Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On the edge of Spring

I used to think of swamps as being filled with “gators”, snakes, and panthers. You know, with temperatures in the 90s and mosquitos all over the place. Well now I know swamps are everywhere there is lots of water. There is lots of water here in Maine and not much topsoil for the water to sink into. So there are swamps here. But they call them meadows.

We have camped near swamps. Sometimes we have been right on the edge of a swamp. This, however, is the first time we have camped in a swamp.  At the moment we are camped in what the campground here calls site S57. Maybe the “S” stands for swamp.

We could have moved to another spot.

Just after I unhooked and set up one of the campground people,“Uncle Steve”, came to us with good and bad news. The good news was $26 they overcharged me at check in. The bad news was that we were in the wrong space. 

Here we made a mistake. We showed Uncle Steve the map where they circled site S57 and drew arrows on how to get there. We should have jumped at the chance to move. We said we would move but Uncle Steve wanted to make things right since it wasn’t our mistake. So here we are in the swamp, in the trees, in the shade, in the rain.

This was the first time I had to use four wheel drive to get into a campsite.

We are in Bar Harbor, Maine. It is raining. It is a balmy 53 degrees. It is 4 PM. Mosquitos are breading in the fire ring at our site.

A sailboat in our fire ring.

It should be good birding whenever the sun comes out.

At about 09:00 AM on Memorial day we left Massachusetts for Main. We reached it at about 10:30. What a beautiful drive. The little roads we were on led through one quaint town after another. Each town was having a Memorial Day event. We dodged most of the events only getting stuck in one tiny town for about 15 minutes. That was just enough time for the mayor to finish his speech, for the chaplain to say a prayer, and for the High school band to play a song or two.  I think that is the perfect amount of time to be at a Memorial Day event.

Memorial Day in rural Maine.

After miles and miles of great back roads we found the Maine back roads (and the New Jersey back roads) to be pretty bad. It looks like they may have bad weather here, judging by the potholes and such. A couple of times I was sure that I busted springs. So far there is nothing showing strain except my nerves.

This is what driving the country roads in Maine looks like. Note the trees

The road signage here is also a little weak. There will be one signpost with several highway numbers and arrows pointing up, down, and left, and right. About the time you figure you should have turned you are past the corner. Usually this results in your ending up on a very small back road. This is serious when you are hauling a rig like ours because you might go miles before you find a place big enough to turn around. And I have. Probably by now we have driven maybe 15 miles extra looking for places to turn around.

We did have some serendipity on the drive. We happened to discover the LL Bean is headquartered at Freeport, Maine. The flagship store is there. We decided to swing by and see the quaint little thing. We only spent a coupe of hundred dollars.

Brenda entering the quaint little LL Bean flagship store.

We have also reached the edge of spring. Here in Bar Harbor some of the trees are just starting to leaf out. Those trees that have leafed are showing new-leaf chartreuse green.

These trees are just beginning to leaf out. Spring has arrived.

Seriously though, Maine is beautiful. We are having a good time and not letting the rainy swamp we’re sitting in dampen our spirits  – much.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

It got us!

There is a downside to driving back roads. They are often narrow. They lead to little towns with narrower little streets.  In these small towns the little streets often twist and turn. All this can mean trouble if you are pulling a long and tall trailer.

Princeton, New Jersey is just such a town. The university occupies much of the old part of town. I think they built the university before they thought about streets. It is quaint as can be. Even the gas stations are old and quaint.

Have you ever tried to drive a 13-foot tall 30-foot long trailer out of a 1940’s gas station onto a 1820’s street? Well, don’t! Ever! Especially in Princeton New Jersey with Jersey drivers racing home in rush hour. It is a recipe for disaster.

Duct tape is wonderful. You can barely notice the three tears in the awning.

I didn’t realize I had snagged the awning until we left West Point. I noticed it as I was doing a walk-around (something I now do more rigorously since the other day when I tried driving off with a slide out). “Darn,” I said.

