Monthly Archives: July 2018

Corn Country

As I mentioned in my last post, rain was falling Sunday morning. The horse show at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, IL ended Saturday night and everyone was leaving. Most of the sites there don’t have sewer hook ups, so there was a long line at the dump station. Donna and I were in no hurry to leave. I watched the Formula One race from Hungary until heavy rainfall blocked the satellite reception. Oh well, it was time to get to work.

I donned a jacket and my palm straw hat and went out in the rain to pack up the trailer. Then I dumped and flushed the tanks and put the rest of the gear away while Donna made the interior ready for travel. We were ready to go at noon.

Our plan was to drive to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa where we could dry camp overnight at the Walmart there. When I programmed the destination into Nally, our Rand-McNally RV specific GPS, she wanted to route us up the interstate to Peoria, then west into Iowa on I-74 to US34. I wanted to take a rural route and stay off the Interstate. So, I changed the route by setting a waypoint in Rushville, Illinois. The thing is, sometimes Nally knows best. The GPS will take weight limits and clearances into consideration when advising the best route.

We had an easy drive, rain notwithstanding, through western Illinois on IL125 to US67. Traffic was light and soon we broke out of the storm clouds as we headed west. But, there was a snag. Nally diverted us outside of Macomb and we were on county roads driving through farm fields. The roads were narrow with no shoulder. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic either. After a few turns and about 10 minutes or so, she had us back on US67. I’m guessing there was some obstruction or weight limit in the town of Macomb that we had to work around.

Narrow county road through corn fields

We crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. While we’re now west of the Mississippi, I think most people would agree we’re still in the Midwest, not the West yet. When we cross the Missouri River, I’ll feel like we’re back in the western states.

This is corn country. All day we were driving with corn fields on both sides of the highway, broken up here and there with soy beans. We found the Walmart in Mt. Pleasant and parked in a level corner of the lot. Donna made a shopping run and stocked up the pantry. When we stop at a Walmart, Donna can take her time and really shop the aisles. She can buy whatever she wants without having to think about how much space she has for stuff in the Spyder – she just walks a full shopping cart out to our rig.

Even in town there are corn fields

After a quiet night in the Walmart lot, we hit the road Monday morning a little after 9am. Our destination was about 140 miles away – Griff’s Valley View RV Park in Des Moines. It was an easy route as we got on US34 from the Walmart parking lot and followed it west all the way to US65 into the east side of Des Moines. We stopped and fueled up at the Pilot/Flying J Travel Center a few miles from the RV park. It was only 11:30am, so we were early to arrive at the park.

There was a Blue Beacon truck wash next to the travel center, but it had a long line. We decided to join the queue since we were in no hurry. We were badly in need of a wash job. We’ve been traveling through wet weather for weeks on end without a wash and the coach was grimy. An hour later, were shiny and on our way.

After working around a couple of road closures, we found the RV Park. The park is owned and operated by the Griffieon family who also own a farm nearby. They run the park from an office at their farm. We were instructed to phone when we arrived at the park. Donna phoned and talked to Carol – she directed us into our site. It’s a paved 70-foot long back-in site. Plenty big enough for our size without dropping the trailer. But, I saw a problem. The 50-amp electrical service pedestal was located at the rear end of the site. With our trailer behind the coach, our power cord wouldn’t reach it.

Carol suggested dropping the trailer in a nearby area next to a garage. We found that parking area was already full of trailers. A guy working in the garage told us there was another parking area past our site. To get there, I needed to get us turned around. This wasn’t so easy. The park is laid out to allow entry and exit of big rigs, but the angle of the intersections make it impossible to get turned around when you’re heading out of the park. I drove out onto the county road in front of the park, went north about a mile where a dirt road intersected the county road. I was able to make a three-point turn there and re-enter the park. Whew!

We looked at the second parking area and found it full of trailers as well. Donna called Carol again and she told us to sit tight, Dave would come over to help us find a solution. By the time he arrived, I decided to unload the Spyder, back into the site and go buy a 50-amp extension cord.

Dave was really helpful and he told us to back in as far as possible and not worry about the trailer overhanging the lawn in back. As it turns out, we actually got in far enough for our cord to reach and got set up. Although we haven’t had the need for an extension cord much in the last five years, this was the second time in a month we had an issue with placement of the power pedestal. Once we were set up, I took the Spyder to Imperial RV Center about seven or eight miles away and bought a 15-foot 50-amp extension for $87. We’re okay without it right now, but if we have this issue again, I’ll be prepared.

Our site at Griff’s Valley View RV Park

On the way back from the RV store, I stopped at a roadside stand where a woman was selling fresh sweet corn in front of her farmhouse. The sign said “Sweet Corn $5.” I asked how much corn for five bucks and she said, “A dozen ears.” I said, “Oh no, too much.” She thought I meant five bucks was too much money for a dozen ears. I explained that there were only two of us and we couldn’t eat a dozen ears of corn in a reasonable amount of time. She gave me four ears of corn picked that morning for a dollar!

Griff’s Valley View RV Park is right on a bike trail. Donna was raring to go so I got her bike set up. While I was pumping up the tires, the presta valve on the rear tire broke. I removed the rear wheel and pulled the tire off. I had tubes and a pair of new tires on hand, so I put a new rear tire on while I was at it. Man, those Continental Gatorskin tires have stiff beads. It was a workout to seat the bead on the rim.

Donna rode out of the park and headed northeast on the Chichaqua Valley Trail. This is a paved multi-use trail from Baxter to Berwick – about 26 miles. It intersects with other trails into Des Moines, so biking from the RV park is convenient.

Later, I got the Weber Q grill out of the trailer while Donna prepped a steelhead trout filet with a mayonnaise based topping. I grilled the trout and Donna sauteed fresh mushrooms with bacon pieces to top a baked potato. She also cooked the corn on the cob. It was a delicious meal and the corn was the best we’ve had in a long time.

