Last Modified: May 7, 2011

 

On the Road - 2005
Return to the Trouser Rollers' Home Page

Bill Dillon (KG4QFM)
and
Pat Watt (KG4QFQ)

          This is the chronology of our travels through our first complete calendar year as full timers in Clementine, our 24' RV home-in-a-box.

          The map to the left shows our route during the year. Click at Flamingo Campground in the Everglades, Januaryon it for details.  

           From Charleston we headed south to the Everglades, then Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi. Back through the Great Lakes and New England to spend 2 months in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In the fall we headed south, ending the year in Texas.

          Links embedded in the log's text lead to photos of our travels. These are assembled together on a page of the Photo Album. You can also view a slide show of our tour round Atlantic Canada and see photos of our campsites.

          For further details see also our Campground Ratings. The RV Statistics page shows how many miles we travelled each year, etc., etc.

[Read about our travels in other years]


Friday January 14th, 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Juneau, AK

A busy holiday time, with plenty of grand parenting to do. We love the community feeling in Juneau, and have had a hectic social life. The first week here was solid rain, then it turned cold and snowed. Since then it's been cold and mostly sunny. One of us slipped on the ice and needed 8 staples in her head to staunch the bleeding. Two head bashings on one year--must be a slow learner. Immediately we bought Yaktrax -- chains for shoes. Phenomenally helpful. Enjoyed a 3-generation Polar Dip in the icy waters on New Years Day. Very brisk and invigorating. Awed every day by the spectacular scenery, took many enjoyable dog walks, including along the mouth of the beautiful Eagle River. Watched kids/grandkids skate in the shadow of Mt. Juneau. Ate a couple of lunches at "the Pel Meni place", in the blue wharf side building--only things it sells are pel meni, delicious little Russian meat-filled dumplings. Going like gangbusters selling take-out orders until 3:00am. A not-to-be-missed Juneau treat. Friday we enjoyed a memorable presentation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Juneau's fabulous Perseverance Theater--another not-to-be-missed Juneau treat. Sunday, one of us went skiing (downhill) in heavy snow at Eaglecrest on Douglas Island with kids/grandkids and, hey presto, discovered that after a 20+year hiatus she still knew how. Monday, we leave early to fly back to Washington, DC.

 

Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Washington, DC

We have been seriously reminded how much we don't miss snow shoveling. Our flight just made it out of Juneau last Monday last thing before everything shut down due to the poor visibility and continued heavy snow. Uneventful flights brought us to DC, where the lovely balmy weather of the previous week had completely evaporated. We defeated the colds we picked up in Juneau, shoveled yet more snow, and enjoyed visiting our many dear ones in this area. Also, volunteered another day for Covenant House, bought a few books (surprise), read in front of nice warm fire, and made some progress on the web site update. Tomorrow we head back to Charleston, SC, to be reunited with our darling Clementine. Much as we have basked warmly in the company of our family and friends, we are more than ready to be back on the road--and hopefully with some more clement weather. It's been a frigid week.

 

Thursday, January 27, 2005
at Oak Plantation Campground, Charleston, SC

Uneventful flight to Charleston yesterday from DC. Recovered Clemmie from the storage area--engine started without missing a beat--and moved ourselves into a comfortable campsite. Level concrete slab, electricity, water and sewer at hand. Tall trees and hundreds (it seemed) of noisy robins. Great shower and laundry facilities. A nice balmy 60 degrees. Unpacked, then rode our bikes to Gilligan's restaurant nearby and ate afternoon meal. Left most of the de-winterizing until today. This morning we began going through all the systems. Everything working, except usual plumbing snafus. Water filter under the sink is poorly designed (or maybe it's us) -- oops, water all over the floor. Same mistake as when winterizing. Let's not do that again. Battened down for a cold night, temperature forecast to be in high 20's. Tomorrow we'll head for Raleigh to see Craig and Sarah in their new digs, and pick up some book packages we had mailed to them.

 

Saturday, January 29, 2005
in Myrtle Beach State Park, Myrtle Beach, SC

Yesterday morning the forecast for Raleigh is a winter storm. Decided to postpone trip for a couple of days and go somewhere a bit more clement. Selected Myrtle Beach for its reputed-to-be-lovely state park. On final check before decamping, found the stem for the faucet to the outside shower is leaking, needs to be replaced. Filled up the propane tank, provisioned, and headed along Rte 17 north along the coast. Found RV dealer in Myrtle Beach (Camping Country) to do the plumbing repair, which they accomplished by replacing the faucet in short order, and under warranty. Passed a number of huge lots filled with RV's on the way--more than we've so far seen anywhere.

Arrived in the State Park at 4:00pm, and went to assigned campsite. 121 miles today. Only a few other hardy souls here. Very pretty area, a pleasant natural oasis among all the Grand Strand resort accoutrements. But it's COLD! Thankfully our heating systems keep us toasty warm and snug. This morning, found numerous big fat cardinals tamely strutting around outside. Started chili fixings in the crockpot. Happily combed through our resources to begin planning what to see and where to go in Florida. Much more than we thought. Happy as pigs in shi... Went for a pleasant if chilly bike ride to the other end of the state park--legs ecstatic to be reunited with bikes. Walked along the beach to the empty fishing pier, and along it's length. A flock of fluffed-up rock doves in all their variation eyed us from the rail. Watched a pair of pelicans cruised along the surf in search of lunch. Icy raindrops chased us indoors for the afternoon, which we spent reading or reorganizing and weeding some of the stowage. We don't need all the spares and supplies we carried over from Callipygia. Hard to internalize that if we need something we're rarely more than an hour or so from a store.

 

Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Parked at Craig and Sarah's in Raleigh, NC

Made a leisurely drive from Myrtle Beach to Raleigh on Sunday, arriving here about 4 pm after a 214-mile trip. Nice to meet up with Craig again and see them settled into their new digs. Collected our book packages. Yesterday and today, continued the reorganizing and weeding and prepared for our trip south. Did some errands and provisioning, and gave the bikes a tune up, courtesy of All Star Bikes which we found a handy ½-mile bike ride from Craig's house. Tomorrow, we'll get Clemmie serviced and then head to I-95 to travel through South Carolina, Georgia, and through Florida to the Everglades, our next and (we hope finally) warmer destination.

 

Friday, February 4, 2005
in Flamingo Campground, Everglades National Park, FL

Enjoyed our time in Raleigh, even if it did frost at night. Left early Wednesday morning and went to College Park RV's, to get the engine oil changed, then to Brakes, Inc., a block away, to check wheels and tires and adjust the alignment. Enjoyed watching a cooking show on TV while waiting and picked up a few tips. We're loving Clemmie's kitchen, being able to shop when we need, find (usually) necessary ingredients, and make old favorite recipes--albeit in smaller quantities. Filled the fuel tank and left Raleigh shortly after 11:00 am. Drove south on I-40 to I-95, and followed it south into Georgia. Made a couple of fuel and lunch break stops, and to change drivers. Our general practice is 100 miles or 2 hours, whichever comes first. Big road trips are much more enjoyable now, in the comfort of our own home. At 7:45pm pulled over for the night at an RV-friendly truck stop (Flying J) near Brunswick. GA. Very convenient, lulled to sleep by the droning of truck engines. Thursday, left the truck stop at 7:45 am and continued south. Made a detour south of Jacksonville to pick up our mail in Green Cove Springs. Then continued on I-95, a relentlessly busy highway, with heavy truck traffic and some construction but no slow downs until well into Florida. No room at any of the nearby State Parks, so kept on going until Boynton Beach where we left the highway and found a Walmart (these are also RV-friendly) to park at. A dozen other RV's had the same idea. Spent a quiet night in their company. Couldn't avoid being reminded how congested and over-developed southeast Florida is, and still building. This morning, took the Florida Turnpike south to Florida City--worth the $5 in tolls for the decidedly diminished truck traffic. Stopped at the Visitor's Center at the entrance to the Everglades, and drove the 30+ miles to Flamingo, on the south coast. Registered at the campground, and were settled in by 2:30 pm. Biked in to the Flamingo Visitor's Center and did some initial exploring of the area. 941 miles traveled on this 2½-day journey.

 

Wednesday, February 9, 2005
in Flamingo Campground, Everglades National Park, FL

Enjoyed our stay in this lovely setting. It's the dry season, so mosquitoes are mostly tolerable. Saw lots of birds, including...... Evidently avian numbers are reduced to just 5% of what they were decades ago, after largely rebounding from the devastating plume-hunting period (for hat feathers) in the early 1900's. Development pressures from southeast Florida fight with the Everglades for fresh water thus reducing natural habitats, and intensive farming also adds nutrients and toxins to the runoff which trickle up the food chain--pruning breeding rates for many birds. Nonetheless, it's still a beautiful place although it's not clear how much longer this huge and globally significant and unique 50-mile wide, 100-mile long "River of Grass" will be able to survive. The park literature describes it as "on life support." We got our daily workout on bike and foot, and paddling on a 4-hour guided canoe trip along one of the many water trails from Nine-Mile Pond. The latter was definitely on our list of not-to-be missed outings, passing through mangrove tunnels, and by alligators, a crocodile, and many more water birds. We also got up close and personal with their endangered habitat--somehow we dumped ourselves out of our canoe into the drink. Don't ask how. Thankfully, the only damage was to camera and our dignity. Learning that in this busy season we'll have to make reservations at Florida State Parks, we (a bit reluctantly) planned the next month. Since we have no cell-phone service, we found ourselves making the 2½-mile round-trip bike ride to the one pay phone at Flamingo with remarkable frequency. We sure love our bikes.

Turkey vultures are silent campground pests, with a few black vulture hanger-ons. Red-bellied woodpeckers quite abundant too, churrrrrrrrrrring away while foraging on the palm trees. Thoughts while watching birds: Little ones (and some not so little) constantly on the alert, looking this way and that, up and down, searching for their own fodder while at the same time carefully dodging being eaten. Each kind of life feeds on other kinds of life. Many bird species exist in large flocks, with safety only in numbers. In the US we humans seem to be engaged in an all out political war between the "I's" and the "We's" without appreciation for the requirements of our own species' survival. And, we show little regard for other species' survival as we mindlessly accelerate our way along the path to extinction.

 

Friday, February 11, 2005
in Long Pine Key Campground, Everglades National Park, FL

Yesterday, we left Flamingo at on the heels of a gorgeous sunrise after emptying the holding tanks and filling up with water. Poor Clemmie is filthy! Last wash was Minneapolis, almost 3,000 miles ago. Drove to Rte 1, and then followed it south to Key Largo. Spent much of the day there at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, walking and biking around and then "camping out" in the shade of a tree for a while, watching a yellow-bellied sapsucker tapping away at eye-level just outside our window. Wished we had a functioning camera. Didn't spring for the glass-bottomed boat ride to the reef, given our wonderful snorkeling experiences in the Caribbean. The park campground being full, and with no chance of a walk-in spot, we drove back to Homestead to Walmart's in the afternoon. Found a place to get Clemmie washed and polished right next door, so took advantage of it to clean up our little home--she looks like new again. Two good-sized RV "camps" sprang up during the evening, one at each end of the Walmart parking lot. It certainly is a great convenience to be able to overnight there, when all else fails. Up early today, a windy and chilly morning, and did some provisioning before driving north on Rte 997 through field after field of vegetables, dozens of hunched over people picking something. Turned west onto the Tamiami Trail (Rte 42)--a road running on the northern edge of the National Park--beside one of the many canals that divert the water draining out of Lake Okeechobee from getting to the Everglades. Stopped in at the Everglades Shark Valley Visitor Center, but decided it was way to chilly to bike the Shark Valley loop road and we'd do that when we make our final exit from the Park. Instead, went to the nearby Miccosukee Indian Village and took a guided tour of the village and the museum. An outstanding $5 treat, don't miss it. Then backtracked to Homestead (incidentally replacing the camera) and came again into the Everglades to Long Pine campground, settling into our campsite at 2:00pm after putting the sun cover over the windshield. 199 miles since we left Flamingo 2 days ago .

 

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
in Long Pine Key Campground, Everglades National Park, FL

This is a beautiful secluded place. A bit chilly the first few days, thankful for our wonderful propane heating system. Great bike riding, getting our regulation 10-15 miles each day with ease--plus a bit of hiking. Great wildlife sightings on the Anhinga trail, including 6 Anhinga nests--4 with babies, and 2 sitting on eggs. See some pictures on the Everglades page of the Photo Album. This campground is dominated by long and leggy slash pines (not in our tree book, it has double needles 5"-9", big red scar-plates on the trunk bark, and symmetrical cones 4"-5" with minimal thorns.) We wake to the sounds of crow calls. One of these most intelligent and intrepid of birds managed to open the zipper on our bike pack. Other than that, it's mostly gray catbirds and a few cardinals, with the occasional glimpse of something small and secretive zipping from one hiding place to another--oh yes, and one eastern bluebird (female).

We've finally worked our way through the ocean-crossing supply of food from Callipygia. Glad to be all done with those cans of curried channa (chickpeas) from Trinidad. We have reverted to our boat-day routine of taking days about being responsible for meals (and whoever cooks, cleans up). We have many more cooking options now, however, between our terrific smart refrigerator/freezer (runs on electricity when available, and if not it runs on propane), microwave, efficient little propane stove and oven, and access to pretty much whatever ingredients we need. Food planning and preparation are fun and important parts of each day, as we attempt to create tasty, nutritious, and eye-pleasing plates. We've also instituted a once-a-week fasting day (juice, tea, and water only), hoping to slowly reduce our midriffs. Hope it lasts. Dawn and dusk are not quite the same as from the cockpit, but nonetheless spectacularly beautiful in their own right in places such as this. We're putting in a couple of hours work each day on our project, going slower than we first thought but it's developing nicely in its own way. Also spending time gradually updating the web site and reviewing and improving older sections (adding more pictures, and ensuring consistency of format and links.)

 

Thursday, February 17, 2005
in Myakka River State Park, near Sarasota, FL

A busy day. Left Long Pine Key just after first light, and drove to the Shark Valley Visitor Center. Since not enough time to bike the trail, we took the first tram for the guided tour. Well worth the trip. We took more photos, including one of a clutch of baby alligators and another Anhinga nest. From there we stopped by the Big Cypress Preserve Visitor Center, then drove to Corkscrew Swamp, the Audubon Society's centerpiece preserve. A fantastic place, though it was busy with people, and not a good time of day for bird watching. After completing the 2½-mile boardwalk around the swamp (once totally isolated, now surrounded by development) we hit the crowded interstate and a few traffic jams near Fort Myers where we stopped to pick up a few RV supplies and replace a dead turn indicator light. Then on towards Sarasota, arriving at Myakka River as dusk was falling. Very happy to find nice hot showers before a late supper. No showers at Long Pine Key, only bucket washes. 267 miles for the day.

 

Friday, February 18, 2005
in Oscar Scherer State Park, Osprey, FL

Joined "Yogi", a park volunteer, at the end of the "bird"walk on the Upper Lake at Myakka River State Park for some terrific early morning bird watching. Most fun was watching all the ospreys fishing, with one being chased by a bald eagle bent on snatching the osprey's catch. Then we took the park's Canopy Walk up a tower and along a suspension bridge at tree-top height, great views of this lovely big park. Marvelous to have our bikes to go from place to place, especially with level roadways. Left the campground at 10:45am and drove west towards Sarasota, stopping to provision on the way, before turning south on Rte 41 to Osprey where we found a laundromat and spent the lunch (2) hours doing a massive wash. Arrived at Oscar Scherer about 2:30pm, and backed into a gem of a campsite, completely private and 8' from a little river. Biked around the area, a true gem of a little campground, bequeathed to the state by the descendents of an industrial chemist. A nice easy 29-mile day.

 

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
at the KOA Fort Summit campground, Davenport, FL

Saturday morning we departed Oscar Scherer after breakfast to drive the Interstate towards Orlando. Slow going on I-4 going east, and a big construction mess at Rte 27, our exit. Picked our way through the orange construction barrels to find the campground entrance, where we arrived at 11:30am. 114 miles today. Parked in a field temporarily, made lunch, and checked out the campground until our site was ready. A cheek-by-jowl place (some would call it a grass parking lot) crammed tightly with happy holiday-making families. Nice hot showers, good laundry, pleasant swimming pool, and a great Internet connection, letting us catch up after a few weeks in the boonies. Sunday, we drove early to Disney World and parked Clemmie in the main (and mammoth) parking lot at the Transportation and Ticket Center, so that if we needed a respite from being amused we could come home for a bit to chill out. Turned out to be a great decision, which we repeated each day of our visit. By going early, we were assigned a parking spot near the main entrance where we cooked breakfast and planned our day while we waited for things to open. Spent Sunday at the Magic Kingdom, enjoying the view of Cinderella's Castle, picking our way through the crowds, and accessing several attractions/rides, etc. Yesterday, we toured Epcot, walking our legs off while visiting several attractions, culminating with a spectacular show by a team of youngsters from China, the Dragon Legend Acrobats. The group included a young girl who managed a series of body-boggling positions while balanced on one hand. Today, we visited the Disney-MGM Studios to be again highly entertained, and incidentally learn a little about the business of movie-making. Saw some exciting special effects, and strolled down Sunset Boulevard. An exhausting three days, (108 car miles for Clemmie) but wouldn't have missed this all-American happening. A new experience for one of us, who worked (hard?) at suspending judgment on the whole thing while the other unleashed it's child within and had a whale of a good time.

 

Thursday, February 24, 2005
in Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, Micanopy FL

Wednesday morning we upped early and drove out of the jam-packed KOA campground onto I-4 heading east. Stop and go through the rush-hour traffic and construction melee for about 20 minutes until we cleared Orlando. Nearing the coast, we turned north on I-95 for a couple of interchanges before exiting into Holly Hill, where we filled up the gas tank (47 gallons this time) and then stopped in at Green's Camera Tech with the dunked camera to see if it could be repaired. No such luck--dunking is pretty much the end of the line for digitals--so we left it there for appropriate disposal. Thank goodness the card with our Everglades photos was intact. Thereafter, we meandered along Highway 40 and eventually turned into the Ocala National Forest at Juniper Springs. Wandered round that lovely little spot, watching the rippling waters of the pool and sandy river outlet carrying away the spring's daily eruption of 8 million gallons of pure fresh water from the great Florida Aquifer. Received the once over from a racoon. Then on through Ocala, and north on Hwy 441 to the Payne's Prairie Preserve. Plugged in at our spacious and private campsite near the bath-house (good showers) by mid-afternoon. We're increasingly impressed with the Florida State Park system. After settling in, we took down the bikes and went pedaling round this vast place, a sweet oasis for us and other wildlife in this once lovely state, booming from side to side with continued development. 185 miles for the day.

Last night brought our first Florida rain showers; water levels are low everywhere in this dry season. We explored the park on bike and foot yesterday morning, saw ospreys and cormorants fishing in the lake, eagles carrying sticks for nest-building, a swimming turtle coming up for air, and a group of four white-tailed deer stopping in the woods to examine us as we gawk at them. The prairie has a marveling and calming effect on us mountain-and-sea folks, it has an awesome magnificence that is new to us. Took another bike ride and walk along Cone's Dike Trail in the afternoon--this time we bagged 3 wild bison, 1 tortoise, several ?prairie? warblers, any number of robins, and the usual unidentifiable small birds. We are finding birding to be an absorbing hobby, trying to learn songs/calls, habits, habitats, and appearances. We are continually aware of how blessed we are in our lifestyle, and the absence of stress on our shoulders. Daily, we give thanks for it.

 

Friday, February 25, 2005
in Anastasia Island State Park, St. Augustine, FL

Left the Payne's Prairie campground at 7:30am. Made a short detour through the historic town of Micanopy (no diner, mostly antique shops) and then headed east on Rte 20 to Palatki, where we ate breakfast. Thereafter we made a short visit to Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatki, the site of Florida's annual Azalea Festival in March. Another overcast and occasionally rainy day. From Palatki we went north on Rte 17 to Green Cove Springs, to pick up our mail, and then east on Rte 16, south on Rte 13, and east again on Rte 241 to St. Augustine and across to its barrier island of Anastasia. Found ourselves allocated a nice but not very level campsite, which we were able to change for the adjacent one, more level. Took a walk around the campground and then to the beach--cold and windy, and deserted by all but the birds. Opened and went through our month's worth of mail, and found in it a picture of 6-month old great-niece Sophie Anastasia, named in honor of Bill's late mother, Anastasia. And here we are in Anastasia State Park! Today's trip - 117 miles.

 

Tuesday, March 1, 2005
in St. George Island State Park, Apalachicola, FL

After dumping the holding tanks on Saturday morning, we left the campground at Anastasia at 7:50am. Made our way onto I-95 going north, then I-295 to bypass Jacksonville, before taking I-10 traveling west towards the Florida panhandle. Left I-10 and headed south on Rte 53, then west on Rte 98. Made stops in Perry to fill up the gas tank, and by the roadside to eat lunch. A pretty drive, once we left the Interstate. First through a capacious pine tree farm/orchard, with rows of trees in "fields" of different growth stages, then along the gulf shore. Many beach-front houses sitting behind a few feet of white sandy beach drowning worn-down stumps of trees overtaken by gulf waters. Don't know that we'd build a house where the trees so clearly had lost the battle. Drove across the long causeway/bridge to St. George Island, and then east into the State Park. 308 miles for this leg . A stark and beautiful place. Very nice campground, with good-sized private sites. Filled with birds, and bird songs. Our site is close to the bath house with fine hot showers.

Saturday night, as forecast, the rain crept in and turned into a full-scale deluge by Sunday morning. We hunkered down, hoping it would lighten up so we could suit up and go for a walk or bike ride, but to no avail. We passed the time cooking, reading, doing a few chores, and enjoying our hobbies while it blew and dumped whole water outside until almost 3pm. By this time we'd given up hope of ever getting out; then hey presto, all of a sudden at 3:15pm the rain quit, the sun came out for about 45 minutes with the passage of the low/front, whereupon we dropped everything and took a brisk walk to the beach in this gorgeous barrier-island state park. Started the compilation of our annual land-cruising statistics. Are we--or should we say, one of us--data fiends, or what?

Monday morning we left the campsite at 8am and drove into Apalachicola for a 9am dentist appointment. Dentist recommendation secured from park ranger. One of us has had a niggling toothache for over 3 weeks, and experience tells us such maladies only get worse. As feared, 2 teeth need to be crowned. Explored Apalachicola, a neat little place. Once upon a time, second only to New Orleans in gulf-port importance. Now fading, and so far relying on it's place producing 90% of Florida's oysters. Seems to be becoming gentrified as a tourist spot, with painful destruction of the local work economy. Found nationally recognized photojournalist Richard Bickel showing his exquisite work. He came to Apalachicola on a job a decade ago, and was so captured by it that he made it his home. His photographs of one of America's last working waterfronts are poignant. Back to the dentist at 2pm for a 2-hr torture session to prepare the two failing teeth and install temporary caps. Adjusted our thinking about where we'll go from here given the need to stay in the area to complete the dental work. Made campground reservations to stay in the area until March 16th, when the permanent caps will be installed. Then back home to our lovely St. George Island campsite, to be entertained by a brown thrasher rummaging under the bushes beside Clemmie. And, the ubiquitous grackles creaking squeakily everywhere. 46 car miles for the day.

Today, sunny, blustery, and cool. Started soup in the crockpot, then took a morning bike ride before spending most of the day on assorted chores and planning our next month. Bagged a red-breasted merganser duck. While cruising, our options of where to go next were relatively few, restricted by our stamina, availability of decent anchorages, weather forecast, and slow boat speed. In this lifestyle, the continent is our oyster and our choices unlimited. We can be pretty much go anywhere, by any route, in a few days. Thus, planning involves maps (AAA US/Canadian atlas, individual state maps, DeLorme's detailed road atlas/gazetteer for each state, and our mapping software), plus the National Geographic guides to national parks, state parks, scenic byways, and hidden corners, the Park Service guide to national parks, the Bird Conservancy's "500 Most Important Bird Areas", a directory of each state's park system picked up as we enter the state, and various campground directories (AAA, Frommer's, Trailer Life, Woodall, Coleman's National Forest Guide, the Army Corps Guide, etc.) It took us ½ the day to whittle down our options and plan the next month. Now we have a bunch of phone calls to either make reservations, or find out they're not necessary. We're looking forward to getting to some less busy spots where we can simply wing it from day to day.

 

Sunday, March 6, 2005
in St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, FL

Wednesday morning we upped and out of St. George Island at 8:30am, emptying the tanks at the dump station on the way. Drove across the bays (2 long bridges) to get to Apalachicola and then took Rte 98 to Port St. Joe. Looked around a bit, and then drove on to Panama City to provision and buy TurboTax and a Wi Fi card for our laptop. Back to Port St. Joe, and then south to Cape San Blas to turn up onto St. Joseph's Peninsula. Arrived at the campground at 4:30pm with 145 miles under our belt. Did a quick bike tour around and discovered a brand new shiny bath-house, heated no less. Thursday, rain arrived as forecast, so we had mostly an indoor day grappling with tax returns and other chores. Frustrated with the lack of access to the Internet, can't finish our taxes until we find it--TurboTax forms "are not complete yet" thank you. No cell phone service here, so feeling a bit isolated. But what a place to be isolated--the beach is ranked as the best in the US, and the park is just gorgeous. Bagged two tame deer, a pair of bluebirds and two downy woodpeckers before the rain started up. What a life!

