WEEK TEN! Sun-Tues, Oct 28-30, 2007

You'd think we'd be tired of this journey, but we're not... it's been a real delight. But, this is the last leg of this trip. Time to go home. Think of it: Two months of mail awaiting our attention. (shoot me!) Diane was under the weather on Sunday, so we didn't do much. Tom and Jimmy drove to St Marks to buy stone crab claws for dinner. I made coleslaw (the "everlasting" cabbage still tastes good!) and potato salad (finished those yummy PEI taters), and we had a feast. Diane rallied later and we four had a hot game of Mexican train dominoes. Watched (and dozed thru) the fourth and final series game. Go Sox! Too bad I bet on the Rockies. Phooey, now I owe nickels. 

On Monday while Tom and Diane worked, Jimmy and I drove to St Marks NWR, our favorite place. One more time we biked to the Lighthouse and back, but we were astonished at the near-dried up ponds and low-water levels in streams, and the boat channel to the bay was reduced to a trickle. The culprits: Low tide near a full moon, a stiff north wind blowing water out of the bay, and the drought that's left the area with a deficit of 20" for the year. We saw a few birds/water fowl - a bunch of black-necked stilts, a gaggle of glossy ibis, and a quantity of quail that we scared up, plus the occasional heron and egret. We were treated to the sight of three baldy eagles soaring overhead. Only saw a couple of small gators. The rangers tagged 900 butterflies that morning as they geared for butterfly migration. It seemed we observed many more critters of all kinds in prior years than we saw this year. Most depend on abundant water, which is lacking now. Still, we love this NWR and have spent many an enchanted hour walking, hiking and biking here. We've kayaked the bay and fished in the shallow clear waters off the Lighthouse. It was fitting we ended our trip in this area... Another hot game of dominoes ensued after dinner, with copious amounts of chocolate consumed. Ah, fun times! 

Tuesday morning, we packed up and headed for home. 7,549 miles we put on the RV in the ten + weeks. And just as many memories....

Week Nine - Fri/Sat, Oct 26/27

Friday we "messed around" in Greenville SC, window shopping, drinking coffee in Barnes & Noble, and the like. Late afternoon, we hooked up with Steve, met Parker, their 8-yr-old son (Dorothy and daughter Bailey were at a swim meet). Steve gave us the downtown tour, and then he fixed us a great steak dinner at home. We stayed up and talked into the wee hours and had a very enjoyable time. Good for Jimmy to meet up with old friends and nice for me to meet his friends! Saturday morn we bid them adieu and pulled out, on our way south to Tallahassee, which was basically an all-day drive. Arrived at Tom and Diane's 5ish, then went out to eat Mexican food. Watched Game 3 of the World Series - mostly stayed awake. (well....) Glad to be here!


Week Nine - Thurs, Oct 25

We had a slow start, but that's all right. Jimmy made a phone call to his friend Troy at St Marks Powder (who used to live in Greenville) and he suggested a hike at Jones Gap State Park in northern SC. Wow - he was right! It was one of the best hikes we've been on. The damp, leaf-strewn Jones Gap trail follows the tumultuous Middle Saluda River, as it gushes down the mountains, sliding over boulders the size of Mac trucks, and including several striking waterfalls. We stopped to examine one of the pools and discovered both a nice-sized crawfish and a salamander in the chilly water. The air temp was in the mid-70's - perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Lovely day.


Week Nine, Tues/Wed, Oct 23/24

Weather iffy, showers, rain and/or thunderstorms... left Staunton for the Galax VA area so we could be close to New River bike trail and a ride if weather permitted. Drove some by interstate and more on the Blue Ridge Pkwy - but, we ended up driving in pea soup fog on the pkwy, with very poor visibility. Finally able to get off the pkwy at Fancy Gap and into a CG, still stuck in fog and rain. On Wed we left (in soupy fog) for Greenville SC as there's no break in the weather... and no bike ride on the trail. Oh well. On/off rain thru NC and into SC, and rain showers continue. Jimmy has friends in Greenville, and we hope to see them. And watch the first game of the World Series. Found a Whole Foods store in Greenville and spent a bushel basketful of time - and a bit of cash - there (every bit as good as Disneyland)!
How about the wasp nest near the water wheel of the old Mabry mill....


Shenandoah National Park Week Nine! Sun/Mon, Oct 21/22

On Sunday, we hit the Skyline Drive thru Shenandoah Nat'l Park. Lots of other Sunday drivers joined the autumn color procession with the 35 mph speed limit. It wasn't so bad and the scenery really was beautiful, but it took many hours to reach a CG in Staunton VA. We stayed up late to watch the Red Sox win the championship! Decided to stay another nite here, and on Monday we hiked up to Humpback Rocks - one mile up and one mile down - the trail was rated "strenuous," but it wasn't nearly as bad as the last one we were on, rated "moderate." (Kind of hoped this vigorous hike would eradicate the clotted cream and jam we consumed a couple of days ago!) The afternoon was sunny and 80ish, but very clear and the view from the summit was spectacular. Enjoyed visiting the pioneer village, too. Later we traipsed around Staunton with its lovely old bldgs and stopped in to see the glass blowing exhibition at a local business. Great to be here again! 


