Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Perfect Amish Country Drive…

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We were looking for a nice scenic drive through the Amish country when we came across one on the weather channel web of all places. We modified it a bit but will just paraphrase from their drive below as we did the entire drive and it was just what we were looking for.

2011-09-27 The Amish Country 036The drive starts in Morgantown, PA and winds its way across the Lancaster Valley. All along this scenic drive are Amish and Mennonite villages and quaint historic towns. The drive ends in Lancaster, PA which is home to the oldest settlement in the United States.

On this drive, we shared the road with an Amish family heading to town on their horse and buggy. We also saw an Amish man and his son crossing the road to work field on their horse drawn plow. We also saw such majestic views of farmlands that spanned from horizon to horizon. The classic Amish farmhouses, and huge barns and silos dotted the landscape. Dairy cattle as well dotted the landscape and if you couldn’t see them you surely would smell them….

2011-09-27 The Amish Country 003All along the roadside were farm stands selling the current produce of winter squash, pumpkins, cabbages and broccoli. Larger stores filled with local produce would call you off the road and before we knew it we had more bags of produce that you could possibly fit into the RV fridge.

“I admit it… I am a produce junkie… I need help!!!”

We enjoyed getting to know the solitude and simplicity of the quiet lifestyle of the Amish and Mennonite peoples. We even got to see a group of school children playing baseball in a roadside park where a bonneted girl on the pitcher’s mound had just thrown the boy running to first base out. Later in the day we observed the children scampering home on their modified scooters as they push their feet against the pavement so they could climb the local hills to go home.

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If you are into crafts there are more hand made crafts than you can shake a stick at…hand-lettered signs, hand made furniture, crafted quilts, and canned and baked goods can be seen all along the side roads. With villages named Goodville and Churchtown how could anywhere be more tranquil than this rural Pennsylvania Dutch countryside.

We saw tobacco hanging in an old barn… we saw pretzels for sale and even the very first store that made and sold pretzels in the USA …we saw fields of corn amish farmsstubble… we saw Amish run businesses that performed harness and buggy repairs… we saw buildings that were erected in the early 1700’s… we saw the township of Lititz which was once a closed community centered around the teachings of the Moravian Church... we saw a covered bridge… and on the way home we once again saw the Shady Maple Farm Market where we bought five more bags of produce…. must quit buying produce…

amish country drive

I mean we got butternut squash for $0.47 per lb, fresh celery for $0.74, freshly picked broccoli heads about 2 lbs each for $0.75 each… I thought I had died and gone to produce heaven…

“I admit it… I am a produce junkie… I need help!!!”

Tomorrow we are off to Gettysburg and if there is space available at the Passport America Park we will stay there a day or two and then head back to our friends in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia… until then we will vegetarians…

Monday, September 26, 2011

Last day in Connecticut and travel day to PA…

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With the cutoff low hanging over the Northeast the weather has been anything but predictable. Every day the weatherman says we have 60 percent or more chance or rain and everyday he seems to be wrong. Just in case we don’t stray far and yesterday was no different.

2011-09-26 Last in Connecticut 011We took a drive to go see a little beach near Groton, CT and along the way we stumbled upon an old fort named Fort Griswold.. don’t go there as it wasn’t the Griswald! The fort is just across the bay from New London CT and when you walk around the site you get a feel for what is was like back then protecting the harbor from the British. Neat place, worth the stop, and we were the only ones there to enjoy it… so sad!

After enjoying the fort we went into New London and were both unimpressed with the town enough that we didn’t stop and headed back to the campground to start preparing for our long journey to Pennsylvania.

2011-09-26 Last in Connecticut 012We are now sitting in nice state park in Pennsylvania named French Creek State Park. We are just under 300 miles from where we were this morning… why did we drive so far? There really aren’t many interesting spots to spend the night at along the way. It is a bit tricky getting around New York City without getting eaten alive by the traffic. We were given lots of advice, much of it conflicting, some of it was really good.

