Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cheri and I Camp in New England

Monday, May 4, 2009
Out trip is only two weeks away, and I've set up this blog so folks can keep up with what is happening with us during the trip. This will be my first time uploading content directly from the trip and I am curious to see how that changes things. In the past I have kept my diary on paper and transcribed it, and made it readable, after getting back home. I will try to convince Cheri to take a hand in this blog from time to time as a service to the followers, but she has told me she prefers sticking to old school pen and paper.If you haven't heard the story of this trip yet; it goes something like this. Cheri and I are in our fifties and enjoy many activities during our vacations that we hope to pursue in our retirement, but we're not yet in a financial position to do that. On the other hand, we see that our ability to enjoy many of our favorite activities is declining as we age, so we hit upon a plan to take a little piece of retirement each year (pending financial ability) and this trip is our first little piece. I've been known to steal some time away during vacations for bicycle and kayak trips in the past, mostly on my own, and reporting those diaries; this will be the first with Cheri, and the first by automobile.
We're keeping the itinerary pretty open but we do have some concrete plans that I'll record here for you:
We depart from our island home of 28 years on Maui on May 16th heading for Michigan and family. We keep our camping gear and bicycles at my boyhood home and farm in Hemlock, MI where my brother farms and my mother still resides, so we'll load the rental car with all of our stuff and hit the road for Annapolis, MD.
Thursday, May 21 we should be camped near DC and in place to attend the Commissioning (Graduation) ceremonies for my niece Maile Cornish at the US Naval Academy on Friday, May 22nd. We'll do the tourist thing in DC for a few days after the ceremony and spend Memorial Day in our nation's capitol.
Tuesday, May 26th, we'll head for North Carolina, spend a few days camping in and seeing the Outer Banks before visiting my brother and his family in the central part of the state over the weekend.
Sometime the week of June 2nd we'll be camped in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western Carolina and/or Virginia before following the Blue Ridge Parkway north through the Shenandoah Valley on our way north.
The rest of June we'll hit the city of Boston, eat some lobster in Maine, see the White Mountains in New Hampshire, watch some freighters on the St. Lawrence Seaway (Cheri's favorite diversion), all before crossing Ontario on the way back to Michigan.
Back to Hemlock to visit family, kayak with my brother, and another camping trip with Cheri's family in a Michigan State Park before returning home to Maui
Anticipation II
Sunday, May 10, 2009
It's starting to hit home now, by this time next week we'll be on our way. Cheri asked me to print out our itinerary and preparations are starting to become more urgent. I'm starting to try to think of things that should be done here in person rather than over the phone or via network, and the list is surprisingly small, communication tools being what they are today.I was successful in an eBay auction this morning, and I think I bought a tandem kayak from a guy in Columbus, Ohio. The key is waiting until the last twenty seconds, and then bidding at least twice the minimum. I've been hoping to find a decent kayak in the $600 range, and I bid $680 on a really good boat made by Necky. I'm going through the process of verifying my ability to pay for it through Paypal, eBay’s answer to credit cards. Picking it up in Columbus will add just a few miles to our drive to Annapolis, but it will also bring us close enough to Circleville, OH where we used to live, to stop by and see what has changed in twenty-eight years.
Departure Day
Saturday, May 16, 2009
We're off to an inauspicious start with our flight leaving Maui delayed two hours by a medical emergency on the in-bound equipment. I guess it was lucky we had two and a half hours of stop-over in Dallas, and we made our connection and luckily, our luggage did too. It was the first two bags off the plane in Detroit, so it was probably a close call...they were probably throwing it on board just as the doors were closing. But we were on time into Detroit and got to Cheri's brother's place and went out to Famous Dave's BBQ for lunch before heading north to Mason and Cheri’s folks place. We got a very nice Nissan Pathfinder from Alamo so we should be pretty comfortable during our road trip. I put my Garmin on first thing and immediately discovered its deficiencies when confronted with so many ways to get there from here. I guess we'll keep using maps to get close to our destination, and let the Garmin help out with the last few miles. A light dinner and nice visit took us to the point where we couldn't keep our eyes open any more and sleep was welcome.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Cheri was up early and went off with her Dad to deliver meals-on-wheels while I slept in. I worked on line for a few hours to catch up with some loose ends and headed north for Hemlock after lunch. Nice to see my Mom again and after some time to catch up, it's out to my brother's shop to get the bicycles in shape. We'll load the Pathfinder with all our camping gear tomorrow and throw the bikes on for an afternoon pedal and shakedown when we go to the store for items we didn't bring, or decided to buy here to save precious luggage room. Now that the airlines are so tight with baggage space, we have to be more aware of those limitations.My brother Skip, and Lenda, and their daughter and grand kids came for dinner so a good time was had by all, and later I helped Skip (mostly moral support) install a new drive belt on Mom's lawnmower. We walked around the barns, inspected the crops close by, visited the hog pen and even got Mom's swing out of winter storage and set it up on the deck so it can be used as the weather warms up. It was really cold overnight, Skip had said a hard frost was coming, and we saw frost on the windshield before the sun cleared it. The corn looks a little brown on the top edges of the first leaf but will likely recover all right. The worst thing about coming here is that Skip is still loyal to his Pioneer seed corn dealer, and I hate seeing their products on the fame.
Graduation / Commissioning
Friday, May 22, 2009
Sorry. I've been to busy too blog for a couple days, but now I'm at the house in Annapolis that my brother-in-law rented for the party. It's a very nice place close to the harbor where many visitors are bunking in, and they are hosting a Tex-Mex party to celebrate the Commissioning. The ceremony was very nice, though also very long with more than an hour of speeches and about three and a half hours to call the graduates up to receive their diplomas and shake President Obama's hand. His speech was on point and very moving, and the fly over by the Blue Angels (Navy Precision Flying team) was fabulous. Cheri and I elected to camp nearby instead of adding our number to the group at the house and I'll talk more about that site and our stay there next time. We came here last night for dinner after setting up camp, and then returned after braving the traffic to attend the ceremony at the Navy and Marine Corp Memorial Stadium. But I haven't told the story of our journey from Michigan so let me back up a bit...
We had an enjoyable visit with Cheri's Mom and Dad in Mason and made it to my Mom's house Monday afternoon after waking up to frost on the windshield. I was surprised by the lack of farming that has been done up to now throughout lower Michigan. I knew it had been wet, but very little tillage or planting has been done yet. Skip (my brother, the farmer) planted some no-till beans on Tuesday, but he's ahead of most of his peers, due mainly to his no-till equipment. Tuesday was mostly packing up and deciding what to take, and pretty soon we had the Pathfinder full to the roof, not to mention the bikes on their rack on the back.
We left first thing Wednesday for Annapolis by way of Columbus to pick up the kayak, and the Garmin put us off course again, so it took forty-five minutes longer than it should have. When we arrived and saw the kayak that is now ours, I was overjoyed! It is basically brand new, and just exactly what I would have wanted. I spent a little more than I was hoping but we got way more than I had expected in terms of quality. We'll see how it is when we get time to put it in the water, but I was really happy leaving Columbus with it on the top of our SUV. We also stopped at a kayak shop Matt (the seller) suggested and bought PFD's and paddles for another two hundred bucks, but now we're ready to go. We left Columbus at rush hour, and later lost a half-hour to someone else’s accident on I-70 East, but ate dinner at the Bridge Tavern and Grill in Wheeling, and made it to Morgantown, West Virginia before retiring for the night at about 10:00PM. Almost every hotel room in the city was taken, but we got a place at Friend's Inn that was barely adequate, and the bed was hard as a rock.
Leaving Morgantown, the Garmin was again giving strange directions, but we found an IHOP and had breakfast before finding the freeway. We had some shopping yet to do before we got to the campground, and again the Garmin was little help, but I needed a neck-tie, or so I had been told, for the ceremony, and a lock for the kayak; but we arrived at the Greenbelt National Park just outside the Washington, DC beltway about 1:45PM and set up the tent and our screen-house. While we were busy, a lady came by complaining about ticks she had found under her clothing and asking us if we noticed any, which worried Cheri a bit, but we finished our work and got cleaned up and headed for Annapolis. We had learned to find our way without the Garmin until the last few miles because it couldn't stand to have us driving on the freeway. I finally figured it out the next morning, as again it led us onto rural, but slower routes; there is a setting that tells the Garmin whether you are driving a car, riding a bike, or walking, and I had set it on bicycle, so naturally it didn't route us on any limited access highway! We'll see if that doesn't fix our problems with it.
Cornishes are serving a wonderful Tex-Mex dinner as I write; I've sampled a bit, so I'm going to get busy and party and bid you good-by for another day. Congratulations to Maile on her graduation and commissioning as an Ensign, and to the Navy for a wonderful officer.
Washington, DC
We had a great couple days in Washington, DC. On Saturday, we and the Cornish clan all went into the city and we walked our butts off. From the Metro station near the Smithsonian to the Washington Monument, on to the WWII Memorial, to the Lincoln Memorial, to the Viet Nam Memorial which was so choke with people that we just gazed from afar. Then over to the White House, and then back to the Smithsonian American History, then the Natural History, then Kevin wanted the Air and Space, but Cheri and I opted out and went back to Annapolis for one last evening with family. Sunday they are all leaving for West Virginia and some white-water rafting, while we will stay in DC another two days.
Sunday we slept in and had a nice breakfast at the Silver Diner before taking the bikes in and parking at Rock Creek Park. There is bike path all the way into the mall area, and we rode to the rear of the Lincoln Memorial before we got stopped by a parade of the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle clubs from all over the US. Thousands of bikes, mostly Harley-Davidson, but all kinds, and more facial hair than any other event in history. We finally walked our bikes down under the bridge and went over to the Korean War Memorial where Cheri's Dad served. There were people wall-to-wall, not to mention the motorcyclists everywhere. We rode back to the truck, probably seven or eight miles, and it was hard on Cheri because of the bike and pedestrian traffic on the path and sidewalks. Back to camp for a nap and some reading before going back to the Silver Diner for dinner. The campground is filling up this afternoon, and its nice here except there are some ticks and chiggers to watch out for, and no electricity for the computer/phone, camera batteries. I had a tick on my hand that Cheri noticed at breakfast, and she had found a few others too.
