June 8th through June 23rd 2017 Boron, Oceano, and Salinas California

Our journey to Boron California was a long tedious hot as hades haul from Las Vegas. Still in desert, Boron is a small sun bleached, wind worn town in the Mojave Desert.

The highest summit in the Mojave Desert is Cave Mountain, a refreshing change of scenery from the flat lands.  After passing through, the picture returned to flat and barren.

Cave Mountain

Nearing the Nevada border line crossing, we passed Zzyzx Road leading to the fabricated town and oasis of the same name, formerly known as Soda Springs.  What you would imagine an oasis to be, is what you will find.  Palm trees surrounding water in the middle of a desert.  Not willing to take our 65 feet off road or through small towns, I Googled the name.  It has a history as strange as the name and worth the time spent reading.  Traveling onward, our desert view, that of sameness.

Zzyzx Road

Tall wooden poles stacked with brightly colored pillow shapes came into view with dozens of cars lined up nearby.  No signs of their significance and never found out what they represented.  Drop me a line if you know.

Poles of color in the field

A late start from Texas resulted in our traveling through The Mojave Desert at the height of hellfire temperatures.  Scrub brush being the only plant brave enough to rise to the surface and face the sun, the desolate view was consistent through to Boron.

Mojave Desert

A distant blip in the scenery was our overnight.  Just off the highway, we rolled into the entrance of Arabian RV Oasis.  Much appreciative of the 50 amp service, it was enough to run our two remaining a/c’s and help us survive the smoldering temperatures still surrounding us.  The site was sparse but level with plenty of elbow room.

Arabian RV Oasis, Boron

After setting up camp and having a good night’s sleep, we drove into Boron next morning to visit the Colonel Vernon P. Saxon Aerospace Museum and the Twenty Mule Team Museum. The Aerospace Museum was closed, actively being remodeled but there were a few museum quality examples of flying machines out front.

Saxon Aerospace Museum  Scooby Doo

Directly next door to the Aerospace museum sits the Twenty Mule Team Museum.

Borax Museum

Named for the borate mineral that was discovered in Kern County in 1913, the town of Boron grew up around the mining operations.  The mule teams for which the Borax brand was named, operated from Death Valley to Mojave from 1883 through 1889. Business men gave the name “20 Mule Team Borax” from the number of mules it took to pull the wagon full of product through the desert.

20 Mule Teams

Now owned by The Rio Tinto Boron Mine, the open pit borate mine is California’s largest and the largest borate mine in the world, producing almost half the world’s supply.  On our way out of town, we passed the giant mine off in the distance.  Neither of us had any interest in traveling over dirt roads to take a tour.

Boron Mine

Borate is an interesting mineral. In chunk form, it can be polished to a beautiful opaque pearl hue and it will retain its perfection if kept in a dry climate. Such a delicate and pretty mineral, I wanted to take a piece home until the curator told me, in Houston’s humidity, it would decompose and turn into a fine baby power.

We entered the museum to a display of kitchen and family articles used by town founders. Some of these articles looked familiar, like those in my grandmother’s house when I was a child. And I’m aging myself once again.

1932 Kitchen   Curlers and curling irons

The next room had a complete vintage fire fighting machine once used at the mine.

VFD

Lining the walls were displays, Borax products and articles from Boron’s pioneer beginnings.  The museum curator chatted easily with John and I, no one else was in the building, telling us about the history of the town.

Borax Products  Displays

When I questioned if she had lived here all her life, she replied she was from Hinkley, a town 30 miles away and of course, it piqued my interest.

Now a ghost town, Hinkley’s claim to fame was the poisoning of the town water supply after Pacific Gas and Electric(PG & E) allowed groundwater contamination from a compressor station to leach Hexavalent chromium. The curator pointed to the albums of newspaper articles and photos from the movie, Erin Brockovich, and stated the crew and cast were guests of Boron while the movie, shot in 2000, was being filmed.

Erin Brockovich

The movie, Erin Brockovich, was the true account of a legal clerk and environmentalist who worked for lawyer Edward Masry and began investigating the elevated cluster of illnesses in the community in 1993. She doggedly stalked and successfully brought PG&E to its knees. Because of her efforts, the plight of the people of Hinkley became widely known. In 1996, the families settled for $333 Million, the largest settlement every paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

When the film was released, Julia Roberts brought Erin’s story to light. While the movie was being filmed, the crew and cast took pictures together with locals and residents of Hinkley and Boron. The Boron museum has pictures of the filming from start to finish.

We thumbed through the photos and read some of the newspaper articles. Being involved in environmental issues all my adult life, I was fascinated hearing about the event from someone who watched, from a front row seat, the events unfold.

Browsing through the balance of the museum and stopping to continue my chat with the curator, John chose to sit patiently outside.  Considering items in the gift shop, depositing our donation in the box, thanking the curator and finally exiting the museum, we took a quick peek outside in the yard.

A remarkably complete vintage mining car and wench sat near the side yard.  Working conditions in the desert must have been unimaginably horrid for employees in the 1800’s.

Mining car

We took a few steps, not finding shade from the blistering heat, snapped a few pictures of vintage boring tools and mining tools, got back in the car and turned the air conditioning on full blast.

Machinery  Bore drills

Wicked hot outside, we drove around the small town area, the entire tour taking less than 10 minutes.  Returning to LilyPad for cool down time, a Red Box movie, sleep.

Our RV site was the fly over zone for Edwards Air Force Base, home of the Air Force Test Center. Daytime silence occasionally interrupted by the swoosh of jet engines zooming overhead, so close they shook LilyPad. At night it was peaceful and quiet.

 

A 7:00 a.m. Willie’s wakeup song eased open our eyes and we were “On The Road Again” in under an hour.   We will pause somewhere down the road, continuing on until we reach Oceano California and the Five City Elks Lodge.

Still in desert we traveled on, checking all road signs for open rest stops, zero found so far.  There were none open back in 2013 or 2014 our last pass-throughs.  Remodeling signs were still up at each but activity looked suspiciously idle.

Rest stops closed

California is persnickety about what they allow into their State, specifically no citrus this time through.  My doctor nixed all citrus for me so none is on board.  That was easy.

Crossing the border

Passing oil pump jacks, we didn’t stop to count but there looked to be hundreds of them crowded together along miles of deserted barren land.  Close together, the property becomes completely useless, total destruction of land.  John, having worked in the Texas oil field business for 30 plus years, told me close quarter spacing is no longer allowed in Texas for that exact reason.

CA drilling

Along most of the freeway runs the old El Camino Real, Spanish for Royal Road and also known as the Kings Highway.   600 miles long connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California.  Mission San Miguel was the first we passed.  These commemorative bells roughly trace the original route.   My Bucket List has visiting all the California and Texas Missions on it, somewhere near the middle.  I’m  considerably behind schedule.

El Camino Real Bell   Mission San Miguel

The ocean boarders the freeway in stretches, receding then replaced by earth covered in the green of growing produce.  The next few days we will travel alongside the countries thriving farm belt.

Oceano coastline   Field workers

Early afternoon arrival, long back up into our wide gravel site, set up camp and relax.  Tepid weather outside floated through our screen door.  Slightly briny seaweed smells from the ocean, a short block from our site, was a welcome scent. My lungs celebrated the cool saline sea air. We wouldn’t need an air conditioner tonight.

Five Cities Elks Lodge

Waking early to the sound of joyous songs and dancing feet on our roof, compliments of the local bird population. Reminiscent of mini tap dancers, they moved from one end of our motorhome to the other, striking the roof haphazardly with their nails, prancing and dancing, all the while in loud proclamation of it being morning. Natures noisy little tap dancing alarm clocks.

Today, grocery shopping first, beaches afterwards. In the afternoon we drove to Dinosaur Caves Park and enjoyed the cool but sun shiny walk along the cliffs. The walkways were accented by brilliant billowy purple blooms.

Seacoast purple flowers

Easy flat walking paths, corralled by sea sturdy plants and flowers with an amazing view of the ocean in the background, all added to our pleasurable stroll.

Dinosaur Caves Park

Margo Dodd Park was a short ways from Dinosaur Caves Park and an excellent place to sit on wooden benches and watch the pelicans take off and land from their semi private roost.  Gulls noisily fought for space on the overcrowded rock.

For the birds   Brown Pelicans

Beaches were pet friendly and KatieBug had many friendly greetings by several giant size fur babies, everyone sniffing all the pee-mail along the trails.

Each morning John walked with KatieBug to Pismo State Beach. Most mornings were shrouded in fog all along the coast but refreshing as long as your walking was brisk. Some mornings I slept in, enjoying the coolness from under warm blankets and a soft pillow.

One night we decided to participate in the Bingo games at the Lodge. Completely unaware of members extreme dedication, everyone seemed to be gung-ho about Bingo, we bought a dot marker, two game sheets and sat across from a die-hard Bingo player who nearly covered half a cafeteria table with sheets. Neither he nor we won but it did pass the time and when conversation was allowed, we found him to be an interesting table companion.

Walking back to our site for bedtime, the night was cooled by fog and light breezes had the scent of seaweed and the feel of warm summers by the ocean.  Childhood seaside memories floated along with me while we walked.

One more day of coastal living before we would be on our way. The usual housekeeping and stocking up on supplies completed before noon, the afternoon was spent ocean-side, watching the waves and seagulls.

Evening was heavenly, breezy, cool with patches of fog, a decent sunset then back to our motorhome to sleep.

 

Morning arrived and we began the next leg of our journey by driving into the mountains, through dry hills, the came the rains and we spotted warnings of deer and black bear crossing,

Into the Mountains  bear crossings

across more flat dry land and past fruit orchards,

Dry hills, dry fields   Second flat lands

and finally rolling us out onto one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.

Crop workers

Watching farm hands in the fields, passing way stations with harvests waiting to be loaded into trucks, trucks full and pulling out on their way to distributors.  The odor, when we passed by, told us they were carrying onions.

Onions

Sometime this afternoon we would reach Salinas and stay four nights at the Salinas Elks Lodge. As a child, the many times our family passed through Salinas was en route to the ocean with the Pokey Penguins, my father’s skin diving buddies. Mostly farm land, old warehouses, farm houses and trailer parks, I never imagined it had any cultural appeal.

Farming

“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” Samuel Johnson, 1709 to 1784

Our visit to the farm lands of California brought into focus the impasse between the food consuming public and the farm owners who employ poverty level field workers.  The rising operating costs, ever increasing water expenses and difficulties of using migrant workers makes farming sound unappealing and not near worth the effort and cost that must be expended.

Traveling by land forces you to see people.  Crossing miles of California’s large agriculture industry exposes the abject poverty working and living conditions for full time and migrant workers.

Migrant workers  Field workers (3)

Seeing the multitudes of field workers all across the farm belt confirms the importance they play in crop production, yet they are financially unappreciated.

Migrant workers (4)  Field workers (2)

As we drive, the land is banded together by endless rows of green, separated by thin brown lines of earth and dotted by humans and machines.

Migrant workers (2)  Migrant workers (3)

Gatherings of colorfully clothed farm hands and field workers were checking crops, picking, pulling, bent over tending the crops alongside gigantic John Deere Tractor type rolling machinery.

Migrant Workers

Dozens of small businesses catering to local farmers passed us, offering necessity services for migrant workers and field hands.

work crews

Nearing our destination, we saw the humongous eucalyptus tree before spotting the Elks Lodge hidden behind. I rolled down the window and breathed in deeply. The tree’s scent was intoxicating. John took the car off the dolly, I backed us into our spot, set down stabilizers and took KatieBug for a stroll alongside the neighboring golf course.

Eucalyptus

Our site was a gravel covered rectangle with 50 amp, water, local TV and access to a black tank dump. Across the street, the local airport planes flew sporadically and we were told, only during the day. The far end of the Elks Lodge parking lot was being set up for a weekend Flea Market. Near the golf course, a patch of brilliantly golden California Poppy’s swayed in the gentle breeze.

California Poppies

Night crept over the parking lot after showing off a colorful sunset peaking out between the treetops. Bed, sleep, quiet.

Sunset in Salinas CA

Concerned we would not have enough to occupy our time, I consulted TripAdvisor and our days immediately became overflowing with outings. The basin was the hometown of Nobel Prize in Literature laureate John Steinbeck. Several of his novels were based on the fertile basin area’s downtrodden. I was a fan of Steinbeck so a visit to the Center took first place on our list.

Being an avid reader, Steinbeck’s novels were a part of my reserve, introduced by my mother and enjoyed throughout my bookworm teen years and subsequent adulthood. Being a skin diver, my father knew several farmers in the valley whose property abutted the ocean. The divers were welcome and payment for diving privileges was fresh catch of the day, often times, in large quantities.

The farmers plight and those of their field hands and migrant workers were a part of my adolescence but mainly from a distance. Because entertainment for the field workers often included cock fights (roosters with blades on their feet encouraged to fight to the death), I could play with the children when they were on the beach but was never allowed near their barns.

 

Up early, we were on the road and looking forward to our first stop.  Along the route many of the billboards and signs were cut-outs of people.  Interesting and eye catching.

Billboards

Our first day long outing was the Steinbeck House Gift Shop and National Steinbeck Center. The gift shop occupied the basement of Steinbeck’s birthplace and childhood home, a Queen Ann style Victorian, built in 1897.

Steinbeck home

Stately and beautifully renovated, a lunch restaurant occupies the living quarters of the house. After browsing through the gifts, we drove the short distance to the National Steinbeck Center near the main thoroughfare of downtown Salinas.

Steinbeck Center Museum   Steinbeck museum

Welcomed by friendly staff, we walked slowly through the museum skimming through the wordy exhibits. Most impressionable was the struggle of farmers and field workers in the valley during the 1930 and 40’s, of much concern to Steinbeck, his writing bringing light to the difficult way of life.  One quote from the Center read: “It’s one of the ironies of farming. Ultimately farmers are financially penalized because of their ability to produce”.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness” Mark Twain

Housing options remain dismal for farm workers.  We passed many single wide trailer park housing compounds where the units were within inches of each other, no room for cars, no front or back yards.  Knowing California rental prices are continually skyrocketing, I had read most all migrant workers live in trailer camps, three and four families living together, with rents as high as $600.00 a trailer.  Paying for basic living expenses and bus transportation to the fields is said to have pushed combined incomes for these families below poverty level.

The museum is expansive for readers but still of interest for those seeking an overview in pictures, video’s and props. My favorite exhibit was the truck camper from Travels With Charley: In Search of America.

Steinbecks RV

Not spacious inside but room enough.

Inside Steinbecks RV

Steinbeck wrote a travelogue while on his extended road trip with his poodle in 1960. Naming his specially designed camper Rocinante, after Don Quixote’s horse, he traveled nearly 10,000 miles, following roads that touched as many states as possible while following a reasonably direct route around the outer of our United States. He claimed the purpose was to see the country of which he wrote and visit personally the America on which he based his novels. The result was him having concerns for the “new America” he was witnessing.

In later notations made by the author’s eldest son Thom, the real reason for his father’s journey was to see his country one last time. John Steinbeck knew he was dying from a heart condition.

Another of Steinbeck’s novels, The Winter of Our Discontent, is based on a family in an imaginary town in New England, directly based on the town of Sag Harbor.  The father, born to wealth but fallen on hard times, is unhappy that his spendthrift wife is never satisfied and his children want everything.  Set in 1960, it might have been his reason for traveling around America in what Generation Y, The Millennial’s, call a “tiny house”.   Steinbeck wrote, “Having too many THINGS, they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul.”

In 1966 Steinbeck wrote: “We shout that we are a nation of laws, not men – and then proceed to break every law we can if we can get away with it. We proudly base our political positions on the issues – and we will vote against a man because of his religion, his name, or the shape of his nose.”

His statement didn’t take much research to pull up the political campaign to which “the shape of his nose” remark referred. Nixon and his prominent nose clearly won the radio campaign, however, Kennedy won the personal appearance and television campaign.

With his finger on the pulse of America’s turbulence in the 50’s and 60’s, his commentaries were bluntly eloquent . About school integration in New Orleans in 1960 he wrote: “It would be difficult to explain to a dog the good and moral purpose of a thousand humans gathered to curse one tiny human.”

In 1933 to 1940, approximately 3,500 Dust Bowl migrants settled east of Salinas. Two local farmers subdivided their property and offered plots for sale but many of the “Okies” were cash poor, instead accepting work in the lettuce and vegetable industry.  The work helped protect Salinas from the worst of the Depression years. With unemployment rising, one response was to expeditiously deport large numbers of Mexican workers, seen as competing with U.S. Citizens for jobs.   It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Walking back to the car, we passed through the downtown area and perused the produce being offered at the Salinas Farmers Market.

Monterey downtown  Salinas Farmers Market

Learning about a barn out standing in a Salinas field called The Farm, I was still searching for fresh apricots and figs so we added the stop to our itinerary.

 

Our next extended day long trip was to Monterey while KatieBug was treated to a day of pampering, enjoying a full spa with mani-pedi experience at PetSmart.

It had been years since we traveled along Monterey’s 17 Mile Drive, a pay-for-view experience winding past California’s wealthy homes overlooking the ocean and bordering the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course.

Pebble Beach Golf Course

These are premier spots for climbing among the rocks and poking into cracks and crevices to spot the stranded-in-low-tide sea life.

Monterey Cypress Trees

Stopping several times for the view, Bird Rock seemed to be the pause of choice for tour buses and tourists.

The granit outcropping of Bird Rock

Out to stretch our legs, we took deep breaths of the refreshing salty sea air and watched continuous strands of feathered friends land and take off from what the locals had named “The Rock”.

Pelicans in flight

Making the spa-like area between The Rock and shore their rest stop, we saw gulls, Cormorants, roosting pelicans and sea lions. The sea otters were difficult to spot without binoculars.

Signs saying “do not feed wildlife”  apparently were ignored. Rocks near the water were well populated with chunky, noisy, aggressive squirrels.

Do Not Feed

The drive, taking close to an hour, emptied us onto the freeway and near Monterey’s newer wharf area. I had read that Monterey opened a privately owned Salvador Dali Museum in Monterey. We parked and walked part of the wharf before spotting the huge dripping clocks advertisement sign for the Museum.

S Dali

John being a fan, we paid the overpriced entry and viewed the Adult graphic sketches and signed prints.  There were few prints without lewd images but I found two acceptable if you don’t look to close.

S Dali Museum     Dali Museum

After viewing, I mentioned to the young man at the desk, my expectations were of seeing at least an oil painting, considering the advertisement showed one of his paintings, not his prints. His snippy remark was “Dali was a printer, what did you expect to find?” Very unprofessional, very rude, very college age I-know-everything attitude. I showed my appreciation for his inappropriate response by leaving a blunt comment on TripAdvisor.

Although interesting, the signed prints were primarily of extreme adult content with a miniscule amount of first run prints. What we enjoyed most were the short films shown in the screening room of the museum. Also extreme in adult content, the films followed his life and relationships as narrated by an acquaintance. It was intensely apparent Dali struggled with sexuality and reality. The films gave insight into his demons, his odd marriage relationship, his greedy wife, his obsessive and destructive lifestyle and lingering death.

Leaving the museum area, next visiting the waterfront streets of the abandoned sardine canning factories.

Monterey revived factory docks

In 1941 through 1945, the sardine canneries were where many immigrants found work. Conditions were wet, cold and smelly with the roar of machines and clanking of cans drowning out a multi-cultural chorus of languages in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Sicilian, Japanese, Mexican and English. Within five years, the industry had died after decimating the supply of sardines.

Revived as shopping, dining and wine tasting, anchored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the upscale shops and dining establishments still make for an enjoyable stroll through the area.

Cannery Row

The last factory closed in 1973 and my earliest memories of the factories are sealed by photo reminders from dad’s old skin diving photo albums. While the Pokey Penguins went ocean spear fishing, I wandered under the boardwalk during low tide. The towering black wooden piers securely attached to a cave-filled rocky coastline, outcroppings of giant boulders, dank and cool underneath the factories, premium for investigating sea creatures clinging to the wood and rocks.  Never tiring of the experience, it occupied hours of my time.

On the way back to LilyPad, I notice the freeways continue to be lined with blossoming Oleander, the most popular ornamental plants in the arid region, also one of the five most poisonous.

Favorite part of freeways

 

Next morning we reviewed TripAdvisor to double check locations and decided on a doubleheader. First stop, the Monterey Zoological Society Wild Things Program. Located on the 51 acres of Vision Quest Ranch, the zoo and facility is the vision of Charlie Sammut .

Monterey Zoo

Beginning as a home for working film and TV animals, Charlie with his lion Josef at his side, worked to improve comfort and living standards in a safe environment for the industry’s animal stars.

In 2008, at the age of 22, Charlie’s special partner Josef the lion, passed over the rainbow bridge. Charlie continued his work, providing trained animals a better quality of life not dependent on a given industry.

In recent years, California’s high cost of production and filming drove business out of state leaving the facility searching for a new purpose. With the help of volunteer workers and donations from generous companies, the Ranch evolved from a home for working movie and TV animals to a Safari Bed and Breakfast, Special Event Site, private/custom educational programs and zoo tours open to the public. Now home to working and retired TV, circus and undomesticated animals donated by person’s previously keeping them as pets, the zoo houses a wide selection of wild things.

An elderly retired kangaroo.

Senior Kangaroo

Several pet alligators.

Pet Gaters

A retired baboon.

Retired moviestar Baboon

Our tour guide next to the black panther enclosure.

Panther and our guide

Another former pet, released to the sanctuary.   There are dozens of rescued wild things at the Ranch.

Mountain Lion

A funding source, known to Charlie but referred to only as, the “donation angel”, brought new life to the Ranch, eventually opening several showcase homes for lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!

Lions    Tigers

I learned about White Bengal Tigers from sanctuaries we visited in the past.  They are not endangered because they are not able to pass on the missing pigment naturally, without human imposed interbreeding.   When the color gene is found missing, humans breed father to daughter, sister to brother, etc., destroying any tigers born of normal color.  So sad that people are led to believe the missing gene is a natural process but it is no more natural than crossed eyes, it is a defect.  The incesstual breeding forced upon tigers often result in severe deformities.

White Tiger

The new super-size enclosures have giant clear display windows on the ground level allowing a close up encounter for the cats and humans.  The lion is watching a little boy from our group rush past the window.  I didn’t see her licking her chops but the pray instinct was very apparent by the lions reaction.

Watching a mini kid

Continuing to capitalizing on Monterey’s tourism industry, the Ranch continues to expand and has become an exceptional educational experience for the public. Now called “Monterey Zoological Society”, the tour has knowledgeable, well trained and interesting guides, close up views of the animals and is definitely worth the price of admission.

Paying a slight upcharge so we could feed the elephants, it was a fun experience.  The highlight was watching one participating family’s young preschool boy stretch out his arm to give a carrot to the gigantic bull elephant.  Not terrified but certainly hesitant with only a thin wire between them, his father took over after his son became frozen and motionless.

Elephants

After visiting the Zoo, we rode out to The Farm.

The Farm fields

Offering organic fruits-of-their-labors for sale, we found fresh flowers, produce, eggs, baked goods and gifts along with a clean, well-kept petting zoo.

The Farm

Still searching for ripe apricots and fresh figs, none were available at The Farm but we came away with ruby red sweet cherries and a photo of farm animals from the petting zoo experience.

The Farm residence

Returning home to the Elks Lodge, the flea market was up and running so we strolled through in search of a good deal. If something was found, something else must go, so I considered my purchase carefully. A terracotta pot for a future planting of California succulents was an item on my “want” list. We found a space in the car and I traded a basket for the pot.  I hope to find unusual plants along the coast to bring home to Texas.

Salinas Elks Flea Market

Tonight the Elks Lodge was having a Karaoke night.  Known for their extremely reasonable drink prices, we walked down to enjoy a nightcap, music and the possibility of entertaining songsters.  For the first two people, we needed more to drink.  The third person drank too much himself, his performance loud and boisterous, causing John to quash an explosive laugh-out-loud.  Either we were suffering from a serious liquor buzz or the balance of the singers were enjoyable.  After our third round, the sun was setting and it was time for sleep.  I snapped a photo of the waning sunset after reaching LilyPad, walked KatieBug and we all turned in for the night.

Sunset Salinas

In the morning we will pack up and drive the short distance to Santa Clara, visit family and explore Silicone Valley Techie experiences.

May 21st through June 8th, 2017, Bryce Canyon UT, St. George (Yosemite) Utah, Las Vegas Nevada

Early up and off we rolled to our next destination, Bryce Canyon in Dixie National Forest Utah. I could hardly wait to reach our next extended stay campground. Excitement kept my spirits joyful in spite of the nasty roads.

Cold, but as predicted, sunny morning, our travel across Native American Indian country roads were reminiscent of those we traveled across on our trip to Alaska. They appeared to be in a state of constant repair. Bouncing over areas of haphazardly patched asphalt shook housewares from our countertops and skid them across our floors. In some portions of the road, the asphalt had disintegrated and the partially dirt packed gravel caused us to slow to a snail’s pace. I took my accustomed position leaning over the kitchen sink area to alleviate the pounding on my spine and attempted to keep loose items in place. In hindsight, as enjoyable as our stay in the Grand Canyon had been, I wished this had been “The Road Not Taken”. Unluckily, this road was our only choice from our current position to our next.

As horrid were the roads, the beauty of the scenery passed was amazing.  Glen Canyon with a high level of sparkling sky blue waters.

Glen Canyon

Black Hills of Arizona and beautiful stone formations as we neared Utah.

Black Hills AZ  Nearing Best Friends

The Stair Steps mountain formations in Utah

Stair Steps (2)   Stair Steps

A shout-out to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where we volunteer,

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

and onward into the Red Hills.

Red Stone   Red Hills

A few more hours of travel before we snugly slipped through The Twin Tunnels

The Tunnels

and into the Red Canyon,

Kanab, UT  Red Canyon

rolling out onto the flatlands of the Red Canyon Forest with snow in the distant mountain tops

Red Canyon Forest    Snow on the mountain

and passing more charcoal colored Black Hills.

More Black Hills

Finally, we were approaching Dixie National Forest and approaching our campground in Bryce Canyon City.

Entering Dixie Nat'l Forest   Bryce Canyon City

Early afternoon we arrived at Ruby’s Inn and RV Park. For the next five days and nights we would experience the front-runner of my favorite destinations, the breathtakingly beautiful and mysterious, Bryce Canyon. This visit, I was determined to make the climb down among the Hoodoo’s. Nowhere else in the world do Hoodoo formations exist and I was not going to miss the chance to experience them up close and personal.

As we entered our requested Big Rig pull-through site, I noticed our RV was in close quarters with several trees.

Ruby's RV Park

My excitement over nearing the Canyon stopped momentarily. Commenting to John, we wouldn’t easily be pulling through this site with all the large tree branches hanging down.  I received the typical John response, no worries. Too excited to argue, we set up camp and drove into the park for an afternoon stroll through the Visitors Center.

Bryce Canyon Entrance

After inquiring which trails were less than moderately difficult and being told The Rim Trail, I disregarded common sense choosing to tackle something slightly above my ability. Back at LilyPad, clothes laid out for an early rise, I slept with dreams of hide-and-seeking around Hoodoos.

Next morning my eyes popped open early, we dressed for hiking and were off to the trailhead. Caution thrown to the wind, I set my goal on trekking the Navajo Trail. The hike was approximately a mile of switchbacks descending nearly 590 feet down to the relatively flat lands among the Hoodoos.  The first set of switchbacks appeared less strenuous as seen from the trailhead.

Start and first set of switchbacks

I kept my eyes glued to the dirt and gravel path knowing a wobble or stumble might send me over the edge, reaching the canyon floor quicker albeit less comfortably than planned.  The second set of switchbacks were steeper but shorter in length.

Second set of switchbacks (2)

Periodically stopping on switchbacks to take in the view, concentrating on the steep climb downward, I had to remind myself, there were no elevators at the bottom for returning to the Rim. We forged downward, John slightly ahead.

Reaching the bottom, we rested under shade of tall pines and strolled along the flat path.  Neck craned skyward, I marveled at the gigantic hoodoo’s and their compressed through the ages sandstone stripes of fascinating multi earthen colors.