We drove from West Point to the Minute Man Campground in Littleton Massachusetts. Half the time we were on interstates and the other half on surface streets. I still prefer non-interstate driving – just maybe not in over crowded New England.

I wanted to stop along the way for white duct tape. We actually passed several Home Depots and Wal-Mart’s but I always seemed to be in the wrong lane to make the turn into these places. There always seemed to be a long line of cars in the lane between me and the lane I needed to be in. This rig just doesn’t handle like a mini-cooper. (see photo above).

If you are ever in Littleton Massachusetts we highly recommend the Minute Man RV Park.

On Thursday we drove on to Salisbury, Massachusetts. We are staying there at the state beach with 200 other close rigs. This is Memorial Day Weekend and this is one of the nicest beaches in the area so we are in the most popular campground in the state on one of the biggest camping weekends on the year. Good timing, hey! (I’m practicing Canadian for our trip west).

Can you pick us out of the crowd?

We were hopeful that there wouldn’t be crowds at the beach this weekend. The weatherman was predicting terrible weather. We got rained on at the Minuteman and was raining again when we pulled into our campsite at Salisbury. It hasn’t really stopped raining since then. It rained heavily all night and has been a heavy drizzle all today. You would think people would stay home - especially people with kids. No! The place is nearly full and there are kids everywhere.

The kids love the rain or ignore it. They are walking barefoot in puddles. They are running with umbrellas. Tey are laughing, giggling, and having great fun. They are even seen sitting in the water puddles. It is 51 degrees out there! It is drizzling out there.  It is cloudy and grey out there. I’m sure the urgent care centers will be overfilled next week.

Kids! It is 51 degrees and raining!! I guess it is spring in New England.

We went out to the marshes and stood in the rain to bird (well, mostly Brenda did). So, maybe I shouldn’t badmouth the kids. We should know better.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New York, here we are!

For years I have read stories about the thousands of Red Knots that feed on the Horseshoe Crab eggs along the beaches at Cape May. The crabs lay their eggs at the same time as the Red Knots migrate through the area. Recently there has been a lot of alarm expressed over the fate of both the Red Knot and the Horseshoe Crab. The crabs are used in large numbers as bate by crabbers and fisherman. Over the years this has reduced the number of crabs. The Red Knots depend upon crab eggs for food they need to make it to their breeding areas in the artic. New Jersey has declared a moratorium on catching these crabs.
Laughing Gulls feasting on crabs.
We were able to witness a little of this activity in Cape May. We saw a couple of hundred Red Knots not thousands. There weren’t thousands of crabs either. There were lots of laughing Gulls feeding on crabs and crab eggs. It was sort of gruesome.
This lighthouse was a few hundred meters from "laughing gull beach".
Yesterday we drove from Cape May to West Point, New York.  This was not a fun drive.  The back roads of New Jersey  follow trails made by cows or drunks. They are fairly well maintained but narrow. Their names and highway numbers change at about every intersection. You think you are still on CR 555 after passing through an intersection but soon find that the road is now SR 471 and instead of going north you are heading west.! 

After finding ourselves driving through downtown Princeton where the streets are narrow and the drivers drive like New Yorkers we decided to get on the interstates. Navigation improved a lot but everything else deteriorated. They have potholes here that could swallow small cars. The trucks are allowed to occupy any lane and they do. And there are a lot of trucks. Very tense driving.

As we crossed into New York we found ourselves on a toll road.

We weren’t well prepared for this. In the backward southern states you can pay tolls with a credit card. In some southern states they even photograph your license number, get your address from the shared database and mail you a bill. All the tellers we met in the south wore smiles and were super friendly. So we weren’t prepared at all for the New York version. I handed my credit card to this lady who looked like she had sucked lemons all day. She snarled out, “We can’t take credit cards.” All my money was in the back and Brenda only had $100 bills so we passed here one. You can probably imagine how happy this made the teller. She did have enough to break the hundred but my face is still thawing from the cold glare it received.

