Canada! Into New Brunswick and our first stop at New River Beach Provincial Park

Upon departing Bar Harbor we headed north to the US-Canada border, reaching it in under an hour.  Though we had not done a lot of research on our planned Canadian venture, we did look deep into the rules of entry, particularly what and how much we could bring across.  We knew the alcohol limits, poultry restrictions, fruit and vegetable requirements, and the list of things verboten.   Nonetheless, we were a bit apprehensive as we queued up at the crossing, having heard or read a good number of horror stories about agents spending hours going through an RV’s every nook and cranny.

Departing Bar Harbor, passing by Jack’s distinctive house and lawn art.

We cruised through with no drama, though the two motorhomes in front of us were pulled over for additional scrutiny, and from our vantage point it appeared that border agents pulled a wagon load of alcohol from each.  I can’t say with any certainty what led our man at the booth to waive us through after a couple of minutes of questioning, but two things stand out that might be the reasons.

When he asked various questions about what we were carrying, I replied with exact information that implied a knowledge of what was permitted and what was not.  For example: “We have 1.14 liters of alcohol each.”  Second, under questioning we asserted that not only do we not have a fire arm with us, but that we do not carry one even when RVing in the US.  Anyway, he could have just thought I was really honest looking. 😉

When in Canada, drink Canadian.  Local craft beer, Canadian Whiskey, out of circulation old Canadian dollars gifted to us by Gloria (they have entirely replaced one dollar bills with coins) and in the little jar, our first Canadian beach glass.

From there it was another two hours to our first Canadian campground: New River Beach Provincial Park.  I had used our usual resources (AllStays, Passport-America, RV Park Reviews) to select an affordable, beautiful, and appropriately positioned place for our first stop.  We nailed it.  We have a strong preference for state parks, and were happy to see that Canada’s Provincial Parks are, at least in this case, as strong analogue.  New River Beach is positioned directly on the coast along the Bay of Fundy.  The campground is across the road from the actual beach, attractively situated in the woods.

We have had extraordinary weather luck this trip, repeatedly arriving in a local just as weeks of miserable rain or cold clear up, but you have to accept a bit of drizzle every now and then.  New River Beach, near low tide, under fog.

Our site was electric only (30 amp) though a number of others had both power and water.  I had futzed the length of our RV in order to make the reservation: technically our site was for RV’s 30′ and under, but I have yet to encounter a park that has not heavily padded their length restrictions.  This place was no exception; though the back in maneuver was mildly challenging, we had no real trouble fitting Serenity in the site with Loki parked in front. 

Our site: plenty of trees like we prefer.  Not quite as private as some US state parks, you can see more than one neighbor from our spot, but still very nice.

And the beach!  Perhaps half a mile (sorry, about one kilometer) of beautiful sandy beach surrounded by rocky breakers and coves.  We were quite surprised at how deep, i.e., the distance from the low tide to high tide mark it was.  A huge, beautiful beach that was heavily attended during the weekend and nearly ours alone a day later.  We visited daily, experiencing it both in gorgeous, blue sky weather and semi foggy wetness.   We also found our first Canadian beach glass, perhaps half a dozen meager pieces, but beggars can’t be choosy.

New River Beach at high tide.  

There is, er, not a lot to do in the very small nearby town of Lepreau.  No worries for us; we weren’t there for city entertainment.  There are, apparently, nearby lighthouses, which we did not explore, but we did find a beautiful set of waterfalls within a 15 minute drive east of the campground.  Lepreau Falls are quite nice, with what I estimate is a 15 meter drop from a moderate sized river.  Had we more time, we definitely would have made the scramble from one of the viewing areas down to the natural pond at the base of the falls for a dip.  Next time!