We drove down I95 through the towns of New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stamford CT. Next it was across the Tappan Zee Bridge which is known for its steep toll but that is only if traveling east on it as we were charged nothing while traveling west on it. Then through White Plains in New York via 287 which turned out to be an $8.50 toll road for 4.5 miles… we had no warning of this one.

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2011-09-26 Last in Connecticut 015We drove through New Jersey on I287 to avoid Newark till we hit I 78 and headed west. There is a toll (a steep one I am told if you are towing) when you cross the bridge into PA. We were told to stop at mile marker 7 and fill up with diesel in NJ since it was a lot cheaper and to disconnect the toad to save big bucks crossing the border into PA.  Diesel was only about 15 cents cheaper but gas was 3.33 which was 45 cents cheaper than CT.

We drove the next 7  miles separately and then just as we crossed the border we paid a toll ($6.50 for the motorhome and $1.00 for the car) and then we stopped at the rest stop just past the toll booth. Then Alice (our GPS) told us to get off I78 and head south to the state park… WOW!!! were we on some bad roads that RV’s our size shouldn’t have been on… We did make it nonetheless and after several glasses of wine and a nice dinner we are settled in nicely here… All in a days work I suppose.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A day in Newport Rhode Island…

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With the low pressure cell hanging around in the northeast you pretty much need to go out earlier in the day since it seems to cloud up and rain later in the day. We thought since we weren’t too far from Newport, Rhode Island that we might as well go see what the cliff walk was all about.

2011-9-21 Mystic CT and Mohegan Casino 009We had read about the Cliff Walk while looking for things to do in the area and the fact that it had been designated a National Recreation Trail made it even more interesting. To get there from here requires one to go over a toll bridge that the internet said would be $2.00 per care each way but when we got to the toll bridge you could see the new signs of $4.00 per car each way – a 100% increase in tolls… WOW!!!

After driving around the Historic Ten Mile drive to take in all the sights that are Newport (the Harbor is really scenic and worth staying a while) we made our way over the the area that is known as the cliff walk. As many reviewers noted and we agreed is that it never seemed clear to us where the cliff walk really ended or began.

2011-9-21 Mystic CT and Mohegan Casino 008We found it by following a sign that took us to a dead end street where it intersected the trail. We would find out later that we were about 1/3 of the way down the trail from the beach. From where we began the the walk the path was paved for a long stretch. We walked about 3/4 of a mile towards the beach and then noticed that that was probably where it ended. So we walked back and then started walking the other direction for about the same distance until we got to the college.

The path was paved all the way to the college and past it so I assume the path eventually ended and you got to walk on natural terrain but we never found it. With the dicey weather we wouldn’t have attempted the whole walk anyhow but after all the accolades I read about this walk I was underwhelmed.

2011-9-21 Mystic CT and Mohegan Casino 016The positives of this walk are that it was an easy walk (at least the part we did) and there are some great views of the ocean and most important is that it was free. However, there were few nice views of the shoreline and fewer opportunities to walk along it and there are lots of huge mansions (if you are into this it would be a positive for you). Sharon enjoyed the experience but I didn’t see what all the hype was all about. I can only hope the part of the trail we didn’t walk was much better than the part we did walk.

So it was back to Mystic where you can always enjoy the free entertainment of watching the Mystic draw bridge go up and down… kind of like this day was…

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

50 Dollars free and Mystic Pizza…

Mohegan Casino Interior

Mohegan CasinoWith the weather being a bit dicey we had some time to think a bit this morning as we planned out the days activity… with rain on the horizon we thought it best to visit one of the nearby casinos on Tuesday. We could either gamble with the weather or just go gambling… but we really don’t like to lose money. So how can we do both?

After surfing the internet we discovered a web site that claimed we could get $50.00 in free slot play at the Mohegan Casino… now this seemed too good to be true. So I filled out the online form and got an email within minutes that said I needed to print out the offer and take it to the promotions booth to get the free slot play. I read all the small print for the gotcha but couldn’t find anything.

