with Blue Ox and they say they will ship another one out for delivery by 8 am Friday morning and they will refund (of course) the priority shipping charges. I let the shop know of this delay. 

This morning I check the new UPS tracking number to find a notation that there was some plane delay and again the tracking page shows delivery by end of day, Friday. Back on the phone with Blue Ox and determine that between us, they have more influence with UPS than I do. I’m advised that delivery will be by 10:30 am. Doesn’t happen. Base plate arrives at the shop at 11:45am. I got a call from the shop at 3pm that my car was ready and I went to pick it up. What a surprise!!!! I was half expecting to be towing a car with only a nominal front end – sort of a demolition derby special. Instead I have a brand new base plate installation and the front end is put together as though nothing had happened. I shuddered as I prepared to pay (it was to be a direct charge to me and I was going to file a reimbursement claim with my insurance) and was given a bill for $290 for the install and repairs to the car. 

The shop also showed me what had happened. I bought the car used with the towing equipment already in place. I’ve not had any accident etc with it but apparently sometime back in its life, the front end with the prongs extended had been hit and the bar where it makes the turn at the driver’s side, the turn where the .goes into the car frame to be bolted – that part had cracked. It was obvious from the accumulated rust on the broken edge. There remained about a 1/4″ piece of unbroken steel which cracked and broke when I made the turn to get out of my parking space (the base plate on the driver’s side moved forward which pulled the car brakes on which exacerbated the break). I’ve attached some of the pics and you can see (at the red arrows) the little piece of bright unrusted steel which was the only piece of the base plate holding the left side of the car to the tow bar. Pretty lucky for me and for fellow drivers that this happened in a parking lot rather than on the road at 65mph!!

By 4pm I’m back in the Walmart lot looking forward to watching the NBA finals basketball game tonight on TV. Walmart has been very generous and kind in furnishing a comfortable area safe area where I can have my slides fully extended. I start the generator and pull out a container of left over homemade spaghetti out of the freezer and start to defrost it in the micro. Suddenly my house lights flicker and switch over to 12 volt and the micro stops. No 110V power but the generator is still running!

So I go outside in the 55 degree rain and open the compartment where the transfer switch (which switches the RV between 12V and 110V power and all appears well to my sharp, experienced and competent RV tech eyes🤪. Time for some heavy lifting. I go back inside and pull out the Winnebago supplied large briefcase full of manuals and locate the generator manual. Index tells me where to go for ‘trouble shooting’ and sure enough, there’s a section on the ‘generator running but no 110V power and I read it. I go back outside and open the generator compartment and figure out how to take the front cover off the generator. I locate the ‘control panel’ and using the figure shown on the manual, I find the circuit breaker switch. I flip it, go inside and start the generator and voila, I’ve got power. Even figured out how to put the cover back on and close up the compartment. All I need now is my RV Certified Technician certificate and I can go out in the world and makes some serious cash!

BTW and I know you want to know, the nuked spaghetti was delicious.

So tonight should be the last of the cold rain and tomorrow is supposed to be in the 70s with sunshine. All’s well that ends well.

Calais, ME. Jun 10, 2017

Short drive today to the Canadian border. Stayed overnight in Calais, ME – right across the river from St. Stephen, New Brunswick. The motel in town has 5 RV spots, two of which are full hookup. Inasmuch as I’ve spent nearly a week dry camping in a Walmart parking lot, I enjoyed having full time electric (vs having to run the genny) and I got to refill my all but empty water tank and empty my all but full black and grey water tanks. I’ve gotten the impression, despite all the pics I took of the bumps and bruises to my car, that I maybe should be taking more pictures of what I see on the road. I haven’t been doing much of that since I’ve seen most of it already and so…. But I pledge to do better 🙂

Maritime Provinces – New Brunswick Jun 11, 2017

Easy peasy border crossing this morning – probably a total of 10 minutes including waiting in line. Headed east and got myself a campsite in Fundy National Park. This is Canada’s 150th anniversary and in celebration, the entry fee to all Canadian Parks is free for 2017. Don’t tell Washington DC or they might reduce my social security check!

This is a nice water and electric campground. There are actually 3 cgs in the park – one is tent or small vehicle only (access over a covered bridge with minimal height clearance), one is at a higher elevation and the sites are heavily wooded. I am in the “Headquarters” campground right at the eastern edge of the park, lower elevation and bigger sites. It’s apparently very popular in that I got the last site (no reservation – I don’t like reservations cause those create rigidity in scheduling but sometimes things might be full). I sure didn’t think it would be this busy so early in June.

The headquarters campground is located on a bluff overlooking the fishing village of Alma which is on the Bay of (drum roll…) Fundy. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides on earth. In some areas low tide and high time differ by as much as 56 feet – every 6 hours! While maybe you can’t watch the grass grow here, you certainly can watch the wter rise and fall. The campground has a nice seating area overlooking the town and Bay and, if you are so inclined :), there are stairs down the bluff to the town. I’m told it’s about a 1 mile round trip walk – plus stairs and stairs and more stairs. I used the car.

