Sunday, October 30, 2016

Back Home

Our time at Bluewater Resort was winding down along with our
visit with Marcel & Michaela.

Before we said goodby however we had one last day enjoying the sun and
water at our lovely site.

Our final sunrise
The creature from Black Lagoon? 

Another of the locals.

After a fun and relaxing day, we went out for a farewell dinner and just like that,
our 9 day visit was over.

In the morning Marcel & Michaela headed to MIA to catch a Lufthansa A380 to
Frankfurt, while we caught a northbound Party Bus to Disneyworld in Orlando.

Our plan was to spend 6 days.   4 of the days Kate would be gone to Chicago to
visit her friend Mary while I held down the fort.
Upon arrival however, just as I was unhooking the Towed I wrenched my back and
spent the next 5 days horizontal on the couch chewing on muscle relaxants.

We were the only folks at Disneyworld I would guess who did not partake of the parks.

The campground at Disney - Fort Wilderness is very nice.
Large well kept sites with full hookups and the price to match.

Entry to 800 loop at Fort Wilderness.
It seems that each year around Halloween there is a competition for the best decorated
campsite and some folks were really putting their creative side to work.
The pictures below were of a side down the road from us.   At night there was animated
smoke, a ghost steering the ship etc.

Across the street from us - the orange trailer door would open every so often and
a skeleton would pop out.

The people next to us had a large Spider that would sense motion and jump out at people.
We saw plenty of people walk by only to have the spider jump out at them causing
all sorts of screams!

Our next to last night I was finally able to get about and we had the pleasure of a visit
from our Sailboat buddies and good friends Hayden & Radeen who were headed south
to Stewart to re-commission their Island Packet and head back to the Bahamas
for another winter season. 

On our last day at Fort Wilderness I left the bus and we hopped on the water taxi
to visit the hotels that surround Bay Lake & the 7 Seas Lagoon.

Our first stop was the Wilderness Lodge.
It is themed after the Yellowstone Lodge and inside you can almost
feel that you are there.

After having lunch at the Wilderness Lodge we hopped back on the boat and
headed to the Contemporary Resort which you can see in the photo below.

A neat feature of the CR is that the monorail enters one end of the hotel and exits the other
end after picking up and dropping off passengers.

A photo from the door of the monorail inside the CR just as
we were about to depart the station.
Rooms in the hotel either look down upon the monorail station,
or look outward over the park. 

We rode the Monorail to our next stop, the Grand Floridian Hotel,
The GFH is a huge property with many buildings on its expansive grounds.
I cant say for certain but it must be one of the largest at Disneyworld.

The hotel has a Victorian theme.

The pool with another of the buildings behind.

The main Hotel Building

All of the hotels that we visited are situated in a circle around the shores of the
7 Seas Lagoon or the interconnected Bay Lake, and are accessible by free water
taxi that you can take about the park.

After visiting the GF Hotel, we changed taxis at the Magic Kingdom docks and took
our final taxi of the day back to Fort Wilderness.

An interesting feature of the lakes is the canal that was dug to connect the man-made
7 seas lagoon with the natural Bay Lake.

It crosses the road here and overhead, unseen in this photo the monorail also goes by.
Its an interesting feeling crossing over busses in a boat.

Back at the bus the two doodles held down the fort.
Below I was cutting some steak for dinner (not for them)
and you can see how they lay there just hoping that some would find its way to them.
(It did)

Trip Recap

On Friday morning we left Ft Wilderness and headed north.
Our stop for the night was about 5 hrs north in Hardeeville, SC at
Camp Lake Jasper.

Saturday morning we made the final 400 mile trip Home.

The map below shows our travels the last 9 weeks.
We clicked off about 7,100 miles 
and tons of great memories.

Now we are not sure what this winter will bring.
Right now it looks like we will stay parked for 6 months till May.
Maybe a short winter reprieve to Florida?

All that is certain at this point is our early May departure for
the Yukon and Alaska for next summer.

In the interim - safe travels everyone.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Pines to Palms Route

We left you last as Hurricane Matthew was roaring north up the eastern US coast,
and we were roaring south along the same coast.
In between was our home on the NC coast...

First - our home is fine.
Second - so are we.

I had chosen our route from Maine to Fla to take us inland, heading south on
I-81 then back to the coast on I-26 at Columbia SC, and then back down the coast
on I-95 to South Fla.

I had to do some rescheduling as one of our stops called and left me a message
that they were evacuating inland and the RV Park was closed.

No problem...  all part of the Journey.

Campground Reviews

Many of you email me asking about campgrounds at which we stay,
and I know that many of you use the blog for your own trip research, so let me try to be
a bit more formal about trying to get that info included.
Here is a synopsis of our other stops on the way south.
(sorry no pictures)

After Normandy Farms we had a 530 mile drive south to the
Shenandoah Valley Campground
Exit 269 On I-81  Mt Jackson, Va.