I want to keep a running list of the “RVing in Canada” lessons we have learned along the way.  To start with:

  • For the border crossing: do your research and comply.  Why risk hours of delay and possible unfortunate scrutiny just so you can save a few bucks on liquor, meat, or veggies?  Honestly, it was a piece of cake for us, but as written above, we did see two motorhomes getting a much more thorough checking.
  • As an addendum: It’s harder to comply with the rules when you are full time simply because you have so much more stuff in your rig than a vacationer.  You are likely to have a lot more food, some of it restricted.  Maybe you have live plants, which could be a real problem.  If you are full time, you need to be that much more careful in checking the rules.
  • The strength of the US vs Canadian Dollar is really helping things for US tourists this decade.  The USD started a major rise in 2013, and since 2015 it has been fluctuating around a 1.3:1 USD to CD ratio.  If you are in Canada, and it costs “a dollar” that really means around 76 cents in US currency.  Awesome.
  • And therefor: Provincial Park Campgrounds look to be cheaper than equivalent US State Parks.  We are staying in this beautiful park across from the beach and ocean for $26 US dollars a night.  Granted, it is electric only, but for a three day stay that’s a great rate given the location.
  • Check your credit cards for a Foreign Transaction Fee, and only use those that don’t have one.  Why pay an extra 3% to the bank just to spend money in our neighbor’s country?  We physically removed all those cards with an FTF from our wallets and purses for the duration of our Canada stay.

Last week in Bar Harbor: Living large at the Moose

As we have said before: When we first came to the Bar Harbor area in 2016 we were astounded at the welcome we received from the local denizens at the Ellsworth Moose Lodge.  It’s not like we were new to the scene: we had been to more than a score lodges around the country, but Ellsworth went above and beyond, and it greatly effected or appreciation for the area.  Fast forward to our 2018 route planning, and we sought to recreate that experiences to the maximum extent possible.

Don’t get me wrong: we love Maine regardless of the Moose welcome.  We loved the Lewiston-Auburn region during our stay at Poland Spring.   We love the central coast area around Freeport, Phippsburg, and Boothbay Harbor.  We love Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor.  We look forward, in future years, to exploring more regions, particularly along the coast, that we have yet to experience.  But so far, it is this Central Coastal peninsula that has captured us.

But one example of the many welded creations in Jack’s yard.

And so for our last week of five in Maine, we went all in on Moose love, starting with the monthly “meat raffle” on the First of July.  I am sure other organizations do this, but until June of 2016 we had never seen it before.  Once a month the Moose coordinates with local suppliers to provide a variety of meats: chicken quarters, pork chops, red hot dogs, bacon, beef tips, clams, and lobster.  You can purchase a set number for all 25 drawings, and additional numbers for individual drawings.  In 2016 we won five pounds of pork and chicken.  This year we weren’t quite so lucky, but still walked away with a bunch of chicken thighs and a great set of memories.

We continued the festivities at Jack’s (not me, one of the Moose regulars and a former Lodge Governor) annual Fourth of July extravaganza, a truly fantastic event.  Jack brings in more than a hundred pounds of lobster from Captain Chuckie’s boat, along with untold pounds of steamer and cherry stone clams.  For those preferring their meat land raised, there is a constant stream of kabobs, chicken wings, beef ribs, burgers, and hot dogs coming off the grill, not to mention untold number of side dishes.

Captain Chuckie, provider of the lobster’s for Jack’s 4th of July party

It’s an insane stuffing of Maine oriented food, lasting all day and into the night, finished off with nearly an hour of semi-professional fire works (and by semi-professional I mean amateur pyrotechnic guys equipped with semi-permanent mortar platforms giving it their best shot after numerous beers.)  The event is open to any Moose member, their families, and other invited guests.  It was an especially great day for us since July 4th is also Rose and my anniversary.

We even had a French Canadian refugee from the Fort Myers Moose swing in, having dropped by the Ellsworth Lodge only to be told everyone was at Jack’s.  After we helped her get her big pick up truck out of the ditch (having misjudged the turn into the driveway) she availed herself to lobster and clams.  Hoozah!

We continued our Acadia National Park day trips with one last stop at Sandy Beach for a picnic meal.  And on our last full day we made one last trip to the Moose for a drink or two with our Ellsworth gang and to say our goodbyes.  We have had a great five weeks in Maine, but it’s time to head north.

Next up: Canada!

Rose sampling one of the Maine traditions: Allen’s Coffee Brandy and milk.  Seems to be working for her.  Happy Anniversary, baby!

42 Months Fulltiming: June 2018 Report

The Distance:  A conservative 142 miles as we moved twice along coastal Maine towards our one month stop in Bar Harbor.  This respite from long drives helped defer some of the otherwise steep costs we entailed while in Maine.  Our 2018 travel distance is up to 3,684 miles.  August will see a big increase in the mileage as we explore Canada, though there it will be totally different since we will be travelling in kilometers vice miles.