Right now I am listening to a lot of small arms fire. Not from the teller. We are staying at a campground in West Point that must be fairly near a firing range. This is a beautiful campground and we are by ourselves at one end of it. I had no idea West Point was as big as it is.
Doodletown Creek?? Whatever the name it is a nice spot.
Today we drove to Bear Mountain State Park and hiked up to the site of the town of Doodletown. This is about the prettiest hike I have ever been on. We ambled around one mile up and back in just under four hours. Not bad for a couple of old farts, aye?
Hudson River hill country.
Tomorrow Boston, Massachusetts.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


Mosquitos, mosquitos,
God knows
how I hate mosquitos.

This eastern country has a few things it has way too many of.

The first is mosquitos. I thought we had plenty enough mosguitos by the time we left New Orleans. As we left Key West I was certain the mosquitos would become rarer the norther we went. At Okeefenokee I felt the mosquitoes were there only because of the swamp.  At St Augustene I hoped the Spanish moss explained the mosquitos.  At Chesapeake I saw fewer mosquitos and my spirits rose. There were even less at Lewes. Here we are at Belleplains State Park north of Cape May and we have clouds of mosquitos. We are hiding in our trailer. When will it end?

Another thing is trees. I like trees. A grove now and then, an occasional stand, a forest or two, these are all nice places for trees. However, trees everywhere are just too many trees. They grow up along the road right of way and block any view. They hide birds and other animals that cross in front of the car and escape unnamed. Birds hide behind them. For the past three weeks we have been driving through tree covered lands. When we bird there are trees in the way. I am looking forward to fewer trees.

Then there is water. There is way too much water here. Everything is wet. There are swamps and ponds and lakes and canals and drainage ditches and puddles everywhere. The stuff even falls from the sky. The locals can’t use all this water there is just too much of it. Maybe we can start a movement to pipe some to Ridgecrest where we need just a little of what they drain off.

I know moaning and complaining won’t help. You’ll just have to put up with it!

We passed through Virginia, Maryland and Delaware in the past few days.

In Chesapeake we stayed at the Chesapeake RV Campground. They have everything from model trains to miniature golf at this place. It would have been fun to be there during the summer. Our site was very nice and the place was quiet this time of the year.

The next morning we crossed Chesapeake Bay Bridge – Tunnel and drove north
through Maryland’s outer banks to Delaware. By doing this route we by-passed the heavily populated and heavily trafficked area from Fredricksburg through Washington D.C. and Baltimore.  So, instead of fighting traffic on highway 95 we were seeing the beautiful Virginia and Maryland countryside, what we could see through the trees.  

Lewes, DE, was an unexpected jewel. We arrived there Friday and had time to walk the town and sightsee before the day was done.
This is the first European settlement in Delaware. Lots of historic events have happened there and a lot of houses are still standing from when those events occurred. There is an historical society here that has several buildings and exhibits reported to be very interesting. Unfortunately their open hours were not agreeable with our travel needs. We walked around some but could only go into one building with an exhibit that ended up being provided by the Navy.
According to this exhibit the Navy and Marines saved the nation’s bacon a few times there at Lewes. Didn’t know that, did you?

Our camp spot for the night was at a run-down and overpriced “resort” campground near Lewes. Brenda keeps talking about this place as being a “rip-off”. They charged us $65, so I think Brenda way have it right.

The ferry from Lewes to Cape May took one hour twenty minutes and saved us hours of driving. This was the only way we would have seen Cape May. And we had to see Cape May. 
Our  rig on the Lewes to Cap May ferry.

Cape May is another world class birding spot. It is on the bucket list of every half decent birder. It is famous for the hawk watch that is here. Peter Dunne wrote about this in one of his books. We made it to Cape May and have a picture and sweatshirts to prove it.
Brenda at the Cape May Hawk watch location.

Now we are in the Belleplains State Park twenty or so miles north of Cape May. This is the first night on the trip we have stayed at a spot without electricity and water. I feel very outdoorsy roughing it like this. It is a great campground except for the lack of amenities and the excess of mosquitos and they charge non New Jersey residents an additional five dollars to enjoy the mosquitos.

Did mention how I hate mosquitos?