A nice overnight stop, we had a long pull thru with FHU and stable 50amp.
Campground Reviews gives it a 7.8 and for an overnight stop - I'd say that is fair.
As a destination stop I'd give it a 6.9 or 7.
We only hooked up electric and had good Verizon signal.
As an aside - they have a small kitchen where they supposedly smoke meats,
unfortunately it was not running when we passed thru.

The Fort Chiswell RV Park.
Our next stop was just 180mi south in Ft Chiswell, Va.

Those of you who travel the Blue Ridge area might recall the town.
Next to Wytheville and the Truckstops at the I-81/I-77 junction,
the campground is conveniently located for either interstate.

FHU and stable 50amp.   Pull thru long enough to stay hooked up.
Campsite Reviews gives it an 8.3 and I just dont get that one at all.
As an overnight park I'd give it perhaps 7.4.
As a destination 6.5
Certainly fine for an overnight stop and very convenient.

We finally hooked up here to drain tanks and refill water as its been a week or so.

The Barnyard RV Park
Lexington, SC - a Columbia Suburb

About 3 hrs from Ft Chiswell, we stopped here because our planned stop further down the road
had evacuated due to Matthew and was closed.

A nice park behind a large fleamarket - again for me not a destination park but fine for overnight.
My site was not long enough to stay hooked up.
FHU and 50amp.   Good Verizon signal.
We only hooked up electric.
Some spots in the park were a bit tight for maneuvering but not a big deal.
I'd rate it about the same at Ft Chiswell.   
RV Park reviews says 7.5 which is fair in the overnight category.

Treasure Coast RV Park
Ft. Pierce, Fl.
We've been here before.   A very nice park.
Long Pull-thrus and back in sites.
FHU 50amp solid Verizon signal.
RV Park Reviews gives them 9.3   I'd give it about 8.5 which is still good.
It is definitely a destination park with lots of snowbirds in winter.

Now back to the story

After leaving the Barnyard, we headed Southeast on I-26 from Columbia to the coast,
 and then I-95 south from there.
Along the way damage from the storm was evident everywhere.
Trees down had been cut and cleared.
At one point low hanging branches actually scraped the roof of the Bus as we passed by.

Our initial Florida destination was CB Smith Park in Broward County.
Our friends Marcel & Michaela were flying in from Switzerland and we came here
in order to first spend time with them in the Miami area.

CB Smith is a county park in Pembroke pines.
FHU with 50amp and decent sized spaces and spacing.

And it comes with a herd of Iguanas.
The little critters were changing color and running all over the place. 

We surprised Marcel & Michaela at the airport.
Soon they were visiting us at the park and taking the Doodles for a stroll. 

A view back towards our bus.

Visiting in the bus.

We braved the traffic to visit M&M over at their hotel in Miami Beach.
The Miami traffic is horrendous but the view from the hotel was wonderful.

A self portrait on the balcony.

We had a wonderful Sunday morning brunch on the patio outside the hotel.
An amazing assortment of foods was enjoyed in this beautiful tropical oceanside setting.

After several days in Miami we headed 150 miles south to the keys.
Traveling over the 7 mile bridge.

Bluewater Key RV Resort

Ok... one more park review.
This place is beautiful.   Beautiful Landscaping with FHU and Cable.
All the sites are privately owned and leased at the owners discretion.
Each site therefore is individual in nature with different landscaping and amenities.

The view of our site

In between the roads is a nice park with picnic area.
This was taken right by our site.

This is the view standing next to the door of the bus.
We had a nice Tiki hut with curtains that could be pulled down to
block wind or rain if needed.
It also had a sink and refrigerator.

Kate & Lucy enjoy the view

A Doodle gets reflective...
or is she hunting for fish?

We took some nice swims right from the dock.

Bluewater is truly a great park.
It is like Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort on a tropical island.

Into Key West to see the sights.
Below is the Customs House.

A cruise ship was in town so we had several thousand extra people running about.

Fortunatley it made a 130 departure.
It was funny watching the thousands of folks heading zombie-like 
all at once headed back to the ship.

We stopped and spent a little time at Smathers Beach on the south shore of Key West.


I'm not quite sure what the deal is, but there are a lot of chickens running
around Key West.
It further makes me ask: 
"why do they cross the road?"

Tonight we again said goodbye to Marcel & Michaela.
In the morning we head to Disneyland - Ft Wilderness Campground,
they head to MIA to board a Lufthansa A380 to Frankfurt.

Its always sad to say goodbye to our good friends 
but as Marcel says to Kate when she is sad saying goodbye:
"The end is always the beginning of the next adventure."

