Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pennsylvania & Ohio

September 24, 2009

One of the more adventurous aspects of our journey is staying places we have never been to before. So far, our stops have been equally split between state parks and private campgrounds. We determine our route and then research options based on ease of access, rates and information provided on websites. Parks tend to be more natural settings while private grounds are more open and provide services like stores, wifi connections and, in some places, restaurants. They each have their niche and are equally comfortable in their own ways. But no matter how much research we do, we just never know if the places we choose will equal their promotional information; they all promise to the the Promised Land of RV campsites. As expressed several postings ago, this is not always the case. Happily, we did find two locations last week that proved to be the Promised Land of RV stays in more ways than expected.

We left CT early morning on the 16th and headed West on I-84 for a surprisingly panoramic drive through the upper Hudson River valley of NY into eastern PA. At S.R. 390 we headed South for a two night stay at Promised Land State Park. About 3,000 acres in size, the park is surrounded by 12,464 acres of Pennsylvania's Delaware State Forest and is one of the most remote places we have stayed to date. It is deep into bear country with thick forests of beech, maple, oak and hemlock trees. There are two lakes and several small streams throughout the property and an impressive array of hiking trails. Although it rained steadily for most of our time there, this park had a peaceful feel that left us regretting we couldn't stay longer.

What set this stop apart from others was the near perfection of its campground and facilities. We drove along roads and parked in a site paved with new, smooth asphalt. The grounds were exceptionally clean and the bathroom facilities were like something out of Star Trek; ultra-modern lighting triggered by motion sensors, spacious showers with slanted drains, low-flow plumbing fixtures and ample hot water. It was a true pleasure to stay in a place that not only met, but exceeded our expectations. It is a "must return" place for us whenever we are back in the area.

Reluctantly, we headed West again on the morning of the 18th for a very long drive to Ravenna, OH. The Fall scenery through the Pocono and Allegheny mountains was beautiful, but between ascending very steep grades, slowing down for numerous construction projects, stopping for fuel and supplies and just simply covering a lot of miles the day ended up being a 10 hour grind that left us exhausted. Even the rig sounded tired when we finally shut off the engine and collapsed into our chairs for a few cold ones.

Thankfully, we found a great place to recover at the Country Acres Campground; a private property offering 175+ RV sites surrounding a small lake in the middle that is occupied by numerous geese and a swan (pictured above). There are a large number of seasonal residents and the atmosphere while we were there was very festive. They were hosting a Halloween party that brought in a large, family oriented, crowd who went all out with decorations and costumes. The weather was gorgeous, the grounds well-maintained and it was a pleasure to watch children of all ages enjoy the day. This was another place that exceeded what they promised.

The one thing we learned from these short, but very pleasant stays, is the need to slow down and enjoy areas for longer periods of time. We are currently relaxing in the South Bend, IN area for a week while visiting with my daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Will update on this stay in a few days. Until then, Happy Trails to everyone.

copyright 2009 Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Updates and Observations From The Road

September 19, 2009

First, I need to add more information from our Boston area stay. I was brain dead when I wrote that post and neglected to include a picture of Lee (shown here with his proud mother). My apologies Lee. Thanks again for all your help.

We are currently at the Country Acres Campground in Ravenna, OH for a brief, two night, stay. Yesterday we made a very long drive here from another two night stay at a state park in eastern PA. I will post more about these stops next week. Right now we just need to relax and recover from this week's hectic schedule. These short stays and long drives are wearing us down. Thankfully, we will be in the South Bend, IN area for a full week starting tomorrow.

Observations From The Road
- A great stretch of Interstate driving is on I-84 through CT. The surface is perfectly smooth and there are very few billboards.

- Some of the worst stretches of Interstate driving are through NY and PA. Very rough surfaces filled with deep potholes, major construction delays, endless billboards and confusing interchanges.

- Cigarette prices in NY and MA have become insane - $8 per pack and projected to go higher.

- Drivers in the greater Boston area are the worst; aggressive, unyielding and reckless to the point of madness.

- Flying J provides the best truck stops anywhere. Easy to access, stocked with unusual supplies, good food, clean and friendly.

