Back to Ellsworth, Bar Harbor, and our favorite Moose.

We left Meadowbrook and headed about 100 miles up the road to Ellsworth, a mid-sized Down East town on the mainland outside of Bar Harbor.  We really enjoy Coastal Maine in general, the Bar Harbor region in particular, and the Ellsworth Moose lodge specifically.   I have said it on this blog before: of the 28 Moose Lodges we have visited, none matched the welcome we received at Ellsworth.  It made such an impression on us that during our visit last year we transferred our home membership there.  More on the Moose later.

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There would be a lot of this going on during our stay in Ellsworth.

During our first trip here in 2016 we split time between Mount Desert Narrows (until the Passport America rate ran out) and Bar Harbor Campground (a first come, first serve park that got us through the July 4th weekend.)  We enjoyed Mount Desert Narrows enough that in 2017 we splurged on a full month there, a rare occurrence for us outside of Key West.  It was nice, but considering the steep price, even on the monthly rate, we resolved that this year we would stay closer to Ellsworth and pay a bit less, even if we weren’t right on the water.

After research we selected Timberland Acres RV Park, technically just outside Ellsworth in the small town of Trenton.   The office cooperated with our request for “green stuff near our site” and placed us against the tree line with another row of trees on one side.  The site was of moderate size, but the tree lines plus rarely having a neighbor made it seem far more spacious.  It wasn’t cheap: power and water for $38 a night for the first four (off season rate) and $43.50 for the last six, and those rates include a 15% military discount.  It’s all about location and amenities: this park aimed for the resort end of the campground spectrum and is located close to the popular tourist destinations of Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.

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PKM loving the warm concrete.

I believe we went to the Moose every other day, and always had a great time, but particularly so on Rosemarie’s Birthday.  I had put the word out that if any of the members could make it we would be providing cake.  We had about a dozen people there, and we couldn’t buy our own drinks all evening.  The cake, provided by Shaw’s, was beautiful and delicious as well.  We really look forward to coming back (in two years, we think) and visiting this Moose once they have moved into their new, nearly renovated building.

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Decadence!

During an outing to Airline Brewing Company another couple there introduced us to the Maine Beer Trail, a fold out map and listing of all of the craft breweries in Maine.  Fantastic by itself, but it also offered a challenge: get  dated signature from staff at 10 different breweries, get a free Maine Beer Trail hat, visit 15 get a t-shirt, and visit them all get a secret special prize.  Count us in!  We only wish we had discovered it while we were still in Phippsburg since we hit three breweries in the region and would have been willing to go to more.  We would already be over ten by now! 5-brew-fogtown-flight-2

Oh well, in addition to Airline (great building interior, good food) we found Fogtown (a very hip, youthful vibe) in Ellsworth, and Atlantic (fantastic “Mainely Meats BBQ” on premises) on Bar Harbor.  During a day outing the Beer Trail map led us to Strong Brewing Company in Sedgwick, where we got to meet the actual owners and brewers.  I don’t know how many states have beer map with incentive concept going on, but I highly recommend it.

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The quaint outdoor sitting area at Strong Brewing Company.

Did we Geocache? Of course we geocached, but only a little bit during already planned outings.  No dedicated afternoons searching, just seven or so caches during our stay while out and about.

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Rose and the Deer Isle Bridge during a sea glass hunting expedition.

Rose discovered that Ellsworth had a twice a week farmers market, and after emailing in some information we were invited to participate as drop in vendors for up to two events.  We opted for a single Saturday, and set up on the designated small parking lot on a beautiful sunny day with light winds.  There were only about a dozen total sellers, but we had a steady stream of people and ended up doing very well.  8-market

What could make the day even better?  How about a Shriners Parade?  The Maine Shriners were having their annual convention, which is held at the current Potentate’s (head guy, president, etc) home town, or at least home area.  I don’t recall ever seeing a Shriner’s parade, just a few of the funny little cars included as part of a larger event.  This was all Shriners, and it was far bigger and more complex than I anticipated.  They had dozen’s of different groups of vehicles, a couple of bands, marchers, trucks, clowns, a score of classic and high end convertibles, and more.  Since we had just closed up from our market we had our chairs ready and time enough to set them up in a prime location for the show.  What a great day.

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One of many Shriners entertainment groups, Airline Brewing Company in the background.

