grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

25-30SEP14 - Bedford, MA, & New Ipswich, NH (visiting old friends via white river junction, vt))

grandson Jaxson J Pitre 
Thursday morning, 25SEP, after a great breakfast with Bill & Barb Stowe, & more reminiscing, it was back on the road heading to Massachusetts.  Driving a RV while towing in New England is great for one main reason, & is terrible for the same reason – the majority of the roads are very scenic, narrow country carriage roads; often thru small villages & towns with very tight streets & turns.  In less than an hour we ran into a truck detour on NY 9N, that gave no indication if detour applied to RVs, or if it was due to a weight or length restriction.  We followed it anyway to be safe.

The quickest way according to our GPS involved toll roads & bridges.  So Dan re-programed the GPS for no tolls, which added time to the drive.  Originally we planned to drive all the way to Andover, MA, but decided to only go half way (150 mi).  At the end of the day & over five hours of driving, we really glad we made that decision!

Friday we drove to Bedford, MA, on the outskirts of Boston to visit our old Coast Guard friends Barb & Steve Garrity.  We last saw them in Houma, LA, January of 2008 (see below BLOG).  We were fortunate enough to get a RV spot at the Hanscom AFB FamCamp.  The first RV spot we were assigned was covered in dog crap, so we moved.  After setting up camp the second time, Corrie made a commissary/exchange run.
Before Corrie returned, Steve & Barb showed up; soon followed by Corrie.  We reminisced for some time in the RV before heading out to dinner.  Dinner was at a highly recommended local Italian restaurant – Café Luigi.  It was a good meal at a reasonable price; when we finished our meal there were dozens of people waiting outside for their table.  It was short but great evening, but we will all get back together again on Sunday.

Saturday we got a late start on getting out & about; we decided to drive the Toad along the coast area north of Boston.  Our intention was to find a public beach & walk Gumbo there.  Unfortunately traffic was stop & go everywhere; & when we found somewhere to explore, parking was nonexistent or dogs were not allowed!  We did do some exploring in Beverly, MA, Gloucester, MA, & Rockport, MA, before calling it a day! We did manage to have a lobsta roll for lunch. 

Early Sunday morning, 28SEP14, Barb & Steve picked us up in their minivan for a great day of sightseeing in Boston.  Sightseeing in a major city is definitely enhanced when your guides are lifetime residents & history buffs!  A large portion of what we would see is a part of the Boston National Historical Park created in 1974 in recognition & highlighting “...the people, places, & events that sparked the American Revolution against England & highlights Boston’s role in laying the foundation for a new nation.”  The park is unique in that it is combination of land, buildings & monuments owned by the federal, state, & city government & private enterprises.  The majority of the park sites are connected by the 2-1/2 mile Freedom Trail (a National Recreational Trail & a National Millennium Trail).  A few components of the Boston National Historical Park are – Bunker Hill Monument, Charlestown Navy Yard, USS Constitution, Faneuil Hall, Boston African American National Historic Site & Black Heritage Trail.
First stop was the National Historical Park Visitor Center at the base of the Bunker Hill Monument.  They have an excellent small museum with a diorama titled – “Not Worth the Price of Victory”.  The title of the diorama refers to the fact that even though the Patriots lost the battle, they decimated the British troops; showing that the colonists could stand against the world’s best army!  Since there was no crowd, Steve & Dan decided to climb the 290 stairs to the top of the monument.  They did this without the required “climbing pass” from the Park Service!
Trivia – why is Breed’s Hill more important to the Revolution than Bunker Hill?
Next stop was the National Park Visitor Center at the Charlestown Navy Yard home of the USN CONSTITUTION (aka Old Ironsides).  There was a very good film about the history of the nation’s oldest navy yard until its closure in 1974.  Then it was time for lunch at the South Street Diner where we shared a Boston Sampler – chowda, lobsta roll & boston crème pancakes.  Wicked good!!!
Last stop of the day was the National Park Visitor Center at Faneuil Hall.  There we listened to a fifteen minute Ranger talk about why Faneuil Hall is considered the “Cradle of Liberty”.  The Hall was built as a public market at street level, as well as a meeting space for the town government on the second floor.  This meeting space was the scene of many debates against English rule before the Revolution; & has continued to be a forum for national debates on slavery, preservation of the union, temperance, women’s suffrage, unions, etc.  Unfortunately the market stalls of Faneuil Hall & next door Quincy Market are full of nothing but high-end boutiques, national chains, & fancy food & drink establishments!  To us just a very expensive tourist trap, very disappointing!