- The most absurd place to buy beer is PA. Major amounts can only be bought at case distributors, which are not easy to locate. Smaller purchases can be made at liquor stores or restaurants, but usually for no more than 96 ozs. at a time.

- WalMart is extremely accommodating to RVers. Most locations allow overnight boondocking and supplies unique for RVs are always in stock.

- GPS systems are not designed to provide the best routes for large vehicles. More than once, directions we obtained from Internet GPS sites would have been difficult to maneuver in a 32 ft. motor home.

- Driving along any portion of I-95 is always crowded, rushed and lined with an absurd amount of billboards.

- The number of recently closed American car dealerships in all areas we have passed through is haunting.

- Love bugs are extremely hard to clean off of windshields.

- Gasmarts in rural areas of SC advertise very unusual food choices like buttmeat, souse and liver pudding.

- Local pronunciations of city names in MA are much different than how they are spelled; i.e. Worcester is Woo-ster, Quincy is Quin-zy and Peabody is Pea-baa-dee.

- The number and size of insects and spiders in coastal regions of GA is like something out of a horror movie.

- Too many campers are careless with their trash.

- Too many campers have no idea how to properly start a campfire - dousing the wood with copious amounts of lighter fluid is not the answer.

- The concept of living and traveling full-time in a motor home is confusing to many people.

- Regardless of the provider, cellphone connections in most rural mountain locations are difficult to find.

- People who drive luxury vehicles like to exceed the speed-limit.

- If you can't find the South Of The Border location, you haven't been paying attention to very large, very gaudy billboards for at least 300 miles.

copywrite 2009 by Lane A Geyer

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Boston Area

September 15, 2009

We left the Boston area yesterday morning after a wonderful 14 night stay at Wompatuck State Park located in the very historic, exclusive town of Hingham, MA. Except for heavy rains last Friday and Saturday, the weather was dry and comfortable; days in the 70's and nights in the mid-50's. We were there too early for the peak fall foliage, but some of the maple trees and sumac bushes began turning color over the past week. The park proved to be a very comfortable place to stay. Our site was surrounded by deep woods and the facilities were well maintained. There were some loud campers over Labor Day weekend, but the overall experience was positive. It is a credit to the state (officially a commonwealth) that they have been able to preserve such a natural area in the midst of some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

First, a word of thanks to Deb's son, Lee, for his time and services as chauffeur for trips to various locations during our visit. I was glad he had the time, because I have never in my life experienced worst drivers than around the greater Boston area. Deb warned me, but I had no idea how aggressive, unyielding or hazardous they can be. It doesn't help that major roads are narrow, poorly marked and curve in very confusing patterns. But add to this that everyone seems to be in rush to beat you through a light, be the last to allow you access onto major routes or just drive like they own the road and accidents are just begging to happen; especially in a 32 ft. long vehicle. Driving there was one of the most unpleasant experiences of our journey so far.

Now on to more pleasant topics.

Hands down, the highlight of this stop was the variety of great food; everything from fresh-off-the-boat seafood to prime Delmonico steaks to beautiful pastries to superb pizza. We ate very well throughout the entire stay.

On both the first and last night we feasted on New England seafood boils of lobsters, clams, corn, potatoes and onions. I have enjoyed a lot of great seafood in my life, but there is something unique to the taste of New England selections. And the prices can't be beat. We were able to purchase two, live pound and a half lobsters for $15 total. If for no other reason, it's worth a trip to the area just to indulge on the seafood.

Another great meal was enjoyed at the Lynwood Cafe (est. 1949) located in Randolph. From the exterior it looks like any other non-descript neighborhood tavern. The plain interior offers a small, full-service bar and seating for approximately 125 people at old booths or tables. Yet this place constantly has at least a two hour wait for seating on weekend nights and the best pizza you will find anywhere! Ranging in price from $7-$9, the pies are bar-size and can be ordered with a variety of crusts and toppings. The component that sets Lynwood's pizza apart from all others is quality of the crust. It has a flavor that is downright addictive. A huge recommendation is to order the laced crust which is charred on the edges with a torch before serving; crispy, flaky and a unique flavor.