Week Eight - Fri/Sat, Oct 19/20

Winchester VA was our next destination, a relatively short drive from Lancaster PA, tho we traveled in PA, WV, MD, to get into VA (in occasional rain). We’re not far from Shenandoah Nat’l Park and Skyline Drive. Walked around downtown Winchester till raindrops chased us away. Most impressive sight was Handley Library, circa 1906, a beautiful bldg with a stained glass dome. On Saturday we opted for a bike ride to the Shenandoah Valley Museum, with accompanying tour of Glen Burnie home and gardens, all of which took many hours. Had a delicious lunch in their tea room, and for desert we split a scone served with clotted cream and jam (hoy!). Sunny day with puffy white clouds propelled thru the sky by a big wind (tough ride back into the wind!). Did another pile of laundry after dinner. Very nice day.


Lancaster, PA Week Eight, Wed/Thurs, Oct 17th & 18th

Wednesday was travel day - heading south from Letchworth State Park - aiming for the Lancaster, PA area. We endured lots of eye-burning interstate driving, which we try to avoid, but sometimes we need to. Even at that, we didn't arrive at our Country Haven CG in New Haven till 6 PM. Long drive.

Thursday was an interesting conglomeration of experiences. We visited the Strasburg train museum, followed by a short scenic train ride thru the Amish farmland. Since we were in the heart of Amish and Mennonite country, we had to be mindful of horse and buggy drivers as we drove thru towns with colorful names, like Intercourse and Bird-in-Hand.

In the late afternoon we hiked several miles on country roads near our CG, over the rolling hills that seemed to have lots more cows than people. This time of year Amish farmers spread "natural" fertilizer on their harvested fields, and - holy cow! - eau de cowpoop perfume. Ew, that smell permeated the whole county, including our CG! The afternoon was sunny and warm and we enjoyed our walk anyway. Pigged out at a monster buffet dinner at Shady Maple Smorgasbord, largest in the state (maybe even the world!), and the food was great! Fun day.  (Man, we thought cowpoop cologne was bad during the daytime -- whew!)


Letchworth St Pk - Mon/Tues Oct 15/16, 2007

We pulled out of Niagara Falls, aiming for Letchworth State Pk, 35 miles south of Rochester, along the Genesee River, planning on a two-night stay.  The caretaker in the Adirondacks gave this park a high recommendation, so we thought we should check it out!  We made it just in the nick of time, too, as the campground closes for the season on 10/21. The reds and golds of autumn were really beginning to sparkle, adding to our delight, though there's a decided chill in the air.

We toured the falls and historic sites, hiking up to an impossibly placed RR bridge, watching deer as their eyes followed us. The next morning we waited till the temp got all the way up to 50°, then biked to the Mt. Morris “dry” dam, following a ridge line trail with the Genesee River 500’ below.  Later in the afternoon we hiked another ridge line trail that led to a dramatic dead end at its tip.

The park is large ... roughly 17 miles long, covering 14,350 acres of land along the Genesee River (above) as it flows north into Lake Ontario. The park is named after industrialist William Pryor Letchworth (1823-1910). In 1859, he began purchasing land near the Middle Falls, and started construction of his Glen Iris Estate. In 1906 he bequeathed the 1,000-acre estate to the State of New York, which soon after became the core of the newly created Letchworth State Park

Within the park, the river roars over three major waterfalls, but with the drought NY is experiencing, said “roar” has been considerably reduced. (Most of the states we’ve visited this year have been suffering drought conditions.) Still, the scenery is magnificent, with cliffs -- up to 600 ft -- rising high above the gorge, earning this state park the title, "Grand Canyon of the East."

 A nice-sized park, worthy of exploration!

Very picturesque.

Tubing and rafting are popular past-times in the summer, but I wonder if they were doable this past summer with the water so low.

Middle Falls, above and (zoomed in) below.

Not sure what this flimsy cataract was called.  Looks pretty dry, though.

We had fun watching a family set up a hot air balloon, celebrating some milestone, perhaps a birthday.  Everyone aboard had on a warm jacket against the afternoon chill.  As soon as they were ten or twenty feet off the ground, those toasty jackets were jettisoned to the ground!

A fine ride on a very gray afternoon.

We managed to do a lot of hiking, but paused often to admire the scenery.

Upper Falls with the Portage Bridge above.

In 1852, the Erie Railroad Company built a wooden trestle bridge over the river. At the time, it was the longest and tallest wooden bridge in the world. In 1875, the great wooden railroad bridge was destroyed in a tremendous fire. The bridge was a total loss, leaving only the concrete bridge abutments.

Immediately after the fire, officials of Erie Railroad moved quickly to replace the wooden bridge with an iron and steel design. Construction began June 8, 1875 and opened for traffic July 31, 1875 (fast work!). The bridge is 820 feet long and 240 feet high. And, it's still used today.

Miniature falls in a shady glade ... fallen leaves crunchy underfoot.

Biking in the luminous golden afternoon.

