Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pictureless in Pennsylvania…

We drove to the Catskills on a beautiful sunny day.

Something we rarely see in BC are hillsides clad exclusively in deciduous trees. With no evergreens to interrupt the overall texture, the hillsides in the Catskills looked like a bunch of different pastel coloured pillows that had been loosely bunched together. You’ll have to believe me because I never took a picture, thinking that I would catch the hills more favorably imbued with a morning or evening light. It never happened.

Stopping for lunch at the town of Catskill, we then drove to another small town further into Catskill Park called Phoenicia. We were the only campers at Sleepy Hollow Campground on the Esopus River, a couple of kilometers from the town. We rode our bikes into Phoenicia and when we returned we sat in the sun by the river.

Then the weather changed. Within five minutes we were driven inside where, turning on the weather channel, we found the forecast was for heavy rain and all kinds of other inclement weather warnings due to another tropical storm. For once, the forecast was accurate.

We woke in the morning to torrential rains pounding on the roof. It’s weird because even though it was raining heavily, it was still about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so it felt more like we were in Mexico or Hawaii. Because we didn’t want to sit by a campsite in the valley bottom, by the river, during the repeated warnings from the National Weather Advisory for another tornado watch, as well as flash floods, we decided to move on.

I called the campsite that we’d been told about previously, in Jersey City, right across from Manhattan. The campground was booked but the woman there told us she could put us in the overflow, with no services. We booked it for two days hence and pulled up camp, heading south, with the idea of positioning ourselves within an hour-and-a-half or so from the Jersey Campground.


The media drives me crazy. A person just can’t believe anything the media reports anymore. The television newscasts last night were three-quarters full of dire storm warnings, detailing all the horrible things that could happen to us , if, if, if… Basically they’re making it up, hoping something will happen.

Today, after about the fiftieth storm warning reported by the radio stations, as we were driving south into the storm, I brought up the subject of how all the media in North America are now owned by a few mega corporations that use their media properties as vehicles to create fear. About how they want us to go about our day-to-day lives looking over our shoulders, concerned by the threat of terrorism, or global warming, or tornado warnings, or flash flood alerts. They have the general population's subconcious so busy being afraid that, in most cases, people don’t notice how their lives are passing them by while they work away, in most cases for less and less disposable income, only to tythe their taxes to the governments that are in the pockets of those same corporations that own the media…

Janice just changed the subject.

My rant over with, we ended up in the corner of Pennsylvania, in the Pocono’s, at Shady Acres Campground near Mt. Bethel. The rain was still coming down heavily as I wrote this but the tornado warning was due to expire in an hour or so. I’m willing to bet that if I tune into the media tomorrow, no tornadoes will have materialized.

We spent our down time doing laundry, writing the blog and adding up September’s expenses. It’s hard to believe that as of today we’ve been on the road for four months - one third through our adventure already. The good news is we were $500.00 under budget for September. The bad news is that we were $1500.00 over budget for August.

We’re only an hour or so from the Big Apple and by this time tomorrow we should be lost somewhere in the middle of Manhattan…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rainy days in Connecticut and another tornado watch...

We left Lebanon under leaden skies and a forecast for more rain. We decided to drive the back roads through the gut of the state, where the foliage is just beginning to change, and found a nice spot at White Pines Camp Ground at Barkhamsted. They’re only charging us an off-season rate of $15 per night including electric, water, cable and wifi so, with the forecast still being crappy, we decided to settle in for a couple of days and take some day trips, the first of which was to the State Capital, Hartford.

Hartford is the first truly integrated city we've seen so far - pretty well divided equally between caucasians and blacks - from the suits and ties to the city workers.

We had a really good lunch at the Steam City Brewery & Café right downtown and then walked to the Capital District where the State Capital Building is the most impressive piece of architecture we’ve seen yet, by far. It’s stunning, both inside and out. In short, truly exquisite in every detail.

Below are pictures of the café where we had lunch and a couple of pics of the capital building that don’t begin to do it justice.

