Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Little Down Time in the Shenandoah Valley…


Now that we have settled in at our friend's farm in The Shenandoah Valley we sure have enjoyed a few days of doing nothing but relaxing after our whirlwind travel south. We have visited here often enough that we fall into a similar routine once we arrive. Every morning we wake up and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while having the luxury of looking out over the Valley.


After breakfast we take a walk down to the Shenandoah River where we never tire of the panoramic views of the river, the farmland and surrounding mountains. The river has been down a bit from our last visit but still plentiful enough to encourage wildlife. One morning we spotted what I am pretty sure was a mink. We startled it along the banks of the river and watched it scurry off.

We almost always see a few deer, a pair or red-tailed hawks, squirrels and rabbits. Occasionally we see turkey and bald eagles. A morning or two ago we spotted a pair of bald eagles. A funny sight occurred as one eagle was settled on old dead tree branch looking out over the river. Another eagle came to light on the branch beside him and when it did the branch broke and both eagles fell several feet before they both righted themselves to fly off. How cool that was to see…


We have also noticed a few interesting insects on our walks. Wooly worms are rather abundant as we have seen them most everywhere but my favorite insect sighting has been seeing the velvet ants in the area this fall.

Velvet ants are not actually ants at all as they are in the wasp family. The beautiful velvety red female is the one most often spotted. She is wingless as her counterpart male is not. As such she is often misidentified as an ant and not the wasp she actually is. Being a wasp she hasp a vicious sting but thankfully has no interest in stinging anyone unless she is provoked.


Another favorite afternoon activity has been playing a little disc golf at the County Park nearby.  It is a very nicely laid out course with some challenging baskets. It always makes for a fun afternoon and we have happily seen some improvements in our game after having played the course several times. At the end of each day we would enjoy a happy hour and cook a nice meal to enjoy with our spectacular views…


We at a bit concerned about our winter home this year as we have reservations for Imperial Bonita Estates (IBE) in Bonita Springs Florida. You may not remember or know but that is the site where Hurricane Irma made landfall after hitting the Keys.The hurricane caused a lot of damage to the park but most of the damage came form the floodwaters of the Imperial River which has only in the last day finally begun making its way back into its banks. There is much to do to ready IBE for winter guests and our reservation was to be for three months beginning December 1st. We figure we will wait another week or two to see if we will need to find another place to winter or not  Oh well, such is life of the wandering full-timers on the Road of Retirement…

NOTE: We left Toms Brook Virginia today and headed south to Kerr Lake in North Carolina for a few nights. Then on to Dickins RV Park south of Raleigh North Carolina to spend some time with our daughter who recently got engaged…

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sprinting (for us) South with a Visit to Hershey PA…


With our plan to slowly move down the east coast of Massachusetts thwarted by hurricane Jose we decided to move inland. Sharon was also able to get an appointment at the Mayo in Jacksonville Florida earlier than we had planned so we decided since rain was predicted for most of New England for the next two days  we'd just make a beeline south. We traveled like we never have before.

Before moving south though we were able to meet up with Imperial Bonita Estates (IBE) friends, Jean and Roy, whom we first met in Florida. They have a place on a lake in northern New Hampshire so we drove up to visit them. What a nice place they have and what a great day we had visiting them. They even treated us to a pontoon boat ride around the lake they are at. What a treat it was getting back on the water. For those of you that don’t know IBE is just north of Naples Florida and it was hit very hard by Hurricane Irma. Our friends have a place there and it will need a lot of work on it before they can get back to their winter home in Florida.


We moved on three consecutive days traveling about 200 miles each day with the endpoint being back at our friend's farm near Toms Brook Virginia. We usually only like to travel less than 150 miles and stay no less than two nights in order to have some time to explore each area a bit before moving on. Sharon also wants to make a short trip back to Raleigh to be a part of Katie's initial wedding gown shopping.  So by making this mad dash we hoped to make up most of the time we need for a short visit to see Katie and arriving in Jacksonville in October.


Our first day was leaving New Hampshire around New York City into Massachusetts and finally as far as the Danbury Connecticut Welcome Center at Exit on 1 Interstate 84N at Mile Marker 2.5. This would be our first ever stopover for the night in a rest area. What made us choose one was Connecticut allows overnight stays in their rest areas and even has a separate parking area for RV’s away from the truckers.

After traveling 210 miles we were happy to settle in and disconnect the car. We still wanted to check out the nearby towns even though we had less time to do so. Danbury Connecticut is a nice sized town with an interesting downtown area but we didn't;t have time to really explore it. We then drove across the New York state line to Brewster NY. It was not as interesting a downtown and much smaller than Danbury but we did find a brewery called Bull & Barrel Brewery. It had decent though not spectacular beer but was WAY too pricey for our tastes.


The next day we traveled through New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania driving about 275 miles. We pulled into the Hollywood Casino in Grantville PA. They allow overnight parking in their lot (no hook ups for the 2nd night in a row). We set up and unhooked the car and made the drive over to Hershey PA. We took the free tour at the Hershey Chocolate Factory and really enjoyed it. We couldn’t leave without having some Hershey Ice Cream as we remembered loving the Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream enjoyed In Pennsylvania during our first year as full-timers. We also ate out at a small diner that was well, underwhelming so no need to mention it especially since it may have been the worse Philly Cheesesteak I ever had! Bummer. Oh well…


The next day we drove the remaining 210 miles south through Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia settling at last at our friend's farm in Virginia… Whew!!! Over 600 miles in three days is traveling fast for us. Normally this would have taken us at least ten days to move this far but at least we are now back on track to continue our slow trek south....…

NOTE: We are near Toms Brook Virginia and will spend about a week here before heading south to spend some time with our daughter who recently got engaged in North Carolina…

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and a Minke Whale…


We sure enjoyed our last few days in sunny New England. A couple of afternoons we took off to explore Hampton Beach NH and the coastline going south. Hampton Beach is quite large and nice but certainly has some pricey parking for visitors who wish to spend some time there. Fortunately it is off season so we found a lot of state parks along the coast which have no fees for entering at this time of year.