Friday broke cold, clear, and sunny. Took early morning walk/bike ride. This place is gorgeous--reputed to be the best beach in the US, we can certainly see why. And inshore away from the dunes are scrub and pines and the shallow sheltered waters on the other side of the peninsula, equally beautiful. Plenty of biking and hiking opportunities. If we're in this quadrant of the U.S. again, we'll make it a point to come back to this--one of our most favorite spots to date. Socialized with Ann and George from Ontario, staying briefly on the campsite across the way from us. Saturday morning, we found loons wintering on the calm waters of Eagle Harbor, on the sheltered side of the peninsula. Also Bonaparte's Gulls among the pelicans. Deer hoof marks in the sand. Working hard at trying to train ear to distinguish different bird calls and songs. A wonderful sunny day, great for sitting reading on the beach and looking for pelican tracks in the white sand. Flat tire put one of the bikes out of commission, producing much teeth-gnashing from its owner. The other heroically took the wheel off, then apart, and after the usual upsets, successfully repaired the inner tube. Bless 'im. This morning, we moved from Gulf Shores CG to Shady Pines CG, which has bigger, more private sites--although not as close to the beach. Many sightings of yellow-rumped warblers flashing from bush to bush. We've learned to take the binoculars with us even on the short trip to the toilet. Beach time after lunch--this is truly a spectacular place. In late afternoon, we lit a fire, and watched a family (6) of raccoons sneaking through the woods across from our campsite.

 

Friday, March 11, 2005
in St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe, FL

Weatherwise, this began as a cold and cloudy week. After a lovely sunny day Monday, things went rapidly in the tank. Humungous thunderstorms during the night, as a cold front came through. Wednesday it never rose above 50 (deg F), so we donned our winter woollies and biked around or walked on the beach. Happy to spend the rest of the day snugged up inside Clemmie, and glad we're not tenting (as are half the people in this campground). Thursday dawned clear, breezy and cold so we biked to the north end of the State Park, and walked along the trail through the wilderness area, then back along the shore. At one point a flock of over 100 White Pelicans soared and wheeled overhead--a spectacular sight, but of course we didn't have the camera with us. After lunch, a walk on the beach watching the big surf. Today, a lovely sunny one, quite a bit warmer though still windy. Checked all of Clemmie's caulking, a periodic leak prevention precaution. No cracks that we can find. Completed our tax returns after updating TurboTax, and e-filed the forms with the IRS. Convenient phone with jack attached to one of the bath-houses. Long bike ride in the morning, and some breezy beach time in the afternoon. Good cooking, too, we're enjoying the oven and crockpot. Nonetheless, even though this is a lovely spot, we're ready to move on and looking forward to the even warmer weather forecast (?shorts?) for the weekend.

 

Tuesday, March 15, 2005
in Ochlockonee River State Park, Sopchoppy, FL

Up early Saturday to get underway. Alack and alas, climbed into the cab and started the engine--nothing but a dismal rattle. Oh woe is us, what can it be? Helpful ranger came by in truck, said sounds like dead battery (although there's enough power to roll windows up/down) or solenoid for the starter. Pulled out his jumper cables, hooked up, and started us fine. Fuel gauge on empty, though. Pulled forward, no smell of gasoline nor any sign of it leaking. Headed gingerly out of the campground and down the peninsula as the gas gauge gradually crept up to 3/4 full (what it should have been). Drove north on Rte 30 to Port St. Joe where we stopped at Advanced Auto Parts. They hauled out a battery-checking gizmo and checked engine battery, both house batteries, alternator, and starter solenoid. All's well. Something drained the battery while we were camped. What, we have no clue. Bought an MVP Portable Power Station as insurance. Went to the library in Port St. Joe to make a barcode copy, then to the Post Office for stamps, and to mail our TurboTax and Wi Fi adapter rebates. After all of that, back east on Rte 98 to Apalachicola to the hardware store (bike repair supplies and indoor/outdoor thermometer), lunch at The Hut, then Croom's laundromat (3 loads), Piggly Wiggly for provisions, the Bookstore, liquor store, and finally Cafe Con Leche (Internet Cafe) to test our new WiFi adapter. As you can see, it worked nicely--web site is all updated. Spoiled ourselves with some Cafe Americano and pieces of disgustatory chocolate cake while doing our Internet stuff. Finally left Apalachicola around 4pm, continuing east on Rte 98 through Eastpoint and Carabelle, then turned north on Rte 319 and into Ochlockonee River State Park just before 5pm. Set ourselves up at our campsite, and took a quick bike ride round the campground and to the river, before settling in for a slow evening. A long 91-mile day. A couple from Nova Scotia in the adjacent campsite have a Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak, just like ours. Said they liked it a lot, and that this is a great place to use it.

Sunday dawned clear and not too cold. Dickered around with where to place the indoor/outdoor thermometer and its sensor. Eventually put it by the door so you can see what you're getting into as you leave. A handy addition to our little home. Took an early walk around the campground, some bird is singing its little heart out--what a terrific and varied sweet-sounding repertoire it has; mostly it repeats everything twice. Back to study our bird song CDs, it sounds like a brown thrasher. Grab binoculars, head out again and follow the song. Eventually track the bird down. Indeed yes--it is a brown thrasher! What a coup, great excitement to add a new bird to aural recognition list. Today's cook is whipped from yesterday's exertions, so plans a meal of left-overs: broccoli quiche and apples for breakfast; chili and bananas for lunch; and lasagne, spinach and oranges for supper. Our middles are gradually shrinking, what with eating healthy, fasting (juice only) one day a week, and plenty of biking/hiking. Hope we can keep it up.

Monday, biked into Sopchoppy, small village 6 miles north on Ret 319. Paved bike lane (narrow shoulder) on side of highway made for pleasant pedaling. Good little hardware and grocery stores. Bought a few items, including a big steak--rare treat. Back home, one of us finished reorganizing the Photo Album (hope you like it) while the other went fishing. Nothing bit. Cooked steak on grill for supper. Yum. Today, cloudy and overcast. Rain and thunderstorms forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Early morning fishing trip yielded no breakfast catch, notwithstanding fish jumping and thumbing noses at fisherman. Started Clemmie's engine, no problem. Phew. Took a short bike ride, then walked in the woods and saw a white squirrel, then continued along the river for a while before turning indoors as the weather slowly withered. While not spectacular, this state park is a low-key little gem of a place. Birds are all over the place, and white-tailed deer wander around the campground. A cardinal clung onto the edge of our window checking us out at lunch time. We're loving this life style even more than we dreamed, not to mention our cozy little home-in-a-box. Took pictures inside, looking forward, and looking aft.

 

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
at St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach, FL

Not quite where we thought we'd be. Tuesday night, it poured it's little heart out. The noise of the rain on the roof got us up for good at 4:15am, after which we sat and watched the power go on and off several times as we sipped our coffee. Used the time to plan a trip up Rte 7 in Arkansas, the scenic byway section between Hot Springs and Harrison. Left sweet Ochlockonee River State Park shortly after 7:00am and drove back along Rte 98 to Apalachicola. Went to Cafe Con Leche (the Internet cafe) and used our new Wi Fi gizmo to update the website, check e-mail, etc. Then on to our 10:00am dental appointment. Oh dear. The caps have not arrived yet, they're still in California. Apologetic dental receptionist got on the phone and arranged to have them expedited. Rescheduled the appointment for today at 1:00pm. Clearly we have to can our trip to Blackwater River State Park. Moved into flexible mode, drove to Panama City, did some shopping, and around 2:00pm found an empty campsite here, which we booked for 2 nights. 111 miles today. Took down the bikes (the rain finally stopped) and rode around this very pretty state park. Another lovely beach, and great birding, especially at Alligator Pond. Glad we're not tenting, some of those looked like they were about to float off into the sea after all the recent rain. Made numerous phone calls tracking down campgrounds so as to make reservations for our stops along Rte 7 on our Arkansas scenic byway trip.

Setting up here we again found water in "the basement", the rear external locker which leaked badly during the drenching at St. George Island. Made an appointment with the Winnebago dealer in Baton Rouge to locate and (hopefully) fix the problem first thing next Monday. Must say Winnebago has been outstandingly easy to deal with. Must also say that Florida state parks are A-1 terrific. Feels like a very busy day. Started out as our usual fasting Wednesday, but by 5pm decided to bag it and have happy hour. We earned it.

Today, wavering between EST (Apalachicola) and CST (here), rose at 6:30am EST. Unhooked the umbilical cords (electricity and water) and left our bikes and the campground at 7:45am. Arrived in Apalachicola around 10:00am, after one stop along the way. Back to Cafe Con Leche for more Internet time. Then to the John Gorrie State Park Museum--he, a young doctor who came to Apalachicola circa 1830, invented a primitive air-conditioner (blowing air over ice) to aid the suffering of those with "swamp" diseases (yellow fever and malaria). Learned quite a bit about the history of this lovely area. From the ranger, learned about Papa Joe's restaurant for outstanding seafood and went there for lunch. Fried oysters out of this world. Then back to the dentist for 1:00pm appointment, ready to apologize for the oysters. In front of surgery is a huge ancient live oak tree, replete with ferns on its branches. A tribute to longevity, what changes it must have seen. Oh dear, the caps have not arrived yet. Staff more upset than we, sent out APB for Fed X truck; the errant package finally showed up at 3:00pm (EST). Sufferer spent an hour in the chair and emerged with teeth good for another quarter century. Impressed with atmosphere in dentist's office, best dental Karma we've found. If ever we have a tooth problem again, we'll wish we were here. Back along Rte 98 to Panama City, and this campground again, arriving around 4:00pm CST. 142 miles today. Gloomy afternoon, so snugged down for the evening and didn't much beyond planning tomorrow.

We have spent time thinking and discussing our project. We have not forgotten it. We've decided that the first stage is to get the content "up" on this website, so we're going to start working in that direction. Having spent some time on the road, and talking to people in campgrounds, that seems like a more realistic first step. We are on a different wave length from the people we're meeting. Check the "What's New" button of the Home Page to see how we're progressing.

 

Saturday, March 19, 2005
at Alabama Port RV Park, Alabama Port, AL

Thursday, we woke at 3 am, our 3rd night in a row we're up and awake to de-tick ourselves. So far, between us, we brought 6 ticks from Ochlockonee River. Sneaky little blighters. Dozed 'till dawn, then did a load of laundry and showered in nice heated bath house at St. Andrews. Could happily have stayed there longer. Many campsites are on the waterfront, just loverly. Cool night, sunny morning, busy birdy place. Took a pleasant bike ride around Alligator Pond and to the beach. A quick Internet hit (free line) at the Visitor Center--sorry to find out that Hoover (Susan and Henry's pet of five years, a toulouse goose) got eaten by a bobcat. Dumped the tanks and departed around 10:50am (CST though our bodies thought it was EST.) Drove west along Rte 98 through beach towns to Destin--once pretty now overwhelmed by the malling of America--then north on Rte 293, west on Rtes 20 and 85. Bridge over Mobile Bay blocked with an accident, then a tow truck speeding along the shoulder hit the side and blocked the shoulder too. Inched our way across, spotting progress ahead and birds in the bay through the binoculars. Took 1½ hours to get to the other side. Getting dusky so decided to stop at Walmart's near Tillman's Corner. Snuggled up with the trailer trucks in the rear of the parking lot, and away from the din of the Hollywood Video across the street. Tractor-trailers' purring lulled us to sleep.

This morning, up early--parking lot still full. People must shop all night. Headed south on Rte 193 to Dauphin (pronounced "Dolphin") Island, barrier island, one of the US' most important birding areas (IBAs). Ate breakfast at the Cow and Bean, underneath the water tower. Toured around the island following the route suggested in the Fish and Wildlife Service's outstanding brochure of Alabama Birding spots. Started at the Shell Mound, three firsts: black-and-white warbler creeping on tree; prothonotary warbler on bush; and a few cedar waxwings. Then to the Audubon sanctuary, and walked our legs off through its trails and boardwalks, and to the gulf beach. Found another prothonotary warbler by the side of the swamp, dead as a little door nail. Noted a huge magnolia, its trunk riddled with row after row of drill-holes from long-gone sapsuckers. Then to Fort Gaines and, taking tip from another birder we met at the Audubon sanctuary, examined the ditchy moats outside the fort. Found two more firsts in the moat/ditch: a sora; and a solitary sandpiper. We'll have to create a birding section of this website. Apologies to the non-birding readers for the amount of birding info in this log. Made and ate lunch in the parking lot of the Fort, very scenic view of Mobile Bay. From there we went to the island's little airport, and scanned the marshes for birds. Only animal life we saw were humans casting shrimp nets. Then we headed west along the main island backbone road out of the treed area to the developed western end. All the trees and shrubs have been removed to make way for edge to edge (gulf to bay) stilt (?still?)-standing beach houses. Highest elevation probably 4' above sea level on a good day. Not much protection from mother nature. Hurricane damage much in earnest--no wonder. Why would you bulldoze the natural protection and build so many houses in such an exposed place? Amazingly still, some of the damaged ones are being repaired--only postponing the inevitable death by hurricane at a later date. Went to the point where the road ended, nose-diving into the sand. Beyond it, piles of stacked lumber attested to the houses that had once been built beyond that point. Returned back to the mainland for the night at this convenient roadside RV park at the intersection of Rtes 193 and 188. 52 miles today.

 

Sunday, March 20, 2005
at Tickfaw State Park, Springfield, LA

This morning, up and away at 6:20am. Too early for one of us who wasn't ready, not yet properly awake--bit of friction over that. Got over it. Ambled along Rte 188 to Rte 90 into Mississippi. Through Pascagoula to the east end of Biloxi. Decided to check out one of the many casinos on the waterfront. Ate greasy buffet breakfast and pulled some one-arm bandits. Net loss of $8.25 not counting breakfast. Don't need to do that again. Followed scenic Rte 90 through Biloxi, among the ancient live oaks along the beautiful white gulf sands to Bay St. Louis, then took Rte 607 to I-10 at the eastbound Mississippi Welcome Center. Made our usual pickup of state highway map and state park information. Then west on I-10 to the Louisiana Welcome Center. Near lunchtime, decided to get off I-10 and go the 15 miles to Tickfaw and stay here for the afternoon and night. 170 miles today. This is a sweet little gem of a park, only 5 years old, not yet showing up on our DeLorme Louisiana gazetteer. Louisiana honors our Golden Age passport, campsite (with electricity) cost us only $6 for the night. Very nice campground, great heated bath-house, terrific nature center, nice trails. A birdy place. Spotted a pileated woodpecker, carolina wrens, and (a first) two hermit thrushes. After lunch, spent a lovely afternoon biking, walking, and wallowing in the natural environment. Park is in the swamps/bayous around the Tickfaw river. Sent a postcard with picture of the park to DeLorme, advising them of its existence.

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
at Lake Bruin State Park, St. Joseph, LA

Yesterday we left Tickfaw at dawn. Picked our way through side roads to I-12, then drove west in building traffic to Baton Rouge. Arrived at Miller's RV Center soon after 7am. Source of leak identified as the cover over the fresh water tank intake. Intake pulled out and reinstalled with fresh caulk. Piece of decorative molding on side of refrigerator also re-glued. Sensor for black water tank tested, needs to be replaced. Again, excellent warranty service through the Winnebago network. Left the dealer around 10:30am, back on I-12 a few exits, and made a detour to a branch of Barnes and Noble booksellers. Our first bookstore in two months! Got away without doing too much damage to our wallets, and headed north on I-110 to Rte 61, the eastern side of the Great River Road. Once we cleared some industrial (chemical) plants, the scenery improved and the road began to roll. Turned into a very pleasant parkway, with little traffic. Took a detour to go through the lovely little town of Woodville, Mississippi. If we ever need somewhere warm to settle, this could be it. Stopped in Natchez for lunch and our first view of the Mississippi River. Crossed back into Louisiana and north on Rte 65, the western side of the Road. Detoured in Feriday to Rte 586 to skirt two oxbow lakes, and wound our way through the cotton fields to the town of St. Joseph, and then to Lake Bruin State Park, arriving at 4:20pm. 178 miles today. A racket in the trees led our binoculars to a red-headed woodpecker, a cardinal, and several blue jays all giving some squirrel a bad time. Later, a carolina wren called and called and called for someone, late coming home. This is a very birdy place. Watched the watery sun go down through the cypress trees rising from the lake's waters.

Today, woke at 5am to the sound of rain and thunder. Strong front went through, tornado watches to the south of us. Thankful for the weather band on our radio. Then the skies cleared and temperature dropped and came a beautiful, if windy, day. Checked and found the basement leak is no more, thank goodness. Rode our bikes up over the levee to look at the Mississippi and then butted heads with the wind as we pedaled toward St. Joseph between field after field of woody cut-off cotton stalks, a rivule of water between each built-up row of plants. Cased the town (took about 5 minutes) and found a decent little supermarket. Ate lunch of outstanding gumbo and home-made corn bread at Ken's Corner (gas station at the intersection of Rtes 604 and 606.) Then home in short order, this time blown along with the wind behind. Much bird activity in the campground, red-headed woodpeckers and blue jays all over the place. Watched a lively tufted titmouse bouncing up and down on the campground road trying to impress its mate.

 

Friday, March 25, 2005
at Lake Chicot State Park, Lake Village, AR

Left Lake Bruin Wednesday morning at 7:45am after dumping the holding tanks. Continued north along Rte 65, then crossed the river to Vicksburg, Mississippi. Stopped in at the Visitors' Center and then took the driving tour around this hilly historic city. Clemmie squeaked through some narrow spots, under a few low branches, and up some steep little hills as we wound our way past various old buildings. Then to the National Military Battlefield to see an informative video about the civil war and the taking of Vicksburg in 1864 after a siege by Union troops, thus giving the north control of the crucial Mississippi. From Vicksburg, we drove north on the east of the river up Rte 61 to Rte 463, when we followed Great River Road signs. This took us 20 miles along the top of the levee, bumping our way across cattle guards, encountering no other vehicles, and looking down on assorted ponds and wetlands out of sight for the most part of the Mississippi River. We learned that the great flood of 1927 forced construction of what is today the longest continuous levee in the world, 640 miles. Altogether the levees beside the Mississippi and its tributaries are longer than the Great Wall of China. Back onto Rte 61, then Rte 1, to Rolling Fork, where we got lost trying to find Rte 16. After going round and round this little town, we went back to Rte 1 and crossed out of Mississippi into Arkansas to the Visitor Center just south of Lake Village, on the side of Lake Chicot a large ox-bow formed when the river changed its course some 500 years back. Stopped at the local supermarket for a few provisions, and arrived at the campground at 5:15pm. Registered at the Park Visitor Center, backed into our site, checked it for level, and plugged in. 240 miles, felt like a long day.

Thankful to have a few days in the same place, hopping along on consecutive day trips gets to be wearing pretty quick. Still trying to figure out a balance between driving, sightseeing, and just plain old being at home in one place. Took some time to get acquainted with this park, primarily occupied by local people with trailers and fishing skiffs. Feeling a little homesick for Florida's wonderful state park system. Time to adjust to a different culture. Seems like we left spring in Louisiana, the campground sits in a mature pecan grove whose trees are bare of leaf, and forecast are for cold (low 40's) nights.

Yesterday we rose with the sun (it comes up early here, just west of the Central time meridian) and mostly took the day off, wandering/biking around the campground, reading and doing our hobbies. Moved to a different campsite in the afternoon after two large families complete with yapping dogs arrived and settled into (and spilled over) the adjacent slot with trucks, bikes, tents, trailer, boat and canvas sun shelter. Much easier for us to move than for them, and we both need more space. Today, we biked along the levee hunting ducks in the borrow pits, from which was dug the material used to build the levee. Not many ducks, but a plethora of cows, calves, horses, and foals grazing on the grassy embankments. Cows didn't pay us much attention except for a menacing black bull which approached to examine (discourage?) us. Pat wished she hadn't worn her orange shirt. Horses did a mini-stampede ahead of us, the ranks growing to 60-odd as others along the way were swept up with them.  After 6 miles, we left the levee and returned along the paved road (Rte 144) pedaling into the inevitable wind blowing through the fields of cotton stubble. Happy not to be caught below one of the crop-dusting planes that buzz and squirt low overhead each morning. A warm day, temperatures in the high 70's. Pecan trees are sprouting buds, spring is catching up with us.

 

 

Monday, March 28, 2005
at Lake Ouachita State Park, north of Hot Springs, AR

Saturday, warmer on rising. Did a load of laundry in the machines conveniently placed near the Lake Chicot bath house. Ominous weather forecast, scary cold front expected later that day with the potential for baseball-sized hail and tornados. Seems like the campground was emptying--or was it our imagination? Kept a careful ear on our weather radio. By 2pm, it looked like we were right along the frontal line running from Texas through Louisiana to Mississippi where all this nastiness was expected to unfold. Decided to high-tail it outta there and head north. Left the campground near 3:00 and headed through Pine Bluffs towards Little Rock. Around 5:30pm, we got caught in some torrential rain, with hail hammering on poor Clemmie's roof. Camped out for the night just south of Little Rock in a Walmart's parking lot since we couldn't find any other nearby options. We were the only RV, didn't like it much.

Yesterday morning, we left Walmart's at first light and headed for Burns Park in North Little Rock to hang out there until Martha's plane arrived at noon. Dagnabbit, we found a pretty good campground there, how did we miss it? Didn't check all our resources. After collecting Martha from the airport (an hour late) and in still more rain we drove east through Hot Springs to this pretty park, arriving around 3:00pm. Enjoyed reconnecting with her, and planned some sight-seeing. 250 miles since Lake Chicot.

Today, cold outside (39F) on wakening to a gorgeous misty morning. Left the campground before 9am and drove to Hot Springs. Found parking at the town's little visitor center, and walked along the main street to the National Park Visitor Center in the beautifully restored Fordyce Bath House. Decided to get "the treatment" at the only remaining active bath house, Buckstaffs. Treatment consisted of individual hot whirlpool bath (aka fanny massage), loofah rub down by attendant, individual sitz bath (in case you have hemorrh....s), hot towel treatment, shower, and 20-minute massage. After all this hard work we ate lunch in downtown restaurant, then walked around the historic area, finding the only remaining visible hot spring. Didn't mind our better instincts and sampled fried pickles at Maggie's Pickle Shop--an Arkansas delicacy. Be sure to miss it, every bit as bad as it sounds. Got back to our campsite at Lake Ouachita to find someone had snitched our hose and pressure regulator, and that the rangers were about to give our site to someone else. Got that straightened out, but didn't recover hose etc. 36 car miles today.

 

Tuesday, March 29, 2005
at Lake Dardanelle State Park, Russellville, AR

Left lovely Lake Ouachita after breakfast and began a trip north up Rte 7 to Jasper, a notable National Geographic Scenic Drive. Stopped at Ron Coleman's Crystal Mines to examine samples (and wares) of amazing quartz and other semi-precious stones. You can go dig for your own, but we didn't, preferring to buy the fruits of others' labor. Pretty cheap too. Stopped at the Ranger Station on entry to Ouachita National Forest and walked the lovely little interpretive trail. Ate lunch near the Army Corps of Engineer dam that created Lake Nimrod, and again at the dam across the mighty Arkansas River that created Lake Dardanelle. Saw half a dozen white pelicans resting on their migration north to the arctic. Stopped in Russellville for ice cream. Feels like we're on vacation. Arrived at our campsite just in time for a pre-sunset happy hour --a beautiful spot, surrounded on three sides by water. We can see the neighborhood nuclear power plant cooling tower just across the lake. 94 miles today.

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2005
at the Tyler Bend campground, Buffalo National River, AR

Much warmer last night. We rose with the birds--among them a blue bird and some coots. We'll remember Lake Dardanelle. It was a gorgeous spot and hopefully we can come back for longer some other time. Left the campground around 8:15am and headed through Russellville, stopping at the Smoke House to load up on ham, sausage, bacon, etc. Drove through the Ozarks, gently winding and hilly road, spring hasn't quite made it yet. Stopped at the Triple Oak Gift Shop near the village of Pelsor and talked to the proprietors. They spend the winter making craft items, quilts, carvings etc., and the summer selling them. Ate lunch at the Cliff House restaurant, overlooking the hills. Split another Arkansas specialty; Company's Coming Pie. You can pass that one up too. Arrived in the small town of Jasper, where we divided. One of us stayed in town to check out all the little shops (and quilt makings) while the other two drove to look at the natural bridge near Alum Cove. Then to the Ranger Station and on to this campground for the night, the only RV-accessible one along the Buffalo National River. Lucky for us, the bath house opened for the season today. 142 miles today.