Mount Morris Dam (above) is located at the north end of the park. Completed in 1954, the dam is the largest flood control device of its kind (concrete gravity) east of the Mississippi River. It's 1,028 feet in length and rises 230 feet from the riverbed. When you first see the dam, it looks weird because there's no water behind it. That's because it's used for flood control only ... and it proved its worth during Hurricane Agnes in 1972, saving thousands of acres of farmland from flooding.

Great hiking here, biking, too, in this wonderful park.  We were happy to have found Letchworth St Park -- it's a gem worth visiting!

Niagara Falls - Week Eight - Sunday, Oct 14

Jimmy and I drove to my old stompin’ grounds – in fact, we’re camped on Niagara Falls Blvd about a quarter of a mile from my Cayuga Dr Ext childhood home! Ye olde homestead looks good, except most of the trees have been cut down. Today's big adventure was a visit to and lunch with Aunt Ange and cousin, Pat, and we had a wonderful time! Aunt Ange is as sharp and lively as ever, albeit slower and tinier. She can pack away a hamburger, too! After lunch, Jimmy and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the falls, American and Canadian sides – including a nice walk across the Rainbow Bridge. We worked up an appetite for pizza at Michael’s on Pine Avenue. Though we were dismayed at the blighted conditions we saw in the city, ‘twas a wonderful day. Goodness gracious, we're in week eight of our retirement trip - has it really been that long?

Retirement is Great!

Jimmy saw this guy in a Canadian men's room. Obviously they'll let anybody in these places!

Week 7, Thurs - Sat, Oct 13, 2007

Thursday -- Oh, geez, last nite we caught another big-eared deer mouse – this one was sashaying across our small carpeted area on its way toward the kitchen. Ah well.... Our day began with those lovely raspberries for breakfast before we drove to the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. What an excellent setting they have - a little piece of Austria in Vermont. Watched a 1983 video of Maria Von Trapp (the real one) that was very moving. She passed away in 1987. Then we hit the road. Ferried across Lake Champlain, bypassed Plattsburg NY (cloudy, brisk day) and continued on into the Adirondack Mountains – again, such a gorgeous drive! Didn’t stop in Lake Placid or Saranac Lake, just admired the scenery. Arrived at Forestport CG (one of the few still open) near dark in misty rain – and discovered it too had closed for the season! A handyman okayed our one-nite stay at the forested campground, for which we were grateful. Imagine, being the only folks there. Fixed breakfast for dinner. Soft rain fell most of the night.

Friday -- 40° again this morning and cloudy, but the rain’s stopped. Our RV is plastered with wet leaves. We drove to Utica and stopped at a Wal-Mart for sweats and thermal clothes, plus a few groceries. Continuing along, we jumped off the Thruway to drive the scenic Lake Ontario route. This whole area is planted in apple orchards – we had no idea apples were the main crop here. Roadside stands with apples and pumpkins abound. We bought more apples and a NEW 20-pounder “everlasting” cabbage! This is such a lovely route to drive with farms and fields, orchards and stately trees, tho not as much autumn color. A powerful headwind worked against the RV all day. We lucked up on a CG with one “loop” still open: Hamlin Beach St Park, with acres of trees and manicured grass, and it’s right on the lake. We walked a bit after setting up, but the chilly wind cut right thru us. We aren’t far from Niagara Falls….

Saturday -- White caps on Lake Ontario! Nevertheless, the sun was shining brightly, so we hiked along the lakeshore, admiring the tailored grounds in this huge park and picking windfall apples. We even spied a beaver slinking along in the grass before it disappeared in a hedgerow! 

We enjoyed a nice drive to Lockport alongside the lake; bought more apples at a roadside stand! (going to have to make applesauce again....) After setting-up, we donned lots of clothes for a short (chilly) bike ride on the Erie Canal towpath trail, and a visit to the museum. Digging the Erie Barge Canal began in 1817 and it was completed in 1825, and, by gum, the locks are still working! Our Lockport CG closes for the season this coming Monday. Wow, we made it in under the wire. 

Scenes along the canal.  Of course, Canada Geese are everywhere!


At one of the canal locks.

We didn't last too long on our bikes, the wind simply made it too chilly to be Out and About.


Week Seven - Wednesday, Oct 10

A rainy/misty morning, great weather for moose, like the gal (moosette?) we spotted enjoying a big slurp at roadside north of Mount Washington. We passed from New Hampshire into Vermont, and at a gas stop across the line, we ate farm-raised elk burgers (not moose!) for lunch. We drove toward Cabot VT since we wanted to tour Cabot Creamery (the cheese people). They put on a good show and – and you’ll be surprised to learn this – they give free samples of their cheeses, with amply stocked shelves directly behind! It worked – everybody bought something. 

Our next aim was Stowe VT and Gold Brook CG. We enjoyed another beautiful drive today, with fog fingers drifting about the mountains most of the day… like a New England painting. We finally finished the second “everlasting” massive cabbage at dinner tonite. But, on my way to the shower I spied wild raspberries near our campsite and picked enough to top our cereal in the morning. Life is good!