Down among the Hoodoos

Documenting our accomplishment with a Hoodoo Kodak Moment and gathering up as much determination as I had left, we began the long steep upward climb.

Bottom looking up

If I had possessed the ability to balance, we would have continued through Queens Garden but the sheer drop offs on either side of the trail, no guard rails with which to grasp, had scared any chance of continuing completely out of my mind.  Next visit, with two walking sticks, Queens Garden shall be conquered.

The switchbacks rising back up to the Rim Trail were as steep as expected but the view was extraordinary.

Half way up Navajo Trail

Slow and steady, resting at several bends with other elderly folks, the top came into view.

Switchbacks were steep

Nearing the lengthy set of second tier switchbacks, Thor’s Hammer appeared before us.  I snapped a close up picture to show details.

Thors Hammer    Close up of Thors Hammer

Coming within one final stretch of the Rim Trail, I glanced back down to measure my progress.

Switch backs

At the trail head, perched on the Rim Trail wooden bench seats, John admitted he had worried I wouldn’t make the climb back out.  Dusty, hot and thirsty yet joyfully exhilarated that a major Bucket List item of mine had been conquered, I was happy I made it out unscathed.

Resting and catching our breath, we looked across the canyon and spotted Inspiration Point, the highest elevation in the park.

Insp Pt from Navajo trail

In the morning, John and I would make the hike up and John would join me in looking out from the Point for his first time. Our previous visit, John stayed with KatieBug when I hiked up alone as dogs were not allowed on the dirt trails.   This visit, KatieBug would be snug as a bug in a/c while DH (the initials we use for dear husband on RV forums)  climbed with me to the top.

Back at LilyPad, after a hot shower and a lite dinner, we drove back into the park and walked out to Sunset Point for the view.

Sunset Point at sunset

Dozens of visitors from around the world joined the stroll along the Rim Trail.  When we arrived at the overlook, a couple from India sat next to me. A group of Germans were chatting and laughing while snapping selfies and group shots of the Canyon view. A large Asian family was having dinner at the rangers presentation area while waiting for the sun to set. The extensive assortment of foreign chatter brought back memories of walking along the Woodlands Waterway in our home town.

Sunset views were not exactly what I had expected but the night was mild, the air was clear and clean so John and I sat near the rim and watched until the sun disappeared. A memorable day followed by a peaceful night.

 

Refreshed and ready for another adventure, this morning John and I would hike to Upper Inspiration Point together. Breakfast first, then getting KatieBug settled before leaving, the ride to the parking lot was brief.  The elevation rise is less than walking among the hoodoo’s but the grade is steeper in the 200 foot climb.  I inched slowly upward, passing several ladies perched on the fence beside the trail, several refusing to go further. Knowing how amazing the view, I rested then continued on, John slightly up ahead waiting for me.  The view from the top is stunning, multi hued Hoodoo’s jutting out of the canyon floor.  The Point looks down into Bryce Amphitheater, the largest grandest and most colorful natural amphitheater.

Inspiration Point 1 8100Inspiration Point 2Inspiration Point 3

Crowds preceded us so we waited our turn then gazed out over the extensive view.  One can truly appreciated the depth of the canyon after having walked on the canyon floor.  Pictures do not portray its magnificence, stretching outward into forever.

Slowly making our decent down the mountain side by side, we sat in the car resting before the drive back to LilyPad.

Bryce Canyon has visitors from around the world but parked in front of our car was a tour bus from Campbell California, the town in which I grew up.  With each year that passes while we roll on, the world becomes smaller.

Campbell CA

Before reaching home, we paused to watch the endangered Prairie Dogs popping in and out of their burrows.

Endangered Prairie Dogs

Another open field had Mule Deer grazing.

Mule Deer

My frame of mind was not in a cooking mood so we dined at Ruby’s Buffet and Steak Room Restaurant. Plenty of healthy choices and reasonably priced.  Afterwards, a short walk with KatieBug and to all a good night.

 

This morning I slept late while John enjoyed an early bike ride along the trails.  When he returned, we finished our everyday chores, escaping in the afternoon for a visit to a few must-see overlooks, areas all reachable via walking The Rim Trail.

Fairyland Canyon

Fairyland Canyon 1Fairyland Canyon 2Fairyland Canyon 3

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge 8627

We passed a large section of burnt trees from a forest fire on the edge of the park.

Forest Fire

Farview Point is located near the end of the park canyon road.

Farview Point 8819

Mule Deer out for an evening veggie bite.

Mule Deer with horns

I have mentioned this before but it bears repeating. The Senior America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is one of the best deals the government offers. Both John and I bought one as it is only good for the person who purchases the pass. Considering the daily entrance fee for Bryce alone, we saved $120.000 over our near weeklong stay.

Canyon Fees

Out of the park, into LilyPad and asleep by 9:00 pm.

 

Another day of cool mornings and restful afternoon visits to Bryce Canyon. Stopping to visit The Bryce Canyon Lodge, we marveled at the beautiful vintage structure.  Our visits to national parks require a look-see at the interior details.

A short walk to the entrance.

The Lodge

Inside, the omnipresent focal point stone fireplace facing ample cozy cushy couches, a gift shop with a full range of items for sale and a restaurant.

Grand Lodge Fireplace

Driving back to LilyPad we spotted more local mule deer out grazing.  Note to self, check KatieBug thoroughly for deer ticks.

Mule Deer in pm

Tonight we pack up for our early morning roll out.

 

Becoming our tradition, the exit was delayed over an hour. When we slowly began to sneak out from under the trees, LilyPad got caught up in the overhanging tree branches. Armed with a ladder and hack saw, John attempted to free us of the small branches but waited while I summoned the Park maintenance men to chain saw us out of the big tree limbs.

Stuck again

I called and spoke with the manager to express my dissatisfaction of putting us in a site too narrow and branches too low for an exit without tree damage. I reminded them I had called on several occasions before arriving to confirm they were aware of our height and width.  When we arrived, I mentioned my concerns but was told “no problem, you will fit fine”. After getting caught up in the overhead Pine limbs, I gave the manager my opinion of their casual disregard of damage we would suffer to our full time home. Suggesting they may want to designate appropriate sites for larger rigs, I asked that she please not include the site she had given us. After the chain saws set us free from the branches, we hooked up and left.

Traveling via the Old Spanish Trail, the scenic views closely resembled those we had seen over the past few weeks.

Old Spanish Trail

Over more flatlands, twisting through mountains and rolling back out onto flatlands.  Hot as the weather we were experiencing had been, snow on the distant white capped mountain tops still teased us into the belief we would eventually reach cooler weather.

Twisting through the mountains   Snow on the mountains

Our next stop would be St. George for nearly a week. We were staying at the St. George Elks Lodge, electricity only, not a problem for our fully self- contained LilyPad.

The St George Elks lodge

Temperatures pushing 100 plus, the weak 50 amps struggled to cool us off so during the hottest part of the day, we used our generator to keep KatieBug a cool pug-bug.

The first day we rested. I searched TripAdvisor to plan a few outings, the first being to satisfy my craving for anything “religion or church”. We were in The Church of the Latter Day Saints territory. Tomorrow we would visit the church and other local sites.

Relaxing under the shadow of the red rocks of Utah, we watched as the Elks Lodge RV Park filled to capacity under a setting sun. John walked to the Lodge bar for an evening nip, took KatieBug out to potty and we fell asleep to local TV.

St. George Elks Lodge site

After breakfast next morning, we drove to town. Our first stop was St. George Tabernacle, closed for remodeling.

St. George Tabernacle

Parking across the street under cover of shade trees, we momentarily entertained ourselves watching mom’s, dad’s and children playing in the adjacent water park.

Town water park

The LDS Temple complex can be seen from almost any point in town, brilliantly white and gleaming. The Temple, with its tall slender steeple, radiated in the sun and complimented the deep red and brown hues of the mountains.

LDS From the hills

Although they didn’t allow us to enter the church, their Visitors Center had pictures of the temple interior, a senior volunteer gentleman showed us the history in pictures and a young recent high school graduate volunteer guided us through, answering questions along the way.

LDS Temple

We listened to a video speech of the Second Counselor and peeked at a play town with videos showing subjects dedicated to children.

Childrens video's

Sitting for a short religious talk in front of a giant statue of Jesus before our departure, we had been warned by other TripAdvisor reviewers not to give out our address at any time during the tour. Not a problem for us, we live on the roll so not even the LDS can track us down!

Jesus Statue

Their hierarchy listed First President and Profit, First and Second Counselor and a Quorum of 12 apostles, somewhat familiar for John and I, both of us being Catholics.

Speaking with the young lady, we learned she volunteered for 18 months, the place being chosen by elders.  For her, St. George Utah was their choice. She was friendly, informative, genuinely happy to be of service to visitors wandering into the center.

One unusual piece of trivia told to us about how nearby Flood Street got its name.  The Temple was built on top of underground springs.  When rains filled the springs, they had to pump the water down the street.  It kept the name Flood Street although water is no longer pumped out into the street.

Flood Street

Thanking, then leaving the company of our young tour guide, we departed for our next destination, St. George Dinosaurs Discovery Site.

St. George Dinosaur Discovery

In the parking lot, a two story Century Plant, appropriate landscaping.

Agave plant

The museum gift shop is well stocked.  Introduction to the museum comes in the form of a short video.  Inside are hundreds of dinosaur footprints preserved on the original site of discovery.  After paying our nominal senior price and sitting through the short video, we walked up the ramp.

Inside the museum

Up the incline, we found ourselves walking alongside Jurassic muds with dinosaur foot prints forever imprinted in sandstone.  Some dinosaurs were running,

Tracks of running

some were walking,

Largest single specimen of dino tracks

a Eubrontes was in a sitting position,

Eubrontes  Sitting Eubrontes

one showing swimming prints,

Dino swim tracks

and all were incredible.  The docents were extremely knowledgeable, full of fascinating facts, willing and able to go into detail when answering questions.

A total Do-Not-Touch area, there were up close and personal footprints at the entrance.

Dino Foot  DSC_3347

We found the plant for which our LilyPad was named but no toad.

A LilyPad

Scanning through the hundreds of dinosaur footprints, John found a small print of a baby dinosaur.

Baby dino prints

One of the cases displayed 100 million year old teeth.

100 Million year old teeth

The idea for the museum began when Dr. Sheldon Johnson was leveling an area of his property.  After removing large blocks of sedimentary rock, he began tearing up the sandstone in large blocks.  While doing so, he discovered three-dimensionally preserved dinosaur tracks. They were significant enough for the excavation to continue and the findings would be used to start the museum.

The sandstone and mudstone formed almost 200 million years ago on the shores of an ancient lake in the vicinity of St. George.

Layers of the tracks

The discovery was the first of thousands of well-preserved indentions of dinosaur tracks, plants, fossil fish, shells of small aquatic animals, seeds of plants and rare dinosaur remains.  Below is a Semionotid fish fossil, nearly complete.  Its body covered with heavy enamel-coated diamond shaped scales.

Semionotid fish fossil with scales

In the rear of the museum, behind a glass wall, lab volunteers prepare finds for research and display.  Below is a Phytosaur skull found at another site and brought here for preparation.

Phytosaur scull

Also containing invertebrates traces and important sedimentary structures, the site has been described as “one of the best dinosaur track sites in the world”, one of the most important discoveries in Early Jurassic paleontological history.

Back wall 1   Back wall 2

Near the gift shop were touchable dinosaur related items, some real but some obviously plastic.  A fun area for the kid in all of us to encounter a tactile experience.

Bone pieces to touch

There were several enclosed cases.  One contained fragments of fossils, allowable to collect for personal use.

Fragments

Another case held Jurassic backbones and ribs from an aquatic dinosaur.

Backbone and ribs

Having had a dose of the Heavens and walking where dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we drove back home to cool down, unwind and keep the sweltering desert sun from boiling our brains.  Tomorrow morning we will stroll through the Red Hills Desert Gardens.

 

The desert is best tolerated in the morning before heat turns walkways into bar-b-q grills.  The Red Hills Desert Gardens are a slice of land banked by the sandstone hills and skirting the highway. The forecast was for another scorcher, not good for fur baby paws.  KatieBug took her position as guard dog of our LilyPad while we drove off to explore the Gardens.  No crowds, the gardens were ours exclusively.

Red Hills Desert Garden

Climbing downstairs for a look at the fish, we realized the tanks must be difficult to keep clean with the heat and sun shining through the glass.  There was so much green algae, nothing fishlike appeared to be in the tanks.

Virgin River Fish tank

The paths were cement, clean, level and  easy to walk along.  In tepid weather the Gardens would be enjoyable to visit any time of the day.

Flowering path   Overlooking the water

Stopping to smell the bright yellow flowers, we watched several types of bees fly in for pollen.  I backed slowly away but they showed no interest in us.

Several types of bees

Several shaded swings provided rest stops along the pathways.

John on one of the swings

One of the gravel paths crossed a stream with tiny fish squirming through the shallow mucky bottom waters.

Path over water

A few sections had names posted of several prominent desert families of plants.  They grew more types of aloe than I knew existed.

Agave Hesperaloe

Flowering

The sun was merciless but blooms were brilliantly colored and thriving.

Lots of color   Cactus flower

My favorite plant in the garden was the chocolate plant.  The aroma was heavenly.

Chocolate Flower

Back home to cool down and begin the process of preparing for departure in the morning.  After five years, the time assigned for the task hasn’t declined.

 

Leaving the desert sands, we navigated our 65 feet long home and car between mammoth peaks and valleys holding a thousand years of prehistoric fossils between their layers. Remembering the mud prints of Jurassic dinosaurs, I could imagine herds of Scelidosaurus, Dilophosaurus and Megapnosaurus wandering through the area leaving behind tracks and traces of their lives pressed between layers of earth for humans to one day uncover and display to future generations.

Mountains    through the mountains

The river trickled along the roadside until we left the mountains and flat sandy desert lands spread out before us.  One turn before pointing LilyPad’s direction towards Las Vegas.

River alongside

Sandy loam, as far as sight could see, with Joshua Trees dotting the landscape until we neared the voracious electricity consuming town of bright lights, gambling and “whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.

Joshua Trees

The long thin black line that appears to separate tan desert sands from layered rock mountains, banded unceasingly across the desert, are masses of solar panels for the ravenous appetite of neon nightlights required by “sin city”. I couldn’t begin to imagine the price tag for the utilities each casino complex consumes daily.

Solar fields   Vegas Skyline

Our next two weeks will be spent in 105 to 112 degrees of dry heat during the day and cooling to a mild 80 to 90 degrees at night. We jumped from Houston’s frying pan temperatures into Nevada’s and California’s burning desert fires.

I thought I was over being surprised by the differences one experiences when living in a motorhome compared to a sticks-n-bricks home but I was wrong. Taking a shower one afternoon, I waited a seemingly endless amount of time for the water, which I had entirely twisted in the cold position, to become less scorching but refreshingly cool was not arriving.  I soon realized if it is 112 outside, your entire water tank will be hot so cold is not an option.

We set up house at Las Vegas RV Park, away from any road noise and tucked securely behind solid stone walls topped with barbed wire and a full time 24 hour gate keeper. The high crime rate of the area and the dismal poverty level becomes intimidating if you look closely. The city ignores derelicts, not bothering to remove drunks who pass out in front of neighborhood grocery store entrance doors. In the heat, the stench is overpowering.

Our first venture out will be an afternoon trip to the Downtown Container Park and a daytime visit to Fremont Street.

Container Park

The concept of a container park is a brilliant idea. Sturdy, easy care, recycled containers put to use as shops, eateries and outdoor bars. In the middle, a giant play area for children and in the rear, a stage for outdoor entertainment.

Containers

At the entrance sits a giant praying mantis and at night, we were told it shoots fire.

Praying Mantis

Near the mantis, a huge red heart iron sculpture art piece with hundreds of love locks attached within its metal boundaries.

Metal heart and locks

We wandered through the enclosed area realizing daytime was not prime time to see the rock and roll activity of Vegas bar scenes. Most stores were open, my favorite being San Miguel Collection. A houseful of this décor would entirely fit my personality.

San Miguel Collection

Fremont Street was a short two block walk down from the Container Park. Prominently displayed mid-street were vintage refurbished signs, those I remembered from my early adult years when John and I frequented Vegas.

Vintage Vegas Sign  Vintage Vegas Signs  Vintage Vegas

Wacky, wild, slightly obscene but the perfect place for people watching, we strolled down the no auto pedestrian friendly “Strip” at a relaxed pace.

One of the stranger sights, the Heart Attack Grill restaurant offering people over 350 pounds to eat for free.

Heart Attack Grill

Thrill seekers were zip lining high above Fremont Street,

Zip Lines over Fremont Street

Partially dressed entertainers vying for attention.

Dressing up less is more   Fremont Street Entertainers

Magicians floating in air, all were part of the bewitchery of old Las Vegas

Magician floating

This year, because of the heat, we didn’t venture onto the strip.  Walking long distances for hours, even in the cooler 90 degree night heat, for me was flirting with heat stroke.

 

Back to LilyPad with groceries, the temperatures kept me inside the balance of the day. As the sun began to set, we dressed for our nighttime dinner date.  Hugo’s at the Four Queens on Freemont Street is my favorite Italian splurge whenever we visit Las Vegas. It remains one of my fondest memories of our visits to Las Vegas during the conferences John attended for 10 plus years while employed by GeoSouthern Energy.

Candle lit tables in cozy bricked alcoves, sharing a bottle of Argentine Malbec, exceptional service,  knowledgeable and entertaining career sommelier, salad prepared tableside with a dozen choices of add-ins, raspberry sorbet to cleanse the pallet, fresh sweet perfectly grilled seafood and gratis chocolate dipped fresh and dried fruit to end another unforgettable dining experience.

 

This morning we were off to tour the home and horse stables of Mr. Las Vegas. I had purchased Groupon tickets for the Diamond Tour of Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah.  The style of the front gates set the tone of the tour.  Casa de Shenandoah, meaning house of beauty, has welcomed presidents, kings and countless celebrities.The 52 landscaped acre grounds are a manicured perfection in tranquility.

Entrance gates

Opened to the public in 2015, the tour reveals acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, several artesian wells bubbling up in the lake as the water supply, a mansion, guest homes, barns, arenas and a collection of exotic animals, all originally completed in 1976. Modest for Vegas, the mansion and some areas are open for tours.

The draw for me was seeing his Aramus Arabian stables and horses.

Aramus Arabians stables   The stalls

We toured the immaculate stables, then watched an exercise session with an informative explanation by the tour guide.

Arabian exercizing   the exercize pond

One of his younger horses was brought out into the arena and his spirited prancing and alert pose provided excellent Kodak Moments.

Running the Arabian       eye makeup

We toured Wayne Newton’s modest 1950’s original home where he, his older brother and parents lived.  Wayne began his singing career as a child.  He sang with his older brother until the 1960’s when he sang a solo song written originally for Bobby Darin.  After hearing Newton sing, Darin insisted that Newton sing the song, “Danke Schoen” and at the age of 21, his solo career began.

The entrance to the home is elaborate, the house well furnished but comfortably down to earth.  His father began with five acres and the original home, purchasing land as it became available.  Our tour guide told us the family loved to entertain.  There was a pool in the yard and an extensive workout room in the rear of the house.

50's entrance   50's den

The living room was formal and contained many personal items belonging to the family.

50's livingroom

His collection of exotic animals was our next stop.  Although there were dozens, I took photo’s of my favorite.  The enclosures were clean, roomy and designed for the protection and comfort of each animal.

One of the Wallaby’s was bouncing happily around his area but stopped to stare while I took his picture.

Wallaby

I love the looks of the African Crane.  There were two, but only one wanted to pose.

African Crane

The Capuchin monkey Boo and his dog were my favorite.  Boo walks the dog around on a leash and they live together in a huge enclosure with everything a monkey and his dog could ever want or need.  Neither were interested in us or the tour guide.

Boo and his dog

The grounds had several peacocks, brought in by a past guest and are allowed to stay or go, whichever they chose.  The white peacock is rare and not an albino.

grounds peacock  white peacock

A short cart ride away, we arrived at the mansion.  Although Wayne no longer lives here full time, he visits daily.  This mansion has glitz and glamor, rare wood ceilings, crystal, secret rooms, what you would expect of Mr. Vegas but not enormous in size.  A grand entrance and exquisite Baccarat and Waterford crystal chandeliers welcomes you into the living room.  For safety, the gorgeous crystal banisters to upstairs had to be replaced with metal before opening the mansion to the public.

Casa de Shenandoah    The mansion livingroom

Warm and expansive, the dining room is set with Waterford crystal and 14-karat gold leaf chinaware personally designed and signed by Mr. Newton.

Wayne's gold dinnerware    Wayne's custom dinnerware

The custom chefs kitchen is small but packed with every necessity for entertaining.

Catering kitchen

An impressive heart shaped pool can be seen through the living room windows.

Big House heart shape pool

The house contains many rare original artworks including Renoir, Van Gogh and Keane.

Rare art  Keane drawings

Newton purchased several of Keane’s paintings after learning the wife was the actual painter.  She was grateful for his support and painted a picture of his animals as a gift.

Keane of Waynes animals

A rare antique billiard table from India, complete with Baccarat crystal legs, sat in the room nearest the living room.

Crystal pool table

Red Skelton’s famous clown paintings, with beloved Lucile Ball painted as a clown, decorated one wall in the billiard room.

Red Skelton's paintings

The “Red Room”, his office, contains memento’s ranging from a flag flown over the Alamo in his honor, his portrait on a Wheaties box and robes for knighthood, two showing in the background. His collection includes pictures taken with presidents, kings, statesmen and movie stars.

Wayne's Red Room   Flag over TX for Wayne

The museum was our last stop. Wayne’s life is entwined with the history of Las Vegas, his family first, then his home for so many decades.  The people he has helped, those who he befriended, all the kindness he has shown throughout his career have filled his warehouses with incredible memories but only so many will fit in the museum at one time.

His car collection is extensive and includes a station wagon from a friend who he teased about using it to drive around on shopping trips.

The car collection

Lucile Ball left the station wagon to him in her will and it is displayed with love, next to the others in his collection.

Lucy's shopping car

Stage props, the boat from On Golden Pond and Vivian Leigh’s couch in Gone With The Wind are a few of his collection pieces.

Film props

Not having much knowledge of Wayne Newton outside my mother being a fan and having seen him several times, our guide provided enough information for us to realize what a generous, giving person he is, still performing to this day several times a week and continuing his tradition of honoring our American service men.

We toured his former plane, his museum and viewed some of his memento’s of the performances he gives to service men overseas, spanning several decades.  Below are some of his USO jackets and a few award cabinets.

Wayne's USO jackets   Awards and recognitions

Wayne Newton is still admired by thousands of loyal fans, continues to entertain crowds and is truly Mr. Las Vegas.  As we left the grounds, we decided our next visit to Las Vegas would include one of his performances, now enjoyed with a greater understanding of the person behind the performer.

Our nighttime entertainment is Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson One. Thoroughly enjoyable for me, a longtime Michael Jackson fan, acceptable as entertainment for John. A walk around the casino to stretch out after sitting down for an extended length of time and back home for the night.

 

Today will be dedicated to cleaning and preparing for the next leg of our journey. Shopping, laundry, checking fluid levels and air pressures, securing anything that may become airborne and plotting our route, all to be completed before bedtime.

 

Bye, Bye Sin City, hello California.  Rising early to beat the 100 plus degree heat destined to torch its way across Nevada, we turned onto Interstate 15, the highway that stretches across hundreds of miles of arid rain-shadow desert and set the navigation for Boron, Southern California, the home of 20 Mule Team Borax.

Interstate 15, a.k.a. Mojave Freeway, crosses the torrid valleys of the Mojave Desert, the driest desert in North America. Little more than sand, rock and scrub brush with wind distressed landscapes and mountains off in the distance, stepping outside will cause a sweltering heat flush stronger than a major menopausal hot flash.

Said to parallel the approximate route taken by Mormon pioneers traveling from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino, it is unimaginable how anything alive would survive this heat using a cart, equine drawn, as their mode of transportation.

Swales, ditches cleared to direct water flow, appear every mile or so, running under the road and out into the Mojave National Preserve. Whoever in San Bernardino County named these ditches must have had a humorously jolly outlook on life to dream up so many playfully creative names. Prominently displayed signs with entertaining twisted names were given to the gentle crevices that slightly indented the desert. Names such as Moby Ditch, Bangla Ditch, Sonofa Ditch all provoked a chuckle while rolling across hundreds of miles of parched bare uninhabitable land.

Tonight we will arrive in the town of Boron, near the Mojave Desert, the closest town to the freeway with an easy pull through RV stop for our next set of overnights.  If weather reports of predicted temperatures for the next few weeks are to be trusted, the coming heatwave will make a Texan summer feel practically artic.

On The Road Again April 28th through May 20th 2017 Texas, New Mexico, Arizona

No luck finding a sticks-n-bricks home this year so our search will go back on hold. We still have places to go and people to see. LilyPad has been struggling to get back on the road, temporarily stalled at Conroe KOA in Montgomery TX, while we store unnecessary items, fix whatever needs fixin’ and pack up for travel.

Problems have been plaguing us weekly. No toilet for the past two days. Our “John” sits on the cement pad near our front door. The new toilet sits in what would normally be called the hall, if you can imagine a 350 square foot space having a hall. With everything that has fallen off, snapped off, cracked, split, leaked, torn, smashed, oozed or threw up its hands and said “I give up”, I am at a loss understanding exactly what insanity keeps us willing to roll along for this our fifth year. I’ve been told when something breaks, “Don’t act so surprised…it’s all going to break eventually” but it is still disheartening when motorhome parts fail and darn frustrating when it occurs in inopportune isolated places.  Our LilyPad is beginning to show its age.

We are readying ourselves for our first non workamping cross country trip via Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and returning to Texas for our son’s wedding in October.

Originally scheduled to leave the first of April, our departure was delayed by little inconveniences, the power step bolts falling off, the power step motor failing, the middle a/c screeching and growling, the toilet refusing to flush and the fresh water tank leaking at the water intake. Now at the end of April, our go-to repair shop in Texas, Action RV Repair, has given us the green light to leave their shop without promising a good shake in the road won’t break something else.

On doctor and physical therapist orders, long hours on the road are a travel deal breaker for me so John adjusted our roll time for every other day and less than 5 hours each travel day. I enjoy the “being there”, John enjoys the “getting there”. John is absolutely going to love our trip this year.

Our first stop was Texas Station RV Park in Gatesville, TX. Two overnights to wait out the storm pounding its way through Dallas with a possibility of passing close to us if we continued our pace. The weather reports cautioned strong winds, baseball size hail, tornados, all swirling around the area and landing northeast of where we parked for the night. Staying put will hopefully keep us out of trouble.

TX Station RV Park

 

Travels to our next every-other-day-pause landed us at Ms. G’s In Loraine, TX.

Passing miles of familiar sites, oil fields in the middle of rice fields, tractors churning up endless amounts of dust hanging in the air and seen for miles.  All flat land, considerable amounts of flat land.

Oil Fields  Oil Fields and rice fields

We spotted wind power and ghost towns with curious, seemingly unnecessary warning signs.

Wind power   Hmmm

John had selected our overnights by the driving hours, stopping as close to five hours of driving per day as possible. Tucked into the West Texas oil, rice and cotton              fields, the town of Loraine was a long ago memory of the high cotton and oil boom days, if this area had ever been booming.

Loraine, TX

Our host, a cotton farmer by trade but a self-proclaimed Jack-of-all-trades, built the RV Park by himself. Crushed cement roads, level pads and enough resident feathered friends to delight a mediocre bird watcher like myself, we settled in and watched out our windows for wildlife.

Our site at Ms. G's   Our wild things

We had no plans for our travel-free day but to relax and delight in the quiet. Shortly before sunset I heard a tap-tap-tap somewhere near the bedroom and thought, I hope this isn’t woodpecker country. Asking John to take a look for signs of what it may be, he and KatieBug inspected the grounds but found no signs anywhere near the back window. The possibility of critters invading LilyPad reminded John to order more Fresh Cab, an herbal mouse deterrent we keep in our basement, to be delivered to our next stop, a week-long stay in Santa Fe New Mexico.