More New Brunswick. Jun 12, 2017

So yesterday I took a long distance picture of a Bay of Fundy headland north and east of Alma and today I decided to get closer. So ignoring the highway, I headed out via the Bay of Fundy Scenic Route. Narrow, twisting and hilly – about a 70 mile ride. About 20 miles in I took a side road – so that would be a side road off a side road – to Cape Enrage, the location of my picture. It was about 10 miles in and then 10 miles back. But it was worth it and I got some nice pictures. It is the location of a Canadian Coast Guard station and I got the assistance of the docent there to get me turned back around. They also ran ahead of me up the small hill to make sure there was no oncoming traffic at the hairpin turn. 

About 20 miles further, I stopped at the Hopewell Rocks. This was a more commercial operation and the drive in was well paved, wide and inviting. These rocks are left after the erosion by the tides of the mountains leaving giant red cliffs. Some of the cliffs have been eroded leaving these giant rocks or pillars in the Bay of Fundy. When the tide goes out, you can walk on the floor of the Bay all around the rocks/pillars and through the hollowed out tunnels bored by the water through the pillars. Very interesting. They have observation decks at various levels and very safe stairs down to the mud flats. There were too many stairs for me to navigate all the way to the bottom but it was a good stop. They had a pretty decent restaurant on premise so I had lunch there as well. 

I finished my day by driving to Truro, Nova Scotia. Truro has one of the more advertised Tidal Bore in the Bay of Fundy. (The Bay of Fundy is really large running from about Eastport, Maine to Truro, NS). A tidal bore is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) of water that travels up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current. If you sit along the banks of the little river/bay you see the flow of water outbound to the Bay of Fundy. The rising tide in the Bay sends water upstream and the collision forms a small tsunami type effect with the leading edge wave reaching 10′. It is difficult to figure out when the tidal bore will come as it does not coincide with the actual high tide. It depends on where you are along the river and how wide or restricted the river is where you are. Sharon & I spent an hour last time we were here waiting and watching and when it came, it was measured in inches rather than feet where we were. Disappointing – not even worth a picture – and I won’t spend time looking for a good spot this trip.

Lunenburg, NS. Jun 13, 2017

I left my present site figuring to drive to Halifax for a visit. Sharon and I had been there maybe 15 yrs ago and we loved walking downtown and along the harbor. So I arrived in Halifax, disconnected the car from the motor home in a Walmart parking lot and drove downtown. 

Things were drastically different. Much of the charm was gone. Downtown was completely torn up with new construction, demolition and reconstruction. Parking was nearly impossible. Many of the harbor front parking lots were usurped for construction staging. Some sidewalks were turned into tunnels as plywood roofs and sides were in place designed to protect you from a flying brick but in reality letting you sight see the backside of plywood. 

The harbor…same story. The boardwalks were still there but the large area of kiosks, outdoor restaurants etc was gone. All of it. There was plenty of noise of power saws etc as they were furiously building dozens of brand new sheds/bldgs to replace what was gone. But those were all on the non public side of fencing designed to keep the tourists at bay. It will probably be nice when it is all finished and when you can once again get around downtown but I was so disappointed that I didn’t even take one picture.

I grabbed lunch downtown and then drove back to Wally World, hooked up the car and left Halifax in my rear view mirrors. I headed for the town of Lunenburg about 60 miles west. Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage City – one of three in North America (joining Quebec City and Philadelphia), so honored because of the city’s dedication to maintaining its heritage/history. Sharon and I had also been to Lunenburg before and it was delightful. That, in keeping with its historical charter, hadn’t changed over the years. I got a site in the Lunenburg Board of Trade campground – the site of an original block house high on the hill overlooking the Lunenburg harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.

I’ll let the many pictures I took in Lunenburg tell most of the story but in short the town is built into a steep hill. The entire main town is about 8 blocks deep into the hill (really steep roads) and about the same width along the harbor. There are two streets paralleling the waterfront that are primarily commercial in nature with many restaurants and bldgs converted to inns. The remaining portion of town are the old restored (with lots of architectural control) homes and an impressive number of churches for a town of its size. They say that the pew capacity of the churches will accommodate the entire population in a single sitting. Beyond that 8×8 boundary the housing stock is a bit more modern. The feel of the town is quite reminiscent of Mackinac Island except for cars instead of road apples and fishing instead of fudge.

Of interest to me this trip was the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (a Provincial museum). For the daily price of $8. Canadian, a senior can roam the really large maritime museum as well as full self guided tours of a side hauling fishing trawler (capacity of 340,000 lbs of fish in the hold), an old fishing schooner (400,000 lb hold capacity). This museum is worth the price of admission times five. One large museum room is dedicated to the sailors of Lunenburg lost at sea. It lists 137 lost boats and has tablets with each name – more than 700 by my count. In October 1927 four boats with 80 crew members were lost in a single storm. Guessing here but the entire male teenage and older population was probably 500-600.

I spent two days in Lunenburg. When I arrived, I found that my less that 6 month old computer tablet was no longer functioning and though I’m relatively computer literate, I couldn’t fix it. I took it to a computer shop in a nearby town and they were forced to reinstall Windows 10 which required that my hard drive be scrubbed. I have a back up hard drive but it’s in Naples so that did me no good. I had a lot backed up to the cloud but not everything so I’ve spent the last 4 or 5 evenings rebuilding the rest.