That’s it for Ellsworth.  We had made loose plans to go straight to Canada, but a recommendation from Jim had us look at one last Maine local before heading across the border, so that will be our next post.  Oh, and only 12 days behind on the blog now! 10-shriners-1

Maine! Phippsburg, Bath, Boothbay Harbor

Four and a half years of full time RVing through 48 states and 5 Canadian provinces means we get to answer the “what was your favorite place” question a lot.  Aside from our winter home in Key West and other Florida faves, our usual answer is something along the lines of “We can’t narrow it down to one place, but we really loved Nova Scotia, Washington’s Whidbey Island, Idaho’s Salmon River, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and Coastal Maine.  Yes, I know, they are all north of The Wall, but we have the advantage of visiting them only during the late spring, summer, and early fall.

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It was definitely campfire weather this stop.  Our spacious site on the edge of the woods.  

These are destination spots for us, and thus no eastern circuit of the US will fail to see us in Maine, and hopefully Nova Scotia and the U.P. as well.  We included all of them in our 2019 route planning, and the first week of June we finally made it back to Meadowbrook Camping Area in Phippsburg, ME.  We first discovered this great park in the woods back in 2016 as merely a place for me to hang while Rose was visiting relatives in Virginia.  But the location, price, amenities (on site lobstah pound!) and general ambiance brought us back in 2018.  We both loved it enough to make it our first stop in the state this year.

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Rose discovered her new favorite drink, Woodchuck’s pear based cider.

During May, June, September, and October they honor the Passport America 50% discount rate, which we means we were paying $24 a day for full hook ups in a spacious site.  The have a pool, free wifi, hiking trails, fishing ponds, a paint ball arena, and more.  Did I mention the on site lobstah pound?  They have that as well, steaming your crustacean or clams to order at a great price.  The lay out of the park offers two sections depending on your preferences: the field with no trees to obstruct your satellite TV, or the wooded hill with every site under a canopy.  We chose the latter.

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Splurged on two for my last lobster meal at Meadowbrook.

Phippsburg itself is tiny, but we found plenty to keep us occupied in the region.  Aside from the three dinners we enjoyed on premises, we also found Bisson’s Center Store, the bodega/convenience store that had the shockingly good pizza last year: order it with extra cheese for a decadent experience.  Bath is just a few miles away with plenty of restaurants, shops, and Bath Brewing that, in addition to excellent pale ale, serves a mean burger with bacon-onion jam.  4-pizza

Boothbay Harbor is only a half hour drive, and we love that area.  We headed there twice during our six day stay, hitting the farmers market, two breweries, and Kaler’s, the restaurant/bar we patronize during every visit.  The market is small, perhaps 15 vendors, but we had a wide variety of choices for cheese, baked goods, and veggies. 5

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We first came to Boothbay Harbor with Linda (while she and Jayson were stationed in Maine) on a cold rainy day years before Rose and I were RVers.  We sought refuge in Kaler’s.  One our fond memories from the region, and we keep coming back. 

Footbridge Brewery had opened within weeks of our arrival, and the crew there were really fun, as well as providing excellent beer.  Boothbay Brewery has one of the coolest building interiors we have seen in a craft brew place, and has really gone out of there way to appeal to RVers: they have five RV sites with hook ups, though they are a bit pricey.

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At the time of our visit, this was Maine’s newest craft brewery.

We incorporated some geocaching into one of our Boothbay trips, and I did a handful more in Bath while Rose manned the laundromat.  The dozen we did this first week of June is more than we did the first four months of the year, so we are starting to really get back into it.  I also have half a dozen or so “trackables” (small trinkets with a registration tag that lets you log them in and see where they have been, which for many is thousands of miles of travel) from Florida that I have now started dropping off in some of these northern locals.  See this post if you have know idea what I am talking about.  7-trackables

OK, still three weeks behind, but that will change after our next post detailing our Triumphant Return to Ellsworth and Bar Harbor.  8-fire-feet

 

53 Months Fulltiming: May 2019 Report

Diligent attention to maintaining this here blog over the last month has resulted in us closing the gap from six weeks behind to just over three.  I hope to report we are completely caught up by the next monthly re-cap.

The Distance:  1,503 as we worked our way over to and up the East Coast all the way to Rhode Island.  I suspect the real mileage is a we bit higher due to our trail and error maneuver to avoid NY, which I could not possibly recreate on google maps   Total for the year has climbed to 2,482 miles, and w are right on track with our 2019 Plan.  July will be another big mileage month for us as well.

