It’s been quite a while since anything has been posted to the blog. My apologies to the tens of people who follow the blog religiously, or more likely read a post once in a while. No matter the frequency, I enjoy whatever reactions and comments come my way. Truthfully, the writing is part therapy and part journal so we can remember details of our travels when the memory starts to become challenged more than it already has.
I believe the last post involved our experience visiting Prince Edward Island. We had almost a month of additional experiences until we settled back in to our home campground in CT, Grandview Camp Resort and Cabins in Moodus.
After leaving PEI we made our way over extremely bumpy roads back into New Brunswick and the town of Moncton. We stayed at Stonehurst Golf Club and Trailer Park. It was a very plain but clean campground. Its only real advantage was the eighteen-hole golf course run by the campground. The course was a beautiful par 3 course with some long par 3 holes. I played the course twice during our stay. It was hot during our time there but I got out early and the walk was a good way to start the day.
One of the must-see attractions in Moncton is Magnetic Hill. It has been an attraction in the area since the 1930’s. There are other attractions in the US featuring the optical illusion that creates the feeling that you are going uphill at a pretty quick pace despite the fact that you are really going downhill. There was a fee to have a shot at the experience, but we could not see being in the area and not trying it.
One of the mornings we decided to try a walk along the river in downtown Moncton. We were shocked when we saw the river but understood completely when we discovered it was called the Chocolate River. The entire river, and the banks were thick, chocolate-colored mud. Apparently, a very strong tidal bore creates the mud deposits and then the river level lowers to create this unique picture. The walk-way itself is a very nice two-three miles utilized by both walkers and bikers.
Images from the riverfront walk in Moncton
While in Moncton we had our last chance to get together with our new Canadian trip friends Wendy and Dave, formerly of New Jersey and Florida, and now off the road and settled in Tennessee. After meeting Wendy and Dave in Lubec, Maine we became fast friends and had a few opportunities to meet up again as we traveled through Eastern Canada. We were able to meet for lunch one last time on this leg of the trip halfway between their campground and ours in Moncton. It is a unique experience to make good friends along our travels and then have to say goodbye to them knowing that it may be quite some time before you are fortunate enough to see them again. We are still in touch with several people that we met during our time in Florida as well.
After leaving Moncton we made our way east to Fredericton. We never actually got an opportunity to spend any time in Fredericton itself as our campground was more than forty miles north of the city. Much of the drive we had vistas of the St. John river and Lake Macquatac. We finally found our campground, Great Bear Camping, which was located on the river. Most of the sites were seasonal sites so we were put in a small area just off the road saved for bigger rigs. The owner, a very nice woman in early seventies, had lived in Connecticut for a period. She and her husband returned to this land north of Fredericton that had been in his family since the 1700’s.
Once on our site our exit from the site was on our mind during our entire three-day stay. We were told to just turn out to the road to our right but we doubted that our fifty feet of vehicle would make the turn. We also had to share the same water and electric with our neighbors. This was only a problem if we wanted to run both of our air conditioners. During our stay we found a beautiful provincial park, Macquatac Provincial Park, that could be a future stay. We had an opportunity to have a great 33rd anniversary dinner at the golf course restaurant and I returned a couple of days later to play eighteen holes at the long and beautiful golf course.
On July 23rd we left Fredericton and made our way back into Maine. We settled at Pumpkin Patch RV Park just outside Bangor. It is a beautiful park with spacious, well-groomed sites. It obviously caters to many people from down south who are reverse snowbirds. Maybe they could be called “sweat” birds. The only drawback was that there was no pool. Maybe the “sweat” birds are not interested in cooling- off. I guess if you have spent summers in Florida or Alabama, summer in Maine is paradise by comparison.
We left the Bangor area and began the trek to Raymond, Maine area which is on the north end of Lake Sebago which was our last stop before heading to North Conway, New Hampshire for Sarah’s wedding. We are very familiar with the area as Sarah attended St. Joseph’s College of Maine. We also rented a house on Lake Sebago a few summers ago. We stayed at the Naples KOA. We were given a spacious site in the newly built area in the campground. The site offered a great deal of unusable space as the grass surrounding the gravel pad was newly planted and very loose. I slipped at one point on the backside while hooking up and sank up to the top of my hiking boot. Eventually the sites will be very nice. We made every effort to stay off the grass, but several people in the area had no problem driving across the corner of sites leaving sizable and deep ruts.