Cape Breton/The Cabot Trail. Jun 15, 2017

Made the drive to Sydney, NS for the purpose of driving the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Most of Thursday was spent driving from Lunenburg to Sydney – a long day’s drive for me – about 300 miles. I stayed at a very nice RV park named Arm of Gold RV Park located on Bras D’Or Lake (translated is Arm of Gold). Bras D’Or is referred to as an inland sea and it bisects Cape Breton Island, NS. There are several inlets and channels to the Atlantic Ocean. The campground sits right on the waterfront with nice sized sites and a very good on site food truck. Since Friday was to be a nice sunny day and Saturday was to be rainy, I decided to to the Cabot Trail drive on Friday and do some needed shopping and computer updating on Saturday.

Friday: I spent most of my day driving the car along the Cabot Trail. The drive is doable by RV but it is extremely winding, mountainous and an altogether slow drive. I drove 200 miles on the trail and it took nearly 8 hours including a 45 minute lunch stop. I did not complete the Trail which would have been another 100 miles or so. Lots of beautiful overlooks of the ocean. While not mountainous by Rocky Mtn standards, they are mountains by east coast standards and for at least 1/2 the ride it is a constant elevation change from mountain top to sea level and unlike the ‘no greater than a 6% grade’ standard used for Stateside interstates, the grades here are considerable. Did I say that the road is all two lane?

At noon time I was cruising and went by an infrequent commercial enterprise and its roadside A frame sign had the word “Pannekoek”. It took a 1/2 mile to sink in that I remembered that word from my childhood as part of a dutch phrase that my mom used to say. So about a mile further, I turned around and stopped at the Dancing Moose Cafe – run by a dutch couple who must have gotten lost here in New Scotland. Enjoyed lunch there very much and talking to the owner and looking out the rear facing windows at all his chickens and roosters running around. 

The Cabot Trail presented the opportunity to take lots of scenic pictures. I can tell you this world is not about to run out of space for people nor trees. I quit counting the trees when I got to 1,347,292,377,416 (that’s 1.3 trillion) and that comprised probably less that a tenth of the visible park!

Saturday was as promised, raining, chilly and foggy. I got some grocery shopping in and worked a few hours on get my computer back to the way I like it.

Prince Edward Island. Jun 18, 2017

One of the places I wanted to see on this trip was Prince Edward Island. Sharon and I tried to visit it 15-20 yrs ago and got to Halifax where we both got very sick. Without Canadian medical insurance coverage, we hightailed it back to Maine and never did get back. So I left the Sydney/Cape Breton area and headed northwesterly towards PEI.

You can only get on and off the island via a 1.5 hr ferry ride from Nova Scotia to Woods Islands on the southwesterly side of PEI or via the 7 mile Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and the northwesterly side of PEI. There is no toll to get on the island via either route but a toll (exactly the same) is charged when you leave. So elected to take the ferry ride to the island and leave via the bridge.

I arrived late in the afternoon so I got an overnight campsite near the ferry. A very pleasant place with campsites right on the water. The next morning I drove the 60 miles or so to Charlottetown, the main city on the island and got a campsite nearby for 2 nights, again on the bay. I spent the remainder of the day driving around the general area and around town.

Some years ago, PBS had a series on Anne of Green Gables which Sharon and I enjoyed very much. PEI is the locale for the story and so I thought I’d look into it a bit. I visited a National Park which commemorates the story. Within the park is the house, farm, haunted forest, lover’s lane etc that author L. M. Montgomery visited and explored as a child (it was the home of her cousin) and serves as the locale for the Anne story. Very picturesque and a worthwhile stop.

Also visited were the author’s birthplace and an Anne of Green Gables Museum. Both were disappointing – mostly dedicated to souveniers. On the other hand, not sure what I expected since Anne of Green Gables is, after all, pure fiction. 

I also bought a ticket to Anne and Gilbert, The Musical. It is a Broadway like production launched in 2005 and one of the most successful and critically acclaimed musicals playing across Canada. The venue was The Guild in downtown Charlottetown. That turned out to be a small theater. Seating capacity was about 160 people (by my count) consisting of 8 tiers of rows all within 50′ or so of the stage. Intimate would be the word. The theater was sold out. Unfortunately, part of the intimacy is due to the fact that instead of using comfy wide theater seats, they used basically padded kitchen chair type seats bolted to the floor. So patrons seating resembled coach type seating, sans footrests, sans tilting seats, that you’d get on a no frills airline. We were told that absent an emergency, we could not leave our seats till intermission and then only stage left past the orchestra (a piano and a violin). It was so intimate that if you did leave, you would be walking on the stage with the performers – kind of a negative if you are not an exhibitionist. Some fans and good air movement would have been nice.

The performers and the musical was good but I was literally counting down the minutes to intermission (they said the first act was 90 minutes). I took advantage of intermission to go to my car and leave. My treat instead was a single dip ice cream cone at COW Creamery! I would have gone to the musical in the large convention auditorium across the street but it was “The Million Dollar Quartet” which I saw last summer in Branson.

All in all, I’ve checked PEI off my bucket list but I found it disappointing.

