Maine

We drove to Maine for three reasons: 1) to see Pam’s cousin, 2) to climb Mt Katahdin and 3) to get to Nova Scotia. We also wanted to see a moose. Pam’s cousin is just getting over a recent illness so we’ll see him on our way back through Maine on the way home. Mt Katahdin has vehicle size restrictions for Baxter SP that ruled out the Roamer (9 ft tall, 7 ft wide and 22 ft long – we missed on all three – bummer).

We did camp just outside the park for a nice evening in the woods. We have been eating well on the trip. Here was the honey mustard chicken and asparagus we had for dinner – cooked over the open fire.

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The area around the campsite was known for moose.

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We did not see a moose but heard something in the night that sounded like a 200 pound cat gagging up a hairball. We did drive around this morning in search of moose but no luck. They must be smaller than I thought….

We did get a picture of Mt Katahdin so we can return in a Prius and climb the thing.

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Our truck reminded us it was time to change the oil so we made an appointment in Bangor for Thursday.

To kill some time and get another passport stamp in my National Parks book, we headed down to Acadia NP where you effectively have to guess which direction is correct due to the lack of signs. We turned onto one road only to be met with a stone bridge that was 10 ft 7 in high (the Roamer is roughly 12 ft). Good thing it can turn on a dime since I had to pull off a nice three-point turn on a tiny, wooded road with no shoulder. The next road we turned on (a one way road) had a stone bridge of 12 ft 2 in that we cleared under, but I’m not sure by how much. We finally found the visitor center and the map they give you states “Warning – low bridges! Five low-clearance bridges – advance route planning necessary for RVs and tall vehicles”. Thanks… at least I now know where the other 3 are within the park.

I was just about to rule out Maine as a place to ever visit again until we got to the campsite. Similar to other sites we’ve been to there was a sign at check-in with local food that can be delivered to the camp (mostly pizza). However, our campsite had local lobster delivered to your site for $5 per pound.

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Three pounds of lobster and a few ciders tasted great. Maybe I won’t rule out Maine yet.

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New England

Pam and I have been in Vermont and New Hampshire for the last few days. We spent a night with Mike’s dad and girlfriend in the 1000 island area.

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Then we drove into the Adirondacks for a good hike before stopping for the night at Ft Ticonderoga.

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The fort is in restoration and the gardens were very nice.

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From there we jumped into Vermont. We realized Ben & Jerry’s is in Vermont so we had to stop for a tour.

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I liked the sign in their new flavor creating room.

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The campsite in Vermont was very nice. I’m still deciding if is should move into the top 5, very possibly.

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We then traveled into northern New Hampshire on a Saturday. Not a good idea. Every trail head and stop was packed with folks looking for some outdoor fun.

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We then headed up Mt Washington on the COG railroad.

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The weather at the top could have been better, but it is known as the world’s worst weather location.

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Made our way into Maine yesterday and camped there.

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Did a good hike today in northern Maine.

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We stopped in a little town’s parking lot along the way to tonight’s site since cell coverage in the east is not that great in the wilderness. Needed to catch up with the blog and take care of a few retired issues via Boeing online. Should be in Canada and at our half-way point of the trek in a couple of days.

45 days on the road and having a great time. Driving the ultimate tent doesn’t hurt either.

Elkland

Pam and I drove south to visit with my cousins and their families in Elkland, PA. Did some sight-seeing in Watkins Glen. Another natural wonder that I did not know was there. I thought Watkins Glen was just a stop on the NASCAR circuit.

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Got a map of the micro-brew places across New York (and yes there was one in Watkins Glen we hit after the hike). We entered a trivia contest in Mansfield at another brew house and our team (The Roamers) qualified for the quarter finals in two weeks.

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There may have to be a couple of “relative” substitutions for the next round due to our absence, but the team will be there.

Made our way back up to 1000 Island area today after stopping at the Corning glass museum. A lot of glass history and we saw a glass blower create an amazing piece right before our eyes.

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Had dinner with Mike P’s dad and his girlfriend tonight at their place on the river near Alexandria Bay. Great company and a great meal to go with the unbelievable view.

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Tomorrow we head for eastern NY and the Adirondacks.

Back in Touch

In my last post Pam and I were on our way to Ontario, but as we read about what we could bring into Canada we realized we had way too much, beer, wine and fresh veggies. So we stopped into the forest ranger station, got a map for the areas we could disperse camp, but then when we got to the sites we found out that the trees were so thick we could not get off the road.