On our way back to camp the radio stations were issuing a tornado watch for the county our campsite is in. Right after we’d heard the warning we came upon a nice surprise in Collinsville where there was a huge old axe factory that had been built right on the river. We got out to walk across the bridge in order to take some pictures when a huge downpour opened up. We ran for the building, which is now an antique mall, and asked the people there if they knew there was a tornado watch. The guy said, “ We don’t really worry about them.” I said, “Ya, but we’re in an RV park and that’s where they always seem to hit.” He replies, “Yes, the debate is still out about which is the cause and which is the effect.”

Smart Ass.

Pictured below is the old axe factory in Collinsville, Connecticut.

Almost every small town has a tag line like: The Hub City or The Birthplace of So and So. We came across the one that takes the cake so far: Cheshire - The Bedding Plant Capitol of Connecticut.

Nothing even close to a tornado ever materialized and we woke this morning to a bright sunny day.

Two things I've taken a little flack for lately are:
1. My choice of reading material, (Memoirs of a Geisha).
2. Too many water pictures - that I seem to be obsessed by water - where are the fall colors?
Of course I have excuses for both.
1. For anyone who has done some RV'ing before you'll know that you can't use libraries because they won't take a book back, for instance, in New York City that you took out in Boston. Because there's a lot of time to read when you're on the road, buying them is too expensive, for my budget anyway. So, you're left with the exchange system that many RV'ers use. At just about every campsite there's a book exchange - Take One Leave One. Most are romance or mystery novels so you may get lucky the odd time, as I did in New Brunswick when I picked up a local award winning author, who's novel kept me enthralled for a week or so. I can't remember his name or the name of the book, which is not at all unusual for me. He's one of those three-named guys. David something something. Anyways, having never seen the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha is worth a read because its both entertaining and revealing.
2. Water photos. Yes, I'll admit to having an affinity for the ocean - always have - and the fall colors are just beginning to appear here. In a week or two, you'll probably all be sick to death of another 'Fall Shot'.

Pictured is some of the colour at our campsite at White Pines,Barkhamsted.

Today we're heading for the Catskills in New York State.

Monday, September 27, 2010

‘Rude’ Island to Connecticut…

The fog looked like it was going to lift as we drove towards Rhode Island. Janice had been talking about trying fried clams before we got out of Massachusetts because we had been seeing so many signs advertising them so we stopped at Wareham at a place called The Lobster Pot. As evidenced by the stuff hanging on the walls it had won all kinds of rave reviews and awards for ‘Budget Priced Seafood‘. It was kind of cafeteria-style but service was fast and the food was good, for what it was. The batter was unlike anything we’ve had before but I can’t describe it, and they weren’t giving away any secrets.

Pictured below is Janice being bad - having fried food. I had fish and chips and we both had strong coffee. Of course the portions were American sized so we didn’t have to have dinner until about 8:00 o‘clock that night.

We pulled into Newport, Rhode Island around noon and Janice charmed the guy into letting us park at the bus depot alongside the Greyhounds and other tour buses, which is the only place we would fit. When we decided to skip Martha’s Vineyard because we’d had enough busy little tourist towns for the time being, we didn’t know that Newport would be even more so of the same. I’m pretty sure serious shoppers would have thought they’d died and gone to heaven, but neither of us are, so we spent an hour strolling the docks and a few blocks of the strip before hitting the road again.

Pictured are the docks at Newport, in the fog.

The fog cleared by about 3:00, just as we were pulling into the North Kingston Wal-Mart, south of Providence. We walked around for a while in the muggy heat before deciding, it being Friday and all, that we should find a place to have a drink, with some locals. The only place we could find within walking distance was The Junction Bistro & Trattoria. There were a few guys that looked like genuine working stiffs scattered around the granite topped bar watching big screen TV’s. Perfect. We sidled in among them. It turned out they were all waiting for Pizzas to go though so a few minutes later we found ourselves alone, except for the young bartender.

It turned out his name was Roland and he was a Flare Bartender (you know the kind that flips the bottles and all). Of Italian descent he was brought up in Providence, “Rude Island.” Speaking of rude - drivers in Massachusetts are surprisingly courteous while those in Rhode Island are otherwise.

