Thursday, August 30, 2018

It's Starting to Feel Like New England

August 20-26, 2018
Leroy - Fayetteville - Austerlitz, New York

When we started planning and prepping for our new life on the road I discovered the wonderful world of blogs. Some bloggers were already on the road, others like ourselves were still planning and dreaming. Getting to know Sue and Dave, and their darling pups Lewis and Sasha, on Beluga's Excellent Adventure meant also getting to know their beautiful farm and lakeside property. Once the farm was sold and the lake cottage was built they hit the road as fulltimers. We've had a great time meeting up with them in different states over the last few years.

Two years ago we were in the Finger Lakes area, but they were on the west coast. Somehow when planning this year's quick route across the top of New York I spaced on their being at the lake cottage during the same time. Nooo! We have to stop and see them, so I make a couple of reservation changes and confirm they're going to be home. 

Monday we drive small country roads for 60 miles to Leroy, New York. There's not much in Leroy, but there is the Timberline Lake Campground which is perfect for a one night stop. With 90% seasonal residents, it's a small park with a few over-night sites on the upper tier along I-90. FHUs and 50 amp, but we just plug in and head out again. 

Forty minutes later we're pulling into a driveway along the water. And there's our friends :-)))

It's perfect in every way. We enjoy happy hour on the boat at the little dock then a delicious summer BBQ on the patio. Dave hands Bill a fishing pole and I'm not sure we'll see any more of him, but after catching a couple little ones, he joins us back at the house.

As good times always do, the visit is over too soon, and we need to get back home. We're so grateful for these good friends.

Sue and Dave

Tessa isn't real sure about the dock, taking her time back to shore. Isn't that the most perfect cottage?

Happy fisherman. We learn that the overcast skies are the smoke from the west coast fires. Wow!

This patio has seen a lot of visitors this summer. We're so glad we had the chance to be here as well!
We drive by their "former" farmhouse and big red barn. One of those big stunners that look like a great place to live and raise a family and lots of critters. Love getting to see it after all these years!

Tuesday we're back on the expressway. We learned the hard way that they only take cash at the tollbooths and we're prepared this time. 115 miles and $28 later we arrive at Green Lake State Park

With level asphalt pads, large green sites, 50 amp FHUs, and surrounded by trees, this is one of the prettiest state parks we've stayed in. Although we have open skies above us, our satellite doesn't connect over the trees behind us. 

Our large site in the full hook ups loop.
Tessa is overdue for grooming so she has an appointment in nearby Syracuse. While she's having her spa time, Bill finds a little dive for breakfast. As is often the case, the food is wonderful. 

With a little time to kill we check out some of the city. There's always something interesting to look at. Soon we get the call and pick up our girl. It's only been a couple hours but we're all happy to see each other :-)

All clean and fluffed.

We don't usually do the bows - but these little bees are so cute, they stay in for a week.
The state park is well maintained with two small lakes - Green Lake and Round Lake. There are a few trails to the water, and a pretty drive through the forest.
Another very green three-hour drive east on Thursday takes us to Woodland Hills Campground. The last 1/2 mile is on a dirt road through the trees. Fortunately the temps have been cooler so I don't pay the extra fees for using our AC. Our back-in site is at a weird angle, but we're able to get level and our front yard view is sweet. The shade trees are nice, but once again we don't pick up satellite. Both cell and WiFi are sporadic.

Throughout our stay we experience a first for us. Campground announcements from loud speakers throughout the park! We are told when it's dark and that no bike or golf cart riding is allowed now. We are reminded of upcoming events. It's definitely different, and makes us laugh every time. With all the kids playing and riding and fishing it feels like summer camp - all three of us are entertained.

It gets busy around the water on the weekend, but overall it's a beautiful and peaceful site.
We're in the Berkshires, and that unmistakable feel of New England is everywhere. We start out in Stockbridge and take our time driving around the country. Because the Berkshires are a whole area, you end up in interesting locations when you enter it in the GPS :-)

Lots of historic memorials and 200 year old churches.