Border of New Brunswick and Quebec Jun 21, 2017

I left PEI via the Confederation Bridge and drove northerly to the Gulf of St Lawrence and followed it westerly (on the south side of the Gulf) to Campbellton NB. Campbellton is the location of a narrows and a bridge crosses it into Quebec. I overnighted in a Walmart parking lot there.

Gasp’e Peninsula, Quebec. Jun 22, 2017

I’ve always enjoyed looking at maps and reading RV travel blogs and over the years one area has always seemed intriguing – the Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec. And so I’ve spent the past 4 days traveling the peninsula.

The Gaspe Peninsula (anchored by the town of Gaspe on the eastern end) is, as I picture it, Quebec’s lobster claw reaching eastward in the Gulf of St Lawrence towards the Atlantic. It juts out into the massive Gulf of St Lawrence and traveling the perimeter is roughly 350 miles of nearly all coastal driving with many mountain climbs and descents. In some ways it reminds me of a Lake Superior drive. Many sheer cliffs coming down to rocky beaches with a ledge carved out of the cliff at sea level on which they built a road. Every 15-20 miles will be a small town or village with some French name. It is really a grand drive.

My first stop and initial base was on the southerly side of the peninsula in a town name Perc’e. With my limited half dozen word French vocabulary, I had to ask how the town got that name. Le Rocher Perce was the response. Aah, I got it. The pierced rock. I got my first glimpse of ‘the rock’ about 20 miles before town. It is an immense rock out in the bay with a hole in it. It is about a 1/3 of a mile long and rises 300′ above the water. Nearby – maybe a mile or two – is another island – de i’lle-Bonaventure – which is a Canadian National Park – home to the Northern Gannet birds. The town is small but very touristy including even a horse drawn carriage tour – not sure of what. Many fishing boats operate from Perce as well as several tour boat operations – tours to the Nat’l Park, to ‘the Rock’ and whale (baleines) watching cruises. I was really interested in taking the whale watching cruise but near end of June is too early in the seas. on and it was not running 😦 . Lots of lighthouses on the peninsula – 47 in all.

I stayed in a nice commercial campground named Camping du Phare which fittingly is the site of one of the peninsula’s lighthouses. Very neatly kept with all sites terraced down the slope so the harbor and bay views are excellent. The proprietors have a smattering of English so we were able to do business. From my site I had an excellent view of the lighthouse, of Bonaventure Island and of the very impressive “Rock”. For some sense of scale, one of the pictures posted above shows a boat near the Rock. That is one of the tour boats with a capacity of over 100 people.

With the help of Trip Advisor (my friend) I found a highly recommended restaurant (“restaurant” – a french word I recognized) located in a marina. Its name was La Vieille Usine de l’Anse-a Beaufils. One of the things that made it stand out to me is they do not use any fryers. No fried food – what a novelty! Then of course the marina environment was special and the french music was also quite entertaining. Highly recommended was their fish soup so I had that for an appetizer with my fresh grilled cod. Superb! I just had to go back the second night and try a different pairing – somewhat difficult the second night since my waiter that night spoke absolutely no English and I, of course, couldn’t read the menu. Again the fish soup for a starter together with a seafood augratin baked casserole – shrimp, lobster, scallops and some kind of fish. A couple of great meals in a wonderful setting.

With the Canadian 150th birthday being celebrated on Canada’s 4th of July equivalent (July 1), it was time to do what I don’t like to do, namely a bit of planning. My next big stop is to be Quebec City followed by Montreal. I don’t want to be in either over their holiday – too busy and too much competition for campsites. So I want to hit Quebec City well before the weekend of the 1st and spend a few days and then “hide” somewhere midway between QC and Montreal and wait out the weekend. So I left Perce and traveled through Gaspe and then westerly along the northern side of the peninsula stopping for the night at a real nicely located roadside park in Sainte Felicite. They ought to package and sell the view. No nice restaurant though – just take some homemade spaghetti and meat sauce out of the freezer and nuke it for supper. It’s so nice when you want electricity to just push the switch and start up the generator. All the comforts of home.

Old Quebec City. Jun 26, 2017

I had received a suggestion as a “don’t miss” Quebec City, Quebec. More specifically, Old Quebec City. After doing some online research, I found that Old Quebec City is not one that I would want to drive around and try to park my motorhome/car combo. In fact, best done even without the car. So I made an exception to my rule and reserved a few nights in the local KOA campground. I normally avoid KOA’s on the principal that they want me to pay for a membership so that they can then discount their outrageous pricing for what they provide to a mere ‘expensive’. I made the exception because there is a shuttle that runs from the KOA to Old Quebec City and I thought that provided some extra value.

Turns out the shuttle is $18.00 round trip (they forgot to mention that). I did want to try to save my legs and hips by taking a tour bus once in Old Quebec. The tour bus was an all day pass with unlimited on/off privilege. I found that if I booked the tour bus at the KOA, then the shuttle price to get to the tour bus would be reduced to $5.00. Hope I’m not sounding too “dutch”. 

I got myself up and at ’em to catch the shuttle at 9:30 am the next morning. After 3 stops at local outlying hotels to pick up more passengers, we fought the traffic and arrived in Old Quebec. The drop off point for the shuttle is ‘the square’ which also is the drop off for all tour buses all highly choreographed by the local police and tour operators. At any one time there had to be 6-8 buses loading or unloading. The town is a pedestrian zoo of tourists and a major photo opportunity. I don’t remember who told me I “had to see Quebec” but thank you – and I usually shun high traffic tourist spots.