We were undecided about what to drink so he put a Pumpkin Beer in front of me and he suggested a cocktail of his own invention for Janice. When he found out we were Canadian he not only had a lot of questions but also took great enjoyment in regaling us with ‘Rude’ Island euphemisms. When it was time to re-order he suggested that I try his other special drink, with two rums, while Janice should try the Ice Tea Twist. You probably know they free pour in The States. He had heard but couldn’t believe that we’re forced to use jiggers or liquor guns in Canada. He must have been trying to illustrate his point because I definitely felt a buzz after that drink.

Roland wanted to show us something uniquely “Rude Island” so, in his flare style, he used both hands while he quickly made up individual butter plates of a complimentary appetizer. First he put a basket of Italian bread in front of us and then began shaking olive oil onto the plates, followed by parmesan cheese from shakers, chili flakes from shakers and finally, salt and pepper from shakers. He didn’t have to instruct us to dip the bread in the concoction. It was unbelievably good.

When we overheard one of the waitresses wishing him happy birthday and then him replying, “Ya, twenty-two,” we decided that we were buzzed enough to sound off with a rousing version of Happy Birthday, cousin Mclachlan style, with fingers pointing at him on every “You” and then followed by both; For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow and Three Cheers.

Before we knew it we had two more strong drinks in front of us. A half hour or so later we walked/wobbled back to the trailer. It looked that, for the first time, we would be the only overnighters at the Wal-Mart, so we had some wine. That seemed to make our solitude a little less disconcerting. Regardless, it turned out to be an uneventful overnight.

The next morning we drove into downtown Provincetown but, as with most big cities, it was not RV friendly. We took a quick tour around the city centre anyway, (I’ve spared you another picture of the State Capital building). Well, maybe we were a tad hung-over and it was pretty muggy and… that damned little Italian bartender…Okay I never even took a picture of the State Capital Building.

We pointed the truck back towards the coast where we ended up at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park at Narragansett. I still don’t know why the park bares its name, but there was an excellent farmer’s market in the morning where we picked up some produce as well as Italian and Asiago/Pesto bread. Narragansett is famed for long sandy beaches. We were fortunate to catch them this late in the year on a nice hot and sunny Saturday, where lots of people were still enjoying the sun, sand and sea.

Below are a couple of images from one of the beaches at Narragansett.

The next day we were on the road to Connecticut and, soon after we crossed the border, stopped at a very cool town called Mystic, where there is a huge maritime museum and a lot of other history because, like other port cities on the east coast, it was settled in the 1600’s. We walked the town and had lunch there before driving to Lebanon where we camped at Lake Williams Campground.

It being Sunday it was nice that the campground had cable so I could catch up on a little NFL while Janice cooked baby back ribs with roasted potato, carrot, red pepper, zucchini and spinach. Don’t be so judgmental. We did go for a walk and Janice got to watch the season premier of The Amazing Race.

They don’t sell liquor in Connecticut on Sundays!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cape Cod...

We decided to see Gloucester, north of Salem where The Perfect Storm was filmed, before we headed for Cape Cod, but we got lost on a dead end beach road where we found ourselves at Manchester By The Sea, so we stopped there and had lunch, deciding to abandon the idea of Gloucester.

Pictured below is the beach at Manchester By The Sea where we ended up for lunch.

Taking the I-95 South, avoiding Boston, we ended up at Scusset Beach State Park where we had a long walk on the beach, but the wind blew so hard all night it was hard to sleep so we decided to head a little further south, from where we could easily do two separate driving loops of Cape Cod.

Pictured below: A fisherman casts for Striped Bass at Scusset Beach State Park.

We found a campsite at Dunroamin' RV Park at Sandwich, a very well preserved and stately little town that was the first settled in Cape Cod. If it had still been summer this would be an ideal RV spot because it's a huge property with a beautiful sandy beach on the lake.

We drove the loop around the southern portion of The Cape, the part that the Rand McNally Road Atlas displays it's red ribbon on, signafying The Best of The Best of scenic drives. Not. Hyannis was a highlight but the rest was just OK. Its not the first time we've been fooled by Rand McNally recommendations.

