Monday, May 24, 2010

Home again

It's great to be home, but strange in the sense that so much of our stuff is now is stored in its new place in the belly of the whale, and to bring these things back into the house requires us to make notes so that we don't forget them when we leave next week. At campgrounds, we unload some chairs, outdoor living stuff, and that's it.

We were pleased to see some shrubs still in bloom, including a late lilac, some shaded azaleas, and these rhododendrons:

We found the house and yard to be in good shape, and looking good:

Its been super busy. We've had social gatherings almost every night, plus lots of work for Nancy, lots of chores for me, and some fun stuff like hikes and bike rides as well. Right off I made plans to mountain ride with friends, and had a great one at Miller's Pond, although I left it fighting off a charlie horse in my leg. No pain, no gain, right? Gene, Larry and Ben all did great, but Austin will henceforth be known as The Goat! One rider was missing, though. Our friend Dan E. had to make an unscheduled visit to the hospital. When I went in to visit I brought Dan this boquet of bike reflectors. Get well soon, Dan!

I rode again with The Goat and Company, plus Dan-O Clam, and got to see the Lawrence family's new travel trailer, a nicely arranged and appointed 25 footer that they can tow behind their Expedition.

We've shared many good times with our CT peeps - The Shirley's had us up to their home for dinner and good times; our boys Derik and Scott treated us to breakfast at famous O'Rourke's Diner; The Lawrences hosted a post-ride pizza party; Mom F and Mike came over and brought a full course meal with them; I visited Defibtech for free-lunch Wednesday and catching up; our neighbor's the Torops joined us for homemade blueberry pie and wine; Nancy and Lisa went out for their favorite Indian food and Cosmos; my friend David treated me to awesome sushi and let me drive his 5 series bimmer; friends Jeff & Rex met me at The Hungry Tiger to see our favorite guitar slinger Jeff Pevar; Karen, Drew and Jeff came down and we slurped up margaritas and tex-mex and our local - Coyote Blue:

Tomorrow we join more neighbors for drinks and snacks around an outdoor fire, and Monday Jeff and I will launch the boat and go salt water fly fishing! In the middle of all this I've mowed, pruned, sprayed unwanted brush, treated the deck, treated two sides of the house shingles, changed Gigantor's oil and fuel filters, and installed a home alert system which will call me if the power goes out, the house temperature gets too low, or if it senses water in the basement!

Kinsey turned 15 last week, and both dogs got haircuts! Toby had an exiting day today, as he captured and killed a garden snake. I'd rather he didn't kill our local fauna, but I got there too late, and his desire to kill snakes is apparently stronger than his fear of them!

Tuesday we're off to Maine to visit family before continuing our adventure northward.
Thanks to all who are following and who have said such nice things about this little blog o' mine!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Russell Brook, Beaver Kill, Mike & Lillian

We drove into the Catskills from Ithaca, and threaded our way up a narrow winding track to camp next to Russell Brook at a campground of the same name. We got a nice site, backed right up to the brook, its waters providing a constant, pleasant background noise:

What the site did not have is cell phone service, and therefore no internet as well. We can make our own electricity, and carry as many as 60 gallons of water, but we cannot generate our own connectivity! So, we were a bit out of touch for a few days! Down at the camp office there was a wireless hot-spot, so Nancy checked in most days.

We found a nice little 9-hole golf course in Roscoe and enjoyed a round (insomuch as one can really "enjoy" golf!)

Then Nancy's mother, Lillian, and her husband, Mike, joined us for a few days. Arriving here after dark, they found themselves on the wrong end of Russell Brook Road, which is a narrow dirt track that has not been maintained since a flood washed out the road many years ago. They backtracked and eventually got to us via the paved road! I cooked breakfast over the fire the next morning:

We had a nice walk up the brook, where we saw this old water-wheel generator:

Lillian had brought me my fishing waders, so I was able to do some trout fishing on the famous Beaver Kill river. People travel from all over the world to fish this river, and many of the fly patterns known to all trout fisherman were invented here. How many trout did I catch, you ask? Were these fish world class trophies, you wonder?

Well, to quote from blues man Albert King: "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." I caught nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I'm beginning to think that my fly rods make are better off kept hanging on the wall as decoration than they are plying the waters!

So, I packed up my rods, reels, and flies and went home! We drove back to Middletown yesterday, shoe-horned the Whale into our street parking area, and enjoyed the comfort and familiarity of home. The rhodedendrons, azaleas, and a dwarf lilac are still in bloom. The yard and house look great.

Here is the whale back home:

It's nice to be back, but a little weird in the sense that we aren't moving back in for good, so anything that we bring inside needs to find its way back onto the Whale. We'll be here until June 1, when we drive up to Maine. Lots of chores to do, so I'd better get to it!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Albrecht Residence

We had a relatively short and easy drive up into New York State on Thursday, stopping at the best grocery store ever, Wegman's, to buy dinner to share with my grandparents that evening, in honor of their 72nd wedding anniversary. We got a classic upstate NY dinner of steak, salt potatoes and sweet corn (first of the season). We then coaxed Gigantor and The Whale up the steep hillside onto the ridge and over to Northview Road, where we had a relatively easy time backing into the driveway, thanks in part to some anticapatory pruning of the magnollia tree.