The sun was out but there were threats of thunderstorms. Taking advantage of the sun, I got myself a spot in front on the upper level of the double decker tour bus. I’ve never ridden one before so that was fun. Old Quebec is the old walled part of the city from back in the French English war. Narrow streets, heavily utilized land with frequent parks. And since it was a strategic military facility, it is located on the Gulf of St. Lawrence (port) and then scales the cliffs overlooking same. It’s streets are hilly like San Francisco – and did I say narrow? 

It was quite an experience watching the driver navigate this top heavy bus through the narrow streets, up and down 12-15& grades and around corners without scraping the sides of buildings. It really was worth the price of admission. I did the tour from beginning to end without getting off. Many of the stopping points were not of much interest to me – I’m not big into art galleries and the like – and each seat was provided with ear buds and recorded commentary (you pick the language) about what you were seeing. The entire tour without getting off was just in excess of 1.5 hours and when we returned to the ‘square’ it was past time for lunch. In fact, I was starting to become hypoglycemic and I needed to take care of that pronto.

So I found a place for lunch (see pics) and while I ate, the weather cooperated by picking that time for the thundershower. By the time I was done, the sun was drying off the sidewalks. I spent some time walking out from the square for a couple of blocks around and by that time, my shuttle was coming to take me back to the campground. I’m not even going to attempt to write a travelog of what I saw – I’ll just let the pictures tell the story.

Ottawa. Jun 28, 2017

Beginning in Quebec City, I saw the preparations, tent raising, security etc in preparation for Canada’s 150th Anniversary. I was going to try to find some out of the way place between Quebec City and Montreal to ‘wait out’ the holiday. So I decided to forego touring Montreal – I’d been there many years ago anyway. I bypassed it and decided to wait out the holiday at Sault Ste Marie – either Canada or Michigan. 

The highway – by the way 99% of the highways I’ve traveled in Canada are two lane roads with occasional passing lanes for long uphill traffic. About 1/3 of those two lane highways were limited access —– the highway from Montreal to the Soo goes through Ottawa, the Capital of Canada. The highway from Montreal meets Ottawa on the north side and the highway to the Soo leaves Ottawa on the south side. So you would take some sort of bypass or connector between the two, right? If you are solo and relying on your navigator Garmin, you take the Garmin connector which consists of many many many city streets straight through downtown and past the Parliament Buildings. Did I say there was Canada 150 preparations? Detours and security detours abound. Streets blocked with huge tents and bleachers. Protesters and tourists and souvenir hawkers all blended together and pushing the boundaries of the sidewalks into the street. Bedlam. Good decision I made not to take a Montreal fee tour when Mr. Garmin will take you on one for free. Really wasn’t able to take pictures while playing dodge-car.

Sault Ste. Marie, MI. Jun 30, 2017

They let me back into the country!!!!

I see bill boards and businesses have big advertising signs – in english!

Television is in english!

I’m going to have to figure out what those signs mean that say ’70’ – 70km is pretty slow for one of these limited access divided highways! And fuel is sold in gallons? And when I see a sign that says “X” is a distance of 72 increments, I don’t have to multiply by 6 and divide by 10 anymore? What is going on??

Eastport, MI. Jul 6, 2017

A hiccup in my trip. I fell. It had been raining in the Soo and as I was exiting the motorhome, I stepped down to the exit step. I apparently missed the portion of the step that is coated with the sandpaper type surface and my foot slipped right off the step from the smooth edge. As always, I was holding on to the builtin handhold/rail so while my grip, until it failed, held my torso up, my feet and bottom side ‘plunged’ to the ground. I recovered from being dazed and took stock – nothing broken. Two guys from another campsite rushed over and gave me a lot of assistance regaining my feet. I bandaged up the scrapes on my arm but there was not even a scratch where it hurt the most. I have a lot of pain in the area of my bottom right rib (front) and an equal or greater pain on the back side about in the area of the kidneys. The right leg/hip joint hurt a great deal as well. 

As I write it is 4 days later. The arm is healing well. The leg/hip pain is gone. But the front rib cage and rear kidney pain rage on. Any change in position is agonizing plus sharp pain if I cough, sneeze, hiccup and the like. I think it is starting to diminish but it’s hard to tell the incremental changes.

I left the Soo and headed down to Cedarville for the 4th of July holiday. Though the park was full, it was a pretty quiet place. I spent a few days here last summer so there was no need to run around to see the sights. Leaving Cedarville, I headed south over the Mighty Mac and down to Barnes County Park in Eastport, MI. My brother Ron had tipped me off to this park and it’s a good one. Level wooded sites with good electricity. Out of 80 sites, only 9 are reservable with the balance being first come, first serve. Showing up in the morning to mid afternoon pretty much guarantees a site. The park is located on the north end of Torch Lake and is on Lake Michigan. My site is the 3rd site off from the 40 step staircase to the beach. I plan to rest here for a few days before heading to the Grand Rapids area to visit with family.