The Places:   Just three places this month: Blueberry Pond (one of our most relaxing stops in 2016) then less than an hour coastward to Meadowbrook Camping Area for a week (another one from 2016 that was even better this trip,) and finally our stopping point for the rest of June at Mt Desert Narrows Resort, outside Bar Harbor. 

The Budget:  Ah well, as we noted last post, we started June way over budget, struggled for more than two weeks to get back on track, only to give ourselves a break and enjoy the last week of the month enjoying Maine as we had intended.  The end result: 3.6% over budget, almost the exact amount we were under in May.  This result came despite the lack of any gas purchases for Serenity and one moderately successful market. 

Too windy to light Rosemarie’s birthday Reeces Cup on Sand Beach, Arcadia National Park

Bottom line: we went hog wild the very first day of the month, continued to splurge during the rest of that week, and experienced one of our highest nightly campground fees in Bar Harbor.  Yes, even short of the peak season rates, and including the moderate monthly discount (which also eliminated the $4 per day resort fee) our full hook up site with partial bay view came out to just under $47 a day, all in.  Though we really like Mt Desert Narrows, we have resolved that during our next trip to Maine, whenever that may occur (2020, cough cough) we will spread things out a bit, taking advantage of Passport America rates and alternative camping in the region.

The Drama and the Improvements:   Back in February I pulled out the bedroom sofa and built a work bench for Rosemarie out of reclaimed hurricane damaged boat decks and hulls.  The problem is that the desk is in a slide out section of the RV which has a 2″ elevated floor, and her work chair barely fits on the platform.

Rose made this giant flower on her Cricut machine, which rests on her work bench, which I built, so basically: I made this flower.

This month I finally got around to putting in a floor extension with a big section of plywood.  It’s rough and crude looking, but serves the purpose until we get around to installing some sort of floor covering.  We also repaired and improved most of the jewelry display racks in preparation for our Moose Lodge market event.  This was promptly followed by hours of restowage of our internal and external storage compartments since, for the next six weeks, we would have no markets at all.

Kitty and I resting after an arduous hour or two restowing compartments. 
Our monthly reports so far this year:


January Monthly Report

February Monthly Report

March Monthly Report

April Monthly Report

May Monthly Report

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.

Ending our Bar Harbor austerity program: Time to party during the last week of June

One of the things you may have noticed when comparing our first week or so in Maine (Southern Coast) with the following two weeks (Bar Harbor) is how much more financially restrictive we became.  Between Blue Berry Pond, Freeport, Meadowbrook Campground, and Boothbay Harbor I had lobster five times!  In Bar Harbor: not once!  During our first week we went hog wild at L.L. Bean’s factory outlet, we dined fancy at a downtown Freeport cafe, we stocked up on supplies, and did I mention the lobster?  Upon arrival in Bar Harbor we restricted ourselves to picnic day trips to Acadia National Park and a couple of nearby villages, and affordable visits to the Moose Lodge

The problem was, of course, money: we were seriously behind on the monthly budget  after that first week of splurging, aggravated by the daily camping rate at Mt Desert Narrows in Bar Harbor (even with the monthly discount during not quite peak season rates, it was nearly $47, the second highest rate we will pay all year.)   So we didn’t exactly live poor during the middle of the month, but we reeled it in big time, fighting an uphill battle to end the month in the black.  After 16 days of this, even with our successful quasi-market at the Moose Lodge, we realized that though it was feasible to scratch our way back during the last week of the month, we were just missing out on too many things that we had specifically come to Maine to enjoy.

Former Lodge Governor Larry, Lobsterboat Captain Chuckie, another Former Lodge Governor Jack, and Jack.

So we accepted the near inevitable, loosened the purse strings, and enjoyed the heck out of the last seven days of June in Maine.  We were freer with our Moose Lodge visits, we patronized local farmers markets for overpriced mushrooms, and we hit downtown Bar Harbor for a return visit to Atlantic Brewery, the local craft brew pub we had enjoyed in 2016.

Oh yes, and after researching prices and reviews, we returned to Travelling Lobster, another place we had thoroughly enjoyed during our first visit to the region two years ago.  Their price per pound was right, their cooking fee was negligible, and they had an amazing (though pricey!) IPA from Boothbay Brewery.