Binge watching NetFlix and reveling in the evening silence, we all turned in to bed early. Next morning I heard the tap-tap-tapping even louder. Carefully nearing the window, I opened the night shade in time to see a flurry of wings. Waiting patiently, a little birdy flew at the window, grasping the ledge by its claws and began knocking on the window.

Little birdy in the tree

I opened the day shades and the little birdy jumped to a branch nearby but within a few seconds, he grasped the ledge again.

Little Birdy Tapping

Staring at me face to face, little birdy began tap-tap-tapping away, stopping only to rotate its head from one side to the other to inspect my face before continuing to tap.

Little birdy waiting

Odd little birdy. After about 20 minutes he gave up and joined his buddies in the nearby trees. I noticed the abnormal amount of bird feeders in the trees were all empty. Might have been this little birdy was asking “please mam, I want some more”.

 

Dawn broke and our slightly bumpy, but otherwise without incident, ride to Santa Fe was underway.  Texan flat lands have given way to Spanish styles and influences of New Mexico.

funny signs   We have arrived

The wild deer grazing in open ranges disappeared and rolling hills appeared.

Wild deer    On the way to Santa Fe

Pulling into the campground, we were directed to a site where someone else was parked so John slipped into the next site and set up camp. Not one to move once settled, John phoned and pointedly told them he was staying put.

Santa Fe Skies RV Park

We discovered the decision to stay put in a site with a short and narrow drive-out area would have negative consequences once we were ready to leave but of course, hind sight is always 20/20.

 

The atmosphere of the Santa Fe Skies RV Park was pure Santa Fe. The park was perched on high grounds, neatly trimmed native trees and brush near each site, red brick pavers keeping sandy dirt in place and all surrounded by a walking trail with artistically fashioned metal art pieces placed intermittently from one end of the park to the other.  Everyone had the pleasure of viewing the sculptures.

The cube title:  Twenty Seven China, the trash can:  Recycle Bin.

Walking path   Twenty Seven China   Recycle Bin

At the end of our row: Eat Your Veggies

Eat Your Veggies

 

First morning after arrival we drove into the city for the farmers market and to stop by areas we had visited in previous years. The downtown area market was filled with organic grown produce, raw milk yogurt from goats and cows, spices, beans, ground corn and baked goods.  I bought a glass jar of raw honey goat yogurt and some organic sprouts. Both were incredibly delicious.

Farmers Market  Farmers Market Mircogreens

An Art Festival ran concurrent with the Farmers Market.  A walk across the street brought music to our ears and the creativity of local artists for us to appreciate.  Overly warm, we walked through but didn’t linger.  Shade alluded every corner of the festival with one exception, a few concrete dividing walls near the musician.

The art area   Peaceful music

We met an interesting character during our second Farmers Market visit later in the week.  He travels the Southwest with his musical instruments, conversing more than  performing, eager to engage in political, musical or regional topics.  His transport bike is draped with an intentionally thought provoking flag in US design but corporation symbols instead of stars.

Mode of transportation   Farmers Market musician

Home for the heat of the day and lots of cool water to hydrate.  The heat keeps tagging along where ever we go and won’t understand it is completely uninvited.

My reason for traveling away from Texas has always been the weather, to leave before the heat and humidity rose.  This year we missed the mark by several months. It is hot and dry in Santa Fe and in the direction we were rolling, the heat will easily climb into three digits.  After a few days our sinuses were so dry and irritated we had to bring in humidity.   My gimmick for adding it was a hand towel soaked in water and hung by our Austin Air Filter in our bedroom.  It is tacky and looks trashy but worked perfectly.  Ah, necessity, the mother of invention.

Hydration

Nightfall approaching brought us an amazing sunset.

Our first Santa Fe Sunset

 

Our third night brought treacherous storms.  We had gone to town for a routine shopping trip and were blindsided by hail seconds after stepping outside Walmart.  Outrunning the storm, we quickly returned to LilyPad and watched local TV for weather reports.  Watching out the front window, winds had begun twisting the skies into strange formations.

Here comes the hail   Storm clouds

The rains had not begun so we stepped outside for a peek.  The skies had become an intimidating undulation of dark ominous clouds.  With the TV on to drown out the winds, we settled inside for a night of TV binge watching, fingers crossed that the storm would pass us by.

Waves of the storm

Within an hour, news flashes interrupted the TV, warning everyone to take shelter inside a doorway or underground. Yea, right. Coming in waves, sheets of rain beat across LilyPad’s roof, lengthy electric thunder bolts sliced through the skies finalizing with a pounding that shook our windows. The quarter size hail and five twisters landed in an area west of us. With the ability to see for miles and miles, we watched until darkness fell.  By 11:00 pm it was over.  I breathed a sigh of relief that we had survived it all without damage to anything but KatieBug and my nerves.

 

Up early to finish shopping, we drank in the coolness left behind by the storm and completed the mundane chores necessary to keep two humans and a dog in existence.  Many joyless tasks must be performed to keep life moving forward, no matter where, or in what you live. Hours later, going in and out of grocery, hardware, pet stores and Walmart, we were dragging and ready for nourishment and down time. It is peaceful in the desert at night. Nothing but quiet surrounded by glowing sunsets and an occasional distant call of the wild.

Sunset May 8th

 

Today I rose early to accompany John and KatieBug on their morning walk, camera in hand, Kodak Moments in the making while dozens of art pieces throughout the campground vied for my cameras attention. Someone talented is having way to much fun decorating the desert.

Skyline   A Santa Fe Serpent

Later I learned that many of the pieces were designed by the RV park owner, John Brown. The first piece below is The Heart (2015) with a base made of cement salvage from the Santa Fe Opera House when the elevator was replaced. Much of this talented artists work is constructed from cast-offs.

The Heart   campfire   Cross art

Tucked in a corner of the property are vintage equipment pieces, one of particular interest to John as his brother was Chairman of the Board at Ingersoll Rand before retiring.  The Ingersoll Rand air compressor below was built in 1922. The machine on the right is a 1918 Fairbanks Morris, now used as the communities 4th of July beer can shooter.

Sullivan Co, Ingersol Rand compressor     Fairbanks Morris 1918 4th of july beer can shooter

Lunch at home and KatieBug settled in with the coolness of three air conditioners, a stroll around the town was next on our list.  Streets in town are lined with adobe buildings and bulging with artistic pieces by a variety of skilled artisans.  We ducked in and out of buildings to keep our internal temperature from boiling over.

Town area

A few side streets held a jumble of trinkets from Mexico clustered together on shelves along their walls.

Side street vendors

As night approached, we drove home watching the last rays of the sun disappear behind a cloud.

DSC_2801

 

Suspended at home until the hottest part of the day was behind us, we were ready to explore mission Santuario De Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.  Built in the last quarter of the 18th century, it is the oldest shrine to our lady of Guadalupe in the US. The mission, statues, grounds and paintings all glorify The Virgin Mary.

The Mission

Hispanic heritage has a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe and was the rationale for building the giant 12 foot statue standing in front of the mission. It is the newest addition to the Santuario de Guadalupe.

The statue stands at the end of the famous Camino Real, the colonial royal road from Mexico City through Chihuahua to the new world, ending in this vicinity. The royal road brought Santa Fe’s Hispanic ancestors here and with them, the holy Catholic faith which includes the love and devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The walkway surrounding the statue has a rosary embedded in the cement and surrounds the Virgin Mary’s feet, the cross of the rosary is within a few feet of where she stands.

The Rosary

On the left side of the mission, an alcove and prayer to our Lady Lourdes.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Minimalistic and reverent the mission suffered severe architectural modifications in the 1880’s, 1920’s and then was vacant for 14 years.  Revived in 1976 through grants from the Guadeloupe Historic Foundation, the building and grounds were renovated as close to the original as possible.

Mission Alter      back of the mission

Inside the mission, a print of Juan Diego’s tilma (cloak), depicting the miracle of 1531.  Pope John Paul II declared Blessed Juan Diego the greatest evangelist of all times.

Print of the cloak

A wood carving of Our Lady of Guadeloupe and of Juan Diego.

Our Lady of Guadalupe wood carving   DSC_2836

While the mission remained in disrepair and unused, a new church was built on the rear grounds to serve the expanding needs of the parish.  The alter is simple and the surrounding paintings, done by local artists, are in commemoration of the apparitions of Mary to the Aztec peasant Juan Diego.  In the narthex, a beautiful carved indoor rose garden.

Church alter   Juan Diego     Indoor rose garden

The outside wall of the church has a tile rendition of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe in Tile

After the mission we drove back into town and walked through the village. Rainbow Man Shop was touted on TripAdvisor as the premier stop for shopping in town so we browsed the wares, all excellent pieces of art, jewelry and fine souvenirs but passed up adding anything to LilyPad that would have to be saved for our stored collection back home.

Main Street ended at St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral. The church was filled with second graders in full church dress from their ceremony.  This morning, all had completed the third of seven sacraments received by Catholic young men and women, First Holy Communion. Inside was cool but crowded and we were told the doors would lock in five minutes. Two quick clicks of the camera to catch some of its splendor and we exited.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi 1961  rear stained glass 

With the dry heat and hills, walking along sidewalks was unappealing so I suggested John drive us through Canyon Road Art Road. Nothing brilliant turned our heads as we drove so we didn’t stop, instead wandering the area appreciating the Spanish architecture of the well kept vintage homes.

Back to LilyPad to relax and prepare for our next journey. We will pause overnight in Gallup New Mexico, amid Native American Indian country.  A final toast, with glasses of Cabernet, to Santa Fe’s  stunning sunsets and then bedtime.

Our last Santa Fe Sunset

 

As expected, our morning exit came and bite John in the tush for his determination to stay put in this site upon arrival.  Our length swung out further than possible to to make the turn and we hit the proverbial brick wall with the trailer tires.  Backing up, another pause while John took the car off, took the trailer off LilyPad, I pulled LilyPad out on the road and repeated a procedure that was happening, in my mind, too often.  Without Kodak Moment documentation, John conveniently forgets the repetition of these predicaments.  Retired yes, but expending unnecessary energy when a quick phone call would have put us in an appropriate site at the get-go is a better use of energy.

Unfortunate exit   stuck

Hooked up and rolling, we noticed snow white topped mountains in the distance.

Snow on the mountain

Mile after mile of dry, scrub brush covered landscape, not a single sighting of wildlife along the way.

to gallup (4)  to gallup (2)

Nearing Gallup, the terrain has remained parched with rolls of volcanic rock worming through the land like giant gopher tunnels.

giant gopher mounds   volcanic rock

We passed dozens of cluster homes, each having a Navajo traditional Hogan, a five sided structure often used as a spiritual meeting place.

Hogans    Lots of Hogans

Roads were intermittently disheveled so John slowed to 30 mph over several areas to keep from snapping or breaking off any necessary parts of the motorhome and car.

Arriving in Gallup New Mexico at USA RV Park, we set down LilyPad’s stabilizers and left to explore.

USA RV Park, Gallop NM

If you are old enough to have traveled across Route 66 as a youth and remember “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”, the town of Gallup New Mexico will quickly retrieve the memories of those road trips and the fun of reading catchy Burma Shave signs along the way.

Route 66

If you are too young to remember Burma Shave, it was an American brand of shaving cream, famous for its gimmicky advertising, posting rhyming sequential highway roadside signs along American roadways.

A quick scout around town, then back before the evening sunset.

Gallup Sunset

Learning of the Gallup Flea Market from TripAdvisor, next morning we set our course for the Market knowing there would be a few side steps before our arrival. Local sights that are of interest to either of us are rarely passed by.

John stopped on the side of the road for me to do my Kodak Moment thing at the “Bend in the Road”. Aptly named.

Bend in the Road

The flea market was a long wide particle of bare hard packed and dusty land running along side the rail road tracks, metal frames topped with white v-shaped tarps stretched over each stand. Seconds after we exited the car it was clear this was where the locals shopped.  If there were Gringo’s in the market, I didn’t spot any.

Flea Market

So much to see! Pony rides for the kids, stands with handmade jewelry, clothing, fruit and veggie stands, lunch food stands, tools, furniture and junk.  Lots and lots of junk.

Pony rides at the Market   Gallup Flea Market

We walked up and down the aisles, eyed a few jewelry pieces, purchased cherries and munched them all the way back to the car. Shutting the door just in time, a gust of wind whipped up several dirt devils and the market blurred in a cloud of dust.  One grocery stop for supplies and back to LilyPad for the night.

 

Sleeping in but up in time to dine out for our morning meal, our destination was a short drive down Route 66 to the famous El Rancho Hotel.

El Rancho on Route 66

Built in 1937 as interim housing for many Hollywood movie stars, the El Rancho Hotel still stands, a tribute to the days of wild west movies and bigger than life movie stars. Its location on Route 66 caused it to fall into decline with the opening of Interstate 40. Armand Ortega purchased and restored the property and today it remains an interesting wayside stop for visitors to the Gallup area.

Hotel El Rancho

We had breakfast at the café, poked around downstairs in the Lodge style lobby of Navajo décor before climbing upstairs to check out the glossies of famous movie stars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

Lower floor   Up stairs

There was an impressive list of stars who made the hotel their temporary home including Ronald Regan, Jane Wyman, Spencer Tracy, Kirk Douglas, Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne.

The current owner kept the rooms of the stars frozen in time and displayed a variety of vintage items spread throughout the hotel.

Cigarette machine

After our glimpse of times past, we drove home and readied the household for travel in the morning.

 

Grand Canyon Arizona is the next long break in our journey. May is the windiest time of the year for the Canyon area and its velocity is ferocious. John struggled to keep us on the road and 18 wheelers swerved and swayed across the two northbound lanes. Signs warned of high wind areas for the next 60 miles, then again for another 40, then again for another 80 and we slowed each time to keep our 8 wheels from drifting over the lines. We were passing a lot of nothingness with only a few changes in scenery.  Stressful driving, John took a break in a huge parking lot of a roadside store.  They offered a stunning selection of Native American Indian jewelry, all too rich for my blood.

Indian city Gift Shop

A pause in the scenery, Diablo Canyon, more a jagged crevice or deep ditch than a canyon but it did break up the sameness of the horizontal and dried up earth.

Canyon Diablo

The only positive thought for the extended pancake flat highway travel is our memory of the wondrous beauty displayed when gazing out over the canyon.  Anticipation grew until the Williams sign came into view.  We had arrived.

Entering Williams

The RV Park was included in the Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel and we arrived late afternoon.  Williams is a small comfortable town with an generous array of touristy shops and restaurants.  The major grocer is Safeway and it carries any necessities we might need.

Cafe 66  Downtown Williams

In the town of Williams, vintage is respected and refurbished instead of demolished and rebuilt.

Along Route 66   Grand Canyon Hotel

After settling, we checked the weather reports. During our stay there will be high’s in the mid 50’s, low’s in the 30’s, winds 25 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. We have been warned by the RV office to keep our awnings closed and after the 10:30 train rolled past, John pulled in one of our bedroom slides as a precaution to keep the topper from ripping off. We were very appreciative of their warning.

Grand Canyon Railway RV Park

We read TripAdvisor reviews to decide which Grand Canyon train car option to purchase and decided on Dome Class.

Rising early next morning, we dropped KatieBug off at the Railroad Kennel. Visiting the kennel the previous day, we found it to be the cleanest kennel with the friendliest staff we’ve ever seen, Disney World Pet Resort included. Staff was attentive, happy and knew each dog by name. The price included a roomy indoor/outdoor area for each guest and a comfy bed. Picky as I am about where our fur baby stays, I was completely at ease leaving KatieBug here for the day.

When we picked up our train tickets, I questioned the sales person about entering and exiting the train and the type of seats we purchased. Having difficulty with high steps, I was told the train had stools for entering and exiting.

Arriving a few minutes early at the train station, we waited with the crowds, skipping the pre-ride western gun fight show and entered our train car.   Up the short flight of stairs to the Dome Car, the platform rise to sit down was so high, John had to pull me up. After sitting in the uncomfortable bucket seat with marginal leg room, the hot sun beating down on our heads, the glare from the tint on the windows making it impossible to take pictures, I returned to the lower level.

Below was the lesser expensive First Class seats.  I found an unoccupied quad seat area to sit and later John joined me in the big wide comfortable seats.  When our Dome Seat entertainer began his set of music, I quickly took a picture and returned to the lower level.

Guitar entertainment

For a lower class, the clear views out the wide windows with ample leg room, the comfort of these seats was far superior. Having a friendly family as our neighbor was an added bonus. This was going to be an OK two and one half hour ride after all.

In conversation with our neighbors, the hubby had originally wanted the Dome Class so we told him he was more than welcome to go on up. He spent time with each of his youngsters in the Dome but admitted it was not as comfortable and the sun was hot. We spent the rest of the ride chatting and being entertained by their active happy six year old twin boys.

The train ride served lite breakfast snacks and we were serenaded by the Dome Class cowboy and his guitar for a portion of our ride.  Looking out our window, I caught a photo of our engine tugging all the cars down the track.

Our train

The round trip ride was five hours total and we were allowed three hours in-between to hike, lunch and view the canyon before returning to our train car for the ride back. Having contacted the depot about our inability to use the Dome car seats, we were assured another area would be available to us on the return trip.

Arriving at the canyon, we had planned to wander along the Rim Trail from the rail station to Bright Angel Trailhead, have lunch at the Arizona Room, drop into a few of the shops and head back down to the rail station. The weather was overcast and windy but walking kept us warm and the view was oh so magnificent.

Grand Canyon

Squirrels on nearby tree branches hung over the canyon and Chipmunks sitting on the canyon’s stone walls competed for attention and begged for food. Signs along the paths warned not to feed any of the animals but from their reactions to visitors, I would guess they get lots of treats.

Brave Squirrels   Chipmunk

We walked the Rim Trail to the Kolb Studio Art and History Exhibits. Stepping inside, passing up the gift shop items, we walked downstairs to explore the museum and learn about the history of the Kolb Brothers family.

The Kolb brothers 1905 Victorian home sits on the rim of the canyon. Operated by Emery Kolb until his death in 1976, the home is now operated as a book store and information center by the Grand Canyon Association, a non-profit organization.

Kolb Studio

Out the back door of the second level is an outlook with an amazing view of the canyon, still as much wilderness as when the Kolb’s lived here in the early 1900’s.  I noticed after arranging Grand Canyon photo’s, unless you hike down to the canyon floor or drive to another area, most of the views out the South Rim look identical.

The Grand Canyon

The Kolb brothers created a photographic legacy of their adventures and explorations.  In a small corner of the gift shop, a movie shows continual films of the early exploration days.

Downstairs the museum contains pictures, paintings and a collection of items from their early river expeditions.

Inside Kolb Studio

Their portable boat, 125 pounds and considered light for that era, is displayed along with several other items they used for water travel.

125 pound portable canoe

Blanch Kolb’s silver set was part of her household even though she lived in a frontier village. I understand her determination to keep some luxuries in her possession.  Sometimes you need pretty shiny things to keep your sanity.

Blanch Kolbs silver

Across the path was Buckey’s Cabin, the only remaining building from the early pioneer settlement of the Grand Canyon Village of 1895. Built by William Owen “Buckey” O’Neil with v-notch logs, rough mortar and a native stone chimney, he and his wife lived in this rustic home while they operated a small hotel on the South Rim.

Buckys Cabin

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, Buckey signed up and served as one of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

A short walk along the rim brought us to our dining choice for lunch, the Arizona Room.  The grill was open to the dining room and we watched as they fixed our naked burgers and set them on top of our dinner salads.  A premium view of the canyon through giant picture windows provided our table with a peaceful spot for tranquil downtime and our tired feet had a chance to stretch before we began the hike back to the train depot.

Continuing along the rim, we stopped to admire what the Hopi House gift shop offered. Built in 1905, designed as living quarters for Hopi Artisans and as a place to sell Hopi crafts, it was modeled after the Hopi Village at Third Mesa. It contained a premium selection of Native American Indian arts, crafts, jewelry, stones and pottery.

Hopi House

Back out on the Rim Trail, we made our way to the station but were immediately reminded of the diesel train having kept its engine running the entire day. The smell became suffocating as we drew nearer. We fled up the stone steps and into the gigantic rustic vintage log lodge hotel and rested on the big overstuffed couches until it was time to board.

For our train ride home, we were given an upgrade to Luxury Class for the inconvenience of having to move to a lower price seat on our ride up. I thought the Luxury Class seating would be comfortable but found them old and stiff although quite spacious.  Far fewer people occupied the space so we had the whole section to ourselves. Our train host, Ms. Linda Lou, was so funny, charming and gracious, it more than made up for the less than Luxury seating.

Cindy Lou and our lunch buffett

The big advantage of our upgraded to Luxury VIP tickets was having access to the entire train. John walked with me to the back of the train to capture the tracks linear perspective on film as we slowly plodded down the tracks.  I don’t ever remember riding a train with less speed.

Flatlands to and from the Canyon

When we returned to our seats, our singin’ an a pickin’ banjo playing entertainer had arrived.  First request, Deliverance.  Excellent rendition.

Banjo Man

The gratis lunch buffet provided many healthy choices so we grazed on crunchy veggies and cheddar cheese. Afterwards, Ms. Linda Lou gave us champagne to toast to our “Grand” adventure. Nice touch.

Settled and watching out our window, I spotted bandits on horseback with guns raised, galloping along beside us.

Train Robbers

I smiled and waved.  Within a few minutes they had boarded the train.

The Cataract Boys

Marching in, pointing guns and shouting to everyone “hands up”, one sat down beside me and asked if I wanted to join “The Cataract Gang”, and be their “Maw”. The only stipulation, I had to be a good cook. John complimented my cooking ability but paid my ransom to stay put while the gang continued their robbing spree through each train car.  Shortly behind the gang, the sheriff came in hot pursuit.

Our Sheriff

We saw them again after the sheriff caught up with the gang and arrested all, parading the gang through the train cars headed for jail. Being true entertainers, one character posed for a Kodak moment.

Train robbers headed to jail

Sitting back to enjoy the ride, I gazed out the window and spotted a herd of Elk stampeding away from the train.

A herd of Elk

Returning to the depot we collected our fur baby from the nearby kennel and she happily greeted us with her pug bug conversation. After giving her a short potty stroll, we decided to visit the local pub down the street, Grand Canyon Brewery.

Grand Canyon Brewery

The brewery had an impressive choice of craft beers. We were offered free samples of any we wanted to taste. After four, we chose a mild chocolate-coffee draft to split. Beautiful vintage and rustic lodge décor, an indoor stream with a bridge crossing to enter the bar from the gift shop, everything was heavy with thick wooden beams and trunk stump chairs. An excellent nightly hangout had we been staying longer.  Back at LilyPad, we wound down with a Red Box movie before bed.

 

One final day to ready the rig before we pack up and leave. Today was our mandatory housework day for cleaning, grocery shopping and miscellaneous tasks. John spent time getting LilyPad secured and ready for travel.

After exiting our last shopping stop, we walked through the parking lot and I turned to John and said, “it smells like snow”. My nose usually knows but he wasn’t convinced and jokingly asked if I was going to twitch my nose to make it happen.

Turns out I didn’t need to twitch anything.  Long after nightfall, the skies dropped beautiful big fluffy snowflakes that covered the ground and blanketed LilyPad.  John was the first to notice snow out the front window.

Out our front window

I heard him yell, “come here! now!”. Rushing to the window I gasped, flew out the door in my PJ’s and flip flops, squealing as I stepped outside into the cold, soft flakes.  The feeling of snow falling on my face and into my open mouth was exhilarating.

SNOW

Capturing the momentous event on film, I stayed outside until my bare toes began to tingle and turn blue from the cold but kept grinning like a Cheshire cat. I do so adore the snow.  Our little tree was white with Christmas frosting.

Our little tree

 

 

Next day the sun rose and the snow melted, nearly gone by 9 am. We were neatly packed away and rolling soon after. Our overnights would be in Page Arizona, a town younger than my senior self. Named in 1957, emerging from a housing community for the workers and their families during the construction of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River.

The miles of road traveled to reach Page was of greater interest than the actual town.  Flatlands with snow capped mountains in the distance as we left Grand Canyon.

to Page

The terrain was forever changing from one hour to the next.  One area of the Native American Indian lands was so void of human presence, save for a few metal poles with single wire fencing, bare of any living thing, it gave the appearance of us driving on a moonscape.

To Page (3)

We passed through tiny villages with their Hogan’s located near-by.

To Page (4)    To Page (8)

In many areas, the only recognizable structure was their Hogan.

To Page (9)

The Grand Staircase can be seen from the far side of Bryce Canyon but the drive from the dam to Bryce shows more clearly, the distinct characteristics of the levels.

To Page (6)

Page Elks Lodge was near town, the typical friendly people and the usual parking lot style space for RV sites. Our spot was at the end near the busiest used car dealership I have ever experienced. While we set up, a constant flow of cars pulled in and out, every 10 minutes or so and it continued throughout the day.

By nightfall the town shut down and all was relatively quiet until the morning.

Our explorations of the dam began early the following morning. Built on the Colorado River, Glen Canyon Dam is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the US. The visitors Center provided an ideal view of the dam and was a wealth of information.  Several hands-on activities kept me occupied while John read the history of the dam.

The dam at Glen Canyon    Colorado River

The official first blast for the construction of the dam went off on October 15, 1956. Prior to that date, construction crews drove 200 miles to cross from one side of Glen Canyon to the other.

Glen Canyon Dam

Completed in 1959, the dam was dedicated by Ladybird Johnson September 1966. It took 17 years for Lake Powell to completely fill for the first time.

Our last trip to California was in 2014. The extended drought caused the water in Lake Powell to recede to such a low level, docks had to be moved repeatedly towards the center to keep boats afloat.  It was comforting to see water levels returning to pre-drought levels.

After the dam, a quick grocery stop for necessities and back to LilyPad for a Red Box movie. Later we secured anything that might internally slide inside LilyPad and made ready for our morning roll out.

From our driver’s side window , another gorgeous sunset appeared. If you look carefully, you will see a miniature paraglider floating just under an ominous cloud surrounded by a spectacular glow of twilight. What a rush!  Another thing to my bucket list!

DSC_3137   Paraglider in the Arizona sunset

October 18th through November 30, 2016 Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Missouri, Alabama, Texas

As we roll towards the Canadian exit, cold rain and wind nipping at our heels, weather contributing to the demise of the leaves also brought on the termination of my pleasant persona. Rain, cold and nasty roads habitually cause my disposition to resemble Oscar The Grouch. The inclement weather and overcast skies have stalked us for several days but will soon dissipate, if one believes the local weatherman.

Crossing the border into the United States, winter wains as we skirt the US side of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest.

US Fall colors

Fall is still in full colors, to my delight, on the United States side of the lake. Appreciative of the scenic beauty and the vivid swirls of blue rotating on Lake Superior the combination brightening my mood.

US side of Lake Superior

Looming ahead is route 17, across Minnesota, horrid, rough and pitted roads.  The highways ribbon of rollercoaster pavement, accented with potholes, bumps and jarring drops in levels, kept me rotating between standing mid kitchen, leaning over the counter giving my back some relief and bent over the dash taking pictures.

After our shake, rattle and roll travel from Ney’s Lunch and Campground in Marathon Ontario Canada to Grand Casino RV Park in Hinckley Minnesota, I was ready for a long respite from the jostled travel but it was not to be. There are no guarantees for fair road conditions anywhere in the US. Luckily we are blessed with folks on the RV Forums who report long stretches of habitually bad road conditions but if you must travel a road to get where you want to go, you are stuck with the rugged ride.

Entering Amish country slows our pace, partially from the rough roads, partially to steer clear of horse and buggies.

Signs of Amish

Signs warning of consideration for Amish road travel are numerous along the highways.

Amish buggy  More Amish buggys

Arriving at the Grand Casino RV Park, we set up camp for the night.

