Sunday, October 29, 2023

Shawnee SP to Gettysburg to Virginia

We left you last as we had just arrived at Shawnee State Park in Pensylvania.    We had stayed here for a few days about 8 yrs ago, and I thought that it might be a pretty place to spend some time in the fall as we worked our way south with the changing fall colors.

It turned out to be a good idea.

Originally we had reserved site #65.   Upon arrival we realized that the park has sections for dogs and sections without dogs.   We had reserved in the latter.   I brought this to the attention of the camp host and he was fine with it - but being Saturday - he mentioned that when the ranger came in on Monday he might not be ok with it.     Long story short - on monday we moved to site #73.    The park was 90% empty so there were plenty of sites to choose from.

Site 73 Shawnee State Park

About 15 miles west of the park is the Flight 93 Memorial so we took the drive over to see it.
You might recall that flight 93 was the 4th plane hijacked on 9/11, but the passengers resisted and the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa - about 20 minutes flying time from Washington DC where the terrorists had planned to take it.

It was a cold and windy day for our visit which added to the somber mood.
Below, the black wall on the left marks the edge of the debris field.   Further ahead you can see the white wall of remembrance which is under the actual flight path.

The stone in the field marks the impact point of the aircraft.

The wall of rememberance has the names of each passenger and crew onboard.   One to the names below is Todd Beamer who is remembered as the passenger who said "lets roll" as they headed forward to storm the cockpit.

The wall of rememberence is oriented in the same direction as the flight path.
Seen from the visitor center (two white pillars in the distance) and beyond is the boulder marking the impact point.

A close up of the above photo.

Looking back in the direction from which the flight came.   It barely cleared the ridge we are on.

In a different section of the park is the "Tower of Voices".   A stone tower with 40 wind chimes, each tuned to a different note - to signify the voices that will never be silenced.

Another day trip was to a nearby covered bridge.   This one is the Colvin Covered Bridge outside of Schellsburg, Pa.

When we arrived a funny thing happened:

I started to walk across it to the other side.   There was a couple, perhaps 50’s,  with what I thought might be a younger adult daughter carrying her baby.   She was patting it like she was burping it

The couple started to walk my way and we passed each other mid bridge.  I got to the other side and saw the younger girl and it was obvious that she was severe Down syndrome.   I thought it was brave of the couple to trust her with such a young infant but I'm not real familiar with the illness so what do I know?

So minding my own business I’m taking some pictures and I notice the girl is now putting the infant on the concrete bridge abutment where the baby could fall into the stream.     Hummm…. I think.   This does not look good.

Now the girl starts to back up - leaving the infant sitting right on the edge so that she can take a picture.    Ok - I cant just stand here now so I start to quickly move closer to go near the baby before she can fall into the water, and as I get very close (and photobomb her picture)...... 

I realized the baby was a doll!

Colvin Covered Bridge near Schellsburg, Pa

Well I had a good laugh at myself. 😂

The leaves were getting closer to near peak colors but had not quite made it when it was time to leave and head a bit south to Gettysburg, Pa.       There were some nice colors as we drove east thru the mtns on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Fall Colors on Pa Tpk. (I-76)

Meanwhile inside the coach our puppy craziness continues.   Annie & Phoebe have turned out to be such great friends.    Again, we only had Phoebe for 5 nights prior to getting on the ship, and thier 7 days in the kennels did such good work bonding them.

Annie in mid-air playing with Phoebe

And of course - the changing scenery, and the people walking by keeps them busy "observing".

We've been to Gettysburg numerous times, so this time we were a little more relaxed with the need to tour the battlefields.   Downtown drew us along with the fall colors and the scenery.

A neat thing about downtown is that many of the buildings have plaques outside explaining the part the building played during those horrible days in July 1863.    Some were field hospitals, others hid union soldiers etc.    The town was a strategic location in that it was where numerous roads met like the hub on a wheel.