Back at camp, the laundry spun as we had dinner outside. It was dark but balmy - so much so that the crickets were still doing there thing. We feasted on another of Janice's wonderful culinary delights:
Thai Cucumber and Radish Salad. One of the freshest tastes you can get for summer, but it'll do in any other season too.
Dice some radishes and cucumbers, finely chopped basil, some good rice vinegar, sugar and light oil. Roughly three vinegar, two sugar and one oil - so that it's sweet, but tangy, with just enough oil to make the other stuff stick.
Thai Chicken Patties: Ground chicken, fish sauce, cilantro, garlic, a little bit of finely chopped jalapeno and some ground black pepper. Janice tells me there's no way she can give you measurements on this, its all to taste. Mix it all together, make into small patties and fry.
We had some fancy artcichoke/spinach dip with it but it's just as good if you just lightly grill some Naan Bread in the same frying pan you did the chicken patties in.

Pictured below: The beach just south of Hyannis and the port at Hyannis, which is different than Hyannis Port - for that a ferry ride is required.

We woke to a beautiful sunny day and drove the eastern loop of Cape Cod. It's kind of like a fifty mile drive along Marine Drive in West Vancouver, except almost all the houses have shake exteriors. These Cape Codders, or Codders, or Capers or whatever you call them, are kind of crafty when it comes to the beaches. They don't have signs to them and the scenic highway doesn't always follow the waterline so we had to be vigilant about watching for street signs that might give them away. Like Breakwater Street in Brewster, which we found lead to, of all things, Breakwater Beach.

Janice had planned to have leftovers from last night's meal, but with a twist. She put the leftovers in tinfoil and was going to heat them on top of the truck's engine while we took a walk on the beach. Trouble was, the engine put out hardly any heat, so we ate them barely warm, which was good too.

Pictured below is the beach at Brewster, some historical buildings that had been moved to Brewster Park, and a fall scene which is fairly common throughout New England at this time of year.

We drove to Provincetown at the end of Cape Cod and strolled around, trying to avoid the main street which is crowded with tourists even now in the off season. Provincetown is as pretty as any other, but crowded with tourists, many of whom are young men that often appear to be a little light in the loafers.

Pictured below is a view of Provincetown from a slight elevation, the monument to the Pilgrams, where Janice blew by the admission gate. I followed and pointed out to her that we had just sneaked in. She claimed the $7 entry fee was to climb the tower. I pointed out to her on the way out that it was a general admission. She was only slightly embarrassed as we hurriedly walked to the truck. Also pictured are the busy main street and the port.

What's the only thing more common to New England than Wild Turkeys? TD Banks. Yes, they completely dominate the marketplace in all of the New England States. As a matter of fact it's rare to see any other bank. I can't imagine that they're Canadian owned. There's no way these rich Yankees are going to let a Canadian bank have all their money.

Today is cloudy and we've had enough little tourist towns for the time being so we're going to skip the ferry ride to Martha's Vineyard and head for Rhode Island instead.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Witches, “Chowdah” and uncontrolled giggles…

At York Harbor we decided we were close enough that we wanted to see Kennebunkport, where George and Barbara Bush live. Everybody we’ve asked described the Bush’s place there as one of the most impressive pieces of real estate on the east coast. When we got there though, it being Sunday around noon, streets were crowded with tourists and the area was generally not very RV friendly. Instead of fighting it we continued inland instead to Kennebunk, where we had a rare restaurant lunch before hitting the interstate towards Boston. In a little over an hour we had passed from Maine through New Hampshire and into Massachusetts, paying two tolls along the way.

You gotta’ love Goggle. At 8:30 in the morning we had no idea about how we were going to approach Boston. Half an hour later we had a spot reserved and an address for Winter Island Park in Salem, Massachusetts - the ideal location for any RV’r looking to see the big city without trying to drag their RV through the inner city traffic. We plugged the address into the GPS and relaxed. Winter Island Park is ideal because, just a mile away from our campsite is the Salem Ferry, which deposits passengers right at the foot of everything that most people want to see in Boston. The ferry ride is about an hour long and costs just under twenty dollars a person, return.

In the afternoon when we got to Salem we toured the town by bicycle, picking up some wine. In the 1700’s there were eighteen women hanged under suspicion for being witches in Salem. One man was executed for the same reason but he was stoned to death - by placing large rocks on him until he was suffocated, or crushed, whichever came first.