Grand Casino RV park Hinkley MN

Here to rest, not gamble, we drove to the casino for an evening meal but smoke floating out the front door brought an about face. Back to LilyPad, we whipped up a light meal and turned in early.

This morning’s rise was to ice cold temperatures with brilliant sun trying unsuccessfully to reach the earth’s surface. Portable heaters have become a necessity and remained in standby mode for warming our evenings since our departure from Sault Ste. Marie Canada, staying with us all the way to Madison, South Dakota.

Driving through Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, also the land of vast farmlands sandwiching small towns between the golden fields of soldier straight crops and the flattened landscape of those plowed.

Perfect rows  miles of fields

Driving headlong into the monotone colors of the “fly over” states, we have outrun depressing weather and met up with sunshiny.  Fields, in various stages of growth and harvest, fly by us mile after mile.

Working the fields  Harvesting

As with every grain field, there are raptors making their livelihood from dining on rodents living down under. Every few miles one can be seen perched, watching and waiting until something catches their extremely focused vision.

Rapters on signs  Rapters on fence posts

We rolled cross the Missouri River and through naked hills.

Missouri River between Madison and Wall  Rolling Hills

Several rest stops were American Indian themed.

Rest Stops

Wind turbines whirled, contributing to local city power and safety signs lined fields along our pathway.

Wind turbines  Safety First

Farm equipment, in various stages of disrepair, lay in wait along the edges of fields. A few whimsical creations were settled near a highway and side street corner.

Fun art  More fun art

John and I are domiciled in Madison South Dakota and have visited once before to obtain our licenses, secure an attorney and set up our mail forwarding service. Once again headed for our mail box home, this time to exchange my Texas license for a South Dakota license. I will once again become a South Dakodite, although in my heart, I will forever be a Texan.

Madison is a quiet little town located a few miles from Lake Herman State Park. Small in comparison to most state parks where we overnight, the sunsets are beautiful, trees shade the area, the sites are spacious and the lake is peaceful.

Fields surrounding the park  Lake Herman State Park, SD, oct 2016

I love this tiny forested oasis in a land of flat uninteresting farm lands. Located a stone’s throw from Madison, it is my spark of happiness when we must return to our domicile for business. Friendly park staff and quiet nights, we decided to extend our stay to pause and refresh for a few days before continuing on with our journey home.

Lake Herman State Park   Lake Herman

After two overnights it was time to depart.  We woke to On The Road Again, Willie’s soft Southern harmony of his famous traveling song, our alarm clock music when we roll. This portion of our trip would be an extremely long haul.

Our sanity stop was Wall South Dakota. John had read about Mr. Bill Hustead, the man who became a beloved South Dakota legend by transforming a small town pharmacy into a sprawling tourist attraction of international fame.

This block-long mini town entertainment and shopping venue is a strung together conglomerate of specialty stores. For more than an hour, we explored the interconnecting buildings of hallways connecting a drug store to a gift shop,

Grocery  Gifts

a hallway connecting a dining area to old west Shoppe’s,

Cowboy Alley  The cafe  Drug store

and a hallway joining several western themed mechanical singers and speakers.

The main hallway Cowboys on the range The judge

Wall Drug Backyard offered visitors a fun entertainment area and I took full advantage of humorous props for amusing Kodak moments with John as my subject.

John and the Jackalope    John and the 6 foot rabbit

A giant dinosaur, a mini Mount Rushmore and a cowboy Pappy Zoltar rounded out the eclectic collection.

T Rex    Mini Monument

Western Zoltar

Unwound and refreshed, we climbed back into LilyPad and continued on our way to Rapid City and Mount Rushmore.

If you haven’t guessed by now, we rarely take a direct route to anywhere. Retired and homeless, we have few reasons to be in a hurry. John wanted to see Mount Rushmore so we turned LilyPad in the direction of the big mountain with the giant carved heads and away we drove. As this was an election year, the political references throughout the Monument site were appropriate although most were ignored by us both.

Driving headlong into the Black Hills, our arrival in Rapid City South Dakota was uneventful. The next few overnights would be spent at Rapid City Elks Lodge RV park. The central location allowed us to tour the Black Hills area easily.

Rapid City Elks Lodge

Friendly being the norm of Elks Lodges around the country, this Lodge was no exception. It had the added draw of being large and well appointed, with a full bar and huge dining room serving meals daily. Neither of us being in a cooking mood, we opted to have dinner at the Lodge.

Next morning, the drive up into the hills was rolling but with smooth surfaces.  From a distance you could see the famous faces looking out over the Black Hills.

From a distance

The entrance to the memorial is long and lined with state flags and plaques.

Entrance to Mt Rushmore

I searched out the Texas flag for a photo and continued walking towards the giant heads.

Texas      28th state 1845

Along the sidewalk, on the sidelines but prominently displayed, several political groups waited to capture the attention of passer byers and fill them with their ideals. I walked quickly, not of their beliefs and no longer tolerant of the Dump Trump society.

political groups

We came upon the sculptures and stood still to admire the artists genius and skill.DSC_2432

Impressive presence but even more so when you step inside the museum and read about the rest of the story.

The Mount Rushmore project was met with skepticism and criticism largely due to its only function being to bring tourism to the Black Hills.  The story is full of high expectations, bitter frustrations, struggles between egos, fascinating characters, hard dangerous work and finally, triumphant celebrations.  The project took longer to build and ran over budget.  The unveiling of the 1,278.45 acre memorial park now brings over two million visitors a year.

Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the carved granite sculptures were begun in 1927 and completed in 1939, a year after Gutzon died. Gutzon’s son completed the carvings and lovingly sculpted a bust of his father that stands in tribute near the Museum.

Gutzon

The original plan, credited to South Dakota historian Doane Robinson, was to have famous people carved into the Needles of the Black Hills region but the location was rejected due to poor quality of granite and the spires being too thin to support sculptures.  Additionally, the Native American groups strongly opposed sculpting the Needles.

The Needles

Working in treacherous conditions, the story boards in the museum depicted the life of the stone carvers and the challenges they faced daily.

The How   Tools

The four United States presidents were each chosen for specific reasons, all playing important rolls in American History.

George Washington was chosen for his role in the Revolutionary War and his fight for American independence. Often called the father of our country, he was the first US president.

George Washington

Thomas Jefferson was chosen because he believed people should be allowed to govern themselves, the basis for democracy.

Thomas Jefferson

Theodore Roosevelt was chosen for being such an influential president and world leader.  Roosevelt is my favorite.  His statement “The first requisite of a good citizen in this Republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his weight – that he shall not be a mere passenger…”  A statement with which I heartily agree.

Theodore Roosevelt

Abraham Lincoln was chosen because he believed all people are equal and he helped to end slavery in the US.

Abraham Lincoln

Having watched the Mount Rushmore Visitors Center movie and finished our exploration of the monument area, we drove back into the Black Hills.

Another prominent head depicted on a mountain side in the Black Hills National Forest area is the face of Crazy Horse carved on the side of Thunderhead Mountain.

Crazy Horse

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is yet to be completed. Currently, only the face, from chin up, is complete. The land is privately held and at conception, it was to depict the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse riding a horse and pointing into the distance. The project is surrounded by controversy as the land is considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota. Commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, operated by the nonprofit Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, it was to be sculpted by Polish-American Korczak Ziolkowski. The memorial master plan included the carving, an Indian University of North America, Indian Museum of North America and a Native American Cultural Center.

If completed, the stone carving may become the world’s largest sculpture, the head alone being 87 feet high with the final dimensions 641 feet wide by 563 feet high. In comparison, the heads of the four presidents each measure 60 feet high.

Taking a photo from the road and continuing on, the fee for a partially carved face and a gift shop was more than we considered reasonable.

On our journey back to LilyPad, we spotted a winery with a come hither name. Prairie Berry Winery and its “best seller” wine, Red Ass Rhubarb Wine. Exploration of a winery was a no-brainer so we stopped.

Red Ass Wine

Imbibing in a tasting, we decided on one bottle and continued back to our patiently waiting KatieBug pug. A long walk, dinner and early to bed.

 

John picked our next day long adventure, Sturgis South Dakota. An easy drive from our current Elks Lodge site, we ate breakfast with KatieBug and all three of us hit the road.  It was a scenic drive through the Black Hills.

More Black Hills   Black Hills

The Sturgis claim to fame is its motorcycle gathering, one of the largest annual motorcycle events in the world.

Sturgis SD

This year will be the 77th. Held annually on the second full week of August, thousands of motorcycles head towards the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. If you are traveling the freeways near South Dakota during Rally week, thousands of fantastical bikes pass by.

Known for their supreme week long parties, bars in Sturgis are plentiful and gigantic.

The Knuckle saloon  Iron Horse Saloon

Off season you could hear your own heartbeat and it was as deserted as a ghost town when we arrived. Preparing for the event is a yearlong task. During our visit, Main Street was blocked off for repaving.

The history of Sturgis Motorcycle Rally began in 1938 when Pappy Hoel and his wife gathered with friends who were motorcycle enthusiasts to have fun, picnic and race. Dedicated to nurturing and expanding the motorcycle events to ensure their success, they had no idea the gatherings would grow to the enormous size they are today. His passion for the sport created many opportunities for the community and his dedication to the motorcycle industry through donations, charities and scholarships helped to expand the rally to the world largest.

To get a feel for the event, we paid the small senior priced fee to enter the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

Sturgis Museum

It was a wonderful peek into the world of motorcycles.  Bikes were everywhere.  There was a section of women in the motorcycle world.

Bikes everywhere  Women Riders

A history of Senator Dave’s world record of the Million Mile Ride and the 50th Sturgis Anniversary Bike..

Senator Daves Million Miles   Sturges 50th anniversary bike

1938 Harley with a Luchenback Texas sticker and the 1967 Dream Honda, famous for introducing motorcycles to a wider population.

Luchenback TX sticker on 1938 Harley   67 Dream Honda

A 1938 Indian Chief.

1938 Indian Chief

And several vintage bikes, a 1904 Strap Tank Single and a 1910 Indian Tri Car.

1904 Strap Tank Single  1910 Indian Tri Car

But my favorite was the 1969 Triumph T100C, the exact year and style of Triumph I had when I was 17.  A heart tugging reminder of my wild teen years.

My ride at 17

After scoring a few previous year Rally sale items, we drove to the nearby city of Deadwood South Dakota, named after the dead trees found in its gulch and famous for its lawlessness and murders. Proud of their tiny historic town, there were signs everywhere.

1876 Deadwood   Deadwood

Illegally begun in 1870’s on land granted to the Lakota Native American Indians in the treaty of 1868, the land was disputed after gold was found on French Creek near Custer South Dakota. The Black Hill Gold Rush drew gamblers, prostitutes and the opium trade, increasing the population to nearly 5,000.

Historic Mainstreet

The local theater also contained a dance hall and brothel.  The town is an easy walk up and down the street and many of the buildings have been renovated and turned into nice boutique shops and eateries.

1879 hotel   Mainstreet

The town further gained notoriety for the murder of gunman Wild Bill Hickok in Saloon Number 10, August of 1876.

Saloon where Bill was shot       Wild Bill

Wild Bills final resting place is in nearby Mount Moriah Cemetery.

Mt Moriah 1878  plaques

Calamity Jane’s final request was to be buried next to Wild Bill and their graves lie side by side at Mount Moriah.

grave sites

Several days had past and it was time to pack up LilyPad, pull up stakes from the Elks Lodge and continue on down the road. We left mid-morning passing more Sunflower fields,

dried sunflowers

over train bridges with miles of cars carrying tons of coal,

Coal train

past a local welding company with welded metal art prominently displayed out front,

Local welding Co and art

and through adjacent fields where welders torches created interesting art pieces out of left over metal.

Art in fields  flower art in fields

We overnighted in Plankinton South Dakota at Hills RV Park. Just off the highway, in the middle of nowhere, dirt roads, deserted and ghostly quiet, we slept lightly, got up early and got back on the road.

Hills RV Park, Blankinton SD

Next driving day was overcast with fog swirling just outside our travel path.  War like art pieces posted like sentries on either side of a bridge we passed.

Bridge Art

At the end of a long travel day, we would spend the night surrounded by a golf course.  Wilds RV and Golf Resort in Bartlett Iowa had cement pads making it an easy set up for the evening.

Foggy in Bartlett Iowa

Pleased with the gentle coolness of the evening, we walked KatieBug and binged watched a favorite TV series before falling asleep.

Next morning we rose to a town blanketed in fog. On temporary hold until the fog lifted, after waiting two hours with the roads still partially covered, disrupting our schedule was not appreciated so we crept along slowly until the sun broke through.

Still waiting for the sun

Another full day of rolling, pulling into Walmart in Festus Missouri shortly before the sun dropped behind the horizon.  We boon docked (no hook-ups) near the garden center,  alongside the town’s local “youth designated meet-up and make-out area”, each mode of transportation revving its engine in turn to show their macho rides and impress whomever might be watching. If the revving had kept up, we might have had to rev up our 425 hp diesel engine and blast a few times on our air horns to quiet them all down.

Being fully self-contained has its advantages so we fired up the generator and dined on home cooked chicken pot pies followed by local TV and bedtime. Tonight, I considered myself lucky as sleep was interrupted only twice by train whistles.

 

Morning arrived and another long drive was in our immediate future. Needing a diesel fill up, John pulled a little too close to the steel guard posts at the gas station.

stuck against a big metal pole

Not planning his exit well, he was forced to take the car off the dolly, move the car and dolly away from the poles while I backed out LilyPad so he could hook everything back up. Not being an issue that it set us back an hour, another plus side of being retired.

The journey to Caruthersville Missouri Lucky Lady Casino was comfortable and relatively short. We crossed over the Mighty Mississippi several times on our way to the RV casino park.

The Mighty Mississippi River    The Mississippi

We will have full hook-ups tonight. Upon entering, I realized sleep time will be spent on the “flood” side of the flood gates but our site was flat and had an ample cement pad.

Lucky Lady Casino, MO

Flooding was not terribly concerning as the weather here was sunny and cloudless. Local forecast predicted a beautiful tomorrow. Neither of us wanted to donate money to the casino so having full hook-ups meant we could catch up on laundry, washing dishes and making dog food, all to be completed before dinner and sleep. KatieBug happily marked every blade of grass during her walk on what she considered to be her territory. Barring any sudden flood waters washing over the RV park, we would have a peacefully quiet evening, all three of us going to sleep early.

One more all day long drive to reach my least favorite semi-annual necessity, Red Bay Alabama, home of LilyPad’s manufacturer. We have been way down yonder in the land of cotton for days. Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, nearly uninterrupted travel, landing us in the land of the Tiffin manufacturer.

This year we will be serviced by Bunk House, formerly known as McKinney’s, and should not need the long wait required at Tiffin unless something they repaired the last time turns out to be incorrectly done. It will be a first, so fingers crossed as we pull into our site and await a service bay in the morning.

Bunkhouse for repairs, Red Bay AL

I’ve been told how lucky I am to have such wonderful scenic places to explore and my yard is the great outdoors. I have to shake my head in wonder as many of the places we spend the night are Walmart parking lots, local Elks Lodge parking lots, older struggling Passport America RV Parks and Red Bay parking lots.  Below was our “great outdoors” view for the next few nights.

Our view at Bunkhouse

The last dozen places we spent overnights are not exactly the fabulous wilderness settings others have pictured in their minds eye.

Several days have gone by and our repairs are complete.  While John makes the final adjustments to the car and LilyPad, I pause to look out the side window. Water is dripping down on the inside. Another roof leak. Turning to a new page on the repair book I add another item for repair to our “it’s always something” list. Fixing the leak will have to wait until we get back to Texas.

An early rise and a marathon driving day, sleeping in a closed-due-to-remodeling-from-the-floodwaters-in-a-Louisiana-Walmart with a few 18 wheelers as neighbors and police officers patrolling the area throughout the night.

Flooded Out Walmart

Across the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge and breakfast of two fluffy tender and warm Cracker Barrel biscuits.  They nearly made the memory of the lumpy bumpy ride through Louisiana melt like the butter on the biscuit.

Atchafalaya basin bridge LA

Finally arriving at Grand Texas RV Resort in Texas for an overnight, we were met with unpleasant surprises, the impossibly narrow cement pad and our steps extending  over soft red mud instead of the expected grass.  Quickly setting up camp, we fell asleep exhausted.

site at Grand TX RV

Next morning we frantically booked an appointment for a pressure leak test in the Galveston area and pulled the slides in readying LilyPad for travel.  When the bedroom slide retracted I heard a loud “clank”.  Searching the floor I found the metal slide roller had broken off its metal brackets and clanked to the ground. Oh explicit, explicit, explicit!

One overnight to fix the leak, the slide roller would wait until we were closer to our go-to repair shop in Montgomery Texas.  For the next month we will live at Galveston Bay RV Park, visit our son, future daughter-in-law, grand dogs and grand chickens in Seabrook, relax and enjoy the sea breezes and watch the wild parrots that visit our back yard.

wild parrots in our campground

John will be patching up what he can on LilyPad.  Plans are to move next month to Conroe KOA in Montgomery Texas while we search again for a sticks-n-bricks home and have Action RV Repair shop complete the rest of the motorhome repairs.

Hard to believe this is the beginning of our fifth year. However did we last this long? Probably a mix of insanity, senility, John’s love of traveling and my love of being in new places.  Besides, we both agree, you only go around once.

October 7th though October 17th 2016 Montreal/Quebec/Ottawa Canada, North Bay/Marathon Canada

One last night in New England, one last chance to experience something Vermont.  We had packed up and were ready to leave in the morning but I had read about a local bygone era variety store and talked John into coming with.  Stuffed full of an interesting mixture of everything imaginable, we arrived shortly before closing time.  Still able to take a quick peek inside, I took pictures after doors closed.

Shelburne Country Store    Inside the Country Store

Montreal Canada is our next destination and I am one ecstatic camper! With its overpowering scenic beauty, abundance of wildlife, magnificent historic buildings and statues, delightful food and a seemingly endless amount of spectacular basilica’s, shrines and temples, there is never enough time to explore it all no matter how often we visit. It is also a premium exercise opportunity.

On this entrance, our Canadian arrival was without incident. John thought it best to ship all our liquor to our daughter in Texas, allowing us to cross the border with the allotted four bottles of wine. The one bottle of liquor I use for cooking was forgotten until we had crossed and settled in Montreal. Not even the slightest hint of guilt did I feel about not paying duty on the forgotten bottle. The Canadian border crossing got every penny it was going to get from us on our last entrance.

The roadsides were still awash with fall colors as we stopped for a KatieBug potty break.

Rest Stop   Montreal farm fall colors

For the next few nights, we would stay at Amerique Montreal Camping. Tucked behind the main road, it was homey and housed mostly seasonal full-timers. When I opened the door for John to register and stepped outside in the tepid sunshine, hundreds of miniscule orange with black polka-dot lady bugs attached themselves to the warmth of our windshield and flew about my head.

lady bugs

I watched as they buzzed about in the sunshine. A dainty little lady bug landed on my arm AND BIT ME! If I had known those little winged devil insects bit, I never would have held them so tenderly as a child. The war was on! Keeping them out of the motor home became top priority. We parked, set up camp and I hunted down every one of those dreadful little bitters and tossed them out the front door. Had they not been a beneficial crop insect, they would have been smashed flat instead of being tossed out. Sun setting, it was time to relax for the night.

Sunset in Montreal

Online, I booked us a tour and organ concert, the last of the season, for the Basilique Notre-Dame De Montreal’s Organ Music Tour. After settling in at the RV park, it was our first outing for the next afternoon.

A short drive to, and walk from a downtown city parking spot, we set our direction for Place d’Armes, the square (and statue) in front of the Basilique.

downtown    Buildings near Place Jacques Cartier

The square is is small and overflowing with parental units deep in conversation, small children expending great deals of energy, elders seated and joyfully watching the children and tour guides revealing bits of random knowledge mixed with humor to the eager tourists. Our tour would begin from the steps across the square.

Basilique Notre-Dame De Montreal

We wandered around the square before crossing over and peering inside the church just before our tour time had arrived.

Statue inside   Prayer candles

The back lot concert tour was full, consisting of a mass of foreigners speaking dozens of languages, all trying to converse at the same time.  All ages, all eagerly awaiting the experience. The attendees climbed a few flights of stairs and sat in front of an expansion of organ pipes stretching from one side of the church to the other. Seating was on risers with the organ perched closely within our line of site. The organ pipes framed a huge stunning stained glass window.

Up close organ pipes  Under the organ pipes Organ Pipes

After a short introduction, the booming chords to classical, vintage musical and religious selections were heard and felt by all. Loud but enjoyable, we were allowed to walk up and view the massive organ and peer out across the church.

Our Concert Player   View from the tour

After the concert, we descended the stairs and sat quietly in pews, relaxing and taking in the unforgettably splendid detail that surrounded us.

Pulpit  details

The closer you walked towards the alter, the more magnificent the details.

From downstairs    Alter close up

Exiting the church we began our exploration of the area.  Strolling along the cobblestones, we stopped for a lite snack at Pizzeria Jacques Cartier in Place Jacques Cartier.  The food was honest as was the price.  Street performers kept us entertained and people watching was most excellent.   From our table, City Hall was the backdrop for the performers.

Musicians on Place Jacques Cartier

The street is closed to traffic, stretches from city hall at one end, to the waterfront at the other. Cobbled and slanted downhill towards the waterfront, it is a beautiful stroll beside well preserved historic buildings.

Place d'Armes square Place Jacques Cartier

The square also assumes the responsibility of an historic ambassador, demonstrating to tourists, the finer points of how to lovingly keep a public square vibrant, spotlessly clean, safe and fun.

Adjacent is the Rue St-Paul shopping area. An array of beautiful wares, clothing, jewelry, a few hokey items intermixed with Canadian oddities and delicacies.  Artistic expression rose from numerous points along the street.

Shopping near Place Jacques Cartier       Art

Statues abound in Canada and my favorite is the three women, Les Chuchoteuses, “The Gossipers”, on rue Saint-Paul.

The Gossipers

The sun was gentle as were the breezes and we savored the scent of salty sea air while walking through the district.  Home, dinner, pug time and bedtime.

 

Remembering how much fun we had visiting Canada’s open air markets in years past, we woke early the next morning and revisited our favorite. Jean-Talon Market is on flat ground, mostly protected from rain by overhead tarps and offers premium strolling through fresh produce, meats, fish, plants, baked goods, art and a few five-and-dime store offerings.

Rainy day at the market  Fresh greens

Jean-Talon Market   Garlic and shallots

I passed up all the tempting fried foods and cream filled desserts but the sweets from one of the multi-national stands, a coconut and date ball of natural goodness, looked too enticing to pass up so I took a chance.

Sweets from multi nationalities’

It was indeed yummy. The tarps repelled the rain that followed us throughout our two hour stroll and calm breezes kept us comfortable. An excellent morning venture.

Each time we enter a new city, it is important to pay attention to the laws.  In Canada, not only are laws different but you must also decipher the language and its meaning.  While I stood under cover, John tried several times to find a person who could explain the parking meter operation in English.  Later that day, when we returned, I noticed the directions were in French and English.  Paying attention to details is a must.  Oh well, off to find lunch.

Canadian Signs   Stop signs    Pay stations in Montreal

In each Canadian city visited, we search TripAdvisor for the best restaurant to enjoy Poutine, a dish of crispy potato fries, creamy cheese curds and flavorful hot gravy covering all. Addictively delicious! In Le Plateau Mont-Royal Montreal, MaammBolduc Café was one of the top picks so we left the Market and drove to this little hole in the wall diner.

MaammBolduc   MaammBolduc Café

Eclectic décor, quirky but comfy, we were invited in and ordered via pointing to our choice from a large and varied binder style menu. John in broken French, our waiter in broken English, our order came out exact, hot and delicious.

Meat Poutine and Chicken and peas Poutine

With our tummies gently stuffed, we wandered through the neighborhoods admiring street after street of fascinating condo’s before driving back to LilyPad and packing up for travel.

Condo's near the market   miles of condo's

Bright and early next morning, we would depart for Camping Transit near Quebec City.

 

A crisp and clear morning, the fall colors were still gorgeous and holding their radiance adjacent the rivers and continuing along our route.  I enjoyed the view while traveling over the Saint Laurence Seaway but John’s eyes were glued to the road.

Good by Montreal  St Laurance Seaway

The weather was pleasant for our entire trip.

Bright Fall Colors  Fall colors

Even the weeds were colorful.

Colorful weeds too

Arriving early afternoon, we set up camp, stretched our legs with KatieBug and relaxed for the remainder of the day. It was the end of the season so campers were scarce but fall colors were plentiful and extraordinarily vivid.

Our site at Campground Transit

First thing in the morning we would take the ferry from Levis to Old Quebec. Nothing could spoil my excitement about visiting Old Quebec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not even power spike issues with our RV’s power pole. Experience, over the past five years, has taught us we can do without 50 amp for the short term. Should anything short out, our generator would automatically kick on.

 

Next morning the ferry ride across the St. Laurence River was brilliant with color, smooth sailing and unhurried.

traveling across the St Laurance

When we reached shore, I fell in love all over again.  How could you not?

View From Levis

We stepped off the boat and into Quartier Petit Champlain, wandering through the cobblestoned streets, past century old stone buildings, enticing our imaginations to drift back though time.

Not an ancient treat but Canadian, Queues de Castor or Beaver Tail, was our breakfast.  Consisting of a stretched piece of fried dough covered with a Baskin Robbins array of flavor choices, the treat originated in Canada in 1978.  We washed it all down with coffee and began our self guided walking tour of the city.

Beaver Tails

Strolling at an easy balancing pace for me, through Basse-Ville, a.k.a. Lower Town, weaving our way down narrow streets, poking our heads into cozy shops as the day began.  Each boutique was packed with unique wares, neatly stacked from the floors to the ceilings against 17th century stone walls.

quartier petit champlain

The cluster of art galleries are accented by one of the eye deceiving murals painted by talented artists on building exteriors in Old Quebec. Life like scenes from Quebec’s past decorate the blank space where buildings have been removed, the scenes paying homage to the history of Quebec City. Pausing to view La Fresque des Québécois with a guided group of tourists, we learned it was completed in 1999, was painted on the wall of Soumande House on Notre-Dame Street and the gigantic mural encompasses 420 square meters. Fresque des Quebecois recounts the city’s story, with its unique architecture and larger-than-life personalities.  Windows in the buildings show 15 historic figures along with Quebec’s writers and artists.

Fresque des Québécois

Throughout the town, musicians settled in shaded spaces vying for the attention of locals and tourists.  We heard a variety of tunes, Bach, rock, polka etc., played on an assortment of foreign and domestic instruments.

Music along Rue Notre Dame

Notre-Dame-des-Victories (1823) is a small Roman Catholic Church and the oldest stone church in North America. It was disappointing that the church was unavailable as we had only heard snippets of the tour speech in previous years.

Notre Dame Des Victories

Place Royale is a step back in time to the early days of New France. The square is a picturesque pedestrian street filled with shops and eateries.

Place Royale square

We stopped at a small café tucked into one corner of the square with its tables edging onto the busy flow. Relaxing with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat, we watched tourists meander in and out of the shops.

Gem Shop in Place Royale     Place Royale shops

Streets of the city are somewhat difficult to walk over for the balance challenged, so when we finished our coffee, I held tight to John, not letting my tipsiness stop our explorations. We continued downward to the waterfront where dozens of antique shops faced the St. Lawrence River.

In one window I spotted an adorable antique glass tea set my mother, an avid antique collector, would have loved. The box even bore her name, “Jeanette”.

Jeanettes tea set

The street corners in the art gallery section of Old Quebec City reminded me of The Woodlands, art pieces on nearly every corner, although some selections were a little quirky.

Street art

Taking a sharp left at the last corner before the underground tunnel, we hiked up several streets to Haute-Ville, a.k.a. Upper Town, choosing to walk the rise and save riding the Funiculaire du Vieux Québec for the trip back to Lower Town.

Climbing to Upper Town  Streets of Old Quebec

From the top, the view was refreshing and expansive.