See you soon my friends.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

New Brunswick - Maine - Points South

Since our last post at Fundy National Park, we've put about 1,100 miles under the tires and have
officially concluded our whirlwind tour of the Canadian Maritimes.

We left Fundy NP and headed south to Saint John, NB
We left on a crisp fall day with the trees showing more and more color as the days pass.

Our stop for 2 nights was Rockwood Park in Saint John.
Centrally located and with full hookups it is a convienent place to visit the largest
city in New Brunswick and second largest (behind Halifax) in the Maritimes.

Rockwood Park is a huge urban park with miles of trails that wind thru the hills and
around numerous lakes

Our site was located in a large flat area - more like a big gravel parking lot with some trees,
but it was sparsely populated and quiet.

A short walk up the hill and we were able to get a glimpse of the city
 and the Bay of Fundy beyond the harbor.

These campsites would have the view - but also the noise from below.  
We were tucked behind the hill and it was nice and peaceful.

I did not get a picuture of our campsite but it was a long pull thru.  Long enough to stay
hooked up.    This view of the deer across from us give an idea of the environment.

We had a robust schedule of things to see while in town but work has been extremely busy
lately so it was scaled back.   One stop we had to make was the 
Saint John City Market - the oldest continuously operated farmers market in Canada.

The market moved to its current building in 1876.
It was a feast for the senses.
We bought some breads and baked goods, meats, and fresh produce to stock
up the pantry.

Forced to press on - our time did not allow us to visit the reversing falls so that will have
to wait for another day.

We crossed the border back into the US at Calais, Me.
Once again we were relieved of some of our produce by US Customs but managed
to keep most of it.

Our next stop was 4 days in Bar Harbor.
We stayed at the Oceanside KOA on an electric/water site.
We had filled our water tank and drained the others at Saint John in anticipation
of a week or do of travel and no hookup.

We had a pretty decent view from the bus.
I think after all the gorgeous places that we've been we are getting pretty fussy about the views.
The view out the front window at dusk.   (notice the Halloween Pumpkins)

Once again work has been keeping my nose to the grindstone but I did manage to cut
out for an afternoon and we took the drive up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park,
and grab some lunch in Bar Harbor.

There were 2 cruise ships in Bar Harbor the day of our visit.

I checked the ship arrival schedule for Bar Harbor and there was going to be at least
2 ships per day in town each day so no day was going to be better as far as crowds.

Acadia National Park is famous for its views and the 57 miles Carriage Roads that were built
by John D Rockefeller, Jr between 1913 and 1930.

During this time -  just after the Guilded Age in the US - many of the new industrial
barons in the country were building huge palaces and 
other monuments celebrating their wealth and power.

The Biltmore in NC was completed in 1895,  
 The Hearst Castle in 1919 (although construction continued for Decades)

Today the roads are preserved for Hikers, Bikers, and Horses.
Unfortunately I was unable to break away from work to spend time on them.

We did try to schedule a horse drawn carriage ride though but its hard to compete with limited
seats when several thousand cruise passengers have arrived to look at the pretty colors.

And speaking of pretty colors...

I've spent a large part of my life living in the Northeast US among the colorful
hardwoods and this year seems to be mind-blowing as far as the colors.
I don't know if it was a localized  event - 
(these pictures were taken in Northern Main heading south on I-95) -
of if the rest of the region will be seeing these colors,
but I do not remember ever seeing such vibrant colors as we did during this stretch.

We left Bar Harbor and had a very colorful 6 hr drive south to Foxboro, Mass,
to Normandy Farms RV Resort.

Just an overnight stop for us so I reserved a long pull thru where I did not need to unhook.
Full hookups and 50amps seems to be most of the sites.
The place is huge and quite nice.

Normandy Farms Site #D-1
This resort is a destination campground for families for sure and one of those parks
where the word "Resort" in the name is deserved.
Every imaginable activity is here.
Baseball fields, Basketball, Tennis, 2 outdoor and 1 indoor pool etc etc. 

An outdoor food court. 

2 of the 3 Pools.
I took this from the Shuffleboard Court.
Our bus is hiding between the trees top right center.

We left Foxboro at 0630 headed to the Shenandoah Valley Virginia.
A 540 mile day took us thru Mass, CT, NY, NY, PA, MD, WVA, and finally into VA.
8 States and 9 hrs later we are in Quicksburg, Va for an overnight stay.
Today is a short 3 hrs to Wytheville, VA for an overnight.

We have reached the outer rain bands from Hurricane Matthew.
The winds will stay out towards the coast and we are traveling south inland on I-81,
but I expect we will get wetter as we head south towards Fla.

Matthew is forecast to affect our home on the NC coast with up to 75mph gusts on Sunday
and we are keeping an eye on the weather as we move about.

It's all part of the journey.