Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Post Rally Antics!

On Monday, July 23rd, we left Essex Junction and headed to Waterbury, Vermont. Terry always plans our routes and there were some things we wanted to see in that direction. We went to the visitor's center which is in the train depot, which still operates as a depot. It sits on the tracks right in front of the Green Mountain Coffee plant. There is a coffee shop in one end of the depot where they sell Keurig coffee machines and Green Mountain Coffee. Turns out that GMC owns a part of the Keurig name, so there were a lot of choices in the shop for the coffee makers and the flavors of coffee. We walked a loop through town thinking it would offer some interesting shops, but there were just some antique stores and some small businesses. We walked back to the motorhome and continued up the road toward Stowe.

On the way, we passed by the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream factory. We wanted to visit a maple syrup farm up the road, so we continued to the Morse Farm. The family has been making maple syrup at this location for 200 years. We watched a movie about the operation and then visited the store. While we were there, the "star" of the movie came into the store area and visited with us for a time. The weather this year has not been good for the maple syrup farm. They normally tap the 3,200 trees for five weeks in the spring, but due to the mild winter and early budding of the trees, they were only able to tap the trees for five DAYS! They also don't use the maple buckets here that hang on the side of the trees. They tap the trees, then attach small hoses and the sap runs through the hoses for miles, emptying into the large storage tanks at the back of the sugar camp. I talked with "Burr" Morse about my grandfather's sugar camp and the memories I have of visiting during maple syrup time when I was young. I never knew there was any other kind of syrup until I became an adult.

We left the sugar camp and went back to Ben & Jerry's. We took a tour, which was really only one area where you could look down and view the factory floor. It was a hallway with glass on both sides and they described the different work stations. It was similar to the tour we took at Blue Bell in Brenham. although that tour was much more involved and included more. At the end of the Blue Bell tour, you got a scoop of your choice of ice cream. At the Ben & Jerry's tour, you get a nut cup with the "flavor of the day" in it. No spoon, just have to squeeze the soft, refrozen crap into your mouth. And since I don't like double chocolate fudge ice cream, I didn't eat mine. What a cheap company. I don't like their ice cream anyway, but this was really a cheap way to treat customers who come from all over to visit their creamery.

Once we left there, we continued our drive up to Stowe, Vermont. We found a campground and checked in, then took off again. We drove up the mountain to the Trapp Family Lodge. You will remember the von Trapp family as they are the family about which "The Sound of Music" was made. The family immigrated to the United States and took up residence in the mountains above Stowe, Vermont. It is said that this location was chosen because the area resembled the views the family had where they lived in Austria. The view from the lodge is indeed beautiful, stretching out for miles. We visited the lodge and hoped to have dinner there, but we were there in the middle of the afternoon and the restaurant and lounge are not open at that time. We wandered back to the parking lot and took some pictures of the views and then returned to camp.

We had been promised some rain and in the early evening, we could see a storm moving toward us from over the mountains. It really was a beautiful and interesting sight to watch the rain come across the mountains. We planned to head out the following morning and leave Vermont by traveling up through the islands on Lake Champlain.

Till next time. . .


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rally fun!

While at the rally here we have attended a couple seminars and learned some things we didn't know. But there are other activities as well and yesterday we engaged in some of those.

In the morning we boarded a bus and went to the Coast Guard station on Lake Champlain. We are very close to Burlington, Vermont, where the only station on the lake is located. We were taken on a tour and got to see the operations room and other areas where the personnel live and work while on duty. We also got to board two of their vessels while the young man explained how the boats are used and what types of emergencies and other work they are responsible for. One of their boats is used specifically for ice rescue and they train daily in the winter weather permitting. Last year the lake did not freeze over, so there were no ice related emergencies.

The large boat is called a buoy tender. The Coast Guard here is responsible for maintaining all of the buoys on the lake. They have foam buoys which are put out in the summer and when they are taken out in the fall, they put steel buoys in. They maintain about 50 buoys on the lake.

In the afternoon we boarded the bus once again and went back to the waterfront for a 1 1/2 hour pleasure cruise on Lake Champlain. This was really lovely. The weather was perfect, warm in the sun, a nice breeze and sunshine. Our cruise was from 4-5:30 so the afternoon sun started diminishing and we had a beautiful view of the lake and the Adironacks on the New York side. We didn't go too far, but there was narration which told a bit of the history of the lake as well. It was a most enjoyable ride.

After dinner we were entertained by Dan, the singing Trooper, and his lovely wife Mary. They are exceptional singers and put on quite a performance.