On the battles first day, the union Army was pushed back and retreated thru town to set up positions on the high ground to the south and east.   Townspeople panicked and remained inside as the army streamed thru the square.   It's position was basically all that was standing between the rebels and Washington DC

The Gettysburg Square.   Numerous roads meet here.

Most of the fighting took place just barely outside of town;  to the south, southeast, and southwest.

Old farmhouse on the battlefield

The below pictures were all taken in the general vicinity of the center of the union lines, site of the infamous Picketts Charge.     

In the distance is what is referred to as "the high water mark of the Confederacy".   It was pretty much as far as they advanced in their quest to break apart the union.  From here, although almost 2 more years of fighting remained, they were only able to conduct mostly defensive moves as they were pushed back to their eventual defeat and the preservation of the union.

The net result of the 3 days of fighting were over 51,000 casualties!   
After the battle, over 7,000 dead soldiers littered the fields during that hot July. 

The number of soldiers who died between 1861 and 1865 is generally estimated at 620,000.  It is approximately equal to the total of American fatalities in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, combined.   It just burns me up to hear people today talk about the possibility of Civil War again in the US.    They need to shut up and study history first.

Local reenactors fire a cannon near the site of Picketts Charge.

The loud boom did not bother the dogs all all.

Below is the center of the Union Lines.  This is looking across the battlefield towards where (the trees in the distance)  the Confederate lines would have been located.    The focal point of Picketts Charge was the grove of trees just showing on the right side of the photo.

Below, the Codori Farm.   Standing during the battle, here is an interesting story about the owners. 
Located right in the middle of the battlefield, if walls could talk.

The RV Park we stayed at is our favorite in the area:   Artillery Ridge Campground.   It is located right behind Little Round Top and would have been filled with encamped soldiers during the battle.

Fall colors near the Peach Orchard

Being at Artillery Ridge over the weekend was interesting.    This time of year they have all sorts of Halloween things going on so the campground was full of families and those little creatures....  you know the ones about 3 or 4' tall who scream and play a lot.

There was trick or treating, pumpkin carving contests, costume contests, hay rides, etc etc.

The park did issue  everyone a pumpkin, so it is now traveling with us for decoration.

4 nights later we were on our way south.   Our next stop was Shenandoah River State Park just north of Luray, Va.    We had visited here about 8 yrs ago and promised to return during leaf season so that we could take some nice rides up on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Site #3 in Shenandoah River State Park, Va

Our experience with Va state parks is somewhat limited but the parks we have been to have all been very nice.    This one has 50a service and water at our site.     A dump station is located on the way out.

Fall colors in the campground

Site #3 in Shenandoah River State Park, Va

During the week we waited for the right weather, and we took the promised drive up on Skyline Drive.
The colors were great!   Not quite peak, but still very nice.     

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

The road runs along the ridges of the mountains and there are numerous scenic pull offs where you can be treated to wide ranging views to both the east and west.

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

Skyline Drive Colors Oct 24, 2023

We exited Skyline drive and dropped back into the Shenanoah Valley at Luray, Va.

Fall colors near Luray, Va

Friday Oct 27 it was back on the road heading about 2.5 hrs south to Pocahontas State Park outside of Richmond, Va.     Along the way we were treated to some nice fall colors on US15

Fall colors on US15 Va

Like Shenandoah State Park, Pocahontas also has 50a and water at the sites.   We stayed here in 2018 when we had arrived back from the UK and were on our way west.

Site 108 Pocahontas State Park, Va

Not quite an Arizona sunset, but one of the very few that we've had in 6 months.

Sunset in Pocahontas State Park, Va

Well its Sunday Oct 29.   The weather has been unseasonably hot.   

We have the AC running when we should be enjoying having the windows open.    A cold front is headed this way however, and some rain and sharply dropping temperatures are in the forecast for Monday night.  We might even have sub-freezing temps come Weds night.   Fortunately we'll be leaving just before the real cold weather arrives. 