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Instead we found a beach in Michigan just west if St Ignace and camped for a couple of days to deplete our stock.

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It gave us time to go visit Mackinac Island.

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No private cars are allowed on the island. Transportation is all by horse pulled cart or bicycle.

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The scenery around the island was beautiful. I could see spending the summer there and eating more of the maple walnut fudge.

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There was a stable house museum on the island with some of the old carriages built for eras gone by.

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From there we traveled up to the north side of the UP and spent one last night on the beach outside Sault Ste Marie. We then crossed into Canada with almost the legal limit, but they let us in without duty (must have been the vehicle). Stopped half way across Ontario at the Samuel D Champlain Provincial Park for the night after driving past many beaver dams in the area around Sudbury. A lot of moose signs were along the road, but none spotted. Getting to the camp site required crossing this bridge.

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Did a nice hike in the park.

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Stopped also at a chip truck to get some poutine (fries, with turkey gravy and melted cheese). Tastes great but I’m sure it’s not on my diet. I doubt it’s on anyone’s diet.

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We then made our way back into the US in the 1000 Island region in upper NY. Wow, I never even know this existed. What an area.

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Camped in the state park in the region and got a spot right on the St Lawrence River to see a beautiful sunset.

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We decided to divert south to the Finger Lakes and stop in to visit with my cousins in the Corning, NY area. Had to stop at one of the vineyards along Seneca Lake to test some of the grapes.

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Catching up today, but back on the road tomorrow and will possibly head back to the 1000 Island area before heading east in the Adirondacks.

UP of Michigan

Spent the last couple of days driving the UP. Lots of woods, water and rocks.

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Camped at Fort Wilkins, a turn of the century outpost that has been converted into a state park. There are many state parks around here so we picked up a Michigan Rec pass for the Roamer (even the Roamer gets a sticker) so we could visit them along the way for sight-seeing or just lunch.

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While enjoying the views, we have also been enjoying the local brews. I had some Spotted Cow Ale, while Pam preferred the Dancing Man Wheat beer.

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Drove down to Indian Lake, next to Lake Michigan for last night’s camp. It seems we are the only folks in Michigan without a boat, canoe or kayak

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Today we are going to shoot out the top of the UP into Ontario and across into New York. May take a couple of days due to the size of Ontario so we’ll get one night in Canada along the way.

Our Gas Buddy app showed that the cheapest diesel in the country ($3.69 a gal) was in a small town in the UP. We filled it up in SD, where it was cheap due to the farms and drove to the town along our route. Got to the station with just 9 gallons left in the tank (the aux tank was empty). Now we’re full but will need to refill before entering Canada and the expected prices we’ll see crossing Ontario.

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River Crossings

We left South Dakota and entered Pipestone, MN, a place where the sacred red pipestone is found for the Indian peace pipes. The soft pipestone rock is found just under the Sioux quartzite (the second hardest stone), so it’s no easy task getting to it. Seemed strange that it’s considered sacred ground and Native Americans need to apply for a permit to quarry the stone for their ceremonial pipes, but that anyone can buy a pipestone pipe now for $40. I passed.

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After our hike, we then stopped in a diner in Pipestone and obviously picked the local favorite. It was packed. Pam had stuffed hash browns (hash browns filled with cheese, onions, etc) and eggs, and I had a chicken philly sandwich that contained an entire chicken with a tower of fries on the plate. We left in blissful agony and did not need to eat for the rest of the day. If that was just one of three meals for the local folks then they must be loading up for the winter. It was nice having the Roamer and its bathroom because that strong of coffee has a serious impact on bodily functions in about 1/2 of an hour when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

We then spotted a full size P-51 on a stick in the middle of corn country – had to stop.

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It was the home of the Fagen Restoration facility, where they put back to flight WWII aircraft. He had a P-38 that had just come back from Oshkosh as well as racing P-51s. Met another couple there that winters in Mesa.

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We crossed the Mississippi River in St Cloud, MN to make us officially in the east. I should have stopped in for a hockey shirt but passed as we went by the college. We camped in Taylors Falls, MN for the night, right on the St Croix River and the Wisconsin border.

We came up the river area today and this looks like a future trip – canoe down the St Croix and camp along the river at the many campsites set up for just that purpose. The river was moving pretty good so it didn’t seem like a very tough adventure. A little paddling with lots of fishing and relaxing. The tough part would be to find a canoe big enough to hold the Roamer.

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Sweet Corn is just now showing up along the roads – yes. Had to stop and grabbed a few ears. Dinner tonight was pork chops and corn. Fresh corn taste so different. Saved two more ears for tomorrow night.