Today we have been busy attending seminars and meeting people. We have enjoyed the rally here and the superb weather. We still have two days to go and even more entertainment, so we are looking forward to even more fun. AND, it helps that Terry won a door prize at one of the sessions we attended! He won a new HD television! Whoo hoo!

Till next time. . .


Friday, July 20, 2012

Lake crossing, Lake Champlain

The severe weather that was forecast last evening did not materialize, but we did have rain. No problem there. We left camp this morning and continued our drive through the Adironacks. We drove to the town by that name. It really wasn't much of a town, meaning it wasn't large, but was quite picturesque on the shores of Schroon Lake. The scenery in this part of the country is absolutely beautiful, no question about that.

We drove on roads Phaeton Place could only dream of. That is the reason we got MinnieMee--to go where no diesel pusher has gone before. LOL  Once we got out of the dense forest, we were on wider roads and saw a little more of the mountains.

We traveled on to Ticonderoga, which was the location of Fort Ticonderoga. The town is very quaint with several historical buildings. We stopped at a museum which was in an old building and was at the park which at one time was the location of the industrial hub of the town. The river running through the town had several waterfalls and the town dammed up the river and used the water power to run their mills, of which there were several.

We continued on to the Ti Ferry as it's called. It is a small ferry pulled by cables which were underwater. We were the only vehicle waiting to go across, but when the ferry docked, we decided against it. The slope was a little too steep for MinnieMee and we were afraid of scraping on the back. Our holding tank connections are the lowest things on the coach and we certainly don't want to break those off. LOL So we went back through town and drove further north to the Lake Champlain bridge. The bridge is new and was built in 2009, replacing the original bridge. At the bridge on the New York side are the remains of two forts which were used for defense. One was a French Fort which was eventually blown up by the French rather than allow it to fall into enemy hands. Drawings of the fort show it to have been a nice looking structure in the "star" formation. The British also built a fort there and it was larger and more elaborate than the French one. It was destroyed by fire. A fire in a chimney got out of control and blew up the magazine in the fort. It was never rebuilt, but there are some buildings which partially remain

Also in the area is a lighthouse and a long pier. The pier is where steamboats would dock when traveling on the lake. I walked the 62 steps to the top of the lighthouse and looked out. It was really scary being that high up. I got some good pictures of the bridge. It is really spectacular.

Once we crossed the bridge into Vermont, we drove through the college town of Middlebury. It was very picturesque. Everything here looks so neat and clean. You don't see a lot of trash along the roads. There seems to be some pride in their surroundings.

We drove toward Shelburne, which is where we camped for the night. Enroute we stopped at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. We didn't take the tour, but did go through the gift shop which had about every color/theme teddy bear you could want. The prices started at $29 for a small bear and $49 for the most common size. They were cute, but I have a hard time spending that kind of money on a stuffed animal. There other cute ones in the stores, especially around Christmas time, so I left without buying any.

Till next time. . .


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vermont Rally bound!

Last weekend we camped with Tab and Deanna in Tiffin, Ohio. We stayed at Walnut Grove Campground which was out in the country and was really a nice setting. It wasn't a bad campground, but there were a lot of kids around and in the area directly behind us, there was a company picnic on Saturday. They had a large number of people, a cookout, then games. It was quite a large gathering, but they really were well behaved and they didn't create any problems for the rest of us. We took pictures before we left of us with our Alaska trip mascots, Bingo and Bongo. Bongo lives with us and Bingo lives with Tab and Deanna. They are fraternal twins, from the same nest.

On Sunday morning, we left to head to Vermont to an FMCA rally and they went on home. We drove across Ohio and Pennsyvania and stopped for the night near Jamestown, New York. There is a large lake there and we drove down the west side of it. It is a really nice lake. We spent the night at Top-A-Rise campground which was adequate. When I called for reservations, the man told me that if no one was at the office, just go across from the Berkshire. I naturally thought I had heard him correctly and figured there was a Berkshire motorhome which would be my landmark. But when we arrived and we started looking for the Berkshire, it was no where to be found. I finally decided that he must have said “brick showers” since there was a brick showerhouse and a few pull-thru sites in front of them. LOL Gotta' love that accent. We are learning how to sleep comfortably in MinnieMee. It's not easy and we have been experimenting, but I think we pretty much have it figured out. The next morning I looked out in time to see a brindle Scottie and a Westie being walked by their owner. Thankfully, he didn't mind that I requested my doggie fix and I got to pet them both.
The next day we drove red roads all day. There was a 30 mile stretch on the Southern Tier Expressway which is currently extremely bad and people are losing wheel liners and hubcaps and generally tearing up their vehicles. So we decided to take other roads and bypass that stretch. We drove through the Finger Lakes area and it is truly beautiful. I didn't realize New York had such beautiful areas. My previous experience with New York was mainly on the toll roads and I really didn't see much of the state. But it is lovely and we really enjoyed our drive. We stopped in the small town of Ellicottville and walked up and down the main street checking in at shops and enjoying the break. This is one reason we got MinnieMee. We want to explore the east coast and it is much easier in a small rig. We stopped for the night at Cold Brook, New York, at the Gateway to the Adirondacks. We met a lovely woman who was camping with her two black and white Pappillons, Lady Bug and Troy. We shared a campfire with her and I got to hold one of the dogs. So sweet. I really miss mine.