Pictured is Tim buying some wine from the store that the late Dave Jenneson (Big D) would have loved to get his hands on. Also pictured is an on old sailing ship at Salem - lots of things look spooky at Salem.

The next day we walked to the ferry and took the 11am crossing to Boston. The ride provides spectacular views of Boston from the water punctuated by frequent large aircraft coming and going from the airport. Starting at the wharf, we decided on hoofing the Freedom Trail which is a three-mile route each way, marked by red paint, that takes walkers to the most significant architectural and historical landmarks in Boston, from Boston Common to Bunker Hill.

Somewhat to our surprise, we found people very approachable, interested/ing and even friendly. Boston is the home of Harvard, Cambridge, North Eastern, Boston College, MIT and a few other lesser colleges. It’s a vibrant, lively, attractive city, packed with history.

Pictured are the Boston waterfront, the Oyster House Bar which has been there for hundreds of years, and the place where we had some “Chowdah”. Also pictured are one of the fountains at Boston Common and another shot of downtown.

On the ferry ride back, due to brisk winds and an outgoing tide, the almost fearless Janice got the giggles. The more the boat rocked and bucked the more frequent and louder the giggling got. It was infectious. Soon I was starting to get them and another woman ahead of us started giggling as well. It turned out she was a lawyer, commuting with her fold-up bike to Salem. When I quipped something about Boston Legal she admitted to that actually being her nickname.

By the time we walked home from the ferry we had put on ten or more miles so we took it easy, lounging around the waterfront at our park.

Pictured are the Salem Harbor at Winter Park and us posing after a long day.

Today is another sunny day and we’re bound for Cape Cod…

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vermont, New Hampshire, Vermont, New Hampshire...

The weather had cleared a little so we decided that we should re-trace part of our route through the White Mountains, back in New Hampshire, because even though it was raining and dreary on our first pass through, we wanted to try our luck at seeing them under better weather circumstances.

It doesn’t take long to get where you’re going in Vermont or New Hampshire so, stopping and walking around Woodstock, Vermont, which is another beautiful historic town with lots of classic architecture, we were back in New Hampshire by early afternoon.

Pictured are a couple of typical places in Woodstock.

Just before we crossed into New Hampshire we drove through Rutland where we saw the Dalhousie University football team run a couple of plays. The highway zigzagged back and forth between the two states, eventually spitting us out at Woodsville, New Hampshire, where we settled in for the night at Wal-Mart and watched the last of the ten movies we’d bought back in Manitoba - Superman 3, which was almost unbearable, but it was all we had.

This area of New England has produced a lot of famous people. I know we’re just touching on it because, just in the towns we’ve passed in the last few hours on the highway, we’ve seen the hometowns of Ansel Adams, Norman Rockwell, Calvin Coolidge and Robert Frost. Henry David Thoreau walked the same trails we bicycled today at Franconia Notch State Park, in the White Mountains, where we‘re camped. There are only seven camping spots available, with Echo Lake right beside us and Cannon Ski Hill, which looks something like Sun Peaks, towering over us.

Earlier in the day we had driven to Bath, where we met Mike, the owner of the oldest continuously operating general store in America. Next door he also has the At The Hop ice cream shop, mostly dedicated to his band, Rocking Chair, but full of interesting and collectable rock n’ roll memorabilia. Mike’s a drummer and his band just returned from a tour in England. I think they do a lot of Beatles stuff.

Pictured are the oldest general store in America, with Mike walking by and, inside the ice cream shop. Also at Bath is the longest covered bridge in New Hampshire, which is somewhat of an architectural marvel - the dual arches have something to do with it.

We got to Franconia Notch State Park in the early afternoon and got out the bikes because there is an eight-mile long walk/bike trail that follows the Pemigewasett River - which translates into fast running water. It’s a great trail, if steep at times, that took us by some truly amazing locations. Franconia is an excellent vacation area for outdoors oriented people.

Pictured are: A fly fisherman on the Pemigewasset River at Franconia Notch Park as well as The Basin, formed by a glacier about 25,000 years ago and finessed by the river ever since. The Basin was much mused upon by Thoreau.

Later in the afternoon we drove back to Littleton where we had fries and coffees in the eighty-year-old Littleton Diner, famed for countless Gubernatorial and Presidential campaign ‘stump’ speeches.