Steelhead trout, baked potato with mushrooms and bacon and sweet corn on the cob

After dinner, we sat outside and enjoyed the evening. It’s very quiet here at night. We saw a lightning show in a thunderhead off in the distance but it stayed calm and dry here. The forecast for the coming week looks good with mostly sunny skies and temps reaching the low 80s.


*Just so you know, if you follow one of my links to Amazon and decide to purchase anything, you pay the same price as usual and  I’ll earn a few pennies for the referral. It’ll go into the beer fund. Thanks!


Maintenance and Mail

We’ve had a good time here in Springfield, Illinois. We played pickleball Thursday morning at Iles Park and had some great matches. Thursday afternoon I had a maintenance chore to take care of.

When we bought our coach four and a half years ago, the generator had about 400 hours on it. I change the oil and oil filter on it every 150 hours of operation and change the air and fuel filters at 500-hour intervals. On May 31st, just eight weeks ago, it had 1,364 hours on it when I last changed the oil and filter. Since then we’ve done a lot of boondocking, plus we had the battery bank problem which had me running the generator more often than usual. We now have 1,505 hours on it and it was time to change the oil and filter again plus change the fuel and air filters.

1,505.8 hours on our Onan generator

They don’t have any rule against performing maintenance here at the Springfield Fairgrounds, so that was my chore for Thursday afternoon. While I was at it, I changed the fuel filter for our Cummins ISL diesel engine – an annual maintenance item.

Friday morning we started with pickleball until noon then I took it easy for the remainder of the day. While I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw a post in an RV group that said was closing. What? Terri at has been receiving and forwarding our mail since 2013. She also assisted us with vehicle registrations and our first South Dakota driver’s license applications. I phoned Terri and was shocked to find out it was true. I don’t know what the circumstances are, but something suddenly went bad as she told me she was closing on the 31st – next Tuesday!

I needed to act fast so we don’t have our mail service interrupted. After some research, I decided to sign up with in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I worked with Tanyel in their billing department and she e-mailed the forms I need to get on board.

Meanwhile, Donna prepared pork kababs which I grilled along with peppers and onions while she made potato salad and corn on the cob that she picked up at the farmers’ market here at the fairgrounds.

Grilled pork kababs with peppers, potato salad and corn

One of the forms I needed to submit for our new mailing address was Postal Form 1583 which needed to be notarized. The nearest notary I could find on Saturday morning was at a shipper called Box and Go about 10 miles away. Donna and I both had to have our signatures notarized.

On the way there, just blocks away from Box and Go, Donna spied a Chase Bank branch that was open. The one nearest to the fairgrounds was closed on Saturday. We went to Chase since we bank there and have free notary service. The notary there stared at the form for a couple of minutes, then said, “I can’t notarize two signatures – there’s only a space for one signature on this form.” I told her we had submitted one of these forms before and I was sure we had both names and signatures on one form. She looked at the form again and said, “It says right here a separate form is needed for each applicant.” I had only printed one form. I asked if I could send the form from my phone to her e-mail and then she could print one for us. She said no, we would have get new forms and come back. I couldn’t believe it.

We rode the 10 miles back to the fairgrounds and I printed new forms. I looked at the instruction where it said a separate form was needed for each applicant. The next line stated “except for spouses, spouses may use one form.” I knew we used one form before! We went back and this time we were helped by a different notary and she had no problem with both of us signing one form. Grrr…20 unnecessary miles and wasted time.

We went to the Lincoln Museum downtown in the afternoon. Although Springfield is the state capital, there are only about 120,000 residents and the downtown area isn’t too large. It has a lot of nice historic buildings though and the museum was nice.

Pedestrian only section of Adams Street with Abraham and Mary Lincoln statue

After touring the museum, Donna and I walked a few blocks away to Buzz Bomb Brewery and Taproom to sample a couple of local beers. The museum and brew was a nice way to spend the afternoon.

After dinner, Donna went for a walk while I enjoyed a cigar. On her way back, she discovered that barrel racing was about to begin at the arena here at the fairgrounds. So we went down and watched about 15 girls compete and then receive their awards.

This morning we woke up to rain – the first we’ve had since we decided to bug out of Ohio. We’ll be packing up and making the rig road worthy this morning. We’re in no hurry. Our plan is to go to Mount Pleasant, Iowa for the night and then move on to Des Moines. We only have about 160 miles to cover today. It will be another rainy driving day.

Happenings in Lincoln Land

After three straight travel days, it felt good to get up on Sunday with no real plans. I watched the German Formula One Grand Prix and relaxed with a book most of the day. Donna went for a walk and explored Lincoln Park. Springfield, Illinois was the home of Abraham Lincoln for 24 years – the only house he ever owned was here.

Several rigs pulled into the fairgrounds on Sunday – most of the were specialized trailers that held horses in the rear compartment and had living quarters in the front half – kind of like a toy hauler for horses instead of motorcycles or ATVs. We wondered why so many of these units showed up. We thought maybe they were early arrivals for the Illinois State Fair which opens on August 10st.

Horse trailers with living quarters

I set up the Weber Q and grilled herbed chicken thighs Sunday evening. Again, it felt good to be back on what is a more normal routine for us. Donna baked a sweet potato and served seasoned chili beans plus sauteed baby kale and spinach for the side dishes.

Grilled chicken, baked beans, sweet potato and spinach

Monday morning we headed downtown to Iles Park where they have pickleball courts. We found eight courts and a number of people playing. As with most of our pickleball experiences, the people were friendly and welcomed us to join them. The outdoor courts had great playing surfaces and most of the players were experienced. We played for two hours and really enjoyed it.

Pickleball courts at Iles Park

We spent the afternoon recovering and watched more rigs pull into the fairgrounds. A travel trailer set up in the site next to us. They guy told us he was setting it up for his daughter – she was here to compete in the horse show. This was news to us -, we didn’t know there was a horse show scheduled at the fairgrounds this week. But that explained all the horse trailer/campers!