Not usually something I look for in a financial institution.

How cute is this B&B?

Next door is this red shingled beauty.

Love the chimney.

The Farmington River runs through the little hamlet of New Boston.

We want this view from our front porch when we eventually land - perfect!

Crossing the Farmington River, this vintage covered bridge is a private driveway.
Lots of birdsong along the marshes, but we don't see them.
Months ago I bought a jigsaw puzzle, but haven't had the perfect spot to sit outside without wind to put it together. It's just a 400 piece, but with a few adult beverages we have fun completing it in our lovely front yard. 

I have to pick up another one now!
We don't always visit state capitals, but Albany is "just up the road" so on Saturday we make the drive. Lots of historic buildings with some uber-modern structures along the Hudson River, it's worth the trip. Like our own capital, Sacramento, the nice downtown is surrounded by impoverished neighborhoods. 

A very impressive capitol - it fills a whole city block.

The Education Department is nearly as large - this is half the front.

A modern, marble museum and theater structure.

Then there's the "Egg" which is more boat or space ship to us. It houses two large theaters.
Delicate arches of an old church.

A few of the older buildings have a definite "fort feel" to them.

Another view of the capitol from the back. Beautiful!
Although the old row houses have seen better days, they  maintain a feel of historic pride.

Hudson River
Last night while grilling dinner, Bill met our neighbor. He and his wife have spent 15 summers at the park. We're invited to come over and visit this evening.

There's a pig roast at the park but we rarely participate in these events. Instead, we enjoy dinner at home then walk the 5 yards to see the neighbors.

Kyle and Laurie have lived in the area most of their lives, with kids and grand kids that keep them here. We have a good time getting to know them, sitting around the fire, and watching a few kids fish the pond. As we're saying our good-nights, a young boy pulls a large bass. Lots of excitement, simple pleasures.

August 20 our darling Maximus turned 2!! These little guys are growing up too fast.

Sunday we'll leave New York for Salem, Massachusetts. A big bucket list place for me - can't wait!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We Can't See it All - But We Do Okay!

August 12-19, 2018
South Higgins Lake - Detroit, Michigan; Amherst, Ohio; Niagara Falls, New York

At the RV Dreams Boondocking Rally in Quartzsite, Arizona, last March we met a delightful couple - Dawn and Darrell. Knowing they would be in Michigan in August, we made plans to stop and see them on our way east.

South Higgins Lake State Park is a beautiful and popular spot west of Lake Huron. We have a FHU pull-through site surrounded by dozens of families in trailers and tents. Everyone is in swim suits with all manner of floating toys, ice chests and chairs for play on the pretty lake we can see from our windows. 

We close our blinds, turn on the AC, and take a nap.

Monday is Bill's birthday - woo hoo social security! Dawn has prepared a delicious lunch for us and they even deliver. What a treat to spend the afternoon at home getting to know them better, and enjoying a home cooked meal we didn't have to fix :-))) 

While I failed to get a pic of both of them, Darrell and Tessa provide a quick Kodak moment.

Fluffy hugs.
The next morning we're up and out early for our 200 mile drive to Wayne County Fairgrounds RV Park. We're here to break up the drive, and to see another NFL stadium. Yes, there are a lot more places to visit here, and we'd love to see them - but we can't see it all and then see everything we want to see down the road. Next time we'll visit the Henry Ford Museum for sure, and visit Kalamazoo to the west where my dad's family has a lot of history.

The fairgrounds is a nice stop with level grass, water and electric sites. There is a Fulltime Families rally here so we are one of only two rigs without lots of kids. They have several activities going on, and it's wonderful to see all these travelers getting together.

We're only here for one night so as soon as we're plugged in we make the 30 minute drive into Detroit. Like many places, we have pre-conceived ideas of what we'll see in this battered city. Driving into downtown the worn residences and closed businesses are as expected. Still, the feeling of proud history is strong here. As a retired union organizer, Detroit is the motherland and I'm immediately sorry there wasn't time for a longer visit. 