 

Thursday, March 31, 2005
at Petit Jean State Park, Morrillton, AR

We rose early this morning, and hiked along the trail part way along the Buffalo River. Heard a new bird song, melodious minor key ending in a pretty trill. Tracked it down - field sparrow. Found our way east to Rte 65, and to Marshall where we ate breakfast at the Sunset Restaurant. Bought our (final) Arkansas delicacy, chocolate roll. Pass that one by, too, if you see it. After breakfast, we drove south on Rte 65 until Rte 9, and then followed Rte 9 through Morrilton then turned west on Rte 154 to this State Park in time for lunch. 95 miles today. This is not a terrific campground, part of it under renovation. Busy Rte 154 through the middle has no bike lane. Hiking trails reputed to be awesome, however. Martha hiked to the Cedar Falls overlook, reported it to be quite beautiful although the parking area is a sea of mud (under construction). The rest of us took gentle bike ride and crashed. All this sightseeing is hard work.

Saturday, April 2, 2005
at Village Creek State Park, Wynne, AR

Yesterday, a wet morning. We left Petit Jean a bit before 9:00am after dumping the holding tanks. We made our way to I-40 and drove east towards Little Rock. Found the Clinton Presidential Library and Park near the River Market, plenty of RV-happy parking. Visited the Library, well worth the admission. Then ate lunch at a nearby restaurant and walked around the downtown area including a visit to the Museum of Arkansas. Took Martha to the airport, said goodbye, and continued east on I-40 then north at Forrest City along Rte 284 to this, the largest, Arkansas State Park arriving just after 5:00pm. Drove around the camping areas, and found a pleasant level campsite in the North area. 181 miles today. Renovations are underway at the West campground area, and in the South area (where the ranger tried to send us) the campsites are all slopey. Being level is our first priority in site selection. Pretty is #2, private #3, and near bath house #4. Learned the hard way that our next door neighbors have two (large, barking) dogs. We seem to have hopped ahead of spring again, not many buds here.

Today, we're hanging loose. Sightseeing has wore us out. We need some "home" time. Sick of listening to barking dogs though. Biked around a bit, and hiked along one of the trails. This area is apparently on a unique geologic feature, called Crowley's ridge. Sand, clay, and silt deposits squeezed in and built up between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers over the last 20 million years. No rock base, as is the case in the Ozarks and most of the rest of Arkansas. Consequently, a different plant community and interesting erosion features. Noted a bunch of dark-eyed junco's picking in the grass near the trees.

 

Saturday, April 9, 2005
at T.O. Fuller State Park, Memphis, TN

Last Sunday morning, a new bird song by the creek behind us in Village Creek State Park. Tracked it down with the binoculars--a distinctive song from a little thrushy-looking bird, but small with a distinctive eye stripe. Bobs its tail as it steps along its singing branch. Listened to the CDs, and paged through the bird book. A new find--a Louisiana waterthrush, a ground warbler. Left the campground soon after 9:00am and drove south to I-40, then east towards Memphis. At the junction with I-55, left the highway for the Flying-J Truck Stop, where we filled up with gasoline and propane. Went to the Blue Beacon Truck Wash next door to Flying J and got Clemmie cleaned and pressed. She's a new woman! Crossed the Mississippi into Tennessee and drove to the Memphis Visitor Center by the river. Then followed the attendant's directions to this State Park. The ranger station is closed on weekends, so we drove around the nearly empty campground and set up housekeeping in a very pretty spot next to the woods. Made lunch, and explored a little. This is a very birdy place. Mid afternoon, we were busy watching a pair of Carolina wrens near our campsite until we're distracted by a flock of robins (30 at least) feeding on worms, bugs, seeds, etc all round us. Then all of a sudden the robins flee en masse--except one. Right in front of us not 20' away there's a red-shouldered hawk with the poor laggard struggling in its talons on the ground. Had the binoculars handy enough to get a good look, but couldn't haul the camera out quick enough for a pix before the hawk left, carrying dinner home in its claws. Found the spot later, marked by blood and feathers. Emphasized that it sure takes life to feed life.

Monday, clean up day. Did two loads of laundry at the bath house's 2-load laundromat. Biked to the Visitor Center to register ourselves in the campground. Heard owls hooting in the woods. Made arrangements to get Clemmie serviced later this week. Prepared for a visit from Ralph, who's traveling through from Alabama on his way to Missouri towing a new (pre-owned) sailboat he's added to his inventory. Pat cut Bill's hair and he trimmed his own beard. Looks 10 years younger. Robins are back, as well as half a dozen northern flickers pecking at the insect life on the ground. Caught a pileated woodpecker's scarlet-crested head ding-donging at the base of a nearby tree. Ralph arrived complete with boat late in the evening, stayed up beyond our bed-time. Good to see him again, he was a real stalwart and support to us in our cruising period. Ralph left Tuesday morning, on the heels of an ugly weather forecast--nasty weather system due to arrive Wednesday, with the potential for "damaging hail and tornados". We followed Ralph out of the campground and spent much of the day doing errands--groceries and wine, haircut for Pat, miscellaneous shopping, Post Office, and a trip to Outdoors Inc for some bike and camping gear. Waved to Elvis Presley's airplane which was parked at the side of Elvis Presley Boulevard across from Graceland. Waved at it too. Weather arrived in the wee hours yesterday morning. Decided to postpone our downtown Memphis sightseeing until later. Between downpour events, biked to the Visitor Center and extended our stay here until tomorrow. The much-touted Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island opens for the season Saturday (today), and its high on our list of must-see items in Memphis. Tornado watch Wednesday afternoon until 9pm. John, the Campground Host came by to alert us to the weather warning and regaled us with some severe weather stories in the Memphis area. Thursday, took Clemmie to America RV in Olive Branch, just across the Mississippi line, to get the black water tank level sensor replaced. No can do, try again later. Yesterday, arrived at MHC Ford for the 10,000-mile truck servicing (oil change, alignment, tire rotation, etc.) early (7am). Sat and read/twiddled our thumbs while Clemmie was being attended to. Delay at place where tire work done. Finally left at 5pm, happy thanks to MHC service manager who nullified the charges due to the wait. Nice touch!

Today, went to downtown Memphis to sightsee. Breakfasted at Cafe Francisco, which has free WiFi Internet access. Dagnabbit, something amiss with Dreamweaver--couldn't update the website. Visited the remarkable and extremely well done National Civil Rights Museum, in the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was shot. Then explored the Beale Street area and the Rock and Soul Museum. Excellent and highly educational. Plan to visit the Mississippi Museum tomorrow on our way north from Memphis. 98 miles on 3 run-around days while we've been camped here. We're learning to use Clemmie as a car.

 

Sunday, April 10, 2005
at Meeman Shelby State Park, Millington, TN

Pleasant warm morning. Removed rain covers from the bikes in preparation for hanging them on Clemmie's behind. They'd been covered for 4 days against rain for one, and because we were busy running around for three. Oh dear, some hard-working bird has built a nest on one of the bikes. Quick work, spherical type nest with hole in the top. Wondered if it belonged to the Carolina wren who has graciously allowed us to camp in his territory and sings to us every morning. Consulted bird books, whose number is growing by leaps and bounds. No, can't be his, this species apparently use cavities for nests and don't build. No idea who it belonged to, so couldn't apologize for demolishing it. Sorry about that, but at least there are no eggs in it. [Ed NOTE: Learned later that yes, Carolina wrens will build nest in anything remotely suggesting a dark hole. It probably did belong to that sweet-singing guy and his girl.]

Eventually departed T.O. Fuller about 8:00am and drove to the Memphis Visitor Center where we parked Clemmie. Very convenient. Walked south along the Mississippi in the very pleasant Riverside Park. Spring has definitely sprung, dogwoods and wild pansies are out. Visited the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island, continued our education about this part of the world--its history and impact. Should have done this before yesterday's two museums, the quality of this one paled by comparison. Then back to Cafe Francisco to try to update the website again. No luck. looks like our webmaster screwed up Dreamweaver when she tried to make it maintain both the website on the Internet host and the backup on the laptop's external hard drive simultaneously. Operator error. Ouch.

Left Memphis and drove north to Meeman-Shelby State Park. Picked a campsite in the virtually empty campground and settled down after making lunch. A mere 31 miles today. We're buried in the woods near the edge of the Chickasaw Bluffs, an eons-ago edge of the river which has now moved a couple of miles west. We're the only people in our loop of the campground, only 4 others camper in the whole place. Slightly eerie. Hang out for the afternoon in our underwear--just like old times on sweet Callipygia. Wonder nostalgically where she is now. Go to bed and sleep soundly--just us, the trees, the birds, the stars, and the fireflies. Quite wonderful.

 

Saturday, April 16, 2005
at Reelfoot Lake State Park, South Campground, Tiptonville, TN

Last Monday morning's weather forecast was not good. Rain, heavy at times and thunderstorms. Picked our way out of Meeman-Shelby and got back onto Rte 51 going north after getting lost a couple of times. Rain started around 9:30am, but even so we decided to take the 20-mile detour to the Fort Pillow State Historical site. On arrival, we drove the tortuous road to and through its empty primitive campground, finding only one level campsite. In view of the pouring rain, we decided not to stay there. Went to the interpretive center and learned about the Civil War battle (or massacre of Union troops depending who you ask) that took place at Fort Pillow. Then, we drove back the 20 miles to Rte 51 and the village of Henning, Alex Hailey's birthplace, before continuing north through Ripley to Dyersburg. Still raining. Ate a fat-food lunch at a local eatery in the historic downtown area. Then found the Community College and hunted down a much-touted display of all the duck species that migrate through the area. Quite underwhelming. One of those wet days when we ate too much and saw too little.

From Dyersburg we took Rte 78 to Tiptonville, turned east on Rte 21, and arrived at the Reelfoot Lake State Park Visitor Center soon after 2pm. Sign on the door says open daily 8am to 4pm, but it's closed. We proceeded to the campground and found the campground host to check in. This place is definitely not deserted, lots of other campers, although still plenty of empty slots. Decided to ante up the extra ($2/day) fee for a waterfront campsite, and then settled in to enjoy our lovely view even in the rain. 155 miles for the day. Much entertainment provided by 4 randy mallards wrestling with each other--and one poor female who looks like she's sick of the lot of them.

Tuesday broke dry, and the day turned out partly sunny. We have cellphone coverage here, a nice bonus. Did a few chores and got technical help from Macromedia to solve the Dreamweaver website update problem. If you can read this, it worked. Went for a bit of a bike ride and learned more about the area. Reelfoot Lake formed during a series of massive earthquakes centered at New Madrid, MO, in the winter of 1811-1812. Biggest earthquakes in US history. For a while the Mississippi ran backwards eventually filling the lake which is now teeming with fish. It looks like the campers here are pretty much a dungaree-wearing fishing crowd, hauling boats and aging trailers. Some appear to be semi-permanent residents. Rain began again Tuesday afternoon and lasted through most of Wednesday keeping us housebound until ousted (rain not us) early Thursday by a high pressure system bringing cool sunny weather. We took advantage of the nice weather and spent the day circumnavigating Reelfoot Lake (70 car miles), stopping several times along the way. Found some lovely spots in the Wildlife Preserve and saw an indigo bunting. On return we realized we were camping in the territory belonging to a great blue heron, a bunch of coots, a redwinged blackbird, and some ducks. At happy hour a female with five ducklings settled down to rest not 10' away from our door, gathered her babies under her wings, and took a 20-minute nap (with a few peeks). This is a lovely place.

Friday we biked east along Rte 22 to the Visitor Center, examined the exhibits and walked along the board walk among the cypress knees. We learned that they help the underwater roots of these remarkable trees to breathe. Injured or abandoned baby birds are cared for by the rangers at the Center. At the moment these include a pair of young bald eagles, a peregrine falcon, a 2-month old great horned owl, and a month-old barred owl. Stopped in at Calhoun Boats, where the 4th generation owner continues to make a special boat that can navigate in the shallows of Reelfoot Lake. The campground has filled to overflowing for the weekend, no more empty slots. Almost all from Tennessee or nearby Missouri, lots of kids. Casual conversation with many during the week revealed that we're a different kind of cat, but all sharing in the delight of this place. Today we biked back to the Visitor Center to go on a 3-hour guided canoe trip through the cypress swamps on the west side of the lake, past several beaver lodges, and across a lily-filled pond. Different than the Everglades, but nearly as spectacular. In the evening one of us biked around the campground in the after dinner dusk, and received a bite on her tush from an overly aggressive black Labrador tied to a big fifth wheel trailer. No response from the owner except to turn out the lights. Reported the incident to the campground host, who'll pass it up to the ranger. Evidently not the first bite handed out by this aggressive dog in the long-stay section of the campground. This is a lovely place to visit, but should be avoided on weekends. The campsites here are too small to accommodate the many weekend campers who bring a car, a truck, a boat trailer, as well as their large living trailer, their pets, and in some cases a couple of tents. The place is clearly overloaded. Hope the ducks and ducklings are safely elsewhere.

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
at Reelfoot Lake State Park, Air Park Campground, Phillippy, TN

Sunday morning we left the Reelfoot Lake south campground around 7:15am, dumped the tanks and headed west on Rte 22. Stopped for a fat food breakfast at the Lakeside Restaurant, and then traveled north on Rte 78. Turned left at Phillippy Church and crossed the ancient rusty and somewhat crumply but apparently still-in-use railroad track and arrived at the road running just below the levee. Then north to cross the Kentucky state line, where the road turned to dirt for a while. We found a bald eagle's nest, with a sitting parent and four 6-week-old young-uns, in a tree just across the levee. What a binocular treat, but too far away for a decent photo even after climbing up onto the levee. Kept on ambling along beside the levee (road became paved again) and eventually arrived in Hickman, KY. Watched one of the last working Mississippi ferries arrive from Dorena, MO. Decided we'd run the risk of banging Clemmie's bottom on the ramp onto the ferry, so we won't go that way. Explored Hickman, not much here except a short block of old downtown, a Coast Guard station, and a grain silo. Turned back and returned to Tennessee on Rte 78, and came into this westernmost segment of Reelfoot Lake State Park. Found a nice shady campsite in this much quieter place and settled in before making lunch. 64 miles. A hot day. Plenty of birds singing, hope they're watching out for those cowbirds which seem to be the campground pests here. Go for a hike in the woods, avoiding the ubiquitous poison ivy, in the heat of the afternoon; then watched another couple arrive and settle in a few campsites away. One 40' motorhome, one car, one car trailer, two bikes, one pickup truck, one boat, one boat trailer, and a 99-hp outboard motor. Over an hour before they're all set up. Seems like a lot of axles and engines for 2 people.

Monday, another lovely warm day. Biked through the adjacent Black Bayou Wildlife Management Area, a good paved road runs along the swamps replete with snakes, beaver, coots, etc. A teeny little blue-gray gnatcatcher stopped by on a nearby branch to chirp hello at supper time. We've ordered a replacement laptop for our 5-year old Winbook, it has finally bitten the dust. Waiting here until replacement arrives, hopefully by mid week.

 

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
at Columbus Belmont State Park, Columbus, KY

This morning lovely, another warm sunny day at Reelfoot. Went for a long bike ride through the wildlife preserve (a different part) and part of Rte 78. Great workout. At lunch time, eagle-eyes Bill spotted a UPS truck at the Air Park Inn office. Has the new laptop arrived? Yes indeedy. Collected it, checked the boxed contents, grabbed a quick lunch, and got Clemmie ready to travel. We're outta there!

Left the Air Park Campground soon after 1:00pm, and drove to Hickman, KY, again. Took the more direct route, not along the levee. Hickman is bigger then we thought, quite a nice little town, the east side seems quite prosperous. Continued on these lovely Kentucky byways towards Columbia. Drove through Cayce (home of Cayce Jones) where we turned north on Rte 239. Stopped at some road works for about 15 minutes, where we were entertained by the young man directing traffic who filled us in with the political machinations sourrounding job assignments among KY DOT road crews. Learned about KY blue laws--most counties are dry, a few have wet towns in them, and a very few counties are wet. Turned east on Rte 123 to find the grocery store in Clinton for a few items, then took Rte 58 to Columbus and this state park with a pretty campground high on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. Yet another Civil War historical site. 49 miles today. We continue to be quite amazed with how much we're enjoying this life style. Our connection to the natural world is much more obvious to us, and constantly reminds us that even our most insignificant actions have consequences beyond ourselves--a fact that tended to get lost in our prior lives until such time as something went wrong.

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2005
at Fort Massac State Park, Metropolis, IL

Up early this morning, excited to begin setting up the new laptop (a Compaq). We managed to share the other one for the week until it arrived, but it definitely makes life easier if we each have our own. Our little dinette table switches easily back and forth from being the office to being the dining room. We continue to be delighted with Clemmie's interior layout and spacious storage areas, she's so complete and self-sufficient. We guess you can be in any house and always find things to wish for; but in Clemmie there's no wish room or need. Seems to mean we're confronted with our having no need to wish for..... And so all that leaves time for is being happy with what we've got. Our frequent happy attacks remind us how truly blessed we are to be able to do this.

Left Columbus Belmont shortly before 8:00am heading towards Paducah. This part of south-western Kentucky is lovely, rolling green fields, pretty little towns. Not sure what to expect in Paducah, except that it is the Quilting Capital of the USA. Stopped at the Kentucky Welcome Center just off I-24 and learned that the annual Quilt Show and Contest begins in Paducah today, with 40,000 (??really) people expected over the 4-day show. Regardless, we easily found street parking on Broadway a few blocks up from the river (Ohio, that is). A very pretty town, with its historic downtown area redeveloped over the past 15 years. It seems to be thriving on it with a zillion antique and quilting shops. Accepted bottles of water with little tags on them from some red-shirted volunteers. Visited some of the numerous vendor displays at the Quilt Show in the Executive (convention) Center. Then toured the Museum of the American Quilter's Society: some remarkable work on display including very old quilts and some truly beautiful if more modern fabric art. Wandered round the riverfront area enjoying the murals painted on the wall built on top of the levee. All of this quilting exposure has triggered a latent itch in one of us to start some kind of a craft project--she did a bit of quilting 35 years ago, and thinks a needlework project might be just the ticket for this RV life. Bought a couple of quilting how-to books at the Museum shop and then went hotfoot (per Museum shop staff) to Hancocks of Paducah, a renowned--and jam-packed--fabric and quilting supply store. Bought a few supplies, enough to get started on a small project and find out if this hobby will "take." Got sucked into the nearby Kentucky Oaks Mall and bought some computer supplies and a few books (our usual downfall). Left Paducah in early afternoon and crossed the Ohio River into Illinois, stopping at the Illinois Welcome Center to get our usual official state highway map and state park directory. Learned that Illinois parks are almost entirely first-come first--served, with no reservation system. Finished our day's trip (58 miles) with the short drive towards Metropolis and into this state park--which had one vacant campsite, fortunately for us.

 

Friday, April 22, 2005
at the Alexander County Horshoe Lake Conservation Area Campground, Olive Branch, IL

Thursday morning broke cool, but still clear. Left Fort Massac campground at 7:30am after dumping the holding tanks on the way out. Our level indicators are no longer giving proper readings, so we're guessing that so long as we dump once a week we'll have no problem. After our abortive visit to the RV dealer in Memphis, we've decided to make a little detour when we get to Iowa and go to the Winnebago manufacturing plant. We understand we can get service work done there, and also take a tour of the plant.

On the advice of our neighbor at Fort Massac, we decided to follow the Ohio River Scenic Byway to Cairo, on the Illinois side of the river. It was a fascinating drive, with several stops. We first stopped in Joppa to take a good look at this mighty river from the same spot as an unfortunate young mother who left her two toddlers in the car but neglected to put it in park. We made subsequent detours to Lock and Dam #53 and then to the Olmstead Lock and Dam project. From Olmstead we followed the Scenic Byway to historic Cairo, at the confluence where the Ohio joins the Mississippi. We crossed briefly into Missouri to fill up the gas tank (saving 12¢/gallon) then came right back to Illinois to check out Cairo (pronounced Karo as in syrup). First stop was Fort Defiance, at the foot of the peninsula between the two rivers where Lewis and Clark spent a week in 1803 surveying the area as they first set foot into the Louisiana territory. Found several tugs/barges parked along the riverside taking a break on both Ohio and Mississipp sides of the confluence. Apparently half the continent drains its water past here, and more freight goes by than goes through the Panama Canal. Kind of boggles the mind. Then back into Cairo to the old Customs House, now a remarkable though struggling non-profit museum held together by a diminishing group of aging local volunteers steeped in the town's history. From its heydey population as a bustling riverside port of over 20,000, Cairo has suffered major flooding, endured severe racial tribulations, and slowly fallen to its knees--home now to just over 3,000 souls. After the museum, we visited the beautiful historical library (donating our we're-done-with-these pile of books) and ate lunch at Nonny's. Without doubt the best fish sandwich and the biggest hamburger we've ever put our mouths round. We wrapped up our visit to the town by driving north along the Washington St boulevard to look at some of the fabulous houses built during the good years. If you're ever near southern Illinois, don't miss a visit to Cairo. In its own way we found it more compelling than lovely Paducah.

From Cairo we drove north on Rte 3 and into the Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area. Two campgrounds, we picked the one with showers. Campground host and only one other camper here, so we pretty much have this lovely spot to ourselves. Decided to stay two nights, and take a stay-at-home day before moving on. We're feeling our way to a comfortable balance of travellin' and stayin' at home. By late afternoon the sky to the west is darkening ominously. Turned our radio on, to the trusty weather band (what a gift). Oh dear, severe weather watch and we're right in the path of it. Batten down the hatches and wait. Watch a movie on our new laptop. Wind picks up around 8:30pm, thunder rumbles in the distance, and temperature begins to drop, 1° per minute for a little while. Phenomenal lightning display, high winds, and pretty good rain for about an hour. Quite a show. Thankfully no hail. After it's over we tuck in for the night, only to awaken to a repeat performance about 1:30am.

This morning, skies are clear, wind is up, and weather is cool. Forecast is for clouding over in the afternoon, with high winds and rain as a strong cold front finally clears the area. Last night's display was the pre-frontal warning. Decided to take advantage of the nice morning weather and go for our usual bikeride, there's plenty of good flat road around here. Biked past the swamps into Olive Branch to check out the village. On the way, one of us turned round to check on a dog that moseyed up to him as we rode by and oh dear, bicycle tripped on the road edge. Bike and rider bit the dust and banged themselves up pretty good. So we didn't prolong the ride but came back home instead to apply triple antibiotic to the scrapes and scratches. Enjoyed the rest of our day in this lovely quiet spot. Tomorrow's forecast is COLD!

 

Sunday,April 24, 2005
at Hawn State Park, Millers, MO

Left Horshoe Lake yesterday morning by 7:00am, lovely spot but we're ready to move on. Think homo sapiens is a nomadic animal, at least wanderlust seems to be well rooted in us two. Think we missed the migrating waterfowl, rumor has it they're hundreds of miles to the north. Found terrific little local diner in Olive Branch for breakfast, best home fries ever. Sliced thin, and well browned. This life is full of impressive little pleasures. Small basement leak has returned, fortunately the wet from the rain is caught in the small sink beneath the outside shower faucets. We drove north on Route 3 and took a little detour to the village of Thebes to look at the river, then west on Rte 146 to cross the river and into Cape Girardeau, Illinois. Beginning to dawn on us that it was the French who opened up the country west of the Mississippi not the Brits. Still a cold, windy, and overcast day. Drove around the historic downtown area, very pretty, big concrete levee with murals on it. Headed out William Street to the modern west side of town, and found a bustling typical American shopping scene, replete with malls, shopping centers, traffic, etc. Found our way to Barnes and Nobles and got a book "fix" and a supermarket for a few provisions. Then north on Rte 177 to Trail of Tears State Park to visit the Interpretive Center commemorating all the Indians who died (and survived) the long trek to Oklahoma after being forcibly displaced by then President Andrew Jackson. On leaving, astonished to find a huge factory (Proctor and Gamble, paper diapers) out in the middle of nowhere. Then to I-55 north to Rte 38 where we hung a left and drove west to this State Park arriving around 4pm. Nice campground. It being the weekend we had made a reservation, though there were still a few empty spots. The park seemed very well kept, good facilities (ie bath house, heated, plenty of hot water--on such treats does our worldview hang) down in a valley beside little Pickle Creek. Missouri earmarks 1¢ of each sales tax dollar to its parks and conservation efforts.

This morning, again cold but blue sky showing. We spent a couple of hours figuring out where the heck we go from here, we have so many resources recommending so many neat/cool spots to visit it's hard to choose. The cook for the day started chicken gumbo in the crockpot and we put on our hiking footware to get some exercise alongside lovely Pickle Creek. Hi today of 58°, and chilly in the wind. Back home for a late lunch and watch the campground exodus, the weekend is over for all these families. We have the place to ourselves by supper time, realize we were the only out-of-state vehicle in the place.