We had planned on a campfire but the weather turned really ugly, with sheets of rain and high winds whipping down over the mountain. Luckily for us there were a couple of TV stations available.

The weather was the same in the morning so we passed time with me reading Memoirs of a Geisha and Janice cleaning the trailer, with Good Morning America running in the background. We waited until noon, at which time we pulled up camp and then, as soon as we were on the road, the weather cleared. We couldn’t have kept our campsite anyway because there were three major events going on in the area: The Scottish Games, a two-hundred mile in twenty-four hours run with thousands participating and a NASCAR race just outside the park.

Reluctantly, we left the White Mountains behind and headed south and ended up at the Tilton Wal-Mart.

We stopped at Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, for lunch and walked around downtown where we went to a farmer’s market and an art market before having lunch and then heading for Portsmouth.

Pictured is the State Capital Building at Concord.

We toured around Portsmouth by bike before looking for a campsite. Of course, Portsmouth is on the water and the price for camping reflected it. The first place we stopped was Libby’s Campsite where they wanted $85 per night, plus taxes. Instead, we crossed the boarder into Maine and drove to York Harbour, about ten miles up the road from Portsmouth, and checked into Dixon’s Coastal Campsite where we paid $38, plus tax, for the same thing. OK, so it wasn’t waterfront.

Pictured is the main intersection in downtown Portsmouth.

Today we’re going to figure out how we can camp somewhere near Boston so that, hopefully, we can take the Amtrak, from somewhere near our campsite, into the heart of the city.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Covered bridges, clear mountain streams and Dog Patch

We woke Saturday morning to bright blue cloudless skies and so decided on staying another day in Bethel. Because our site was reserved, we moved to another campsite closer to town and then rode our bikes around the river trails and the town. I’ve included a couple of pictures of the houses in Bethel just to illustrate their grand scale. I’m not sure of the history but you can see that most of the houses had the barns attached. Also one of the halls at the private high school, that they call academies, where rich kids are boarded away from home.

Later in the day Janice taught me to make ‘Tim’s’ World Famous Bean Dip which is one of my new favourite meals. It’s vegetarian. You mix half a can of black beans (put the other half in a baggy and freeze for next time) with an equal amount of cooked brown (or other) rice. Chop a whole tomato, about a third of a red onion, a whole avocado, a few tablespoons of salsa, and mix with the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Spread this mixture on top of the heated beans/rice and grate some Cheddar or Jack cheese on top. Easy - and eaten by dipping Tostitos chips into the mixture. Try it. It comes with a money back guarantee.

After dinner we went to the local bar because there was live music there, but it turned out to be a solo guy who was good, but very unconventional and low key. He was playing an amplified acoustic guitar with fingerpicks and it sounded like… a piano? When we got home we watched a really funny movie called Heartbreakers. Unlike Canada, almost all private American campgrounds have cable. It must be a pretty old movie because it starred Gene Hackman and Sigourney Weaver.

We woke to a cloudy sky and decided to head for New Hampshire, which is only twenty miles from where we were staying in Bethel. The state motto for New Hampshire is Live Free or Die. At the first little town, Gorman, I saw two young people selling organic produce so we stopped and bought some organic herbs and they were nice enough to throw in a bunch of organic cherry tomatoes. The whole area here is the ski destination for the Eastern Seaboard although the mountains are pretty but puny by BC standards.

The next day we stopped at the first of the covered bridges we were to encounter, pictured below. The wooden structures below the roof apparently lasted more than twice as long once covered.

It rained pretty well all day and so we didn’t get to see much of the White Mountains that everybody has been telling us are so beautiful. If it had been a nice day we would have driven to the top of 6,000 foot Mount Washington, where you can apparently see as far as Boston on a good day. Rain or no, we did stay at our nicest campground so far, called Lost River Valley near Lincoln. It has huge trees, two nice streams running through the site, the Lost River on the other side of the highway where massive boulders separate clear, deep swimming holes and lots of trees with roots clinging to the huge single boulders beneath them. I’m not sure of the elevation of the campsite but we were right below the clouds.

We played Hangman that night and I beat the pants off Janice.