Monday we jumped on the Metro again, we're old hands now, and went into the Smithsonian and spent the day at American History and later a few hours at the Air and Space Museum. Everybody that's been to one of these knows that four or five hours only hits the high spots, so we left a lot unseen, but we got a good taste of each and really enjoyed the day. We hit a laundry to catch up on clothes, and I did some computer work before catching dinner at the TGIFridays across from the park. Great food and I caught up on my work too. Back at the camp it had rained some, but was just dripping off the trees at 10:00PM. Cheri headed off to bed while I hooked up to update this blog. Tomorrow we head for North Carolina and the outer banks. 'Night.
The Storm
It was raining on and off as we prepared for bed Monday night so we “battened down the hatches” and were so lucky we did, because when we awoke early in the morning, a storm was RAGING. It was raining like it had to get forty days worth in the next hour with thunder and lightning crashing all around us. We were just waiting for the roof of the tent to fall in, or water to run in through the walls, but we stayed dry until morning, though we slept little after the storm began.
We got up about 6:30 and had a Spartan breakfast before starting to take down. Everything was soaked completely through with mud splashed up the walls of both tents; we use two tents; one for sleeping and a screened portico for eating and other activities. Packing a wet tent is a major pain, but we got through it and hit the road about 10:00AM after finding a Starbucks for Cheri’s caffeine fix.
It rained on and off until we got to Portsmouth, VA but it wasn’t a bad drive. I went on line in the car to scope out places to camp and reserved a site at Cape Woods in Buxton on Hatteras Island, right near the famous lighthouse. One of the memories Cheri will have of this trip is me riding shotgun with a blanket over my head to shut out the light so I can see the computer screen. We stopped on the way for lunch at a southern institution called the Waffle House (Cheri’s first time ever), and after getting into North Carolina, stopped at a farm market and bought beautiful Georgia peaches, fresh sweet corn, tomatoes, and home-made bread. I wished my brother, Skip, had been with us to see the collection of old tractors at this place. There was a steel wheeled John Deere one-cylinder, and the oldest Allis CA I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s still in service.
We got to Camp Woods on Cape Hatteras Island about 6:00pm and started the slow process of setting up wet tents and hanging stuff up to dry even though there is a rule prohibiting clotheslines. The campground is nice, clean, and we have a grassy site next to the pond so we get serenaded every night by the creatures that live there. Dinner was vegetarian and delicious, just corn, tomatoes and bread. Simple yet fabulous (We bought a pepper mill and sea salt grinder which helped). It was a good night for sleeping in the tent, a light rain towards morning, but good sleeping weather.
We drove up the island a few miles and put the kayak in on the sound-side (versus the ocean-side of the island) for a short paddle. We got stuck a couple times in shallow water, and the boat weathervaned pretty severely in the fresh breeze, but it was fun. It started to rain just as we were getting back to the truck so I was soaked again before getting back to camp. After a great sandwich with that awesome bread and a nap, we rode the bikes two miles to the lighthouse. We didn’t climb the 258 stairs but enjoyed the visit, watched the movie about moving it from its original position which was threatened be shoreline erosion. We had another sandwich for dinner, BLT with the rest of the bread and fresh tomatoes, so yummy!
Hatteras, N.C.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Pancakes and bacon for breakfast on Wednesday, so it seems like real camping; at home we mostly get ourselves cereal or something, but I like to cook a traditional breakfast when we’re camping. Blueberry pancakes are the favorite, but having come earlier than past years, blueberries are not yet ripe anywhere but California or Florida, and those imports don’t cut it with us. I decided on a solo bicycle ride this morning, to get some cardio in; I love Cheri, but riding with her doesn’t get my heart up to speed. I headed north about fifteen miles and stopped in Avon, what used to be called Kinnakeet, on the way back for a soda and to check out the local bike shop there. After my visit and soda, as I was leaving the shopping center, a spoke in my rear wheel broke, so I turned back and asked the shop mechanic to fix it. He did so, but also warned me that there is a hairline crack in that rim, so I’d better not count on it for too many more miles. That will work for me as long as it lasts out this trip, so we’ll see.
After some time to read and lunch, we had a visit from Judy, who Cheri had met earlier in the day at the camp laundry, and we had a nice conversation. They are from north central N.C. and retired, but we seemed to have much in common. We then decided to check out the south end on the island, and found ourselves at the Frisco Native American Museum, which was pretty useless in my book. Too many beads and broken pottery and not much information. We ducked out of the museum and tried their nature trail, which is little more than a maze back in the trees, and couldn’t get out of Frisco fast enough. We went on south to Hatteras but the Shipwreck Museum we were interested in (a tip from Judy) was closed so we settled for a walk on the beach.
We had picked up some local fish at the Seafood Market, tilefish, and stopped for some vegetables that I made into a pretty good hash, and I fried it and the fish in leftover bacon grease, and everything was delicious. I also talked to my brother, Rob, by phone and we are all set for our visit to Charlotte tomorrow through Sunday. I tried again without success to hook up to Monsanto. I’m easily able to access this blog site, but I’m having all kinds of trouble with the Monsanto firewall; maybe because the connection here is unstable, but I really need to get that working. Maybe in the next place.
North Carolina Beyersdorfs
Monday, June 01, 2009
We packed up from Cape Woods Campground on Friday and headed south toward Ocracoke Island, simply because we want to see it, and Cheri wants to ride the ferries. There will be two; a free ride from Hatteras to Ocracoke, and a toll ferry from Ocracoke over to Cedar Island which connects to the mainland by bridge. It would only take an hour to drive back north to Nags Head to bridge to the mainland, and we would be closer to brother Rob’s house, our destination tonight, but we don’t do that. It’s a perfect day, and we get packed and down to Hatteras to catch the 10:00 ferry and all is well; we arrive at Ocracoke at 11:00 and find that the next ferry to Cedar Island sails at 2:00PM, so we walk around town, have a nice Spanish mackerel fish sandwich for lunch at The Jolly Roger Bar & Grill, waste some time in the Ocracoke Museum, and were aboard the ferry and away at the appointed hour. Mind you, this two and a half hour ferry ride is actually taking us further away from our destination tonight, but we go blithely on, after all, it was only a fifteen dollar fare.
Just as we’re pulling into Cedar Island we see in the distance a herd of feral horses running down the beach, a beautiful sight indeed. We set off for Charlotte about 4:30PM, a mere six hours or more to go, but we won’t need to set up tents, and Rob has been notified of our ETA. We stop at a White Swan BBQ place for dinner, and we don’t recognize it at first because it is housed with a gas station, a situation oft repeated in these parts, but the food is pretty good, and very inexpensive. We finally arrive at Rob’s place, a beautiful old home in Kannapolis, northeast of Charlotte, at about 10:30PM and then have some refreshments and talk on into the night, a very enjoyable time.
On Saturday we have a leisurely morning before driving the few blocks to the lab that Rob is setting up here in Kannapolis, it is in a beautiful campus being developed here as an industry/academic interactive area. They are one of the first users, and their lab is only partially functional so far, but the campus is really nice, and the central building is gorgeous architecturally with Koa tables direct from Hawaii in the central areas, and Italian marble floors and a frescoed dome ceiling. It is really something. That afternoon we go to a theater nearby in an area adjacent to the campus that is being rejuvenated and see “Night At The Museum II” for three bucks a piece, and then drive to Raleigh to meet Annette and Katie (Rob’s wife and daughter) for dinner at YoHo Japanese Grill. We stay at the townhouse they live in for the night in preparation for a drive to Fayetteville (actually Hope Mills) in the morning to visit our niece, Vickie, who is a teacher there. Janet and Matt, Rob and Annette’s other two kids will meet us there. The movie was apropos because it is set in the Smithsonian where we had visited only a week prior.
We get a late start the next morning, first waiting for Katie to wake up, she’s a teenager and can sleep all day if allowed, and later Annette and Cheri were having such a nice conversation, neither Rob nor I wanted to disturb them, since Annette won’t be going with us to Vickie’s. We stop at a Bojangles for lunch so Cheri and I can experience that constant of North Carolina life and reach Vickie’s house early afternoon. Janet and her boyfriend, Richard, are already there with Vickie and her roommate, Becky. Richard’s body is a tattoo artist’s canvas with beads and studs and other accoutrements thrown in for good measure, and he is a bright and engaging guy to talk to, as unconventional as he looks. Vickie and Becky’s house is a cute little ranch in a relatively new neighborhood close to the school where they both work. It is immaculate inside and out, Becky’s handiwork, I am sure. It reminds me of the house we had in Circleville thirty years ago and we spend the afternoon talking of times gone by before finally heading back toward Kannapolis, some two and a half hours distant.
We were looking for a spot for dinner during the drive when I remarked that very few of the BBQ places you see here are the bar and grill variety, whereas in Hawaii, that was the only place you could find that style of food. Not twenty minutes later we happen upon a bar and grill called Shooter’s and they have good BBQ; the exception that proves the rule as the saying goes. We get back to Rob’s, have some wine, and prepare for the next day; Rob traveling on business, Cheri and I heading for the North Carolina mountains.
North Carolina Mountains
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
We chose to head toward Lake Lure on the basis of reports Rob had heard and a little internet surfing I was able to do Sunday evening. I got a little over-cautious and reserved a campsite at River Creek even though it was a few miles from the lake itself. We stopped first at a Wal-Mart in Mooresville to deal with some picture printing Cheri wanted to do to send various family members, and then drove to Lake Lure and River Creek Campground. We were pleased with the campground in general, and the tent sites in particular which were down close to the creek and had platforms out over the water a few feet, and 10’ by 30’ awnings over the tent area. But we also were told that there was no public access to Lake Lure, so we decided to stay only one night, and further decided that putting up either of our tents would be wasted effort, and we could sleep under the stars, sort of, so long as we could do that also being under the awning. I had purchased a new gas grill from Wal-Mart and used it to grill some burgers for dinner, with some salad and wine it was a very pleasant evening.