 

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
in the City Park, Hermann, MO

Yesterday morning it was 34° when we woke. Thank goodness for our twin heating systems (propane fired central heating for a big boost, and little ceramic electric heater to maintain the temperature). Our little home is cozy even in the worst of weathers. Left Hawn State Park behind at 7:50am and drove east on Rte 38 to Ste. Genevieve, the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi. Drove along the river to the ferry landing, through a gate in the flood wall. Found the flood stake, showing how high the waters got in '93 (August 1993, a 500-year flood event) before the wall was built. An interesting little town, with its own winery and many historic buildings. Drove along the main street, oops the railrood bridge over it only clears 9' (We think we're 11' 6"). We're adept at reading bridge heights, and noting the bites that have been taken out of some of them. Don't want to have poor Clemmie eat concrete. Turn around and make a detour to get round it. We've learned that, prior to prohibition, Missouri was the second largest wine producing state. No longer, but the land along the Missouri river is again covered with small wineries. Next we took Rte 100 going west on the south of the river, heading for Hermann. Found a Goodwill on the edge of the town of Washington where we were able to recycle a bunch of items we no longer need. Found the Hermannhof Winery on our way into the little German town of Hermann, population 2,700. Parked at the winery, our first, and went to check it out (look through the cellars, taste a few wines, spend a little money). Then to the Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce, to get directions to the town's park. Found two other RVs there, picked our spot and settled in just before the rain started around 3:00pm. 155 miles today. Around 4pm, we put on our rain gear and hiked up the hill to Stone Hill Winery (built in 1869) overlooking the town. Took the guided tour of the winery's ancient cellars carved out of the limestone, with walls still black-moldy from the prohibition convert'em-to-mushroom-growing era. Spent a little more money.

Warmer this morning (40°) but overcast. Rode our bikes to the town's bike shop for minor servicing. Did our end-of-the-month financial stuff on the Internet at the Visitor's Center, using the computer nicely set up for travellers. Fortified ourselves with coffee and pastry at the adjacent bakery, before beginning a walking tour of Hermann, a most appealing little place. Started in the old German School Museum, through the downtown streets, and up and down its hilly residential areas checking out the views. Through the lovely courthouse to the riverside area, and then back up the hill to eat a German sampler platter late lunch at the Stonehill Winery's excellent restaurant. Picked up our bikes and came home, our feet all wore out. The other RVs have left, so we have the place to ourselves. The town park is terrific. It sits on the inside edge of a little creek with a busy little 2-lane road across the creek. The firehouse (complete with 4 antique pumpers, kept in mint condition for annual shows) is on another side, and residential streets form the remainder. The park, including camping and picnic area, bathhouse, baseball field, basketball court and playground, is encircled by a path which attracts numerous morning walkers doing laps. The bathhouse has no locks, no security, no need. At supper time, the all-volunteer fire department came out en-masse to practice rescue work, for our entertainment it seemed. First, amid gales of laughter, they created a wreck situation by pushing an old car and truck into each other. Then they brought out their little firetruck and ambulance, donned their uniforms, and proceeded to cut apart the vehicles with an acetylene torch to remove the volunteer victim. As darkness fell, the truck sprouted a spotlight-on-a-pole at each corner illuminating the park so the firemen/women could complete their practice session.

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2005
at the St. Louis RV Park, St. Louis, MO

Last Wednesday morning we bade Hermann goodbye. A terrific little town, we fell in love with it. Left in cold, windy and overcast conditions around 8am. We crossed the Missouri on Rte 19's narrow old bridge, breathing in to pass a big truck, and turned east onto Rte 94. Up and down, round and about, through pretty green farm country, then onto rich bottom land with newly sprouting fields. On the flats, the road paralleled bits of the Katy Trial, a 225-mile state-park rail trail along the former MKT railway line. We passed a few wineries, but didn't stop, and then detoured into the little town of Augusta where we parked at one of the Katy Trail's 18 trailheads. Took the bikes down and biked along the trail for 6 miles to the village of Matson. On the way back made a quick detour up a hilly side road to check out the Silver Hill winery. Lunch in Augusta in the beer garden at the Augusta Brewing Company, a microbrewery. Pish tush, they don't sell beer in cans/bottles and we're outta it on Clemmie. We do like our liquor (in moderation, of course.) After lunch, east to St. Louis and into the traffic of the Interstate highway system. Time to leave the lovely bucolic Missouri countryside. From I-64/Rte 40 took exit 38C onto Jefferson Avenue, and drove north. After two blocks, a truck pulls alongside, rolls down its window and the driver shouts "Going to the RV Park?" We say "yes", and he says "follow me, I'm the owner." So we do for a few more blocks and turn into what is basically a big fenced-in parking lot, but right downtown St. Louis. 88 miles today (not counting bike miles). Meet Lynn, George's (the owner) wife and check in. Owners live in their RV next to the Park office. Very friendly place, terrific bathhouse, great laundry, right on the bus line. Wireless Internet access in the privacy of our very own home--yeah! Try to update the website. Dagnabbit, Solar Host is doing a system migration and can't get to it. Maybe later. Eat supper and cruise around the Internet for a while, what a treat.

Thursday, yet another cold gloomy showery one. Forget what the sun looks like. Decided we'd start our sightseeing with the Arch. Put on our rain gear and went to catch bus #04 across the street to ride through downtown. Got off at Broadway and Market, and walked the two blocks to the Riverfront park, and down the steps at the bottom of the Gateway Arch, not really expecting much. Well, were we ever wrong. You must not miss this, our expectations were blown through the roof. Make a trip to St. Louis. Do not stop, do not pass Go (and do not go to jail either). The Arch is a national park, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Underground is a fabulous museum, an excellent shop, two movie theaters, and access to the tram to ride up inside the Arch to see out through little slits in the top section. We watched the outstanding IMax National Geographic Film of Lewis and Clark's exploration, and another equally outstanding movie about the construction of the Arch, an epic in its own right. We rode the tram to the top, and looked at St. Louis from above, and then across the Mississippi into Illinois. Bought a bunch of books about Lewis and Clark's expedition, the construction of the transcontinental railroad, and Indian history. Are we ever expanding our understanding of the history of this great land as we travel it. It's in your face at every stop, can't help but become much more real to us. We think about how different life is today compared to then. Its clear that we have no idea what human life will be like 200 years from now. All of our problems (social, political, environmental, energy) will lead to responses we can't even imagine. Billions of people, each making individual decisions every day, will take us who knows where. The more we learn, the more we find out how little we know; we don't have a clue.

Ate a late light lunch near the Arch, then visited the old historic courthouse (another National Park item) and walked into the courtroom where the final Dred Scott decision was handed down shortly before the Civil War erupted. Back home for supper--yeah, our webite host seems to be back up and we can find our website on the Internet. Would never have dreamed that we'd love "camping" in a friggin' city parking lot, but we feel like we'll stay here a while longer.

Friday, cold and gloomy again, more rain in the afternoon. One of us spent the day at home doing laundry, household chores, updating the website, then unsuccessfully trying to upload the changes to the Internet. Host server can't do ftp yet, so no can do. Notification email of server change indicated changes to ftp parameters--they looked like greek to her, she'll need some technical help. And technical help seem to be busy. Dagnabit. Pulled out and polished her patience and finished configuring new laptop with security software, windows updates, etc., etc. instead. The other went of into the dreariness, walked down Market Street to Union Station, bought a day transportation pass, rode the Metro, and then rode a few buses getting the hang of the transportation system and visiting a couple of used bookstores. Extended our stay here through next Wednesday. Called Winnebago in Forest City, IA to confirm that we can get a few fixes done to Clemmie. Yes, but for walk-ins, it's a 5-7 day wait. Happy for us, we've learned to go with the flow. Who knows what we'll find as we hang around in Iowa. But we may have to cut short our trip round the top of Lake Superior, and make a bee line for Ontario through the Upper Peninsula (or even, heaven help us, through Chicago) to get to Toronto by mid-June.

Saturday, what is this? Blue sky in the morning? Decide to go visit Cahokia Mounds, across the river. Oh dear. The bus that goes there doesn't run on weekends--and the Mounds are closed on Monday and Tuesday. We don't want to miss this, so decide to rent a car. Ride bus downtown to Enterprise, rent car, and drive to the very well-done Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center. Watch movie about Cahokia, the oldest/biggest Indian city north of Mexico, peak population 20,000 and occupied from about 700 AD to 1400 AD. Go through the museum, and climb the 100' up to the top of Monks Mound, the largest. Its base is bigger than the pyramids. Later, take advantage of our wheels to turn into consumers for a little while. Found a shopping center with Borders Books, Whole Foods, REI, Circuit City, and the Organizing Place. Spent a few bucks though managed to restrain ourselves fairly well. Drive home could have been through any city in the developed world, it seemed. There is such a sameness about the malls, shops, and strip commercial areas.

Sunday, another bright sunny day, but still cool. Checked out Forest Park, near St. Louis University. Bigger than Central Park, contains zoo, museums, birding forest, bike trails. A road race getting started, so didn't stay. Then to historic St. Charles on the Missouri River. the point from which Lewis and Clark left on their grand exploration back in 1804. Monday, again cool and sunny--getting to be a habit. Yesterday, reorganized our storage. Clemmie has great storage space, but it needs regular tending and weeding so we can easily reach what we want, when we want it. And, we have been shopping. Went walking in this really nice City, and cleaned house and spent time trying to resolve the ftp problem with Solar Host whose support/help line says only "We're sorry, we're having technical difficulties. Please be patient."

Finally, this morning ftp access to the website works! Yippee. Synchronize the local version of the websit (which lives on one of the laptops and is where all the changes are made) with the version at Solar Host. A lot of changes have been made. Oh dear, when we check on the Internet, the changes haven't been propagated yet. Hopefully Solar Host's migration woes will soon all be resolved. If you can read this, they have been. Walked the few short blocks to visit the Scott Joplin Historic House, and learn about his career and time in St. Louis.

Every day is an adventure, and we have a hard time keeping track of time, where we've been, and what happened. Having the logs and photos to remind us definitely helps. You thought we were doing this for you guys? Worng. We do it for us! What a way to live--we would never have guessed how well we'd take to it when we decided to give up sweet Callipygia. Wonder where, and how, she is now.

 

Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Town Campground, Pleasant Hill, IL

Said goodbye to St. Louis RV Park around 8:20am, after one load of laundry. Found our way north east through St. Louis filling the gas tank on the way to cross first the Missouri and then the Mississippi Rivers into Alton, IL. Turned north along Route 100, a spectacularly beautiful drive right on the edge of the river, under tall limestone bluffs. Detoured into the little town of Elsah, untouched by "progress" or so it seemed. Risked Clemmie on three narrow little bridges (5 tons) on the main street, on the basis that neither axle is more than 5 tons, and the bridges weren't long enough to have both axles on at the same time. Then to the town of Grafton at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Watched the little ferry cross to Missouri sliding against the current just north of a little island sitting 'twixt both watercourses. Another detour into Pere Marquette State Park, up to the top of the bluffs. Not much of a view, alas. We sure are view junkies these days. At the town of Kampsville, we crossed the Illinois and proceeded northwest on Rte 96 towards the Mississippi. Having (this time) checked our resources, we were on the lookout in the little town of Pleasant Hill for a sign to the town campground. Found it, and follwed the sign to the south end of Main Street, squarely bounded by the County fairgrounds, the railroad line, and Main Street. Adequate shower house, grass campsites, electric plugins, $6.50 per night. Picked a spot backing to the grain elevators and the railorad track and near the campground host--the only other vehicle here. Took down the bikes and rode up to the village diner and ate lunch. From the friendly proprieter, we learned about the 5 mile route to the river, and then biked along it to get a great view of Lock and Dam #24. The river was loaded with great blue herons at that particular point. Later, campground host (Mike) came home from work, and came by to collect our fee for the night. What a neat and friendly little town.

 

Thursday, May 5, 2005
Bear Creek Recreation Area, Ursa, IL

One train came barelling through in the night, waking us with its whistle and rumblings. Left Pleasant Hill at 7:30am, another cool (44°) morning. A spectacularly beautiful drive along Rte 96 through farm after farm. Joined Rte 36/I-72 and crossed the Mississippi into Hannibal, MO. Old Sam Clemens must be turning over in his grave, downtown Hannibal has turned into a tourist trap based on Mark Twain's time there. Decided that it was what was in his head that we care about, not his possessions, so didn't go to any of the museums, though took a good look at the outside of his father's house. We took the one-hour narrated ride up and down the river on the Mark Twain a refurbished riverboat, and identified Jackson's Island and a few other notable landmarks. Lovely to be on the water, thought of Callipygia. Happy not to be navigating her round here, though. After lunch, filled up with gas (MO is 15¢/gallon cheaper) and crossed back into Illinois, and continued north on Rte 57, through Quincy, then Rte 24, and back onto Rte 96. In Marcelline we found a brown sign (pointing west) to the Bear Creek Federal Recreation Area. Our Great River Road guide opined that camping was available there beyond the levee. We followed the sign, went west on 2400th Avenue for about 5 miles to the levee, where the road turned to dirt. Crossed the levee and after a mile we came to the campground set in the woods on the bank of the river. No facilities, vault toilets, but pure pristine beauty, a very birdy place. No-one there but us, and no fee. Picked a spot near the boat launch and toilets, right on the edge of the river. Made ourselves a campfire of drift wood, and incinerated the Lakota tobacco-wrap necklace made and given to Bill 5 years ago by his dear friend Al at the beginning of his (Bill's) prostate journey. Just sat oohing and aahing at the view as the sun vanished behind the trees on aptly named Dillon Island 100 yards away. Fantastic to be re-reading Huckleberry Finn in this setting, the tale is alive.

 

Friday, May 6, 2005
Nauvoo State Park, Nauvoo, IL

It's warming up. 49° on rising at Bear Creek. Gave the generator its monthly workout so we could use the electric pot for our morning coffee, which we drank at the picnic table watching the sunrise clothe this beautiful spot. Ran the heat pump for a while to give it some exercise too. Spotted a trailer, with truck and motorboat at the far end of the campground, well hidden behind the trees. Must have come in after dark--therefore assume it's a local. Wouldn't come here in the dark unless you knew your way. Maybe this deserted place gets populated with fishermen on the weekends. Left the campground as the sun came up (we do get up early) and drove along the river to Warsaw, old river town and then to Hamilton. Crossed the river into Keokuk, Iowa and stopped at the American Cafe (diner) for breakfast, and directions to the Visitor Center/Chamber of Commerce--which turned out to be next door to the diner. Helpful staff made sightseeing suggestions, so we started out by parking down by the river and taking a look at Lock and Dam #19. Watched a tug push 15 coal barges into the lock, rise up, and drive out at the top. Noted a dozen or so white pelicans on the river, stopping over en route to the Arctic. They have that raised vertical plate on their upper bill, so it's breedin' time. Drove along Grand Avenue, looking at the row of lovely old (1880's onward) frame houses on the bluffs high above the river. Did a little shopping, groceries etc., and drove back across the river to Hamilton. From there, Rte 96 hugs the river bank and offers numerous pull-over picnic sites. From the first we could see that there were over 100 white pelicans roosting on logs and islets on the up-river side of the dam. Too far away for a pix. We pulled into one of these areas to make lunch, and disturbed several families of Canada Geese who clambered into the water and swam off, Indian file. We arrived at Nauvoo around 1:30pm, drove up through the State Park into the dense pine tree area where the campsites with electrical hookups are, and picked one on the edge so we'd have more light. Put on our walking shoes and walked down the hill into the restored Mormon town. Visited the Visitor Center and watched a movie about the history of Nauvoo, then climbed up the hill to the Nauvoo Temple Visitor Center and watched another movie about the temple. Walked through the commercial area of Nauvoo, then back to the State Park and up the hill to Clemmie. Got our leg exercise today.

 

Thursday, May 12, 2005
Thomson Causeway Recreation Area, Thomson, IL

Last Saturday morning--a week ago--60° on waking. Nice! Our little ceramic heater didn't turn on once during the night. Left the Nauvoo campground just before 7am, and drove around old Nauvoo's waterfront. The historic area is nicely done, sort of a Mormon Colonial Williamsburg. Then headed back up the river on Rte 96, looking for a mailbox to post assorted postcards, birthday cards, etc. No mailboxes that we could see in Nauvoo, eventually found one at the post office in the little river town of Dallas City. Said goodbye to good old 96 in the village of Lomax and turned north onto Avenue 700E towards Gulfport. Seems that in Illinois all roads have numbers and are either streets or avenues, even right out into the middle of nowhere. Turned west on Rte 34 in Gulfport, and crossed the river into Burlington, Iowa, where we turned north on Rte 99 and drove under the bluffs alongside newly ploughed fields through Wapello to Muscatine. A kind of hot, hazy and ugly day.

After Muscatine, we followed Rte 22 along the railway track on the bank of the river. Checked out Fairport Recreation Area, busy with weekenders. Since it's early yet, we decided not to stay but to empty our tanks (they've slushed around nicely to break up the goo) and fill up with water. Who knows were we'll end up for the night. Continued on Rte 22 to Quad Cities (Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rock Island and Moline, Illinois.) Very industrial area, limestone quarries, agricultural products, etc. Sometimes smelly and not pretty. Started to go over the bridge to Arsenal Island to see the Army Corps Visitor Center at Lock and Dam #15--oh dear, it goes through the bottom of an old railroad bridge, clearance is only 11'. (We're 11'6"). Do a quick stop and rapid turnabout and keep on going up the Iowa side until we come to I-80 and cross back (after filling up with gas) into gas-taxy Illinois. Learned that the reason Super Unleaded is 10¢ cheaper than regular in Iowa is because Super is partly made from corn. Bought it, be interesting to see if the ethanol makes any difference to our (less-than-stellar) fuel consumption. On the Illinois side, drove north on Rte 84 past Fulton, IL, to the little village of Thomson, where we found a brown sign pointing west towards the river and the Thomson Causeway Recreation Area. Our DeLorme Atlas and Gazetter for Illinois showed a white tent (ie a publicly operated campground) by the river, which at this point had widened to a shallow 3+ miles. Found a fabulous campground, filled with weekending families. A few sites available, and lucky for us, an empty one right on the water. We grabbed it. This is a gorgeous spot, we'll go no further. Place is run by the Army Corps of Engineers. From the campground host, we got a booklet listing all the Army Corps campsites along the Mississippi that we've missed. Aw shucks.

Sunday, we learned from some other campers that it's Dutch Days in Fulton, and that the Illinois portion of the Great River Bike Trail goes through the campground and right to it. Left camp around 9am and pedalled along the terrific trail to Fulton. First through some bluff meadows, then a thicket of gentle young trees. Wandered around old Fulton by the river, checked out the windmill (Dutch built on the levee in 2000, working, milling grain), a quilt show, and the small downtown area. Biked home, disturbing a fluffly baby kildeer running along the trail's edge on spindly little legs. It's parent fluttered around in front ofo us giving an outstanding demonstration of the species' renowned broken-wing gambit. 24 miles on our bikes (and legs), a terrific workout. The campground slowly emptied as the working folks with their school kids packed up and returned to their homes for yet another work week. Decided we'll hang around here until we're sick of it--or have used up the allotment of 14 days. What with cell phone service, great campsites, excellent showers, fabulous views, variety of busy bird populations, terrific bike trails, nearby village, and cheap price ($9/night for us oldies) can't think of any reason to move on. This is a triple-A spot.

Monday, overcast and windy. A storm during the night dumped an oriole's nest out of the trees near the bathhouse, we found it lying on the roadway. Fortunately, nothing in it that we could see. These birds build peculiar pendulous oriole which seem to dangle by the thinnest of threads from the farthest tip of high branches in the most precarious spots. The occupants of the campsite right on the point left mid-morning, so we upped and moved into it. A downy woodpecker (girl) showed up not 10' from our window. Water on three sides, downright gorgeous. A bit of a low-key day. Ranger drove through mid-afternoon, a major storm system is going to move over the midwest over the next few days, so keep a weather ear on the radio. Nothing developed overnight, and Tuesday broke clear and breezy. We left the campground on our bikes before 8am and rode past a big razor-wired and corner-towered prison on the way north to Savanna through the Upper Mississippi National Fish & Wildlife Reserve--261 river miles, 240,000 acres. Took time out to admire some turtles warming themselves on a sunlit log. Offered up a sincere thankyou to those faceless bureaucrats in state and federal agencies who've worked to preserve this land from draining and development. Stopped and watched a 134-car train crossing the bike path. Explored Savanna, yet another neat little river town, and found Arnold's Bike Shop where the one with the squished tush bought a new seat and we repaired both bike mirrors, cracked from assorted tumbles. Back home by lunch time, a 28-mile bike trip. Our pedalling range is growing. Tuesday afternoon and evening the weather was gorgeous, as were the views from our campsite. Realize that living with the outdoors right in our face, and so much of it incredibly beautiful and filled with life, one can't help but fall in love with our planet. Motivated us to do some more work on our project. We redid the outline, and gave ourselves assignments. We're pleased with this new direction. An Internet workshop will take advantage of our skills.

Early Wednesday morning the anticipated heavy weather arrived, with much banging and crashing around. The day stayed cool, very windy, and gloomy, so aside from a quick (2-mile each way) bike trip to the Thomson Post Office, and a 40-minute walk along the campground nature trail (bagging an indigo bunting along the way), we stayed home and cooked, cleaned, read, listened to the radio, watched the wildlife/views, and worked on our project. How did we get to be so lucky? This lifestyle is phenomenal. Thursday, very windy and cold. Biked to the Thomson library, checked e-mail and googled quilting pattern, Cathedral Windows. Success! Printed out instructions. Every since Paducah the former seamstress among us (aka our webmaster) has been obsessing about taking up hand quilting as another on-the-road hobby. Remembered working this pattern a hundred years ago in League of Women Voters unit meetings. Got phone help on the pattern name from an old LWV friend. Good excuse to make call. Came home and (over the course of 3 hours) made a 4-square sample from quilting supplies acquired since Paducah. Pleased as punch. Friday, wet, foggy, gloomy, and warmer. Biked back to the Post Office to do more mail errands. Found lunch at Watermelon Cafe, a mile or so up the highway. Worked on our project. We're feeling juiced about it now that we've devised an approach that we have some confidence will work. Got our daily visit from a little downy woodpecker, checking out the tree trunk right outside our window. This time it was a male, showing the red dot on the back of his head. This is a wonderful place to be "at home", great water views out windows on 3 sides, loaded with various breeding birds.

 

Sunday, May 15, 2005
at Pilot Knob State Park, Forest City, IA

Finished up our time at Thomson at the end of a cold and windy week by biking to the National Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Office early yesterday to take part in the International Migratory Bird Day. Started with a birding walk (sandhill cranes, red-breasted grosbeak, eastern kingbird, blue-winged teal, and house finches) followed by a demonstration of banding, including catching birds in a mist net, putting on the band, and releasing them. Got our exercise pedalling hard to get home before some more vicious weather hit. 14 miles of biking exercise.

This morning, clear cold and still tediously windy. The wide Mississippi River is covered with white horses. Up early to leave the campground at 7:00am, disturbing a flock of hundreds of tree swallows huddled on the blacktop trying to get warm. Dumped the holding tanks and decided to abandon the big muddy, to which we have become very attached, and head straight for Forest City and the Winnebago plant. There is more of this river we want to see and spend time with, but not right now. Drove south on IL 84 to Fulton and crossed the river into Clinton, IA. West on Rt 30 to Cedar Rapids, north on I-380 then Rte 27 through Waterloo and Charles City where we stopped for a lousy lunch at a family restaurant. Sunday buffet, seriously bad. In Mason City drove west on Rt 18 through Clear Lake to Garner where we turned north on Rte 69. Drove through Forest City, noting location of Winnebago Visitor Center and Customer Service Center, then east on Rte 9 to Pilot Knob state park for the night. 241 miles. Campground has muddy, grassy, and uneven campsites with no parking pads. Raggedy shower house. With this we put Iowa State Parks right down there with Illinois. We've gained opinions about the various systems, and so far (and based on our admittedly limited samples) the "I" states are at the bottom in terms of both condition and value for money.

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
in the Winnebago Rally Field, Forest City, IA

Monday morning (a clear and cold 39°) we left Pilot Knob at 6:15am and drove the 5 miles to Forest City and the Winnebago Customer Service Center. It doesn't open until 7:00am but already the parking lot is full of RVs. Aside from us they're all big bus-like "diesel pusher" Class A Motorhomes. At 7, we got in line for people without appointments, not sure what to expect in terms of a wait. When our turn came, we filled out the work-request form (no more than 7 items allowed) to address the annoying and intermittent leak in the "basement" (big outside storage area), the failure of the holding tank indicators, and a few other minor items we felt should be fixed while still under warranty. Learned that we should check back at 9:30am to find out where we were in the work schedule. Got a permit to park (free) in the Winnebago Rally Field, across highway 69. A huge campground, 1,400 campsites, all electrified. Apparently it fills annually for the WIT (Winnebago Itasca Travel Club) annual rally. Mostly grass, but some gravel. Good shower houses. Walk-in service customers are assigned to the gravel area. Walked over to the Visitor Center and signed up for the 1:00pm factory tour, and wandered round the Winnebago Museum. At 9:30, learned we should check back at 11:00am, and then at 3:30pm. Customer Service Center has excellent waiting area, including cubicles for hooking laptop to Internet. Seems like big fancy motorhomes (like big fancy sailboats) are prone to problems. Leaks, slide-outs, automatic levellers, electric steps, all the gadgets. Predictable malfunctions etc. Some people are making their annual visit. Glad we decided we'd skip all the gadgets, and go for as much simplicity as we could in our sweet little Clemmie. We learned a lot that's applicable to this lifestyle while we were cruising. Found a great little diner just down the street for lunch, then took the guided sightseeing factory tour in a bus, driving by the various (and numerous) buildings and lots, learning about Winnebago's manufacturing process, and going into some areas where we could stand on a cat walk to watch the work being done below. After that we took Clemmie to Lichtsinn Motors on the other side of this little town to get the routine servicing done on the generator. At 3:30pm, we checked back with Customer Service--come back tomorrow at 9:30am. We'd been told it might take 5-7 days to get our work done, and this seems to be the routine. Drove to the Rally Ground and picked a spot for the night, Clemmie is dwarfed by about a dozen huge diesel pushers, with their inevitable trailed cars.