Mohegan Casino Sky BarThe short 30 minute drive north to the casino in the grey overcast skies that were treating us to intermittent drizzle along the way was scenic and enjoyable. Once we got to the casino we went to the  promotions booth and I gave them the form I filled out along with my drivers license. After punching stuff into his computer for about 5 minutes the fellow gave me a player’s club card and directions on how to access the $50.00 free slot play… So we are still looking for the catch?

There doesn’t appear to be one… We walked around the huge casino that was themed in a native American design. We particularly liked the use of the birch trees and birch bark throughout the facility. I played some Jacks or Better video poker in the casino and at a bar and Sharon played some nickel slots for about three hours. Now we did this on the $50.00 free slot play house money. The only thing you can't do is cash out your free slot Mohegan Casino Sky Bar 1money into cash. However, once you have played your free money on a machine any winnings from then on can be cashed out.

We cashed out our winnings and at the end of the day we had netted about $22.00 in cash to take home even after tipping the staff for several free adult beverages. Score!!!So we not only had a good afternoon’s worth of fun but in a way we also got paid for it…

After the day’s fun we decided we would celebrate so it was off to Mystic, CT for pizza and celebratory beverages …

It is suppose to rain off and on here over the next seven days with some scattered hours of sunshine as well so we may be going back to the casino again on one of the rainy days… I think Sharon may have to apply for a $50.00 slot credit as well…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Woods Hole, MA, a wedding and a travel day…

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Our last day in Massachusetts was another chilly day so we decided that we would drive down to the south end of Cape Cod and visit Woods Hole, home of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Back in my biologist days this was a place I considered trying to find work at and since we were close by we decided to visit the town.

2011-09-16 Plymouth MA 007Woods Hole itself is not actually a town as it is part of Falmouth, MA but has become the hub of Marine Science study in the Northeastern USA. It is also the closet spot to get to the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. One of the highlights of the area that we wanted to see is the Woods Hole Science Aquarium. This free aquarium (they do accept donations) has a nice assortment of indigenous sea life found in the area and is really worth a visit and your time.


If you are wondering about the header picture it is a one of a trolley (Trolley’s by Tes) that had a wedding party in it. Trolleys are apparently a popular way to see the cape after a wedding here. Now we were parked just to the right of the fellows in the white shirts (in the header picture) when the trolley arrived. As we were sitting there watching the surf and eating lunch the wedding party had gotten out of the trolley with drinks in hand and 2011-09-16 Plymouth MA 010began to take wedding pictures on the beach (notice the Ultra cans in the foreground of the picture above).  All this was going on right in front of us…

The father of the bride sauntered over to us and announced that his son had just gotten married and they came back to this spot that they had first met to take pictures. Then he introduced us to some of his immediate family and told them we were his cousins from Texas… what a hoot that was…

We have enjoyed our time in Massachusetts and just loved the Cape Cod area. We even got to watch our first ever lobster race in Massachusetts when we accidentally stumbled upon the rescheduled (due to hurricane Irene) Chowder Festival held in New Bedford, MA while we were touring.

2011-09-16 Plymouth MA 009Well with all the fun in MA. behind us we spend the last part of our last day putting things away for our journey to Connecticut. Our drive was just a tad over 100 miles so we didn’t depart until around 10:30 am on Monday.

After a diesel stop nearby ($3.859 per gallon) we left the park and Cape Cod on I195 north towards Providence, RI where the traffic was pretty heavy and the drivers seemed to all be in quite the hurry… the beauty of our lifestyle is we never are!!!

Once we hit I95 in downtown Providence we took it south till we saw our exit for Seaport RV Park in Mystic, Connecticut. We weren’t in Rhode Island very long but we did drive through most of the state :) .