Here we are at Northview Road!:

After getting settled in, we brought out the dogs and introduced them to Brownie, the miniature poodle. We let them meet & greet in the yard, which went well, and them, after wiping the mud off their feet, brought them inside, where Brownie and Toby engaged in vigorous play! We cooked dinner and had a nice visit, and later the tired dogs settled down on the sofa:

In the morning I took my grandfather to an appointment, and then we cmae back for a nice breakfast. We visited some more, looked at photos, and my grandfather came out to see the whale from the inside. It was difficult for him to get up the steps, but he did it and I'm glad he had a chance to see it. He's owned campers before, and knew all about the systems and asked a lot of questions.

Here we are with my 94 year old grandmother, Margaret:

And here we ware with my 94 year old grandfather, Arnold:

It was a short by very nice visit with the Albrechts!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hills Creek State Park, PA

Drove north through central Pennsylvania on Monday, arriving at another of the state parks: Hills Creek. It's a nice quiet park and we have no neighbors, due to the fact that it's early season, mid-week, and the weather forecast is poor. The tail of the whale is pointed towards the lake, which is circumnavigated by a nice foot path. We walked the dogs on the path after we got settled, and saw a bald eagle fly out of a tree above our heads!

Later, when I was catching sunfish and bluegills on my fly rod, I saw another bald eagle, this one a mature male.
I also had a nice mountain bike ride around the lake, and along the way saw a wood-duck pair, another nice bird moment.

Not an eagle:
Also not a wood duck:

Today we went into the lovely town of Wellsboro, which has a great main street lined with the kind of nice shops and restaurants that locals enjoy, but that also appeal to visitors. We had lunch at a great sandwich shop, its popularity apparent by the line of people waiting to order. Then we drove on to Pennsylvania's "Grand Canyon", which is a river gorge about 1500' deep. We walked the dogs there, too, and enjoyed the views.

Nancy puts Kinsey into an old incinerator. Kinsey was not amused:

And here is a picture which I took in the Smoky Mountains, but which I like and thought I'd share now:

Tomrrow we have a short drive up to Ithaca, New York, my birthplace and the home of my grandparents. They are both 94 years old, and tomorrow is their 72nd wedding anniversary! Can you believe it? I don't think they can...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Shawnee State Park, PA

It was a great relief to settle into our latest camp here at Shawnee State Park, near Bedford, PA. What stark contrast from the close quarters and dog-kennel-esque canine population back at the Misty Mountain camp to the park environment all to ourselves. We finally put up our dog fence a few hours after we were here because one other camper set up within sight. The dogs were free up until then. Now there are several campers nearby, but no other dogs! It's been great (bark-free). Here is the rig at Shawnee:

Our trip here was not without incident, however. First, when we stopped to stretch at a rest area, we noticed with alarm a twisted piece of aluminum hanging from the side of the Whale. It was the remains of our bedroom window, which apparently came unlatched and was sucked open by air pressure, and battered to smithereens. I removed the dangling frame and we continued on to Bedford. Here's a "before" shot:

Another bit of excitement occurred here at Shawnee. We took a drive around the campground to check out the sites, ever searching for the perfect camp. We found ourselves on a narrow gravel loop on a slope. We got most of the way around, using four-wheel drive to keep traction, and then came to a curve with big trees on both sides of the road's edge. I didn't think we could fit through! Backing all of the way around was out of the question, too. There was a pull-through site parallel that didn't look much better, but did look do-able, so I maneuvered into it. Well, once in there, what looked like an easy exit turned out to be nearly impossible. It was a very stressful few minutes as I backed and turned, trying to gain a few inches here and there to clear big trees and make the turn. Well, I was successful, but for a while it looked like I was going to need a tractor to come in and extricate us. A very close call.

Once settled, I set to work designing and fabricating a new window. A replacement will take weeks to get, and although the screen is fine, no window will be uncomfortable during the cold nights expected in the next few days. So, I bought some plexiglass and weatherstripping, cut up a couple of our dog fence suppports and a plywood shim, and made myself a new one. I am pleased that I was able to do it such that it can still open and latch shut like the original.



Also, we now have hanging baskets of petunias, cucumber and tomato:

Lots of trails here at the park, from hilly backwoods trails to wide gravel bike paths. Here we are taking a break to let the dogs swim next to the levee:

Today is Mother's Day, and as we did not see a breakfast place near here, I made Nancy's favorite out-for-breakfast meal: sausage gravy & biscuits. In lieu of a rolling pin I used an empty Ketel One vodka bottle!:

Here is Nancy about to enjoy her meal:

Happy Mother's Day to you! (You know who you are!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Monday we hit the road for the, I think, 13th time, packing up the rig in the pouring rain. By the time we were hooked up and ready to roll, however, the rain had stopped, and we opted to drive part of our way north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hilly, curvy and narrow, yes, but on a rainy Monday, we figured it would be sparcely trafficked. Plus, the road that we'd take over to the interstate would also be hilly and curvy, but heavily trafficked. It was a good call. I think we saw three other cars during the hour or so that we drove on the BRP, and it was very pleasant. We stopped at one of the countless overlooks for lunch. The clouds were breaking, but some of the lower ones still lingered in the valleys, which was beautiful:

Toby has a knack for finding wildlife, and flushed out this pretty little turtle:

We continued on, picking up the interstate and shooting the rest of the way up to Greenwood, Virginia, at the southermost tip of Shenandoah National Park. The campground has some close areas, and some nicer, more quiet areas. We were assigned to the denser, but luckily on the end of a row, with a nice little creek flowing nearby. We need to be better about specifying our desires to the campground hosts, who always assume that we want "full hookup" sites (water, electric and sewer), when we really only need water/electric most of the time. Often the nicest sites are not full hookup ones. Anyway, we took a ride down the BRP to a waterfall we'd heard of called Crabtree Falls. The water cascades over 1000 feet from top to bottom, not in one uninterupted fall, but in a back-to-back series, the tallest being 400 feet. But it is known as the tallest east of the Mississippi, and we had a nice hike up the steep switchbacked trail that follows it. There were hundreds of big millipedes on the trail, so we had to watch our step. Toby also found a small black snake with an orange belly and a yellow ring around its neck. Here are some photos from our hike:

And, we went into Shenandoah, driving on Skyline Drive up onto the ridge, for about 40 miles to the next gap. The overlooks provided spectacular views of the countryside. If we hadn't seen views like this recently, we would have been blown away, but we just came from the Smokies, and we just drove the Blue Ridge Highway, so these equally impressive views were not as shocking or unique as they would be if we were from Kansas, and had just woken up here, having parachuted in at midnight, and weren't hungry, but I digress...The views were awesome, but I didn't take many photos, is all I'm saying...

Now the campground population has turned over a bit, and it seems every rig has at least one, and as many as seven dogs aboard. With the constant parade of canines going by, its become a miserable job keeping our two quiet, and we are eager to be away from this mayhem. Really, what kind of a nut has seven dogs and takes them camping? Two dogs are two too many. Figures, though, that none of the seven make so much as a peep, whereas our two sound like rabid starved wolves when they see other dogs. Ugh. I'm going to pack up now...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Meadows of Dan

When we left Gatlinburg on Thursday, we headed back into Virginia, thereby starting our northward migration, and also putting ourselves near the summer home of my uncle Jake. We found a campground not too far away from Hillsville, where Jake's house is, in a town comically named Meadows of Dan. Its a small village with a nice general store, a few restaurants, a candy factory (Nancy's), and its right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's very hilly in this part of Virginia, and I did not enjoy the back-roads part of the drive to get here, going across the grain of the land, straining first the engine and then the brakes. But we arrived safe and made our camp. From here we explored some of the Parkway and surrounding areas. I got in a good mountain bike ride, with lots of cliimbing and some good descents:

And we found a great overlook called Lover's Leap, at which point the land dramatically falls away from the road's edge and the landscape rolls on forever. Looks like a good place to launch a hang-glider.

We also went out to a pizza place that had live bluegrass music, but forgot the camera so no pic from there. It was fun to see (hear) some local entertainment, not over-produced, just a group of musicians entertaining a local crowd. They had an area cleared for dancing, and a few aged ladies shuffled around out there, after first touching their feet into a pile of powder scattered on the floor for the purpose. Perhaps corn meal or starch?

Yesterday we went for a bike-ride on a rail-trail along the New River, which is ironically one of our oldest rivers. It was a well made trail that is 57 miles long. We didn't have time to do much of it, but enjoyed the experience:

And then we got to visit my uncle Jake, who had just driven up from Florida on Friday, and has been busy unpacking and cleaning. Hillsville is an aptly named town, and Jake's house is perched on the hillside on a dead-end dirt road in a mix of wooded and farm land. His steep driveway required us to put Gigantor in four-wheel drive! The house is new and very nice, with views of the surrounding hills. You can't sneak up on him! He can see the approach road from his porch, so saw and heard us coming, but we were expected, so we were welcome!

This picture was taken from the amazing hilltop nearby, where you have a commanding 360 degree view of the countryside. Jake's house is visible in the center of the image:

So we got a complete tour, starting with the tractor. I gotta get me one of these!

Then we saw the inside, which is like an artifact museum of the family's former summer camp house at Otisco Lake, upstate NY. It was fun to see all of the familiar photos, knick-knacks, furniture and appliances from the Camp, all put to use to create a unique and pleasing decor. We also met the exuberant Buster Brown, his boston terrier. And check out Nancy looking so tiny in Big Jake's easy chair, the most enormous we've ever seen! What a riot!

We went out for a nice dinner. We had a really nice visit with Jake and look forward to seeing him again when we head to Florida this winter. Then we will also get to visit with his wife, Bernice, and his other dog, Fancy.

Today, a gray and rainy Monday, we pack up camp and head further north. It should be quiet on the Blue Ridge Parkway today, although I don't imagine that the visibility will do it justice. My eyes will be best kept on the road ahead in any case.