Tomorrow we'll head to Costco for some supplies.    Then Weds we'll be on the road to Gaffney, SC where we will be getting some work done to the bus.    We are scheduled to have the Serpentine belt and all water hoses replaced as well as  a normal annual service.

As always - thanks for all your comments and for riding along!

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Across the pond - Back in the states

Well folks....  we all made it back to the states!    Two humans, and a pair of Cobberdog puppies with Spanish Pet Passports.    

As I write this, we are sitting in a nice State Park Campground in Pennsylvania.   We made it safe and sound, but the journey was not without its difficulties, challenges, and memorable moments as you will see.

First - the last 30 days of our travels are shown on the map below.

This is the map that shows up when you click on the "Where are we today" link on the upper right side of this page.    The little orange vehicle shows our exact current position.

Our travels the last 30 days

Friday Sept 22 was embarkation day.   We left our hotel about 1145 and drove the short 2 miles to the Mayflower Terminal at the port.   The beautiful ship towers over everything as you approach.

Outside the terminal, I dropped of the 13 pieces of checked baggage that we had.   The porter started to give me an odd look as bag after bag came out of our car.   Next was Kate and the two dog.

The plan was that I would drop them all off and they would wait for me inside the terminal.   I had to go about 30 min each way to return the rental car that we've had for these past 4 months.

The car return went without a hitch.   I next summoned an Uber, and by about 1:15 I was back at the terminal meeting up with Kate, who had met friends in the terminal including Oliver the Kennelmaster.

Mayflower terminal Southampton

Soon we had boarded the ship, led by Oliver, on the way to deck 12 aft where the kennels are located.
Ollie immediatly fell in love with Annie and insisted on taking her leash and leading her up himself.

Oliver with Annie

Normally we bypass the Britannia Resturant with the dogs, and go thru the Art Gallery instead, but the requires a few stairs and we had a mobility restricted person with us so we made a very quick trip thru the 2-story restaurant with the dogs this time.    Fortunately, all the dogs refrained from making their mark on the passage thru.

A beeline thru Britannia

In mere minutes the dogs were safely deposited into their "cabins" for the next 7 nights.  Oliver had made up real special comfortable beds for the dogs complete with some new toys to play with.    Since he will be spending much of the afternoon bringing up the rest of the dogs, visiting hours don't start till 5pm on embarkation day.

This lull in the action gave us time to drop down to deck 10 and check out our stateroom.

We were booked into Queens Grill which is the first class rooms and restaurant on the ship, but there are several types of Queens Grill Suites.    A couple of weeks prior to departure I received an email inviting me to bid on an unsold Penthouse Suite.   There are 6 of them on the ship.    I made what I thought was a lowball bid and a week or two later learned that we had won the bid and we would be enjoying our crossing in these even nicer quarters.

Penthouse Suite 10133 on QM2

A video of our room

After checking out the room we headed down to the Queens Grill Resturant on deck 7.   We checked out our table that we'd have for the week, met our wait staff, and grabbed a bite of lunch. 

First lunch in Queens Grill of the crossing

After lunch, it was back to the stateroom for storing our luggage and getting unpacked for the week.  Before we knew it,   it was 5pm and time to run up and let the dogs know that we had not abandoned them.

Annie & Phoebe take their first stroll on the poop deck

Sun sets over the stern as Southampton recedes in the distance

Ollie plays mama Kangaroo with Phoebe

Phoebe in the pouch

And then the Lion King.

The Lion King

Ozzy, another friend the dogs got to know.

Ozzy farted a lot  😂 

This was the start of our 7 night, transatlantic, dinnertime rat-race.

We tucked the dogs in the kennel at 6 and ran down to our stateroom to get ready for dinner.   Then dinner at 630p.    We would only do starters and at 730p we were back at then kennels for the pups last outing for the night.   Night hours were from 730-830pm

Then at 830 we would run back down to the restaurant to complete our dinner.