Rosemarie was not left out in the cold for this meal: Travelling Lobster’s seafood chowder combined with locally produced Old Soaker Blueberry Soda hit the spot.  Even Pad Kee Meow enjoyed the outdoor dining experience. 

Now, sure, our moderate outings pushed us a touch over the budget for the month, but we are still well under for the year, and have no regrets about a handful of reasonably priced but highly enjoyable experiences to close out the month of June.

Starting our one month stay in Bar Harbor

Our final, and favorite, Maine stop in 2016 was Bar Harbor near Acadia National Park.  There we stayed for three days at Mt Desert Narrows Resort at the Passport America 50% off rate, and then a week at the first come, first serve Bar Harbor Campground up the road.  In planning our trip this year we resolved to spend a full 30 days in Bar Harbor, which would allows us to take advantage of the somewhat discounted monthly rate offered by Mt Desert Narrows.  It would still be one of our most expensive campground fees for the year, but bringing the daily total cost down from nearly $70 (for a power and water only site) to less than $47 (for a full hook up spot) made it feasible.

After working with the front desk regarding site options, we went with a full hook up site with a limited view of the harbor.  It is not quite as attractive as what we were assigned in 2016, but has turned out to be very pleasant, particularly since we enjoyed extra space on one or both sides due to the lack of neighbors during much of our stay.

The view out of our front window.

One of the reasons we enjoyed this part of Maine, and thus one of the things that brought us back for such a long stay, was our experience with the nearby Ellsworth Moose Lodge.  In the years since Gloria introduced us to the Venice Moose we have had the opportunity to visit more than a score lodges.  And while many have been fun, none gave us a welcome like Ellsworth.  It really was like being long lost members of the family. 

So the Ellsworth Lodge was at the top of our priority list for places to visit once we settled in at Mt Desert Narrows.  Rose has kept in touch with a couple of the members, and many others remembered us from 2016.  My membership having lapsed sometime last year, and having no real connection to the Venice location, I signed up here in Maine.  Though we may not see this place more than one month every two years, it is still the best lodge for us, and we are happy to be connected to the people here despite the infrequent nature of our visits.  

You can’t beat the drink prices in these membership type places, and when you find one as welcoming as Ellsworth, it makes the $60 annual fee that much more reasonable.

Other than a friendly nearby Moose Lodge, why a full month in Bar Harbor?  Two maine (heh) reasons: We correctly predicted that our pace of travel in April and May with multiple family visits would leave us tired and ready for a long stay.  And second, we really like this location and the variety of things it offers, starting with the large national park.

Pad Kee Meow has been bolting out the door on us with alarming frequency.  Fortunately she usually just wants to roll in the warm sand.

Every few days we would load up a picnic basket and make a day trip in Loki to one section of Acadia or another.  Most people don’t hear Maine and think of beaches, but Acadia has an excellent small option to satisfy all but the most severe critic.  The imaginatively named Sand Beach hosted our first Acadia picnic, on Rosemarie’s birthday, and provided us with some decent beach glass and even a small sand dollar.

Before our RV lifestyle Rosemarie typically enjoyed big celebrations on her birthday.  Since we are rarely around friends and family in June now, we have to think about other ways to make it special.  Happy B-Day, my wonderful wife, and may the journey long continue!

We have been quite fortunate weather wise during these first couple of weeks in Bar Harbor.  Other campers reported that they had only a couple of warm, rain free days during the entire month before our arrival.  Our streak of good weather allowed us frequent pleasant outings to Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, and Seal Cove.

While downtown Bar Harbor is the most well known, other nearby towns and villages hold a lot of charm, and far fewer tourists.  We found ourselves returning to South West Harbor during our frequent outings, but also enjoyed North East Harbor, Bass Harbor, and Seal Harbor as well.  The nice shops, bars, and cafes are a draw, and both South West and North East Harbors have small, once a week farmers markets as well.

How much you figure these ocean front cottages go for? 

Speaking of markets: we had hopes that Bar Harbor would be profitable for us and thus offset the cost of our campground.  Unfortunately we were completely blocked out of the three markets in the area; either they only allow produce and food, or they don’t allow drop in vendors.  This started to put a real crimp on our lifestyle as we sought to get back on budget after an expensive start to the month.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse.  