Yesterday morning, after checking in at Customer Service (work should begin this morning, check in again at 11:30am) we drove to Clear Lake to a Truck/RV Wash and gave Clemmie her "monthly" bath. Back to Winnebago to turn our little home over to the assigned technician, explaining our minor issues. Spent the rest of the day in the Customer Service Center with our laptops and books. A busy place, full of chatty owners and their pets (dogs, parrots). Conversation naturally focusing on repair issues and RV problems. A few real horror stories, though mostly with their humorous aspect. For the most part, though, people sound like they're happy with Winnebago--as are we, our experience so far at dealers and the factory has been nothing but positive. I guess we're developing real brand loyalty. Clemmie was returned to us with a status report at 3:30 whereupon we drove back to the Rally Ground for the night.

This morning we drove back to the Customer Service Center (virtually across the street) at 7:00am to give Clemmie back to Eric, our technician. Another day at the Service Center--happy to be there since it's raining hard. By 3:00pm, everything is finished and we're free to go--except our mail hasn't arrived yet at the Visitor Center. Should be here tomorrow, so we'll spend another night in the Rally Grounds. We're very happy with Winnebago, they treat their customers outstandingly well.

 

Thursday, May 19, 2005
at High Cliff State Park, Sherwood, WI

This morning, to the Forest City laundromat early to do 3 loads of wash. Then provisioned at the local supermarket, and to the Visitor Center just as the UPS truck arrived with its morning delivery, including our mail forwarded from St. Brendan's Isle. Having retrieved that fat package (6 weeks worth of mail) we left this nice little town. The work on Clemmie got done much faster than we feared. This has been an all-round good experience. Continued north on Rte 69 into Minnesota to Albert Lea (who was he?) and then on to I-90 going east. Sorry not to have Craig in Minneapolis to visit, it's a favorite place. Back to "our" river (Mississippi) to cross into Wisconsin and through La Crosse, exiting to Tomah and Rte 21. Continued east to Oshkosh (by gosh), then north on Rte 41 to Neenan and around the top of Lake Winnebago (largest totally US inland lake) to Sherwood and High Cliff State Park for the night. Good park, very nice campsites. A long 341-mile day.

 

Saturday, May 21, 2005
at Muskallonge Lake State Park, Upper Peninsula, MI

Friday morning, left High Cliff at 7:15am after a short detour through the park to climb the 40' lookout tower and peer into the fog over Lake Winnebago below. North on Rte 55 to Highway 41 through Kaukauna, the edge of Green Bay home of the only community-owned major-league football team. Made a quick grocery stop and then continued on to Oconto then Marinette, where the road was very much "up". Lengthy detour routed us through town before crossing the Menominee River into Michigan. Stopped at the Visitor Center for obligatory camping information. Switched to Rte 35 to drive along the edge of Lake Michigan's Green Bay towards Escanaba. Thought we might stop at J.W. Wells State Park on the shore of Green Bay--oh dear, sign says "CAMPGROUND CLOSED." So much for that--a foretaste of things to come? Continued on to Rapid River where we turned east on Rte 2 and drove along the south side of the Upper Peninsula. After many miles, north on Rte 117 to Newberry and north to this state park situated between Lake Muskallonge and the Lake Superior bluffs. 281 miles today. At check in, a rude awakening. Michigan has redone it's state park system, vehicles entering the park must pay admission as well as the camping fee of $16/nite. No senior discounts. For out-of-staters the admission fee is an $8 addon for one night, or $29 for a year. First state we've found that has done this. Swallowed hard, and coughed up the $29 on the assumption we'll probably stay more than 3 nights in Michigan State Parks. Seems like they want to chase out-of-staters out of the state parks and into the national and state forests (which for us would be $5-7/night albeit without showers and electricity, but still........) Picked a spot in this nearly empty campground, finding most of the sites are poorly defined and often uneven. Plugged in--oops, polarity is reversed (glad we check). That'd blow our 12-volt system. Put Michigan's right down there with the "I" state park systems in the lousy category. Found another post to plug into, thankfully the polarity is ok. Electricity is nice--we can wake up to the blissful gurgling of the electric coffee maker, run Harry (our nice silent little ceramic heater) and use the microwave. Ah the luxuries of this life! After supper, it seems to stay light forever--still light at 9:30pm. Ah yes, not oonly have we come north and east, but we've changed time zones. Adjust our clocks and watches.

Yesterday, seemed to get light earlier in the morning too. 46° and clear. For some reason, we can't get any weather on our trusty radio. It's been great to have the weather band that automatically tunes to the nearest NOAA weather station, instantly giving us current conditions, forecasts, and announcements of any hazardous weather for wherever we happen to be. Not knowing what to expect weatherwise we take advantage of the sunshine and go for a (chilly) walk along the Lake Superior beach. A pair of mergansers are swimming off shore. A few worn-down pilings are at the shore's edge, remnants of the little logging town that grew here a century ago, and then died once the area was denuded of trees. Apparently it was replaced for a while with a Coast Guard station, patrolling this deadly lee shore where many ships have foundered. Back home, defrosted the freezer (after 4 months there's a bit of a frost build up), cleaned out and reorganized the basement (big outside storage locker where the leak was), and made soup in the crockpot. In the afternoon, biked to Perch Lake where a dirt road leads to the mouth of the Two Hearted River (the state forest campground there is our next destination). Checked out the state forest campground at Perch Lake, looks just fine. Not much going on out here, very little traffic. Waded through and sorted the mail, opening envelopes, filing financial statements, making a little todo list, and then reading the magazines. Watched some grackles give a raven a very hard time. The bird life has changed as well as the time zone.

 

Sunday, May 22, 2005
at the mouth of the Two Hearted River, Upper Peninsula, MI

55° and overcast on rising. Rain started, on an off until about 7:30am. Looks like a wet day. Windy and raw. By mid morning, the rain seemed to be largely over so we decided to move on. Left the campground soon after 11am after dumping the tanks. Drove the 5-miles to Peck Lake, then turned left onto the dirt road going east. Arrived at this State Forest campground (no services, pit toilets) here shortly after noon. 20 slow and gritty miles. Picked a spot at the edge of the river, this is a very pretty place but the weather not very conducive to hanging around outside. Walked along the beach and watched the few fishermen who are also here.

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Soo Locks Campground, Sault Ste Marie, MI

Yesterday cold and drizzly. Decided to keep moving, the mouth of the Two-Hearted River is a lovely place but not in this weather. Decamped at 7:45am and drove east for 16 dirt road miles, bumping and jostling our way along for an hour before reaching paved roat again at Rte 123. Took a look at Taquamenon Falls, but didn't tarry. Stopped in the little town of Paradise for breakfast. Decided to go north to Whitefish Point, an Important Birding Area (IBA) and home of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. Saw several hawks, and flocks of hundreds of blue jays. Went through the Museum and up the Lighthouse keeper's house. This southeastern shore of Lake Superior is a graveyard for over 300 ships. A deadly lee shore just where this biggest and most treacherous of the great lakes narrows towards the St. Mary's River entrance and the locks leading to Lakes Huron and Michigan. Read about the loss of Edmund Fitzgerald, a huge freighter overwhelmed and sunk by 30' waves and 80 knot winds in November, 1975. Back south through Paradise and Rte 123 to Rte 28 where we turned east to Sault Ste. Marie. Parked along Portage Avenue and went into the Soo Locks Visitor Center. Watched a 1,000' freighter come through one of the locks. Great viewing areas, and an informative Visitor Center. Decided to take a look at the Soo Locks campground further along Portage Avenue--great campsites right on the riverfront. Picked one and decided to stay a couple of days. A 121 mile trip. Spectacular evening viewing, watching river traffic with the occasional huge freighter. This morning, gorgeous sunrise. Bill went to the local hospital to get his quarterly blood test. Then we biked south along the river and found a city campground (not marked on our DeLorme Michigan Atlas), and then a public park at the point where the river narrows. Watchers can nearly touch the big freighters coming up towards the locks. Rode back to the Visitor's Center to watch some more traffic go through the locks. Enjoyed another lovely evening and our first-rate river-view seats.

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Chutes Provincial Park, Massey, Ontario

Up early this morning, 45° and clear. Did laundry, changed sheets, vacuumed and cleaned Clemmie's insides. Her outsides are filthy from the dirt roads in the Upper Peninsula. Left Soo Locks at 9am. Before leaving the US side of Sault Ste. Marie, dropped off a few items and some books at the Salvation Army, collected blood test results (good), and made copy and sent fax to domain name registrar, Network Solutions. Still trying to resolve the website issues related to Solar Host's DNS transition. If you can read this, maybe things are finally resolved. What a royal pain in the ass this has been.

Crossed into Canada and found a truck wash to get the upper peninsula dirt and dust off poor Clemmie. Now she sparkles again! Drove east along Rte 17, the Trans-Canada Highway to Massey, and this provincial park--which we loved when we stayed here last summer. Pulled into the campground around 4pm, a 142 mile day. How things change! The first campsite we tried, mosquitos are all over us and Clemmie like a wet suit. Ouch and itch. Then, found that the polarity is reversed in all of the 6 (yes 6) electrical sites we tried. Thank goodness we check. This will ruin your 12-volt system. Boondocked for the night, there are only 3 other itchy campers here, this is the first week the campground is open. Watched a coyote (? or big fox) across the way in an empty campsite. No desire to stay longer here this time through.

 

Thursday, May 26, 2005
parked at son Dave's in Etobicoke, Toronto

Yesterday morning one of us was up early and raring to go. The other assented (before getting out of bed yet or its brains together) so we left the campground just after 6am. Big mistake. That one needs its coffee before it can get civilly moving. It fought a filthy mood, finally extracting itself into a better humor after an hour or so and an essential coffee stop. Decided we'd go all the way to Toronto today. Stopped at Grundy Lake Provincial Park to dump the tanks and fill up the fresh water. Not much to see along this northern Ontario road. Hit the Toronto traffic soon after noon, filled up with gas and ate lunch, and arrived here at 2:40pm. 292 miles. Good to reconnect with Dave, and looking forward to a few days in Toronto, as well as biking along the Lake Trail. For some reason we're feeling a bit discombobulated with no clear plan or goal beyond getting to the Maritimes for the summer.

 

Thursday, June 2, 2005
on the street at son Dave's in Etobicoke, Toronto

We've had a fun and productive week. Bill went fishing with Dave on Saturday, on a friend of Dave's boat. They got up at 3:30am, drove to St. Catherine's, and tooled around Lake Ontario's western end for the day. A successful day, Bill caught two big 'uns. A happy man. Supper was poached salmon with all the trimmings. Sunday, a long bike ride along the lakshore trail into Toronto and back. Monday, rode the Go-train to Toronto's Union Station and explored this bustling city. Guess what? We bought a few books. Yesterday we took Clemmie to have oil changed, get lubed and checked, and then did a little shopping for some necessities. At Staples we bought a flip chart etc., and both yesterday and this morning we spent a couple of hours using these tools to do more thought work on our project. It's really beginning to take shape and bits of it are being developed. To make it interactive, though, our webmaster is going to have to gain some new skills. She has embarked on a vision therapy program to reduce dependency on her glasses. More about this later. The issue with the website is still not resolved--it's as if there's a phantom edition of the pre-April 14 version lurking around sometimes. If you get that, don't give up. Try again later and you should get the most recent version (which you have if you can read this). It all has to do with unanticipated difficulties encountered by our web host (Solar Host) in transitioning to new and more powerful equipment. Hold them in the light, they're a small business forging an important path in this dog-eat-dog world. We've been enjoying really good weather and getting our daily hour-plus walking or biking workout along the lakeshore trail with views of Toronto. We'll leave tomorrow to visit Al (Rochester, NY), Helene (Kingston, Ontario), and the crew of Iquazu (south of Montreal) before heading to Maine.

 

Friday, June 3, 2005
in the parking lot of Al's apartment building, Rochester, NY

Left Dave's at 9:00am yesterday morning, hoping to miss rush hour traffic on the QEW. Didn't manage it. Heavy traffic all the way east to St. Catherines, then south to Niagara Falls. Crossed the bridge and through customs at Lewiston. Signs for NY Visitor Center brought us to Youngstown, where we figured the Visitor Center must be closed. Took the scenic route (Rte 18) along the south shore of Lake Ontario to Olcott, then detoured north to Lockport to the Erie Canal, where we ate lunch and unhooked the bikes. Got our daily dose of exercise on the canal trail, and climbing up the steps by the double locks. Back north to Rte 18, then along the Lake Ontario Parkway. Had to exit early as the bridges gradually got lower and lower, until we came to one warning of clearance only 10' 8". That'd slice the top off our lid, we're 11' 6". Made up directions, and arrived at Walmart's near Al's, where we parked and hoofed it to his apartment building to examine the parking options there. Then back to move Clemmie into the apartment building lot. 187 miles today. Great to reconnect with Al, Bill's brother-in-law and a serious birder.

 

Sunday, June 5, 2005
at Kring Point State Park, Thousand Islands, NY

Yesterday morning up at the crack of dawn to go with Al into Rochester, and watch a pair of peregrine falcons foraging, taking turns on duty at their nest at the top of the Kodak building. The pair have returned for the fifth breeding season. Very exciting to pick them out with our binoculars. Watched a wild turkey with its one remaining little chick foraging on the edge of the river. Wonder if the falcons ate the others? Later, one of us went to do laps at the swimming pool at the local "Y" with Al, and then all three went to the movies to see Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. This morning, we did a repeat early morning trip to watch the falcons. This time saw a groundhog with a youngster on the river's edge. Left Al's around 9am, and stopped at Wegman's to provision. What a treat. Then continued east on Rte 104, stopping at Oswego to look at yet another canal lock--this time on the Oswego River. Took Rte 3 going north along the east side of the lake to Watertown, then Rte 12 to Clayton and then east to Kring Point State Park, arriving just before 2pm. 169 miles. A lovely spot, with great campsites by the St. Lawrence Seaway. Settled in and sat by the water's edge to read and listen to the birds, frequently interrupted by noisy PWCs and speed boats. Heard one new birdsong, listened to CDs, then saw the singer, front and back, at the top of pine and willow trees--a yellow warbler.

 

Monday, June 6, 2005
on the street near Helene's in Kingston, Ontario

Left Kring Point after an early bike ride to check out the Canada Geese creche--there's a group of at least 60 young 'uns being tended by 4 adults. Plenty of other adults lazing and foraging, but not doing chick care. Explains why the bay on the south side of the point is called Goose Bay. Crossed into Canada, then west on Rte the QEW (Rte 401) to Kingston, to visit Bill's old friend Helene's townhouse arriving at 11:30am. 51 miles. Parked in front of library nearby. With Helene (another serious birder), we drove to Kingston's waterfront for lunch and to walk around. Later she drove us west of the city to a wildlife area (whose name we neglected to note) and hiked through the area watching and listening to the numerous birds.

 

Thursday, June 9, 2005
at Roger and Adrianna's house, Ste. Alexandre, Quebec

Tuesday morning, we left Helene's early (after one of us went with her to do laps in the nearby pool) and headed back the way we came. Crossed back into the US at the Thousand Islands, then continued east on Rte 12 along the St. Lawrence, then Rte 37. Detoured to visit the Chateaugay Fish Hatchery for a quick tour and lunch stop. Then took Rte 11 into Vermont and crossing over Lake Champlain for a few miles before getting onto I-89 going north to cross the Canadian Border. to south of Montreal. Stopped for directions at the Hotel de Ville in Pike River since we didn't have a good Quebec map, but the lady there only spoke French. Stumbled through and then found our way to Roger and Adrianna's farm house. They cruised on Iguazu in the Caribbean, we first met them in Luperon where they taught us to speak Spanish. Terrific to see them again. 248 miles. Operatic bird in bushes and tree, spotted him and listened to CDs. A warbling vireo. Wednesday, Roger drove us into Montreal and took us on a guided tour. We had a wonderful time, driving up Mont Royale, St. Joseph's Oratory, the business district, and finally Old Montreal. An enchanting city, worthy of much more than a day's visit. Seemed clean and quiet despite it's obvious bustle. Today, Roger showed us the bike trail to Iberville, where we crossed into St. Jean and rode along the trail beside the Chambly canal. A 40+kilometer pedal.

 

Sunday, June 12, 2005
at Cathedral Pines Regional Campground, Stratton/Eustis, ME

Left Ste. Alexandre about 10am, and drove north on Rte 227 to join I-10, to Sherbrooke. Then followed lumpy bumpy provincial Rte 212 to Notre Dame Des Bois. Stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant and ate "putain", french fries (good) with gravy and cheese curds (not so good). Crossed the border near Woburn and into Maine on Rte 27. Arrived at Cathedral Pines. 160 miles. What a gorgeous place this is, definitely a favorite. Seemed even better this time than last August. Big spacious and private, level campsites. Several on the lake front. Went for a dip. Bubbles of hot and cold water, nearly as good as a massage. Biked into Stratton, along Lake Flagstaff across from Bigelow Mountain to the diner for breakfast this morning, followed by a nice cool bath in the lake. Saw some loons. Heard a new bird, like a robin but more measured and REPETITIVE!!! Listened, must be a red-eyed vireo.

 

Sunday, June 17, 2005
at Donna and Nick's, West Paris, ME

Last Monday morning, up early to bike into Stratton again for breakfast. Took another bath and swim in Flagstaff lake. Dumped the tanks, flushed the black-water tank and drove around the campground before dumping again. Left Cathedral Pines a bit before ten. Definitely a favorite place. Followed Rte 27 south to Rte 4 and Rte 219 to West Paris. A beautiful drive through the western Maine countryside. Arrived at Donna and Nick's near noontime. 101 miles. Terrific to reconnect with grandkids Nicky (16), Kady (14), Dave (10) and their parents. Clemmie over-run as soon as school out. Tuesday the rain started. Heavy at times, never-ending--all week. So far this year, this area has had 6" more than the average amount of rain. Tuesday and Wednesday continued wet, vacillating between drizzle and downpour, and last night and this morning the same. The mountains have disappeared for good it seems. Our intermittent leak into the "basement" (rear right external locker) has reappeared. It was "fixed" in both Baton Rouge and Forest City. To no avail. As best we can tell, the gutter just below the roof on the right hand side empties at the back right above the fresh water tank intake, and the stream or drips from the gutter are finding their way in through the caulk. We can hear the drip drip drip from the gutter end at night, with our heads at the rear of the vehicle. It seems to depends in part on which the way the wind blows, and whether Clemmie is very slightly tilted to one side. Another trip to a dealer needed, if/when we can get an appointment. This is their busiest time of year, fixing up RVs for the summer season.

Despite such annoying inconveniences, we couldn't be happier with Clemmie--and couldn't be more glad we didn't buy a bigger more complex RV, with inevitably bigger and more complex problems. Imagine taking your house over some of the bone-shattering roads we find. Think of how many things would shake loose and/or come unstuck! It's remarkable that we haven't had more problems. Winnebago does quality work.

We're having a great time being with family again. Went to Dave's school concert and watched him play violin. Friday night we went to see Kady dance. A round robin cribbage tournament got underway Wednesday evening. There's great conversation, and we're able to support the harried parents by cooking supper each day. We remember how hectic life was, running hither and yon getting kids to and from school and their inumerable after-school activities. We drove with Donna into Auburn to see Laurie and Ashley, and do a bit of shopping. Bill's sister and brother-in-law Lillian and Gus came by for a visit on Saturday afternoon. Nick spent his day off working on the roof. He's putting a new roof and new siding on their house in his spare time this season. (Not to mention parenting and serving on the School Board.) Found out that long-time dear friend Leslie Byrne won the June 14 Virginia primary for Lt. Governor so she will run in the fall statewide election. And, this morning the sun came out! Just for father's day. We've almost forgotten what it's like. First father's day Bill's been around his kids in years.

We're enjoying being "at home" for a bit, finding time to work on our project, cook supper, read and take wet walks, and update the website. The latter consumes a good day or two on a regular basis. The website has grown to more than 100 folders with over 1,700 files. Maintaining order among this unruly bunch is quite a task. Created the lessons learned segment, organized and consolidated all the styles and stylesheets, and finished converting many of the files so they are template based. Most of the broken links have been found and fixed. Dreamweaver is indeed a dream--especially now our webmaster has developed a reasonable level of skill in using it.

Got our mail, including a letter from current insurer (Ace Insurance) announcing they are no longer covering RVs. Abandoned RV America Insurance as the agent--we had major communication problems with them last year. Checked around and selected GMAC, through the Good Sam Club. Set the new insurance coverage in motion.

 

Thursday, June 23, 2005
on the street at Laurie and Mark's, Auburn, ME

A much better week weather wise--sunny and warm, except for rain overnight Tuesday. Kept busy at Donna's with assorted chores and hobbies, and some walks. Made a big batch of home-made spaghhetti sauce and meatballs on Tuesday. School finished for the year on Wednesday (late this year because of all the snow days). Left Donna's around 2:30pm and drove south to Auburn, arriving at Laurie's at 3:15pm. 25 miles. Today took Clemmie to Greeley's Garage for her 15,000 mile engine and chassis servicing. Three lugnuts on left rear wheels were loose--oops, apparently 50-100 miles after wheel rotation you should also re-toque the nuts on your wheels. Then provisioned for trip to Canada, and went to the Motor Home and RV Super Center to drop off the rear window shade (string broke), dump holding tanks, top off the propane, and fill fresh water tank. Filled up the gas tank, and we're ready to go back to Donna's tomorrow and leave with Nicky early Saturday morning.

 

Friday, June 24, 2005
at Donna and Nick's, West Paris, ME

Left Laurie's at 11:00 am and drove the short 25 miles to West Paris, arriving before noon. Got our new RV insurance cards via email. Made reservations for the ferry going to and from Newfoundland. Checked credit card balances and paid the monthly bills electronically. Brought Nick's belongings on board and made up his "room" above the cab, ready for an early start tomorrow.

 

Sunday, June 26, 2005
Cobscook Bay State Park, down east ME

Left West Paris soon after 8am yesterday and took the scenic route (Rtes 219, 133, 202, 3 and 1) to "downeast" Maine. Detoured to South Addison and stopped in Mathias for ice cream. Arrived at Cobscook Bay at 4:10pm, and settled into a big private waterfront campsite. [None of Maine state parks have RV plug-ins.] A hot (90°+) afternoon--most unMaine-like. 229 miles today . Watched the tide drop some 25' and a causeway to a nearby rocky island rise from the deep.

This morning, we left the campground soon after 9am, showering at the bathhouse near the exit on the way. Drove to Quoddy Head, to look at this easternmost US lighthouse. Wandered along a trail above the cliffs and took in the views of the misty coast. Then we drove to Lubec and crossed the bridge onto Campobello Island, New Brunswick. A pretty place, one of the many "Fundy Islands." Stopped at the Visitors Center (picked up maps, etc.), ate lunch at Wilson's Beach, and then drove to Canada's East Quoddy Light. Watched the tidal flow come in to cover the rocks between the lighthouse and the mainland. Tide rises here 1" every minute, quite something to watch the water rush and swirl and quickly fill the passage to the lighthouse rock. "Hazard" and "Beware" signs all over the headland. Detoured to look at fishing boats in Head Harbour Wharf, and Herring Cove beach (sand like black pepper) on the way back to cross over into the US at Lubec where we checked out the harbour, ate ice cream, and saw a lone male eider duck. Back to our campsite for dinner and the night. Too buggy for our planned campfire and smores. Took too many pictures on this 69 car-mile day

 

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Fundy National Park, HQ Campground, Alma New Brunswick

Left Cobscook Bay at 6:15am yesterday with Nick still abed. Put our watches forward an hour to Atlantic Time. Detoured to Eastport, to check out the harbor. Glad we didn't miss it, looks like a pretty real little town. At Calais, ME, we crossed the border into St. Stephens, New Brunswick. Based on guide book advice we took Rte 111 (bumpy, bumpy) south to the village of St. Martins and then slowly drove the 11 miles along the Fundy Trail to the Big Salmon river where we hiked to the Interpretive Center and the bridge over the river. Some scenic views along the Bay of Fundy Coast. Then back along the parkway to St. Martins, to pick up Rte 111 (bumpy, bumpy) and north to Sussex to Rte 1 east, to Rte 114 where we turned south to Fundy National Park. Set ourselves up in this excellent campground and biked into the nearby little village of Alma. 244 tedious miles. If we did it again, we'd skip St. Martins and the Fundy Parkway.