One of our more pleasant afternoons was spent visiting downtown Boston. Deb, Lee and I rode the T commuter train from Wollaston Station to Park St. Station and spent about four hours enjoying the historical sites and North End neighborhood. We walked through Boston Common and along parts of the Freedom Trail passing the Old South Meeting House, Quincy Market and the graveyards of Paul Revere and Mother Goose. The most enjoyable walk was through the North End. Heavily populated by those of Italian heritage, the area is like a step back in time. The buildings still look like something out of a 1940's movie set and the streets are lined with small bakeries, old family restaurants, coffee houses and tailor shops. We enjoyed great pizza at the original Regina's location (est. 1929) while there and picked up delectable pastries at Modern Pastry on our way back to the train. It was a wonderful time in a beautifully clean and historically interesting city.

I almost forgot one final question. How many Dunkin Donuts can you fit into a one block area? In greater Boston the answer seems to be at least five. You can't go anywhere without turning around and seeing a Dunkin Donuts shop. In downtown Boston there are two, literally within fifty feet of each other. The original shop was founded in Quincy and the chain has definitely come to dominate the local market.

Once again, thanks to Lee for all his time and assistance. It was nice to share time together.

We are currently at a private campground in Thomaston, CT for a two night stay. We plan to be in IN by Sunday, so for the remainder of the week we will have short stops as we work our way through PA and OH. However, I may have to pry Deb out of this place because we have a cable TV connection with almost 70 channels - including the Food Network. It's a rarity for us, but an opportunity that is being enjoyed to the max.

Will update you later on our travels from somewhere down the road.

copyright 2009 by Lane A Geyer
Photos by Deb

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Berkshires

September 11, 2009

We are currently on the back end of a 14 night stay at a State Park in Hingham, MA just outside of Boston. Deb is originally from the area and her son, Lee, still lives here. It's been a pleasant stay with beautiful weather, great food and time with family. I will write more about the Boston area in my next post. For now, I want to share more of our visit to the Berkshire Mountains.

I can't say it more plainly. We are in love with the Berkshires! There is a gentle serenity to the area that captured our souls.

We left NY on I-90 and headed East into MA. The trip was smooth and light with traffic. We then picked up U.S. 20/8 and headed to the campground. Thinking we could find a grocery store for along the way, we actually drove almost twenty miles beyond our destination. It turned out that there were no major stores of any kind, but the drive was beautiful. The only place we found supplies was a small market in Chester that was surprisingly well-stocked and in the middle of a very beautiful neighborhood; old Victorian homes, a gas station that looked unchanged since the fifties and a town center reminiscent of a Frank Capra movie.

While Deb was shopping I struck a conversation with two locals. It turned out that the market was the only place for groceries within twenty miles. But more interesting was the amount of interest in our motor home. This has happened before in other areas we have stayed. For whatever reason, the rig always seems to evoke memories of an uncle who owned the same model, memories of childhood trips with parents or questions about gas mileage. It's fun to listen to their stories and comments.

We stayed at Bonnie Rigg campground for three nights in a beautifully wooded space. It is actually a private "camping club" open year-round. Most spaces are occupied by member residents who decorate their areas in very elaborate ways. The big focus seems to be on ATVs, which were numerous yet unobtrusive. I found it very humerous that the current issue under discussion by the Board of Directors was a vote on allowing golf carts into the grounds. I may not fully understand the full dynamics of the topic, but it seems to me that if ATVs are already allowed what possible difference can it make to allow golf carts? Another thing to boggle my mind.

Within fifty feet of our site was Walker Brook (pictured above) which provided a calming background sound for the entire stay. Running no more than two feet deep over a rock-covered bottom, it's gentle flow provided a beautifully contemplative atmosphere. It will be missed.

Our stay there also provided many firsts. It was the first place we were warned not to leave food or trash outside because of bears. It was our first time for using the space heater and our first location for turning leaves. We had no TV channels or cellphone connections, but still thoroughly enjoyed our time. It is a destination we would recommend to anyone.

Will update again as time and wifi connections allow. Until then, happy trail to everyone.

copyright 2009 by Lane A Geyer
photos by Deb