Michigan and beyond. Jul 23, 2017

So it has been awhile since I posted so I’ll do one update covering the past 3 or so weeks. After a bit of time at Barnes Park, I left and drove the short distance to Manistee. I was hurting so I did some parking lot camping. The next morning was a rainy morning so I took a chance and called Mears State Park on the beach in Pentwater. July in Pentwater is a very busy time but with all the rain, I was hoping there would be either some cancellations or some early departures. 

Shockingly there were 15 available sites and with that many, I elected not to reserve but to just show up. Michigan has a surcharge of $10.00 for reservations and if you are a motorhome pulling a car, they also charge a State Park pass fee for the car – all in addition to the camping fee. I got there mid to late morning and got a nice site one off the beach for one night.

From there I went to my old hometown of Grand Rapids. I ‘set up camp’ on the quiet cul de sac street in front of brother Ron and Gert’s home. By setting up camp on a public, albeit quiet, street, I mean I parked at the curb and ran an electric cord from the house to the RV. I got to enjoy some great visiting time with them and in the evening, they took me out for supper at a fav local restaurant – Arnie’s Bakery – but at a north-end location that I’d not been to before. Come night time, I just run the curb side slides out and enjoyed a good sleep. I am always searching for new places to go and sights to see and Ron suggested “The Great River Road” which follows the Mississippi River from its headwaters, nearby the lake in Minnesota I stayed at last year, to New Orleans. Though I’m looking for ‘cooler than Florida’ weather it is something to do that I’ve not done before. I might even get to spend a couple of nights at Tom Sawyer RV Park in West Memphis – one of the more entertaining parks with sites 100’ off the river bank (or far less when it floods) and a continual parade of interesting barge traffic day and night. So thanks, Ron, for the heads up.

After a good breakfast with them, I left Ron & Gert’s and drove to Gun Lake, south of Grand Rapids. Nephew Bob Van Putten has a cottage there and niece Sue (Steve) Landheer own the neighboring cottage. At their invitation, I set up camp in Sue’s back yard. Steve was in Canada on a fishing trip. My sister in law Mary and niece Joan were also staying at Bob’s cottage so it was quite a gang. Sue’s daughter Jenny & husband Cody and children were there and Sue’s son Matt and wife and kids also came by. Lots of fun talking and watching everyone’s active water lives. Enjoyed Bob’s brats and the Joan/Mary sloppy joes. Hope you get good use out of your new Instant Pot, Joan!

On Saturday, my oldest nephew, Mark (Colleen) was celebrating his birthday. They have a home on the bluff in Grand Haven overlooking the State Park and Bill Mar beach. I had not seen Mark for a number of years. Mark & Colleen’s son and fiancée were visiting from their home in San Francisco. Their son was also celebrating his 1st birthday. Mark & Colleen’s daughter was also there from her home in New York City. I was invited to join the Gun Lake crew to Grand Haven for Mark’s birthday pool party/supper. I had fun. I also enjoyed, very much, the drive to and into Grand Haven – a stomping ground of ours for so many years when we moored our boat at North Shore Marina and winter camped in our MH, all alone, on the beach at the State Park. Driving along the waterfront also reminded me of what a zoo it is in mid-summer.

After the weekend, I left Gun Lake and drove the short distance back to Grand Rapids. Via social media, I had become reacquainted with a fellow worker, Mary Arbanas, from my banking days in Grand Rapids. I found out that she, in her high school days, had with 5 fellow schoolmate formed a girl’s band and that after some decades, they regrouped and were now playing gigs around Grand Rapids, Grand Haven and other places. They are known as “The Six Pak” – an all girls 60’s music band. They were playing a concert in Lamar Park in Wyoming the next night so I camped in a nearby Cracker Barrel so I could catch the concert in the park the following evening. 

After leaving my old stomping grounds, I traveled to St Joseph, MI for an overnight and then made the run on I80 across the south side of Chicago. I am now in the Quad Cities at the very nice Scott County West Lake Park campground. It is, like Barnes Park in Eastport, MI, a no reservation, first come first served, pick your site and then register, park. I’m getting to like that arrangement since I usually end my travel day early which would beat out the local after work campers and the more normal long day travelers. The nicest part is since there are no reservations accepted, you can always extend for another day if you want because you already have site possession. As with most public type parks, there is a 14 day stay restriction. I am not sure how long I might be here. I picked it because it is near to a regional airport and I may need to return to Naples for a one-day court ordered mediation session, in connection with my condominium project, scheduled on August 1. So I’ll wait it out here till I know for sure if I need to return.

It was a great 90 minute concert and there was only one song I really didn’t recognize. Good vocals and instrumentation. It was neat to hear some songs made popular in their day by male singers get remade by a girls band. After it was over I stopped by the stage and actually got to meet Mary again, in person, after something like 40 years. She hasn’t changed at all! Their band would be a big draw in the retiree country known as Florida. (NOTE: The video clip is short. The sound, recorded from quite a distance over a cell phone, is not very faithful as it includes lots of audience noise and singing. The lady on the left side of the stage is signing for a group of the deaf. Mary is the second guitarist from the left. It was a large energetic crowd of between 500 and 1000.)