It was pretty quick loading up with no tents to take down and we left River Creek and headed back to Lake Lure. We stopped at the Lake Lure Resort and Spa, and then found the visitor center and to find out if we could put the kayak in the water, and were told that we could, provided we paid for a permit. We also found that there was a boat tour of the lake for a few dollars more, and since we didn’t want to spend the time on both, we opted for the tour, and enjoyed it very much. We learned much of the history, and saw more of the lake than we could have managed by kayak in a few hours. Then we headed for the Lake James area that I had heard about on line and got to the town of Marion ready for some lunch. We passed by the usual joints on the outskirts and ended up right downtown without having found anything we liked, so we parked and started walking down the street and came to Bruce’s Catering and Diner and found one of the jewels of the trip. Bruce turned out to be a very upbeat fellow from the Cleveland area who had moved to Marion and opened a catering business, and later succumbed to pressure from his customers to open a lunch spot. We found an eclectic menu with many interesting dishes available and both of us were extremely happy with our choices; BBQ chicken with slaw wrapped in a tortilla and grilled served with ham and bean soup for me, and a spinach and feta pita served with dilled red potato salad for Cheri, and cheesecake, Bruce’s specialty for desert. Everything was great and we really enjoyed the server as well as Bruce himself and his wife, both of whom stopped at our table to be sure we were satisfied with everything.
From the restaurant, we called a few places I had found on line, and there didn’t appear to be anything on the water, so we decided on a place way up in the mountains north of Marion, and finally found Bear Den Campground at about 3,000 feet elevation and a very nice, but mostly empty campground. We’ve decided to stay here two nights to do some hiking here tomorrow and move on to Virginia on Thursday. We’ve also decided that with the good weather forecast, we’re going to put up only the screened tent and try sleeping in that instead of putting up the second tent just for sleeping. I’ll let you know how that goes tomorrow if I can hook up.
Bear Den Mountain and Blue Ridge Parkway
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
We decided on a mountain hike this morning, and even though the map from the park was pretty worthless, but we packed some water and jackets and set off. We went down a long and tortuous downhill about a mile later and crossed a small creek and found the park service road as expected, and there was a wooden sign with a trail map engraved, though still minimal, and not in complete agreement with our park’s offering. We went on and almost immediately found that the trail before us matches neither map, but we go on for lack of other trails and after a long tortuous downhill, we crossed a creek (expected from map #1) but on the other side, we can’t identify the trail. There are orange paint marks on trees that lead across another creek, or the other way up a hill, but there have been no orange marks on the trail we’ve been following, so it seems that we are intersecting with a new trail. The map from the park had shown three creek crossings but not two trails, so we opted to cross the creek using a large tree trunk that spanned it. It was slow going, but we got across and found paint leading up a difficult climb, then one mark at the top but no others and no obvious trail. We went back across and tried the other direction which lead us across another creek and up a long slope and finally to a forest service road. We followed that uphill about a quarter-mile before we noticed some familiar things, and then came back to the same engraved sign. Now we knew where we were, but hadn’t reached the overlook we’d been promised; now Cheri was developing a blister and we were both tired, so we went back to camp for lunch and a much needed rest.
The afternoon was very restful, a book for me, and picture sorting, etc. for Cheri. We drove to the camp store and bought bacon and a half-dozen eggs which were used with some left over vegetables in a scramble for dinner. As we finished our meal, the rain started, slowly at first, but picking up intensity as the night wore on. By bedtime, it was coming down pretty good, and later the sound on top of the tent was too loud for any sleeping. I guess it let off, or I grew used to the noise, but I do remember waking up, so I must have slept. The rain had stopped, and we were dry and warm, but again had to pack up a wet tent.
We got away about 10:30AM and decided to spend our day on the Blue Ridge Parkway; essentially a national park 340 miles long with some of the best scenic views in America. Today started with heavy fog in many areas; later in the day it improved but we never got to what I would call good visibility. It was still beautiful in spots, and we saw a wild turkey up close, a deer, a raccoon, and later Cheri claimed a couple more turkeys, but I don’t believe her, just like that bear in northern Michigan so many years ago.
As we approached Roanoke, the rain started in again, and we decided to get on the freeway and put some miles behind us. We also decided to get a reasonable motel to dodge the weather and have a nice evening, a nice dry evening with dinner at a Chiles restaurant and an Econolodge in Staunton with warm showers and dry beds, and no wet tent to pack in the morning. At 11:00PM we are sitting across from each other at the small table; dueling laptops.
Travel Day, and Again.
Thursday, June 5, 2009
So it was still raining when we got up on Thursday, or maybe again, but in any case it wasn’t going to be a good day to see the Shenandoah National Park by driving the Skyline Trail which is what we had planned. Should we tour the caverns and stay here another day, or put some long miles behind us and head northeast? We had breakfast in a Waffle House and decided to put some miles behind us. Perhaps we’ve short-changed the Shenandoah Valley, but it would be hard to top the Blue Ridge Parkway we saw yesterday, even with the bad weather.
It rained all day, then east of Scranton, PA it started to let up, but then came back again, so we kept driving until we got to Danbury CT and ran into some heavy traffic, and decided we wouldn’t get much out of continuing, and found another motel, this one called the Microtel, and our suite was great for $75.00. We also found a nice place for dinner called the New Colony Diner, and the food was great, and plentiful. We waddled back to our motel and started talking about things to see and do in Boston, and where to camp nearby. Boston was on our preliminary itinerary because Cheri had mentioned early on that we should see it on the way past, but there wasn’t anything in particular that drew her and in our searching, she came across a campground on Martha’s Vineyard, and we started talking about doing that instead of the city. It would be expensive at $50 a night to camp and $170 for the car ferry from Wood’s Hole, but so would the city, and when would we ever get the chance again?
We made reservations and drove about four hours to Wood’s Hole, arrived exactly when the Garmin predicted at the start of the day, and ended up at Martha’s Vineyard Family Camping in Tisdale (aka Vineyard Haven). We’re all set up and comfortable though the temperature can’t be much above 60 degrees at 9:00PM as I’m blogging. We had a great dinner of BLTs and sweet corn and we’ll settle down to read and blog. It will be chilly tonight, but the forecast is for good weather and we plan on a nice morning paddle on the Edgartown Great Pond tomorrow and some bicycling in the afternoon. Happy dreams.
Martha’s Vineyard
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Boy, it was cold last night! We were fine in the tent with the faux down comforter and flannel sheet, but it was cold. We stayed in the warm bed longer than we might otherwise, but the sun was out so we had pancakes and sausage and headed out to have a paddle. We found the boat launch Dan (campground owner) had suggested and had a good time. There were swans, geese, and ducks in abundance and as we were coming back to the launch, we played tag with an otter. Again the breeze was a bit of a problem in controlling the kayak but we managed all right. There is just about a hundred feet separating the pond from the ocean, and it was clear that at high tide with some waves, it had been breached, but for us it was very calm and a good safe place; a few boats out fishing or sightseeing, but no problems at all.
We got back to camp for a sandwich and some quiet time. Cheri went off to do some laundry while I read and took a short nap. By bedtime I would finish my current book, The Hunt Club by Lescroart, which had followed Dark Lady by R. N. Patterson, a couple of my favorite authors. Next up is Digital Fortress by Dan Brown. I think I’ve finished six so far in three weeks, but after this one, I have to find a book store, hopefully used to save money.
We got on the bikes about 4:00PM and rode into Vineyard Haven and walked around a bit, visited a couple shops, then came back to camp the long way through Oak Bluffs, a total of maybe ten miles, but a little more rolling than Cheri is used too. She did just fine but said her legs felt like rubber when we got back. We had stopped at the shop in Edgarton on the way home from paddling and bought some fresh cod and green beans for dinner. As is our custom, I’m the head chef, and Cheri the dish washer, and the chef prepared good meal with the beans steamed for a while, then sautéed in a little bacon grease while the lightly seasoned and floured fish sautéed as well. We also had a bottle of wine, a New Zealand Pinot Gris from Springback vineyard. We have started a collection of wine labels that Cheri hopes to use to decoupage a pupu table when we return, so now as we look for a wine to drink, we give preference to those with interesting labels. We had a bottle of Three Blind Moose Riesling at Bear Den Mountain, and we bought a couple more already that I’ll mention as we drink them.
After dinner, we walked down to the bath house to brush teeth and get rid of the days garbage, a daily task to avoid drawing raccoons and skunks to our site, both of which have been spotted here as with most campgrounds. We sat in the screen porch reading, but there were a good number of large bugs, June bugs I think, that managed to get in under the sides and came buzzing around and drove Cheri a little crazy. I must admit that I wasn’t much help as an exterminator because I was too busy laughing at her antics, dancing around and swinging our little broom at them. She finally called it quits and left the June bugs and I to humor each other.
It wasn’t as cold overnight, but still close to 60 degrees for the low. We got up for cereal, fruit, and yogurt this morning and then hung out in camp enjoying the sunshine in the morning and working on our computers; Cheri doing pictures and email, and I caught up on some work. At about 11:00AM we took a drive to a remote corner of the island called Menemsha, a little fishing village where we found a little shack right on the docks that sold fish and had a small lunch counter where we each had a lobster roll and I had a cup of lobster bisque. The rolls were good, and the bisque was fantastic, and not too pricey at about $23.00 total with an iced tea to split. We walked around there and then drove a bit doing the tourist thing; there are some pretty impressive cliffs nearby and a lighthouse, and we inspected another place we’d like to paddle tomorrow called Enmesh Pond. We stopped at another shop next door to the first and bought a couple scallops and two sole fillets stuffed with crab; the folks there were really nice and even gave us some ice to keep it fresh as we toured. We have found mostly very nice people wherever we’ve gone on this trip, the Aloha spirit is alive and well all across America as far as we can tell.