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Seaport RV Park is part of Morgan Resorts but they had a decent price for the week ($186.00) and we wanted to spend some time in this area. The park itself is in a great location for our needs. The entry to the park is a bit rough as the road has deteriorated and the roads in the park are gravel. The sites for RV’s are fairly large stuff 008and most are fairly wide. The facilities are okay but they seem to be neglecting some cleaning chores now that they are in off season mode and their WIFI is down for the season. However, despite its shortcomings we will call it home for the next seven days…

So on this Tuesday morning I am sitting here in Mystic, Connecticut enjoying some freshly ground coffee watching a beautiful sun rise and can see and hear geese that seem to be  grouping as if they are readying for their own travels down south… we too eventually are heading the same way they are… life is grand!!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Looking for Pilgrims in all the wrong places…

The Plymouth Rock  “The Plymouth Rock”

Cool morning air greeted us on Friday morning as the temperature dipped into the mid forties but as soon as the sun rose the temperature rose nicely into the mid sixties. A good day for a drive to Plymouth, Massachusetts, a place where the Pilgrims landed in the Mayflower… or so we were told!

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One of the first places most people go when visiting Plymouth is the famous Plymouth Rock. As we were taught in grade school this is where the Pilgrims first landed and founded Plymouth Colony in 1620 after disembarking the Mayflower. But this is not necessarily all true says Wikipedia…

2011-09-16 Plymouth MA 004“a 94 year old Elder of the church named Thomas Faunce (who was the town record keeper for most of his adult life), identified the precise rock his father had told him was the first solid land the Pilgrims set foot upon. (However, the Pilgrims first landed near the site of modern Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620 before moving to Plymouth).”

So the Pilgrims first landed in P-town (Provincetown as the locals call it) but Plymouth can still lay their make the claim for some fame by saying that it is where the Pilgrims first made a permanent colony. So to see the infamous rock in the harbor of Plymouth you need to lok for a structure that loos like a shrine of sorts where the tourists are flocking to see and photograph it.

2011-09-16 Plymouth MA 001Plymouth is a nice little town and very friendly for walkers. There is pay parking everywhere and the closer you get to the rock the more expensive the parking. However, if you park in town, a mere two blocks from the harbor, parking is free along the side of the road for a two hour limit. From here we walked the Pilgrim trail through the town of Plymouth and took in all the sights: the rock inscribed with the year 1620, the Plymouth harbor, the Mayflower two docked harbor side, the old churches, the William Bradford statue, burial hill and other 1600-1800’s sights.

After enjoying our time in Plymouth it was time to tend to some chores as the laundry basket was overflowing so off to the coin cleaners we went. We have a few more (chilly days) left here at the Cape Cod Canal before we head to Connecticut with Monday our next moving day… and no, we didn’t find any Pilgrims!!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

More Beaches and a word about our park…

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Wednesday was another fabulous sunny day near 80 so we once again made a trek to the beaches and this time we focused on those around the Chatham, MA area. There are some great beaches in this area and Chatham has a lot of beaches but the best of the best in Chatham in our opinion was South beach.

2011-09-15 Cape Cod Canal 026South beach not only had really good birding along the shoreline but as an added bonus we were able to see both species of seal common to this part of the cape, the grey seal and the harbor seal. We sat near the tip of South Beach to enjoy our lunch while watching a parade of seals swimming just offshore. There were literally hundreds of seals swimming from our right to our left but never back the other way… we thought Why not??? Most of the seals paused to stare at us allowing great photo opportunities. 

2011-09-15 Cape Cod Canal 042We may never know why they continued in only one direction but it was a hoot to watch the seals and gulls gallivanting and strutting their best stuff. After lunch we randomly stopped at various beaches on our way back to the park along the south side of Cape Cod. We referred to these beaches as the angry beaches since the surf was more aggressive and the wave action more intense. Horseshoe crab exoskeletons were littering the shoreline along with abundant sea grass.