As an update on the fall I had before the 4th of July, it is getting better but not healed yet. My lower right ribs no longer bother me unless I try to sleep lying on my right side. Pretty much impossible to do that for more than a minute or two. My back, in the area of my kidney, is still quite bothersome though I no longer am taking the Percocet and muscle relaxers for it. I’m down to 4 or so ibuprofen per day, heat pad at night and a nagging pain that worsens as the day goes by. Healing takes time. Thankfully, the ‘captain’s chair’ is one of the more comfortable places for me to be so driving, itself, is not an issue. Coughing and sharp intake of breath is also getting significantly better. Am not looking forward to being cramped in an airline seat however.

Cass Lake Lodge. Jul 29, 2017

Good news for me, the Court ordered a delay in the mediation so I don’t need to interrupt my travel – at least for now. So it’s back to the drawing board. It has been beastly hot in Davenport together with rain and storms. Checking the long range forecast, it appears for the next 10 or so days, the unstable and hot weather will continue to the south so maybe following the Mississippi south to New Orleans area might not be the most pleasant right now. After a couple of days, the weather further north looked cooler and influenced by a high pressure area – lower humidity.

I called Cass Lake Resort, a place Sharon & I discovered some years ago and a place at which I spent a week two years ago and 2 weeks last summer. and asked if they had had any cancellations in the next week or two. They did, a one week availability beginning Saturday, June 29. Hmmm. Cass Lake about 550 miles away and 5 days to get there – just my kind of travel schedule so I booked the site.

Cass Lake Lodge
 is on a large inland lake in northern Minnesota. It is not advertised or listed in any of the RV printed or electronic guides. Besides the lodge and numerous cabins, big and small, there are two ‘campgrounds’ – an upper on the bluff over the lake and a lower directly on the lake. All of the upper sites are seasonal and full as are all but 5 in the lower. Those 5 sites are transient with week or two stays reserved generally a year in advance.

So I left Davenport and started my slow trek heading first towards Des Moines and then north through Minneapolis to Cass Lake. I stayed one night at a County Park (don’t remember where) about 5 miles off Interstate 35. It was a first come, first served park which is great for travelers like me who tend to stop driving shortly after noon. Sites are always open unless it’s a holiday. I generally make use of a facility with full hookup sites when my fresh water tank needs to be replenished and when the grey and black waste water tanks need to be emptied – for me traveling single, generally once a week for fresh water and once every 2 weeks for waste water. This site had it all plus it was a long pull through site so, since I didn’t need the car, I didn’t even need to disconnect the car in order to back into the site. The best feature was an unobstructed view of a lake from my front window – all for $22

For those of you who might be interested, I use an app on my phone and tablet called Allstays. You can use the map to pinpoint your current location on the road and see what is available for your stay nearby or you can select an area somewhere down the road and check out facilities. The facilities are delineated by dots on the map as commercial campgrounds, county or municipal cgs, state park cg, national park cgs, national forest cgs as well as other sites that give permission for dry camping like Walmarts, truck stops, Cabelas, Cracker Barrels and the like. Touching an identified dot style brings up a popup with the name of the facility and touching the popup brings a new page with information on the facility like number of sites, utilities, amenities etc. Also appearing are more interactive links such as the phone number of the facility, user reviews, website if any, pictures and a map icon for android and google maps to guide you there from you current location.

I generally use another website called “RVParkRevews” to look at a better selection, IMO, of user reviews on facilities in which I might be interested. I also have 3 other park finder apps on my phone which I use from time to time. Also of use to me when traveling is an app named “history here” which alerts me if there is a historical location nearby, “Roadside” which alerts me to quirky things that users have found that might be nearby. Though I have a sat dish on my roof, I have not signed up for service so I rely on over the air TV. For that I use an app named “TV Towers” which locates you on the map and shows the locations of the towers on the map and what broadcasters use which towers. Touching a broadcaster icon gives facts about the broadcaster (digital and analog channel etc. and another touch displays an overlay of their broadcast range on the map with your location. A compass also appears which makes it easy to align the antenna for optimum reception. I also make use of Yelp and Trip Advisor to see what is in an area, Blue Beacon app to locate truck wash service as well as general use apps for travel like iExit, Google Maps, Rest Stop and Waze.

On all the other nights of my travel to Cass Lake, I used quiet free sites with my generator providing power. I dry camped (free no hookup site) at the edge of the supermarket in Cass Lake and in the morning did my grocery shopping. When done, I called the Lodge and as I hoped, the previous tenant on my assigned site had already packed up and left. So I was able to arrive and set up mid morning which was really nice – a bit cooler for setup and a full afternoon to enjoy relaxing.

Homeward Bound. Aug 5, 2017

Well, I guess I got some ‘splaining to do. I was heading up to Cass Lake MN to escape the heat and humidity that was abundant in Davenport IA and was forecasted to continue for some time there and south. It had originally been my intention to head south from there along the Great River Road tracking the Mississippi River south to New Orleans. From there I intended to head back northeasterly to Wash DC area to visit with daughter Vicki and family before heading back home with a stop in Athens GA to see grandson Timothy.

So as reported in the last writeup, I instead got a week booked at Cass Lake Resort in northern MN and so I changed my plan to start the Great River Road trip from the nearby headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi. I did stay a week at Cass Lake and had perfect weather – low humidity, mostly sunny skies and temps in the mid 70’s to low 80’s. I had a great lakeside site right by their sandy beach and by their marina so there was nearby activity all the time. 