Cheri wanted to go shopping again after our little tour, and I wanted to ride the bike, so she drove while I rode into Oak Bluffs to meet her. She had a disappointing coffee drink before I arrived, but we had a nice hour of perfect weather for walking around town, stopped at a wine shop because the grocery stores can’t sell alcohol, and then headed back to camp to open a bottle of Dry Creek Vineyard (CA) Fume Blanc, eat some crackers with lobster spread from that same little shop, then had our scallops and stuffed sole with a salad. Another great meal and healthy too. Cheri spent an hour gathering wood for a campfire later, and another hour trying to barricade the screen tent from our little friends. We’ll see how that goes as we read and blog until our first campfire and then bed.
Maine – Finally
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
We didn’t get around to the campfire last night, we were reading until Cheri got tired and decided to go to bed early. It was, I think, too cold for our little June-bug friends, so we don’t know whether the barricades worked or not, there just weren’t any bugs around at all, and it was cold. It started raining again in the early morning hours and it was still cold, I thought it might snow, but maybe I’m overly sensitive. Our last full day in Martha’s was supposed to start with a paddle, but we didn’t want to risk hypothermia, so hung around camp for a while, and then drove to Edgartown for a museum and some shopping. The museum wasn’t open until mid-June according to the sign and we decided not to wait. We shopped in the rain and found the cutest shop of all things frog, and picked up some gifts to send to Uncle Rob, our favorite frog lover; the coolest one is a sign that says: “Frog Parking Only – All Others Will Be Toad.” We had the perfect lunch table at a little place called MacPhail’s Corner Café where we watched it rain sitting in wing chairs in front of a window eating very tasty Panini sandwiches; turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce for me, and tuna for Cheri. We drove back the long way via Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven and stopped at a fish market called John’s to pick up crab cakes and a small piece of flounder for dinner.
We finished off the Fume Blanc and had another good meal with the crab cakes and flounder, and I fried some canned potatoes to have with them. I spent the better part of an hour steaming and scraping the labels off two wine bottles and a root beer bottle from lunch yesterday. The previously laid fire was all wet. So I took out the wettest stuff and got some paper up at the office and laid it again. We had seen our neighbors in town, and again when we returned, young folks that had hiked in with their gear, and had invited them to share our fire, if and when. I managed to get a fire going, and Dave and Jessica came over a little later and we had a very pleasant evening.
The day dawned pleasantly enough, not raining, but our tents were not completely dry as we started taking down. We had a 1:30PM reservation on the ferry back to Wood’s Hole so there was plenty of time to get things packed into the Pathfinder, and we took our time and were in the showers by about noon. We got to the ferry office by 12:15 and did some last minute shopping, Cheri wanted a Martha’s Vineyard T-shirt, and I wanted some Mad Martha’s ice cream and we both got our wish, and Cheri got a Beetlebung coffee besides.
We still wanted to stop in Boston; we had heard the Freedom Trail mentioned a number of times, so we set the Garmin for Boston Commons. On the way we stopped at a place called “99”, who claimed there were that many reasons to eat there, and we found two, good food, and free popcorn. We took a Cheri-bag of popcorn with us and got into Boston about 4:45PM; exactly the wrong time apparently, because the parking garage charged us $30.00 for three hours, I think they charge by the day until 5:00PM but oh well. We took our bikes thinking that we could make better time between monuments, but wrong again; we ended up walking them 95% of the time, oh well. By the time we got to Paul Revere’s house, we had had enough of the trail, and on the way back we found a cool little shop in little Italy that made pasta, and we bought some lobster raviolis to take with us. We hit the road again and drove as far as Biddeford, Maine where Cheri had found us a motel for $50.00. and we celebrated by eating at Olive Garden.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
We wanted to visit Kennebunkport, where George Bush Sr. has his summer home, so we back-tracked five miles and found a place to park to walk around town. We stopped at a place called H.P. Provision Company that looked like, and was a grocery, but they had a few tables and a limited menu, but we had the best breakfast of the trip there. Cheri had stuffed lemon French toast with raspberry sauce that was to die for, and I had home made corned beef hash that was excellent. We stopped at a kayak shop in town and Cheri bought a fleece pull-over for paddling, and we got some intel about kayaking where we were headed. We also learned about the severe tide action here in Maine that could have implications on our ability to get in the water at certain times of the tide cycle. We drove by the Bush property on the way out, having received directions from some folks at H.P. Provision and headed north.
We had picked out a couple campgrounds on line that looked interesting, but the first, called Recompense was a dive and we made the decision in about three minutes not to stay there. On to the second on our list called Chewonki near Wiscasset, ME which is where we decided to stay. The site we chose has a wooden pavilion big enough to put our sleeping tent under for the rain forecast that night, and sits on a bluff overlooking an estuary with walking access to the water and a beautiful view that just blew us away. We paid way too much for the privilege but we have the best site in Maine for the next week. We got set up and then went down and put the kayak in the water and went for a short paddle. This place is perfect!
Friday, June 12, 2009
The forecast came true overnight and it was raining in the morning, so after a cereal, fruit, and yogurt breakfast, we headed back to Freeport to visit Cheri’s holy of holies; L.L.Bean. I have to admit, it is one of the cleanest most interesting stores I’ve ever been in and we found the people working there to be cheerful and helpful in every case. I went over to the bike and kayak department and had a fifteen minute conversation with a very knowledgeable salesman about loaded touring bicycles, and drooled over the kayaks upstairs. I ran into Cheri in the home department and she was happy as a kid in the candy store, looking at stuff for the kids, for the dogs, for herself, even checking out stuff for me. She had returned something she had purchased on line that was the wrong size and had $70.00 store credit, but I figured that would be gone long before she was. We walked down the street and found a place called Morrison’s Chowder House for lunch where Cheri had a good lobster roll, and I had excellent lobster stew, yummo.
We stopped at a teacher’s store there in Freeport and got back to camp about 3:30PM which gave me time to finish a book and start updating this blog. Later I went for a solo paddle while Cheri caught up on phone calls and it was a beautiful afternoon. Dinner was burgers and sweet corn after the last of the lobster dip and a bottle of wine. What a way to live! Tomorrow is a long day of kayaking and reading if it goes according to plan. Good night!
Maine & Rain – Againe
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Saturday started out with sausages and blueberry pancakes, the way every good camping day ought to. The tide was out, so we had to delay kayaking until later, and much reading and tidying up was accomplished. After lunch we jumped in the kayak and paddled out into the sound with trees and forest everywhere you looked. It was a lovely afternoon and we paddled about two and a half hours, getting better as we went along, and the weathervaning was much less of an issue as our skills have improved. It was great fun!
We made spaghetti with some leftover burger and corn in it with a salad for dinner, and another bottle of wine and everything was delicious. A guy could get used to this kind of life. I loaded the bicycles on the truck for the proposed trip to Acadia National Park tomorrow.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sunday started much as Saturday had; a package of sausage is enough for two meals, and we used up our left-overs, except it was raining. One unusual thing about this trip compared to previous camping trips is that Cheri now drinks coffee (actually café latte’) in the morning with breakfast, so in addition to starting the sausage and mixing up pancake batter, I always start a pan of water to boil on the propane stove, the other stuff being cooked in the electric skillet, definitely the best way to cook when you’re camping. I can cook pretty near anything in that skillet from steaming corn to sautéing fish to steaming the labels off wine bottles. It’s a great tool since we need electricity anyway to run all our computers, phone and camera chargers, etc.
We hit the road for Acadia and Bar Harbor at about 9:30AM. It turned out to be a longer drive than anticipated, but it was good scenery and we enjoyed it. We arrived at the visitor center at the park entrance a little before noon and watched the short movie they show as an intro and guide to park use. This park is comprised completely of donated land on Desert Island that is reached by bridge and takes up about one third of the area of the island. In the nineteen-twenties, it was summer home to the rich and the list of notables that owned property here rivaled Newport Beach, but in 1947 a forest fire raged out of control for two weeks and burned most of the buildings. Few of the summer “cottages” (more like palaces) were rebuilt.
The most influential and generous among the patrons of this park was John D. Rockefeller, who was an avid hiker, and disliked the automobile that was just becoming popular. He financed and personally directed construction of forty-seven miles of roadway with a packed gravel surface that is confined according to his direction, to horse and carriage, bicycles, and hikers; NO automobiles. They also feature gentler grades to allow the horses to pull the carriages, so it is perfect for bicyclists that are uncomfortable with traffic and hills, like Cheri.
After a great lunch in Bar Harbor and even though it continued to sprinkle, we went for a bike ride around Eagle Lake, about six miles around, completely on carriage roads, and had a fabulous time with beautiful views of the lake, and mountains. While taking a break we saw a family of mergansers, mom and five chicks swimming not twenty feet from Cheri’s camera lens. It was a wonderful hour of bicycling.
We were a bit wet after, but drove the Loop Road through much of the park with stunning scenery at every turn, and toured the Blackwoods Campground and then drove up to the summit of Cadillac Mountain. At 1530 feet it is the highest mountain on the eastern seaboard and the first U.S. soil to feel the suns rays every morning. They have a visitor center there with a store and we bought some gifts, and a long-sleeved T-shirt for me and walked around for a while. Cheri’s camera got quite a work-out, with, as I said before, more beautiful vistas at every turn. We left the park about six o’clock, but it was a great six hours. On the way home, we stopped at a little pizza place called the Camden House of Pizza for a light dinner and a little Italian guy and his son served us the best pizza I’ve ever had. We had blown more on lunch than we should have and wanted to keep the cost down, and for fifteen dollars we had a nice salad and a small mushroom pizza that was just delicious. I usually like a lot of toppings and extra cheese, but this simple pizza was really amazingly good. We got home about 9:30PM and went right to bed, still in the light rain that had gone all day long.
