Sunday, April 17, 2016

Our Travels From September 8th - December 31st, 2015

It is April 17, 2016 and we are in our winter camping park in Pahrump, Nevada. Pahrump is fifty miles west of Las Vegas and four miles from the California border. Pahrump has approximately 38,000 residents plus a few thousand RVers, like us, that hangout here during the winter months. 

We have just started to give considerations to our excursion for 2016. How can this be? We haven’t told you about the end of travels in 2015. As they say, “My-Bad”! Well, I’m going to catch you up before we move on to the 2016 plan. The last time I added an entry to this blog was September 23, 2015, so, here is what happened since then. This blog entry will be a long one but it will catch everyone up on our travels.  

Our drive on Tuesday, September 8th from Lancaster, Ohio to Niagara Falls, NY took us through Canton, Akron, and Cleveland, Ohio. Along Lake Erie and into the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area during the late afternoon. It was really an uneventful drive, as they go, until we arrived into the Buffalo area where we hit some afternoon commute traffic. Our destination was the Niagara Falls Campground on Niagara Falls Boulevard about 6 miles from the main attraction, and our reason for being here, Niagara Falls. 

This RV Park was very functional. While it was in the inner city and on a major street the street noise was not noticeable, and we stayed there for three nights. 

The morning after our arrival we headed out for Niagara Falls around 8 A.M. It took us about 15 minutes for the 6 mile drive to the falls. As fate would have it the weather was calling for morning showers and partly cloudy weather the rest of the day. Parking was plentiful at this hour of the morning and we parked within a couple hundred yards of the bridge to Canada. This area of the city is obviously the main attraction and it is kept clean and presentable. Plenty of restaurants and shops.  
 
 

We didn’t know where we were going and ended up walking down a path that would take us over the bridge to Canada. We found out that most tourists don’t know that the wonderful views and pictures of Niagara Falls are on the Canadian side. As we started across the walking sidewalk on the bridge it started to sprinkle. It is about a quarter to a half a mile walk across the bridge. We started to pick up the magnificent views of the falls from the bridge. By the time we reached the center of the bridge it was pouring down rain. The temperature was around 75 degrees so it wasn’t uncomfortably cold but we were drenched by the time we reached the center of the bridge. I mean, you couldn’t get wetter if you stood under the running water in your shower. We were dripping as we walked into the Canadian customs office and presented our passports. Simple questions from the Canadian border agent about the purpose of our visit to Canada and we were released to be tourists in less than 30 seconds. The rain was stopping! 

This area, directly across the bridge, has a carnival atmosphere. It is very clean with many attractions, restaurant, and hotels. The falls are always in the view and they are about a mile upstream from the bridge. There is a very wide pathway that moves along the cliffs above the river that gives the great views of the falls. Many angels were available for the photographic minded. On this cloudy day with the lighting constantly changing the photographic minded were challenged. That was me! 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We went into the newest casino in Niagara Falls, Canada. It reminded me of the plushness and deep color tones in the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. We also went up about 800 feet in the Canadian space needle. Another great view of the falls from this height. 
 

We had breakfast in one of the convenient locations. Something along the lines of a Denny’s or International House of Pancakes. We felt a little strange as wet as we were!

We owed $20 (Canadian) and I paid for the breakfast with a visa card. I noticed the next day that this equated to about $15 in U.S. money.  

Eventually we slowly worked our way through some of the shops and back across the bridge where we entered the customs facility on the U.S. side. We were interviewed as a couple, and while this process only took a couple of minutes, the demeanor of the agents showed a distinct manner of professionalism and caution.  

On our second day in Niagara Falls we retoured much of the same area we had covered the prior day. The difference being the weather had changed to a bright, clear, and sunny day that provided some different photographic moments. A trip to Niagara Falls should be on everyone’s bucket list!  

 
On Friday, September 11th we got underway about 9 A.M. Our destination was a couple hundred mile drive down Interstate-90 on the New York Turnpike (toll road) to Verona, NY, and a three night stay at the Turning Stone Resort & RV Park. This drive took us about three and a half hours as we passed just south of Rochester, NY, and right through Syracuse, NY. A simple drive that put us into our RV Park in the early afternoon. The setting in the RV Park was like living in a well-kept park. It was a newer park that provided large RV sites that were not right up against your neighbor. Plenty of moving around room. 

We took the drive over to the Turning Stone Resort & Casino around 4 P.M. This is a large casino much like you find in Las Vegas. We headed for the buffet and found it very worth the venture. The magnetic appeal to the casino didn’t get to us and we escaped this afternoon adventure feeling just stuffed.
  
 
The weather got a little dicey with electrical storms in the area and we stayed close to the RV Park for the weekend. The TV satellite is coming in handy with the end of the baseball season heating up and football season in full bloom. Janet continues to read every paperback book in site. She has her favorite authors. As I write this blog entry on this day I’m sure she has read over 500 paperbacks since our adventure started back in June 2013. 