Monday night Donna manned the grill and grilled skewered shrimp which she served over pasta alfredo with green peas.

Grilled shrimp over pasta with green peas

Tuesday morning we were back at the pickleball courts.  The temperature hit 80 degrees on Sunday and each day after that was hotter than the last. Tuesday the high was 86 degrees and it was already warm and humid when we played in the morning. I quit after six games – I was feeling the heat and ran out of energy.

After relaxing and recovering, we rode the Spyder down by the Old Capitol District to Obed and Isaac’s Microbrewery. We had a couple of beers brewed onsite and dinner. I had a local favorite called The Horseshoe – it’s an open-face sandwich made with thick toast, choice of meat, a cheese sauce and fries. I had the house made corned beef. Donna ordered the Kitchen Sink Pie – basically a shepherd’s pie.

The Horseshoe

I brought about a third of my meal home for consumption later – it was too much to eat in one sitting.

From there we rode to Lincoln’s Tomb. On Tuesday evenings they have a ceremony there which includes soldiers dressed in Civil War era uniforms. They lower and retire the flag every week. Spectators can enter a drawing and the lucky winner is presented with the American flag.

Lincoln’s Tomb

Front view of Lincoln’s tomb

Before lowering the flag, the soldiers fired a salute from Civil War period rifles.


We were ready for the firing of the rifles, but once the flag was lowered we were surprised by the loud boom of a cannon being fired!

We skipped pickleball this morning. We needed a rest day – my right foot is sore along the fifth metacarpal. I fractured the metacarpal between my little toe and heel about 20 years ago and it seems to be flaring up.

At lunch time, we went up to the horse stables and arena area to see what was going on. The participants are mostly girls involved in 4H. They compete in several events separated by age group. The brick stable buildings date back to 1901 and are in great condition. We saw some of the participants practicing and exercising their steeds.

Exercise arena

We walked to another arena where they were competing in an event that simulates trail riding and demonstrating control while completing tasks like retrieving mail from a mailbox or backing the horse into a tight space and opening a gate then closing it from horseback after riding through. It was interesting to watch.

Backing the horse into a tight space

These two sisters competed in different age groups. Girl in the foreground was in the eight-to-nine-year-old group

This girl likes blue – right down to her cowboy boots

We had lunch at a concession stand, then I wanted to get a look at the grandstand area. This is where the Springfield Mile track is. The Springfield Mile is an oval dirt track one mile long. It hosts horse harness racing and also dirt track motorcycle racing.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) held the first AMA National event here in 1937. Later, it became the crown jewel of the AMA Grand National Championship. In the 1960s, guys like Dick Mann, Cal Rayborn and Mert Lawwill chased the championship while driving across the country with their motorcycles and tools packed in panel vans. Back then, to be crowned Grand National Champion, you had to accumulate points at various national events across the country – both road racing and dirt track racing.

Front straight and turn 1 at the Springfield Mile

Final turn and beginning of the front straight

The dirt track events on a mile course like this were fast and took a lot of courage. They would accelerate to over 100 mph on the straights and pitch the bike sideways, counter-steering through the turns without brakes. I was happy I had to opportunity to go up in the grandstand and imagine the moments back in the day.

The City of Springfield quit allowing the AMA to hold their event here after hooligans created trouble in 1966. In 1981, the city agreed to hold an event and it went so well, they’ve been back racing here as a national event since then.

We’ve booked an additional day here at the fairgrounds and will stay until Sunday. The weather forecast calls for it to become slightly cooler with highs in the upper 70s and a chance of some showers over the weekend. Hopefully the showers hold off and we can attend a few more events.



Leaving the Storm Behind

I wrote my last post a few days ago from the COE park near Confluence, Pennsylvania on the Youghiogheny River. I should have mentioned how the name of that river is pronounced – the locals say YOCK-uh-gainee. Strange. We pulled out of there on Thursday morning. I had filled the fresh water and dumped the holding tanks on Tuesday before we left Gettysburg, so I didn’t bother with the dump station.

Our route took us across the northwest corner of Maryland and into West Virginia. We were constantly climbing or descending short, steep grades that are the Appalachian Mountains. On the descents, tractor-trailer rigs would grab another gear and pass us, but on the climbs, I motored back past them. Our destination was only 150 miles away – we went back to the Walmart in Parkersburg, West Virginia where we spent the night seven weeks earlier at the end of May.  The Walmart stop gave us a chance to restock the pantry.

We expected rain Friday morning, but it held off long enough for Donna to do a phone meeting to discuss a work project. We hit the road at 11:00am. We headed west on US50 into Ohio. We ran into the predicted thunderstorms – it rained heavily at times but we didn’t encounter high winds. Lightning strikes hit nearby a few times and it got dark.

The hills became a little rounder and less steep in southeast Ohio. We continued on US50 to Chillicothe where we stopped for fuel at the Flying J. Fuel is about 50 cents/gallon cheaper in Ohio than it was in Pennsylvania. I pumped 70 gallons at $3.21/gallon. Once we  were west of Chillicothe, the terrain flattened out. It was mostly farm fields with few hills.

We covered about 180 miles and stopped at Cabela’s in Centerville, near Dayton, Ohio. This turned out to be one of the smaller Cabela’s stores and it didn’t have dedicated RV parking. There was a sign in the parking for truck and RV parking, but no long stalls were marked anywhere in the lot. The lot on the east side of the store was empty, so I parked us across several stalls parallel to the building and facing south. Severe weather was in the forecast. The building to the west of us gave us some shelter from the wind. I was concerned about hail, we kept our fingers crossed. I checked with the customer service gal in the store and she told us we were fine where we parked.

Severe weather on the radar – we’re the black spot in the center

It rained heavily at times, but we didn’t get any hail. The worst of the storm was to the south and east of us. Donna took advantage of a break in the rain to walk to Costco in the adjacent plaza. Later, we watched a couple of recorded episodes of Shameless and the rain let up by the time we went to bed.