Last Days at Chewonki
Monday, June 15, 2009
It started out raining so we did chores, Cheri spent two hours in Wal-Mart (Brunswick) working on her photo album, while I did laundry nearby. Afterwards we toured Booth Bay Harbor, but were not impressed, again most likely because we’re here out of season, they were rolling up the sidewalks at 4:30 when we arrived. It is a pretty big place if you’re walking, and there will be a severe shortage of parking in season. Later we met Tom and Ellen, fellow campers from Massachusetts, because they have a golden Lab that Cheri just had to meet. Nice couple in their sixties, Tom in the upper management of the state fire department, and Ellen a teacher. We had chicken, sautéed zucchini and leftover spaghetti, and read later. It wasn’t as cold as previously, only in the upper fifties for a low.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
It dawned a beautiful day and after the proper start, (Remember? That’s right! Sausage and blueberry pancakes!) we went for a bicycle ride. The terrain around here is very hilly and scares Cheri, but I thought I could help her to progress a bit. We rode five or six miles, some of it on Hemlock Road (the Beyersdorf Farms address) though they were repaving the road in front of the park which didn’t help any. I don’t know why they bothered, that road is one of the best we’ve been on; lots of others need it worse. Back at camp we had a sandwich of left-over chicken for lunch and I went out for a paddle while Cheri worked on the photo album and talked to our daughter for two hours. I asked her afterward what was new with Miki, but they apparently didn’t cover that topic. We decided to go out for lobster tonight, and we wanted the real Maine experience, and Tom & Ellen sent us twenty miles away to a place called Five Islands Lobster Company in Georgetown’s Bay Point area on the next peninsula west of here. It was the real thing all right, lobster, corn on the cob, boiled red potatoes and steamers (clams). It was good, (and challenging) to eat right there on the dock at a picnic table, beautiful view of the islands, and we enjoyed it all, even the steamers that neither of us like a whole lot. We came home with some wood and beer to offer visitors and had a camp fire with Tom and Ellen, with a beautiful show of stars above, but no Northern Lights (I looked very carefully).
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
It dawned perfect again, but cold, 52 degrees when we woke at 6:00, but the sun was out and life was good. I did some work on the computer for a few hours and our other neighbors came to call and introduced themselves as Eric and Kathy from Deer Lake, N.H. and I had a chat with Eric about places to camp west of here and I think we found a likely spot. It’s a good bit north of where we were thinking, but it has everything we want, wildlife and great kayaking and biking.
We loaded the kayak on the truck and went to do some touring at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, and it was perfect, Cheri had packed a lunch and we sat in the sun on the granite formations and watched the seagulls, after we had climbed the circular staircase fifty steps up to the light. We drove around trying to find a place to put the kayak in the water but it seemed like every road that promised water, like Black Swan Landing and Prentice Cove Road was private and it took us an hour, but we finally found a public launch site and paddled for an hour and a half. It was breezy, but I think we’re getting the hang of controlling this boat. It was fun.
We stopped at the store on the way home and picked up some haddock and sweet corn for dinner. It was late when I started to cook, and after 9:00 before we finished, but that fish was delicious. Later I steamed labels off two wine bottles. The Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling from Saturday night, and tonight’s Cockatoo Riesling (South Australia) and worked on this blog. I also recorded half-a-dozen addresses and phone numbers of alternate sites if Eric’s suggestion of Umbagog Lake doesn’t pan out. It is on the border between Maine and New Hampshire and he has been going there for years. It became a state park (N.H.) in 1998. Cheri hit the sack about 11:00 while I stayed up to finish for you. Hope you appreciate it. ‘Night!
Agog over Umbagog!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
We awoke to cool breezy weather at Chewonki and took our time striking camp after a breakfast of cereal and fruit covered with yogurt. Cheri’s been eating cereal this way since she became lactose intolerant, and I’ve adopted it to avoid keeping milk around just for one person. It was pleasant to pack up dry for a change, and we left Wiscasset about 11:00 heading for the shrine. That’s what I call the L.L. Bean store in Freeport, because for Cheri, shopping there is a spiritual experience. She shopped while I sat in the coffeehouse section and tried to hook up to email and catch up with the guys at work back in Kihei. I finally got that accomplished and we headed out for lunch before leaving town. We stopped at a place called the Lobster Cooker a block away and I had lobster bisque and Cheri a crab salad sandwich.
We hit the road, knowing we had a relatively short drive, and it’s a good thing because the road leading out of Freeport was pretty bad. It got more and more scenic as we drove deeper into the wilderness and the first vista of Lake Umbagog confirmed our decision to come up this way. It’s a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains with islands and peninsulas throughout its ten-mile length, forested with the pine/spruce/hemlock/birch/maple mixture so common in northern Michigan. We got to the park at 4:30 or so, but the office was already closed, so we selected a sight that would shed water because the forecast was for more rain, and got set up.
We had brought the fixings for BLT’s with us, and heated up a can of green beans to go with it. After dinner, we put the kayak in and went out for a short paddle along the south coast and up to the nearest island. We were slowly moving toward a pair of loons and one of them dove and came up about fifteen feet from the boat, both of them close enough to see the white spots on their backs! We were thrilled to have such a close encounter so soon in our stay. It started raining soon after we went to bed and didn’t let up until about 10:00 the next morning.
Friday, June 19, 2009
It was raining during breakfast but the pancakes and bacon kept us warm and we stayed dry in the screen-tent. After breakfast I went to the office to register, and got the bad news; someone else had reserved the site we were on for the weekend, beginning Friday afternoon, and we would have to move three sites over, right down on the water. Cheri wasn’t sure she liked that site, but the views of the lake, and our encounter with the loons last evening made the difference, and she acquiesced. There was a break in the weather and we carried some stuff, and put some in the truck, and a couple rangers came by and helped carry the tents, still set up, to their new homes. When people started arriving and setting up where we were and the two sites below, we were glad we had moved because we still had the gorgeous view of the lake. We set up the screen tent closest to the shore with one side up as an awning, and no matter what they do in the rest of the camp; we have our own little corner with the best view in the place.
Later on we drove into Errol to shop and try to phone some people because there is no cell-phone service at the park for any of our phones (Nextel, Verizon, or Sprint air-card). Shopping was at a general store along the lines of Hazagawa’s in Hana, lots of different items in a very small space, and very little in the way of fresh vegetables. We picked up rib-eye steaks and some egg-noodles for our dinner along with a bottle of wine, and another of beer that I wanted the label off. It’s called Arrogant Bastard Ale, and the bottom of the label says: “You’re not worthy.”
On the way back to Umbagog, Cheri was gazing out at the forest as I drove, and suddenly shouted; “Stop Pickers!” She had seen a moose in the bushes close to the road, and she rolled down the window as I backed up to the place, but we didn’t get another look though we could both hear it moving through the woods to deeper cover. She was so excited, so on the rest of the drive I cut my speed back to about twenty-five MPH to watch and hope. As we got closer to camp, having seen nothing more, we took a dirt road up the west side of Lake Umbagog and she called “Here moose-see, moose-see, moose-see.” Yesterday I had told her the story of the moose call as performed for Maile and me in 2002 on our kayak trip on Lake Superior by our kayak instructor, David Wells. She broke me up when she repeated it there as we were looking for wildlife. That road went all the way into the Umbagog Wildlife Refuge with wonderful scenery but no luck on the wildlife. But less than a mile later we were driving on highway 26 and there at the side of the road was a moose, just standing looking back at us as we stopped. Cheri gave me the camera because it was on my side of the road, and I snapped a picture as he turned into some brush, but then he decided to amble across the road thirty feet in front of the car as we snapped pictures and grinned at each other. It was either a cow or a yearling male, I’m not up on enough moose biology to tell, but they say that May and June are good months to see them because that is when yearlings separate from their mothers and go out on their own. What a fabulous evening this has been and we haven’t even cooked the steaks yet.
The ale turned out to be a really heavy dark stout that Mark would have loved, but I’m not particularly fond of, but dinner was great, perfect steaks and the noodles teaming up with olive oil and parmesan cheese and a can of corn. Later, I discovered that the ale label had been painted directly on the glass and we couldn’t harvest that very cool label. I’ll have to go to their website when we get home to see if I can download a replica.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
We had agreed last night to get up early to be on the lake and when I awoke at 5:25AM, I was surprised; Cheri didn’t hesitate or complain, but got dressed and we were on the water in ten minutes. It was like glass with the sun just coming up as we paddled across Sargent Cove and followed the western shoreline for almost an hour. We rounded what is called the Big Island and headed back, probably two miles or more from camp. We saw a pair of loons and what I think was an immature eagle at a distance but no close encounters except for a few rocks close to the surface of the lake. It was a great paddle, just as I had imagined it long before I even bought the boat; the mirrored surface of the lake and sun rising over the mountains; truly glorious! Wonderful! Stupendous!
We got back to camp for sausage and blueberry pancakes, and then I read as Cheri cleaned up, and some more as she putzed around before finally heading out for our hike on the Appalachian Trail that passes through this area about ten miles from camp. There is a parking area and signs talking about the trail, and an off-shoot to a place called Tablerock from which you can look down at the valley floor from some eight hundred feet above, not to mention out at all the other mountains nearby. It was a total of two point six miles up and back with an amazing, though scary, vista from the top. It was a difficult hike with numerous stream crossings and an average grade of twelve percent. I was challenged by it, and very proud of Cheri for doing it. This is exactly the kind of thing we may not be physically able to do in our retirement years and the very reason for this trip. It was great and another high-light!
Back to the parking area we ate the lunch Cheri had packed and talked to a thru-hiker named Troy, someone hiking a portion of the trail and carrying his tent, etc. on his back. Troy turned out to be a thirty-something math teacher from Kansas who had started in southern New Hampshire ten days ago and he asked for a ride to nearby Andover, ME where he had sent his mail-drop. It was starting to rain so I would have felt bad turning him away, so we reorganized the chaos in the back seat area enough to fold one up and took him to Andover, which turned out to be more like fifteen miles than the five we had envisioned, but it was for the best since Cheri and I wanted nothing but to sit down after our efforts anyway. He had heard of a hostel there and way planning to slack-pack tomorrow. He would get a ride back to the trail sans pack and cover more mileage than he could otherwise, and return to the hostel for his pack tomorrow night, and sleep in a real bed and eat real food for two days. Our good deed for the year.