Lower Town view from Upper Town   View from the first cannon

Fort-Lewis cannons, dating back to 1813, faced the river’s mouth and lined the walkways. Benches, spaced over the next few blocks, provided tourists with scenic resting places.

Cannon More cannons  1813 Cannons

Pausing just short of the statue of St. Francis-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval (1623-1708) we sat to read about the first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec, appointed when he was 36 years old by Pope Alexander VII.  A member of the Montmorency family, he was one of the most influential men of his day.  He was a candidate for canonization by the Catholic Church after his death and was beatified in 1980 by Pope John Paul II in 2014, Pope Francis made him a saint by “equipollent canonization”.

François de Laval

It was obvious, looking skyward in Montmorency Park, Fall was alive and well in Old Quebec.

Fall

Resting under the trees is a statue of Guillaume Couillard (1591-1663) who migrated from France to New France and was one of the first to settle permanently in the colony. He married and had 10 children. Because of the numerous descendants of these children, Couillard appears in the genealogy of almost all the old French-Canadian families. Philippe Couillard, the 31st and current Premier of Quebec, shares the same surname.

Guillaume Couillard

Continuing our walk, we came upon Cathedral of Holy Trinity in Upper Town. A charming, simple yet elegant church, the first Anglican church built outside England.

Holey Trinity Cathedral  Inside Holy Trinity  Holy Trinity Cathedral

We paused to rest and savor the tranquility. Inside, interesting wood work details, stained glass and charming old world touches. An impressive group of organ pipes decorated the back of the church.

Holy Trinity organ pipes

Historic information was detailed on plaques inside the church along with showcases of silver artifacts presented to the church by King George III. A nice plus was the docent at the door who was helpful, friendly and spoke excellent English.

Permanently tucked between two centuries old stone walls is Rue de Tresor, an open air art market.  Each time here, we encounter the works of a variety of talented artists. One particularly interesting artist paints various scenes on a copper sheet. She paints summer, fall and winter side by side. Her works are lovely and remarkably unique.

Street Art Market

Nearing the front of the magnificent Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel and after the sidewalk ends, we strolled onto Terrasse Dufferin, the expansive wooden walkway that faces the Saint Laurence River.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac

Having done the hotel tour a few years past, we chose to sit on a bench and gaze out at the sweeping views of the river and enjoy the refreshing breezes on this lovely mild day.

View from Terrasse Dufferin

Beginning to tire from a full day on our feet, we took the funicular down to lower town. The electric funicular cableway opened in 1879 & rises 195 ft. between the upper & lower towns. It is a fun ride up or down and surely beats using the Escalier Casse-Cou, a.k.a. Breakneck Steps, an alternative way to traverse between the two towns.

Electric Funicular

The funicular empties onto one of the oldest streets in North America, Quartier Petit Champlain. Continued walking led us to the site of the second mural we viewed, Fresque du Petit Champlain. The mural depicts milestones in the history of Cap-Blanc, Quebec City’s working class water front neighborhood. The scene begins at the start of New France until the present day.

Fresque du Petit-Champlain

Nearby is my favorite restaurant for rabbit. It resides snuggly pressed between a centuries old neighbor’s stone wall on one side and a gardened gathering and resting area abutting its open air seating on the other. If you love rabbit, dining at La Lapin Sauté is a must.

La Lapin Sauté

This visit, John had rabbit poutine and I had the rabbit sample platter. The rabbit is tender and moist, perfectly flavored and has delighted our taste buds enough times to bring repeat dining over the years.

Rabbit

Hubby’s choice had plenty of meat and cheese and the fries were crisp and hot. My plate had an assortment of rabbit hash, maple fried egg, fruit compote, warm brie, maple bacon, maple sausage, maple ham, fruit and a portion of grilled ciabatta. Each visit we try another menu item and we have yet to eat something that isn’t exceptional.

Inside it is warm, cozy and inviting. Disney’s style of authentic décor depicts a 17th century café.  The staff and servers are friendly, speak English and provide excellent service. Although the line was long, we were seated quickly, our order placed with a minimal wait time even with seating inside and out completely filled. We left full, happy and warmed to the core. The entire café area was decorated for fall, inside and out.  We sat letting our food digest without the waiter hovering for our check.

The streets were filled with sightseers and a group stopped in front of one shop to gawk.  Surprised it was still here, the name stopped me in my tracks nearly 7 years ago and yes, you read the name correctly.

Rue du Petit Chaplain    I kid you not

Pausing momentarily at the garden area next door to listen to tranquil tunes, we made our way back towards the docks.

Music in the park

A must-stop for me, the chocolate shop to savor a whiff of fragrant cocoa offerings.

Candy shop

Another pause to watch Maple Jack-Whack taffy being made on an open-air ice trough. Sampling a few maple goodies and purchasing several for Christmas, our backpack was becoming weighted down with stocking stuffers. Continuing, the streets were beginning to empty of tourists.

Maple Taffy        Shopping in Lower Town

Slowly heading towards the dock and boarding the boat at the Quebec City Ferry Terminal, we turned to bid Adieu, until we meet again Old Quebec.

Evening was quickly approaching. Tomorrow would be a grocery shopping, laundry and rest-up day. Normal everyday life was pulling us back to reality.  Our next destination, Ottawa, Canada

 

Up early, John drove an easy pace for the next four hours, pulling into Recreationland in Cumberland, Ontario early afternoon. Nothing fancy, our first site was short and small so we moved out from under the trees to an open area. I am continually puzzled as to the reason why RV park employees misunderstand our size. We tell them “the size of a Greyhound Bus, forty-five feet long, the same size as a tour bus” but no matter, they try to squeeze us into that which we do not fit, forcing us to move. Thankfully, at the end of the season, sites are plentiful. A few friendly stragglers from the full-time seasonal group still remained and John chatted with them as we settled in for the night.   Pug time, dinner and bedtime.

Recreationland, Cumberland ONT

Extended morning walk for KatieBug, breakfast in town at The SconeWitch then onward to Parliament Hill for a tour of the Parliament Building and an elevator ride to the top of Peace Tower.

Centre Block

Obtaining tickets across the street, we took the free vouchers and walked towards the Parliament Building. Standing in front of the Parliament steps, I spotted a diminutive Asian gentleman beaming widely as he held two hand painted signs. He nodded to us as we approached and gestured for us to stop and chat. Friendly and eager to speak with an American, well-informed and knowledgeable about our elections, he and I struck up a conversation while John perused the area.

Legal Chinese immigrant in Ottowa

A 30 year legal Chinese immigrant, he questioned Americans who claimed they would leave the USA for Canada if that “certain someone” won.  He thought they should first speak with Canada’s legal Chinese immigrants whom are, to this day, being persecuted. Illegal immigrants are not tolerated in Canada, period. I normally do not talk politics on my blog but I must agree with his logic for the protest. If you are a legal immigrant, your government should not treat you unjustly. His cause, the unfair treatment of legal Chinese immigrants, had merit.

Joining back up with John, we entered the line for the Parliament building tour.  Waiting in line, we had time to chat and read the corner stone dedication.

Corner Stone

Our persons and belongings searched, we were gathered together in the hall for the tour. Each hall was impressive but the massive stone structure and stained glass windows kept the building in pale light, even with the many giant ornate lighting fixtures.

Stained glass ceiling stained glass ceilings stained windows

Walking quietly from one area to the next, my genuine love of grey, white and black décor was fulfilled by the hallways gothic architecture, so incredibly awe-inspiring.

Hall from above  Arched halls hall ceiling

Our guide gave us a brief history of the commons chamber, the Senate, based on the British House of Lords, with an overview of Canadian government history.

Senate based on British House of Lords   carved stone

The entrance and door to the Library of Parliament was intricately carved and a precursor for the incredible wood carved details inside.

Library entrance  Library door carvings

A towering domed ceiling, walls loaded with ornately carved bookshelves and a magnificent timepiece enveloped in wood carvings kept everyone pivoting for Kodak moments.

Library Dome    Library inside   Library

Ending the tour on the second floor, we were steps away from the elevator that would whisk us up to the top of The Tower of Victory and Peace, or Peace Tower. The glass fronted elevator would pass and reveal the interworking’s of the clock through a window in the elevator shaft. The focal bell and clock tower is a Canadian icon and has been pictured on the Canadian twenty dollar bill.

Peace Tower

At the top, the outlook in all directions was magnificent.

View 1      View 2

View 3      View 4

The small chapel near the elevator is a memorial chamber and dedicated to those who fought in Europe in the First World War (1914 through 1918).

Peace Tower exit

Back down to the ground floor, we walked the Parliament grounds, stopping at the statues dedicated to women’s right to vote in Canada.  Women’s right to vote banners hung proudly on light posts.

DSC_2042      Womens right to vote

To the right of Peace Tower stands Eastern Departmental Building, or East Block.  Built in Victorian high gothic style, it is one of three buildings on Parliament Hill containing offices for parliamentarians with some preserved pre-Confederation spaces. Along with the Library of Parliament, it is one of only two buildings on the hill to survive mostly intact since originally constructed. It was unavailable to visitors this day.

East Block   East Block closeup

To the left stands the gothic revival office building, the Confederation Building. There was a fire drill in progress when we walked near so we continued around the entire building taking in the structure and surrounding scenic views.

Confederation Building front   Confederation Building back

Across the street, the Wellington Building House of Commons.  Probably no relation to the family where we had recently workamped in Lee New Hampshire.

Wellington Building, House of Commons

In 2017, Canadian’s celebrate 150 years as a nation. This year they are busily cleaning, repairing, painting and power washing everything “Parliament” in preparation for next year’s celebration.

lots of cleaning         West Block

Stone was being cleaned in sections and you could see the “before and after”.

surrounding gates

Even stained glass windows were being detailed.

stained glass window repairs

I very much appreciated the Iron gates with elaborate detailing.  Strength and beauty.

detailed iron work

It was an enjoyable day for strolling but when we reached the Supreme Court of Canada,  our tummies started grumbling so we reversed our direction and pointed ourselves towards the market for lunch.

Supreme Court of Canada

Our path to the Market took us through Confederation Park and Majors Hill Park before emptying onto main pedestrian friendly streets that surround Byward Market.

Pedestrian Streets near the market     Streets near Byward Market

Love their solution for keeping skate boarders from damaging cement.  Securing metal maple leaves all over the city’s cement planter edges is completely appropriate.

maple leaves

A mixture of foreign and domestic, the merchandise, produce, bakery items, flowers and dining offerings fit every budget and cater to an assortment of nationalities.

Byward Market block     Gords for sale

I opted for a cheese croissant from the bakery, spotting a poster of the outgoing President staring blatantly back at me from the bakery wall.  I had no interest in Obama cookies.

Obama Cookies

John tried the Shawarma Poutine from the Mediterranean fast food shop.

Mediterranean fast food    Shawarma Poutine

Back to the car, driving toward LilyPad but not quite out of the city, we stopped to feed my passion, visiting places of worship.

Notre Dame front    Notre Dame side

We entered Notre Dame and quietly sat down, taking in all the details.  A gracefully beautiful rest stop.

Notre Dame Church Organ pipes Notre Dame detail

This church too was built with unbelievable attention to detail.

Alter up close

Across the street, the National Gallery of Canada with a spine tingling gigantic iron spider out front, her sack of eggs tucked under her belly.  The Gallery would have to wait until next visit, as would the Canadian Mint Building next door.

National Gallery of Canada      Big spider with egg sack sculpture

At the end of our exhilarating full day of exploring, we walked back to our parking spot, eased achingly into the car and drove back to LilyPad to put our feet up and relax for the balance of the evening.

One full day of rest and recuperation was due us before we readied ourselves for the next leg of our trip back to Texas.

 

 

The usual early rise and on the road by 8 am.  As we left Ottawa, our journey down the rolling hills of Hwy 417 was lined with perfectly structured blue spruce pines.

From Reds, Oranges to Yellows, greens     Farm land and Christmas trees

We passed miles of sun tanned fields of hay.  The further south we traveled, the more leaf colors began to change.

Rolling farm land

Only one time in over six decades of life, did I reach a point of saturation from fall colors. When John and I first married and moved to Massachusetts, we took a Fall Colors Trip that exceeded 12 hours. Excessive amounts of red, orange and yellows caused my eye-brain connection to overload and my head throbbed at our journey’s end. Too much of a good thing then, was a welcome treat for me now.

Reflections

Our overnight stop was North Bay Ontario at the North Bay Elks Lodge.

North Bay Elks Lodge

We settled and searched for a grocer and found the biggest candy store I have ever seen!

Candy     Isles of candy

That night we visited with the folks at the Elks Lodge and were given the friendliest welcome from everyone at the bar. After a few beers, we returned to our lovely shaded and quiet spot near the Lodge and slept peacefully throughout the night.

 

Bette Midler’s, From A Distance, our get-up-and-get-moving music for this early rise, was John’s “surprise me” choice. We were on our way to Sault St. Marie, Ontario for an complimentary overnight in Lowes parking lot.

snow sign

Stopping for all three of us to stretch, we checked out the Indian wares at Agawa Crafts.

Agawa Crafts rest stop

A detour along the way added a few miles to our next stop.

Detour

Sun and gentle rains followed us all the way to Lowes until we parked and set up camp. The weather clearing enabled us to give KatieBug an extended walk and us to have an enjoyable dining out experience without getting drenched, some local TV then sleep.

 

Cold and rainy, it’s going to be another Bailey’s Irish cream and coffee morning, at least for me. Rolling along narrow roads, other day of slow going. Our overnight would be at Ney’s Lunch and Campground in Marathon. They were technically closed for the season but we were told we could pick any site and plug into the electricity if we decided to stay.

rolling under cover

Usually pausing at towns with quirky names that catch our attention, Wawa sounded intriguing but storms were in the area so we continued toward our next overnight, continually cautious of wildlife crossing the roads.  We have heard stories about the damage a moose will do to a vehicle.

Passing Wawa      Moose nearby

The rain temporarily ceased when we arrived at another one of those fascinating little s#!t holes John occasionally plans for our overnights. He dubs them, “OK for an overnight”. Absolutely not the words I use.

The other campgrounds in the area have been closed for weeks, Ney’s Lunch and Campground was barren and deserted, hardly something one would consider inviting. A more accurate description would have been, “for desperate campers only”. And of course there are the “it’s always somethings” to add to the experience.  We parked and walked down the narrow rutted road leading us to small muddy sites with hairpin turns for exits. Both agreeing the spaces were treacherous for us to attempt, John set up camp in their parking lot.

Neys Lunch and Campground

The highway-hugging, no electricity parking lot, still cost us $15.00. When John turned to straighten out the car for our early morning exit, the car dolly jammed, forcing John to struggle with the jack to lift up the car, take it off the dolly and straighten out the turn plate. The task gave John something to do until darkness fell.

dolly trouble again

Somehow, John has managed to select our past several overnights in locations that are within a few yards of a rail road. Loud train whistles every few hours makes sleep near impossible even with a generous helping of Bailey’s Irish Cream in my nighttime cocoa.

 

Next morning our journey started in a torrential downpour, drenching LilyPad and cautioning us to slow to a creep.  Facing the possibility of 20 tons of recreational vehicle and towed accidently hydroplaning off the narrow curvy road was terrifying. After several miles we spotted a turn-out to stop and let the rains subside.

Rainy start

Falls multi-colors were fading, partially from age, partially from the constant downpours, the wind snapping leaves off their branches and twirling them to the ground. Simon and Garfunkel’s song plays in an unending loop through my mind…”And the leaves that are green turn to brown; And they whither with the wind; And they crumble in your hand”.

Rainy Dayt

Traveling under cloud cover with intermittent spatters of rain, we wound our way over the road, following Lake Superior’s edge.

Following the Lake   nearing the lake

Up and down over the road, popping in and out of the mist and fog.

coming out of the fog   Nearing the Lake

We passed streams and rivers flowing to the Lake.

Falls coming into the Lake   Rivers joining up

Occasionally the weather cleared enough to make the journey less depressing and us more appreciative of the scenic beauty.

Back through the hills

Carefully watching for wildlife, none was spotted.  In fact, we had passed surprisingly few travelers our entire drive while skirting the Lake.  The extended hours of travel and unending days on the road made us both weary and produced flashbacks of road trips with our kids anxiously asking “are we there yet?”.  John drove at a reduced speed as we did have the entire day to reach our next destination, crossing back into the United States at Minnesota for the coming evening’s overnight.

September 29th through October 6th, 2016 Ashland New Hampshire, Burlington Vermont

After hugs good-by to all the two legged and four legged Wellingtons, we set off for Ashland, New Hampshire. Plans were for a six day, pre journey home, mini vacation. Having visited earlier in the year, we had reservations to return and enjoy all that was passed up during our last escape. We would also enjoy a special family meet-up for lunch on Saturday as our niece and nephew’s daughter was attending college in the area.

Pulling up into our previous site, we spent the balance of the day completing the drudgery of everyday chores.  Housecleaning, laundry, grocery shopping etc. are ongoing no matter where we land.  Nighttime, a long walk for KatieBug to the chirping of crickets and a good nights rest before our mini-vacation would begin.

Ames Brook campground

Rising early, day one started with something off my Favorites List, Heritage Farms Pancake House. The farm’s sunflowers were in full bloom.  After dining on one Chunky Monkey Pancake, because one is all you need, we cruised on over to The Lucknow Estate in New Hampshire.

Heritage  Farm Pancake  Sunflowers at Heritage

The Estate sits high atop the Ossipee Mountain Range. Since opening to the public in 1959, it has been called Castle in the Clouds.  We stopped at the entrance gate, paid the fee and snaked our way slowly up the narrow mountain road.

Castle In The Clouds Gate House Entrance

Half way up we stopped to stretch and walk to the Pebble and then on to the fifty foot high Falls of Song.

The Pebble Falls of Song from a distance  Falls of Song

Continuing on, we reached the welcome center, parked, gazed out over the Lucknow Overlook and took the trolley to the Estate.

Trolley to the Castle   Lucknow Overlook, NH

The Estate is an unusual example of Arts and Crafts architecture in New England, living in harmony with nature and my all time favorite style of home.  Woodworking “wow’s” pop out from every nook and cranny.

Lucknow Estate

The 16-room mansion not only exhibits skilled hand craftsmanship inside and out, but features a number of technological innovations of the early 20th century. Innovations including central vacuuming, ammonia brine refrigeration and an intercom system.

cold storage in pantry    Intercom system

The kitchen was state-of-the-art for its time.

Kitchen

Elegant grounds surround the home.

Overlook garden

Encompassing 5,500 acres, the view from the mountaintop garden grounds is breathtaking.

View to the leftView to the right

Tom, original owner of  Lucknow Estate, made his fortune in the shoe manufacturing industry. Samples of the brand, Queen Quality Shoes, was on display in the bedroom closet, including an original box.

Queen Quality Shoes     Olives dress closet

The Estate was built for the newly married Tom Plant and his wife Olive, was started in 1913 and finished in 1914.  Tom’s portrait is mounted on the wall at the top of the stairs.  Toms small but efficient office has a hidden safe.

Tom at the head of the stairs     Office and hidden vault

Elegant yet casual throughout, the billiard and organ room occupied the largest area of the home.

billiard and organ room   Organ pipes

The billiard sitting room has a cozy secret reading room hidden behind a wall.

Billiard sitting room   Secret reading room

Windows were decorated with hand painted and fired glass circles of nature scenes.

Painted and fired windows   The writting room   Library window

Tom and Olive each had their own bedrooms.

Toms bedroom   Olives bedroom

Olive had her own light filled and spacious dressing room.

Olives dressing room

Guest quarters were at the opposite end of the home.

Guest room  DSC_1655

The maid quarters were more spacious than most we have seen on home tours of this era.

Maids quarters

Bathrooms had ample space and we both had a good laugh over why women were not allowed to use the needle shower.  It seems men thought the water pressure would damage a women’s delicate skin!

Olives bathroom   Needle shower

Tom retired as a millionaire at age fifty-one. He accumulated land from the Ossipee Mountains all the way to Lake Winnipesaukee, eventually owning 6,300 acres.

After a series of failed investments, Tom fell on hard times in the 1920s and 1930s. He attempted to sell the estate in 1925, through the era of the Great Depression, and again in 1934, to no avail. Tom and Olive continued to live at Lucknow Estate until Tom’s death in 1941 at which time the property was sold.

Owned and operated by Castle Preservation Society since 2006, Lucknow is open to the public as a self-guided tour.

Exiting the property, you pass a small peaceful pond, Shannon Trout Pond, popular with Estate staff for enjoying lunch and picnics. The pond is occupied by hundreds of hungry trout that swim to greet you when you step onto the wooden dock.

Shannon trout Pond  Rainbow Trout

One way in and one way out, the small stone guard house still stands near the exit road.

Rear gate house

One detour before returning to LilyPad.  TripAdvisor suggested the Markus Wildlife Sanctuary and Loon Center and it was within a few miles of the Estate.  The sanctuary offered a walking path and in the excellent weather we were enjoying, it sounded appealing .  Before taking the path, we watched an educational presentation about Loons, walked around the hands-on learning center and browsed through the gift shop.

Loon Center Visitors Bldg  On Golden Pond Loon

Venturing outside we discovered the path was somewhat overgrown and more of a hiking trail for those with good balance and no fear of gnarly tree root systems.   It was time to leave the area and return home to rescue KatieBug from her crate.

Loon Center

After our relaxing peek into the past and interesting lesson regarding the life of a Loon, we returned home to give KatieBug a long and entertaining walk around the wooded RV park.  She met up with several of our neighbors and their crazy bouncy fur kids.   Dinner, more pug time and “to all a good night”.

 

Scanning through Groupon, we found a mutually interesting destination and planned an early start for exploring Lost River Gorge & Boulder Caves.  Just past the entrance, a Cairn grew alongside the trail.

Lost River Gorge and Bolder Caves Entrance    A Cairn along the boulder path

The self-guided tour consisted of hundreds of stairs and pathways

Up more steps  More stairs up

and a variety of crawl spaces through caves.  Neither John nor I chose to squeeze into the caves.

One of the boulder cave entrances

Cool breezes started off our morning as the path see-sawed over hundreds of wooden stairs, traversing rolling hills, rocky and root gnarled paths, over and around and through the treed forest. This venture was going to be an excellent work out but looked increasingly daunting the further in we advanced.  Reaching a giant waterfall an hour into the tour we rested, letting the waters spray cool us off.

The falls   Walkway over the water  Path to a Covered Bridge

There were many pausing points near unusual rock formations including one, for obvious reasons, known as the Hanging Rock.

Hanging boulders   Walkway through the boulders

Climbing crisscrossed boards to the top of the lookout, the view was a full sweep of green hues with a few pops of color but the steep climb down sent my leg muscles into screaming mode after having just tackled all the stairs.

Boulder overlook

A few more sets of ups and downs before we reached the visitors center and melted into the comfortable seats of our car.  These are the times I am grateful for the comfort and strength of our faithful 10 year old Lexus.  Being towed back and forth across the country for five years is a testament to its tenacity and the reason I was adamant about keeping Ribitts for our travels.

Sets of steps up     Stairs down

Relaxing in the car I thought, with 20/20 hindsight, the Loon hiking trail would have been effortless in comparison.

Fall was in full Kodachrome color so a drive over Kancamagus Highway, known for sightings of wildlife and beautiful leaf colors, was a must-see path back to LilyPad.

Kancamagus highway  Kancamagus highway overlook

The bright sunlight made the leaves look less colorful and no wild or tame animals chose to stroll nearby our line of sight.  Next day we relaxed and enjoyed lunch with family, the last time we would have their company this season.

Back to LilyPad to stow away all and ready our box-on-wheels for the slow trek home with several side-steps to keep the journey interesting.

Our short R and R complete, we programmed Burlington Vermont into Ways, our navigation program, and scanned Groupon and TripAdvisor for things to do during our next pause.

Arriving early afternoon, we settled in at an “electric only” space at Winooski Vermont’s Elks Lodge and set off to explore Church Street Marketplace in Burlington.

Burlington Elks Lodge site

If I haven’t emphasized sufficiently how much we love being part of the Elks Lodge family, let me take this moment to express my gratitude for their welcoming attitude towards RV’ers, their spacious sites in which to park and the friendly staff that greet us cheerfully at every Lodge where we have stayed. Thank you Elks Lodge Family!

The Marketplace is a destination of shopping, dining, evening libations and enjoyable people watching. We experienced a bit of everything it had to offer as we strolled the multiple streets up and back.

Church Street Marketplace

We loved it being a “no auto zone” as well as being completely non-smoking along the entire route! The area is clean, has lots of interesting small scale shops, there are no cars to distract your gaze away from the shops and it is lined with many historical buildings along its boarders.

No Smoking on Church Street   Keep VT weird  Beautifully restored buildings

Enjoyable and safe, we found The Marketplace a great area to stretch our legs during the day or night. Purchases might be a bit pricey but there were many locals with handmade offerings and only a few junky touristy traps. No panhandlers are allowed, nice touch, but they do have musicians playing along the route that are very appreciative of your monetary donations. We both agreed this was a must-see when in Burlington.

Church Street art

 

Next day we visited ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington Vermont. Perched on the edge of the Lake, the Centers mission, ”to educate and delight people about the Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunities for Stewardship of the Lake Champlain Basin”.

ECHO

Upon entering, an impressive gigantic slice of rock and water fall sculpture, locally sourced.

Rock and Water sculpture

This is a small but densely packed Center with interesting facts and hands on exploration experiences for all ages.  The lake’s Legend of Champ was an interesting read.

Kids water play area  The legend of Champ

The Center offered an enjoyable overview of the history of Lake Champlain and our intermission on their outside deck by the docks brought a cooling gentle breeze and an exceptional view of the marina and lake.

The Boardwalk boat dock

There was ample room for children to explore but we seniors had fun as well.  Polymer play sand is a tactile delight.

Polymer play sand

Watching the fish in the Big Tank was relaxing and turtles are surprisingly entertaining.

The Big Tank   Trio of turtles

The movie, Robots 3D, was a fascinating exploration into the progress of robotic artificial intelligence.

John and I had a chance to dip our fingers into the water tank alive with sea critters, read about the fascinating history of the Lake, explore the lives of sea creatures and chat with helpful docents who answered all our questions about the lake and its inhabitants.

ECHO water critters     pink sea anemone

The building is small but packs a big entertainment punch if you love discovering facts and fiction about the lake.  Two thumbs up and highly recommended for those with inquiring minds.

 

Cat-a-corner to the Center, Skinny Pancake was our lunch destination. It is dog friendly, shaded by large umbrellas on the stone deck with many outside tables and even has water bowls for your fur baby. We stopped for a snack and enjoyed the flavorful and fresh ingredients of the lite and delicious crepes. So many choices, sweet or savory, something for every taste bud.

Skinny Pancake

They sell a wheat free crunchy dog biscuit that KatieBug munched on happily.  We chose the outdoor seats with relaxing views of the water and excellent people watching.

Waterfront Park skirts the edge of the lake. We returned in the early evening to stroll along the wooden pathway and watch towns people intently focused on building unique talismans along the rocky driftwood shores.  I didn’t ask, but wondered if they were protection from “Champ“ the lake monster.

Along Lake Champlain

From one of the multiple wooden garden swings along the boardwalk, we watched the sunset cast an eerie somber grey shadow across the lake.

Sunset on the Boardwalk

Thoroughly relaxed, we returned to the Elks Lodge for a lite dinner and a quiet night’s sleep.

 

Today we would jam-pack in as many tourist trap stops as possible.  The leaves were still turning colors, exposing us at every curve and rolling hill to a brilliant showcase of New England Fall.

Twisting     Rolling hills

It would be unthinkable to ignore one of the most ingenious ice cream makers in New England, Vermont’s own Ben and Jerry’s creamery.

Entrance at Ben and Jerry's  Ben and Jerry's RV

The weather was cool and, lucky for us, the line was a short wait for entering the tour.  Most of the visitors were seniors so the medium length tour was taken at a snail’s pace, fine by me. Information presented was no different from other ice cream factories we have visited but Ben and Jerry has wildly original flavors and a diverse list of fancy mix-in’s.  There were several walls of ice cream scoops that spanned the history of ice cream to entertain us while we waited.