Each day our butler would leave some warm Canapes in our stateroom.

Yes - I even did Formal night.    Previously I considered formal wear to mean wearing black socks.

Our good friend Raina joined us for the crossing along with her BFF Tracy.   We had one heck of a table.
I was surrounded by these 3 beautiful women and had the best of times.    We laughed and laughed and make quite a scene in the normal rather stuffy confines of the QG.    All of the wait staff had a lot of fun with us and one of them whispered in Kate ear that we were his favorite.

The wild bunch at Dinner

One of the big draws of sailing Queens Grill is the food.   It is definitely several cuts above the other restaurants on the ship.   There is no order to special.   They are even encouraged.   Have something special you want to eat?   No problem!    If they have onboard what is needed to prepare it, they will make it for you.

One night I had rack of Lamb prepared table side.

Rack of Lamb with mint sauce

Another night we all discussed the benefits of Chateaubriand vs Lobster Tail.   So we decided to order both!

Chateaubriand & Lobster Tail

And don't ask me about the deserts.   I really got out of control when the meal was done and time for the sweets.    Creme Brule', Cherries Jubilee, Crepes Suzette, and Vanilla Ice cream (at the same time) anyone? 

Bad weather on the North Atlantic is to be expected and this trip was no exception.  Most of this crossing was very rough, wet, and cold.    We headed much further south than normal to get around the now extra tropical remnants of Hurricane Nigel.    Even though we skirted around it, the winds were a solid force 8 and the waves 8-9 meters.     It did not bother Kate and I, but for a couple of nights the ship seemed to be fairly empty as people remained out of sight.

A video showing the up and down pitching of the ship

Two days out of NY the weather finally moderated enough for the traditional "picture day". This is also the day that the dogs get to go out on the wider deck outside of the kennels and really get to stretch thier legs.

Monica & Maurice were relocating from Germany

(L-R) John and Ollie with Annie & Phoebe

The young lady below was moving from Germany to the US with her mom and dad.   We had heard that she was a good singer so one day we convinced her to sing someting for all of us in the kennel.

We were all blown away!    It turned out that she had an amazing and powerful Opera voice.   
She was incredible!   Amazing!

The group photo

Are we there yet?

Sitting in the kennels all day - each day - I said to kate that the days go slow but the week goes fast.
And sure enough, soon we were crossing under the Verazanno Bridge entering NY harbor, and putting the overseas portion of our trip into the history book.

We sailed deeper into NY Harbor and passed by lady Liberty as the forecasted rain started to fall.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

Our arrival in NYC turned into a disaster.    Historic rains poured from the sky.   When it was time to meet up at kennels, it was raining so hard that several inches of water was standing on the decks, unable to drain fast enough.    The dogs and people were soaked.   

Phoebe refused to poop outside and instead decided to do it inside of the kennel waiting room - which was packed with wet owners and dogs.

Soon we were summoned to disembark.   Remember - this ship is about 1,100' long.   We had to walk halfway down the deck outside to the inside pool, where we would catch the B elevator down to deck 3

It was pouring rain and we, and the dogs, were soaked to the skin.    Not to be outdone - Annie decided to poop inside the deck 12 pool room before we got on the elevator.

Safely down the elevator, we got off of the ship without further problems.   We were able to find our luggage quite easily, found a porter with a baggage cart, and soon were on the Customs & Immigration short line. (they shuttle dog owners to the front for reasons soon to be obvious)

Standing at the yellow "wait here for the next agent" line,  just as the agent motioned us forward, Phoebe decided to leave another steaming pile.    

As I handed the agent our passports, he scanned mine and then looked at Kates.  He then pointed to Kate (who was busy trying to clean up poo off of the concrete floor) .   "Are they with you?" he asked.   I replied "yes they are." to which he said "you are all clear, get them out of here!"

So, 3 mis directed poops and we were now out of the terminal, under a partial cover, while the winds howled and the rain came down in buckets.     I texted our driver who was coming from 3 hours away and he let me know that he was about 40 min away due to flooded roads.