After a few days in Raymond/Naples we made our way across the Maine border to New Hampshire. Our campground, The Beach Campground, sat on the Saco River. It was overcrowded and dirty. When I say dirty, I mean it lacked grass. Fortunately, we had a very large back-in site and no one next to us initially. Sarah, Ryan, Mason and Cooper came by the campground shortly after we arrived. Mason was a big helper in setting up. At not quite four years old at that point he brought me over to the jacks and told me, “Grandpa. These are the stabilizers.” Its amazing the vocabulary and concepts they pick up from shows like Paw Patrol and Rescue Bots. The boys were excited to help set up the screen tent and take out the kid’s camping chairs we carry with us.
Sarah, Ryan and the boys had a condo near Attatash that was rented from our cousin Mary Beth. It was a very large two-story condo. On Monday we were joined in the RV by Maura and Declan. Like the other grandsons, Declan was off and running as soon as he hit the door, touching all he could and making his way up and down the stairs. We tried to block the stairs for safety but he made every effort to break through. We finally decided to remove the barrier and let him learn to negotiate the stairs which he did quickly.
For part of the next two days the entire crew spent a good portion the days at Storyland. It was interesting to see the different ways that the boys attacked the park and fun to watch them enjoy the characters. Mason, who we struggled to get on a ride two years ago when we took him to Thomas Land, could not get enough and even went on a small roller coaster with his dad and loved it.
The cousins enjoying Storyland
Mason chauffering the family
Sarah and Ryan were married at the Russel- Colbath Barn which is in the White Mountain National Forrest on the Kancamagus Highway. It was a beautiful setting and Sarah designed the set-up and made all the decorations herself. The plan was for me to walk Sarah across the lawn with Mason and Cooper leading the way. As soon as Mason saw the people looking at him he bailed ship and hid. We continued on as Uncle Billy tried to convince him to join the ceremony. No deal. Cooper was very cute standing behind Sarah through the whole ceremony. When it came time for the rings I had to retrieve Mason, carry him to the front and dig the rings from his pocket. Memories.
Preparing the boys for the wedding
There was an after-party held at the Sea Dog Café in North Conway. We brought the boys for a short time. That night the sky opened up and it poured for hours. I returned to the RV to gather some things and we had a small lake in front in a whole lot of mud. We decided to spend the night at the condo as Sarah and Ryan were staying is the hotel where many of the guest were staying. After the boys had spent some time at the after-party we brought them back to the condo to spend the night along with Maura and Declan. We did not envision a peaceful night in the RV with three adults and three toddlers in the middle of a driving rain storm and a flood of mud around us as well.
The following afternoon we brought Mason and Cooper back to the RV site. they were excited to have a fire and make smores. Thankfully the site had dried out just enough to find a spot to have a fire. The fire ring was filled to the brim with water and had to be moved to a drier place. After the smores, we set up for a movie. Cooper was asleep in the first ten minutes. Mason hung in for the entire movie.
The next morning, after the boys were picked up by very tired parents, we vacated North Conway and made our way across the Kancamagus and into Vermont on our way to Shelburne. The ride across the Kancamagus is striking and really tests the transmission and brakes when you are pulling forty feet and 12,000 pounds. It was beautiful nonetheless.
We settled into Shelburne after a ride that featured mostly back roads until we hit Route 89. Our campground, the Shelburne Camping Area, was right off Route 7. It was not a pretty campground but it served the purpose for a few days. The reason we chose Shelburne as a stop on our way back to Canada was to revisit the Shelburne Museum. We had been there years ago when the kids were young and we always wanted to return. The museum is situated on about twenty-five to thirty acres and consists of several buildings with a variety of different kinds of exhibits including art, furniture, clothing, old medical equipment, toys and crafts. You name it and they have an exhibition. The key attraction is the steamship Ticonderoga which was painstakingly and ingeniously moved miles over land from Lake Champlain where it had been in service for decades. It was an extremely hot day so the walking between buildings took its toll but most of the exhibitions were air-conditioned.
On August 8th we left Shelburne on our way to Montreal, Quebec. We settled into the Montreal West KOA. Most KOAs are well-maintained and feature spacious sites with solid pads. This KOA was no exception. There were plenty of transient sites and many seasonal sites as well. We decided to spend the next day in Montreal. We planned to drive to a metro station and use the metro to go into the city. The clerk at the campground gave us written directions to the nearest metro station about forty miles away with a warning not to use GPS because construction would ensure we would end up lost.