After we dropped him off, we went into Bethel to do our shopping and we bought enough to get us through our time at Umbagog (all the way up to Tuesday breakfast). We got some fresh-caught Atlantic salmon and some wine for dinner tonight, and burgers and spaghetti for the next two. On the thirty mile drive back to camp, we stopped at one of the home-bakeries we’d noticed and bought a raspberry pie. Also on the drive back, we saw a small black bear, probably quite young. It was going to cross the road when we drove up, but quickly turned back into the forest when we came closer. We both got a clear look, but the camera wasn’t ready in time to record it. Then a little further along, now that Cheri had her camera at the ready, a fox was standing beside the road, and didn’t seem to mind terribly that we were there, because it posed for a few pictures before sneaking back into the woods.
I cooked the salmon on the grill, wrapped in tin foil with some wine and seasonings for most of the time, then turning it out skin-side down to finish. It was delicious with salad and a can of potatoes fried with onion; yummo! The lake looked so nice after dinner that I went out for a solo paddle around the small island close to the campground. I didn’t see anything outstanding, but enjoyed it for an hour just before and during sunset. I really like the way the kayak handles solo, which either means it’s a good kayak, or that I’m big enough to count as two. We were both (all three counting Cheri) tired after our long and energetic day and hit the sack early.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
It rained overnight, but it was just gray and a little warmer than we’d come to expect in the morning. We stayed late in bed and ate the last of the homemade sausage we got in Errol with our blueberry pancakes today. I spent most of the morning on this blog since I hadn’t written anything since leaving Chewonki, and even though I can’t upload it, I need to get it down while the memory is fresh. Cheri suddenly remembered that it was Father’s Day about mid-morning and broke out the gift she and Mark had bought in Kihei, and she has carried ever since. It is a handsome, green long-sleeved T-shirt with Maui Built running down the sleeves and front and back. I really like it, and put it on immediately so it will be there for pictures this afternoon at the waterfalls.
After a snack a little after noon, we decided to do some more sight seeing over at Grafton Notch in Maine, the State Park where we had hiked to Tablerock has some other attractions, waterfalls and granite formations that we wanted to see, and on the way there, it happened again: Of course Cheri had the camera ready this time when we rolled up close to a white-tail deer, it looked like an adult doe to me, eating grass along the highway. We stopped but another car passed us and went on by and the deer just looked up and went on with her lunch. I took four or five pictures and we left her still grazing on the roadside. We went on and had our sight-seeing and returned about 5:00 so I could finish recording this blog.
We decided on grilled hamburgers and baked beans for dinner, and I mentioned during the beautiful sunset that I had been thinking of going out on the bike to see if there were more moose out there; Cheri said it was too dark for the bike, but she would go with me in the truck and so we started doing laps of “moose flats”, a two-mile long stretch where the terrain seems to suit them, and includes the spot we saw the one on Friday night. On about the third lap Cheri stopped me a hundred yards from what she thought might be a black bear because it was darker than the previous moose had been, but it turned out to be another moose. I put my flashers on to warn a car coming up behind as we slowly approached, and he passed and then stopped twenty feet short of our moose and it walked across the road right in front of him, and we had to sit second chair! We did one more lap after that, and saw what we surmised was the same animal again crossing in the other direction, and we stopped and stared as he stared back at us from thirty feet off in the brush, but by then it was too dark to get a picture. Cheri also reported seeing a deer in a clearing, but you know how she is about animals in the wild, always seeing things. Back to camp and a warm bed.
Monday, June 22, 2009
The day broke gloomy and windy; looking like it might rain any minute, and the wind quelling any thoughts of venturing forth in the kayak. We decided that laundry might be a worthwhile occupation for such a day, and would ease packing up tomorrow, so after a breakfast of strawberries, cereal, and yogurt I walked to the ranger station for a bag of ice and the skinny on laundramats. He didn’t know for sure if there is one in Bethel, but he knew there was in Colebrook, only a few miles further away, and not a town we might visit otherwise, so we gathered our stuff and set off.
We passed through Dixville Notch, who get their five minutes of fame reporting the first completed precinct since they open the polls at midnight and all 39 voters are there. There is also a beautiful resort called The Balsams in Dixville Notch with a grand hotel overlooking a lake with mountains all around, even a culinary school. We got to Colebrook and found the laundry thanks to Cheri’s sharp eyes. I tried to hook up the computer, but even though Cheri’s Verizon had service neither Sprint, nor my Nextel could find anything. After she got the washing machines going we walked Main Street, and then later got some incidentals at the Dollar Store next door.
Back to Umbagog we put things in order, had a bite of lunch (sandwiches again) and watched the cold wind blow. I decided to go for a bike ride, and did two laps of “moose flats” but didn’t see any moose, and it isn’t flat; matter of fact, it is very hilly, but it was a nice ten-mile ride and the forest blocked most of the wind. I showered and shaved when I got home, and by then it was time to open the wine and put out the carrots and dip, our usual pupus. We had a nice conversation before Cheri got a bit maudlin about our son’s approaching change of address (Maui to Minneapolis), so I consoled her and assured her of his continued presence in our life regardless of address. The spaghetti turned out very well, and we finished the wine, so it was a good evening all around. The weather is still cool and windy but not as bad as earlier and we made plans for the morning before reading and finally turning in on those nice clean sheets.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
We were up at 6:00AM for a last paddle on Lake Umbagog, then we packed up and headed west at about 10:00AM. We had picked out a couple of parks on Lake Champlain in Vermont as the next destination and it would be a pretty drive, only about twenty miles of freeway, and the other seventy-five on two lane highways, mostly forested and crammed with mountain vistas.
We stopped at a Pizza Hut in Waterbury and hit Burlington about three in the afternoon, having stopped at one rest center, two overlooks, and a cheese and wine shop. We looked at the Burlington North Beach Campground, and weren’t too impressed, so we went on to our second choice; Skyland Campground in South Hero on Grand Isle, an island on Lake Champlain across the lake from Burlington. We found this more to our liking, and got a site right on the water with good access for the kayak, but no shade at all. If the weather holds as it has been, we won’t have any problem with that.
We were set up by 6:00PM and had already met one of the seasonal campers close by, a man named Hobby. He may be part busybody, but I think the friendly atmosphere in this park suggests we’ll have a good stay here. We went to the local market-gas-everything emporium and found a nice steak for dinner, and headed back to catch up on communications before dinner; we haven’t had internet access since going to Umbagog. Tomorrow we’ll find a mega-mart and do our shopping for the four or five days we’ll be here.
Camp Skyland, Vermont
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Finally we found some summer weather here in northern Vermont, and it was pleasant to be out of the tent by 7:30, and after breakfast we got out for a paddle. There is a breakwater a quarter-mile south of the camp so calm water should be the rule here, and today is gorgeous. We venture just outside the breakwater into the big lake and are glad when we get back to smooth water, and we play around the bay at the south end of Grand Isle. In the afternoon, we drive into Colchester, a suburb of Burlington for groceries and start to get acquainted with the area; it is a beautiful place for bicycling with lots of trails and signs reminding auto drivers to share the roads.
We had a bottle of wine and some Vermont aged cheese for pupus, though I was hoping for a stronger cheddar flavor from the cheese, and then fresh haddock with fried potatoes and salad, a delicious repast. They have a significant library here at the camp, so I went in to exchange a book and found two good ones, one of which (Angels and Demons) will be a reread. That one would be done by Friday night with a good start on Grisham’s “The Testament.”
The weather started to turn later in the evening and we slept with wind-driven waves pounding the shore thirty feet from our tent.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The waves kept at it all night and into Thursday with a partly sunny sky, but it didn’t look like a good day for the water so we loaded the bikes and went into Burlington to hit the bike path. It was nice in town and we had a pretty ride into downtown and stopped to walk around, and get lunch at the Vermont Pub and Brewery. This is a real beer lover’s pub and Mark would have enjoyed it. I had a corned beef sandwich and a raspberry beer, while Cheri had a veggie wrap, yummo.
After lunch Cheri went off to shop and I went back to a barbershop I’d noticed on the walk downtown and got my ears lowered. I stopped by Northstar Sports to check out the bicycles and met Cheri at the appointed place just a bit early. We walked back to the waterfront and picked up the bike path south to Oakledge Park before heading back north to Leddy Park where we had left the truck. It was a lovely day in town though it was still windy and rough water back in South Hero. Cheri made some phone calls and got reservations for the rest of our camping this trip. It’s been fun winging it up to now, but we’re afraid that the busy season is about to catch up with us. We had picked up some marinated chicken breasts to grill with sweet corn for dinner, and finished off the bottle of Pine & Post Riesling we had started the night before, and the label came off without steaming!
Friday, June 26, 2009
It was still blustery but nice and warm this morning as we had our blueberry pancakes naked (without sausage) for breakfast. We read throughout the morning and didn’t bestir ourselves until after lunch when we decided to ride the bikes to a nearby winery to see if they offered tasting. We started out and got no more than a mile before we saw lightning ahead. Cheri is petrified of thunder and lightning (and yet she camps!) so we turned around and went back. The storm blew over with little effect, and we decided to try our luck again a little later.
We missed the turnoff to the winery and ended up in town when another storm blew in. We waited it out in the store for a half-hour before getting back out in a light rain, and we hadn’t gone three hundred yards when Cheri noticed she had a flat tire. She had picked up a tack and I don’t carry spares for her tire size, so I rode hard all the way back to camp to get the truck and drive back to pick her up. Another set of storms rolled in while I was driving, and she had sought shelter in a nearby store; when we returned we had some water in the tent where we hadn’t closed up tight enough.
Tonight was left-over spaghetti night plus some fresh green beans, and it turned out to be a nice meal; there was a little rain, but we were safe inside and it turned sunny just before sunset. Hopefully we’ll have good weather tomorrow for our last day in Vermont.