Today, turned foggy and cool. Stayed foggy/overcast, then got windy. Walked back and forth to Alma a few times (there's a big hill on the way that is bit much for the bikes.) Went to Kelly's Bake Shop for not-to-be-missed sticky buns, then back later for first a haircut, and then a kayak trip in the afternoon. Too windy to go out into the Bay, so insteady kayaked up the tidal portion of the Salmon river guided by Fresh Air Adventure staff. There's a 45' - 50' tidal drop on the coast here, leaving huge mudflats at low tide filled with interesting critters. Apparently the shape of the Bay of Fundy amplifies the normal swishing in and out of the tide (it's called "resonance" we learned) to produce the highest tide differentials in the world.

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Sunset Watch RV Park, Brule, Nova Scotia

Up at 5am this morning, two loads of laundry and one quiche made by 8am. Dumped the tanks, filled fresh water and left Fundy National Park before 9am. If we did this again, we'd stay there a week. Nice place. Continued on Rte 114, more bbbbbumpy road. Stopped to view the Hopewell Rocks, quite amazing formations. Climbed down to the "Flower Pots" as the tide went out. Continued on to join the Trans Canada highway and come into Nova Scotia. We took the coastal road through Tatamagouche, and found this campground for the night. 171 miles. Mostly "seasonal" campers (aka a trailer park) but with some pretty sites on the waterfront.

 

Sunday, July 3, 2005
Canso Marina/RV Campground, Canso, Nova Scotia

Thursday morning, a foggy 63° after some overnight rain. Left Brule just before 9am. Followed the coast road to Rte 105, and then southeast on Rte 16. A sometimes smooth, but mostly lumpy and bumpy road. Shook ourselves up thoroughly by the time we arrived in Canso. 144 miles. Found this nice little marina in a protected harbor sheltered behind a breakwater and the Canso Islands at the easternmost point of Nova Scotia. Picked a spot right on the water, glad to be here before the crowd arrives for the festival. Went for a walk to explore this neat little town. Pigged out on lobster for dinner--except for Nick who couldn't quite bring himself to eat it. Friday, the place began to fill up and we watched the day go by. Watched the Canada Day children's parade. Tenting friends John and Chris, with their son Cameron, came and found us in time for Happy Hour. Then we walked with them to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival grounds, collecting Heidi along the way. Saturday started foggy, and we hoofed it the two miles there and back to the annual Canso Quilt show before the music began at 11am. By 1pm the fog had turned to rain, intermingled with downpours. By late afternoon we had taken our soggy selves back to Clemmie for refuge, to be shortly joined by John, Chris and Cameron at dinner time. We were very glad of our dry (if by now steamy) little house, most thankful not to have to put up with this weather in a tent. The rain wore itself out overnight, and Sunday broke gorgeous for the final day of music. The annual Stan Rogers folk festival is a big deal drawing a crowd of many thousands. Bill and Nick had fun connecting with singer Bruce Gouthro, a relative through one of the four Gouthro brothers who founded the hamlet of French Vale. A lone bagpiper serenaded us from the beach near bedtime.

 

Monday, July 4, 2005
Mira River Provincial Park near Louisburg, Nova Scotia

Left Canso this morning soon after 8am. By this time we've already watched some 30 festival revellers finish their beach party, the creche of eider ducks foraging, and a seal swim around in the bay. Also, done a load of laundry, dumped the tanks, and filled up the fresh water. Another lovely sunny day. Bumped our way back along Rte 16 to the Trans Canada highway (Rte 104) and turned east towards the Canso Causeway that links mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island. On the island, took Rte 14 to St. Peters where we crossed over the canal leading to the Bras D'Or lakes. Drove north along the east side of the lakes, stopping in East Bay at Chippin' Dale's Famous Fish and Chips. And right worthy of their fame they were too. Found our way to Rte 105 and drove west one exit before turning southwest towards through the wooded hills to the little village of Frenchvale, founded by four Gouthro brothers, one of whom was Bill's great-great-grandfather. Went to the yard at the little church. Examined gravestones and saluted posterity. From there we drove briefly to, and around, New Waterford (more posterity) and then to this pleasant and nearly empty Provincial Park for the night. 202 miles today. [Note that, like Maine, Nova Scotia Provincial Parks have no hook-ups for RVs.]

 

Tuesday, July 5, 2005
on the street near Heidi's in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Left Mira River this morning at 8am. A lovely daybreak, clear and cool with a little red-eyed vireo singing relentlessly from the top of a fir tree. Back up Rte 22 to Rte 105, then Rte 4 to the mining town of Glace Bay. Spent a few hours at the Cape Breton Miner's Museum, a place to definitely do not miss. It was a noteworthy experience, and helped us appreciate the life lived by Bill's grandfather, a Cape Breton coal miner. We were guided underground by a retired miner who described the rigors of the mining life 60 years ago in the most compelling terms. The coal companies virtually owned the miners, who lived in company housing and had to buy their food and goods at the company store with what was left of their meager wages after deductions for housing and other items. When asked why miners stuck at this incredibly hard and poorly compensated work, our guide explained it with one word. "Companionship." The bonding, cooperation, and teamwork that developed among and between the miners, the boys, and the ponies must have been powerful. The experience at the Museum was very moving. Ate lunch at the museum restaurant (good and cheap buffet!) and then hit the highway, arriving here around 7pm. A 305 mile day. We've piled on more miles than we quite like to in this short space of time with Nick--but he's certainly seen a lot.

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2005
on the street near Heidi's in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Enjoying our stay in Halifax very much. Last Wednesday morning Bill and Nick went to explore Halifax in Heidi's car while our webmaster set to work catching up on chores, updating the website, and started to go through all the pictures we've taken in the last two weeks. Tried to upload website changes to Solar Host--more problems. Can't FTP for some reason. This is getting to be a real pain, time to develop plan B. Ate supper at friends John and Chris, and then on to a party at their daughter Emma's. A rolicking time, complete with bagpiper (indoors yet....) Being stick-in-the-muds, us two old guys baled out by 10pm, but Nick hung in there and ended up doing an alnighter. He's growing up! Thursday a low key day with Pat doing Nick's laundry, he working on the computer on various tasks, and us all preparing for his departure on Friday. We took him to the airport, plane delayed due to fog and runway repairs. Fortunately only an hour late on his flight to his Uncle Dave's in Toronto. Made a stop at Chapters (bookstore), controlled our book-buying impulses adequately. Had lunch with Bill's old friend Elsie, and in the evening Heidi took us on an ice-cream tour of the Halifax waterfront.

Saturday, missed Nick. He's a great low-maintenance, well-grounded, kid. Reorganized Clemmie back to 2 people. Heidi drove us to beautiful scenic Peggy's Cove and then around Margaret's Bay before the drizzle started. Sunday, we breakfasted with Elsie. Then we took advantage of Heidi's great hospitality to do 4 loads of laundry, and later she took us on a hike along the Crystal Beach trail. The coastline here is beautiful. Yesterday, helped Heidi with some chores and set to work to resolve our web hosting issues once and for all. Have decided to retain some professional help, through nephew Michael who does this stuff for a living. Sometime yesterday morning the wheels evaporated off our bikes. An expensive "stoopid." we hadn't secured them properly or locked them onto Heidi's porch. Took the frames to nearby Cyclesmith bike shop to be fited out with new wheels, and give bikes their quarterly clean and press. Looking forward to doing the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, and spending a month or so in Newfoundland and Labrador. Yesterday evening we went with Chris to see the movie, Ladies in Lavender. A good one. Tonight, dinner at Heidi's with John, Chris, and Emma. This has been a great visit--Pat and Bill's friend and former student Heidi have hit it off together wonderfully.

 

Thursday, July 14, 2005
McLeod's Beach and Campsite, Dunvegan, Cape Breton Island, NS

Left Heidi's at 8:30am yesterday morning and retreived our re-wheeled and otherwise fixed up biks from Cyclesmith's, then drove to Maritime Canvas to measure for a waterproof bike cover to cover them when they hang on Clemmie's behind. Departed Halifax about 10:30am and headed north on Rte 102 to Truro. Joined the Trans Canada Highway (Rte 104) going east towards New Glasgow. Stopped for gas, provisioning, and lunch in Stellarton. At Sutherlands River, traffic is stopped, the Trans Canada is only one lane. All east going traffic is diverted north along the coast on Rte 245, then south to Antigonish to rejoin the highway. Added a slow 14 miles to the trip. Continued on the Trans Canada to Canso Causeway and crossed onto Cape Breton Island. Turned west onto Rte 19 to go up the west coast towards Cape Breton Highlands National Park. A pretty drive through many Scottish-named villages. Craignish, Craigmore, Strathlorne, Inverness, Campbelltown, to Dunvegan. On and off showers all afternoon. Decided to stop here for the night--a wide open campground on the edge of the bluffs, and a view of Margaree Island. 245 miles today. Rain started in earnest soon after we settled into our campsite. We're ready for some "down" time with just the pair of us. On waking, 54° and clear blue sky. This place is gorgeous, the bathhouse is terrific. Decided to stay at least one more day. At 8am, a little grey car set itself up in the campground, opened up its trunk, and put up a big billboard sign: The West Highland Tea Cruiser.  Oatcakes, scones, etc., for the hungry. This is making Pat homesick. No rain got into the "basement" yesterday--and Clemmie's front is slightly downhill. Ergo, the wet is clearly coming in from the rear end of the gutter. Hopefully now we have enough diagnostic information to get the leak finally fixed.

 

Sunday, July 17, 2005
Cheticamp Campground, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, NS

Friday woke to a wet morning after a rainy night. Decided to move. Left McLeod's Beach and Campsite a little after 8am, and continued north on Rte 219 along the Cape Breton coast to Margaree. Detoured into Margaree Harbour, visited the general store cum post office. Then north again on the Cabot Trail to Cheticamp, a bustling tourist and fishing town. Went north of the town into the National Park to register at the campground, and then continued along the spectacular coast to Pleasant Bay, stopping occasionally to enjoy the vista--although the views from many of the look-offswere cloud-bound. In Pleasant Bay we visited the Whale Interpretive Center, toured the little village, and turned back south towards Cheticamp. This portion of the Cabot Trail is good road, but some sections had long steep and twisty hills. Time to turn off overdrive and go into low gear. Back into the town of Cheticamp, an isolated bit of Acadia with French the predominant language. Checked out the visitor center, ate lunch, and provisioned at the local Co-op. Cape Breton is apparently where the Co-op movement started, among fishermen. Back to the campground, to check out the Visitor Center and settle into our campsite. Not full by any means. 93 miles.

Yesterday, another coolish morning (57°) after a rainy night. Drizzly during the day as the clouds rose and descended on us, sitting in a hollow ringed with wooded hills. Checked out the campground on foot in the morning, and then hiked Le Chemin du Buttereau trail through the woods towards the coast and back in the afternoon. I good 2-hr workout. At one point a ruffed grouse crossed the trail in front of us, then stopped in the woods while we mutually inspected each other. Later, saw a pair of hairy woodpeckers too busy foraging on a spruce tree to pay any attention to us. Many of the still living spruce trees had huge carbuncular growths on them--fungal growths maybe?. Yesterday, also, Pat embarked on her planned program of vision therapy, determined to reduce dependency on glasses and improve her eye comfort.

 

Monday, July 18, 2005
Meat Cove, Cape Breton, NS

57° and clear on rising. Cheticamp campground filled with junco's trilling from corner to corner. Unplugged and left our campsite just before 7am. Arrived at Pleasant Bay just after 8, a lovely drive north along the west coast of Cape Breton Highands National Park. Had breakfast at little restaurant with hummingbird feeders glued onto the window. Rubythroats all over the place, perched on fence, waiting in line at the feeders. Mostly female, one brilliantly colored male. Spectacular accompaniment to our meal. Then to the harbor and a whale watching trip with "Captain Mark." Windy and bouncy outside the harbour, reminded us of being on Callipygia in a half gale screaming along at hull speed. Found a small pod of pilot whales and followed them for about an hour. Whale populations have been decimated. Despite the 1982 International Whaling Commission moratorium on hunting they are still hunted by Iceland, Norway and the Faroes who sell the meat to Japan, most species remain on the verge of extinction--from pollution and loss of food sources as well as hunting.

From Pleasant Bay we followed the Cabot Trail where it leaves the west coast and winds through the mountains to Cape North. Some windy treacherous hills. There we left the Cabot Trail and turned north first to Capstick and then along the 5 miles dirt road to Meat Cove, a tiny village marking the most northerly settlement in Nova Scotia. 59 miles today. Took the only level spot in this primitive little campground that sits on the very windy edge of the cliffs. Hung out for the afternoon with other gawkers and picknickers. Walked down to the beach, and stuck toes in the chilly water. Bagged a black guillemot for our birding list. Spent the evening gazing at our awesome view, and keeping an eye on 8 little fishing boats busy off the headland between Meat Cove and Bay St. Lawrence. Slept fitfully as Clemmie rocked and reeled in some huge gusts of wind. Glad we weren't tenting--we were the only RV among among the dozen campers for the night.

 

Thursday, July 21, 2005
Broad Cove campground, Cape Breton Highlands National Park, NS

Tuesday, we rose after a very warm night, despite the wind. 74° and humid. Skies overcast, thundery to the east. Decided to leave Meat Cove before the rain--the dirt road looked like it might wash out in a couple of places. Drove back to Capstick and then detoured north to check out Bay St. Lawrence, the busy little fishing village on the north coast of the highlands. Then back to Cape North and breakfast at Morrison's, and old former general store. Back on the Cabot Trail south along the east coast, detouring to Neil's Harbour, another fishing town. Then south to Ingonish and this campground. 58 miles today. Found a nice spot under some birch trees, and spent the afternoon exploring the beach and lake nearby. Celebrated Clemmie's first birthday.

Yesterday, we biked to Warren Lake then later walked to the beach to enjoy the cliffs at each end of the cove. Worked on our project and waited for the rain--it never showed but the threat kept us from going too far afield. Today, clear skies and 56° on waking. Decided to bike to Neil's Harbour, the shore road looks from the topo map to be fairly flat. We need a workout. Got about a mile up the road but were quickly daunted by a big hill so turned around and pedalled to Ingonish Beach--more gentle undulations in the road, not quite such a push. A 16-mile round-trip ride. Finished up by sitting at the edge of Broad Cove for a while, plenty of swimmers out this lovely sunny day. Irritated by having to share the view with a phenominally porky pair, wedged (just barely) into the front seats of their huge gas-guzzling 4x4, gaping at the view with their noisy engine/air conditioning running and windows down all the while we were there.

 

Sunday, July 24, 2005
Louisbourg Motorhome RV Park

Left Broad Cove before 7am on Friday and drove south along the Cabot Trail, round Big Smokey mountain to the mouth of the Bras D'Or lakes. Decided to take the short ferry across to Englishtown, and save ourselves 20 road miles. Had to remove the bikes -- they hung too low on the back and bottomed on the way off the ferry. Made our way to the village of Big Bras D'Or and took the Bird Island Boat Tours trip to two rocky islets off the coast. Quite a sight, unfortunately didn't too well with pix. Great binocular gawping though. Hundreds of nesting puffins, razorbills, black guillemots, black-legged kitiwakes, great black-backed gulls, herring gulls, cormorants (double crested and great), and one pair of great blue herons roosting in the top of the islands' one, long-dead, tree. What on earth are they doing out at sea like this? Also, about 20 bald eagles hiding in crevices, generally being mobbed by nesting seagulls, and dozens of grey seals. Our guide educated us about the changes in the bird and seal populations at the islands over the past 20 years, in response to changes in fishing regulations and practices, water temperature, and the water quality of the ocean currents.

From there, we found our way back on to the Trans Canada Highway again, skirted Sidney to the south on Rte 125, and then took Rte 22 to Louisbourg. Selected this locally owned place to park, right on the waterfront. A lovely surprise, this neat little town. By evening, the campground's 40 campsites were nearly all filled, mostly Quebecois, including many tenters in the unserviced spots each with a little house sheltering it's picnic table. Bought tickets to the adjacent Louisbourg Playhouse and stayed up late at an outstanding performance of Lyrics and Laughter by young local musicians.

Yesterday morning we woke to sound of the foghorn and 52° outside. (We love our indoor/outdoor thermometer--can you tell?) We could barely see across the campground let alone the harbour. Chilling sea fog still enveloped the entire town. Biked to the entrance to Fortress Louisbourg and spent a most enjoyable day at this extremely well done historical monument. A downpour in the afternoon did nothing to lift the fog, however. This morning woke to bright sun, a whole new world is revealed! Biked around to the Louisbourg Lighthouse, think it was the first lighthouse to be established on the east coast of America. Wandered around the shore and came upon a young raven, still showing some down, huge and not about to move as we approached. Enjoyed a leisurely day for the most part, finding time to spend a couple of hours on our project. We're finally beginning to make some real headway with it.

 

Monday, July 25, 2005
Arms of Gold Campground, Little Bras D'Or, Nova Scotia

Another sunny morning. Left Louisbourg near 7:30am, after dumping the holding tanks and filling the black water one with water. Let the water slosh around and clean the tank as we drove to North Sydney. Stopped on the way to fill the propane and gas tanks, and to provision and buy a few supplies. Detoured on Rte 28 to Dominion where we found the churchyard where Bill thought his grandparents were buried. Inspected the grave stones, found three Gouthros but not the right ones. Then back around Sydney to this campground (64 miles for the day) to prepare for tomorrow's crossing to Newfoundland. Dumped the holding tank, washed 2 months dust and bugs off Clemmie, checked fluids and tires, and did accumulated laundry. Enjoyed view of Bras D'Or lakes and retired early.

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Rose Blanche, south shore of Newfoundland.

Up early, showered (do they have showers in Newfoundland?), filled the fresh water tank and left Arms of Gold at 6:30am to drive the 3 miles to the North Sydney ferry terminal and got in line along with a couple dozen other RVs, and numerous cars and tractor trailers. Hung around the terminal as our ferry (MV Caribou) unloaded. Around 8am we drove onto the ferry for Clemmie's first sea voyage. at 3:15pm Newfie time (clocks are ½ hour--don't ask why--ahead) the ferry arrived at Porte Aux Basques in deep fog. Glad to be at the front of the unloading line as we drove onto this huge, rocky, and lightly populated island. Stopped at the Visitor Center and then decided we'd make our first detour 30 miles east along the south coast, following Rte 470 to its end at the village of Rose Blanche. Intermittent fog along the way, completely different type of scenery--made Pat homesick for the west highlands of Scotland. Found a level spot at the edge of picturesque Rose Blanche and walked around it's steep and narrow streets. 34 miles today. Checked out with local store owner that it'd be ok to spend the night. Pigged out on some terrific home cooking at the Friendly Fisherman Restaurant. We're getting porky too. All those pounds we lost in Florida have larded their way back on. Back home, the sun came out and we broke our gaspers on the terrific view (and in the distance, the sole remaining granite lighthouse in North America) from our parking spot. By bedtime we realized the place we'd picked to park was right between the 2 local teenage hangout spots (steps up to the post office, and steps in front of the elementary school). We stayed up late keeping an eye on what (about 16) teenagers do when adults aren't around: smoke, wrestle, hide, argue, hoot and holler, chase each other, dart from place to place, make out, gossip, eat, drink soda, and mildly harass passing cars--and, once, a nearby RV (ie us.)

 

Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Barachois Pond Provincial Park, Newfoundland

Deep fog blanketed Rose Blanche when we awoke. Can't see anything anywhere. Made coffee and departed about 7:30am, creeping along Rte 470 back to Porte Aux Basques. No point in detouring to any of the other fishing villages--wouldn't be able to see anything. Rejoined the Trans Canada Highway and headed north along the west coast. Majestic mountains shrouded in low-lying clouds. As warned by our guidebook, Newfoundland is big. Around mid-day decided to stop for the night at this Provincial Park. Found a site near the water just as the rain started. A windy and wet afternoon kept us indoors, recovering from the ferry trip and last night's sleep deprivation.

 

Friday, July 29, 2005
Berry Hill Campground, Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Yesterday morning we rose to heavy rain, intermittent through the night. Can't see the other side of Barachois Pond. Campers there seemed to be mainly local people on vacation. We're the only off-islanders that we can see. Stopped at the showerhouse on the way out of the campground (yes they do) for a good hot one. Left the campground round 8:15am and continued north on the Trans Canada Highway. By the time we got to Corner Brook, a good sized town on the edge of the water grown up round a paper plant spewing forth clouds of something noxious, the rain had stopped and the clouds lifted. Found the local library in the municipal building, and used its fast Internet connection to pay the monthly bills. Drove around and got lost going up and down squiggely hills, eventually arriving at a huge shopping plaza with a Dominion supermarket, Canadian Tire, Staples, Tim Horton, and a WalMart. Everything one could possibly need in one place--just like the good old USA (except for Tim Horton, the ubiquitous Duncan Donuts of the north). We didn't need too much beyond eggs and olive oil. Delighted to find arborio rice, though, it's long been on our wants list. Sun came out as we left Corner Brook and began cutting through the mountains to Deer Lake, where we left the TCH for Rte 430 which runs north along the west coast. Passed 3 moose, a mother and young 'un in a roadside lake, and another adult beside the road. Into Gros Morne National Park, then through Rocky Harbour and 3 miles beyond to this campground. Picked a flat spot fairly near a showerhouse, and settled in closeted in on all sides by evergreens. Campsites have been carved out of the forest, they're very private--and depressingly dark. Spent a little while planning our stay here, then went for a bike ride round the campground followed by a 3-mile walk/hike along the trail round Berry Pond.

Today we drove to the parking lot at Western Brook Pond and then hiked the 2-miles in to the boat dock for the 2-hour cruise in and out of this majestic fresh-water fjord formed by glaciers millions of years ago. We saw a few fish jump, some terns, a pair of loons, sea gulls, and one bald eagle. Apparently the water runs mostly over stone into the pond, and the nutrient level is low so that not much life is supported. It reminded us of Tracy Arm in southeast Alaska, but without the glaciers. Hiked back out to the parking lot and drove north along the barren coast to Cow Head to check out Gros Morne theatre offerings (nothing grabbed us), before returning back to our campsite. Decided we don't like the darkness in the campsite, and we've had too much driving. Made up our minds to abandon the idea of continuing up the Northern Peninsula and going to Labrador for a few days. We gladly forfeited the 750 (or more) additional miles the Labrador trip would entail in favor of more time in the scenic villages around Notre Dame Bay en route to St. John's.

 

Sunday, July 31, 2005
Sanger Memorial RV Park, Grand Falls Fishway, Newfoundland

Drizzle descended on Berry Hill Friday night, and we were kept awake by the relentless drip, drip, drip from Clemmie's gutters. By yesterday morning, it had dried up and the clouds started to break. We left the campground near 8 am and drove back south along Rte 430 to the Trans Canada Highway (Rte 1) at Deer Lake. From there we turned east and drove through (endless) scenery reminiscent of Western Maine to Grand Falls/Windsor, home of 2 papermills and the main town in the middle of this big Island. Stopped at the very helpful Visitor Center and found our way to this comfortable campground on the banks of the Exploits River just in time to make lunch. 186 miles. We like this place: a gorgeous sunny and breezy afternoon, a big open campsite, an easy bike ride into town, a great trail to hike along the river, and the luxury of being "plugged in."

This morning broke clear, calm, and cool (50°). Glad to be plugged in an enjoy a bit of morning warmth from Harry, our silent little ceramic heater. After a tasty spinach quiche breakfast we worked on our project until about 10am at which point we headed for the Salmonid Interpretation Center, 3 miles down the road. One of us walked and the other biked--on the way up a few hills and into what had become a fierce headwind. The Center is jointly operated in conjunction with this RV Park by a local non-profit, the Environment Resources Management Association. The Center is at a fish ladder round the Grand Falls and is a nice little success story--increasing the wild Atlantic Salmon spawning in the Expoits River and tributaries from a few hundred 20 years ago to between 25 and 30 thousand annually. We watched fish climb the ladder, and learned a lot about Atlantic Salmon from the very knowledgeable staff. A few clouds floated above us on our return trip, a truly gorgeous day. Our pedaller screamed along at 20 mph on the down hill and downwind trip back to Clemmie in just a few minutes (11 to be exact) while our hiker pondered more thoughtfully on the meaning of things. In the evening we walked into Grand Falls to the local summer theater production (uproarious) along with a splendid dinner served by the cast.

 

Friday, August 5, 2005
Ocean View Park, Leading Tickles, Newfoundland

We left Grand Falls-Windsor Monday morning, after dumping tanks and stopping at the Mall for provisions and a few shopping items. Continued east on Rte 1 (Trans Canada Highway) for about 20 miles before turning north onto Rte 350 towards Notre Dame Bay. We detoured into the little town of Glover's Harbour to visit the Giant Squid Interpretive Center. Apparently a 55' Giant Squid beached itself at Glover's Harbour in 1878. What a treat of a place! Learned that the Giant Squid is the largest invertebrate, living at a depth of 1-2,000 metres. A healthy one has never been observed in its natural habitat and little is known about their behavior. What is known comes from examination of specimens that beach themselves for unknown reasons, or are ailing and captured at sea. The Squid has a huge brain, and its eye, human-like in structure, reaches 15" in diameter--the largest of any animal. Minds reeling, we then drove to the little town of Leading Tickles (population 550) to the lovely municipal Ocean View Park. 63 miles. Decided to stay through the town's annual "Day" on Saturday, and settled in among the Newfies, some of whom became our campground neighbors.