We stopped at several of the state parks north of Hampton Beach such as Rye Harbor State Park, Cable Beach and North Hampton Beach. The rocky shoreline along this part of New England is quite scenic and fun to explore especially during low tide. Our driving days started out overcast but ended up exceptionally nice as the day wore on.


The best encounter was at Seabrook Town Beach in Massachusetts as we saw a whale not far from the shore. A fellow we spoke with said there had been sightings of a Humpback Whale and that is why he came hoping to see it. I am pretty sure that is what I saw rolling in the sea since it was large and greyish like the many humpbacks I have seen before in Antarctic waters in my past travels…


A while later we spotted a Northern Minke whale actively feeding really close to the shoreline. I was able to snap a few photos although they aren’t great. However, if you click on them to enlarge them you can see some of the fish scattering as it breached to feed on them. How super cool it was to see my first ever Northern Minke!!! We happily watched through our binoculars until the whale turned out to sea.  Awesome.


South of Seabrook MA we stopped to explore the really cool little town of Newburyport MA. It turned out to be a really neat little historic town with several old buildings to explore. We also browsed a consignment shop called Oldies which had several interesting antiques. One table I would have surely bought if we had a house,  whew… close call!


After exploring Newburyport we drove further south over to Plum Island. On the far south end of Plum Island is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. What an absolutely beautiful, pristine and natural beach we found on the southernmost tip of the refuge.


There was a beautiful flat sandy beach on the point  and a small hill adjacent to it.  It was near this hill where we found a fabulous rocky beach. The rocks along the beach which are normally underwater were exposed due to low tide and made the rocky beach profoundly interesting and surreal. We simply loved seeing this cool beach on the wildlife refuge.


After finishing up our drive we of course had to go back to Smuttynose Brewery near our RV park to have one more of their delicious craft beers. We also stocked up on our favorite Rhye IPA  which lucky for us was on sale for $10 per six pack. We now have more beer in our RV than we have ever had but I will be sure not to let it go past its peak freshness date…


NOTE: We decided to put some miles between us and Hurricane Jose since it will likely impact any fun we wanted to have along the Massachusetts coastline so we have scooted about 600 miles south over the last three days to Virginia…

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Exploring Around Exeter and Portsmouth NH…


We sure enjoyed our brief stay in Maine but the leaves have begun to change signaling us it is time to turn the bus south.. Since we are still enjoying the changing colors we moved only an hour south for one last stop in New Hampshire. We pulled into a large park with over 400 sites called Wakeda Campground.

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Wakeda is mostly a summer retreat for seasonal campers but they honor Passport America. Staying at half price is great, especially in the Northeastern USA where we have found parks to be more expensive than usual. We are in a nice large site with full hookups for $25 per night. The trees are large and beautiful in the park and although we like our site ok, there are certainly some better ones in this large park we might have preferred. However the price is right so we are happy. 


Not far from our site is the historical town of Exeter NH. Exeter is a small town founded in the early to mid 1600’s. There are lots of historic buildings still standing and it is home to the Phillips Exeter Academy a private grades 9 through 12 prep-school.  Exeter was named after a historic city in Devon, England and was a nice little town for a stroll…


We also drove a loop drive that took us up to Portsmouth NH, another interesting historical seaport on the Atlantic shore. Settled in the 1630’s this city is full of interesting history. Notable was the famous ride by Paul Revere in 1774 as he rode to Portsmouth warning that the “British were coming”, with warships to subdue the port. However, the truth is he never said that. Since his ride was in secrecy what he actually said was “The Regulars are coming out” later interpreted as what we all believe to be true.


We really enjoyed walking around this very interesting town filled with historical buildings many of which were built in the 1700’s. How cool is that!  The town also has a bit of or a sordid past as it was part of the Triangle Trade. The trade was of slaves and Portsmouth made significant profits from it. During our walk we found a park dedicated to the African burying ground. A very beautiful poignant sculpture adorns its entrance and gave us pause....Later we read more about the park at


On the way back we stopped off in Durham NH where we walked around yet another neat little town. This town is also home to the University of New Hampshire that we also toured while we were there. Checking out their iconic buildings and watching a little field hockey practice by the lady Wildcats. We had never seen this game played before and found it quite fascinating.


During our stay we also discovered our very favorite Northeastern brewery called Smuttynose Brewery.  It is named after one the nine islands that form the Isles of Shoals, a small, rugged archipelago that lies seven miles off the craggy New Hampshire coast. Through our 4 sample tastings each offered at the tasting, we discovered this brewery produces an excellent array of beers. We came away feeling they make a great beer no matter which style, from lagers to IPA’s, a true Road Treat! I also had some fun with a photo op at the tasting room with cutouts of one of their labels of their Finest Kind IPA which features two older gents… we sure got some laughs out of the pictures taken…

NOTE: We are still in Exeter NH and will head south tomorrow, not sure where as we will be running from Jose most likely…