Good Weather
Saturday, June 27, 2009
We awoke early to warm weather and a calm lake and broke our fast with fruit and cereal. The crew of seasonal campers here were busy all morning moving shore stations and boat docks out into the water from the lawn above where they had been stored for the winter and later we snuck the kayak out into the water. It was a perfect day for a paddle and we enjoyed it, heading up the north shoreline a couple miles about halfway to the bridge from the mainland. There were some really nice places, some past their prime, and some wetlands where nothing was built. We saw a few families of ducks, the chicks dutifully following their Mom, most of the time.
Cheri had an appointment to get her hair done in Burlington, so at noon we headed into town, parked in the town center lot and walked through the mall to the Church Street Market where pedestrians rule the streets and businesses move out onto the sidewalks. There were a lot of folks there and a party atmosphere with street musicians and other happenings. We walked to the south end and sat down outside a bar and grill for a nice lunch, and the food was excellent all around. Cheri went off to her appointment while I took her flat tire in to have the tube replaced (and slimed against future flats) and then got my bike off the truck rack and headed north on the Burlington Bikeway all the way past the Winooski River Bridge and out onto the levee on the graveled multi-use path. It was great fun and I returned to town and met Cheri at the appointed place and time. Burlington is a very nice bike-friendly city and we both enjoyed the day.
We stopped in Colchester for gas and groceries (we’re heading into the mountains tomorrow) and got home about 6:30PM. Neither of us was too hungry yet, so after a glass of wine we bathed and got things ready for the morrow before a late dinner of halibut and salad, a real crowd pleaser at our tent.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
We’re sorry to be leaving Camp Skyland and our beautiful grassy site right on the lake, and the friendly bunch of folks that frequent this place. But more adventure awaits and we have reservations just a hop, skip, and a jump away near Lake Placid, New York and a ferry ride and some wine tasting too, so we pack our stuff and say a fond farewell to South Hero stopping at Snow Farms Winery on our way out of town to taste a few and buy a bottle of Snow White, a light mix of grape varieties that we found to our liking. Then a stop for some gift shopping, then on to the ferry to Plattsburg in the Empire State.
We stopped in another “99”, a chain here in New England, and had another good experience as I went for the burger, and Cheri the lobster roll that she declared the best she’s had; on a good toasted roll rather than the traditional hotdog bun. It wasn’t more than an hour later that we rolled into the Whiteface Mountain KOA in Wilmington and set up camp, but only the screen house. We’ll sleep in it since it’s only for two nights, and save having to set up and take down the sleeping tent. The park is quite nice, but it is a big park with a lot of little kids, so it’s a bit noisier than we prefer. It was only three o’clock and we decided to take the gondola ride to the top of Whiteface for the view.
It was great!!! Whiteface Mountain is huge and steep, the ride goes from awesome to scary and back again, and you get to the first peak only to find that you’re not even halfway yet and then you get to the top of the lower peak with the higher one still towering above. We even bought a photo from the guy at the top, something we almost never do, but this was an awesome place, and he took a good picture of us with the Olympic Downhill in the background. We found the A & W afterward and had a root beer in a frosty mug and went back to camp with some intel for tomorrow’s trip to Lake Placid. I cooked some sockeye salmon that the Colchester store had flown in for us fresh from Alaska, and Cheri proclaimed it the best fish she’d ever had. Lot’s of firsts today, but I’m still looking forward to tomorrow.
Beautiful Rivers
Monday, June 29, 2009
We breakfasted on naked blueberry pancakes on this gray sort of day with the temperature comfortable but looking like it might rain anytime. We set off for our planned day in Lake Placid and soon enough it started to rain, and we kept on following the beautiful Ausable River into town. It’s a bigger place than either of us remembers, though admittedly it would have grown since we were here almost thirty years ago (1980). We didn’t visit Whiteface that time so yesterday was all new for us both. We drove through town and all the way around Mirror Lake, having decided that Lake Placid was a bigger lake than we wanted o paddle, and finally found a park that would give us an easy entry and there were a half-dozen people swimming in buoyed lanes up the middle of the lake. We later learned that there is an Ironman Triathlon here in a few weeks, and all of the activity we’ve seen in bicycling and running is folks training for that race. We put the kayak in with the rain having slowed to a light sprinkle and paddled for almost two hours with the rain coming and going, but never getting too hard, or ever quitting completely, and it was a very pleasant paddle indeed. There wasn’t any covered picnic area in the park and it was raining harder when we came in and wanted lunch, so we just ate in the truck, then drove downtown to visit the Winter Olympic Museum and with the rain, came also many open parking spots that hadn’t been there before.
We had a nice visit to the museum and revisited the Miracle on Ice (USA 4 – Soviets 3) for which the original TV coverage was playing continuously. There are two full size rinks in that building, and both had figure skaters practicing while we were there. It was fun, and instructive, and we headed for our camp about three o’clock, following the beautiful Ausable back to the KOA. We went for a short bike ride around the campground and then I left the park and rode the loop into Wilmington and returned the back way (about 8 miles total, with lots of hills). We had a half-bottle of wine and some cheese, then went into the A & W for dinner to relive a boyhood memory; the Coney dog wasn’t as good as I remember, but at least the rain had quit so things could dry out for tomorrow.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
We packed up and Cheri spent an hour talking to the folks at MasterCard, who had canceled our existing card because of someone else’s actions, but we weren’t at home to receive the new card, and we needed the credit card to finish the trip. It finally came down that the best we could do was have the new card shipped to Hemlock, and when it arrived, we could ask Mom to give us the number to use for phone reservations and the car rental renewals. The rental car doesn’t go under a single invoice and charge transaction for the whole ten weeks, they write a new contract every thirty days, and the card had been canceled before they charged us for the second thirty days, and Alamo was not pleased. I should have a new card number to give them on Thursday if all goes well.
It was a beautiful drive and a couple beautiful rivers to Watertown by which time we’d left the Adirondacks behind and headed for Clayton on the next beautiful river; the St. Lawrence, and Merry Knoll campground. Our site is just large enough to hold the two tents but the view is very nice, and down at the shoreline there is a deck for everyone’s use that is absolutely Cheri’s favorite place. After setting up in the rain, the sun came out and we took our bottle of wine and pupus down there and saw three freighters tonight, and met some of the seasonal campers and really had a nice time. Back at camp, Cheri hit the sack early while I dealt with a reluctant computer in opening an email from Mark, and writing a letter he needs to ship his truck to Minneapolis, since my name is still on the title. I was up ‘til about midnight, but I’d make up for that in the morning.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
We had bacon and eggs this morning, splurging (calorie-wise) for a change, and our campground hosts agreed to print the letter I’d written last night; when the advertised notary public in Alexandria didn’t pan out. I took it to an insurance firm in Clayton called the Cerow Agency, and the nice young lady notarized it, then faxed it, then scanned it and emailed it to me for no charge at all.
Cheri and I then headed for Alexandria for the Uncle Sam’s boat tour we’d been told was good, and got there just in time to walk on the 12:30 trip. We have a wonderful time on this beautiful day seeing this amazing place up close, and hearing many of the stories of the area. I was surprised to hear the Seaway has only been open to traffic for fifty years, and that they had to raise the level of the water and allow it to flood thousands of acres and even whole towns in Canada to make the passage navigable. After the boat trip we had a bite to eat in a bar in town and headed off to do some wine tasting, and probably use a coupon in the tourist paper for a free wine glass. It’s called the Thousand Island Winery and we enjoy the tasting and buy two bottles, qualifying for two free glasses. We then go across the International Bridge into Canada to go up to the Skydeck, 400 feet above Hill Island just on the Canadian side and go up for a look at this beautiful river from above.
We got back to camp about 6:00 and head down to the deck immediately for our evening wine and pupus and Jim’s wife, Ann is soon out to greet us, and later we have a full-on party going. Jim gets out some old maps and we see the changes they made to make the river navigable. We stay until sunset about 8:45 before going back to our tent for chicken breast sautéed with mixed veggies, which was awesome if I do say so myself, and then walk back down to the deck to see if we can see any fireworks going off on the Canadian side for Canada Day. We saw some but they were too far away to be worth much, so back up to camp and soon into bed.
More Rivers and Freighters.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
We had planned to put the kayak in the water, and since Merry Knoll would have been a difficult carry, we were going to Cedar Point State Park a few miles down the road. Of course we hadn’t planned on the rain, though for this trip we probably should have come to expect it. Anyway, we decided to go in spite of the weather and found a very suitable boat launch in this scenic park, and the rain was now light enough as to not be a hindrance. We paddled south and west toward Lake Ontario, and though the river widens considerably here, it is still not part of the Great Lake. There is a small island there that we went around and that put us in the shipping channel for a bit anyhow. We followed a duck and a pair of mergansers for a while then headed back down-river when in the distance we thought we saw a freighter, so we had to stay out in the water to see, and sure enough, here came a ship called Dutch Runner. Cheri was afraid to go out in the channel to get a closer look, and yet we had to stay there and watch it pass fifty yards away, and we even paddled parallel, racing, but it was too fast and soon passed out of sight. However, the kayak had just been renamed from “Bearly A Lime” to “Freighter Racer”. The rain had stopped for a time, and we went back to shore quite pleased with the morning.
The afternoon plan had been for Cheri to do a few errands in town while I rode somewhere on the bicycle, and I wanted to follow through even though it was raining lightly again after lunch. I had decided to ride back up to the International Bridge near Alexandria, and walk out to the middle to take in the view. I went to the campground office for a bag of ice, and then intrepidly set off in the rain. It was fun, enough terrain to keep it interesting, and yet not brutally hard, and I arrived at the bridge (9 miles) in about forty minutes. It wasn’t raining at all then, and the walk out to the middle of the span was about ten minutes. It was still gray and overcast so the view wasn’t what it might have been, but it was nice. I had hoped to see a freighter heading up-river so I could bear the glad news to Cheri by telephone, but none were visible. It was starting to sprinkle again as I started back down, and it was raining for real when I got on the bike to head for camp. I had only ridden about two miles when Cheri drove up to “save” me, and I think she was a little surprised when I opted to continue on the bike rather than accepting the ride she offered. I really enjoy riding in the rain when it’s warm enough, and I didn’t want the hassle of taking the wheels off the bike and rearranging everything in the back of our SUV in order to fit the bike in, not to mention that I would then be liable for anything that was found to be damaged or wet, so as a good corporate employee should, I chose to minimize my potential liability and kept riding. It stopped raining again by the time I was back in Clayton, and the sun even came out briefly after I’d showered and was getting ready to go down to the deck for our evening glass of wine. Jim Webster had stopped up in my absence and invited Cheri and I to come down regardless of the weather, but it was nice again, so our last night on the river would be as the first; except we didn’t see a single ship!