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2011-09-15 Cape Cod Canal 039Thursday we decided to stay closer to our park as we really hadn’t spent any time at it yet. So the plan was for a morning bike ride and our decision was to ride from the park to the west end of the Cape Cod Canal and then back to the east end of the canal. This circumnavigation of the Cape Cod Canal meant our bike ride would be around 13 miles.  Since it was relatively flat it made for a real pleasant ride.

2011-09-15 Cape Cod Canal 046With weather looming on the horizon (a cold front was on it way) we decided the afternoon would be spent on the beach adjacent to the park. About 1/4 mile away from our site is a long (mostly deserted) beach. We plopped our newly purchased beach chairs (only $6.50 each at the closeout sale here on the Cape). The waves were slowly lapping the shoreline and the weather was perfect except for the clouds on the horizon… after a few hours the park ranger came by warning us of a storm moving our way with 50 mph winds and hail.Amazingly, on the way back from the beach there were thousands of tree swallows swarming over the grassy covered dunes. It felt a bit like an old Alfred Hitchcock movie…Sigh,  we reluctantly left the beach and went home to await the storm… some rain, no wind, no hail… so no bad storm for us however the temperature dipped down into the forties here tonight and will only reach the mid 60’s for the next several days.

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What’s next? We booked a spot near Mystic Connecticut for our next stop and will leave here on Monday heading west. Looking over the route to see how we will best avoid traffic and tolls in and around the New York city area as well as Philly and DC further south.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cape Cahhhd National Pahhhk….


We left the Alfalfa Farm Winery at around 10:00 pm since we only had to drive about 100 miles to just the other side of Boston. We elected to take the inner loop around Boston so we left the winery on Highway 1 and then got onto Interstate 95 (the inner loop). Traffic was fairly light and then we got onto state route 3 which took us to our next stay at Scusset Beach State Reservation.

2011-09-13 Cape Cod NP 003Reader Ed told us about this park and the location was perfect for our needs so we made the reservation and Ed was right… this is a great park. State owned, large sites, 30 amps with water and right on the Cape Cod Canal. We got settled into our site and did our normal drive around the area to see “where we were.”

2011-09-13 Cape Cod NP 009The next morning we woke up to a glorious sunny day and the high was expected to be around 80. This called for a beach day!!! As a result we planned to take the hour plus drive to the end of Cape Code north of Provincetown to see Cape Cod National Park. The drive on highway 6 to the end of the Cape was pleasant and mostly wooded and the traffic was fairly light. Once we got to the end of the Cape the scenery changed from a forested area to that of a surreal landscape of rolling sand dunes and wide sandy beaches…

IMAG0443We made our first stop at Herring Cove Beach and what a stunning sight it is… the beach is wide and sandy and the water is blue as the Antarctic ice and just about as chilly. There weren’t many people on the beach but those that were had this almost hypnotic look about them as the waves lapped the shoreline with that soft hypnotic crashing sound. The sand at the Cape is coarser than most beach sand we were accustomed to which was nice as it was easier to clean off but it was harder to walk in as your feet would sink deeper into the sand (even in the wet sand).

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We walked the shoreline for a ways and noticed that some RV’s were right on the beach and wondered how they got there. Later we found out you can get a permit to go off the road through the park service. There were many requirements to be able to get this permit but having a full sized spare and a shovel kept us from being able to even consider it.

2011-09-13 Cape Cod NP 013The rest of the day was spent hiking and sitting on the beach as we visited other beach sites such as Race Point, Marconi Point, and Nauset Light Beach. The highlights of the day were not only the pristine beaches and the landscapes of water and rolling sand dunes but we also got to see the piping plovers (a life list bird for me) and a large group of feeding grey seals off the coast of Nauset Light Beach.

As with most National Parks Cape Cod is another jewel that our government was wise enough to preserve for all of us to enjoy…

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It continues to amaze me as to how we are always so tired after a day of lounging at the beach… what is it about coastal environments that seem to just suck the energy out of you?