Spent part of the week exploring the Park and the town. To wit:

  • there's a pair of ospreys nesting on a nearby rocky pinnacle with 2 good-sized chicks--all within binocular view of our campsite;
  • enjoyed the local restaurant where (despite our known prediliction for chowing down) neither one of us could quite finish a small "Turkey Mess" for lunch;
  • explored the numerous walks and trails, with terrific views;
  • enjoyed the Heritage Center with its coffee shop fronting the narrow little harbour into which icebergs float and, most remarkably, whales sometimes swim;
  • used the Park's terrific new washrooms and excellent showers; and
  • stopped in at the post office and town hall and talked to the Town Clerk who filled us in with the agenda for Leading Tickles Day and the Newfie food we should be sure to buy tickets for (Jigg on Friday night and Fishermen's Brewis on Saturday.)

Wednesday was pretty wet and on Thursday not only did it rain it blew its little heart out, gusting to 50 mph. A huge surf crashed over the rocks and Clemmie reeled in her campsite like a drunken sailor. We went for an hour's brisk walk each day wearing our Froggies (we have yet to get wet inside this fabulous breathable light-weight raingear.)  Otherwise we spent our time worrying about the ospreys and their nest, reading, and working indoors on our project. We are happy to report that it's finally making great progress--we'd even say, it's going like gang busters. We expect to have the workshop ready for first review by a couple of our dear ones by the end of this month, and then for its pre-launch testing by the time we reach the D.C. area in October. We are very psyched about it, and enjoying the focus it provides for wet or stay-at-home days. We've even thought about trying to get it published in book form.

Today broke dry but still quite windy, with the gale finally subsiding to a normal breeze by mid-morning. The sky cleared by afternoon and produced patches of sun just in time for the start of Leading Tickles Day, the annual festival in the Park to benefit the local volunteer fire department. The kickoff was a Jigg supper, fried cod tongues, chips, and hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids. We filled ourselves up and thoroughly enjoyed the Jigg. The less said about cod tongues the better.

As we had been told, while the Newfoundland scenery and food is remarkable, the "Newfies" themselves are the province's star attraction. Their dialect is pronounced and we often had language difficulties; nonetheless we found the people easy and delightful to connect with. We experienced them as extremely friendly, helpful, and seemingly unspoiled by the excesses of Western culture.

 

Monday, August 8, 2005
Peyton Woods Campground, Twillingate, Newfoundland

Friday night we drifted to sleep in Leading Tickles' music- and conversation-filled Park following a parade headed by the new Fire Engine, to whose costs the proceeds of the festival were to be applied. The campsites were filled and overflow tents sprung up in the oddest places. Saturday morning broke in with a wide blue sky. We joined in the festival breakfast (fried bread, eggs, sausage, bacon, fried bologna and tea) and then made our by now habitual climb up to the Bear Head lookout at the tip of Culls Island, where the Park is. Looked out and got a glimpse of what most likely was a Minke whale in the middle of the seagulls near the shore. The ospreys, by the way seem to have survived the wind unscathed, although a few (big) sticks from the nest hung down the cliff side. We bought our obligatory servings of fishermen's brewis (a mixed up mess of boiled fish and mashed soaked hard tack) as soon as it was ready at the Park recreation hall, sampled it, and at noon climbed aboard Clemmie to head down the road for parts east, leaving bits of our hearts behind in Leading Tickles.

We drove south on Rte 350 to Botwood then Bishop's Falls where we got back onto the Trans Canada Highway going east to the exit for Rte 340 north. Past Lewisporte we hopped causeway by causeway across Chapel Island, New World Island, South Twillingate Island, and finally Twillingate North Island. Stopped in Twillingate town for groceries, registered at this campground, and continued on to the end of the highway at Long Point lighthouse (which we had seen in the distance from Leading Tickles). Returned to the campground to settle into our campsite for the evening. 136 miles today.

Yesterday, lovely sunny weather continued. We walked the two miles each way to the other side of Twillingate to watch a matinee production of "Georgie". This musical play was performed by local young people and entertainingly described the turbulent life of Georgina Stirling (1867 - 1935), the "nightingale of the north", an opera diva renowned in North America and Europe for her beautiful singing voice. Walked home through Back Harbour to our campsite and got to watch some terminal stupidity next door. Adjacent RV had visitors who arrived in a big black truck which was left the engine running for the hour plus of their visit. We finally concluded it had to be so they could keep the air conditioning on for the dog which they left in the vehicle. It's a nice breezy 75° outside -- how about opening the windows dumdums?

 

Tuesday, August 9, 2005
Parked at 17 Islands B&B, Newtown, Newfoundland

Left Twillingate this morning and drove back south on Rte 340 to Boyd's Cove where we detoured to the Beothuk Interpretive Center, and learned a bit about these aboriginal Newfoundland inhabitants who were finally exterminated in the early 19th Century by the depradations of the European settlers, perhaps aided by the Mi'kMaqs. From there we took Rte 331 to 330 and then drove around the coast, beside some beautiful beaches near Musgrave Harbour to the village of Newtown. The land had by now become flat and barren, with small rocky islets strewing (?) the coast. Navigating must be a real challenge, especially in fog. Presume the local fishermen know every rock by name. Newtown, which is built among several little rocky islands connected by bridges (and imaginatively dubbed "the Venice of the North"), was dutifully scenic. 109 miles today. Thankful to be somewhere relatively flat, we unloaded the bikes and rode around like mad for a while to exercise their wheels and our legs. We feel for these former fishing little outports, hanging by their fingernails onto a dying way of life and trying to keep alive with tourism, which by its very nature destroys what the tourists are drawn to see. Pedalled every road in town before coming back home for happy hour. Whereupon disaster struck. One of us (who shall be nameless) knocked over her glass of red wine, spewing a dark red stream onto chair and carpet, and then adding injury to insult with a dash of gore when she stabbed two fingers on glass slivers during the clean-up operation. Eventually, after asiduous effort, most of the evidence was removed. Thoroughly traumatized by now, the culprit sought solace by sneaking over to the nearby grocery store whereupon she cleaned out their supply of Twix. Not her best day.

 

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Riverside RV Park, Brigus, Newfoundland

Up early, we left Newtown before 7:00 and found our way back on Rte 320 south along the west coast of Bonavista Bay. There sure is a whole lot of nothing on this island. Miles and miles of it, clothed only in scrubby evergreen trees. Glimpses of a few fishing (or former fishing) villages at the heads of some of the frequent shallow coves liberally freckled with rocks. Rejoined the Trans Canada Highway at Gambo, and drove through more miles and miles of nothing, moving now into cloud-bound hills and slowing to a crawl in numerous dense fog patches. Decide to skip Terra Nova National Park, we're tired of driving and driving. A bit before ten, we stopped in Clarenville, a good sized town with a couple of shopping centers. Went to the Visitor's Center and then into a McDonalds (first one we've seen in weeks) to eat breakfast. Homesick for sausage and egg McMuffins it appeared. Since we had phone service, decided to do a bit of advance planning. Learned that the Campground in St. John's is filled up, and our plan to stay there for about a week goes out the window. Reoriented our thinking. Realized we're fed up of so much driving, are tired of playing tourist, and are homesick for our dear ones. Decided to truncate our stay in Newfoundland. Made reservations for 3 days in St. John's next week, and at two birding hot spots, and moved up our ferry reservation from Argentia to Sydney leaving at midnight a week from next Monday.

After provisioning at the Clarenville Co-op, we continued east on the Trans Canada Highway and turned north on Rte 70 up the west side of Concepcion Bay. Arrived in this picturesque little town around 2pm, and found our way to this small RV Park squeezed in beside a skinny creek right in the middle of town. 208 miles today. The 18th annual Brigus Blueberry Festival starts tomorrow, 25,000 visitors expected in this place, home to 600 people, so we won't (and can't) stay. Walked around exploring, it's a very neat spot, with lots of sometimes ugly history. The former seal-hunting capital of Newfoundland. Ate an early supper of cod chowder and blueberry crumble (with ice cream) at a nearby restaurant and came home filled with an attack of the fat uglies. We really have to do something about our waistlines.

 

Friday, August 12, 2005
Felix's Convenience Store and Laundromat,
Witless Bay, Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland

Left Brigus soon after 9am yesterday and drove back south to the Trans Canada Highway. Then east through some foggy barrens to exit on Rte 13. At Rte 10 ("the Irish Loop") we turned north to the east coast town of Bay Bulls, home of the largest wharf on the east coast of North America, built to handle repairs to the huge Grand Banks oil rigs. Checked out all the boat tours and picked one to ride out to the islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. Saw hundreds and hundreds of puffins, a colony of thousands of breeding common murres (cousins of penguins), and black-legged kitiwakes. These pelagic birds spend most of their life at sea, coming to remote islands only to breed. Also saw one northern gannet and a greater shearwater. Also saw two humpback whales, following one for a while at a close distance (40'-50') -- borderline harassment it seemed to us. Ate lunch by the roadside and then drove south to the village of Witless Bay where we found a little RV park with hookups on the edge of the water. 41 miles today.

Last night the rain came down, and on waking we feared it might bring a change in the weather. Not so. The clouds cleared and today was one of those spectacular days that rarely and only come when you get to sit right under the middle of a high pressure system. Clear blue sky, not much wind, crisp visibility, low humidity. Our spirits rose right up there with the air pressure. Just fabulous. We broke the back of one of the remaining bits of our project and went for a 4-mile hike to Bear Cove. Enroute, we passed a typical old Newfoundlan house, and a beautiful snail making its way along the path. We were crushed to find it smashed to bits on our return--a human, a seagull, or a car? We walked another mile after dinner in the evening sunlight. The latter is getting to be a (good) habit, and we've started paying attention to both diet and waistline. Things are looking up.

 

Saturday, August 13, 2005
Boondocking by the beach, St. Vincent's,
Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland

We said goodbye to Felix, and left that sweet spot a bit before 9am. Another lovely day. Drove south along Rte 10 (the "Irish Loop") to La Mancha, and hiked in to the East Coast Trail suspension bridge at the site of the former (but now washed away) outport of that name. Then continued south to Ferryland, where the first European settlers arrived in Newfoundland circa 1617. Gave it the name Avalon, after some Lord of that ilk. We continued on round the peninsula through Portuguese Cove, where we stopped to make lunch, then on through Trepassey to St. Vincent's. Almost no traffic through pretty barren countryside, keeping watch for frequent huge potholes that you could loose a wheel in. Kept hoping to see some caribou, but evidently we just missed a herd of about 18--at least according to a couple from Ontario who arrived at St. Vincent's a few minutes before us. Decided to hang out for the night here--it is a lovely spot. 102 miles today. Arctic terns and yellow legs on the shore. A big flock of black Guillemots clustered tightly floating about 100 yards off the beach. Terns riveting as the swoop and call to each other. Not too many left, the others somewhere out in the Atlantic gathering for their long migration flight to the Antartic. These amazing long-lived little birds each year clock over 20,000 airborne miles, not counting their feeding air time.

 

Sunday, August 14, 2005
Boondocking at Walmart's, St. John's, Newfoundland

Rain last night, onshore wind rocking Clemmie (and us) to and fro. Up early, gave the generator its monthly workout allowing us to use the microwave at breakfast time. Guillemots still out there, their circle spread out now into a thick black stream appearing and disappearing in the troughs of the swells. Drove slowly north up the east coast of St. Mary's Bay, hoping to see some caribou. No luck. Through several little former outports, not sure where we're going for the night. Finally decided we'd just go to St. John's and see what happens. Found our way to this new Walmart's on Kenmount Road, near a new Home Depot and Canadian Tire. Could be any city anywhere. Friendly bus driver gave us a set of bus schedules, and we then planned our stay over lunch. Drove to the nearby Avalon Mall to check out the movies. Found one that didn't look too violent and went to the 1:00 showing of it, Must Like Dogs. Not bad at all. Back to Walmart where we found a nice quiet out-of-the way spot, not too far from 3 other RVs also camping here. 87 miles today. Browsed through Walmart's for a couple of items and stumbled on some DVD specials for $8 (Canadian). Selected a few oldies but goodies. Went to the movies again in the evening, this time at home on Clemmie. Each of us at our own laptop with earphones watching the movie of our choice!

 

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
at C.A. Pippy Park, St. John's, Newfoundland

Monday morning we spent a while working on our project, and doing laps round the Walmart's parking lot for a bit of exercise. Left around 10:30 am and drove 3 miles to this City-owned Park to collect our reserved campsite. If you plan to come here, make reservations well in advance. This is the only campground we've been to this summer where you couldn't get in without one. After lunch we biked around and went to the nearby Fluvarium. What a treat--well worth a visit. Took the guided tour and watched the daily fish and frog feeding. Yippee--there is an Internet connection at the campground that goes more than 2mph. Finally able to update the website--and submit our project for its first test!

Yesterday another spectactular day weatherwise. Walked to the nearby Confederation Complex (seat of provincial government) to catch a bus downtown to explore Newfoundland's capital with its amazing harbour. A very narrow entrance opening to a big basin protected from the worst wind and seas the Atlantic can throw at it. Took a cab up to the top of Signal Hill, where we could see a layer of fog out over the Grand Banks, waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Irene tomorrow to blast the oil rigs out there where the fish used to be. Headlines in yesterday's paper about all the vessels from a dozen countries caught out beyond the 200 mile limit, dragging nets along the bottom of the banks to clean out what little life remains where once was the densest fishery on earth. Oh what stupid assholes we humans be. Walked down from the Hill, stopping part way to watch a ship come in through the narrows. Wandered along the streets of this very interesting city, old houses brightly painted against the gloomy weather (but not today). Stumbled across the offices of the Conservation Corps of Newfoundland and Labrador, and learned about its interesting Climate Change Action Program, to educate the public. Noted also the ads on the sides of the Metro buses for the Canadian government's climate change website. (Meanwhile, back in the USA, there's no such thing as climate change.) Took a bus back to the campus of Memorial University, then walked a pretty trail through the woods for about a mile back to Pippy Park. A throughoughly satisfactory day.

Today, cloudy and eventually drizzly. Went for a damp walk to Memorial University. Stopped at the library to check e-mail and Google a few things. One of us went to the Aquarena, a huge swimming complex with two olympic-size pools and swam laps for half an hour, then sat in the sauna for a while. Ate lunch in the Student Center, trolled its bookstore and Post Office, and watched a movie at the Institute for Ocean Technology showing it's huge wave tanks (ice, water, wind) used for improving the design of ship shapes. One currently closed to the public because it was being used (confidentially) for the America's cup! Hope we haven't leaked (pun intended) a big secret. Then back home on the trail alongside Long Pond. Pippy Park certainly has location, location, location.

 

Thursday,August 18, 2005
at Gannett's Nest RV Resort, St. Bride's, Newfoundland

Left Pippy Park just after 7:00 and drove three miles to the Hickman Truck Centre for Clemmie's pre-arranged appointment. Oil, lube, filter, and fix the driver's outside mirror (and show us how) so we no longer have to crane our necks to see what's overtaking us. All done by 9am, so drove out Kenmount Rd., to the good old Trans Canada Highway and back along it to exit #35, Route 90. Since it's a nice day, decided to stop at Salmonier Nature Park and hike its 2.5km board walk. Lovely walk, great place. A provincial park that provides sanctuary for abandoned or injured birds and mammals in a spacious natural environment with appropriately fenced enclosures. Also provides education for kids (and their parents), and exercise for geriatrics. We saw: 2 snowy owls with broken wings, 2 bald eagles with broken wings, a broken-winged great horned owl, 2 peregrine falcons, 3 caribou, a collection of broken-winged and/or one-legged Canada geese and some of their healthy offspring waiting to migrate, and an abandoned arctic fox pup taking a nap.

From there we continued south on Rte 90, then Rte 91 south across the lonely barrens to the south coast and Cape St. Mary's. Then onto Rte 100 to Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve. Watched the interpretive video and then walked the mile long cliff-edge trail to get a spectucular closeup view of Bird Rock. Wind blowing like stink, and lovely bouts of sunshine as clouds passed overhead. At Bird Rock, the noise was as phenomenal as the view. This is apparently the most accessible pelagic seabird nesting colony in North America, an irreplaceable natural treasure. As well as preserving a huge area of barrens, the Reserve provides a safe breeding place for an estimated 11,000 pairs of gannetts, 10,000 (each) pairs of common murres and kittiwakes, about 1,000 pairs of thick-billed murres plus a few hundred razorbills and guillemots. Worth the trip to Newfoundland just for this experience. Only gannetts remained, still hanging around for a few more weeks until their chicks are fledged. Saw a few teenager chicks successfully practicing their flying skills in the teeth of the gale.

Left the Reserve soon after 3pm, and stopped in at this new campground, out in the middle of nowhere at the entrance to the Reserve. Good restaurant, washrooms, and a shower along with place to plug in and dump. Young owners from the adjacent hamlet are building the place themselves. Good place to stop if you visit the Reserve. 118 miles today. In the evening the full moon rose and finally cowed the gale-force winds into submission. They slunk away and silence ruled the night. A spectacular never-to-be-forgotten day.

 

Friday, August 19, 2005
at the Marine Atlantic ferry terminal, Argentia, Newfoundland

Up early yesterday at the Gannett's Nest, cool and clear. Left the campground at 7:30am and drove slowly north on Rte 100 along the coast of Placentia Bay, up and down steep hills to each rivermouth hamlet. Stopped in Placentia for breakfast and to provision. Then walked a mile each way along its boardwalk fronting on the white-horse whipped water of the bay. Continued north on Rte 102 to Argentia, once a thriving fishing village of 750 souls. In 1942 the inhabitants were resettled (ie kicked out) to make way for a huge US base, which finally closed in 1996. Today, the old base has been converted to the Backland Trail a mosaic of roads and trail through some gorgeous scenery. After checking out the routine at the ferry terminal, we drove part of the trail and found an outstanding spot for lunch and a nap. Drove round to the terminal for its 4:00pm opening, paid our money, and got our place in line for the night. 40 miles today. The terminal building remained open through the night for use by passengers and campers. The full moon shone upon the half dozen RV's and maybe a dozen cars that decided to overnight here.

 

Saturday, August 20, 2005
Arms of Gold Campground, Big Bras D'Or, Nova Scotia

Up early at the Argentia Marine Atlantic terminal this morning in time to watch MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood arrive just before sunrise. Boarded the ferry around 8:00am and prepared for our 15-hour trip to North Sydney. Another lovely day, the wind has subsided significantly, and not much in the way of seas. Found a place on board to plug our computers in and divided our time between working on the laptops, eating, reading, and sitting in comfy recliners to watch movies in the lounge or movie theatre. Newfoundland has been terrific, well worth a visit. Our vessel pulled into North Sydney around 10:30pm, whereupon we disembarked and drove the 3 miles to this very convenient campground. We were not alone. A long line of RV's waiting to register in the dark, the weary owners patiently processing us all, and leading each vehicle to its campsite in a well-worn golf cart. We plug in and break out the Tullamore Dew to celebrate the end of our Newfoundland trip, and being "back home" in Nova Scotia. Nice to come into a campground where we've already been--an enjoyable feeling of familiarity. 4 road miles, and many more across the waters of the Northumberland Straits. This ferry trip saved us almost 1,000 km of road travel.

 

Sunday, August 21, 2005
in John and Chris's driveway, near Millville by Pictou, Nova Scotia

Slept late at Arms of Gold--didn't wake until nearly 7am. Showered and did a load of laundry, then drove Clemmie to the combined dump station and RV wash spot. Cleaned off much of the Newfoundland dirt before leaving this excellent campground a bit before 9am. Continued east on the Trans Canada Highway skirting Baddeck and the Bras D'Or lakes to the Canso Causeway where we left Cape Breton and crossed onto mainland Nova Scotia. East on the TCH (Rte 104) to New Glasgow, then north across the causeway to Pictou and southeast to the hamlet of Scotsburn, following John's directions to their country house, arriving around 2pm. 172 miles. After reconnecting we all (John, Chris, Emma and us two) went blueberry picking on Fitzpatrick Mountain, Chris banging a spoon against a pot to protect us from a recently notorious sheep-eating black bear. Did a loop trail through an abandoned orchard to a neighbor's to inspect the business at the bird feeder. Then drove a quick 10-minutes along more dirt roads past Elmfield to "the Stream" for a fabulous cooling dip. Back home for a pot luck supper and an early night.

 

Sunday, August 28, 2005
on the street at Heidi's, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Left Millville around 8am last Monday morning and found our way back on to the good old Trans Canada Highway (my what a long way this road do run) to Truro. Stopped to fill up the gas tank, nearly empty. Sticker shock. $1.13/litre. Ouch. Then south on Rte 102 to Halifax to Maritime Canvas on Herring Cove Rd., for our appointment for a bike-cover fitting. What a laugh. Too big by half. Marilyn, our seamstress, redid this, redid that, redid t'other. Various employees joining in for consultation, and finally to glue some additional cinch points. Finally, after a few painful moments, it looks like it will work--though our poor bikes are filthy, rusty, and badly needing a workout. It's been a while since we've been anywhere flat enough to get a good pedal. Eventually we settled up, no hard feelings, and drove here and settled in to decompress. 111 miles.

This week we got our walks in, good exercise. Figured out the bus system too. Walked to John and Chris's and borrowed car to go grocery shopping one day. Tuesday we walked to the Oxford Cinema to watch the movie March of the Penguins. This is a must see, do not miss it. The weather has been lovely all week, pretty much. While enjoying it here, we've been keeping an eye on Hurricane Katrina, holding all those people, dogs, cats, and wildlife in the US Gulf Coast in the light. Looks like a monster storm.

We're enjoying time to use Heidi's high-speed Internet, reconnect with old friends, and hang around in a familiar place while we go through 6 weeks of accumulated mail and take care of various domestic chores. Collaborated with friend John Ure to publish some of his hilarious Cape Breton stories. Just never know where this website will take us! Also thanks to Michael it looks like our webhosting woes are on the way to complete resolution. Our webmistress developed a case of laryngitis this week, sounded much worse than she felt. It appears to be going away with no further symptoms, thankfully. Brought a bit of peace and quite for Bill, at least temporarily. We'll leave Halifax next weekend and go south to Yarmouth to take the ferry to Bar Harbour, ME.

 

Saturday, September 3, 2005
on the street at Heidi's, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Continued beautiful weather until Wednesday when the rain showers set in. Since we have Internet connection, we have been glued to Yahoo's riveting pictures of the unfolding devastation from Hurricane Katrina. We remembered our rush-hour crawl across the bridge to Mobile last spring, the bridge now nothing but wreckage. And our delightful drive along the beach at Biloxi, where the houses are now gone, casinos destroyed, and shoreline rearranged. And Dauphine island, where those houses that remained from last year's hurricane season were (stupidly) being rebuilt and are now only a dim memory since much of the island has now been reclaimed by the sea. Nature has certainly vented her wrath, who knows the long-term outcome. Sadly we wish the US had leadership that could respond to our collective multiple complex problems with other than glib and simple answers and fumbling meaningless words.

Highlights of the week included: a trip with Elsie to Nova Scotia's beautiful south shore harbours and beaches and the ancient town of Lunenberg, a UNESCO World Heritage site with fabulous academy building, and beautiful cathedral finally rebuilt after disasterous fire; time to catch up with Bill's old friends Dave and Janice, Cal and Mary, Donita, John and Chris, and Debbie and David; enjoying young Emma and Jaymie as we shared house-sitting responsibilities together; welcoming home and reconnecting with Heidi after her trip; and engaging in a spirited conversation about system change with the staff at the Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development.

 

Sunday, September 4, 2005
at the Cape St. Mary's Lighthouse, French Shore, Nova Scotia

Said goodbye to Heidi this morning after breakfast, and headed north on Rte 102 then southwest on Rte 101 towards Digby. Another beautiful day. Ate lunch (clams and scallops) in old town of Digby on the Bay of Fundy, biggest scallop fleet in the world. Over-run with motor bikes, some kind of festival going on. Continued south on Rte 1 through the villages of the "French Coast", a string of villages settled in the 1800's by those French who in 1755 had been expelled by the British from the Acadian settlements in the Annapolis Valley to temporary quarters in Quebec, Louisiana, and St. Pierre and Micquelon. Some fabulous wooden cathedrals, and pretty little towns along the Fundy coast. Found a campground where we could dump our holding tanks. Stopped at a roadside stand and loaded up on local produce. Drove off the main road to check out the village of Cape St. Mary's and decided to hang out for the night on a spectacular spot underneath the old lighthouse. 198 miles today. A kestrel came and sat for a while on the fence beside us at the top of the cliff while we munched on local corn for supper, and after we went for a walk around the little harbour across from the beach--tide well out. A spectacular day.