Empower Mint flavor      Ice cream scoops

John partook, I saved my calories for our next stop, Cabot Cheese outlet.

The Cabot Cheese Outlet is located in Winooski Vermont, a short drive from the creamery. The Outlet contains a vast expansion of everything cheese.  Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar is my favorite and free samples were everywhere.

Cabot Cheese Store

The temperature was cool, partly because of the weather outside and partly due to the wall of refrigerated cases opening and shutting as visiting customers purchased tasty tidbits. A sharp cheesy aroma drifted throughout the store.  Several rows of food samples were offered along with tables of artistically displayed cheese choices. Mixed among the cheese was every kind of souvenir imaginable, all containing a cheese theme.

One building over, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery. We rarely pass up a chance to sample what local distilleries offer. The flight of 80 proof tastes were exemplary. John and I split each one, ample alcohol for us to enjoy the six flavors. The small sips allowed either of us to be sober enough for the drive home. Tiny liquor bottles for stocking stuffers purchased and tucked into our bag, we headed for Vermont’s premier chocolate, Lake Champlain Chocolates, across the parking lot.

Disappointed that entering the front doors didn’t produce a heavenly confectionery aroma, we quickly scanned the lower area that was filled with upscale jewelry before taking a step up to the next room where the chocolate was displayed. One case of chocolate, various types, not the factory I was hoping to explore. I bought a few small squares for stocking stuffers, popped one truffle sample into my mouth and we left in search of a place to dine.

On the way to dinner, instead of seeing cows grazing in the fields, wild turkeys were marching along through the green brush chowing down on bugs.

Open fields   Wild Turkeys

Trying local restaurants can be a crap shoot, with positive dining experiences floating somewhere around 60 percent. Our House Bistro in Winooski Vermont was rated well on TripAdvisor. We parked, arriving peak dinner hour and ready to enjoy pub grub with a twist.

Our House

A small narrow pub, embellished with vintage lunchbox décor, only a few tables and no room at any so we climbed up on stools at the bar. Comfort food was their specialty with variations on Mac n Cheese, Pot Pie and burgers. John had Pot Pie, I opted for Mac n Cheese, both were excellent.

While enjoying dinner, I noticed the liquor shelf at my eye level. It displayed a newly prominent Texas liquor, Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Small world.

TX vodka in VT

Back to LilyPad, relax for the night, one more partial day of exploration.

 

Today we would pack up early for our first-thing-in-the-morning Vermont exit.  A grocery run, driving tour of the town and back to LilyPad to relax. A short drive from the Elks Lodge lives the The University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, a public research university.  Since 1862, the U.S. state of Vermont’s sole land-grant university.  On a corner not far away is a 1900’s bank building and Burlington City Hall

University of Vermont    1900 Bank Building    Burlington City Hall

The homes and buildings surrounding the University are stately and well maintained.  St. Joseph’s, built in 1896, still serves the community.  Nightfall and early to bed.

Well maintained homes     St. Joseph's 1896

Rested, refueled and ready to roll, we woke early and were on the road again.  Next destination, Canada!

On the road again   Winding roads

August 28th through September 28th 2016, Holden Massachusetts, Lee New Hampshire, Boston Massachusetts, Portland Maine, closing down Wellington Camping Park

Our next free time escape took us to visit John’s sister and brother-in-law, niece and nephew, all living in Holden Massachusetts. Taking LilyPad and boon-docking, using our generator/water tanks and living in the parking lot of the Auburn Elks Lodge was an economical way to visit but not one I wish repeat. I enjoy boon-docking but much prefer a quiet scenic park-like area to a blacktop parking lot next to an Elks Lodge bar.

The Never Ending Story of “It’s always something” hit hard this week, beginning the series of unwelcome events as we prepared to exit our campsite at the onset of our Holden journey. We read stories of far worse things happening to others but it is disheartening when our list goes on without end. Exiting, I drove the car, John drove the motorhome. Being easier to hook up the car in the campground on the downstairs level, two-way radios in hand, off we drove. Turning to notice John driving away with the door awning still extended I spoke into the radio warning him to stop. As John rolled closer to the huge tree branch, the awning positioning itself for imminent destruction, I panicked and sprinted after the motor home, banging on its rear end. John stopped with the awning a smidge short of hitting the limb. I cringed at the thought of the cost to replace a ripped off awning. When he stopped and I opened the door, he said he didn’t hear me on the radio. Well Duh…hard to hear when his radio was off. Awning out, phone off, two “Oops” and we hadn’t even left the campground.

Hooking up the car, John drove off in a cloud of dust. Luckily he noticed the wildly waving arms of a camper running behind us. John had set the parking brake on the car and was dragging the locked wheels along the road. Three “Oops” and we were off.

A few days later, on our way home from Holden, we stopped for gas. After filling up, we started to exit the pumps and I heard a loud “thunk” that shook the motor home. John kept moving but I yelled “don’t move” and rushed out the door to inspect the RV and car. Our newly purchased, but old and decrepit car tow dolly had twisted, not something it should do, and shoved one of the steel tire ramps into the underside of Ribitts driver’s side door.

Twisted tow dolly

Securely wedged, the only way to move the wheels of the dolly was to lift the car up and off. Luckily we were able to disconnect the dolly from LilyPad, leaving only the car and dolly stuck in the middle of the gas station parking area. “Oops” number four and counting.

Wheel jamming the door

In 44 years of marriage, we have not been without AAA.  Owning a motor home and car required us to regretfully change companies. Coach Net specialized in car and motor home insurance and we gratefully pay Coach Net to rescue us anywhere in the United States and Canada. It was difficult explaining exactly what had happened for Coach Net to know what to send to the rescue. Telling them we needed to lift the car off the tow dolly brought a long pause, then a barrage of questions. To their credit, within 20 minutes, they sent the perfect size tow truck and an experienced driver.

Tow truck lifting the car off the dolly

The gas station was next to an auto body shop and the owner agreed to heat and bend the tow dolly frame back into its proper position, solving any future problems once the car was freed.

This is where I tell John, “I told you so”. When we first picked up the tow dolly, I mentioned it was extremely old, needed work, looked bowed in the middle and I wouldn’t use my dollars to make the purchase. John talked with the seller, thought it looked fine, took the owners claim that the tires were fine and trustingly handed a complete stranger the cash.

Back to our site with LilyPad minus the tow dolly, parked but not settled, John partially slid out our kitchen slide to hook up our WiFi cable. He left a large flashlight on the slide rail and continued to let out the slide. I heard a cracking sound and yelled “wait”, Noticing the flashlight beam of light atop the slide, I pulled it out. Another “Oops”. This seasons last few “It’s always something’s” have stressed out my last nerve.

Settling back in at the campground, the other workamper caught me up on the latest scandalous roguery of our chaotic, homeless tent families.  She had suffered the wrath, foul mouth and explosive temperament of one camper after being asked to encourage them to load up their multiple bags of smelly leaking trash on the campground truck and drive it up to the dumpster. The camper screamed and threw insults at her about us workampers being the “establishment” and we had no business telling him to clean up his campsite.

We presently have five homeless families, four with children. I have nothing against people down on their luck, however, being financially challenged is no excuse for leaving rotten food, empty bottles, cans and piles of dirty clothes strewn across tables and the ground. The rest of the campers manage to deposit their waste in the lined trashcans, which the owner supplies, disposing full bags in the dumpsters instead of leaving them piled around their campsite. And in a family campground, it is inexcusable to be screaming obscenities at your young children, excessively drinking all night and shirking the responsibility of watching your own offspring. No other guests initiated an “in your face” high volume disrespectful confrontation with John, then me, over who’s responsibility it was to watch their child.  The child was standing shoulder deep in the river, without a lifejacket, unable to swim, wailing and well within earshot of a parent who chose not to react. It had the appearance of a law suit waiting to happen. For a handful of days previous, we listened to him preach unflattering claims of our shortcomings to his fellow homeless neighbors from the steps of the men’s bathroom.  I listened to him rant and rave as I scrubbed the women’s bathroom. I don’t do “bite your tongue” exceptionally well but dealing with power keg personalities is best left to professionals.

Short of a few squirrels, one porcupine, a dozen or so wild turkeys and a few deer, not many interesting wild things have crossed our path. Leaving the gallon size hummingbird feeder out while we were visiting family in Holden, expecting to eventually draw hummers to our site, no liquid was missing upon return.  Down it came, replaced with a smaller version. Again, no hummers. The feeder hung full for another three days and I considered giving it up for the season. The next morning, as I stood inside by the front door, a medium sized hummer was paused with its beak fully engaged in the yellow fake plastic flower, draining as much sugar water as he dared before spying me and speeding off. Next day we saw him twice and he continued drinking daily until the last week of our stay.

Only one hummer

This morning, before we began our chores, John overfilled the fresh water tank and our site got a thorough drenching. Although I consider this another “Oops”, there was a silver lining. It wasn’t the black tank.

End of another day, work complete for another rotation, we readied ourselves for tomorrows visit to one of my favorite small towns, Salem, Massachusetts. KatieBug would have a sleep over at Yellow Dogs Inn so we could relax the entire day and not have to rush home.

Salem’s hokeyness begins shortly after exiting your parked car. We spied a Little Shop of Horrors plant plopped out in front of a building, encouraging tourist to enter.

Little Shop of Horrors

We sat outside the Visitors Center waiting for Seth, our tour guide for our Groupon tour purchase. After joining up with another couple, Seth led us strolling through town enjoying tidbits of information along the way. Because we have toured Salem before, we noticed each tour guide shares the tales with slightly adjusted facts, personalizing each tour. The one fact that is never revised or altered is the one exposing the details of the Salem Witch Trials.

Salem Massachusetts is a must-see for anyone visiting New England. Not for the corny backroom séances or the satanic influence enticingly glaring out at tourists from dark back-alley shops but for its amazingly resilient seacoast townspeople, early American history and from its humble beginnings, what it is best known for worldwide, the Salem Witch Trials.

Although the granite surround in a park like setting is designed to be a place of respect and reflection, I found the memorial littered with pieces of trash and cigarette butts. Brushing trash away with my shoe, I took a picture of the victims’ protests of innocence, carved in granite, lying across the entrance. Their cries of anguish haunted my thoughts as I stood next to the monument. Twenty people, falsely accused, tortured and sent to their deaths.

Quotes from the accused    Quotes from those accused

Shading the stone memorial are five Locust trees. Locust trees are the last to flower and the first to lose their leaves and were planted to represent the injustice of the trials. You can see tombstones in the background, a reminder of those who stood by in silence as they witnessed the hysteria.

Salem Witch Trials Memorial

The memorial park is dedicated to the enduring lessons of human rights and tolerance learned from the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. It was dedicated on the day of my birth, September 9th. Although John suggested it, this in no way connects me to the occult. Witch Doctor, yes…Witch, no.

Witch Trials Memorial

Three hundred and twenty four years later, society’s indifference to oppression is as callous today as it was during the horrific Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Sadly, we haven’t attained greater tolerance or gained further wisdom from past actions as some would wish us to believe.

We walked by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and hesitated long enough to learn about those buried on church grounds. The exact number is unknown as graves were moved to provide space for development in 1845. Some of the tombstones were incorporated into the chapel walls and headstones were stored haphazardly in the church basement during expansions. It is not known if the headstones represent the human remains beneath.

St. Peter's Episcopal Church

The historic Lyceum building, now Turner’s Seafood, is built on top of the former site of Bridget Bishop’s apple orchard. The building is reportedly haunted by the ghost of Bridget Bishop, the first victim of the Salem Witch Trials. The historic building has been featured on many paranormal shows including Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters, as were many other of the centuries old buildings in Salem. It is said that the smell of apples wafts through the building. Poking my head inside, no scent of apples, only the scent of French fries.

Lyceum building

Our previous to The Burying Point was at night, when the grounds were closed and no entrance was allowed.  This time, our visit was in daylight and we were able to walk around the grounds.

The Burying Point

Seth pointed out Col. John Hathorne Esquire’s grave marker. Often portrayed as a judge in the Salem witch trials, he was an executor and the only one who never repented of his actions. You may notice that his famous son, the writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, spelled his name differently. The name was so scandalized by the actions of his father, he changed the spelling to distance himself.

Seth and John Hathorne Esq   Nathaniel Hawthorn

The most photographed and notable statue in Salem is of Roger Conant, the first settler in 1626. His home is available to tour and is located a block from the statue.

Roger Conant

In 1830, the house at 128 Essex Street, one of the grandest in Salem, was the scene of a brutal murder, a twisted tail of greed and deceit that sealed the fate of the owner, 82 year old Capt. Joseph White. White was a wealthy but childless widower who made his fortune as a shipmaster and slave trader.

The murder captivated the nation and inspired the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Congressman Daniel Webster, the famed lawyer and congressman, was prosecutor at the trial. Webster’s summation for the jury was thought to have been the inspiration for Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and may have affected the mindset of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writings of family fortunes, abounding guilt and retaliation. Smithsonian Magazine’s website has substantial details of the famous murder.
128 Essex Street

On the corner, across from the historic Hawthorne Hotel, stands StickWork 2016, the artistic endeavor of artist Patrick Dougherty with contributing efforts from the Salem community. I Googled his work. Impressively massive forms from natural sources.

2016 StickWork      Hawthorn Hotel

Our tour now ended, we strolled once more through the streets of downtown Salem before daylight faded, climbed into the car and drove the coastal route back to Lee. Dinner was yummy Beach Plum lobster rolls. We spent an hour with the TV before bedtime.

KatieBug greeted us happily as we picked her up the next morning from Yellow Dogs Inn. Back to LilyPad, starting the first of several loads of laundry, a quick trip to pick up groceries, more laundry, vacuuming floors, storing anything not in its rightful space, darkness overcame the campground and another day ended.

Our work week was relaxed now that season’s end was approaching. Just one more major chore, closing down the campground, still loomed ahead. With Boston still on our To Do List, next day off we would schedule KatieBug for another overnight and spend the entire day walking the streets of Boston. I began a mental list of what was most important to see as one day in Boston is never enough time.

Early morning, after our work week ended, we dropped KatieBug at the Inn, stopped at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire for breakfast at a small beachside diner then drove to Oak Grove subway station, catching the “T” to Boylston Street. This time we would walk the entire day, no Hop-on/Hop-off bus or subways other than the one back to where our car was parked.

Hampton, New Hampshire

Our walk began alongside the two major Boston parks to the downtown library, a short pause on the church lawn to explore the farmers market offerings and to score some delicious goat cheese, then over to Newbury Street.

Boston Common

A U-turn down Newbury Street all the way to the Public Gardens, a shaded comfortable bench on which to relax before stopping to view tourists enjoying the Swan Boats.

We continued our walk through the Commons, stopping to rest at the Frog Pond. In the winter, the frozen pond is crowded with ice skaters and it’s delightful to watch all the agile activity.

Frog Pond in Boston Commons

Next rest stop was under shade trees near Brewer fountain. My memories of this large open area are filled with the voices of political and religious soap box speeches so often enjoyed on my lunch hour. Open air debate, very invigorating.

Brewer Fountain

Next on my mental list was to stroll through The Old Granary Burial Ground to visit Mother Gooses grave.

Mother Goose

When we first lived in Boston, rubbing pencil lead over a paper placed over the marker design, also known as grave rubbings, was allowed.  Sometime after we moved, it was made illegal and the city closed the grave yards at night to keep the stones from being damaged.  When viewed up close, the carvers work is beautiful and detailed.

Cemetery art work

You cannot visit the Old Granary Burial Ground without paying tribute to all the founding fathers along the cemetery path. The Franklin Family Monument is clearly visible from any of the paths.

Franklin Family Monument

Robert Treat Paine (1731–1814), signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Robert Paine

Samuel Adams (1722 – 1803), an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Samual Adams

Paul Revere (1735 – 1818), was an American silversmith, engraver, early industrialist, and a Patriot in the American Revolution.

Paul Revere

Founded in 1660, the Old Granary Burial Ground in Massachusetts is Boston’s third-oldest cemetery and one of the major stops for colonial dressed guided walking tours.

Old Granary Burial Ground

John and I moseyed back through town, a pause in front of Franklin’s birthplace,

Birthplace of Franklin

crossing in back of the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre,

The Old State House

down to Faneuil Hall, topped with Boston’s most famous weathervane, The Grasshopper, from acclaimed craftsman Shem Drowne who crafted the weathervane atop Old North Church.

Top of Faneuil Hall

Across the street sits the Haymarket, an enjoyable viewing of the city’s weekend fresh garden offerings.

Meat Markets at Haymarket   Haymarket

If you focus your attention downward while walking Haymarket streets, you will view the city’s 1976 artistic creation of bronzed trash and debris providing an intimate experience of the market, open or closed. The “trash” is embedded in the crosswalks and is enjoyed by visitors during the market and after all has been power washed away.

Haymarket brassed trash

A short jaunt across the freeway is The North End, the Italian section of Boston. I loved this area while living in Boston and my adoration has not lessoned. Part of the Freedom Trail, the red bricks pave a path to the colonial home of American patriot Paul Revere. The red line passes the Old North Church, the oldest standing church building in Boston and “one if by land, two if by sea” fame.  Paul Revere’s statue dominates the park behind the church.

Paul Revere statue

Our dinner choice for tonight was Giacomo’s Italian Restaurant, a tiny hole in the wall restaurant down the street from Paul Revere’s statue in the North End.

Giacomo's Italian Restaurant

Open at 4:00 pm daily, John waited in line until the doors unlocked. Not the first to enter, our seats were in the front window, without shade and overly warm. The atmosphere was noisy, casual and homey. The food was excellent. We ordered the special, never believing we would finish the gigantic plateful.

Seafood for dinner

After our delectable dinner, the plan was to walk back to Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Stuffed as we were, my darn sweet tooth saw Mike’s Pastries, the premier Italian bakery in the North End, and started wailing something fierce. I knew it wouldn’t stop until it got a double shot of something sweet. By the sound of the racket in my head, I’m thinking I may have several sweet teeth back there in my jaw. Finishing one of Mikes exquisite double chocolate peanut butter brownie quieted down the chores.

Waddling down the streets of the North End, across Faneuil Hall, descending the stairs into the subway and back to the car. We were the only ones in the subway car for most of the ride. An hour after exiting the “T”, we arrived at LilyPad. Early to bed, early to rise to pick up KatieBug and relax one more day before the start of our last week of work.

 

Our return visit to Portland Maine was a quick half day trip taken our last free day before work.  Purchasing Groupon tickets to reduce the cost of entrance fees, our primary afternoon destination for the day was The Victorian Mansion. The mansion is an Italian villa style home decorated by Gustave Herter, one of America’s first interior designers. No pictures are allowed inside so I borrowed one from the internet showing the detailed wall paintings.

Victorian Mansion     Side view

The house and furnishings are historically accurate and exceptionally well preserved, offering a peek into the “Gone With the Wind” pre-civil war opulence. The building is distinguished for its architecture and incredible hand painted original interior walls, custom carved Italian marble fireplaces and hand carved interior woodwork.

hand painted walls and ceilings    Inside Victorian Mansion

In awe as I approached the immense carved front doors, stepping through to an additional set of interior doors with intricately decorated etched glass panels, the feeling stayed with me throughout our tour and lasted beyond exiting down the back steps.

Front doors

After the tour, lunch, a walk around town and back to Lee for a good night’s rest before morning arrives and we begin putting the campground to sleep for the winter.

Today begins our last few days of workamping as we start closing duties. Plants in baskets are tumped over (a Texas term meaning spilling out the contents of a container) bottoms up, pressed into the earth, crushing the flowers into the soil, the winter snows packing them into the ground and turning the decayed flowers into next spring’s fertile soil.

The 4 pounds of extra corn, left over from the forty, 7 inch square, Corn Hole Toss bags I sewed last week for the owner, has been scattered in the front field for the deer and turkey to carbo load up for the winter.

Picnic tables are moved close enough to a tree to be upended and leaned over so snow doesn’t pile up on top. It was a bit less complicated than tipping cows because you don’t have to sneak up on them.

Tipped tables

The beach is cleaned, chairs gathered, stacked and moved into the rec center via the campground truck.

Beach cleaned

Boats emptied of paddles and stacked on the boat rack.

canoes up

Garbage cans are emptied and moved inside the front porch of the original owners cabin down at the river’s edge.

Emptied and stored cans

Seasonal families are packing up and closing down their sites. Blue tarps cover all odds and ends gathered together and wrapped over the tops. Grills and trailers also covered. A few abandoned broken pieces of metal sit in wait for the metal guy to come fetch them.

Seasonal sites

Next morning, breakfast at Tiltin’ Diner, a 50’s style diner and part of the Common Man chain of restaurants in New Hampshire, heartily enjoyed with our forever buddies since pre-children days, Rich and Judi.

This year we were able to visit them several times, reminiscing about the old days, sharing news, not thinking about how many years have gone by as we watched the sun set on peaceful Sawyer Lake from their porch.

Rich and Judi's dock

Next years workamper sites will be next to the rec center, a few yards from our current site.

foot path to rec center

They are open, large, flat and together in one area.

Next years workamper sites

Later in the day, after closing duties were complete, we shared a few bottles of wine and said our farewells to Pat, Chris, Doug, Scott, Susan and Conchita (Pat’s fur baby) before we settled down for our final night at Wellington Camping Park and made ready for our journey home via Canada. Yea, I know it’s not the shortest route, but what good is retirement if you can’t take the long way home and stop to smell a few roses?

Five months ago, I swore I heard the theme song from Deliverance playing somewhere in the distance as we bumped down the dusty dirt incline to our site. My first impression was extreme discomfort and I was looking for any excuse to be elsewhere.  The campground presented dozens of valid reasons why we should leave and it appeared to be another unfortunate choice.

Two months into our workamping job, our move upstairs and away from the dust calmed my “get me out-of-here” pleas and changed them to “we’ll stay for the term”. Seeing Pat and the family work diligently to improve the campground, my opinion changed once more. As we helped Pat prepare to close the campground for the season, I admit, I have become increasingly fond of the owner, her Golden-doodle fur baby, her sons and family. They will be missed.

July 28th through August 27th, 2016 St. Martin Village New Brunswick Canada, Prince Edward Island Canada, Ashland New Hampshire

Our NEXUS cards, KatieBug’s health record, our list of fresh veggies and fruits on hand to give to the border agents and our motor home, all in prepare-to-cross-the-border mode. We had planned to leave first thing in the morning but were stalled by visits to the local auto repair shop for our cars failed a/c., twice in one week. With the repair shops promise of getting us on the road before the end of Tuesday, we were able to pick up the car before noon, hook-up to our new-to-us car tow dolly and were on our way to Canada.

Overnight was at the Wal-Mart parking lot in Calais Maine, a short drive from the Canadian border. Tonight, anything fresh with a pit or seeds must be eaten, mashed or frozen and all pits, stems, seeds and peels must be removed from the motorhome.

Calais Walmart camp site

The town of Calais has some incredible Victorian gingerbread trimmed homes lining the main street. Seeing beautiful vintage homes being repurposed into well cared for businesses is heartwarming. The houses are fashion forward forever. Such a waste when they chose to tear them down.

I asked John if there was anything else to declare. For the fourth time, having to listen to him say “don’t worry, we are OK” over and over, we were off to the border. Arriving with our list of produce in hand, we were asked to declare how much liquor we had in the motor home. Wait, what? I looked at John. John said “7 or 8 bottles”. We had not listed liquor, only fruit and veggies! We were directed to write down the type of liquor, size of the bottle and the amount in each bottle and present the list. Oh crap. Paper and pen in hand, I scurried to the bedroom and started listing. Returning and saying each one out loud to the border agent, stating again, we live in our motor home full time and some of the liquor has been sitting unopened for several years. He stared back unimpressed. Telling us we had exceeded the limit, we were instructed to bring the list inside the building. When I glared at John and asked him what was the limit, the guard answered for him. “You have a NEXUS card. You are supposed to know you are only allowed one bottle each.” Oh great. Long story short, John had not bothered to read the NEXUS rules. His excuse? They hadn’t asked us about liquor the last two times we crossed over the Canadian border. We paid $199.00 to bring our own liquor, some of it carried unopened for years, across the border. My mood, tone and remarks gave him warning, I was not amused.

On the road again with the constant pounding of the wheels hitting the pavement gaps, irritating the nerves in my spine, exceeding the relief my three lidocaine pain patches could mask. Coupled with a migraine, a reaction from the lidocaine, I stood in the back of the motorhome, bent over and resting on the counter, for the greater part of our journey.

After the back-jarring journey, costly fee and stress at the boarder to bring our unopened liquor over the Canadian border, we both were looking forward to an easy transition into normal retiree life, if only temporarily. Less than two hours later we arrived at Century Farm Family Campground in the Village of St. Martin. Our site was a huge pull through on level grass with a reasonably close view of the Bay.

Our site at Century Farm

Mathias Moran was granted the campground land in 1783 and the property has been in the Moran family ever since. The campground is basic, lots of seasonal couples, flat level sites, close enough to the bay to see the ripples of the water. No sand, just grit, rock and chilled crystal clear water. All in all, a great campground, site and view.

Century Farm Family Campgroud

St. Martins is a Canadian village in Saint John County, New Brunswick Canada. The picturesque community, rich in seafaring history, is situated on the Bay of Fundy. The village was founded by Loyalists in 1783 and originally named Quaco. Over 500 sailing ships were built in this area in the 1800’s. Shipbuilding declined after 1870’s and lumbering, fishing and tourism took its place.

Slides out and levels down, all settled and ready to explore, we set off in search of either chowder or lobster, whichever we found first, for dinner. We drove into town, a three minute drive, and parked to walk the tiny Village of St. Martins. The village was comprised of a few brightly colored tourist shops, the bay and lobster boats.

Town businesses  High tide boats

At high tide, the bay swells with brackish water and the boats bob gently up and down.  At low tide the boats rest tilted and squished into the muddy bottom of the bay.

Boats at High Tide  Boats in the Bay of Fundy low tide

Dinner would be seafood “chowder” at Sea Side Take Out Restaurant. The pronunciation reverts back to “chowdah” when we return to New England. The sea caves were visible from the restaurant, 200 yards from shore. Tomorrow the caves would be our destination

Sea Side Take Out

Surprised the town closes down early, we were only able to get chowder “to go” and drove back to LilyPad for dinner. A stroll along the shore before sea sounds lulled us to sleep.

Bay of Fundy

Next morning, back into the village to explore and visit the caves. In the village are two covered bridges, still in use, within a block of each other and a lighthouse. St. Martin is the only place in the world where twin covered bridges and a lighthouse can be photographed in the same picture, although I chose to take photo’s of them individually.

Covered bridge by the lighthouse  Covered bridge to caves

The covered bridges sit next to the small inlet serving as lobster boat docks. The lighthouse was converted into the visitor center but closed each time we passed.

St. Martins Tourist Information

Past the village, through one of the covered bridges, up the hill and around the corner were the sea caves.

Covered bridge high tide  Caves at high tide

The sandstone Sea Caves are a UNESCO Fundy Biosphere. Accessible by foot during low tide, the crossing is rocky.  It is a fair distance from the road and walking can be difficult on the large loose stones if you have ankle, knee or back problems. I had John and my cane and the will to have a firsthand experience instead of watching from the shore.

Caves at low tide    Low Tide in the cave

It was a beautiful day for a walk in the sunshine. Several of our neighborhood RV families had joined the bands of tourists rambling in the direction of the caves. One narrow water flow from land, easily crossed, then into the caves. The dark coolness inside was delightful.

Sea Cave  Inside the big cave

Exchanging Kodak Moments with one of our neighbors, we poked around the receded ocean floor before joining the flow of tourists back to shore.

Inside the cave

Next morning, off to the town of Sussex for groceries and supplies. Nothing worth a photo except Canada’s top selling breakfast cereal.