Donna was up before me on Saturday morning. When I got up she told me she thought we should get out of the area. The forecast called for rain to continue through Ohio and Indiana for the next four days. We originally thought about going to an Elks Lodge across the Indiana border, but that wouldn’t get us out of the weather. We wanted to find some sunshine!

After looking at a few options, we decided to make a westward push and follow the sun to Springfield, Illinois. This meant a long 340-mile day. I made it a bit longer when I made a mistake on a detour in Indianapolis. I-65 was closed in Indianapolis and we found ourselves wandering on narrow old streets between the White River and the speedway. Our GPS wasn’t much help – it said there were no legal routes for us from where we were. We were oversize for the roads.

Donna scrambled to find a route on Google maps on her laptop. We eventually made our way without any mishaps and got on I-465. We took I-74 and I-72 to reach Springfield. We found the Illinois State Fairgrounds where they have 300 RV sites. I checked us in and we booked a full hook-up 50-amp site for a week. One week cost $125 – our site is basically a paved parking lot with RV hook-ups, but the price is right, the weather forecast is good and there are sights to see in the Illinois State Capital.

The forecast calls for a high of 78 degrees today and the mid-80s for the rest of the week. There’s a slight chance of a passing shower, but no severe weather.

Youghiogheny Confluence

The thunderstorms predicted for Monday morning held off as we prepared to hit the road. We pulled out of Artillery Ridge Camping Resort in Gettysburg in dry conditions around 10am. Our route took us south on US15 into Maryland. We straddled the Mason-Dixon line and crossed between Maryland and Pennsylvania a couple of times. We were mostly on quiet state routes – these are generally slower and took us through some small towns and villages, but we enjoy the scenery much more than most Interstates. Besides, I didn’t want to pay tolls on I-70 in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania has the highest fuel taxes in the country yet they still collect tolls!

The route through the Appalachian Mountains was hilly with some very steep grades. Most of the grades were fairly short and topped out around 1,300 feet above sea level. Eventually we ran into the thunderstorms. Thankfully we didn’t have to contend with much wind, but at times the visibility was extremely poor. Even though it was raining, there was a mist in the air as we approached the summits – almost foggy.

Our destination for the day was a Corps of Engineers park near Confluence, Pennsylvania by the dam on the Youghiogheny River. The small town is called Confluence because it sits right at the confluence of the Casselman River and the Youghiogheny River.

Donna had reserved a site for us at the park before we left Gettysburg that morning. We arrived around 1:30pm and checked in. Our site is a 60-foot back-in. With a little maneuvering, I was able to fit our 64-foot length completely in the site without dropping the trailer.

Coach and trailer angled to fit in site 39

We’re within 100 yards of the banks of the Youghiogheny at the outflow area of the dam.

Youghiogheny River Outflow

There are only 30 sites in this campground. We were lucky to get a long site here. It only has 30-amp electric service, no water or sewer. I had dumped our tanks and filled the fresh water before we left Gettysburg. Once I had our rig into the site, we discovered we had a problem. The 30-amp pedestal is at the rear of the site. Our power cord isn’t long enough to reach it. I was about to drop the trailer and reposition the coach when a neighbor stopped by. He saw us trying to hook up and asked me how much cord we needed to reach the pedestal. I told him we were about 10 feet short. He said he had a 30-amp extension cord he could lend us. Nice! That worked.

The campground is full, but it’s fairly quiet. There’s a bicycle/hiking trail along the river called Great Allegheny Passage. We saw several bicyclists stopping for the night to use the showers and tent camp here. Donna hiked a portion of the trail into town in the afternoon. She met a gal riding the full length of the trail from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

There’s a siren that sounds when they release additional water from the Youghiogheny River Lake behind the dam. This morning, they released water into the outflow at 6am and the siren sounded. So much for morning quiet time.

After breakfast, I retrieved Donna’s road bike from the trailer and pumped up her tires. She rode up the trail past Confluence and through the State Forest to the town of Ohiopyle. The Casselman River has a brown color while the Youghiogheny has blue-green color. Donna shot a photo of the confluence of the two rivers and you can clearly see the difference as the Casselman joins the Youghiogheny.

Casselman River joining the Youghiogheny

The Youghiogheny flows northwest all the way to the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. Below are a couple of photos Donna took of the trail.

Great Allegheny Passage

Bridge on the trail

We were only able to book two nights here, so we’ll continue our westward trek tomorrow. The weather forecast looks good with light winds and no precipitation for the next two days. We’ll figure out our next stop along the way.

Deja Vu in Pennsylvania

Our overnight stay at the Delaware Water Gap Penn DOT Welcome Center was uneventful. It could have been quieter, but a tractor-trailer rig with a refrigerated trailer parked by us. His generator ran all night to keep the trailer refrigerated. This is a nice overnight stopping place – they keep the air conditioned building open 24/7 and it has clean restrooms plus free wifi with good speed – even out in the parking area. There are14 Welcome Centers in Pennsylvania, I don’t know if all of them are as nice as this one. We may find another before we leave the state.

Donna was happy to learn that the Welcome Center was on the 2.6-mile Cherry Creek Crossing Loop Trail. She enjoyed her hike which took her first along the creek and then into the small town of Delaware Water Gap where she found a bakery.

Stepping stones across a creek on Donna’s hike

Bakery and market

Donna walked to the bakery Sunday morning and bought breakfast sandwiches – they were excellent. I watched the Moto GP qualifying for the German Grand Prix before we packed up. We were in no hurry. We planned to go about 80 miles to Hamburg, Pennsylvania and stay overnight at Cabela’s.  I didn’t realize we had stayed at this Cabela’s before. Donna recognized it as we were pulling in. We stayed here in August, 2015.