We even approached the managers of Mt Desert Narrows Resort about selling the jewelry in their store.  We put together a single rack heavy on camping, travel, and RV oriented items, complete with “Mt Desert Narrows” stamped display cards.  After giving us a bit of a run around over the the course of three days, they eventually told us no, that they had tried jewelry in the past and it did not sell enough to be worth the trouble.

Given that we sold items to three of the seven people in the campground that saw Rose’s stuff, I think they are missing out, but it was a good experience for us trying to pitch it.  Those sales, by the way, included earrings for two of their employee work campers, and a trade of two pair of earings for a delicious Blueberry Pie from “The Pie Guy,” a gent that drives through the resort every few days selling his baked goods.

Fortunately, our favorite Moose Lodge came through for us.  Without us asking, merely having brought up the subject of Rose’s jewelry with members, the governor (Moose Lodges have governors rather than presidents) invited us to set up and sell at the upcoming North East Moose Association gathering that Ellsworth was hosting.  And so we did, clearing enough to make us happy during one Saturday afternoon, with affordable drinks and good company to boot.

Unlike last post, you might have noticed the absence of any mention of lobster in this one until now.  Despite being surrounded by dozens of lobster pounds, I have resisted the urge.  We have been clawing our way back towards breaking even on the budget this month, so it just hasn’t been on the menu.  I think I am going to have to buy them live and give cooking them a go myself; I’m going a bit nuts seeing them advertised every half mile and yet unable to splurge. 

Pad Kee Meow’s new tube, which she doesn’t seem to keen on sharing.

With two more weeks to go in Bar Harbor, we are still enjoying the place immensely, though we have resolved that in our next trip to Maine, we will likely not stay a full month in one campground, but rather spread out our stay across a few more locations and sites, perhaps revisiting the first come, first serve option up the road, or one of the many other campgrounds in the region.

Meadowbrook Campground: A good spot in 2016 becomes a great spot in 2018

During our eastern loop in 2016 we stayed in four Maine campgrounds, one of which, Meadowbrook, I selected because Rosemarie would be flying out of town for a few days, and I needed a cheap but pleasant place to stay for the duration.  Meadowbrook, by accepting Passport America’s 50% discount, met the first criteria, and the on site Lobstah Pound fully satisfied the second.  But beyond that, it was not particularly memorable in terms of beauty or location, or so we thought.

So a little ahead of our intended schedule during our run up the coast, we included Meadowbrook in our route based on the price and lobster alone.  Boy were we surprised at how much nicer and beautiful we found the place this year.  In 2016 they put us on an open site in the middle of a grass field.  Upon arriving this year we discussed our preferences with the front desk and management, and they placed us in the heavily wooded section of the campground, an area we did not even know existed.  What a difference!  Now we had the cheap Passport America price, the quite affordable cooked to order lobster, and a peaceful spot surrounded by trees to spend our days. 

We loved it so much we extended our stay from three to six days, and barely left the campground.  And though we had started off this month way in the hole after our major restock and splurge day in Freeport, I still took advantage of the situation by having three lobster dinners during our stay.  At this time of year all they had available were hard shell lobsters, which are significantly more challenging to eat, but I was willing to fight through this impediment.  Later this month more places will have soft shells as the lobsters go through a molt.  I’m most definitely looking forward to that.

Happiness: white wine, red lobster.

We took a day trip to Boothbay Harbor, one of our favorite spots in Maine from our pre-RV days.  We even found the same restaurant, Kalers, at which we had huddled inside from the cold and rain and enjoyed a couple of beers with Linda back when she and Jayson were stationed nearby.  It did not disappoint; Rose and I split the delicious lobster and crab slider combo.

Our engaging bartender had not only just purchased a travel trailer, but also spent part of last year in Sanibel.  We enjoyed comparing stories and giving him several key recommendations for online sources that will help him find the right type of campgrounds that match his preferences.  Our fondness for this town had us resolving to include a few days in a closer campground during our next RV trip to Maine, whenever that might be.

Not to to go overboard with discussing every meal we had in Maine, but I do want to give a shout out to a surprisingly good pizza we got from, Bisson’s, a gas station and country store nearby.  While I love all types, Rose is particularly particular about her pizza; the closer it is to authentic NY style the better, and plenty of those places advertising so called “New York Style” she finds wanting.  Along these lines, she would normally turn her nose up at something overloaded with cheese like they serve at Bisson’s, but something about their cheese, sauce and bread choice really works.