So we waited, and waited as more and more people got off of the ship and it became painfully obvious that nobody was getting out of the port as it was being reported that all the roads were flooded to waist deep.      After an hour I received a call from our driver that his van had hit a flood, was dead, and he would not be coming for us.

After talking to the owner in Albany, NY - he was finally able to arrange for a NYC based driver to come and get us.    By now the rains had moderated, some of the floods were were receding and people were getting out of the port as well as new passengers were starting to arrive.

It was still a an hour or so before our driver made it to pick us up at 1:30pm.   We'd been outside in the rain, soaked, with soaked dogs, for about 5 hrs.

Getting into the warm Suburban, Kate and the dogs almost instantly fell asleep.

Our original plan was to get back to the bus, get batteries connected, and head 2 hrs or so east to Boston where we had reservations.    Since we didn't get to the bus till about 6pm and it was getting dark, we decided to stay the night at the storage facility which is a quiet scenic location on a farm.

Saturday we headed over to Normandy Farms in Foxboro Mass for 5 nights.   The first couple of days we took care of things like renewed Covid & Flu shots, I had to get a physical for my CDL license, get dog food, resupply the pantry etc.

Finally we took advantage of a sunny day to take a drive over to Salem Mass, site of the imfamous witch trials.    We had lunch at a lovely cafe overlooking the harbor.

5 days flew by and soon we were back on the road headed west to Lake George, NY.   Not far from where we stored the bus, and near where we used to live many moons ago.

Fall colors were starting to make their appearance along the Mass Pike.

The dogs meanwhile have settled into their new home.   I really they they are digging the Motorhome life.
Plus, they have a ready made enormous stash of toys left from Gracie car & Lucy to explore.
When we get back to Az they will even have more!

Toys scattered everywhere.

While in NY we got to visit with lots of friends.   It was a bit of a rush as there are so many people to see and so little time was set aside for the visit.

We had more rain while in NY, but we were able to catch one sunny day and take our favorite fall drive to explore the small roads thru NY and Vermont in search of some colors.

A covered bridge in NY

Some scenic farms in the NY/VT border area.

We visited with our friend Matt & Julie who live on a hill overlooking Lake George.

Julie, Phoebe, and Kate

Soon our 5 nights were up and we were back on the road.   South and west to the Finger Lakes Region of NY.    The view below is of Lake Seneca as we were approaching our next stop, the Finger Lakes RV Resort.

While I would not exactly call the place a resort, it was brand new, well laid out, with a nice view of the countryside,

Our site (L) #8

The dogs looking out down the steps of the bus

4 more nights gone by and were  again on the road to our current location.   Shawnee State Park in central Pennsylvania.    It was a very rainy ride and poured rain all night.    Today it has cleared up with a mix of clouds and sun, but the temperatures are noticeably much cooler.   We are not far from the flight 93 memorial so we may head there tomorrow or Tuesday before we leave here for Gettysburg.

Driving into Shawnee State Park

We were here about 9 years ago and we liked the park, so I thought it might be a pretty stop in the fall to check out the colors.    So far the colors this year are pretty but not breathtaking like they can be.

Lots of fall to check out however as we slowly migrate south with the changing leaves.

On a walk thru the park

Our site -  #65 at Shawnee SP. 
50amp service no other hookups

Well that pretty much brings you back up to date.

We will be here till Weds at which point we move to Gettysburg for 4 nights.
Then two VA state parks for 5 nights each,   First near Luray Va, then outside of Richmond.

Our slow crawl will continue on south to Gaffney SC where we are getting some maintenance done at Freightliner, then we'll hustle out to Houston, Tx where we'll be trading in our truck for a new F150 before spending Thanksgiving in Austin Tx with friends.

The beginning of December should see us rolling back into Tucson to chill for about 6 weeks before we start all over again.

Thanks for riding along!