The area around Ford Field is more alive, newer, a good looking city. We have to pay to park, but can only access the pro-shop. The grumpy security guard clearly does not love his job and makes for a less than welcoming experience. 

A quick visit to the pro-shop where we can view the interior stands, then we get escorted out when Bill makes the mistake of taking a pic of the field. Oops!

There's a pre-season game here in a few days so they must be fast workers!
Stadium #15 - very nice, but feels like a mall.

Something for every Lions' fan.

Tigers next door.



Modern layers

Yes, it's 5 PM when we leave town, so we join the commuters for our return drive home. Being from SoCal, it's not something unfamiliar so we sing along to our playlist until we're back at the fairgrounds. 

Although we can't see everything in every place, our next stop in Amherst, Ohio, is a repeat. The drive on I-75 in Michigan is some of the worst highway we've driven - nearly as bad as I-10 in Louisiana! As soon as we pass the sign into Ohio the road is immediately perfect. It's like physically experiencing state budgets!

Plenty of land, why do some parks have entrances that require squeezing your RV through such a narrow gate?
Timber Ridge Campground is a quiet park with lots of seasonal campers, and we're here for the same reason we were two years ago - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a must-see, especially for a classic rock aficionado like Bill! Unfortunately when we came the first time the crowds were insane. Two hours in line just to buy tickets meant we turned around and said "next time".

So here we are! And very happy to find a parking place right in front, with zero waiting in line. There's still a lot of people, but manageable.

The Hall of Fame sits on Lake Erie - Cleveland Browns' stadium just to the left of the ship.

We're here!

Some favorites from over the years - it's amazing who isn't in the hall!

Sadly, Aretha passed away at her home in Detroit on the morning we were here.

Half of this large room is filled with the Beatles.

Another British band fills the other side.

The exhibits organized by the city where the musicians became famous are very well done. In addition to Cleveland are Los Angeles, Detroit, Seattle, Liverpool and San Francisco.

In the summer of my 14th year I snuck into the Whisky A-Go-Go in Los Angeles to see the house band play. A woman in a fringed vest walked up on stage from one of the tables in the audience. She sang several songs in between shots of bourbon and a few beers. I've never heard anyone since who sang with such raw and tortured emotion. I was mesmerized. Janis Joplin was an experience I will never forget. A few months later she was gone.

A much less pleasant experience was meeting Mama Cass at the Black Rabbit in Hollywood. A most unfriendly person.
We both enjoyed the historic story of "how" we experienced music over the years. Bill and I each had a radio like this, complete with the leather covers. From Hi-Fi's to IPods, we've seen a lot of changes!

There are a lot of talented and "best" guitarists showcased here, but Jeff Beck has been my favorite for decades. His well-worn instrument from his early years with the Yard Birds.

Elvis' butt sat here so the chair is famous :-)
Fun to see my parents' favorite group - along with the Mills Brothers - and to put on the headphones to hear their amazing harmonies I grew up listening to.
Bill and I are Doors fans with Jim Morrison being the number one lost musician we would "bring back" if we could. This scout pack pick of Jim is not who we think of!
The words to Riders of the Storm written in Jim's hand in 1971. He died the day the song "hit the charts". 
There is so much to see here, and we enjoyed all of it. We finally pulled ourselves away after over four hours. 

We stop for fuel and printer ink on the way home. A few hours later the RV tech who Bill contacted the day before stops by. It's after 6 PM and he's still working - bless him! 

Our electric connector on the Jeep has been giving us issues off and on, and when we arrived here it completely fell apart. A less than subtle message that a new one is needed. Fortunately the tech has what we need on board, and 30 minutes later the new one is installed. 

Even better, when we hook up in the morning it works perfectly. And it's still working.....yay!

A long travel day for us, Friday we travel 270 miles to Niagara Falls. It's a nice drive on the Turnpike where we learn that New York tolls are cash only if you don't have a pass - and if you don't have cash you can mail them a check. So why not just take a check at the booth? Oh well....we pick up cash for the remainder of our travels in state.