Pad Kee Meow enjoyed Meadowbrook Campground quite a lot; they had abundant chipmunks and a semi-wild setting that appealed to her hunting instincts.  She gave us quite a scare on our last full day when she managed to pop her lead loose and went for a long walk in the woods dragging 20 feet of leash behind her.

It took us nearly an hour of panicked searching to find her some 500 yards away down a hiking path, the leash snagged to some tree roots.  Her harness is loose enough such that she can pull out of it when she is particularly motivated, and this episode made us realize that this looseness is a positive feature rather than a bug, which will allow her to find her way home should she ever repeat this adventure and we are unable to find her.

One last thing about Meadowbrook: In three and a half years of fulltime RVing with visits to more than 200 different campgrounds, I can’t think of any place that attempts to monetize your presence more than Meadobrook.  I mean this as a complement to their marketing instincts rather than a negative.  They don’t nickel and dime you with silly costs like some places do (quarter showers, anyone?) but rather offer their guests the opportunity to spend their money on site rather than out in the nearby small towns.

The lobster pound is part of it, but they also have a paint ball course, a mining sluice with bags of minerals for sale, fresh scooped ice cream, and a dozen other little things that most campgrounds just don’t think to offer.  Rather than simply selling the individual ingredients to make smores, example, they have put together a full kit that includes everything, including the roasting spits.  They sell a variety of beer, including a few craft options.  Its hard to explain, but they have obviously thought hard about offering their guests every amenity they might want.

This place was too pricey for our blood, but their roadside marketing gimmick got us to at least stop and check it out.

Next up: we settle into our one month stay in Bar Harbor.

41 Months Fulltiming: May 2018 Report

The Distance:  1,868 miles as we worked our way from South Georgia all the way up to Maine, executing the first third of our 2018 plan.  That’s more than the rest of the year combined.  Our 2018 total is now up to 3,542 miles.  June will be a major slow down since we will remain in Maine and only shift locations twice.

Big mileage month!

The Places:  After leaving Wanee Lake we stopped outside Georgia to visit Rosemarie’s cousins, then began our trek through the Carolina’s with a stay near Asheville.   From there is was on to Wilmington to visit my mom and step dad, then up the coast to the Norfolk area to see Linda and the boys.  We cut inland a bit before stopping near West Point, NY to see more family, cut back east for a short stay in Newport, and finally continued north to our first Maine location.  This worked out to 4 nights in a national recreation area, 6 in private campgrounds, 13 in military sites, 3 in a relative’s driveway, and 5 in relatives’ houses.  For the 26 days in the RV, we had 16 with full hook ups, 7 with electric and water, and 3 dry camping. 

I think this is near Newport, RI.

The Budget:  Another close month at only 3.4% under budget, but under is under so we’ll take it, particularly since June and July are likely to be tough months for us in the financial arena.  We benefited from a substantial sign up bonus for a no fee checking account with Chase, rather cheap campground fees, and eight days free or nearly so as we stayed with relatives.  Thus our average nightly cost came out to just under $21.  That helped to counteract the big gas bill ($926 between Serenity and Loki) and $130 in tolls.  This keeps us well under budget for the year as we approach the half way point.

Rewarding ourselves for staying under budget.

The Drama and the Improvements:  We found a great replacement for Rosemarie’s folding bike (sold during our last stay in at Wekiwa Springs State Park.)  A bicycle thrift shop in Asheville had a brand new, recently donated 24″ mountain bike for $40.  As for drama: our steps continue to give us trouble.  I was unable to get them to retract as we prepared to leave Wilmington, but fortunately the owner of the storage lot helped get me settled by finding a loose switch connection, that, when jiggered, temporarily allowed them to work as designed.  Lastly, I managed to run us out of gas while in route to Maine; my formerly trustworthy gas gauge and warning indicator failed to provide a heads up, but it’s on me for pushing things too close to the edge.  We pulled over, detached Loki and I went a couple of miles up the road to fill up our portable gas can.  Ah well. 

Our monthly reports so far this year:

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.

Back to Maine! Returning to our favorite places from our 2016 visit.

Having decided to leave Newport earlier than expected, I secured a short stay at Blueberry Pond Campground near Freeport.  It is one of the very peaceful places we stayed during our tour through New England two years ago, and since they are Passport America participants the full hook up sites are quite affordable for short stays.  Given how tight we were with our May budget, it was just the thing to help keep us on track during the final days of the month.