Pictured is our campsite at Lost River Valley with the ubiquitous glasses of wine that keep showing up everywhere we go. Note the tree clinging to the rock. Also, one of the streams running through the property.

By the time we drove through the White Mountains, we were almost in Vermont, so we crossed over, with the idea that we’d travel down the state and then cross back over lower New Hampshire to the coast again. The capital city of Vermont is a pretty little place called Montpellier. Don’t pronounce it the French way though because people will look at you funny. We walked all around the town before driving up the road a few miles to a campsite on the Onion River at Marshfield.

Pictured is the State House at Montpellier as well as an inside picture of it - I really liked the painting displayed. Lastly a pic typical of the architecture there.

At Marshfield we got a real taste of rural Vermont when we found ourselves to be the only tourists at the campsite we checked into. By the time we were set up we thought we were somewhere in the middle of something like The Trailer Park Boys meet Dog Patch. We crossed the bridge from the highway and pulled up to a sign that said ‘office’ but was at the top of a skinny dirt path leading to a deserted barn. A guy came out of the house next door so we inquired if he had a site for the night. He said, “Sure, take your pick.“ I couldn’t see the campsite from where we were but I asked if he had an AAA discount. He said, “Naw, we don’t bother with none a’ that stuff. It’s $25, cash.” I liked his style. I handed him the money and we were done. No unnecessary niceties.

There were actually a couple of riverfront lots available but once we started to set up, almost immediately a guy came wandering through who we could tell, after two words, was ‘Special’. We decided to move a little further away from the rest of the ’campers’. Soon we saw a number of dirty little kids in diapers running around a few equally disheveled women that had started to appear out of various shoddy looking trailers.

No sooner had had we finished setting up when a skinny little guy stuck his smiling head around the corner of the trailer announcing, “Hi, I’m John Evans, your official Ambassador to Vermont.” He was about fifty or so with a friendly, deeply creased face. His manner was friendly too, if a little skittish. He said he’d be happy to sell us some firewood and then started telling me about his previous life in the navy, and smoking marijuana with the Hopi in Arizona, and so on... He even invited us to have spaghetti with is wife and three kids. This all happened within five minutes.

We declined his spaghetti offer, but I was interested in how much pot smoking went on in the US military. He said when he was in the Navy pot smoking was commonplace. They would normally go inside the gun turrets on the ships but most everybody knew it was going on so it wasn‘t that big a deal. In the mid 80’s though, two guys crashed a jet onto the deck of an aircraft carrier and were found to have THC in their systems. Ronald Regan was very pissed and, according to John, it was that incident that started The War on Drugs, and dope testing in the military.

Apparently there was a huge exodus from The Services at that point. Either people finding a way to get discharged or being dishonorably discharged after testing positive. According to John it significantly depleted the ranks at that point.

Meanwhile, at Dog Patch, some guy that must have been having a nap, could be heard mumbling gruffly at a couple of little dogs, “Shut up or I’ll stuff my _ _ _ _ _ _ _ boot down your throat.” Well, the dogs must not have liked that because all of a sudden there was a big uproar with the dogs barking furiously and him shouting over them about what he was going to do to them. After that had quieted down we would hear him (everything he said was at the top of his lungs through a real gravel whiskey voice) to “Shut up!”, or “Get over here!”, or “How many times do I have to tell you!”. He was probably fifty-something and it turned out some of the dirty little kids in diapers were his. After a while it was quite comical because he’d constantly be shouting orders at the top of his lungs but all the kids, women and dogs simply went about what they were doing, completely ignoring him. Eventually I saw the campground owner’s truck at the site and, after that, there was no more noise.

We woke to blue skies and left Dog Patch behind to tour the Green Mountains. The sunshine didn’t last long so, once again, we weren’t getting to see much of the mountains. We did see the first hints of colour in the trees though. Passing through some really pretty little towns, we stopped at Middlesbury and took a walk around.
Pictured below are a downtown street and the falls in downtown Middlesbury, the former site of a a marble works and several different grain and gin mills that are now funky shops.

We stayed at Country Village campsite outside Leichestire where we were, once again, the only tourists. We had a ripping big campfire and I made a salad, chopping up just about everything that was in the crisper before Janice added bacon and scallops with a maple syrup/ horseradish dressing.