We departed Verona, NY about 7:30 A.M. on Monday, September 14th heading down the New York Turnpike past Albany, NY before turning east on Interstate-90 towards the Boston, Massachusetts area. Actually our day’s destination is on Cape Cod at the Bay View Campground in Bourne, Massachusetts, 60 miles south of Boston, and 345 miles from Verona.  

The drive was uneventful and took just over 7 hours. We arrived in Bourne, Massachusetts in the middle of the afternoon. The Bay View Campground is a large park with varying degrees of elevation. The spaces are large and have fire pits. It has been run for many years by the same family. We picked this park because of its central location to the tourist areas we wanted to visit in the Boston area, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, and Newport Rhode Island. 
 
  

This week was made even more enjoyable by the arrival of our daughters from Las Vegas. They will be staying for the week we spend in the Boston area. 
 
 

If you have been reading this blog for a year or so you might remember that our daughters joined us in Miami, Florida in May 2014 and visited Miami, Key West and St. Augustine, Florida followed by Savanah and Charleston, South Carolina before flying home. 

To maximize their time in the Boston area the girls took a red-eye flight from Las Vegas and arrived at 6:45 A.M. With the traffic rumors of the Boston area we had heard, we left Bourne for the Boston airport at 5 A.M. The traffic started backing up 50 miles south of Boston and we were immediately afraid we hadn’t started early enough. We finally drove onto the airport premises at exactly 6:45 A.M. and received a text message that they had arrived a few minutes early. We met them at the curb without parking, and headed back to Bourne. I felt this was a lucky result! 

Over the next 7 days we had fun visiting around the Boston area. We departed out of Woods Hole on Cape Cod for the short 30 minute Ferry boat ride to Martha’s Vineyard where we had lunch and discovered the island. It reminded me of the west coast around Newport Beach in California. But not as crowded! We were thankful to visit Cape Code just after “the season” had ended. 
 

We visited the Newport, Rhode Island and spent the day walking around discovering the mansions of the upper class from 100 years ago. Many have been restored. The opulence of that time was incredible! We ended the day with a spectacular and unforgettable dinner at the Castle Hill Inn in Newport. What a setting at dusk! 
 
 

 
 
 

On Cape Cod we visited Provincetown, Hyannis, Dennis, Plymouth, and Sandwich. We saw the surprisingly small “Rock” in Plymouth, and had nice leisurely lunches in Provincetown, Plymouth, and Dennis.  

We were unsuccessful in our witch hunt in Salem, MA, but did have some decent pizza. We enjoyed the atmosphere of the town and the ease of driving through Boston on a Sunday. 
 


We visited downtown Boston on the girls last day, Tuesday, September 22nd, and then dropped them at the airport around 5 P.M. for their 7 P.M. departure for Las Vegas. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

We stayed in Bourne for two more nights before packing it up and leaving on Thursday, September 24th for the 175 mile drive north to Wells, Maine. This drive went off without a hitch. A beautiful countryside drive that eventually came to the Atlantic Ocean as we moved into Maine. We stayed in Wells at the Sea-Vu West RV Resort for four nights. This was a delightful park that was well maintained. It was just a couple miles from the Interstate and a couple miles from the highway along the coast. 

Eventually we took the coast highway to Kennebunkport, Maine to view the Bush Family estate. We did this on a weekday and the crowds were minimal. Downtown Kennebunkport reminded me of Carmel, California. The Bush Estate, guarded by Secret Service, appeared to be six or seven separate residences built on raised rocks that protrude into the Atlantic Ocean. Security looked adequate! 
 
 
 

We were in Wells over a weekend and it was extremely crowded on the coast highway. By extremely I mean it was backed up and moving slowly for five miles in the north bound lanes. We eventually aborted our southerly drive and Janet found our location on the maps section of her I-Pad and guided us back to our RV Park on back streets. 

On Monday, September 28th, we moved 140 miles north to St. Johnsbury, Vermont. This was our basic three hour drive up a very picturesque Interstate Highway – 93. St. Johnsbury is a small town about 50 miles from the Canadian border below Quebec. We had a two day reservation to stay at the Moose River Campground in St. Johnsbury but quickly changed the reservation at check-in to a total of seven days. 

Our purpose of going into northern Vermont was to be sure we would see the seasonal change of colors in the surrounding areas. Unfortunately the weather remained unseasonably warm and we didn’t get to see the changes we had anticipated. 

During our stay in St. Johnsbury we were treated to a very heavy two day rain storm. There was a small running river right next to the RV Park that came within a foot of coming over the its bank and into the park. We were on a piece of higher ground so it probably wouldn’t have been a problem for us. Later, Mary, the owner of the park said the river had come over its banks a couple years early and done about $50,000 worth of damage. Somewhat un-nerving! 