We followed that warning. When we got within ten miles of the city the construction was overwhelming. After a couple of wrong turns, we found the metro station. Montreal is not big on signs and the ones that exist are obviously in French. There is zero acknowledgement that visitors may speak any language other than French especially in a country that is predominantly English-speaking. We chose Old Montreal to start near the Notre Dame Basilica. As we exited the metro station we were immediately swallowed by a sea of people. We made our way to the Basilica and ran into a line outside that crisscrossed the steps. We looked for someplace where we could get a tourist map that was easier to follow than the metro map. We finally found a place four blocks away after fighting through the crowds. We, or I should say I, decided to take the metro out to the Olympic Stadium area. It was interesting to see that iconic stadium in person with its unique design. It was also a little sad to see that the stadium, and its design, was the death knell for the Montreal Expos. That team at the time was possibly the best team in baseball but the city would not build them a true baseball stadium and the rest is history. We took the metro back to the truck and fought the traffic to get out of the city.
Scenes from Montreal
We left Montreal on August 11th onto Ottawa, Ontario. We stayed at Camp Hither Hills outside of Ottawa. We should have known that our stay would be challenged when the elderly woman who used a cane led us to our site in her golf cart only to find that our site was still occupied. She went back to check her book and upon her return informed us that she had another site for us. When we pulled into the site I noticed that there was a tree about forty feet in front of us only slightly to the left. I asked how we would pull through to leave and she said,” You can go either way. Whichever you prefer.” Needless to say, our exit was once again on our minds for the remainder of our stay.
Fortunately, Ottawa was one of the most interesting places we had visited in Canada. One of our first stops was to witness the changing of the guard on Parliament Hill. The changing of the guard in Ottawa is a much different spectacle than the changing of the guard at Arlington Cemetery. This was a pageant involving scores of soldiers, a band and a series of precise movements and marching. The Parliament Hill area is rich in history and architecture.
In front of Parliment Hill
Parliment Hill front and rear
Changing of the Guard
The next day we decided to attend the Museum of Canadian History which is actually across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill and located in Quebec. On our way across the river we found an attraction that caught our attention. MosaïCulture Gatineau located in Jacque Cartier Park had acre after acre of finely manicured topiaries of all types and themes. Some are intricate scenes and others are figures that are thirty to forty feet tall. We spent a couple of hours walking the park and viewing these masterpieces. There must have been fifty-sixty workers carefully weeding and clipping in order to maintain these creations.
We made it the museum which is housed in a new building. There is a patio that sits over the river where you can get the iconic view of Parliament Hill sitting majestically on top of the hill over the river. The museum collections involve artifacts and exhibitions of the various periods of Canadian history including a heavy emphasis on First Nations people. Like the United States, Canada has a shameful history with regard to the government’s treatment of First Nations peoples which continued until the last couple of decades. There is a concerted effort to acknowledge that history and atone for it.
The exhibition dealing with the separatist movement in Quebec was enlightening. I had forgotten how ugly that period was and actually how close they came to a vote for secession. Having spent time in Quebec, and with many Canadians during our stay in Florida, they may not have legally seceded, but essentially, they have.
The night before leaving the campground I plotted our exit over and over. I would have to drive straight for the tree in front of us as far as I could and then take a slight right turn to avoid the tree on the right and onto the road to freedom. When the time came it was executed precisely as planned. We were free and our way back to the US and onto Lake George.
We enjoyed a scenic ride through the Adirondacks to the Lake George area. We had always talked about camping in the area with the kids but never seemed to get there. We settled in at Ledgeview Village RV Park. We were given a site in a very nice new section of the park. The campground covers a lot of area but provides a healthy space between sites resisting the urge of several places to cram as many people into an area as possible.
We went to town and hit some of the outlets. If you’ve seen one outlet, you’ve seen them all. That trip was short-lived. The next day we decided to take a lake cruise. What a spectacular lake and the homes along the shore are just as spectacular. It was a beautiful, crisp day with para-sailors doing their thing, and boaters and water skiers as well. Because of its depth, which is close to 200 feet in spots, and the manner in which the lake is fed by mountains streams, Lake George is one of the cleanest lakes in the country. We really enjoyed the lake and its scenery.