Today we spent the day driving in and round the Adirondacks Park. It is very large and there are several driving routes and loops you can take. We stopped at Old Forge, New York which is a town in the park. We parked in a city lot and walked up and down the main street before retreating to MinnieMee for a snack before leaving. We continued on and stopped a little later for lunch. I'm sure the mountains are very pretty and I keep hoping we will see a lot of scenery, but the roads are basically cut through the forest and there are very few places where you can look out and see vistas. I got a couple pictures, but it was hard to find picturesque areas. The lakes are beautiful, but once again, there were not pull-offs or many lake front parks where we could pull in to take pictures. I don't know if all the roads are like that, but we traveled on several which were the same. This area should be called the Lake District. There are so many mountains lakes and some are well populated with cabins and homes on the shore.

We are camped tonight in Chestertown, New York, at a campground which is down in a hollow of sorts. It's right next to the interstate, but with the A/C and fan running, we can't hear any noise. We are currently getting some much needed rain. It is doing a lot of thundering and lightning, but doesn't appear to be anything severe. We are finding that so many campgrounds anymore have a great population of seasonal campers rather than overnighters. I think we may be the only one here for just one night, the others are set up permanently. There are very few people even here in their RV's.

Tomorrow we are leaving here and heading across Lake Champlain on the ferry and going into Vermont and explore. We've never been there, so we are anxious to see it.

Till next time. . .


Monday, July 09, 2012



Cousin Gary, aka, Professional Gator Wrestler, feeds Wally Gator #2. I understand Wally Gator #1, lives in the "other" farm pond a short distance away. He's not as "friendly" as Wally Gator #2, who, when he sees you coming, follows you to the bank for his snacks, amid considerable "hissing" I'm told.

Perhaps you could use a few tips from "The Dog Whisperer." I'm sure those techniques would transfer. LOL

Till next time. . .


Catching up. . .

When we left the rally last week on Saturday morning, we drove straight through downtown Chicago. Hah! Let me tell you. . . that's not for wimps. We made it fine. It got a little crowded in places, like near the Loop, but soon after passing that area, traffic started to thin out and it was smooth sailing from there on.

Monday morning we had the coach over to Charger Enterprises in Elkhart to have the A/C fixed. They were closing on Tuesday for the rest of the week, so they said they would fix it if we got it there early. We did and they replaced the motor control board. Surprisingly, the compressor was not blown which we had feared. And I had purchased the manufacturer's extended warranty when the unit was put in two years ago. Since the original warranty ran out May 15 of this year, it was covered under the extended warranty. We only had to pay the labor, so we saved almost $200! Whoo hoo! AND, we still have almost three more years on the warranty to go!

Friday we are heading out to Vermont in MinnieMee. Her generator got a tune-up last week while we were at the rally and it's running well. With the 100*+ temps this week, we fired up the gennie and ran the A/C on her and all is working well. We are still stocking her with items for the Alaska trip and we are about done. We got our sleeping bag this week and I made a sheet sack for it, so we are good to go there. Hopefully we will get along with the sofa/dinette/bed, but we may have to make some adjustments if it's too uncomfortable.

Yesterday was a much better day here in northern Indiana. After suffering from triple digits temps for over a week, we finally had a day in the 80's. I sat outside for a good part of the day and read under the awning. There was a good breeze most of the day and it was very pleasant. We didn't do anything except relax which felt quite good.

Last week I continued to box up stuff from the basement of the storage condo. Some is Jocelyn's stuff and we will take it to her later and some is getting boxed up for Good Will. Some will be held for a garage sale which will probably wait until next year. At least the basement there is super cool, so it is one place I could work and actually be comfortable. We are heading over there again today so we can continue that work and get some last minute things done on MinnieMee.

Till next time. . .