Our spacious site at Blueberry Pond Campground

Located on several wooded acres, most sites have plenty of greenery and are well spaced from your neighbors.  The campground has free, mostly usable wifi, at least during our stay when there were not many other campers present.   Most weekend nights the owner invites the campers to the fire pit near his on site home and office.  This is a nice touch that helps Blueberry Pond stand out a bit from the many wooded campgrounds available in Maine.

Rocking our #LINDASTRONG t-shirts on the day of the Norfolk Area ALS Fundraising Walk

We had two restful days there, and then one extravagant day in nearby Freeport, where between shopping at the outlets, drinks, and a restaurant visit we put a pretty hefty strain on our June budget on day one!  For quite some time we had on our wish list a bike rack that mounts on the Geo Trackers spare tire bracket.  For the last couple of years we have had them mounted on the rear ladder of the motorhome, but that impeded ready access to the roof when needed, and precluded mounting other objects there, such as the kayaks we will eventually purchase. 

Splurging on a lobster roll, clam chowder, and wine during our day in Freeport

L.L. Bean’s boat and bike section had the Thule model we liked, and even better they had one left in the outlet building at 30% off, and to top it off they were running some sort of big weekend sales event with factory reps present, so we got the thing mounted by experts for free.  You would think it would be pretty easy, just take off the spare, slide on the mounting plate, etc.  I was pretty surprised how complicated it was, and glad that we stayed around for the install; it would have taken me a couple of hours to sort it out.

Our new Thule bike rack

A shorter than normal post for us; we really did not do much more than one day of shopping in Freeport during this three day stay.  Up next: a return to another Maine campground in which we learn to check out all of the loops for maximum enjoyment.

An unfortunately short visit to Newport

I mentioned last post that we were having trouble securing reservations in Newport.  The navy run Carr Point Recreation Area, located off base, has only six spots, and though it is very early in the season they could only give us one day in site #1, then the next day in #6, nothing on day three, and then a two day stay in #6 again.  And unlike most military bases, they claimed to have no overflow areas for dry camping.

The suspension bridge leading to Newport

They were kind enough to waive the deposit until we knew for sure if day three would open up, so we made the four hour drive from West Point ever hopeful, but determined to enjoy Newport regardless.  This was our second RV trip there, having really loved both the town and the seaside campground in 2016.  It is power and water only on gravel sites, a couple of which are difficult to level, but all of them have gorgeous views of the bay. 

Our site at Carr Point overlooking the Narragansett Bay 

Our first day there all we did was sit outside and enjoy the environment, having done a minimum set up in preparation for the next day’s site move.  We executed that the next morning, and after a bit of confusion because I misread the site numbers (which you would think impossible in a place with only six spots) we got settled.  We had a great day exploring the nearby rocky beach, checking out the nearby Melville Municipal Park just in case we needed a one nighter there, and perusing the wares at the on base thrift store.

We had been pretty good about limiting our restaurant expenditures, and with it looking like we might have to shorten our stay, we rewarded ourselves with an evening out.  We try to eat the regional food in the places we go, so for Newport it was seafood, and oysters specifically.   Our research led us to Midtown Oyster Bar, which does a Wednesday evening “Shells and Champagne” special wherein their oyster chef pairs different types with a specific beer, wine, and sparkling wine.  Purchase a glass and you get the three of the designated oysters.  Purchase a bottle of the wine or sparkling and you get a dozen.

We went with the bottle of wine, a savignon blanc, and had a great small meal splitting the dozen shellfish.  They are much smaller than the Apalachicola vareity, but quite tasty.  During the process we learned that this region has a god number of oyster farmers that create a growing variety of oysters types based on the breed they start with and then growing them in specific conditions.  Sort of like the craft brewers of the shellfish world.

Another view of part of Carr Point Recreation Area: one of three sections with plenty of room for overflow dry camping

The next morning we called the office to make one last check for an opening, but alas, no.  We had three options: move to the nearby county park (expensive,) stay in one of the overflow dry camping spots (apparently not yet authorized for use) or move on (shortening out stay in Newport from five to two days.)  We were really frustrated that Carr Point has four spots already already marked out for overflow, and yet no one in the office seems to know about them and could not approve us for a one night stay.  Speaking to our RV neighbors, it seemed like we would easily get away with stealth camping there since it is off base and they never send anyone out to check on it.