After a day of sightseeing the Garrity’s dropped us off at the RV, where we grabbed Gumbo & headed to their house in the Toad.  Back together with them we had BBQ burgers, followed by more recollecting.  Sadly after a great day it was time to say aloha to the Garrity’s, hoping it won’t be so long to the next time our paths cross.
Late Monday, 29SEP, morning we made a short drive to a new RV park in Massachusetts close to New Ipswich, NH, to visit another friend of Dan’s from the Coast Guard Academy, Doug & wife Kitty Waitt, who live in New Ipswich.  Doug & Dan were roommates the first half of freshman (aka swab) year at the Academy way back in 1970.  Doug decided to finish his college education back home in New Hampshire, so they haven’t seen each other since 1971!
Late that afternoon after setting up camp we headed to their house for an excellent paella dinner prepared by Kitty.  As we drove to their house, Dan realized we were at right driveway because there was Coast Guard Cadet “jumper” hanging at the foot of the driveway.  These uniform jumpers were only worn during “swab summer” (think boot camp) & Dan hasn’t seen one in over 40 years!
Funny thing is Doug left the Academy because he did not want an “engineering” education (the Academy is an engineering institution with BSE degrees only).  Although he later received his BA degree, he now runs a mechanical service company dealing with water systems, heating & AC systems, etc; as well as building his own house with solar power & high efficiency wood furnace; so much for a non-engineering degree career?
Tuesday morning Doug & Kitty picked us up at the RV for a driving & walking tour of the country side & small towns of New Hampshire surrounding their house – Greenville, Peterborough, Jaffrey.  Lunch was at Harlow’s Pub, excellent!  At the end of the afternoon we returned to RV for more reminiscing, before they returned to their home.  Another great (but too short) visit!!!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

21-24SEP14 - Lake Placid, NY (via lockport & fort drum, ny)

Sunday morning, 21SEP, we continued eastward from Michigan to New York by cutting “thru” Canada. Our first stop was to get diesel fuel before passing into Canada at Port Huron, MI; having a full diesel tank means we won’t have to buy pricey Canadian fuel or even New York fuel.  For the first time for us while RV’ing, Canadian Customs pulled us to the side & thoroughly examined the interior of the RV?  By cutting across Ontario, Canada, we shortened our drive by 200 miles!

As we approached Niagara Falls, NY, we saw a sign that said the border delay at Niagara Falls was forty minutes, but two bridges east there was no delay.  Turns out the sign lied & we waited 45 minutes before crossing back into the USA. After setting up camp in Lockport, NY, we headed to a local restaurant in New Fame, NY.  After dinner we drove into the small town of Olcott, NY, on the shores of Lake Ontario for a walkabout.  We hadn’t planned it, but for the first time we touched all five Great Lakes on one RV trip.

Monday morning we headed into Lockport, NY, for sightseeing & to pick up our mail (our real reason for spending two days in Lockport).  First stop was the Erie Canal Discovery Center, part of the National Park Service Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, where we bought combination discount tickets for their museum, & the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride.   According to Wikipedia:

“National Heritage Areas (or corridors) are not National Park Service units nor any type of federally owned or managed land. National Heritage Areas are administered by state governments or non-profit organizations or other private corporations. The National Park Service provides an advisory role and limited technical, planning and financial assistance."
"NHAs are created by Congress. Each area has its own authorizing legislation and a set of unique resources and goals. Areas are considered for designation, have specific elements. First, the landscape must be a nationally unique natural, cultural, historic, or scenic resource. Second, when the related sites are linked, they tell a unique story about the U.S.”
We then watched a fifteen minute video on the history of the creation & history of Erie Canal, w/primary focus on the unique five “step” locks built in what soon became Lockport.  The video was unique in that the film narrator talks about the creation of the Canal, & then half way thru the video announces we will be bordering a “Erie Canal barge” for a short trip?  The screen then rises & an opening in the wall is revealed into the next room!  You are then asked to carefully board the barge.  People watching the film go into the next room, the opening closes & the film continues; now being told from the perspective of the barge deck hand while you are standing on a barge deck.

Trivia – what is hoggie?

After the film we took a break for lunch at a local diner.  After lunch we used our second ticket for a walking tour & boat ride of the five step locks, & the Lockport cave.  On interesting thing we learned was that all the “water rights” in the canal were owned by the financers of the canal.  One entrepreneur in Lockland bought the rights to the “excess” canal water.  He then constructed a cave (ie tunnel) from the high point of the five locks.  He then constructed his factory & powered it using this water to drive his machinery.  He eventually made more money by selling his excess water to new factories downstream from his!  The last part of the tour is a boat trip thru a section of the cave/tunnel.  Then it was back to the center/museum to view the rest of their exhibits.

Trivia – the Federal Gov’t refused to finance the Erie Canal, how was it paid for?