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Really moving now!

Places:  We finished our last few days in Wekiwa Springs State Park before hitting our last Florida location, Gilchrist Blue Springs to see cousins.   We truly began our move up the East Coast with three stops near even more friends and family as we passed through Georgia, The Carolinas, and Virginia.  We started with a short stop to see Fred and Donna in Savannah, five days in Wilmington with my Mom and Stepdad, and five more in the Norfolk Region around the ALS walk.  This got us about half way up the country.  We closed out the month with a longer than expected stop in Dover, Delaware and a hard push around NYC to get to Portsmouth and Newport, Rhode Island.

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Me in Gilchrist Blue Springs’ second spring.

We spent the majority of the month, 17 days, in military campgrounds, along with 7 in state parks, 2 in private parks, and 5 with family.  We enjoyed full hook ups for 16 days, partial for 10, and the luxury of a non-moving house for 5.  Aside from the heavily subsidized military campgrounds, we received a 50% Passport-America discount for two nights.

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Team Linda at the ALS Walk.

Budget:  3% under.  Not much, but we will take it.  We were able to counteract the significant increase in our gas expenditures and social costs of visiting family and friends (so many restaurants) with conservative campground fees; our daily park costs for the month averaged a hair over $22.  We also benefited from vending at our first event two months, Bower’s Beach Buccaneer Bash.  We remain under for the year, but expect June to be a budget challenge.

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Implements of destruction and their result. 

The Drama and the Improvements:   Little to report.  I have figured out a method to make our stairs work pretty consistently until we get back to Florida so Mr Mobile RV can replace control unit.  We also are managing an ongoing problem with our rear slide wanting to creep out while driving under certain conditions.  It’s slow, maybe two inches per hour, but it’s annoying.  Rose’s ER visit certainly fits in this paragraph, along with our urgent research to find accommodations after learning of the new “no overnight parking” rule at the Savannah Visitor Center and our stressful efforts to get around New York City.

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Five Days in the Newport, RI at an underrated Navy Campground

Nearly five years into full time RVing and on our third tour of the East Coast, we are focusing on, in addition to seeing family and friends, revisiting those regions and parks we really loved, skipping over those that were merely fine or just don’t work for this itinerary, and hopefully finding some new fantastic stops as well.  This can produce mixed results like it did in Savannah, a place we really enjoy, but with their revised visitor center rules we were forced to seek alternative accommodations.   We had great visits with Mom and Tim in Wilmington and with Linda and family in Chesapeake, where we stayed at our third military campground in as many visits.

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I am not sure we are even supposed to be on this road.

After our longer than expected Delaware stop we needed to pick up the pace to stay on our intended schedule, and so we skipped past New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.  Such skipping was not without drama.  I planned a bit of a westward detour to avoid passing through New York City on I-95 and the egregious toll fee on the Goerge Washington bridge.   Despite my research and intentions our GPS kept trying to reroute us to a cars only parkway, which resulted in several last minute changes, some tight maneuvering in towns west of the Hudson River, and a good amount of stress.  Eventually we found a mostly legal route to the Tappanzee Bridge, and it was all smooth sailing after that.

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But we made it through and it’s all down here from here.

So eight hours into our drive, far longer than our preferred daily run, we finally made it to Carr Point Recreation Area in Portsmouth, managed by the Newport Naval Station across the bay.  A tiny park consisting of only six no frills sites in almost every way: no shower house, no playground, no trees, no concrete pads, no camp host, no wifi, no dump station, no almost anything except power, water, and unobstructed views of the Narraganset Bay a stones throw from every site.  That’s why we come here.

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Driving over the Clairborne Pell Newport Bridge

Unfortunately, this would be a bit of a lazy stop for us: the first day was shot due to the drive, we had a couple of days of foul weather, and started things off with a medical issue.  Rose has been having some upper abdominal pain that we generally attributed to a strain or cartilage inflammation, but it got worse over a couple of months, so we went to the local urgent care.  They were savvy enough to tell us that the type of tests they would need to run would entail going to the hospital, so we might as well just go straight to the ER.  Newport Hospital is not only in our TriCare insurance network, it was also one of the better ER visits either of us had experienced.  We got in quite quickly and with minimal fuss, and received excellent care and attention.  X-Rays and fluid test results revealed mostly normal readings, and the doctor assessed her as having a peptic ulcer.  Medication and diet change has made significant progress already, and here’s to more.