But still, there would be some stress involved, so we went with the third option, which you probably already new from the post title, and left for Maine, returning to Blueberry Pond for a short, restful stay.

Easton’s Beach

In which we accidentally go to West Point during graduation week.

I have been to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY, exactly one time: as part of a familiarization trip while I was teaching at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The only significant things I remember about that visit is how short the USMA parades were compared to Annapolis and that I met Senator John McCain at a social event.  We had a short and casual discussion about the value of keeping the Naval Academy Prep School (me pro, him con, with legislative complications iirc.)  So it was of interest when my research into where to stay in the Bear Mountain area of New York, per Rose’s regional priorities, lead me firmly to the Army recreation area at Round Pond, managed by West Point’s extended command structure. 

Through one leg of the Chesapeak Bay Tunnel

Of course, we didn’t get there without some mild drama.  We needed to break up the drive from Norfolk, and I found another Air Force Base, Dover in Delaware,  roughly half way along the route.  Their Family Camp is quite small, about 13 hook up sites, but with plenty of drycamping overflow.  A phone call to the office just prior to our arrival revealed that the hook up section was completely full, but as we pulled through the place there was an empty spot.  Turns out the previous tenant left early without checking out, so it worked out well for us, and we got another stamp in our Frequent Camper book as well. 

Our site at Dover AFB’s Family Camp.  

Though I had looked into routes to minimize the toll costs, I could find no realistic way that didn’t significantly increase the drive time, so we bit the bullet and just took the shortest recommendation from Google Maps.  We had already spent $31 between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and the Delaware tolls.  New Jersey and New York added another $47 between them!  Still not as bad as our first trip through New York in 2016 where the George Washington Bridge alone cost us $82

Heading deeper into the land of toll roads.

The timing of our West Point visit happened to fall on academy graduation week, a coincidence that might have made reservations difficult in a smaller campground, but the army has a lot of land, and they were able to fit us in.  I suppose we can be thankful that this was Annapolis’ year to have the president attend, so neither traffic nor my personal opinions were overly offended.  The situation reminded me of our last minute and random selection of an RV park in Indio, CA, which turned out to be the town on the outskirts of the Coachella Festival the week before said event.  Then, as now, we were lucky to get a spot.

Our site at Round Pond Recreation Area near West Point.

We had miscommunicated our travel intentions with nearby Mahopac friends Star & Michael; they had already committed to plans for the weekend, so we had a couple of days to ourselves.  The campground had a surprising variety of wildlife, not just birds and chipmunks, but also a family of woodchucks that visited our site on a couple of mornings.

Hard to get a size appreciation here, but looked as big as the cat, though a lot of that is probably just the thick fur. 

PKM was very interested, but momma looked to be bigger than the cat and pretty tough, so we were extra careful about keeping her on her leash and monitored when outside.  Which didn’t prevent her from catching one of the chipmunks, but we got her to let it go and given the speed with which it ran off, we think it survived.

PKM and I watching the wildlife.

The Bronx contingent of Rose’s extended family descended on us on day 3: Titi Mari, cousin Dwayne, and KK.  They originally planned on just swinging by for a short visit and to drop off some things for Rosemarie, but the peaceful beauty of the park and the intrigue of our lifestyle kept them most of the day.  We had a great time catching up and telling stories of our misspent youth.

A bit tired after near continuous visits with family and friends over the course of the last two months, and having trouble securing reservations at our next stop, we extended extending our three day stop to four.  This allowed as a short day trip to Bear Mountain State Park, which was nice but the drizzle and fog limited the potentially great views.

The view from the top of Bear Mountain State Park’s observation area.

We tried to visit the West Point Museum and visitors center, but the GPS was confused as to how to navigate the base, and we even ended up blowing through a guarded check point in our confusion.  It was pretty poorly marked, the guard was not visible, and we approached it from the side rather than the front, but still my fault for being distracted.  Had we not turned right around and come back out there would have been some excitement.  By the time we got oriented, the visitor center was closing, so all we got was a walk through the gift shop and a picture outside.  Ah well, we are not museum people anyway.

Since this might be the last commissary we would see for some time we stocked up on meat and other supplies before heading east towards Rhode Island.