Tuesday was a beautiful drive on NY 104 to Fort Drum Army Base.  After setting up camp we made Commissary/BX run before calling it a day.  We had a small problem using our GPS for navigation because most of the street names on base have changed to reflect the recent conflict in Iraq.  But the Toad GPS still got us back to RV.

Wednesday, 24SEP, was an even more beautiful drive on NY 3 to Lake Placid, NY.  The fall colors were already out in northern New York.  While planning our drive Dan noticed the RV GPS said it was 228 miles & four hours to get to Lake Placid based on the shortest driving time?  Dan knew this was BS & reprogramed the GPS for shortest distance.  Then the GPS said it was 124 miles & over four hours to get there.  With no trouble, we made it in 2-1/2 hours by taking the shortest distance route!
Our purpose for staying in Lake Placid was to visit Crew Coach Bill Stowe & wife Barb.  Coach Stowe was a 1964 Olympic gold medalist in the eight man shell (something not repeated by the USA until 2004), & first crew coach at the US Coast Guard Academy starting in 1970.  Dan was a team manager (aka boat driver) for Coach Stowe for four years at the Academy.  At the time Dan didn’t know what a “mentor” was, & that he could benefit from one; but looking back, Coach Stowe was the first of the few true mentors Dan encountered in his CG career.
We won’t bore you with sea stories about their four year association at the Academy (beside this is a PG rated BLOG!).  But if you want to learn more about an unique American Olympic champion, who went from rowing on the Mekong River in Saigon, to a gold medal in Tokyo; check out the Coach’s 2005 book “All Together – The Formidable Journey to the Gold”.
We spent hours on their deck recollecting before heading out for a great dinner at Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar.  Their menu & food was very unique & delicious – highly recommended!  We all then drove around town & Lake Placid.  Even though it was night, we could tell the town & area were beautiful & we must come back to visit longer.  After dinner we retired to the RV to skype with grandson Mason on his one year birthday.  Thursday morning Barb prepared us breakfast, & we reminisced a few more hours before sadly hitting the road.

PS – one unique thing about the Coach & Barb’s house is that it extremely close to the USA Olympic Ski Jumps used during the 1980 Winter Olympics.  The jumps are still used for training & competitions.  In fact as you sit on their deck talking you will hear jumpers skiing down on “plastic snow”, & then silence as they launch into the air.  If you hear screams & cursing, then things didn’t go well?  With binoculars you can easily watch them.

Monday, September 22, 2014

16-20SEP14 - Minnesota, Wisconsin & Michigan

Early Tuesday morning, 16SEP, was our departure from Corrie’s brother Ed & wife Elaine’s place in Sprucewoods, Manitoba, Canada.  As we were connecting the Toad to the RV Gumbo, our one eyed Jack Russell Terrier, took off to check out a kid waiting for the school bus.  The kid ignored Gumbo as the bus approached; so Gumbo decided to follow the kid onto the bus when the door opened.  Apparently the driver has dealt with this before, because he reached right down & grabbed Gumbo by the neck & held onto him until we could retrieve him.

After this little sideshow we then started our drive back to the USA, & eastward to Dan’s 40th college reunion in Connecticut.  We re-entered the USA in North Dakota & headed east on US2.  Outside of Devils Lake, MN, we stopped at a rest area where the restroom building was modeled after an old style Riverboat Paddle Wheeler (there was no info on why a paddle wheeler?).  The first two RV parks we tried to stay at didn’t bother to answer their phones & we soon learned they were full with “seasonal” occupants even though the season was long over.  Thankfully at our third try outside Erskine, MN, we found a vacancy (right next to the RR tracks)!

Wednesday morning after being awoken by a very loud, squeaky, train it was back on US2 heading east.  The weather was great until we were next to the south shore of Lake Superior in Wisconsin when the skies clouded, the temp dropped, & the winds picked up.  We overnighted in Bessemer, MI, at an RV park run by a little old lady who had a very thick accent from Sweden or Norway?
In case you haven’t noticed this drive appears to be a retrace of our drive back in SEP09 when we attended Dan’s 35th reunion in Connecticut.  This time we did not stop at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center, Ashland, WI; Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, Ishpeming, MI; or “Lakenenland” east of Marquette, MI (see below BLOG if interested in learning more).  One change we noticed from our 2009 drive, is that are a large number of small Indian Casinos throughout northern WI & the upper peninsula of MI.  One tribe has five casinos scattered around the eastern part of the MI Upper Peninsula.  We also learned more Yooper humor:
---you know you are getting close to Yooper Land when the road sign says – End of the World 2 miles, Upper Peninsula 4 miles!
---what is a seven course dinner for a Yooper?  A pasty & a six pack!
Thursday morning we were back on US2 heading east but almost immediately we switched over to MI28 across the upper peninsula of Michigan.  We did this since US2 heads southeast & actually is a longer way to get to St Ignace, MI, our next stop.  After two hours we stopped at Lawrys Pasty outside of Marquette, MI.  Voted the best pasty in the UP for close to ten years.  First it is pronounced “pass tee” not “pay stree” nor “pay stees”.  We purchased a traditional pasty & a cudighi sausage sandwich.  Lawrys is a small non-descript building that is easily missed from the roadway.  Since it was early, we were the only customers; but the phone rang constantly with takeout orders for lunch.  The pasty was pretty bland (think old fashioned hash in a pie crust), but the cudighi was very good.