 
 
 
We did get out of the park most every day. We took driving trips to Montpelier, the capitol of Vermont, and Stowe was about 60 miles to our west. Stowe is a major skiing area during the winter months and usually beautiful during this autumn seasonal change. But this year the color had not arrived yet.  
Montpelier, Vermont
We also visited the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream factory in Stowe, and the Cabot, Vermont Dairy Co-Op gave us a nice tour before we stocked up on their products. Cheese and crackers is a main meal of RVers when the cook goes on vacation! This cheese was exceptional. Janet says the Cabo, brand of yogurt is the best she has ever had, but they don’t sell it in the west. 

Headquarters - Stowe, Vermont

We also took a one hour drive from St. Johnsbury back south down Interstate-93 to Lincoln, New Hampshire, and then went on the Lincoln to Conway, New Hampshire drive in search of foliage color changes in the area. This is a popular drive known as “The Kanc” to locals. But, it was not to be. The colors had barely started to change in some areas of the drive. This was a very scenic drive. 

Our drive on Monday, October 5th from St. Johnsbury, Vermont to York, Pennsylvania was 500 miles and took us about 9 hours. We started in Vermont and went through parts of Massachusetts and New York before driving halfway across Pennsylvania before reaching the Harrisburg/York area, which was very busy due to the hour we arrived. Actually we just missed the commuting hour and it was still awful. 

We had a week’s reservation in the Ben Franklin RV Park in York which was right in the middle of a few of the local tourist attractions. The weather was about 80-85 degrees and the humidity reminded us of the southeast. Naturally it rained a little to keep it steamy. We kept the motorhome closed up and ran the air conditioning most of the time. 

York appeared to be a blue collar town just south of the state capitol of Harrisburg. We were just a couple of miles from a spaghetti bowl of freeways that took us in every direction. On different days our sightseeing took us 20 miles east to Hershey, Pennsylvania to visit the chocolate kiss maker. This was a very crowded amusement park.

 
Another day we drove south 15 miles south to Hanover, Pennsylvania and toured the UTZ potato chip and crack makers production plant. This was very interesting to see how the different products were mass produced. While potato chips are rather fragile they ship an amazing amount of them every single day. We tasted the various flavors. This was a worthwhile and uncrowded attraction. 

Naturally, the number one attraction was 30 miles to the west of our RV Park in York. It is the Gettysburg National Military Park. This park is part of the National Park Service and is very well done. The visitors center and park museum are like no other I have seen. The story leading up to and after the three days in July, 1863 is well told. We took a park service air-conditioned bus with an onboard Park Ranger that told the story of the battle in about three hours. We were on and off the bus about five times as the ranger told the story. The loss of life was staggering! It was hair raising as we took the tour, just as it is for me right now writing about it. Just reflecting on the experience! 
 





 
 

Personally, I was astounded at the size of the main battlefield for the amount of action going on, and the amount of soldiers involved. While there was more than one battle line drawn in the Gettysburg battlefield area the actual main battlefield appears to be just a couple miles square. In my mind that was just too small. 

I hope everyone gets a chance to visit Gettysburg at some point. 

We left York in our rearview mirror on a rainy and drizzly Monday morning, October 12th. We determined our destination, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was too far to go in one day.  I made a one night reservation to stay 350 miles south in Sims, North Carolina. 

 
 
We were pleasantly surprised to find the Rock Ridge Campground about four miles off Interstate-95. It was in among farms in rolling hills. There was a small lake on the premises that was loaded with fish. The trees were high and the winds were light. It was very quiet and comfortable for the night. It was beautiful! 

We got started the next morning around 8 A.M. Our destination, Myrtle Beach, was still a couple hundred miles southeast. 

We arrived in Myrtle Beach around noon and were surprised to find how far it was off the mainstream interstate highway. Near 85 miles! It was a nice drive down two lane highways and through smaller towns. Really enjoyable. 
 
 
 
 
 
We were in Myrtle Beach to see Jim and Sharon B. Jim was a business associate of mine from the 1970s to the 90s in California. Of course I was interested in seeing some of the golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area. Our reservation was for a week in North Myrtle Beach right on the ocean at the Apache Campground & Pier.  

For starters it turned out that there had been a severe rain storm in the area the previous week and the golf courses were closed with puddles in the fairways. Disappointing!  

We were not really specific about what day we would turn up in Myrtle Beach and Jim’s wife turned out to be in Charlotte visiting her grandchildren. We got together with Jim for dinner in Murrell’s Inlet, and when Sharon came back a couple days later we did it all again. It was good to see Jim and Sharon and discuss the old days. Both dinners remain memorable.  