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Rose feeling better for an outing during a break in the rain.

Despite some bad weather we found the time for a few outings, and took advantage of being back on a base to visit the commissary and thrift store.  During a trip to downtown and historic Newport we stumbled across the B&B that we stayed at during a weekend visit from Rose while I was attending school in Newport while we were still dating!  We also did some casual geocaching in the area during breaks in the weather.

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A casual dozen geocaches found during our stay.

We met Roy and Theresa, our neighbors in the campground, and enjoyed a couple of evenings of cocktails and world problem solving conversations.  It turns out both of us are on RVillage, a social networking site specifically for RVers, and we are now keeping up with them as they enjoy a 49 day guided caravan tour of Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.   Since our plans take us to Eastern Canada around the same window, we hope to meet up with them again.

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Front page or our RVillage account.  Other than messages, it allows you to see other Villagers in your campground or those at your future stops. 

Catching up! We are only three weeks behind on the blog now, and will close that gap significantly with a couple of upcoming posts about our wonderful stay in Maine.  image-11

Delaware for longer than anticipated, but who can turn down a pirate festival?

After departing the Norfolk area we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, an experience in and of itself with a hefty $34 toll for our rig, and pulled into the family campground on Dover Air Force Base.  We stopped there last year for a couple of days, and remembered it to be quite decent.  Like almost all AFB campgrounds everything is in excellent condition and reasonably priced: we had 50 amp and full hook ups for $20 a night.  Sure, Dover is not exactly on everyone’s must see list, but it worked as a nice stopover after spending five days with family.

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The Dover AFB campground only has 15 serviced sites.

We planned for a two night stay, but then Rose learned of a Buccaneer Bash at nearby Bowers Beach, basically a pirate festival with a lot of people in full historical costume, and they accepted us as vendors, so we ended up staying a full five nights.  It had been ten weeks since our last sales event, which made it almost like starting over as we had to pull out all our racks and equipment and get everything ready.  Rose went gangbusters building our inventory back up and organizing the racks while I, um, supervised.  OK, I had to pull out all the tables, racks, displays, and canopy and load the car, but Rose did the lion’s share of the prep.

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Setting up on day 1

We were rewarded with an excellent result at this two day event, and had a great time doing it.  It is always fun to walk around and see the other vendors and purchase a few items.  For us this is usually food, and we enjoyed a breakfast sandwiches, fries, and craft beer from a local brewery.  This festival had some live music, plenty of cosplayers, and a “pirate camp” devoted to those in full period attire with 18th century and before style tents, producing goods and items in authentic style or at least authentic appearance) and giving demonstrations and reenactments.  We could have done without the periodic cannon fire, though.  img_20190526_123016

Despite brisk sales, we had to cut the first day short when the wind picked up considerably and threatened not just our racks but the entire canopy despite our tent weights.  Day two had considerably better weather but slower sales; it seemed like a third of the vendors didn’t bother coming for the second day. img_20190525_125144

We also visited the local Moose Lodge, Camden-Wyoming #203, for a drink on our last day in town.  This Moose is likely the second most welcoming (nothing will ever top our Ellsworth home lodge) of the 26 we have visited.  In addition to one of the generous members covering our first round, they gave us a license tag to take to our home lodge, and were generally interested in our travels and glad that we stopped in.  Of interest for the next time we get to Delaware: I asked the handful of members if there was something that they considered a specific regional food.  After some internal discussion, they came back with scrapple.  Yes, scrapple.

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All the Moose’s we have visited

We got to see a bit of drama during our stay in the park.  One of the campers, staying in on of those Class B camper vans, left his spot to run some errands, meaning he took the van since it was his only transportation.  While he was out, another camper in a big Class A with no reservations pulled into his spot, having failed to check with the front office about availability or check the board with posted reservations.  When van guy returned, Class A guy refused to give him back his spot!  The cops came, and after about an hour and apparently several phone calls, Class A guy was forced to move, and nearly kicked out of the entire campground.  Bizarre.  We actually ran into van guy at the festival, he had a sense of humor about it and gave us the full blow by blow.  image-2

Our only regret about our Delaware stop was not being able to see Stan and Marilyn, who were out of town during out stay.  Next time, guys! As for bringing the blog up to date: I was on a real streak for a while with 8 posts in 11 days, only to get lazy with a 9 day lapse.  With this and yesterday’s post, we are getting back on track, though still nearly four weeks behind. 7-sunset

 

Up to the Norfolk area for more family visits and an annual ALS fundraiser walk.

ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is the worstThose afflicted maintain all of their intellectual capability and senses as they observe their own body betraying them, relentlessly shutting down, system by system.  Over the course of a couple of years  they loose the ability to walk, then talk, then eat, then breath.  Along the way their family becomes ever more stressed by the ever increasing demands on them, physically and emotionally, as caretakers.  1-linda-jayson

And yet you see the heroic, and I do not use that world lightly, strength in both those with the disease and those caring for them.  The family that raised the most money and had the biggest representation at this particular Hampton Roads fundraising walk had already lost their loved one to ALS years before, and yet here they were, walking in his memory and in the hope of a cure for those still fighting.  The primary speaker, an elementary school teacher diagnosed before she was 30, spoke with hope, optimism, humor, and fearlessness to kick off the event.  2-eli-and-jude

This is supposed to be about hope and love, but I want to hit at something else, something that perhaps we have all encountered or struggled with: where does the support flow from and to in situations of tragedy?  I am not a Christian.  I don’t hold out hope for an afterlife.  But I have the greatest respect for certain Christian writers who have had significant effect on my perspectives and opinions. 4-rose

Specifically, Fred Clarke, writing at Patheos, nailed something important in his post on this subject: support flows inward.  Imagine a set of concentric circles, like a target, with the actual victim at the center, her immediate family in the first ring, her closest friends and other family in the next ring, etc and outward.  From where and to where does the support flow?  It must flow inward.  To the victim, to her family. No one should expect the victim or her family to provide you, somewhere on the outside, with some sort of support, or even thanks for you support.  It is not about you, it is about them.  5-linda-and-jayson

Enough of that.  We had a great visit; it’s always great to hang out with Linda’s big and growing family.  All three of her boys, Chris, Junior, and Nathaniel, are still in the Norfolk area, though Chris is soon to transfer to Illinois.  Between them Linda now has ten grandchildren, which certainly makes for an interesting house when a group of them come over.  The walk itself was a great and successful event.  Linda’s friends and family came from near and far to show support, and Amy, Chris’ wife, sang the national anthem.  Though we may be a bit biased, she did so a beautiful job.

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House of Chaos

As for the usual: we stayed one night at Twin Lakes RV Resort on the way to Norfolk. It was a perfectly serviceable park on the Passport-America list that provided full hook ups and a pull through site for $30.  We then stayed five nights at the Little Creek Joint Expeditionary Base Campground, one of five military parks in the area.  Of the three at which we have stayed, this is so far our top choice.  6-back-roads-to-va

If you are of a mind to donate to ALS research, treatment, and palliative care, you have many options: Team Linda is one of them. 7-the-walk-crew

On to Wilmington, NC for Mother’s Day

We left Savannah better informed about the RV situation there, and with two solid options for staying there in the future, and headed North towards Wilmington.  In keeping with our drive distance preferences we made a one night stop just before the North Carolina boarder on I-95.  I played with the idea of staying at the RV park associated with the South of the Border theme park, but thought it might be too noisy and filled with rowdy kids hyped up on cotton candy and adrenaline, so we opted for Bass Lake RV Park, a Passport-America participant.  It was ideal for a one nighter: quite, full hook ups, and a pull through site for $20.

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Yes, that is the South of the Border water tower, and it is indeed designed to look like a sombrero.

The next morning we dropped Serenity off at Jack’s RV Storage, the same place we left him last year.  The place is really a granite counter top specialist, but the owner, who lives on site, runs several side business off his property, including boat and RV storage.  It’s cheap, secure, and situated close enough to Wilmington to be convenient for our needs.

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That sub heading under the Welcome to North Carolina sign: “Nations most military friendly state” is an easy claim to make, can you back it up?

Our timing this trip is working out quite well; we arrived in Wilmington the day before Mother’s Day and stayed for five days of work and play with Mom and Tim.    Wilmington took a direct hit from Hurricane Florence in September of last year, and like many other residents, they are still in the process of getting there house back in shape, a process made even more urgent by their desire to put the house on the market.

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Stone crab claws, quiche, fruit, cheese, prosecco, and acacia honey for Mother’s Day brunch.  If you have not had Acacia honey, do yourself a favor and try it. You won’t go back.