Jim and Ann brought even more stuff than we did, so the party lasted until dark, and then they invited us to stay for dinner, and we happily accepted. We talked and cooked Speedie chicken (a marinade brand) on their pot-bellied stove-turned-grill and drank some more wine and it was a very pleasant evening indeed. They suggested that we should stop in Rochester during the drive to Niagara tomorrow at Wegman’s Supermarket, and at about eleven o’clock we took our leave and crawled into the tent for sleep. Did I mention that it was raining yet again? Well, it was so we were going to have to take down another wet tent.
Friday, July 3, 2009
It rained on and off all night, but it was off when we got up to start the day. Packing went pretty well, and we kept the screen tent up to have a dry spot to keep stuff until we could pack it into the truck, and that worked well. We finished loading and left the park in a gentle rain and headed for Niagara, about five hours drive from here. It wasn’t going to be as easy this time because our Garmin came without the Canadian roadmap, so Cheri was going to have to navigate for real this time, and of course, her suggestion was to: cross the bridge and look for a sign to the Jellystone campground. That’s a real navigator for you… looking for fricking signs!
We made it to Wegman’s in Rochester at about 2:00 and we were both impressed, wish Safeway in Kihei could take a page or two out of their book. We had pizza for lunch that was very good, and then did our shopping, and as instructed, included some Zweigle Whites (hot dogs) in our cart. We didn’t want to grab too much with the truck full, and the cooler buried deep, and two hours or more left to drive to the campground tonight. We made it to Niagara about 4:30 and it was 5:30 before we were though customs and in a kiosk to change money, and get a map with the Jellystone Park listed and easy to find. We knew what to expect at this park, where they rack ‘em & stack ‘em as a substitute for a hotel and the campers spend their days somewhere else, and we were not disappointed, but the people working seemed very nice and we got registered and set up, and put the planked salmon I had bought at Wegman’s on the grill. It was good if not great, and afterward we decided to get down to the river for the fireworks over the falls. We drove in not knowing any better and had to pay $14.00 for the privilege, but the falls were beautiful and the fireworks were fun, and we got back to camp ready for bed.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
We relaxed most of the morning and I tried to whittle a wooden branch to use as a replacement for a tent pole we apparently left at Merry Knoll. It worked, sort of. Later we rode our bicycles down a back road over to the Factory Outlet Mall about three miles away, had a coke and returned to the campground without doing any shopping; Cheri just wanted to get the lay of the land before attacking in force. This was going to be our day at the falls, and the weather was perfect, and we caught the shuttle from the campground into downtown at 6:00PM and went first to the IMAX theater and got tickets for the 7:00 show and spent a half-hour in their “Over the Falls” Museum with barrels and boats that have been used to go over the falls, mostly successfully. The first person was actually a retired lady school teacher from New York who went over in a wooden barrel and lived to tell about it. In 1951 they made it a crime to stunt at the falls, but people still can’t resist with the last guy doing his fourth trip over in 1995. The movie was unspectacular but still enjoyable, though we wanted to see the “Mysteries of the Great Lakes”, which we might try to order on line in the future, it only shows a couple times a day, and we missed it that day.
After the movie we thought about going over to the Tablerock Center where they have a movie experience that they bill as 4-D, but it’s a really short film and they charge fifteen bucks a head, so it didn’t sound like a good value. We ate the dinner that Cheri had packed, and more of the popcorn we got in the theater and watched people and the falls until the fireworks started a little after 10:00PM. Before these started, we could see a couple sets going off in nearby towns, and we ended up watching three far-off sets and the ones over the falls which were very good, but not especially long. Afterward we waited for the bus back to camp, and there were too many folks waiting, and we ended up sitting there until 11:30PM before we got picked up, and it was cold; 59 degrees Fahrenheit according to the building next door.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
We had decided that Cheri would go to the Factory Outlet Mall while I went for a bike ride, and after the last of the blueberries and pancake mix were done away with; we got ready and went our separate ways. It was a good weather day for a change, and my ride started out well heading away from Niagara, toward the town of Thorold and the Welland Canal which raises ships 350 feet from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. When I got to the canal, the road I was on ended, but there was a gravel path along the canal that I took down stream toward Lundy’s Lane where I knew there was a bridge. As I traveled, I noticed quite a few bikes on the other side of the canal and supposed there might be a paved path on that side which would be among Cheri’s all-time favorite bike paths, one with freighters alongside. I arrived at the bridge just as it was raising to let one go through and I knew then that I had to bring Cheri back in the afternoon, and when I got across and saw the path, I knew we would bring the bikes back, but I still rode down the path to the closest lock, and there was a visitor center there that listed the arrivals expected; quite a few, so I got back on my bike and hurried toward camp, hoping to get there before Cheri started something else, but got caught by another raised bridge at Lundy’s that cost me fifteen minutes.
I busted my butt all the way back, and arrived just after Cheri had started the laundry, so we couldn’t go right away, but we would later and we had so much fun. We parked there at Lundy’s Lane and rode downstream toward the lock, and met a barge going upstream. Cheri was enthralled and we turned around and raced it back to the bridge, winning since they have a limit of eight knots in the canal, and watched them do the bridge again; it’s an unusual bridge where the whole road bed is raised by counter-weights to a height that allows the ships to go under, about 50 feet above the bridge base. Then we turned around and rode to the lock down-stream and there was a ship called English River just entering the lock, so we stayed there to watch that whole process. As it was leaving a Canadian Coast Guard cutter called Limnos was entering the lock to go up-stream also, so we had to stay and watch her finish and steam toward the bridge. We finally left the lock and rode back to the truck and went home, too late to do any wine tasting that we had thought we might get to today. But it was worth it.
There were more fireworks scheduled down at the falls, but we decided to do a campfire instead, so we bought wood and had our wine and pupus sitting around the fire before grilling our White-Hots like they serve them in Rochester thanks to the Webster’s. It was a great end to a great day, the final one of our camping adventure. Tomorrow we’ll drive back to Hemlock, MI through Ontario and Port Huron and will spend a week with my Mom, and then another with Cheri’s family before returning to Maui July 23rd. I will add some information about those two weeks sometime in the future along with an epilogue, but it’s hard to say when or how often.
July 6th-17th, 2009
The trip back to Hemlock, and reality as represented by more usual people and places, was uneventful with six hours on the road from Niagara through Port Huron, Michigan, back to my permanent home in Hemlock. I’ll always think of the farm this way, even though I have spent more years living in Kihei than anywhere else. We spent a short week in Hemlock that passed quite peacefully: I helped Randy with yard work and beer with a burger at The Farmer’s Home tavern one evening. Cheri and I rode bicycles on the St. Charles rail-trail and Skip and I kayaked on the Tittabawassee River in Midland one afternoon. We took Mom to dinner at Applebee’s in Saginaw and breakfast at The Riverside in Freeland. We hung all of our stuff out to dry and air out because there had been a shower overnight before we packed up, so that took a day, and Cheri scrubbed the dining tent because she had detected what she called a fishy odor inside. I read some and Cheri finished her picture album with labels, and of course, I visited Dad’s grave to say hi and wish I could trade something for a few minutes more with him. We visited with all of Skip’s family except Vickie, and all of Randy’s at one time or another, and Rob’s daughters Kate, Leslie, and wife Annette who happened to be back in Michigan. We had breakfast with Ron and Lois Fanslow in Ithaca with Tour de France TV coverage and a dip in the hot-tub. We even drove to Standish to visit Randy at their campsite and found them there! (In previous years we have made such attempts twice without having found them in camp.)
On Sunday, we packed up again for the last camping of this trip in Petoskey State Park, about three hours north of Hemlock with the remnants of Cheri’s family; whoever still had time available after the graduation ceremonies in Annapolis. This used to be a huge affair with up to twenty relatives and assorted hangers-on but this year was to be only six; Bill Sr. and Anita, Bill Jr. and Debbie, and we two. Our nephew, Chris, did join us for one night but had to get back for a friend’s wedding. We rode bikes on the Little Traverse Bay Wheel-way one day and kayaked on Round Lake next door to the park. We drove to Lark’s Lake but decided that the weather wasn’t conducive to paddling and might even turn dangerous, so just drove back to camp. All in all the weather was pretty bad with only moments of sunshine and cool to cold temperatures all week. The usual very enjoyable traditions were upheld with Jon and Patty bringing wood for our fires and having Cheri and I over for BBQ ribs. We had pasties at the Bridgeview Park and shopping in Mackinaw City, campfires and good food and more wine to drink and labels to steam off. I had one long ride on the old bicycle I’ve had here in Michigan for twenty years that I fear will be its last. The wheels are bad at both ends among other deficiencies, so a replacement of some sort will be required next year. Cheri attended her fortieth high school class reunion with her oldest friends; Patty, Gail, and Ruth, while Jon and I had a night out together and made Jambalaya. It was a pleasant week but would have improved with warmer weather.
I’ve discovered that this journal; has been less central to my trip than it had been during my bike trips; I think because I was sharing it daily with Cheri, and communicating things to her that I would have been anxious to communicate through my journal, so it has been harder to sit down and write during this trip. The change to having the computer available also made it somewhat more of an effort to update than the pen and paper method used in the past; when using the computer you worry about power and connectivity, and will put off writing if one or more is problematic for some reason. In any case, it is my hope that this journal will be inspirational in some ways for others who might not otherwise take the step to make their own dreams become reality. It may not turn out as you dreamed it would, but the real life experience will be far superior to a “safe” lifestyle. See you again soon and thank you for joining us.