Another place that I had always wanted to visit was Saratoga Race Track. Several people had talked about how much they enjoyed the experience. We decided to spend some time at the track. I am not a gambler per se. I actually cannot stand casinos. The constant din of the slots makes me want to hurt someone. I just wanted to experience the track, the horses and the races. Of course, I bet a on a few races and was a winner overall – fifty cents. The environment was energetic with plenty of people sitting outside the track with the picnic lunches watching the races on the big screens. Although we bought grandstand tickets, we decided to sit on the benches by the track and stood on the rail for several races. It is impressive when the pack turns the corner and runs by you with those thundering hoofs. The power and gracefulness of these animals is amazing. We sat near a nice couple from New Haven who come up every year during race season. We enjoyed the experience and it made me want to visit more tracks in our travels. We will be in Kentucky at the beginning of next May and Churchill Downs is a possibility although that will be derby week.
We left the Lake George area the next day to make our way to the Berkshires and the Mt. Greylock Campsite Park near Lennox and Stockbridge, Ma. As we travelled through Latham, NY ,the home base of our friends at Albany RV (he wrote tongue firmly planted in cheek), the GPS instructed us to get off in the middle of Troy. I knew this would be interesting given the streets. After some nervous turns and a few fervent curse words we got through the city onto some back roads obviously meant to take us on a straight shot to our destination in the Lennox area. Arriving at the campground we had some apprehension as it appeared to be very hilly and somewhat tight. We checked in and then were led up a steep winding hill to a very wide corner site which we entered diagonally. This placed us about twenty-five feet from the hook-ups. Thankfully, I had a thirty-foot, 50-amp cord, and pieced together two water hoses to successfully connect to water. After a night of heavy rain, we dealt with a couple of significant puddles and a good deal of mud. We are so spoiled staying in many RV parks with gravel or concrete pads and grass because they cater to larger units and full-time or seasonal RVers. I have said several times before that we are not camping. We are RVing. Big difference.
On our first full day we decided to hit a restaurant in Stockbridge we had read about and then go to the Norman Rockwell Museum. We realized as we entered Main St. in Stockbridge that we were there on the weekend of their annual Crafts Fair. Getting a parking place within two miles of the restaurant, especially with our large pick-up, was futile. We continued on to the museum.
The museum sits on an expansive and beautiful piece of property on the outskirts of Stockbridge. It was very crowded on that day. The museum consists of two main properties. The museum itself holding the collection, store and restaurant and a separate smaller building which houses his studio.
Norman Rockwell has always been one of my favorite artists. Besides the attraction of his style and technique, he was able to capture a realism that expresses true emotions through facial expressions and movement. Every one of his paintings tells a story through the placement and expressions of the characters. It is amazing to see the collection in one place because it illustrates how prolific he was. The sheer number of Saturday Evening Post covers produced is staggering. Each cover is a finely crafted message.
Rockwell also used his art to send messages of inclusion, democracy and what is really means to be an American. He was loved in Stockbridge and many of his characters were actual friends and citizens of the area that he used as models. When Pope Francis visited the US recently one of the things on his list of wants was to visit The Rockwell Museum to see his famous painting, “The Golden Rule”. It was obvious to all that it would be impossible for the Pope to visit the museum so the painting was shipped to the UN in New York so he could see it.
The next day we visited Mt Greylock. We knew that we could not be in the area of the highest point in Massachusetts without visiting. Beside we were looking for a decent hike because it was a nice day. We found the entrance to Mt. Greylock and the attendant pointed out an easy to moderate hike that seemed perfect for us. We found the site along the road leading to the summit and started out. The trail was well marked and there were some slight elevations in spots that were just challenging enough for us. There were two spectacular vistas along the way where we could stop and get some pictures and we came across the site of a plane crash that had occurred in 1948 that the attendant had mentioned in recommending the trail. The plane’s frame was still evident and a small memorial had been erected years before.
After finishing our hike, we continued by car to the summit. We found a parking spot and walked to the monument and looked out over the vast miles in front of us. Many people had crossed the retaining wall and were sitting on a long, grassy hill in front enjoying the view.
On August 23rd, we made the slow winding crawl back down the hill out of the campground on our way home to Moodus. We had been gone since May 13 staying at twenty different locations over 3,000 miles. We were ready to settle in one place for a while and give the tires and ourselves a little break.