On Wednesday, October 21st we headed 320 miles further south down Interstate-95 to St. Augustine, Florida to visit the area and specifically the World Golf Hall of Fame.  

We arrived in St. Augustine in the mid-afternoon and realized right away that rain was in the forecast. The Stagecoach RV Park was still showing signs (puddles) of the last storm to pass. It did rain through the night but for the remaining three days were dry.  

During the stay we toured the coast south of Jacksonville and stopped in Ponte Vedra . . . to go to the bank. The drive from St. Augustine north to Ponte Vedra was approximately 25 miles of driving next to the beach. We past many beautiful homes. 

I visited the World Golf Hall of Fame. This is where the “Golf Gods” are memorialized, so, scratch that off the bucket list. Very classy and worth the stop. Since this was my 59th year playing golf I was more than satisfied with the presentations in the hall. Be sure and stop here if you are in the neighborhood. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
We toured downtown St. Augustine and had lunch upstairs at A1A Ale Works overlooking the main street along the water and the bridge. Go there! 
 
 

On Sunday, October 25th, we headed west 320 miles on Interstate-10 to the Destin, Florida area to visit Bob and Sandye C. for a little golf and fun but the weather did not cooperate with us. We got caught up in the following storms from a hurricane that came out of the Pacific and across Mexico and into the southern states.  

Golf got cancelled and we sat out travels for a couple days. On Wednesday, October 28th we took off on Interstate-10 and beat the hurricane’s trailing storms by driving cautiously 1,075 miles from DeFunicak Springs, Florida to Fort Stockton, Texas - in 20 hours.  

In was 3 A.M. when we pulled into the Walmart parking lot in Fort Stockton. This was a first for us, but there were 12 other motorhomes in the highly lighted parking area. Thank you Walmart for welcoming RVers into your parking lots overnight! We were asleep in 10 minutes after the curtains were closed. 

We were up and out of the Walmart parking lot at 9 A.M. on Thursday, October 29th and heading 285 miles up Interstate-10 through El Paso, Texas and into Las Cruces, New Mexico. We checked into the Sunny Acres RV Park in Las Cruces in the early afternoon for a three day stay, and the rain caught up with us that evening.  

We need more time in Las Cruces and plan on getting back there in the next year. 

On Monday, November 2nd we moved the final 350 miles to Casa Grande, Arizona where we will spend the next month detoxing from the quick journey across the southern U.S. When we were planning our excursion for 2015 it ended at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and we had no further “planned” stops. We knew we wanted to go to Myrtle Beach, St. Augustine, and Destin, Florida, but we didn’t know if we would have time. It turned out we could make it to those places but the bad weather found us and longer stops in those places were curtailed. Janet and I came up kind of home sick as November came around so we pressed getting to the west because we had no real plan. We saw no further rain during the month we spent at Rover’s Roost, the Escapee RV Club’s initial RV Park which is 50 miles south of Phoenix. 


We met Janet’s brother and his wife Ann, and Janet’s brother Greg and his daughter Janina at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino south of Phoenix for a Sunday lunch. They all have lived in the Phoenix area for years, and we enjoyed catching up with them. 

My son, and Janet’s step-son, Jim, drove down from Las Vegas and spent a couple weekend days with us. It was exciting to explore the Casa Grande Ruins and Monument about 15 miles northeast from Casa Grande in Coolidge, Arizona. These Indians had a method of irrigation used to get water to their crops out in the southwestern desert. 

Rover’s Roost is located out in the country about seven miles from the Casa Grande downtown area. It is only 2 miles from the Francisco Grande Hotel & Golf Resort which is also out in the country on its own. The hotel and golf course were initially developed by the San Francisco Giants baseball club for use as a spring training facility. The facility had four baseball diamonds from 1961 through 1984. Today those baseball fields are soccer fields. The grill in the hotel serves an excellent half pound cheeseburger. We ate there weekly, but I used the driving range at the golf resort almost daily. 


On Monday, November 30th, we left Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande, Arizona for the 400 mile move to our winter hangout in Pahrump, Nevada. That is where we remain today. We have made friends of many people here at “Pair-A-Dice”, the Escapee Co-Op RV Park in Pahrump. Besides, there is a really nice golf course here, and many new friends have been made there. 

So, that catches everyone one up. 

Right now, April 17, 2016, we are talking about our excursion in 2016 and it looks like we will have our medical exams out of the way and we should be on the road about May 11th. Our first stop looks like it will be Yosemite National Park near Fresno, California. Janet and I, being native west coasters, surprisingly have never been to Yosemite. My camera is ready and we are looking forward to the vistas. Follow us along in 2016 and I promise to post this blog much more often that 2015. 

Tally-Ho from Dave & Janet, a.k.a., The BooniePeople.
 

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