 

Monday, September 5, 2005
at Jean and Jim's, Camden, Maine

Waked early after a peaceful night under the stars and the beam of the Cape St. Mary's lighthouse. A gorgeous sunrise. Departed that gorgeous spot after the first cup of coffee and continued down Rte 1 to Yarmouth where we found a little diner open for breakfast. Parked Clemmie along Water Street, and wandered round town until the Ferry Terminal opened. The ferry trip from Yarmouth to Bar Harbour fast and uneventful on the Bay Catamaran travelling at 50 knots with its jet engines blasting. Decided that this ferry is a menace to sea life. The boat drove over flocks of seabirds and through a pod of dolphins or small whales, the poor birds and animals scattering for dear life. Don't know how many we killed. Won't take that trip again, it oughtta be banned.

Arrived in Bar Harbour, first off the ferry. Drove north to Ellsworth then east on Rte 1 along the Penobscot Bay coastal communities to Camden. Traffic not bad for a holiday. Filled up with gas ($3.39/gal but still much cheaper than Canada). Found our way to Jean and Jim's in time for supper. Great to see them again. 99 road miles today. After dinner went for a short hike up a nearby hill and enjoyed the fabulous view of this lovely Maine coast. Wonder how long this good weather can last!

 

Tuesday, September 6, 2005
at Laurie and Mark's, Auburn, Maine

After breakfast we went to check out construction progress on Jim and Jean's house and then for a walk around the Rockport harbour. Looked at all the sailboats and crowded dinghy dock with some nostalgia. Eventuall left the area and continued east on Rte 1 through Rockland, Waldoboro, and Wiscasset to Brunswick. Then south on I-295 to Yarmouth (a different one) to the Delorme Map Store. Loaded up with the company's Atlas/Gazeteers for another 18 states, in preparation for the remainder of this year and next year. Wouldn't travel without them, opening up side roads, natural wonders, and unlisted campgrounds. Then north on the back roads (Rtes 115 and 202) through the village of Gray to Auburn and our dear ones. Nice to be back in our now familiar parking spot on the street outside their house. 103 miles.

 

Thursday, September 8, 2005
At Al and Vicki's, Kennebunk, Maine

Wednesday we took Clemmie to Greeley's for some engine maintenance, and otherwise spent the day hanging out at Laurie's. This morning, we went to the RV and Motorhome Super Center to retrieve our repaired rear window shade and check out a few minor coach items. Bought a new bag of levellers--we've worn out a few of these square wheel stackers. We do like to be level, and always check the side-to-side and back-to-front configuration before we settle in. (We're getting pretty good at eyeballing the ground, though, so as to take advantage of irregularities in positioning our sweetie pie.) From the Winnebago dealer we came back to Yarmouth to pick up one more Atlas/Gazetter (good grief, we forgot Massachussets) and appreciated the discount we got for a quantity purchase. Drove through Portland on I-295 to avoid the traffic, exiting at Scarborough to use Rte 1/Rte 9 to Saco and Biddefored. Then down to Biddeford Pool, where Bill once lived and worked for a while. What a sweet spot. Found room to park Clemmie and eat lunch before continuing along Rte 9 through Kennebunkport, then east on Rte 35 through Kennebunk to Al and Vicki's great backyard. 97 miles.

 

Saturday, September 10, 2005
At Laurie and Mark's, Auburn, Maine

Friday morning we upped early and onto the bikes to ride with Al through a bunch of rolling farms and villages. Great workout, 17 miles--albeit with breakfast in the middle. Can't tell you how happy our webmaster was to be back on her bike. In the evening we did a sweat in the LaKota Indian sweatlodge tradition with Al and Vicki leading the practice, respectively, for a group of (14) men and a smaller group of women. Great experience. Today, we went for a shorter (8 mile) bike ride, then loaded our machines onto the back of Clemmie under their new cover (seems to be working nicely thank you) and drove up the Turnpike back to Auburn to spend some more time with Laurie, Mark, and Ashley. 56 miles.

 

Wednesday, September 13, 2005
At Donna and Nick's, West Paris, Maine

Sunday morning, we left Auburn after breakfast and drove the short 27 miles to Donna's. Happy to see them and the kids again. Spent the time here fixing dinner to relieve the harried parents, playing cribbage with grandkids, running errands, working on the website and workshop, and doing a few chores--including weeding our books. A chronic problem for us, book overflow. Updated our reading lists. This time we whittled the books down significantly and left Donna with a big box to donate to the local library. Weather continued glorious and as always enjoyed family times.

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2005
at Gini and Herb's West Boxford, Massachussetts

Left West Paris last Thursday morning just before 8am and picked our way along side roads to the New Hampshire border, then south to Rochester where we got thoroughly lost looking for Walmart's to buy a DeLorme atlas for the state--we'd forgotten this one in our earlier massive purchase. Of course, if we'd had the New Hampshire DeLorme we'd have had no reason to be looking for Walmart's, and wouldn't have needed the atlas. On the otherhand, if we ever come back to New Hampshire, we'll be all set. Continued south stopped for lunch and to buy a few groceries just north of the Massachussetts border, before crossing through into Haverhill. Arrived here soon after 2pm. 188 miles. Enjoyed our time in this lovely quite spot with Pat riding many miles on Pearl (the wonder bike) along quiet side roads through nearby townships, helping Gini take care of the horses and do a few barn chores, Bill doing a bit of biking/walking and borrowing Herb's car to visit each of his siblings, and both of us working on the workshop, enjoying Herb's music making, and providing bodies for Gini to practice her growing massage and cranio-scral therapy skills on.

Sunday we all went to the Todd Farm Flea Market and joined the throng of stuff buffs (thing ninnies?) who were rummelling through and exchanging an incredible assortment of cast off items, excess inventory, and otherwise useless but appealing old bits and pieces. From there to the Boxford Apple Festival to see ditto new things. Great people watching. What wonderful statements about the human species, jackdaws every last one of us.

Watched hurricane Rita develop in the Caribbean in the aftermath of Katrina's devastation. Wondered how many of us labeled Katrina a "wake up call", yet beyond perhaps sending off some dough have otherwise not changed our behavior but gone back to the usual napping our way through the planet's frantic calls for help.

 

Saturday, September 24, 2005
the Depot Travel Park, Cape May, New Jersey

Said goodbye to Gini and Herb, and left West Boxford at 6:00am Thursday morning. Drove west on Rte 133 to I-495 south, then onto I-90 (Mass turnpike) going west to I-84. Stayed on I-84 all the way to I-97, the New York Thruway. No RV's allowed on the Taconic Parkway, or (we think) the Sawmill Parkway. In three calls to the Garden State Parkway phone number we were given three different readings of the road's vehicle restrictions and no clear answer as to bridge heights. Decided not to risk it this time, so drove south on the Thruway I-287 to pass west of New York City, then back east on I-80 and I-280 through the grim landscape of Newark to the New Jersey Turnpike. South on the Turnpike to Camden, then switched to I-295 so as to get onto Rte 47, then Rte 55 south towards Cape May. Found Rte 9 and followed it into the town, crossed the Canal on Rte 626 and found this campground (thanks DeLorme) in time for dinner. Mostly seasonal (virtually everyone has gone home having left their empty trailers here for the winter) but with a nice little grassy area under the trees for transients like us. We were the only ones. 456 miles and over 11 hours on the road including stops for gas, coffee, stretch breaks, and changing drivers.

Friday woke after sleeping like two logs, waking occasionally to the sounds of the leaves rustling in the strong wind and the Cape May lighthouse's moning foghorn. By dawn, sounds of nearby roosters brought flashbacks to Luperon in the Dominican Republic. Biked to the Cape May State Park, and spotted thousands of terns amidst all kinds of other seabirds on the beach, floating offshore among the dancing whitecaps, or flushed into a whirling cloud above some intruder. Then to the New Jersey Audubon Society (NJAS) Cape May Bird Observatory to find out about the numerous birding opportunities (we're in the middle of the hawk migration), and spend our spare change on DVDs to watch and hone our bird-identification skills.

This is a great place. This morning we biked to the Cape May State Park again to see terns and gulls on the beach, the New Jersey Audubon Society's Hawk Watch, and then to Higbee Beach to check out this birding hotspots and look at the ferry to Lewes, DE, across the Cape May Canal. Cruised around the town, checking out the harbor, the tourist activity (and ice cream) and found an Internet cafe. Campground filled up a bit for the weekend, but still a very nice stopping point.

 

Sunday, September 25, 2005
Chestnut Lake RV Resort, NJ Pinelands

Left Cape May around 9am, and drove north up the Garden State Parkway (yes RV's are allowed, at least south of exit 105). Checked out three campgrounds north of Abescom, and picked this one for our night's stay. Drove to the parking lot at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, and found a shady spot to hang out in until Al arrived for a 4-day birding visit. While waiting, made and ate lunch, scanned the marshes with binoculars and spotted 3 bald eagles feeding in the distance. Drove slowly in his car along the 8-mile road through the refuge, stopping frequently to set up Al's telescope and watch various flocks of shore birds in the distance. Watched some snow geese fly by overhead. Thank you Fish and Wildlife Service for trying to protect these important wetlands. 100's of thousands (?millions) of migrating birds flying south each year stop to rest and feed here. We saw about 25 different species on our short drive through. Arrived at this campground here in the dark, were glad we had cased the options ahead of time. 78 miles today.

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2005
the Depot Travel Park, Cape May, New Jersey

Left Chestnut Lake bright and early on Monday morning and drove north to Barnegat, stopped at the viewing platform, not much activity. Then along the shore edge of the Reserve, noting development's tentacles creeping slowly in. What do we call uncontrolled growth? Cancer. That's what's happening to this country's shores, with corresponding destruction of coastal wetlands' vital immune-response protection against storms. Drove east along the causeway to almost completely developed Long Beach Island, then north to lighthouse at the Barnegat inlet. Not much bird activity, so then south to the other end of the island to Holgate Beach. This area is protected with no ATV's, trucks, bikes, etc. allowed. Found ourselves standing in some ruts in the sand looking out to sea through our binoculars. Turned around. Oh look, we are blocking a big 4-wheel drive truck full of fishing gear. Our government provides no funds to to enforce environmental restrictions, and ignorant ninnies like this run right through them with never a thought of the implications of their self-centered actions. Watched a marsh hawk (northern harrier) chase a frantic grackle, which escaped by landing near us (?for protection?).

Back to the mainland and south through Atlantic City and then east along another causeway to Avalon to find the New Jersey Audubon Society's sea-watch. Found today's observer sitting near the seawall, with telescope trained out to sea, identifying and counting the migrating birds winging south just off the shore. For background, he had to listen to the noise of huge earth movers down on the beach, moving sand around in a surely stupid effort to protect the condominiums that had even more stupidly been built right at the edge of the dunes.

Then south to Stone Harbour, and lunch under the trees at the Wetlands Institute. Got a good view of a flock of over 40 greater yellow-legs in the wetlands, with the all-consuming coastal development in the background. Then to the beach at the southern end of this barrier island. Moderate surf, with large numbers of sanderlings (little sandpiper type birds) scurrying back and forth along the edge of each wave to feed on the goodies the last one brought in. Plenty of seagulls, and a few sunbathers. Saw something in the distance, which on investigation turned out to be a huge flock (perhaps 1,000) of sanderlings roosting on the sand away from the waters' edge. The most amazing thing to watch. Many of them napping, others preening, and taking turns to run towards the water to feed for a while. When a gull approached to land, a heli-pad space just opened up in the flock. Two runners going by, and the whole flock just seemed to flow slowly out of the way, then flow back to its original spot. Quite a remarkable sight. Also counted perhaps half a dozen huge Caspian terns winging south along the beach, and many laughing gulls in their winter togs. From there, came back to the Depot, to find our previous camping spot waiting for us.

Yesterday and today busy with birding and being in this lovely little corner of New Jersey. This is the peak of the hawk migration, and numerous shore birds are also passing through. Took a ride on the Skimmer through the wetlands with knowledgeable guides (whose names we sadly have forgotten) dedicated to helping preserve this ecological treasure. Climbed to the top of the Cape May Point lighthouse, biked and walked around, and otherwise got plenty of exercise. Thoroughly enjoyed our time with Al, saw 48 different bird species that we could identify including

 

Thursday, September 29, 2005
at Dana and Marge's, Frederick, MD

Left the Depot around 8am after saying goodbye to Al, and drove to the Cape May - Lewes ferry terminal. Waited in line until boarding time, and then took the short quite rolly (1hr, 20 mins) trip across the mouth of the Delaware Bay to Lewes. Strong southeast winds, not much traffic encountered. Saved ourselves a lot of unpleasant driving around Philadelphia and Baltimore. Then across the Delmarva peninsula to Annapolis (stopping to make/eat lunch in a little town park in Wye Mills (thanks again DeLorme). Then onto I-97 north to Rte 32 west to I-70 to Frederick, where we arrived soon after 3pm. As always, a treat to see and reconnect with these dear ones.

 

Monday, October 10, 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Washington, DC

Friday morning a week ago at Dana's we defrosted Clemmie's 'frig and freezer, packed our stuff for the next 2+ months, and then drove her to Beckley's Camping Center (in Thurmont, where we bought her) to get an annual clean and press, and winterizing for storage. After that a low-key slog day, taking things easy. Saturday morning we went to White's RV, Camper & Boat Storage area south of Frederick, and nailed down Clemmie's storage arrangements. Then Dana drove us, our stuff, and bikes to Mary's in Washington, DC, our home base for the next month. Lovely to reconnect with Mary, such a hospitable and compatible dear one.

We noted president Bush's call for energy conservation in response to the storm-induced decline in oil production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico. What a turnaround. Didn't Mr. Cheney's Energy Task Force, oh so knowlingly, state in 2001 that conservation simply wasn't needed? The president's call seems to have met with a resounding yawn. Why not something like Canada's One-Ton Challenge? Give people a clear idea of what they can do, for pete's sake.

We look forward to our month here, having time with one kid and grandkid, transitioning to our new website host Network Solutions, doing a final test and launching our workshop, and then flying to Juneau for a month with our dear ones there. Ah yes, but things never go as smoothly as we'd like. Our webmaster (?mistress?) met with Michael to get help figuring out how to process forms on the website by email, and on leaving she knocked over a glass of water onto her laptop. Took it to the computer doctor, to no avail. Oh dear, the thing is a gonner. Fortunately she had backed all her data up that very morning (don't you all, dear readers, backup your data on a regular basis?) So, on Saturday, (after confirming the demise with our friendly computer doctor, Hilltop Computers) we made an unbudgeted expenditure at Best Buy for a new machine, and yesterday we drove out early to Clemmie to get all our software and then spent the rest of the day installing it.

 

Friday, October 28, 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Washington, DC

This has been a busy time. We've caught up with numerous dear ones, attended some workshops and presentations, did a dry run for our workshop project with a small group, biked the length of the Capital Crescent Trail a few times, and taken care of assorted business items. We've successfully made the transition to our new website host, Network Solutions, added a Guest Book to the Home Page, and separated the workshop from this website by creating its own website. The workshop has been renamed, it's now "It's Your Move! - a Global Change Seminar". We expect to launch it next month.

 

Monday, November 7, 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Juneau, AK

Left DC last Tuesday morning for uneventful flight via Seattle to Juneau. It's been a long year since we last were here and saw these sprouting grand kids. Always get a rush driving along Egan Drive into Juneau from the airport, the scenery is so spectacular. This is such a special place. Spent the week settling in, taking long dog walks, playing racquetball (Bill) and swimming in the early morning (Pat), and just being grandparents--occasionally doing something useful. In our spare time we continued work on finishing up the Seminar, its coming along nicely. Snow began overnight Saturday, and more last night. Both of us have broken our gaspers looking out the window. Visited Outer Point, a favorite spot on Douglas Island.

 

Monday, November 21 , 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Juneau, AK

Two weeks have just flown by. Aside from eating dinner together each night and otherwise hanging out with our dear-ones and grandkids, here are some highlights:

  • Went with about 120 other birder on a Juneau Audubon sponsored catamaran trip to Haines, 100 miles north of here, to see the renowned gathering of the eagles. Catamaran, overcome by wind and seas, had to abort the trip, passengers dropping like flies (not us, may we say.)   2 days later we took the fast ferry through the snow for an overnight trip to Haines and drove 20 miles north along the mouth of the Chilkat River. We saw hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of bald eagles hanging out in the trees. Reputedly, between 3 and 4 thousand collect here at this time of year to feed on late salmon in the warm alluvial fan. Visited the Haines Library (voted best small town library in the US.)
  • Volunteered to help our grandkids' 1st and 3rd grade teachers with various activities, including math and reading, and weekly chess club.
  • Continued swimming, racquet ball, and walking dog (Major) in sun and rain, around Douglas harbour, in the wetlands near the airport, up the flume, and to view the Mendenhall Glacier.
  • Watched inches of rain come down (2 weeks unending, records broken) producing assorted mud slides, including washing one house off its foundation. Ah Juneau. Nonetheless, still a lovely place.
  • Held our first monthly "Action Day" and added an Action Alert section to this website.
  • Continued to work hard on the Global Change Seminar, the last few bits are finally taking shape.
  • Enjoyed Bill's 70th birthday with a great social dinner shared with another friend who turned 70 on the same day.

 

Tuesday, December 7 , 2005
Visiting Dear Ones in Washington, DC

Remainder of our time in Juneau was busy, continuing in the mode of hanging out with kids/grandkids, helping at school, taking dog on long walks, and working on our project. Launched it "live" on the Internet. Work never done, however, as we continue to improve the later parts of it. Left Juneau on early flight last Thursday, arriving here in the evening. Busy catching up with dear ones, kid/grandkid, and adjusting to being "Inside the Beltway." Quite a trip. Managing to get longish fast walks in most days, as well as writing, errands, and some planning for '06. It's cold here! Pat went skating with Dasia on Monday afternoon (school gets out mid-day on Mondays) as the first snowfall of the season arrived.

 

Tuesday, December 14, 2005
on street at Dana and Marge's, Frederick, MD

More snow last Friday, on to of the 6" which arrived earlier. No school on Friday, so Pat grabbed the opportunity to spend time with Dasia, more skating. Old legs holding up ok. Yesterday, prepared ourselves to go back on the road. Laundry, packing, last-minute errands. This morning we retrieved the bikes from Bob and Celia's garage, and Mary drove us to White's RV Storage facility south of Frederick where we found Clemmie in good shape. Started like a charm. From there we drove to the Frederick Motor Company to change the oil and leaking rear oil seal--an oversight in some previous oil change. Then to Dana and Marge's for a couple of days. A goodbye lunch with Mary at Jennifer's Restaurant, a favorite eating spot on Patrick Street.

 

Monday, December 19, 2005
on the street at Craig's, Raleigh, SC

Last Wednesday morning, discovered that Marge has come down with the 'flu. Sick as a dog, so-to-speak. Outside temperature a very chilly 15°F. Went out for breakfast with Dana and to meet friend Kathy, after which Dana, sinking, followed Marge into the bed. Both of them totally out of commission. Cross fingers we don't catch it. High temperature during the day in the low 20°s. Stowed all our gear and hung the bikes on Clemmie's back, snug inside their cover. In the afternoon we took Clemmie to Beckley's to check a recall notice item (fuel tank straps). All well. Torqued the fasteners. Took ourselves out to dinner at Jennifer's Restaurant to celebrate our reunion with Clemmie. This morning stuck our heads into the sick bay to say goodbye to Dana and Marge, sorry we didn't have more quality time with them. C'est la vie. Again very cold, 14°F, snow and ice forecast. Drove to the Rice Tire Company to get the alignment adjusted, tires checked, lugs re-torqued. Snow beginning as we left Frederick just before 10am. South on I-270 to the Washington Beltway, then I-95 through Richmond. Snow quite heavy for a while near Fredericksburg, then it turned to rain. Several serious downpours. In Petersburg branched off to I-85, and then south the Rte 1 Bypass to I-440 outside Raleigh. Arrived at Craig's soon after 4pm, having stopped once for gas, twice for pit stops, and to change drivers. 307 miles for the day . Clemmie is still winterized until the weather warms up. Good to be home, but missing the plumbing!

A pleasant, if chilly, weekend with our dear ones here. Dewinterized and finished organizing Clemmie. Some minor maintenance at College Park RV Center in readiness for the isolation of Big Bend and the southwest. Planned our route southeast-wards. Kept a keen eye on the weather. Decided to leave here around noon today to head to Austin, Texas, for Christmas. Overnight low here around 29°F, the southeast is in the grip of a very chilly period and we want to get through it ASAP. Geared ourselves up for the 1,400 mile trip, giving ourselves 3-4 days of interstate driving, with stops as needed.

 

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
in Lake Bistineau State Park, Minden, LA

Said goodbye to Craig at 11:00am on Monday, after reviewing the weather forecast for various route options: (i) I-95 south to Jacksonville, then I-10 west. (ii) I-95 south to Columbia, then I-20 west. (iii) I-85 west to Atlanta, then I-20 west. Checked out road construction through the Rand McNally wesbite. Option (i): the warmest route but loaded with construction projects, part of I-10 closed near New Orleans. Also this route is 120 miles longer than option (iii).  Option (ii) looked slightly warmer and only 25 miles longer than option (iii). Decided to go with (iii), minimal construction and shortest, and not much colder than option (ii). Headed west to pick up I-85, and drove through Greensboro and Charlotte to Atlanta. Arrived there around 7:30pm, so decided to take the direct route through town. Found a gross reminder of the truism "When you build it, they will come." Eight lanes of traffic in both directions, jammed. Yuk! Atlanta has become the LA of the east, despite its MARTA, with cars-cars-cars on roads-roads-roads everywhere.

From Atlanta, turned off onto I-20 going west and at 8:30pm pulled into a Flying-J Truck Stop about 30 miles west of the City. 437 miles for day 1 . Made supper and turned into bed, running the generator to power the microwave and ceramic heater. Turned on the tank warmers to protect against freezing during the night, 26°F the overnight low. Departed the truck stop at 5:00am and drove west on I-20 through Birmingham, AL, and into Louisiana. Decided to stop for the night in a State Park, and picked Lake Bistineau, just east of Shreveport. Arrived there around 4:20pm (CST now) and settled in. 546 miles for day 2 . Lovely park, though the lake is temporarily drained, great campground and facilities, and only a few other campers. Louisiana has to be the best value for money so far for camping, and some of the nicest spacious and well-kept campsites. Cooked dinner and breathed in the quiet beauty, the trees, and no sounds but birds. Feels great to be back!

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2005
in McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

Left Lake Bistineau at 7:30am and drove round Shreveport towards the Texas border. Hundreds of white pelicans wintering on an adjacent lake, a splendid sight. Stopped at the Texas Welcome Center to load up on maps, brochures, etc. Found that the Center did not sell maps of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, and we needed to go to Bryan to pick them up at the Cooperative Extension Bookstore on the campus of Texas A&M University. Thankfully it's sort of on the way to Austin. Abandoned our plan to go through Crawford and wave at the Bush ranch, and headed southwest on SR 43, to SR 79 through Henderson and Palestine, then south on SR 190, taking the Old San Antonio Road (OSR) to SR 21 and the University. Found the bookstore (a distribution center) and purchased our maps. Back onto SR 21 towards Austin, then SR 79, and south on SR183 to this park, arriving just before 6:00pm. Park office closed for the day, so drove around the campground and picked a spacious quiet spot near the bath-house. 374 miles today, total trip from Raleigh was 1,357 miles.

 

Friday, December 30, 2005
in driveway at Andrea and Chuck's house, Austin, TX

A week ago Thursday, we spent the day at McKinney Falls. We woke to find a deer with a gammy foot grazing beside us. After an overnight low of 28°F, the day warmed up to mid 60's, not a cloud in sight. We began to thaw out. Got the bikes down and explored the park on foot and by wheel. This is a lovely spot. Registered at the park office, and bought the book Birding Texas. This is the birdiest state in the US, and we're excited about it! Along the Onion Creek trail found two ruby-crested kinglets facing off with crests up. Quite beautiful. Did some reorganizing of Clemmie, set off by finding a convenient spot for the new toaster we bought somewhere along the way when talking about breakfast. We've managed so far without one, but finally broke down. What is life, after all, without toast?

Last Friday we drove the 6 short miles to Andrea and Chuck's, and "anchored" in their nice flat driveway. Friends Don and Carolyn from Richmond, and their daughter Danielle from Houston, arrived on Christmas Day for a great through brief reunion. We did a bit of sight seeing with them on Boxing Day (Monday) and feel like we've had a busy week here. Among other items, we visited the LBJ Memorial Library, and ate Texas Barbecue at the Salt Lick, south of Austin. Great food after an hour's wait. Many walks and/or bike rides along Town Lake and Zilker Park, checking out the ducks. Two new ones: Gadwalls and little Lesser Scaups. Heard a scrabbling in the shrubs at our doorstep on the side of the driveway one morning, an armadillo digging. With much help from Andrea, Pat is finally getting launched on learning how to quilt, as an alternative hobby (if she can ever find time away from this dratted website).

We expect to leave here on Sunday, stop overnight in Houston at Danielle's, and then head to Galveston and the Gulf Coast to do some serious birding, and get some beach time on the way to Brownsville, at which point we follow the Rio Grande into Big Bend National Park.

Click here to continue reading about our travels during 2006

 

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