Originally I planned to utilize the dump station at Cabela’s, but we made a change of plans. After talking with my youngest daughter, Shauna, we decided to go to Gettysburg on Sunday. Shauna could drive up from Washington, DC on Sunday afternoon for a visit. We booked two nights at the Artillery Ridge Camping Resort where we stayed in 2015.

After settling in at Cabela’s, I got Donna’s knock-around bike out and she went for a ride on the Schuylkill River Trail which intersects with the Appalachian Trail.


Appalachian Trail

Meanwhile, I walked next door to the Cigars International (CI) Superstore. CI is a big retailer of cigars and related accessories. They have three retail outlets in Pennsylvania and are opening one in The Colony, Texas. Most of their sales are through online shopping.

Me – at Cigars International

The Hamburg location is the largest – it’s a two-story building with a full bar and patio on each floor. They have a selection of hundreds of cigars and an inventory on-hand of about a million cigars. I was like a kid in a candy store browsing around.

The prices in their retail stores aren’t anything special – better deals can be found online. But, I had the opportunity to look over many cigar brands I hadn’t seen before. And I was able to buy some singles to sample – if I really like one, I can watch for a deal online later.

Later, after Donna’s bike ride we went back to CI for happy hour. The building has a complex climate control system. The entire building is humidity and temperature controlled while also providing ventilation and air filtration. While were at the bar, the temperature was about 70 degrees and the humidity was 68%. Customers are allowed to puff cigars anywhere in the building – they have a few lounges – one with a pool table – and the two bars which also serve food.

While we were having a beer we met a guy that’s hiking the Appalachian Trail with a friend. They started at the southern end of the trail in Georgia about three months ago and plan to make it to the north end in Maine by mid-September. What an adventure!

Sunday morning I watched the Moto GP race until a thunderstorm blocked the satellite reception. We headed out around 10:30am and went about two blocks away to Walmart to stock up on a few things. Then we hit I-78 to make the 100-mile drive to Gettysburg. We hit one slowdown after I-78 became I-81 near Harrisburg. It rained off and on until we were past Harrisburg.

I stopped at the F:ying J Travel Center at exit 77 in Harrisburg. I blew it by not filling our tank before we crossed into Pennsylvania. Fuel is expensive in Pennsylvania, but I needed to top up because we would be running too low before we get to Ohio. Our Onan Quiet Diesel generator runs off of the same fuel tank as our coach’s engine. The diesel fuel pick-up is on a stand pipe in the tank roughly a quarter of the way up in the tank. This is done so you can’t inadvertently run the fuel tank all the way empty while dry camping with the generator. The generator will run out of fuel, but there will still be about a quarter tank of fuel left to drive the coach. So, since we will probably be doing more dry camping, I don’t want to run the fuel tank too low.

We checked in at the Artillery Ridge Camping Resort at 1:30pm and set up. I dumped and flushed our tanks – it had been 10 days since we last dumped the tanks in Scarborough, Maine. Shauna came to our site a little after 3pm. It was about a 90-minute drive for her. She brought her boyfriend’s dog along. After a short visit, we piled into her Volkswagen Tiguan and went to downtown Gettysburg. We walked along the streets and checked out the old buildings and historical placards. I wrote about Gettysburg when we were here before in this post.

Donna, Shauna and Guinness outside of the Farnsworth House

Eventually we stopped at the Farnsworth House where they have a beer garden and patio dining that’s dog friendly. Guinness the dog, was well-behaved and sat in the shade. One of the wait staff brought a water dish for him. We had a beer and talked over dinner. On the way back, we stopped at the Gettysburg National Military Park and climbed up the 59-step spiral stairway of the State of Pennsylvania Monument.

Shauna and I on the top left of the monument

Shauna headed for home around 8pm. She had to work in the morning – she’s an Associate Attorney in DC at Dentons Law Firm.

This morning I tried to extend our stay here until Wednesday due to the weather forecast. Thunderstorms are predicted for tomorrow. I wasn’t able to keep our site for another night, so we’ll have to suck it up and drive in the rain. I’m not sure where we’re stopping next.

Four States, Two Detours

We ended up spending eight nights moochdocking at Donna’s parents’ place, west of Old Bennington, Vermont. I haven’t posted in a week – this was one of the rare places where we had trouble getting a good internet connection or phone service with Verizon. I could take my laptop into the house and use Duke and Lorraine’s wifi, but it was awkward and I wasn’t very motivated to post.

Donna spent a lot of time doing yardwork. She spread mulch that was piled under a tree in the yard to create a plot about 12 feet by 20 feet. She also did a lot of weeding and learned to operate a weedwacker! The weedwacking would have kicked my allergies into high gear.

The highlight of the week was a trip for brew and dinner at Brown’s Brewing Walloomsac Taproom. This is located in Hoosick Falls, New York where Donna attended high school. Bennington, Vermont is less than 10 miles from the New York state line. The taproom and brewery is in an old building on the banks of the Walloomsac River.

Brown’s Brewery and Walloomsac Taproom

The brick building was originally built in 1854 and housed a papermill making wallpaper. In 1943, the site was purchased by the White-Flomatic Corporation and was a factory for the valves they made.

In 2006, Gary Brown bought the place with the intent of converting it to a brewery and taproom – an expansion of his operation in Troy, New York. The renovation took some time and the brewery and taproom finally opened in 2013.

We had a couple of cold ones and dinner with a view of the Walloomsac.

Donna, Duke and Lorraine

While we were dry camped, our Verizon Jetpack was giving us trouble. It was shutting itself off randomly. Sometimes it would shut off only a few seconds after booting up; other times it would work fine for an hour or so before shutting down. We’ve had it for more than five years.

On Thursday morning, Donna and I had breakfast at a diner in Bennington called The Blue Benn – excellent breakfast menu! Then we hit the Verizon store in town. Our old 291L Jetpack needed to be replaced. I upgraded to the 6620L. Five years is a long time for wireless technology. After we returned to the coach, we were surprised to find a 4G connection with the new Jetpack. The improvements in antennas and signal boosting made all the difference in the world.