So in between outings to farmers markets, restaurants, wine tastings, and music lessons we pitched in where we could, making minor repairs and helping with the removal of a lot of vines overgrowing into the tree line in the back yard.  We made a lot of progress, though they still have some work for actual professionals to do before the place is 100%.

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Wielding various implements of destruction, we made huge inroads into taking down the vast array of vines strangling the trees between Mom and Tim’s house and the neighbor’s.

After discovering the wine tasting event at Sweet and Savory last year, it will be a priority for our visits to Wilmington.  This time around they paired five wines with five modest dishes, and so as not to be too glutinous, the four of us shared two orders of this special.  Almost everything was fantastic, and with the associated wine sale we left full and toting a couple of bottles as well.

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I have honestly never seen this before.  So apparently NC can make the boast with at least this bit of evidence.  To be honest, I am not sure why this should be a thing any more than “First Responders’, Nurses’, or Teachers'” reserved parking.

Perhaps the highlight of our visit was the music lessons Tim provided both of us.  Having purchased Rosemarie’s ukulele we had not made much headway on our own, but under Tim’s guidance we made significant progress!  As much as learning some basic chords and being able to switch between them, it was the assistance in strumming that we both really needed.

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Rex does not wish to play tug-o-war, but is just a bit suspicious about handing me his favorite stuffed toy to throw for fetch.

Next up: Norfolk region of Virginia.  Only 26 days behind on the blog now, catching up!

 

A short stop in Savannah to see old friends. Also: things have changed.

Of the Southern East Coast cities, Savannah is probably our favorite, and we try to put it on the route whenever we pass through Georgia.  We would cruise into town, park the rig at the downtown visitor center for $7 a night, and maybe treat ourselves to a hotel.  Either way we would be within walking distance of the river front area and several points of interest.  We would pay an additional $7 a day for Loki’s parking, but that gave us a pass good at any of the municipal lots in town.

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As you can see, it is love bug season in Florida.

So that was the plan this year as well.  We pulled into the visitor center parking lot in the mid afternoon and headed inside to make payment, only to be told that they no longer allowed any overnight parking, that we needed to be out of the lot by 6 PM, and if we stayed more than an hour we would be charged $20.  The ladies running the lot were sympathetic and helpful, but there was nothing to be done about this new city policy.  We could drive across the bridge and park at the convention center for $30 a night (no services, just dry camping in the parking lot) or we could look elsewhere.

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“Walking distance to the river front” is a bit deceptive: it has some pretty severe stairs.

So with less than an hour, we turned on our MiFi hotspot and urgently pulled up our go to RV campground websites:  Passport America (referrals available,)  All Stays, Campground Reviews, and US Military Campgrounds.  In the end, we backtracked a dozen miles to Lotts Island RV Campground on the Hunter Army Airfield base.  We arrived with no reservation, having been unable to get hold of anyone on the phone, and could find no camp host to ask about staying.

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A nice site with concrete patio and fire circle.

Even after driving to the MWR Outdoor Recreation Office, which was closed, I could find no procedure for after hours check in.  Embracing the “better to ask for forgiveness than permission” nature of the situation, we pulled in and hooked up at an empty site and hoped for the best.  While it’s not exactly walking distance to downtown Savannah, it’s a decent park with spacious sites, plenty of trees, and full hook ups for $25 a night.  Big rigs should be warned that the turn into the entry gate is quite tight.  4-sign

By this point we were starving, and so we headed back into town for an excellent meal and craft beer at a the Crystal Beer Parlor.  Though we came this time purely based on Rose’s Trip Advisor research, it turns out we had visited this place during one of our previous visits with our friends Fred and Donna.  It did not disappoint.  5-sunset

Speaking of Fred and Donna, the next day they drove in from Statesboro to hang out a bit with us.  We had lunch at a Texas Roadhouse before heading downtown to walk the river front tourist area.  It was great to catch up with these friends from our Miami Beach days, though we are sorry we missed Mark this year, and with him the best recovery possible.  img_20190509_153428750

We closed out our stay with another Moose Lodge, I think we are up to about 28 now.  This one was quite welcoming, and it turns out they have RV hook ups, giving us one more option for future Savannah visits now that the visitor center is off the table.  Next up: Wilmington, and we are down to only three weeks behind on the blog.  7-moose

Our plans for the rest of 2019

During our previous four years of full time RVing we alternated between a clockwise circuit of the western half of the country and a counter clockwise tour of the east.  Per this pattern, we were due to head back west this year, which is exactly what we planned right up until March.  We thought we would leave Key West about two weeks into that month and head west, aiming straight for New Mexico and Arizona, followed by Colorado and/or Utah, and then California and Oregon, with the weather determining our schedule and specific route.