Canadas most loved cereal

We did discover a fantastic thrift shop near the market and came out with a stack of intricate adult and easy kid puzzles to donate to Wellington’s stock of campground rec center activity supplies. After scrubbing four bathrooms, resting while working a 500 piece puzzle is an excellent way to allow body temperatures to cool down on a hot muggy summer day.

Packed up the night before, we arose early for the next leg of our journey, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The summer flowers in shades of purple covered fields along the way.

Fields of purple

To reach the island by vehicle, one must cross over the Confederation Bridge. It connects New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island (PEI). Atchafalaya Basin Bridge – 96,100 feet, between Baton Rouge and Lafayette is the longest bridge we have crossed with LilyPad towing, but the Confederation Bridge has been the most expensive.

Confederation Bridge

Locals called the bridge the “fixed link” until its name was given upon completion. Most of the bridge is 131 feet above water. It took us about 15 minutes to cross the bridge and John was anxious to be on dry land. No fee on the way over, the toll applies only when leaving PEI and the rates are steep, almost $70.00 for our RV and car.

Cornwell Charlottetown KOA on Prince Edward Island was gigantic, fully packed with families and overflowing with little kids enjoying the last Canadian long weekend of the year. We reserved a pull through, not expecting it to be a premium site. What we got was a spacious and flat, front row corner, Bass Cove water view site. Lucky us…didn’t see one site better in the entire park!

High Tide KOA LilyPads view    Our site in Cornwall KOA

After settling, we watched our neighbors bring up a bucket full of Quahogs from the low tide mucky sea bottom and we chatted about their catch. Next day another neighbor, with kids in tow, brought up a large bucket full of Quahogs and we discussed the process of bleaching out the sand for steaming their catch the next day. After watching two families hunt, dig up and clean the clams, it took mere seconds for John to decide clamming was too much work. My grandparents would have disagreed. They regularly took their travel trailer to Washington for the season and spent their days digging clams, dining on fresh steamers and enjoying sunsets from the beaches. Grandma would turn any clams not immediately enjoyed into a killer Italian clam sauce.

Clam digging low tide

I had read about The Dunes Studio Gallery and Café in TripAdvisor and it sounded like an intriguing place for lunch. No wake up alarm was set so we got up late, took a relaxing walk across the bay floor at low tide with KatieBug before leaving to lunch at The Dunes.

On the way, we passed plastic wrapped dry hay marshmallows resting in a field next to a horse pasture. John had chatted with our neighbor in St. Martins and he told us the story of why the bales of hay are wrapped. Wet hay can ferment causing equines adverse health effects. Wrapping the hay at specific moisture levels, after cutting and drying, results in minimal fermentation and no problems with horse digestion. Cows, on the other hand, enjoy the fermentation of unwrapped bales of hay. Hmmm…we learn something new every day.

hay marshmellows

Reaching the Dunes shortly before lunch, we entered through the gift shop, put our name in at the Café and sat in the art gallery enjoying the mixed media works until our name was called. From our table, we could see the gardens outside and art in a patchwork pattern covering the walls of the floor directly above us.

Dunes Cafe, gardens and gift shop   Inside the Dunes Cafe

Lunch, for me, was a huge bowl of mussels. PEI blue lipped are delicious and touted to be of premium flavor for aficionados. Like eating lobster in Maine, if you love mussels, this is the place. As the saying goes…when in Rome.

After lunch we wandered around the gift shop with the gardens luring us through huge picture widows all across the back of the gift shop.  One particular piece caught my eye. The artist had draped a huge blown glass bowl inside tree limbs. All it needed was a bright orange long finned fan tail gold fish swimming around inside the glass globe.

Glass sculpture

The gardens were spread out along the length of the buildings and showcased a beautiful water garden just outside the back door.  Reaching all the way into the sand dunes, the grass and gardens were spotted with natural wood formed outdoor furniture.

Fountains at the Dunes  Dunes Lawn furniture

We sat watching the gardener dead heading flowers, clipping stray branches here and there and moving the watering hose from patch to patch. Love these moments of quiet peaceful downtime.

Wooden outdoor furniture and gardens   Flower Gardens in the Dunes

Flower Garden

We exited a different door on our way out.  The steps were decorated with ducks of all sizes, some costumed, some naked but wearing boots.   Ducks at the Dunes

We took the long way home to LilyPad and then the three of us meandered along the edge of the bay to stretch our legs before confining ourselves inside for the remainder of the day and night to do the necessary humdrum household chores.  Dinner, TV and sleep.

Low Tide Cornwall Charlottetown KOA

Another early rise for our drive to Charlottetown Prince Edward Island (PEI), our destination for the day. Visiting a church, a lobster roll for lunch, window shopping through town and down to the docks, maybe some PEI mussels and back to our little bay side corner of peace and tranquility.

I wasn’t expecting hot weather so after our multiple block stroll through the historic shopping area of Victoria Row, we slipped into St. Dunstan’s Catholic Church, named for the Anglo Saxon saint from Glastonbury, for a quiet sit down and cool respite.

St. Dunstan's Basilica, Charltontown, PEI   St. Dunstan's Basilica

Next door sat the Board of Governor’s House. We didn’t enter but enjoyed the architecture from a bench outside.

Board of Governors House

Dave’s Lobster, a small fast food style restaurant near the wharf, was promoted as the best lobster rolls in Charlottetown so we were off in search of lunch. Walking down to the wharf at noon, right on schedule, we split a lobster roll.

Roaming around the wharf, enjoying the sea breezes while window shopping, made me hungry for more lobster. Our next restaurant choice was a re-visit from a cruise we took up the New England sea coast several years ago. I had a disappointing miniature, overcooked lobster tail. John had lobster poutine, a yummy meal of perfectly crisped French fries, a generous portion of cheese curds and lobster pieces with the entire mound coated in white seafood gravy. John willingly shared his huge heaping meal of heaven on a plate.

Poutine is a dish born out of rural Quebec in the 1950’s that consists of three ingredients: fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds.  We were delighted with our first taste while in Quebec many years ago.  Variations range from additional ingredients to a flavor choice of gravy.  Fattening but excellent and a must try when in Canada.

Walking back to our car, we took a detour into the first place I had ever enjoyed a chocolate covered potato chip while exploring from our New England coast cruise.  We walked from the ship to this shop.  They call them Cow Chips and yummy is an understatement.

Chocolate covered potato chips

We drove home and took another walk along the bay ridge with KatieBug before days end.

The bay, mid tide

After our uncomfortable crossing into Canada, tonight we typed all items needing to be declared and took out all things not able to pass through into the United States. Red bell pepper, frozen peaches, frozen nectarines, frozen cherries, avocado, all unable to enter the United States. It became our hodgepodge dinner and breakfast before leaving Canada. Unappealing as it was in combination, we washed it all down with the rest of the wine and whisky, also not allowed to cross back into the US without fees.  No need for pain patches tonight.

Sad to leave our fantastic water view site and knowing our return to the states meant returning to workamping, I kept busy along the way taking pictures of signs, personalized for Canadian weather conditions and wild life situations.

Slippery when  Exit signs

A slightly different twist than those in the U.S., moose crossings, moose warnings, temperature warnings,

Slow for moose   Moose warnings

and can you believe the price of gas in Canada?

Gas prices

It’s a total bubble buster when you find out, in Canada, gas is sold by the liter.

Another tell tale sign you are in Canada is the overabundance of Tim Horton’s, Canada’s answer to Starbucks.

Tim Hortons coffee house

Our crossing into the United States was much more pleasant than our crossing into Canada. They asked us a few questions. Their response, when we told them we had a few bottles of liquor was, “a small bar?” We said yes, they said, “no problem” and “welcome home”. Whew. Next stop was Ames Brook RV Park in Ashland New Hampshire. One more week of retirement before we return to scrubbing bathrooms.

Our overnight was at Wally World RV Resort in Bangor Maine. We joined the dozen or so campers already set up, wandered around Wal-Mart until we were tired and dinned on Wal-Mart purchased frozen Lean Cuisine.

Walmart, Brewer ME

A few weeks prior, we had driven by Ames Brook, where we would be staying. We already knew which site was ours.  Down gravel roads, sites of grass and gravel pads, shade trees surrounding us but none overhead. The perfect combination of shade without leaves or nuts pinging down on us or slapping LilyPad upside the head and clogging her slides and roof vents.

After setting up camp we scouted out the area. Down one side street we spotted Bernsen Art Gallery located in Ashland Maine. It occupies the 1849 Ashland railroad freight depot.

Bernsen Art Gallery

The artist, Bill Bernsen, describes his work as “found object art and assemblages”.  His elderly fur baby stayed close by his side.

Bill and his fur baby

The metal art is amassed in a storage barn, spilling out into his side yard adjacent the depot. One interesting piece of metal assemblage is called “Eleven Saws”. When you count them, there are only 10. In a play on words for the title, the 11th is that you “saw” the art piece.

Works in progress    Outside metal art

Fun and fanciful, the bicycle built for two was my favorite.

Bicycle Built for Two

The outside explored, we stepped upstairs to view the interior gallery. Before entering, I paused to enjoy the whimsical faces hanging on the sliding wooden barn door.

Whimsical Faces

We stepped into a room with highlighted walls displaying an interesting departure from cold hard metals. Back lit and suspended were a half dozen wood relief pieces, a complete about-face from inflexible metal to malleable organic materials. A thoroughly enjoyable display.  When our visit came to an end, we thanked Bill for the experience and drove on to explore more of the area.

Wood Relief      Bernsen Wood Relief

Back to our campsite to make ready for our night out at The Flying Monkey venue. Tonight we will dine while enjoying a concert with the fabulous Big Bad Voodoo Daddy band. We were delighted with their performance at the Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands and were excited to relive the experience. Dinner was decent but nothing special. The concert was entertaining but lacked the lively jitterbugging troupe of groupies who had danced at the front of the Mitchell Pavilion stage. Still, the music was marvellous, totally worth the cost.

The Flying Monkey

Comfortably in our relax mode, we noticed a poster advertising the New Hampton Open Air market down the street from our campsite. Early up the next morning to check out the produce and eggs, all the while being serenaded by Blue Grass music. Tomorrow, for breakfast, we shall dine on just picked sautéed veggies and newly laid scrambled eggs.

New Hampton Farmers Market

Our farm fresh breakfast cooked, eaten, and dishes cleaned, we drove to The Tilton New Hampshire concert series sponsoring the Rockin Daddios DooWop acapella quartet. The audience was mainly oldies with a few children twirling around at the foot of the stage. Songs were from my teen era, John’s young adult years. Even KatieBug enjoyed our sit-back-and-relax afternoon.

Rockin Daddios DooWop, Tilton

Two more days of tranquility. Looking up Best Breakfasts on line, we chose The Heritage Farm Pancake House.

Heritage Farm Pancake house

Everything is served family style and most of the tables will seat a huge family with room to spare.  The dining rooms were inside upstairs, inside downstairs, outside on the front porch and outside in the massive barn.  A petting zoo occupied the field behind the barn.

Barn seating at Heritage Farm

There were so many people arriving who ended up in the kitchen helping, I had to wonder why…until I saw two young men in white shirts, black dress pants and ties sitting at a table in the small entrance dining area, bible open, discussing the Good Book. When the young men finished their chat, they got up, walked outside to the porch and began clearing tables. Shortly afterwards, they paused to sit and speak with a couple who had just finished breakfast. After we had enjoyed our breakfast and were on our way out, the young men had settled in with another couple at a corner table and were in a deep concentrated discussion.

I’m not one to believe in the afterlife making contact with us down-on-earth folks, but in the moment, I was struck with an eerie thought. Perhaps finding this religious country farm restaurant was not an accident but a sliver of cosmic payback. Cheryl, a dear childhood friend of mine, passed away a few years back. Cheryl had become a Jehovah’s Witness as an adult and often requested me to accompany her to one of their services. I refused although she kept asking. When she had left this earth, I was sad to have put this small favor off for so long. Perhaps a spirit had guided us to this particular restaurant. I could almost hear her deep Jolly Santa laugh and imagine her watching to see if I got the connection. Not in life but in afterlife, she might have drawn me to the people of her church. My Chunky Monkey pancake was fabulous. Thanks Cheryl, and yes, we still miss you!

In preparation of our drive up Mt. Washington, we visited The Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth University. The museum was hosting an exhibit dedicated to the women who used the mountainous region to explore their talents and creativity, uninhabited by the constraints of urban life.

The first European to ascend the mountain was Darby Field in 1642 but women played a sizeable role, shaping and popularizing the White Mountain region using art, first- hand accounts, clothing and photographs.

While we walked through the museum, one of the curators approached us, mentioning she had also attended Chico State, referring to the Chico State T-shirt John was wearing. It amazes me how many “small world” examples we stumble upon while rolling across the US of A.

Another quiet night, waking early the next morning to be on the road for our climb up Mt. Washington. John wanted to drive to the top and explore, so after paying the drive-up fee, popping in the accompanying CD and shifting to low gear, we crept slowly up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, America’s first manmade attraction. The audio tour was interesting and the ability to stop at pull-outs on our way up, allowing us to stretch our legs and backs, was much appreciated.  Our first pause and stretch, the tree line.

Mt. Washington Tree line

Cairns, stone piles placed along hiking trails, are noticeable from every direction at the pull-outs where there are trails. From prehistoric time to the present, they are often erected as landmarks but on this mountain, they are signs stating someone has passed this way.   You can see the ski slopes in the distance far below.

The ski slopes down below

Fog floated across the lower mountain areas but by the time we had reached the 6288 foot summit, the skies had cleared considerably.

Mt. Washington, NH

From the summit, we watched dozens of ant size hikers begin their wind down the trails.

Hikers along the trails

Mount Washington, called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes, is the highest peak in Northeastern United States and the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather and has a plaque mounted near the historic Tip-Top House revealing top wind speed of 231 miles per hour recorded on April 12, 1934.

Highest Wind on Mt. Washington

Mount Washington State Park is a 60.3 acre parcel perched on the summit of the peak. It is surrounded by the extensive 750,000 acre White Mountain National Forest. On a clear day, you can see as far as 130 miles to Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Quebec and the Atlantic Ocean.

The historic Tip Top House is the former hotel in Mount Washington State Park. It is the oldest surviving building on the summit of Mt. Washington and believed to be the oldest surviving mountain-top hostelry in the world. When we visited, it featured exhibits of the mountain’s hotel/hostel history.  The rock walled building, with tiny windows and claustrophobic rooms,  was so dark, pictures were not attainable.

Tip Top House

Our drive down the mountain was uneventful, stopping along the way to stretch and breath in the fresh air. It’s been a welcome and relaxing stretch of days here in Ashton New Hampshire but our workamping job is calling us back. I am thankful and grateful for all the fun musical events that kept us entertained and the quiet shaded campground site located near a multitude of interesting areas to explore. We have booked a return, in late September, for another week of relaxation before taking the long and winding road leading us through Canada, South Dakota, Alabama and finally back to Texas.

Our last day of relaxation and the “It’s always something” demon struck, the first of many to follow.  When rinsing the black tank, full attention to the job is necessary. Not paying attention results in the tank overfilling with black water (toilet waste water), bubbling up into the air release pipe, overflowing and pouring down behind our washing machine.  John had set his watch alarm but didn’t hear it go off.  His first clue that something was amiss was me screaming “water is splashing down behind the washer”!  After stopping the water flow and beginning the long clean up process I thought…damn I miss lunching with my girlfriends and being able to bitch about the dumb ass things our husbands do. Go ahead and laugh…everyone else might as well appreciate the humor of our rolling comedy of horrors. If the third time is the “charm”, it had also better be the absolute last. Once again, I was not amused.

Arrived mid-day at Wellington, backed up into our site, settled down for the night, sleep. Up early, time to return to another five days of sweating for us oldies, dislodging mud and grimy gritty beach sand from old toilets, showers, sinks and floors, the heat and humidity trapped inside the old worn out wooden bath houses with only screened windows and a door to allow in air.  Our cool down ritual continues, piecing together the jigsaw puzzles in the rec center, both barn doors open wide to capture any breeze.

Temperatures in Lee New Hampshire were not what I expected. My thinking was the closer we were to Canada, the cooler and less humid the weather. Not so.  Last year and this, the locals claimed they were experiencing the hottest most humid summers in history. It seems Texas heat is determined to tag along with us where ever we go.

Our next escape, when our work week ends, will be local entertainment and a visit with family.  And now…back to what normal people never refer to as “retirement”.

June 24th through July 27th 2016 New Castle New Hampshire, Portsmouth New Hampshire, Stonington Maine, Wells Maine, Lee New Hampshire, Bar Harbor Maine

The craggier the coast, the more I enjoy driving beside the rocky ridges delighting in the gorgeous views of the sea. After working our first stretch of days, we day-tripped along the coast exploring.

Our leg-stretch stop was Fort Stark Historical State Park.  At the mouth of Newcastle Harbor, it is a work in progress and includes a beautiful beach area with benches and picnic tables.  Most everything else, with the exception of the Ordinance Machine Shop, looks like the storm battered and still abandoned areas of New Orleans from 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

Fort Stark State Historical Site, Newcastle Island, ME  Newcastle harbor

The Fort is named for John Stark, Commander of New Hampshire forces at the battle of Bennington in 1777. It was headquarters of the 22nd Coastal Artillery and one of seven forts built to protect Portsmouth Harbor as fortifications between 1890 and 1920.   The Harbor Entrance Control Post was surrounded by chain link fence.

Harbor Entrance Control Post

The Ordinance Machine Shop contains artifacts from WWII and is open on Saturday, not the day we chose to visit, but the rest of the Park grounds are open to wander and climb around and explore during daylight hours.

Ordinance Machine Shop 1910

The 1904 Battery Bay’s and Battery Hunter were stripped of their contents and bared.

Battery Bays    Battery Hunter 1904

I managed to find a picture on the website showing what the gigantic guns looked like that were resting in the circular cement wells.

Battery gun   Original gun

Across the water stands the Whaleback Ledge Lighthouse which was loosely erected in 1830 at the mouth of the Piscataqua River near the Maine-New Hampshire boundary.

Whaleback Ledge Lighthouse, 1830

I say “loosely” because it was so poorly built that keepers were worried the building would be swallowed up by the sea.  Nothing proves the government’s inability to function for “the good of the people” as blatantly as botched government contracting jobs.

The lowest bidder, a contractor who cut corners deceitfully and shamelessly, won the bid and Congress was forced to accept it without regard to the company’s qualification or competence. Right off, the contractor began without leveling the ground, instead filling gaps with small stones. When the first storm hit, the stones were washed away leaving the foundation sadly lacking. The first light keeper became soaked each time a wave hit the lighthouse.

The tower was given several facelifts, even incased in wood “to prevent the keeper from being drowned out by the sea washing through all the crevices.” In 1838 funds were appropriated by Congress for a breakwater. The architect’s advice was to tear down the structure and start over as no breakwater could secure the present structure. The money went unspent and the structure stayed as built.

In 1839, a local newspaper wrote: “such was the effect of the sea, that the assistants of the keeper could not hear each (other) speak when in the lantern, on account of the noise produced by the shaking of the apparatus in the lantern, when the sea struck the foundation of the light house….the reader may form some idea of the unenviable situation of the keeper…during the late storm from the fact that the building is situated on a ledge of sunken rocks, only visible during low water and about a mile from the nearest human habitation.”

A civil engineer was commissioned in 1842 to survey several New England lighthouses. His description of the pier read, “rudely and fraudulently constructed”, large swells shook the lighthouse “in the most alarming manner. The keeper asserted that the vibration was so great as to move the chairs and tables about the floor.” The lighthouse was plagued with dangerous structural problems until it was automated in 1963.  We haven’t visited and it’s not high on our list of “to-do’s”.   

After our coastal exploration, we drove back to Portsmouth and enjoyed a late seafood lunch.  I loved the interesting metal sculpture art that dressed the plain brick walls of the café where we dined.  A short drive home to ready ourselves for another five day work cycle.

metal art at a pub

There are times it is imperative that I escape the dust that billows over everything multiple times a day, setting off my lungs and a tirade of explicits about the downsides of our rolling life. Escapes, coupled with an overnight hotel stay, usually quells any obnoxious retorts I might make to John’s “can’t you just enjoy this adventure?”.

Of late, our workamp positions do not begin to approach an adventure.  Adventures are fun, do not smell like poopy toilets, you don’t have to put up with rude people or do chores in suffocating heat nor pouring rain.  You can stop whenever the fun stops and at days end you are able to enter a large pleasant room and run gallons of water over your hair and body without ever giving thought to overflowing the grey tank, refilling the fresh water tank or having to remove moisture from the room to prevent mold and mildew growth.

 

Another work day.  Muggy, hot and dusty outside. I cleaned the bathrooms, checked them several times but spent most of the day inside with both Austin Air Filters on full blast to cleanse my lungs of the dreadfully damaging dust.  Eric Fadden’s article titled, “Here’s What That Post About Taking a Train Across the USA for $213 Doesn’t Tell You” caught my eye. I read quietly while cars drove back and forth inches from our front steps sending relentless clouds of dirt particles flying through the air and raining down on Ribbit and LilyPad.

The article made me think of all the folks who have said to John and I, “we want to do what you’re doing when we retire”. I might be compelled to write a book entitled, “Here’s What Those People Who Live Full-Time in a Recreational Vehicle Don’t Tell You”.

 

We have been here several weeks and although my imagination has a tendency to run wild and I am prone to exaggerations, the dust here is undeniably horrid and abusive to lungs.  At 4pm John sprayed down the road with water and washed the thick coat of dust from the car. By 8am the next morning, the dust was so thick you could not see inside the car.   I wrote on the window to make my point.  There is no way to stop the dust.  It’s a loosing battle.

4pm thru 8am dust

Our volunteer routine is now established.  Another work cycle finished, we made plans for our first multi-day escape to the town of Stonington on Deer Isle in Maine.  When we return, John’s options are to move me to a less dusty site or we leave.  Enough is enough.

It’s not easy to find an acceptable hotel for the three of us. Bangor is the largest town, within easy driving distance of the coast, with a respectable hotel having comfortable beds for a few overnights. Stonington was the location of another workamp position we had considered. A visit there was at the top of our To-Do list. From Google Maps, Stonington appeared to be a small lobster trapping village on Deer Isle with just enough town to provide a reason for window shopping along the main thoroughfare.

Round Pond Fisherman’s Lobster Co-op came highly recommended so after a few hours driving, we stopped for a rest and enjoyed a late lunch perched alongside Maine’s coast.

Round Pond Lobster Fishermens Co Op  Round Pond Lobster

The menu was simple…fresh steamed lobster, steamers (long neck a.k.a. Ipswich clams), sweet corn on the cob and potato chips. Located on the docks in a cove filled with lobster boats, when the owner runs out of lobster, he walks 20 yards to the ocean, pulls some out of his lobster traps, walks back and pops them in the pot. Fresh lobster done right! I can’t describe the taste without my mouth watering. Fresh sweet tender lobster, crisp luscious buttery corn, succulent steamers dunked in butter and crunchy salty chips, I have found Nirvana.

Lobster traps  Lunch oceanside

Seated at a picnic table on the dock, a peaceful view with gentle slightly briny breezes, made this our best meal of the year.   Our tummy’s full, we drove inland to the hotel. A pleasantly green treed and blue skied drive along the way.

Coast of Maine

We arrived, checked-in, unpacked and relaxed. Dinner out, back to the room, early to bed.

Sleeping late was the plan. Excitement cancelled our first plan.  We rose early to see the potential workcamp position for next season.  Breakfast first, KatieBug snug in her “black hole” and we were on our way.

Linda, the other camp host, has named KatieBug’s crate the “black hole”. Annie, her sweet tempered dog, is allowed to run loose inside the her camper and never destroys anything. If we let KatieBug run loose while we were gone, she would shred every piece of paper in the motorhome and pee everywhere to pay us back for leaving her alone. She’s never minded staying in her crate and goes willingly when there are fireworks, while we work or when it is bedtime. She is less stressed when we travel because her den is always nearby.  She has her cozy safe haven crate in Ribbits and in LilyPad.  To some, a black hole.  To KatieBug, a secure comfy den complete with TV or radio and snacks.  As the saying goes, to each his own.

Stonington was one and a half hours away. Crossing over Deer Isle Bridge, we paused to stretch our legs and check out the view.

Bridge into Deer Isle

One quick side step along the main road was to pick up fresh goat cheese with cranberries. We chatted about the area with a local and inquired about the best place for a repeat to-die-for lobster meal.

Yummy goat cheese

Stonington is a small, quaint, quiet town with many of the endearing qualities of Angela Lansbury’s Cabot Cove. We rolled down the windows and sucked in the refreshing salty sea air. After a few minutes, inside my mouth took on the essence of fresh seaweed salad.

Cove in Stonington

It took 45 seconds to drive from one side of the town to the other and nothing looked interesting enough to warrant an exploration on foot. Most of the shops had not opened for the season and the sidewalks were desolate. Our lunch was a meal of overcooked steamed lobster, it’s tail heavy with grainy tasting lobster eggs.  Considering Stonington’s claim to fame is the largest lobster port in Maine, the meal was disappointing.

Stonington, ME

After lunch we drove to the campsite.  Surrounded by marsh, primarily old mobile homes and one or two older trailers, John quickly nixed the position.  As usual, the web page painted a far superior picture than the truth.

Onward to the only TripAdvisor suggestion that caught our attention, Nervous Nellie’s Jam and Jelly’s with its lure of Peter Beerits’ original handcrafted art.

Located just shy of Nellie’s, we paused to admire a French Citroen H Van from the 1940’s along with a red and white 2CV Citroen and a few other French auto’s. Nice collection. They were displayed in front of a massive 1800’s mansard style home that sat next to the town church.

1940s French Citroen H Van

 

Neither of us expected to spend the greater part of two hours at Nervous Nellie’s but upon arrival, we were immediately drawn in by Peter Beerits’ artistic visions.  Sculpture Park

Inhabited by fascinatingly configured wood and metal beings, the town was populated with human characters,

A sinking ship  Attorney  Cafe

sea creatures and critters,

Critters and creatures  Dog out the window

beasts and mystics.

Dragon

His colony of beings took up residence in a compact hamlet with his Robin Hood community fanning outward into the Sherwood Forested woods behind the town.

When we arrived, Peter had some of his elder citizens seated in the back of his truck. He graciously posed to allow me a Kodak moment while we chatted.

Pete and his Seniors

The towns Old Wild West residents were so surprisingly personable that we wandered around poking into each building, thoroughly enjoying the exhibits.

Hardy’s General Store

Hardys General Store

Johnson’s Market

Johnsons Market

One of the flyers on the wall of Red’s Lounge was advertising the coming of Howlin “Mad” Perry, of historic Sun Records fame in Memphis Tennessee. It brought back memories of our tour of the studio back in late April 2016.

Reds Lounge    Howl N Mad Perry

The joint was seriously jumpin’!

Blues Joint

We stopped in at the store where jam and jelly jar samples sat waiting on the counter, enticing guests to slather the sweet spread on crackers and savor each flavor. The walls were decorated with dozens of interesting handmade items for sale. A Texas size screened in rear covered porch overlooked the grounds. It was transformed into a tea room for those wishing to sit-a-spell and relax in the moment.

Exiting the side of Nellies store brought us face to face with Sherwood Forest.  The forest harbored a troop of merry men dining and other fanciful residents like the Grim Reaper.

The dining room   Grim Reaper

Sir Gawain, sitting horseback, was guarding the forest.

Sir Gawain on War Horse

Just beyond Sir Gawain, a giant serpent reared up his ferocious metallic head.

The Serpent

The resident shaman stood outside the dining hall.. According to Wikipedia, the shaman is “a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing.” Somewhat akin to Witchdoctors, familiar to us from numerous trips down side streets in New Orleans Louisiana, this healer had a likeable face and pleasant grin.

The Shaman

This venture was Peter’s lifelong dream and entirely fitting for a talented imagination with a phenomenal knack for artistically assembling salvage. John and I strolled the forested area spying dozens of parts in wait for new beginnings. I could envision creatures emerging from aged engines, fragmented toys, abandoned appliances, fractured furniture pieces and items others might consider plain junk.