Donna’s sister Sheila and Sheila’s son Connor flew in from California in the afternoon. Duke drove to Albany, New York and picked them up. We had a late dinner together.

Our site at the Connor’homestead – Mount Anthony in the background

This morning we were packed and ready to go early. We said our goodbyes and pulled out a little before 9am. We took the scenic route out of Bennington, knowing it would make for a long day. Our route took us south on Route 7 into Massachusetts.  The speed limits in Massachusetts keep you on your toes. The speed limit on Route 7 would change – it seemed like every mile or so – without warning or reason. One section might have a speed limit of 45 mph, then suddenly it’s 35 mph. Then it might go up to 50 mph only to drop to 40 mph without any notification of a reduction ahead. You need to keep an eye out for speed limit signs. In Great Barrington, we picked up Route 23 west and headed toward Catskill, New York. We planned to take 9W south to US209, but I made in a mistake in the route plan. We weren’t using our GPS – I planned the route the old-fashioned way with a map.

9W had a sign saying vehicles over 12 feet tall needed to stay on Route 23. There was a low clearance in West Camp. I usually rely on our RV specific GPS for routing for this reason. It has our vehicle parameters programmed in and wouldn’t route us along a road with clearance or weight limits that we exceed. Donna did some navigation on the fly and we made our way back to 9W south of West Camp and all was good. The only problem with the re-route came when we had to go through the village of Saugerties. We had to go through town on very narrow roads – I squeezed through at one point with a parked car inches off our right and oncoming traffic inches away on the left.

We hit US209 and thought we were home-free. But then we hit another detour – the road was closed for construction! We got back on track after traversing a couple of narrow county roads. We made a stop at Subway for lunch – it was conveniently located in a plaza with a large parking lot – and then continued south. At Port Jervis, we crossed into Pennsylvania – our fourth state for the day.

US 209 took us through the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area. We were on the west bank of the Delaware River with New Jersey just across the water. It was a long, slow slog today. Donna found free overnight parking at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center off of I-80 at exit 310. That’s where we stopped for the day. We only covered about 200 miles, but it took us seven hours!

We crossed several notable mountain ranges – the Berkshires in Massachusetts, the Catskills in New York and now we’re in the Poconos. These mountains aren’t as big as the mountains in the west, but they’re plenty steep in places.

Tomorrow we’ll head west. We plan to stop at the Cabela’s in Hamburg to dump our holding tanks and hopefully find fresh water. We’ve been dry camped for nine days. We’re just winging it and will see what tomorrow brings.

Breadcrumb Trail

The Fourth of July was our last full day in Little Deer Isle, Maine. It was a mostly relaxing day after the parade in the morning. I loaded the Traeger in the trailer and straightened things out a bit. We never got a chance to go out on Roger’s little sailboat – it’s called a Bullseye. Maybe next time – Roger just got it in the water the day before.

Roger’s sailboats in the foreground – Bullseye on the left and sloop Tarpon on the right

Roger’s neighbor Russ took the grandkids out tubing behind his 21-foot Boston Whaler in the afternoon and Donna went along for a joyride.

Tubing behind the Whaler

Everyone went out to watch fireworks after dinner, but Donna and I hung back and watched the Buck Harbor fireworks from camp chairs by our coach.

Thursday morning I had to do a bit of jockeying to get us out. First, I took the ball and mount out of our receiver hitch and put into the receiver on Roger’s truck. I used his truck to position our trailer – it was much easier than trying to hitch up to our coach in the tight space. Then I put our hitch back together and hitched up our coach, loaded the Spyder and we were ready for the road. It was 10:45 by the time we pulled out – a little later than I wanted.

We left the island and followed route 15 up to Orland. I crossed the bridge to Verona Island, then crossed the beautiful Penobscot Narrows suspension bridge. We followed Route 1 to Belfast where we picked up Route 3 all the way to Augusta and I-95. We were backtracking across the same route we came up on – basically following our breadcrumb trail.

We went back to Cabela’s in Scarborough just south of Portland to spend the night again. I dumped and flushed our holding tanks as soon as we got there. There were more RVs in the lot this time – the season is in full swing. By morning, I counted 15 RVs on our side of the lot. We walked to Famous Dave’s for a beer and dinner. They have live music on Thursdays and we enjoyed the performance.

I was a little concerned about Friday’s weather. The forecast showed thunderstorms and a cold front advancing across our path of travel. There were heavy rain and wind warnings. At 9am, all looked good so we pulled out. For some reason, our tolls on the way back were higher than on the way up. I paid $3.50 on I-95 and another $3.50 a couple of miles before we exited at Scarborough. When we got back on I-95, I hit another toll booth within a couple of miles and paid $3.50 again. Then I paid a toll on I-93 of $10.50 bringing the total for Maine up to $21.00.

We hit a few rain showers and visibility was poor at times, but we skirted the brunt of the storms which stayed mostly north of us. We made a stop in New Hampshire at the Hooksett Toll rest area. We stopped for lunch and Donna met up with her college friend, Paula Violo.  She lives and works nearby and they had not seen each other in 37 years. They spent an hour catching up over lunch while I hit the New Hampshire liquor outlet at the rest area – probably the best prices in New England.

It was an uneventful drive from there. I paid two tolls of $2.50 each to get across New Hampshire. We made good time until we got stuck behind a motorhome on Route 9 for the last 20 miles or so before Bennington. The driver seemed scared and unaware of how to use his engine brake. I could hear it activate, but it wasn’t as effective as our Jake and he would ride the brake pedal and go very slowly on each descent and slow excessively for curves. I had one chance to overtake on a passing lane on an uphill grade. Of course he hit the pedal to the metal there and drag raced me up the hill. I slowed and pulled back in behind him to allow cars behind to overtake us.