All of that, by the way, would have been our March through June plan, in and effort to hit the national parks we missed in previous years, and to revisit the ones we loved.  Then it would be a couple of week on Whidbey Island in Washington, with uncertain plans after that to see Western Canada or Montana and Wyoming before sprinting east to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

But we are not doing any of that this year.  Our Cuba trip came up, which would have delayed our departure from Florida by several weeks as well as put a strain on the budget.  Also, it had been a while since we had been able to visit some of our East Coast friends and family, and so after careful consideration we have chosen to go east again this year.  The shorter distance means less costs, the more leisurely pace counteracts the later than planned start, the timing works perfect for family stops, and we get to revisit some of our favorite places (Coastal Maine, Nova Scotia, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) and explore some new ones.

Specifically, we left Florida in early May, and over the next 3 1/2 weeks worked our way up the East Coast.  We will spend the bulk of June in Maine and about five weeks in Canada, focusing on Nova Scotia, Quebec, and, hopefully, Newfoundland as well.  August and the first week or so of September we expect to be in the U.P. enjoying the Lake Superior shore and attending a bunch of markets to get our finances on track.

We will spend the rest of September and the first half of October leisurely working our way down to Florida, with stops in Iowa and Georgia, and tentative plans for some places in Minnesota and Wisconsin as well.  If you check our Where Are We Now page you can see how far we have gotten (we are in Ellsworth, Maine, just outside of Bar Harbor as of this post.)

Last Stop in Florida: Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

A year ago we visited Cousin Rob, Colleen, and the twins in Gainesville on our way out of Florida.  We stayed one night at O’leno State Park and River Rise: It was fine, but the water and swimming conditions were… not great.  Rob told us we should try to stay at Gilchrist Blue Springs, Florida’s newest state park, and we made a mental note of that for our next swing through the region.  It was a fantastic recommendation; we absolutely loved our stay there in October as we re-entered Florida.

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The main spring.  The jumping platform used to be just to the left of the snorkler.

While Bahia Honda State Park is probably our favorite in the state, and Wekiva Springs is our go to location in Central Florida, Gilchrist has become our favorite freshwater based park in Florida.  Don’t get me wrong, it is quite difficult to secure a weekend stay; even with our “check the website every day multiple times a day for cancellations” method, which usually works, we were unable to get our preferred days.  We settled for three nights, Sunday through Tuesday, with Rob and the twins able to join us on Sunday.

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Our site among the pines and oaks.

The main spring is a beautiful swimming and snorkeling hole, crystal clear, shallow in most spots but with a 20′ deep section for those inclined.  Not thrilled with the crowds, especially on weekends?  Take a stroll a hundred yards down a trail to the secondary spring, which most visitors apparently don’t know about.  There are a few other even smaller springs on the property, but they are less accessible and not at all “swim friendly.”

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The secondary spring.  As you can see, we had it all to ourselves.

The Florida State Park system continues to make changes to this formerly private attraction, with most of them aimed at reducing liability rather than improving things, I am afraid to say.  Rather than repair it, they removed a large section of the boardwalk (it used to go all the way down to where the spring run dumps into the Santa Fe River) and since our last stay the likewise took out the 8′ “jumping” platform over the main boil.  I wish they would focus on making the two mile entry road less bumpy, the campground loop less rutted, and the sites a bit easier to maneuver into rather than taking the fun things out, but c’est la vie, and regardless of these changes the place is still fantastic. 4-water-tower

The nearby small town of High Springs provided us a bit of distraction as well, particularly the one Mexican restaurant in town, El Patio.  We did our traditional Cinco de Mayo meal and margaritas there, and it was quite decent and affordable. 5-cinco

I am going to start putting exactly how many days behind we are on this blog at the end of each post in the hopes that it will motivate me to keep pushing until we catch up.  As of now, counting from when we left Gilchrist until when we arrived at our current location: 4 1/2 weeks.  Closing that gap!  Next up: our plans for the rest of 2019.