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Camped on the banks of Lake Superior tonight near the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. We will be heading up to the Upper Peninsula tomorrow and may take a rest day. You know you are traveling a lot when you have left-overs for lunch that you cooked several hundred miles ago.

Pam and I have now been on the road for a month. Wow, time flies even when you are retired.

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Madison, SD

We have just about made it across South Dakota. We camped the night at Badlands and saw pronghorn, bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs. The Ranger talk was on the grasslands and I got to throw a spear using the atlatl. The badlands just erode away from the prairies.

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Bighorn sheep mom and baby eating away in the valley below.

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The bison used the speed sign as a scratching post.

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This guy was obviously the best fed prairie dog in the park.

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We then made our way to Wall Drug store in Wall, SD for their world famous hot beef sandwich lunch, 5-cent coffee and the wonders of sites within the block long building.

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We finished the day by stopping in Madison, SD for the night. Tomorrow we enter Viking territory (Minnesota) and then the land of cheeseheads (Wisconsin). Entered a new time zone today and noticed that we are about half way across the US now.

Black Hills Continued

Nice and slow day today. Caught up on blogs earlier, we did laundry and visited the Jewel Cave. It’s about a 180 mile of cave tunnels with a good 1/2 mile walking path for a tour. The wind cave, another cave not too far away, offers a more spelunking experience where you squeeze through a rather tight space to see the “natural wonders inside”. I’ll let them continue to be a mystery in that cave.

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We did stop at the ranger station and got a great map for dispersed camping (just pull off a forest service road). It’s very common is AZ, but not so much as you move east. Picked a spot that was gorgeous for tonight. You can’t see it, but the vista also overlooks the Crazy Horse carving off in the distance. Grilled a couple of steaks and a baked potato for a great meal overlooking the valley. Saw two red-tail hawks circling right in front of us (they wanted the steak), but no deer or elk. Got to say that this ranked as the new #2 spot.

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The Black Hills

We stopped at Devil’s Tower as we left Wyoming. A very neat rock. Camping is turning out to be interesting. We made a reservation in Yellowstone, but everywhere else we just find the local national park or national forest campsites and pull in. Most folks crowd into the KOAs or larger sites, with folks spaced about 10 feet apart in their 50 foot trailers. The park and forest sites are really nice, are mostly tents and the hosts have turned out to be some interesting folks.

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South Dakota is a new state for both Pam and me. The Black Hills area is very pretty. Camping in the forest around here is just like the Rim, Ponderosa trees and grassy fields. As you approach the area the one thing you notice is the number of bikes in the area. Sturgis kicks off next week, but a lot of bikers are already in the area.

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Rushmore was interesting. The area around it was the busiest place with the most people we have been in for some time. It felt like entering Disneyland, but the rock was neat to look at up close.

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Crazy Horse was huge and will be incredible when it is finished in a few decades. Maybe we’ll be around to see the carving completed.

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Laundry is now done so we’re on our way east.

Across Wyoming

We dropped out of Montana into Wyoming and Yellowstone. We came in the north entrance, left through the south entrance to go to see Grand Teton range and then left out the west entrance for Cody and points east.

Yellowstone is huge and unfortunately its set up for driving around. We decided to be different and hike the canyon area during our trip there.

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We hiked from the campsite to the falls and back since parking the roamer in the small lots gets interesting. Stopped for a good lunch spot along the way and saw a really neat osprey nest in the rocks. Also had a couple of good drafts when we got back to the lodge.

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Yellowstone is a pretty amazing place. Every turn offers a more beautiful vista of a totally different type. These were the thermal vents that seem to be all over the park.

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We dropped down towards Jackson and saw the Grand Teton range. Never realized there was a huge lake at the base of the range. Thinking more about owning a boat now and pulling it behind the Roamer.

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We then pointed the Roamer east and headed for Cody. We stopped in the Wild West Museum there. Huge place with a lot to see. Their gun collection was amazing. This is a fraction of the guns that were in the place. (add picture later wi-fi is dead).

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Camped in the forest east of Cody after climbing a huge hill. The sign said “steep grade”, but it was only because they don’t make “100% grade” signs. Thankfully the Roamer has plenty of power and it was a lot cooler in the trees. We visited the Medicine Wheel on the top of the hill. No pictures were taken because there was a prayer ceremony within the wheel ongoing. It reminded me of the pictures of Everest Base camp – pretty neat.

Next up – the Black Hills of South Dakota