We parked in nearly the same spot we were in two weeks ago at Donna’s parents’ place. We quickly settled in. Saturday morning Donna and went to the Bennington farmers’ market. Donna picked up some cheeses and a lemon pound cake.

Bennington farmers’ market

As we often find at farmers’ markets, they had small stage and a guy playing for tips.

We also bought a steelhead trout filet at the store that I grilled for dinner.

Once again we’re boondocking without any hook-ups. Our new Lifeline AGM batteries are performing great. Saturday I had the TV and Dish receiver running on the inverter watching Wimbledon coverage all afternoon. The batteries held at 12.7 volts!

Our Xantrex Freedom 458 inverter is a modified sine wave unit. Modified sine wave produces alternating current, however it doesn’t work the same as a true sine wave like you would find from a typical wall outlet. A true sinusoidal wave rises above the zero line in a smooth arc, then drops in the same arc to the zero line and continues below before rising back to the zero line. In our 120-volt alternating current system used in the USA, the voltage rises above the zero line to +170-volts, then goes below the zero line to -170-volts and swings back again. It does this 60 times per second. The 170-volt peak results in a root mean square (RMS) voltage of 120-volts.

Our modified sine wave interverter does something similar. The difference is in the wave shape. Instead of a smooth arc as the voltage increases and decreases, the wave form is square. It goes from the zero line nearly straight up, then flattens before falling nearly straight down past the zero line before flattening again and then rising. Modified sine wave inverters use simpler, less expensive circuitry than a true sine wave inverter. Most of the time, there no difference. However, some sensitive electronics – especially those with marginal circuitry, might not get on well with the square wave.

We found that to be the case with our Mr. Coffee thermal coffee maker a few months ago. Well, yesterday after I made coffee while the generator was running and recharging our batteries, I forgot to unplug the coffee maker. While I was enjoying TV all afternoon, the modified sine wave destroyed the weak electronics in the coffee maker again! So, I’m happy with the performance of our battery bank and the inverter is useful for most things, but I have to buy another coffee maker.

We’ve had nice weather since we arrived in Bennington. Last night was cool, but I found it to be comfortable especially after the high humidity in Maine. The forecast calls for a high of 82 degrees today with the relative humidity at 42%. Nice. The next few days should be similar.

Wooden Boats and the Fourth of July

Monday afternoon Donna and I rode the Spyder to Brooklin (not to be confused with Brooklyn), about 14 miles from Little Deer Isle. We went to have a look around and visit the WoodenBoat School. The school was established 38 years ago by the publisher of WoodenBoat magazine. It’s located on a 64-acre waterfront campus. They have a variety of courses for beginner, intermediate and advanced woodworkers and boat builders.

WoodenBoat School – Brooklin, Maine

At the WoodenBoat Store, we were told we were free to wander around the campus as long as we didn’t enter or disrupt any active classes. We saw a couple of finished boats and several works in progress.

Finished small boats

Beautiful workmanship

This little sailboat was offered for $900

Some of the courses are all about woodworking and the tools used. Other classes teach marine diesel mechanics and then there are seamanship courses.

Bending wood to make a rib

Putting it all together

Another finished hull

Brooklin is a small village with a general store, a couple of boutique-type shops, a public library and a small cafe. It was an interesting way to spend a nice, sunny afternoon. Of course, I couldn’t leave the WoodenBoat store without a T-shirt to go along with the Tarpon Crew T-shirt Roger gave me.

Finished row boat near the water

Fog was rolling into the reach and I thought we might be in for a cold ride home. As we rode west through Sedgewick though, all was clear and there wasn’t any fog on Little Deer Isle.

While we were out, Sandra and Roger picked up more lobster. We just can’t get enough.

Another pile of lobster

I learned a little more about Maine lobstah. We’ve been getting soft shell lobster. The adult male lobsters shed their shell annually – it’s called molting – and females molt every other year. A new, larger shell is formed and it takes time to fully harden. The soft shell lobsters are easily cracked – I’ve been shelling them with my fingers – and the meat is not as firm or full as a fully hardened shell lobster – a soft shell lobster contains a higher percentage of water. Hard shell lobsters need tools to crack the shell and the meat fills the shell.

I also learned about the lobster pound on Conary Cove I wrote about in my last post. They aren’t actually raising lobsters there. Lobsters are held in the pound for a couple of reasons. For one thing, there’s been a glut of lobster on the market. At this time of year, supply exceeds demand. Also, a large percentage of the catch at this time of year is soft shell which has a lower market price. To counter this, lobsters are held in the pound and grow into their new shells which are hard by the fall. The market price for lobster generally goes up later in the year. The lobster pound is a way to hold lobsters to keep prices stable and generate income year-round.

While Donna and I are getting our fill of lobster, Roger and Russ wanted me to smoke more babyback ribs. Tuesday I rode to Blue Hill to buy ribs, but the store there only had one small rack and it was frozen hard as a rock. So I headed on to Ellsworth – about a 30-mile ride from Little Deer Isle. I found a couple of large racks of ribs at the Walmart store there.

We had a large dinner party – Roger and Georgia, their son Jeff and his two young daughters, Roger’s sister Sandra, neighbor Russ, his dad George and his son Zach plus Donna and I. Georgia put out sloppy joes for the kids and I cut up the ribs into portions of two bones – they were meaty and it worked out fine – most of us got two servings.  Russ also brought – wait for it – lobsters! We had quite a feast.

George has a 1919 Ford Model T – we’ll it’s really Russ’ car now as George gifted it to him. George bought it the same year Russ was born from the original owner! Donna went for ride in the old car Tuesday afternoon.

1919 Model T

George planned to drive the car in the Fourth of July Independence Day Parade in the village of Deer Isle. This morning, Donna and I rode the Spyder over to the village to watch the parade. By chance, we ran into Kate, the person we met Sunday at Conary Cove. She was there with her partner Tom. We stood with them in the shade of a tree and watched the parade. They have a different theme every year for the parade and this year’s theme was children’s books.