Waiting for new life

At the forest exit stood a jolly Jack in the Box.

Jack in the box

I walked around the grounds twice, noticing more each go-round. It is truly an amazing art exhibit in an idyllic setting for Peter’s creative mind and artistic abilities.  As we drove off the grounds we noticed one last character, the local blacksmith, glancing up from his work as we drove away.  Nervous Nellies was the highlight of our Stonington Maine mini escape.

Blacksmith

The sun would set in a few hours and we had a long drive back to the hotel. KatieBug settled in for a snore fest, she being as tired as the both of us. A long shower, a little TV and a good nights sleep finished up our three day adventure.  Time to return to our “real world” and finalize our decision to move or leave.

We have requested another site and Pat has agreed that she would rather we move “upstairs” to a less dusty location, keeping us as workampers.  Our move will take place in the next few days but our focus is on the next five day tour of duty.

Daily chores consist of John weed whacking in the morning and then we both sweep, scrub floors, sanitize toilets, clean showers, wipe down mirrors, water the hanging flowers and blooming in-ground plants that are spread out around the campground.  Several bathroom checks and cleanings throughout the day, walks around the campground and beach picking up trash and cleaning fireplaces, some odd jobs, a sprucing up of the Rec Center and the day ends.  Next day, ditto everything.

Portsmouth New Hampshire is only a twenty minute drive from Lee. It is a thriving touristy town, bona fide historic and filled with curio shops, fine dining establishments, pubs and gift shops. The town church takes center stage and is surrounded by benches where visitors and townspeople alike sit, rest, relax and people watch. John and I enjoy walking around the town and we have visited twice since our arrival.

Today we move.  We plotted our path carefully and found that backing up into the site was the best and most logical plan.  John asked our neighbor across the road to move his truck, just in case, and I backed LilyPad up the steep grade road and into our new site.

Our new site

Exited the motor home and chatted with our new neighbors.  A truck drove by…wow, no dust!  Next day we emptied both our tanks…amazing, we have a leach field so both our tanks can be emptied anytime we choose. This is much better.  Brought my bright red plant up from the downstairs site and found a surprise tag-along, another Ribbit (frog).

Frog in my plant

Tonight we plan another day trip.  Searching for local activities, we came across the Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge in Wells Maine.  Also home to a Triple D’s (Diner, Drive-In’s and Dives) top pick for Lobster Rolls and Lobster Bake.  A wonderful adventure of much appreciated exercise and a relaxing lunch.  Our next mini escape chosen, we slept soundly and awakened to a perfect day for a walk along Maine’s coastal waterways.

Lunch at the Maine Diner was not what we expected.  A Lobster Bake is lobster covered in dry cracker crumbs, drenched with butter until the crackers are soaked and baked.  Greasy and chewy, not something we will order again.

The refuge was created in 1966 but renamed for Carson in 1969 after her 1962 book, Silent Spring, became renowned.  After tireless investigations, she linked the unrestrained use of post-World War II chemical pesticides with fearsome biological consequences.  Carson has been credited with launching the environmental movement and awakening concern in American’s for our environment.

Rachael Carson National Wildlife Refuge

The book gave explanations and examples on subjects close to my heart, pesticide harm and the alternative, Integrated Pest Management, using non-toxic or least toxic products first when exterminating.  She was the reason I became an Environmental Health Consultant.  Her insight on the cause of damage to ourselves and our environment started the movement in which I eagerly grabbed with both hands and embraced for nearly 40 years.

We visited the small Visitors Center and strolled along the path.  You could see how the tidal flats striped away the soil from the roots of trees causing them to tilt.  Each incoming and outgoing tide carrying out more soil.

Bank erosion

The salt marsh creek snaked out to sea.

Salt Marsh Creek

Salt Pannes have a complete eco system all their own but getting up close and personal was not possible from the walkway.

Salt Pannes

The coastal Maine salt marsh was visible all along the footpath.

Coastal Maine Salt March

Near the end of our walk we spotted the only blooming plants we saw in the refuge.

The only blooms in the marsh

Back home to LilyPad and a quiet night with a Red Box movie and dinner.

Next morning I went shopping for the kids party I was hosting in the Rec Center Saturday afternoon.  Prizes brought from the dollar store in Texas would be given out along with juice, ice cream and cookies.  I had planned a few games and social time.  The party was my idea and I was in charge but Pat liked the plan and showed up to help.  Parents were enjoying the squeals of delight during races.  Everyone cheered the kids on during the “hunt for gold” (rocks sprayed gold that John hid in the playground area).  Dads helped make the rockets for the rocket races on the lawn and joined in to blow up balloons for the between-the-knees balloon race.  Everyone made hanging bird feeders from peanut butter and bird seed.  Prizes were not given out for winners.  First prize for Musical Chairs went to the first one out, the largest and smallest gold piece got a prize and by the time we were done, everyone went home happily with at least one prize.  I had a blast!  Families even helped clean up.  My next event will be an outdoor “movie and popcorn” evening for the kids at our motorhome co-hosted by Lindsey, one of the campers.  Finally, some social time for me and our outside TV will get some use!

 

Another trip up the coast is in the making.  Bangor hotel reservations have been made for us and KatieBug’s reservation at Yellow Dog’s Barn are confirmed.  Wednesday we are off to Maine and Acadia National Park to explore the area.

The drive up was sunny and mild with cooler weather being pushed inland off the coast.    We were searching for an alternative campground should we decide to pass this way again.  My requirements were a campground closer to Canada, in an area with cooler weather, a friendly setting with social activities and where rules were enforced.

Our first stop, but not one availing all that we were looking for, was Forest Ridge Campground.  If a delightfully named road was enough reason to stay the season, this would have won.

Forest Ridge Campground

A few more stops at the campgrounds on our list and dinner time had arrived.  Steamed lobsters at Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, the same restaurant we visited while on our New England cruise several years ago and the food was just as yummy.  Back to the hotel for some TV and relaxation.

We have only three TV stations at Wellington.  We paid to have internet so we could stream movies but the choices at Red Box are newer and less expensive so we binge watch TV programs all night when we stay at a hotel.  Another luxury we enjoy at a hotel, hour long steamy showers.

Morning brought the fog and a cool refreshing mist, my kind of weather.  We walked around downtown Bar Harbor, stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate at Choco-latte, a local coffee shop and waited for the rain drops to stop.  Not wanting to spend the entire day downtown, we made the decision to ignore the weather and drive through Acadia National Park.  This year is the Parks 100th birthday.

The Park roadways and trees were heavy with moisture making the dense forest a little spooky.  No one else was on the road so we had the park nearly to ourselves and the ability to stop anywhere without annoying tourists crowding us.

Roadway in Acadia   Acadia

A pause along the way to watch for wildlife, the fog continued to cover the area and hid whatever was beyond the murk.

Acadia national park

Not the first to arrive at the highlighted natural wonder, Thunder Hole, we parked and walked down the rocky steps joining others in wait for the incoming tide to force the ocean into the rocks below and shoot sea water into the air.  After several big waves and still no eruption, we walked back to the car and continued our drive through the park.

Thunder Hole

Acadia National Park is a long one-way road that meanders across beach fronts, through forests and up into the mountain.  John insisted that we continue on to the top of Cadillac Mountain, 1,530 feet and the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard.  It is the first place to view sunrise in the United States from October 7th through March 6.  The view was as logic would predict, foggy.

On a clear day you can see forever.  On a foggy day you can see little else but the sign advising visitors of the detriments of air pollution.

Not a picture perfect day

Back down the mountain and out onto the main road.  I spotted an interesting antique house turned business and stopped to explore their wares.

The Weathervain Factory, Trenton, ME

The inside of Bar Harbor Weathervanes and Cupolas, Inc. was filled with delightful weathervanes of all sizes, shapes and styles, some sitting atop copula’s, some lining the shelves along the walls.  Shiny copper pretties to mount on your rooftop.

weathervanes   When pigs fly

Everything under the sun

We chatted with the clerk and took a calling card for future reference.  My next tiny house will look fabulous topped with a weathervane.

Owl and moon

As the day wore on, thoughts of another sweet tender lobster began creeping into my subconscious mind.  Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound was a short drive up the road.

Trenton Bridge Lobstah Pound

This time John opted for one big lobster, hard shell, pre-cracked.  We had been told by several lobster eating regulars that the larger the lobster, the more chewy the meat.  They lied.  This guy was delish!   We also learned the taste difference between soft shell and hard shell lobsters.  Hard shell is harder to crack, has firmer meat and the meat fills the shell.  Soft shell has molted its hard shell, is easy to crack but the meat is softer and water fills up the extra space inside the shell.  I will forever be a fan of the hard shell.

Our Dinner

Another great night of TV and uninterrupted sleep before packing up and returning to Wellington.  KatieBug was happy to be home.  I wasn’t happy to be back at work.

Three days into our five day work schedule, Linda emailed me from Maine to ask if she could stay gone another week in exchange for working our shift after she returned.  Had I known it was going to be 99 degrees in Lee, storms would shut down our power twice in one week and our car’s air conditioning would break, I might not have agreed.  The hardest part of working back to back was having the power off several times.  No generator on the well pump forced John to use buckets of river water to flush all of the campground toilets.  Nasty job.  John lugged the first few bucketful’s up from the river by hand.  The next time he used the campground truck.  Not having a back up pump was another thing we wish we had known about before we accepted the job.

So instead of a break, we went back to work.  The wheelbarrow and I spent two days moving all the rocks from the demolished site across from us.   There would be sand and gravel brought in later to make a level base for the newly cleared site.  Slowly, bending from the knees, I removed all but about 5 rocks, those being heaver than I was comfortable lifting.  I piled the rocks in a line along our campsite for a future project.   The site of an old grey haired pudgy lady moving wheelbarrows full of rock all day must have been too much for Ron, the gentleman living behind the site.  When I took a dinner break the following day, he came out and tossed the balance of the big rocks aside and raked the area smooth.  Nice neighbor.

Moving rock

Some of my time, in-between cleaning, was spent moving cement blocks from partial fireplaces into piles.  Today I got to build one.  It was such a structurally sound and artistically designed fireplace, if I do say so myself,  that I had John take a picture of my masterpiece.

My Fireplace creation

Storms pounded us for several days, our car being in the shop made our chores even more unpleasant but our trip to Canada was just around the corner.  Linda will return and we will leave in the motorhome for a two week break on Tuesday.

May 14th through May 24th 2016 Beacon New York, West Point New York, Lee New Hampshire

Upon arrival at the only campground within an hour drive of Beacon New York, the New York City/North Newburg KOA in Newburg, we settled into our site, long level gravel, full hook-ups and friendly neighbors. The ride in was bumpy with bug swarms because of the small lake at the entrance but we are only here for two nights so full hook-ups are our only necessity. Plans are to meet up with our Texas friends for dinner tonight and the four of us will connect in the morning for a tour of West Point.

With KatieBug guarding LilyPad, we drove through rolling hills and giant oak lined roadways to the picturesque town of Beacon, NY. Blue skies, puffs of white clouds, green trees and grass, pops of color hanging from baskets and in patches on the ground, the result of Spring plantings. Multifold buildings still standing from the 1800’s, many of them carefully repurposed into shops, businesses, non-profits and café’s. We enjoyed visiting the town last year and our return evokes pleasant memories of friends and relaxation.

Located on the Eastern shore of the Hudson River, the town is a rather petite hamlet with enough to do and see within walking distance to earn the description of “cozy”. An hour from New York City, it is close enough to transit for employment but far enough away to distance oneself from big city life, big city stress and big city prices.

An outdoor paradise in seasonal weather, the town is near tree shaded hiking trails in and around Mt. Beacon Incline Railway and hike and bike paths along the Hudson. In town and along the outskirts of town, opportunity for exercise is abundant.

We arrived and met up with our Texas friends, dined out at a local restaurant and socialized after we finished eating, relaxing and chatting away the dinnertime hours, then returning to LilyPad before dusk to enjoy a quiet going-to-sleep-early evening.

Morning arrived and we were off to the Town of Highlands in Orange County New York for a tour of West Point. Founded in 1802 by Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, West Point, a.k.a. “The Point” is a military school on a 16,000 acre plot of land on the western bank of the Hudson River. Its graduates are predominantly engineers and after graduation, typically serve as Army officers. Striving for well-rounded cadets, all were expected to earn excellent grades, attend all classes and be present in church. After General Douglas MacArthur became commandant, inclusion in sports became compulsory.

West Point, NY

West Point houses the campus of the United States Military Academy, West Point Cadet Chapel, The Old Cadet Chapel, Cemetery, Visitor Center and museum.

Abrams Gate Entrance

Our tour was partial bus ride, the balance, relaxed walking. Our guide referred to the tour as the Boot Camp Tour, meaning for us, welcome leg stretches and much needed exercise. Our first stop was the West Point Cadet Chapel.

West Point Cadet Chapel    Inside West Point Cadet Chapel    Chapel Alter

The church serves to welcome and provide spiritual support to West Point cadets, staff and faculty. Until recently, attendance was required but there are still large numbers in attendance each service, something expected considering cadets and soldiers who enter have been, or will be, “in harm’s way”.

We boarded the bus and drove to the Old Cadet Chapel, built in 1836, the first house of worship at the Academy. Originally located near the cadet barracks, the chapel was removed from the parade grounds to be reassembled, piece by piece, in the West Point Cemetery. It was relocated in 1911 with funds raised by the cadets. The focal point of the Chapel is an impressive half circle mural above the alter titled, “Peace and War” by Robert W. Weir, Professor.

Peace and War

Inside, positioned in orderly lines up and down the walls, are plaques and unusual memorabilia of outstanding Generals of the Revolutionary War, George Washington being placed at the head. In the far rear, above the railing of the choir loft, is a plaque dedicated to the infamous Major General Benedict Arnold, his name defaced, the plaque showing only his rank and date of birth.

Major General Benedict Arnold

Outside were the cemetery grounds. We walked reverently through the tranquil grounds, stopping at several grave sites to hear a story about the hero buried there, a service the deceased had done for our country or an interesting piece of historical information. It was pointed out, although already noticed by most, that some graves were father and son, some father and daughter. There were even a few grandfather, son and grandson graves. One alone is sad enough but how unbearable, unimaginable and heart wrenching is the sight of three losses especially if all were taken at early ages.

The Cemetery

The Mission Statement of the West Point Cemetery is to: “deliver the Final Salute to those members of the US Corps of Cadets, its Faculty, Staff and those West Point Graduates who have dedicated their lives in the service of this nation. We strive to commemorate and memorialize these Graduates and to care for their final resting place in perpetuity. May it be said, “Well done; Be thou at peace.”

Cemetery older headstones

Sylvanus Thayer, class of 1808, was a former Superintendent (1817-33) and considered to be the Father of the Military Academy. President James Monroe ordered Thayer to West Point to become superintendent of the Academy. Under his administration the Academy became the first college of engineering in the nation.

Thayer established traditions and policies still in use today at West Point. Values of honor and responsibility, strict mental and physical discipline, the demerit system, summer encampment, high academic standards and requiring cadets to maintain consistent outstanding military demeanor and appearance, all attributed to Sylvanus Thayer.

Leaving the Army in June 1863 with the rank of Colonel in the Corps of Engineers, he spent the majority of 30 years as Chief Engineer for the Boston area. He oversaw the construction of both Fort Warren and Fort Independence to defend Boston Harbor.

He died on September 1872 at his home in Braintree Massachusetts, his remains were removed from South Braintree Massachusetts and re-interred at West Point Cemetery.

Sylvanus Thayer

In 1879 the legendary Custer statue was unveiled. George Armstrong Custer arrived at West Point in June of 1857 with 107 other cadet candidates and made the whittled down cut to 34. Making friends easily, he excelled in socialization. The rules stated that during a six month term, one hundred demerits resulted in expulsion. Our tour guide told us that Custer was rowdy as a cadet, playing jokes and pranks, earning near expulsion amounts of demerits. He would attain upwards of ninety each semester. When he had reached near the limit, he would apply himself until the new semester started, not allowing further demerits to accumulate.

Never for anything significant, the trivial offenses included trifling in ranks marching from parade (3 demerits), calling “Corporal” in a loud and boisterous voice (3 demerits), hair out of uniform at guard meeting (2 demerits), late to supper (1 demerit), throwing snowballs on barrack steps (3 demerits). Although he was smart enough to achieve high grades, he lacked the drive and discipline, no doubt why his parents thought West Point would help him improve.

Graduation nearing, his emerging personality exhibited no signs of a willingness to control his mischievous behavior and being no more disciplined, he ran up ninety-seven demerits, a record for him, in his last semester. He graduated with his class in 1861, ranking 34th in his class of 34 graduates.

After graduating, he set out to locate the Second Cavalry. Custer excelled in battlefields and had been a hugely successful leader until his last stand.

George A. Custer

We paused at the headstones of General William Childs Westmoreland,

General William Childs Westmoreland

and H. Norman Schwarzkopf

H. Norman Schwarzkopf

and Major General Daniel Butterfield. When Major General Butterfield’s grave marker was completed, West Point enacted standards for size allowances of markers.

Major General Daniel Butterfield

After leaving the cemetery, our bus took us to the Battle Monument overlooking the Hudson River.

The Hudson River

In 1897, the Battle Monument was dedicated by Civil War veterans who paid for the monument through their pay and donations. Names of the officers and soldiers, 2,230 of the Regular Army, are inscribed on the monument.

Civil War Battle Monument

Next to the monument, a grassy knoll displays an array of cannons. Those cannons planted in the ground, facing downward, were from the battles of the civil war, buried so they could never again be fired.

Cannons buried pointing down    Display of cannons

The parade area is exactly what it suggests…a super-sized field where the cadets march and “parade” by officers and guests in the stands.

Parade Grounds leftParade Grounds right

Accepting its first female cadets in 1976, the U.S. Army recently announced that Col. Cindy Jebb will be the next U.S. Military Academy’s Dean of Academic Board, which makes her the first woman to hold this position in West Point’s history.

While we stood waiting for our bus, a convoy of Army troop trucks passed us by, loaded with Cadets leaving for Summer Maneuvers.

Cadets

The United States Military Academy’s mission is to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.

Depositing us back at the visitor center, we enjoyed a late lunch with friends. Tired and pollen impaired after the outdoor “Boot Camp Tour” we said good-by. I felt a migraine creeping up from the high pollen counts and overpowering bus bathroom deodorant odor and hoped a rest would allow us to join up again for dinner but it was not to be. John did the packing as we readied ourselves for our seasonal workamping experience in Lee New Hampshire. After nearly a month, our last day on the road.

I Love New England and its abundance of historic houses, although in my humble opinion those stately granite stone homes in Pennsylvania do give Victorian, salt box and Mansard styles a run for their money.

Pennsylvania stone home

 

It is mid-week and we have arrived at our home for the next five months, Wellington Camping Park in Lee New Hampshire. I knew before accepting, this workamp position would be located in a vintage family run camp, dirt roads and homesteaded primarily by seasonal families. I was assured by the former workampers that the people were friendly, the campground was nice and the roads were not dusty. Two out of three ain’t bad. Absolutely Texas Friendly. Nice is a relative term…the entire campground is in a state of total transition. As far as dusty, my answer is given in my strongest Texas accent. “Hell yea, it’s a gigantic dusty dirt ball”.

The campground I saw in Google Maps, had the appearance of your typical trailer trash neighborhood dwellings, more closely resembling a backwoods Georgia hooch distillery camp than a family campground so expectations were met as we drove down the dusty rutty road into the camp. Two levels of small decades old trailers with handcrafted wood or metal roof coverings and wood porches, a hodgepodge of tents, trailers and motorhomes, all tucked under shade trees and along the river.

Our site at Wellington Camping Park

The owner, Pat Wellington, runs the family encampment with a can-do attitude. She will be in your face if you even hint of ignoring the rules. For all of her petite 5 foot frame, she is one spunky senior lady and has no intention of allowing seasonal families to slip by without paying their proper dues. The camp offers reasonable seasonal rates, recently installed 50amp hook-ups and free pump out service, free use of the paddle boat, kayaks and canoes complete with life jackets and inexpensive dry wood for campfires. Her children and grandchildren respect her as the reigning matriarch and decisions are primarily made at her judgment call.

Upgrading began just recently and she has taken on the job of removing the primitive mid-20th century “trailer trash”, cleaning out barely standing and abandoned trailers covered by blue plastic tarps and their accompanying rotted porches and decks. We see her daily out in the park carting away whatever junk she can manage to lift, then instructing the maintenance man to haul the rest to the dump.

Between her family, take-down crews and workampers, the sites are being cleared, one by one, piece by piece, hauling off dead appliances and beds, her sons using the backhoe to crush the various colors of wooden porches into kindling and the campground truck to haul it all to the dump. The family works with a Titan’s determination, all pitching in to complete whatever needs to be done to transform Wellington into a respectable 21st century seasonal campground. Several abandoned sites are on the chopping block. This one will come down next week.

Next to go down

This one is down to the final bare bones removal, the camper will be pulled out and sold as junk.

coming down

Currently the park is inhabited primarily by seasonal families, some living full time, some only on weekends. There are two sections of the park, one down the hill by the river (downstairs) and one up the hill near the open field (upstairs).  We are downstairs.  The park is a mixture of campers who have been returning here for decades, linemen workers who live on the grounds until the job ends, transient weekend campers and the three workampers.

First on the itinerary, before setting up the inside, was to ward off evil creepy crawlies that might sneak inside, chew wires, bite humans or fur babies. Armed with several bottles of granules that promised to ward off spiders, rats and rodents, I sprinkled the area. Squirts of scented oils were used as a backup in case the granules didn’t work, non-toxic sprays around the outer boundary of the motorhome to discourage insects and some fox urine on surrounding trees to discourage badgers and skunks. Fingers were crossed in hopes that anything lurking nearby was met with a fitting discouraging smell.  John set up our mouse trap buckets bated with organic peanut butter. Moderately confident that we were protected, we set up camp and relaxed for the night.

Next morning our mouse trap buckets were completely stripped of peanut butter and unusually large fang marks had pierced holes in the plastic. Hmmm, probably not rodents.

what big teeth you have

We dumped the buckets and scrapped the idea of peanut butter lures for catching mice. No reason to send out invitations encouraging creatures, outfitted with big sharp teeth, to visit our motorhome.

Searching the internet we learned that this immediate area is inhabited by bear, moose, coyotes, skunks, badgers, squirrels and chipmunks. Additional menacing crawlers are ticks, ants and spiders, an overabundance of them, with flying attacks coming from mosquitos and biting gnats.  Thrown into the mix are large quantities of poison oak hugging the trees, a constant generous dusting of pollen, dirt roads billowing dust and smoke from campfires giving us that “total camping experience” for our five month stay in New Hampshire. The “experience” was joyous as a scout leader with my Girl Scout daughter and Boy Scout son.  As a a senior, it comes nearer to unbearable.

When John hooked up the sewer, we discovered that we did not have full hook-ups but two underground tanks. They held only enough for one “dump” of our black and grey tanks. We would need the “honey wagon” twice a week. Unexpected but survivable with careful scheduling of showers, dishwashing and clothes washing.

The bathrooms are old but serviceable, wood, plastic and screen, all in one stage or another of needing a patch or repair. When funds allow, the owner plans to build new facilities.

downstairs bathrooms

There is a large recreation hall attached to the upstairs bathrooms near the children’s play structure, volley ball net and horseshoe pit. It has a small kitchen area, fridge, picnic tables and a pool table inside. The walls are covered with pictures of camping families spanning more decades than I have been alive.

Rec Center   DSC_1269

The camp is located on the banks of the Lamprey River, the trees provide a cooling sunscreen.  Canoes, paddles, life jackets and a paddle boat are free for campers to use.

Our canoes and kayaks

Beach chairs line the river beach area.

Our Beach

John made mention that “lamprey” was an evil name for our river. It wasn’t until I looked up the word “lamprey” that I added it to the list of things I could do without seeing…ever. The internet picture below is of a river lamprey. The article states that a river lamprey can’t attach itself to anything but I think I’ll skip going anywhere near the water just in case.

Picture of a lamprey

We were here several days before we began to understand what was expected of us. There was no training, no meeting, no welcome pot luck.  We work 30 hours in five days, then have nine days off. Our alternate Workamper host is Linda, a single woman living in a small class C camper with her Yorkie mix fur baby. Charlie is the lone maintenance man who helps with removing junk from abandoned sites and does what he can to keep things repaired around the campground. John enjoys working with Charlie on projects and it provides us both with a little breathing room.  I bought a hanging plant to brighten up our site and Pat bought me ground plants to enhance my little patch of color.

Site 5

Good Morning Sunshine! Cough, cough, wheeze, cough, cough, wheeze…dust rises up and covers us and everything surrounding our site, multiple times a day. The site is large and roomy but sadly, we are located inches from the main road loop by which everyone must enter and exit. Our motorhome and car have a thick coating of brown dirt, mixed in with the yellow tree pollen that even the heaviest of rain storms did nothing to strip away.

Our car each morning

Feeling grateful and thankful for “Oh Wonderful Hubby of Mine” who sprays down our road at least once a day to keep the dust quenched. So far, the dust has been mightier but we keep trying. Each morning we wake up to more dust and I have a feeling it is a losing battle.

With all that floats in the campground air, I plan to spend most of my days indoors and as many hours as possible near Portsmouth New Hampshire inhaling the cool salt sea air and cleansing my lungs.

I don’t do Spring well. My lungs object to sky high pollen counts and windy days blow pollen off trees and plants and force them into every facial opening in my head. We usually leave Texas just before Spring and follow blooming trees, grasses and flowers to our final destination, traveling for a month or longer. A maximum amount of multiple drugs offer modern medicine a shot at keeping my lungs clear but unhappily the drugs severely curtail my ability to balance. I am left with lungs that are huffing and puffing while I teeter-totter along. John kindly allows me to use him as a cane whenever we are enjoying outside activities together. I will continue to push myself to do things that are joyful, especially with the companionship of people we like or when there is a possibility of an exciting adventure.  I shall remain determined to enjoy as much of the journey as possible, pushing health to the edge, but hopefully never again over. I don’t do sick well either.

My first day on the job was spent removing spider webs from all the bathroom bare wood ceilings, cleaning bathroom toilets, showers, sinks, wood floors and pulling up weeds from the horseshoe pit. John raked up leaves and cleaned off plastic campground chairs, weed whacked and helped clean toilets. After 4 straight days of pulling weeds for several hours each day in the heat, the horse shoe pit still looks like a weed patch.  Another losing battle.

Our five workamping days at an end, we bought and used our first New England Groupon, a local winery tour and tasting.  Driving through the town square we saw banners announcing Lee’s 250th birthday.  The square is circled by well cared for and preserved early 1800’s homes.

Lee, New Hampshire

Our Groupon was for two tours and tastings at Flag Hill Winery.  The sales/tasting room is a converted 1800’s dairy barn, beautifully repurposed and restored.  White wine is their premier crop but their reds were lite and easy drinking.  They also make liqueur but it was somewhat sharp for my palate.

Flag Hill Winery

Flag Hill’s old vines are near the road we travel over each time we go for groceries.

Flag Hill old vines

Another nearby main road has a sign that made us both do a double take.  This sleepy little town has a nudist park.

Lee Nudist Park

The Country Western song “What was I thinking”, plays repetitiously in the background of my brain.  Music, even in my mind,  calms me and helps to quell the disappointment felt at having taken another workamp position with unhealthy breathing conditions.  Plans are being made for our first get-away, an escape to the seaside, complete with soothingly cool salt sea air.

Someday I will purchase a crystal ball and see if my gypsy blood can detect the negatives of future workamping choices floating through its orb before we accept.  Something has got to work, asking point blank questions does not.  It may be a slightly odd way of getting honest answers but I’m willing to try anything once.

Tomorrow we are off to coast of Maine!  KatieBug will be resting snuggly in her travel crate, the car will be dusted and wiped down inside, we will gas up and be on our way, ready to relax and recoup.  This is the fun part of travel.  A new place to explore, fresh air to breathe, no dust, nothing to fix, dump or clean for three days.  Yea ocean!