Another lovely stop we learned about from Steven and Linda (The Chouters) we set up at Four Mile Creek State Park  in a huge, green and level site with 30 amp, electric-only. Even with the numerous trees, our satellite connects. Not surprising, this is another location with lots of families - bicycles and evening camp fires. 

The humidity is thick and we head for a nearby air-conditioned pub - Somewhere - where the food is incredible!! Love these little dives in small towns.

Let me know if you can tell what this says :-)
It rains overnight and yesterday's humidity becomes today's sweltering blanket. We figure since it's Saturday we'll just drive near the falls and see where we want to go on Sunday.

It doesn't work that way. Once we wind ourselves into the area we end up following the cars into the parking lot. What the heck, we're here. How bad can it be?

Holy schmoly it's SO crowded. Two wedding parties (I can't imagine wearing a suit or nylons in this weather), a marriage proposal, a few family reunions, and thousands of tourists join us to see this natural wonder. 

It's my own fault for planning a summer weekend visit. We do pay the small fee and join the hordes on the observation platform above.

We don't take a Maid of the Mist cruise under the falls. From the platform we can watch individual people walk through a small building and become matching blue bugs on the other side. Weird.

On the Canadian side they make red bugs. No matter the color, I cannot imagine being piled so tightly together. Everyone I know who's done it says it's worth it, but I know my limitations.
Why we're here - and definitely spectacular!

American Falls

Across the top of American Falls to half of Horseshoe Falls.

One of the Maids heads into the mist.

Not far from tons of roaring water, the Niagara River calmly continues north to Lake Ontario.

I've seen enough water....and knees.
Away from the water we find these treasures - rocking park benches!! I hope this catches on everywhere :-)
Back on Niagara Scenic Byway we make our way away from the insanity of the main park and stop at the Niagara Whirlpool. With a lot fewer people, we take our time watching the swirling water, the shallow rapids, the Canadian gondola, and the very fast jet boats that race about 25 thrill-seekers through and under all of it. It's a lovely spot to take a breath.

Thought to be formed over 4200 years ago, the large whirlpool is the result of the river eroding a hidden gorge nearly perpendicular to the water rushing from the falls - giving the water a large "cul-de-sac" to swirl around. 

Gondola riders watch the large spinning jet boat below.

Now this boat I think would be a lot of fun!

Niagara Gorge

The rapidly moving water is crystal clear.
We're glad we took the time to see the Falls (last time we opted for a different direction), and agree that next time we would want to do it in early Autumn with less people and cooler temps.

On our way home we visit the cute historic town of Lewiston. Quaint eateries and shops with pretty gardens and vintage buildings, it's a nice, quiet afternoon.

Elephant Ears - we had a plant at our house from birth until 2nd grade. The day my mom let me wear one as a cape was a big deal!
Sunday the humidity is 93% and Bill suggests we take the opportunity to see another NFL stadium while we're in the area. Another place we didn't see last time - because you can't see it all :-)

The Buffalo Bills New Era Stadium feels like football to us - an outdoor field away from town. No parking structure, not even a crosswalk from the lot across the street. These are hardcore fans who watch games in freezing temps and slushy snow. 

Home of the Buffalo Bills

Ready for another season.

Even though it's "his" store, my Bill only wears Cowboys gear!
Almost as exciting as checking another stadium off our list - we find a Trader Joe's! It's a treat to restock with favorites.

It's fun to say "I can't believe we're in New York!" It's just as fun to say "I can't believe we're back in New York!" Like our last time, we'll miss some of the great places that others suggest, and add even more places to our already long list for next time. 

This time we're moving quickly until we get to Maine and start our route south on the Atlantic coast. After Labor Day we'll slow down and loosen our planning. 

We still won't see it all. We're all blessed to live in a country filled with unlimited natural, cultural, historic and personally relevant locations to visit. This lifestyle gives us the opportunity to see much more than we ever dreamed possible.

Monday we make a stop to see a little slice of heaven I've been reading about for five years, and the good friends who have made it their own.