Start of the parade

Grand marshalls

The grand marshalls were Sally and Jane McCloskey – daughters of Robert McCloskey, a famous author and illustrator of children’s books. Robert was a resident of Deer Isle until he passed in 2003.

After I shot the picture above, the cars in the background caught my eye. I crossed the street during a break in the parade and shot a photo of them.

French vehicles

On the right is a Citroen 2CV (deux chevaux-vapeur) . These were popular for decades due to their low cost. They were built in France from 1948 to 1988. On the left is a Citroen H van. These were front wheel-drive commercial vehicles built from 1947 to 1981 in France and Belgium. The body panels are corrugated steel. The owner of the vehicles is in the photo with the wide brim hat. He told me, “The French copied no one and no one copies the French!”

The parade was definitely old-time small-town America. They had the community band set up on the grass to play music as the parade came by.

Community band

We enjoyed the parade for about half an hour and also enjoyed talking with Tom and Kate. We saw Russ’ Vespa parked near the village, but didn’t run into him. Roger and Sandra drove to Portland to pick up Sandra’s grandsons and will be back later this afternoon. Georgia took advantage of an empty house for a little quiet time.

It’s already over 80 degrees out at noon and the temperature will probably reach 90 degrees this afternoon. Donna’s hoping to take a boat ride on Russ’ 21-foot Whaler. I might go along too – but I also have to start packing and organizing the trailer. We plan to leave Little Deer Isle tomorrow and head down to Scarborough where we’ll spend the night before going back to Bennington, Vermont.



Sailing the Reach

We had a busy weekend in Maine and lots of fun. After spending most of Thursday indoors, while half an inch of rain fell in numerous squalls, we went to the Stonington Farmers’ Market Friday morning with Georgia. Later, Donna and I rode the Spyder to Blue Hill and bought some groceries at Tradewinds Market. While we were out, Roger made it back from his business trip to Albuquerque.

On Saturday morning, Roger rowed Donna and I out in his dingy to Tarpon, his 30-foot sloop. We rigged the jib and also tried to assemble the lazy jack but ran into a few problems – no big thing. We fired up the harbor motor and I putted toward the bridge over the Eggemoggin Reach. Heading into the wind toward Billings Cove, we put up the jib. I came about and we hoisted the mainsail. Roger had to undo the lazy jacks. The way we rigged it interfered with the mainsail. We’ll have to redo it another time. By the time we unfurled the mainsail, the wind died.

As we drifted back toward the bridge, the wind suddenly picked up. We were sailing!

Sailing under the bridge (Roger Eaton photo)

Heading northeast through the reach (Roger Eaton photo)

I had the helm and had us on a heading of 328 degrees as we sailed through the reach toward Condon Point. When we were near the Pumpkin Island lighthouse, Donna took the helm.

Sailing is such fun (Roger Eaton photo)

Donna takes over (Roger Eaton photo)

Donna made the turnaround  at the bell buoy southwest of Buck’s Harbor. The wind was coming from the south-southwest. Heading back down the reach we had more speed. The thing about Eggemoggin Reach is the prevailing wind lets you sail in either direction without having to tack.

We furled the jib and lowered the mainsail as we got close to Roger’s place. We ran the harbor motor while Donna steered us to Roger’s anchor buoy. I adjusted our speed by taking us out of gear as we approached the buoy. We hit it perfectly with the boat nearly stopped and the buoy stick on the starboard bow. Roger was able to reach down and pick it up on the first try! We had been out for few hours and it was great.

Later in the evening, we went to an old house called Edge Hill. It was once a restaurant and inn and now is owned by Roger’s relatives. They had a party for one of Roger’s second cousins, Morgan. Roger has so many relatives and history in the area that it can be a little confusing at times. Morgan and her husband were celebrating their wedding anniversary and they had friends from as far away as Austin, Texas there. We stayed for a little over an hour and had cocktails and appetizers.

They were grilling chicken dinner for 55 people and had dining tables set up in the barn. But, we had other plans for dinner back on Little Deer Isle.

Porch and barn at Edge Hill

Roger’s neighbors Russ and Katie invited us to join them along with some extended family and other neighbors for dinner. Russ boiled lobster while Katie grilled flank steak. So it was surf and turf for dinner at Roger’s boat house. He has two houses on his property – one is more of a party house down by the water and they call it the boathouse.

Russ’ boathouse

Russ’ pier in front of the boathouse

We had good food and great fun. After dinner, a couple of people played guitars on the porch and sang.

Sunset at Russ’ place

On Sunday morning, I downloaded the Assen Moto GP race and it was a real thriller. Later we drove with Roger and Georgia out to Conary Cove on Stimson Neck east of Deer Isle. The property there once belonged to Roger’s family and his childhood home was there. It was built around 1905.

Conary Cove

We met the current tenant of the house and took a short tour.

Inside the cove, there’s a lobster pound where Maine lobsters are being farmed. I didn’t know Maine lobsters were farmed. I’ve heard of farmed raised spiny (rock) lobster. It seems like quite an endeavor. They have pumps to keep the sea water in the pound from stagnating. It takes five years or more for a lobster to reach a size of one pound. I don’t know if they trap lobsters and introduce them into the pound to put on size or if they are raised from larvae.

Lobster pound in the cove

On the way back, we made a stop at a place called Nervous Nellie’s Jams and Jellies.  It was an interesting stop with a bunch of old outbuildings on the property and a variety of sculptures by a local artist.

Donna and friends at Nervous Nellie’s

Last evening, Roger’s sister Sandra arrived. She had been vacationing in the Adirondacks in New York and will stay here for about a month or so. We met Sandy in Albuquerque at the Balloon Fiesta last year.

The forecast calls for cooler weather today, but it’s supposed to be near 90 degrees on Wednesday, the fourth of July. We plan to move on down the road on Thursday. We’ll make another stop in Bennington, Vermont for a visit with Donna’s parents before we start heading west.