Also, we are not sure why but the diesel in Munising, MI, was over twenty cents cheaper than anywhere else in MI?  We must say that we found the scenery on US2 & MI28 thru the UP fantastic!  It was even good to see Michigan State Police still have an old fashioned red “bubble-gum” machine on their cars even with all their modern LED lights.
Friday morning was another long drive from St Ignace, MI, to Port Huron, MI, to spend two days before heading across Ontario, Canada, to New York.  We decided to spend two days in Port Huron to take a break from the hard driving we have been doing for four days.  We also decided to stay in a very nice KOA next to Port Huron.  This is one of the biggest RV parks we have seen, with not only numerous activities/facilities to keep you entertained (mostly aimed at kids/teens); but the KOA was right next door to another facility w/batting cages, go-carts, putt-putt, etc.  After Corrie returned from a grocery run, we headed to the Raven Café in Port Huron for dinner.  The café is part library & part restaurant decorated in an Edgar Allen Poe theme (Quoth the Raven “Nevermore”).  They feature nine fresh soups a day; & all the food was very, very, good.

Saturday, 20SEP, we slept in to recover from four days of hard driving.  In the early afternoon we headed out in search of a Muffler Man located at the World’s Finest Frozen Custard stand in New Baltimore, MI.  Little did we know pro-golfer Greg Norman is secretly a Muffler Man (see below internet link to learn the threat posed by Muffler Men hidden throughout the USA).  After observing the Muffler Man we then enjoined a round of Putt-Putt golf; the putt-putt course was definitely old school.  As to the final score – all Dan will admit is that he didn’t lose by double digits!  The putt-putt outing was topped with delicious frozen custard.  That evening severe weather rolled thru, something we didn’t want to see before getting back on the road tomorrow.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

05-15SEP14 - Sprucewoods, MB, Canada (visiting canadian side of the family)

Friday, 05SEP, was a very long drive to Sprucewoods, Manitoba, Canada, to stay at Corrie’s brother Ed & wife Elaine’s place (who we last saw back in Phoenix/Mesa, AZ, the last week in March) while visiting relatives & friends in the Brandon, MB, area.  Dan chose a route slightly longer than the recommended route; to avoid all the oil field traffic surrounding Williston, ND.  Our last visit here was 2012 for Jason’s (Ed & Elaine’s son) & Katelyn’s wedding (see below BLOG internet link).  Soon after our arrival it was time for dinner, followed by relaxing with two games of Cribbage.

We had a great time during our ten day stay, before our departure on 16SEP!  Nothing spectacular occurred, but we still had a very enjoyable time:
---played lots of Cribbage; at one point the guys were down four games, but managed to claw their way back to just down two
---Ed taking Ed out to the ongoing potato harvest to ride in a state of the art potato harvester; this machine can pick & clean 16 rows of potatoes & load a semi trailer in less than 20 minutes!!!

---celebrating Tripp Riesmeyer’s one year b-day (Jason & Katelyn’s son)

---Corrie going elk hunting with Ed
---Ed showing off his home built “skid steer” he has been working on for two years

---Corrie meeting with various relatives & friends for coffee, lunch, etc, to reconnect & reminisce

---Dan buying Lawn Mower Lift for $99 for our lawn tractor back in Sultan, WA; this price is far cheaper than any internet price; now we will be carrying it in the RV for the next six months
---going to the Sand Hills Casino with Ed & Elaine; supposedly if you become member you get two free buffets?; unfortunately you must sign up online to get freebies, but the clerk did us a favor by signing us up on the spot; the guys lost but gals won, so we all came out ahead & got four free meals

---Dan & Ed go quad’ing in the forest; this time Dan manages not to climb a tree with the quad like he did with son Joe back in Houma, LA

---Corrie’s youngest brother Rob & wife Yvonne came over for a prime rib dinner at Ed & Elaine’s

---many delicious home cooked meals, including an excellent seafood dinner with crab legs, giant Newfoundland ocean scallops wrapped in bacon & fried shrimp prepared by Ed & Elaine