Thursday was a bit cool – hi 60’s/lo 70’s – so I decided to take my car and do the first little leg of the Great River Road. The headwaters are located in Itaska State Park and so I headed there. They have quite an exhibition center which was interesting. A short hike and you arrive at the river headwater. It is such a narrow little stream. They have a nice pedestrian bridge over it and steps down to the stream so one can wade the few feet across the Mississippi River. A nice little setup. I drove what is a 40 mile or so ‘fish hook’ looking direction of the not so mighty river – north/northeast to Bemidji, then easterly along the northerly side of Cass Lake to Lake Winnibigoshish (“Winnie”) (see 2016 trip for Lake Winnie). From there the fish hook continues further east to Grand Rapids before heading southbound for New Orleans – some 2,000 miles away. I aborted my route at Lake Winnie and headed back to campsite.

When one takes a long period unplanned itinerary trip, one has to be flexible on destinations and timetable. On the other hand, some things just don’t seem to change. When Sharon and I traveled full time, there always came a time in late summer, early fall when we just had the urge to head back south to the RV lot we owned in Naples where we could park the rig, decompress, relax and act like normal rooted people. Of course the opposite happened some months later when we started getting a bad case of “hitch itch” to pull up stakes and go wander again for months. 

Well, Thursday night as I looked at the map and figured the drive to New Orleans and then back to DC and then south again to Naples, I had a change of heart (flexibility). I just didn’t want to add something close to 4,000 miles this late in the summer. I decided that actually I was bored and that I might as well be bored back home in Naples – some things don’t change. So my decision was made. Cass Lake was going to be the far point of my journey and I was heading home with a stop over in DC and Athens, GA.

I left on Saturday morning and did my normal 200 mile day ending for the night in a parking lot about 100 miles north of Minneapolis. I called Vicki to see what her schedule might be for a visit in 10-14 days. I found that Tim was going to be back home which meant that all the grandkids would be there at the same time. Unfortunately, SIL Jon is out of the country for the month.

Homeward Bound II. Aug 6, 2017

A bit of checking on the map and a bit of math showed me that if I stopped doing my lazy old timer driving and stepped it up a bit, I could get to DC while Tim was still there and see all three grandkids at the same time. As they get older, those chances will diminish so longer day driving, here I come. I arrived at a Cracker Barrel in Peoria, IL for the night after a bit more than 500 miles. Didn’t know I had that in me.

Another humongous day for me and another 500 miles finds me just outside of Wheeling WV at another Cracker Barrel. Do you see a pattern here? Cracker Barrel furnishes a safe marked off section for RV parking and they are always happy to have you stay the night. It’s lit and quiet and after a long day’s drive, I don’t mind going in for an evening breakfast.

Home Again. Aug 15, 2017

I’m a little delinquent but I think I have a good reason. 

I had a great couple of afternoons and evenings in N. VA visiting with Vicki and grandkids Tim, Charlie and Juliana. Tim was home for a few days so I got to see him before he left to head back to Athens GA. He is starting his senior year of college. Charlie, also home, is leaving this week for Norman, OK to start his sophomore year of college and Juliane starts, in a week or so, her high school senior year. Tempus Fugit – more than I care to admit. Got in a good visit with them all though Jon was out of the country again.

So I left Thursday morning heading home. It is just a little less than 1100 miles from there to home and at my typical travel speed/hours that would normally be a 5 day trip. Well I’m not going to spend 5 days to get home at the end of a 4 month summer trip so I decided to do it in 3 days. Adrenalin must have kicked in and I got to within 3 miles of the FL border (695 miles) by Thursday night. FL is a long state and nearly 400 miles later on Friday afternoon, I arrived at home. I crashed for a couple of hours, went out for dinner and then back home to crash for the night.

Then came the job of emptying the RV, cleaning it for its next adventure, putting stuff away in the condo, grocery shopping, laundry, naps, bringing the RV to storage etc. So although my trip ended a few days ago, I’ve been busy since with the aftermath. So I ended my travel about 2 months earlier than I planned and a month earlier, I think, that last year. I traveled through 18 states and 5 provinces and put 9,946 miles on the RV while I was gone. That plus 4 ferry crossings. I had a good time. 

Some travel highlights were Lunenburg and Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia; ‘circumnavigating’ the Gaspe’ Peninsula; and touring Old Quebec City. People highlights were visits with Vicki and kids in Virginia, my family – Ron & Gert, Mary and her klan – and seeing a decades old friend in concert – never knew she had this talent – in Grand Rapids/Gun lake MI. Travel low-lights were definitely Prince Edward Island and Halifax and experience low-lights were tearing the front end off my car, hurting myself by falling and my lack of stamina or interest in completing the last month or so what I envisioned for a trip.

Another successful summer though. Deb is somewhere near the Alaska – Canadian border starting to slowly wend her way to FL – probably a 4-6 week trip, I’m guessing. She and I have a tentative reservation to take our rigs to the Keys for a week in November which should be fun too. The condo looks really big to me and the water views, sunsets and landscapes here actually rival anything I saw this summer. The real everglades are a true wonder.

Until next year, safe travels y’all!

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