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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Drummond Island

Greetings, all. I have posted four pictures, but I've learned that they don't always post in the order I enter them. One was taken approaching Drummond Island, about 40 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie. It shows five rental lodges on the west shore. There is one taken from the ferry looking back toward the town of De Tour. Another is a nothing special shot of Lake Huron with some wild flowers in the foreground. Finally there is a shot of a "pasty". This is, an iconic upper peninsula (UP) food that was the traditional miner's lunch. We haven't eaten it yet. We'll do it for supper. It consists of pork, beef, onions, potato, rutabaga and seasonings wrapped in a pie crust and baked. By the way, it is pictured on a full-sized dinner plate.
Actually, we wouldn't recommend this side trip. I'm sure that the quaint, touristy Mackinac Island that we did not visit would be a better choice. We went to Drummond because we could take the Jeep. We probably drove 40 miles on the island. By the way, there was a 75 acre private island for sale if anyone is interested. Drummond is extremely rural. We saw an adult doe beside the road, and we visited a couple of RV Parks. They were accessible by narrow, winding, one-lane, dirt roads. There was a medium sized class A (an Allegro) at one of them, and the ferry can handle a big rig. But, they are small and primative. There's fishing and swimming beaches, but the operative word is "rural". There are some nice resorts, but water access is limited.
We found a nice little (36 seats) restaurant just one half mile east of the end of M134. It's called the Port O'Call. There is an amazing deli attached. We had flash fried, breaded Walleye Pike strips for an appetizer. My haddock sandwich was as big as the flounder sandwiches at Bagaduce. Durelle had a shrimp burger like the ones on the road to Hunting Island State Park in SC. They have over 200 brands of beer.
Tomorrow we head west to Marquette.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Soo Locks

Today was a relaxing day parked on the Soo canal. Lake Superior is 21 feet higher than Lake Huron. The connection is the St. Mary's River. the rapids betwen them were resolved in the late 1800's by building locks. Over 90% of the iron ore used to build the ships, tanks and artillery pieces used in WWII passed through these locks. Today we took a boat tour through the locks.
The first picture shows our boat. The others show a large ore boat, a shot of a railroad bridge in the raised position and a shot of a huge steel mill on the Canadian side. You can get the scale of the thing by the size of the tractor in the foreground. There is also a picture of a large ore carrier that passed by the campground.
It was nice to have a non-driving day to relax and catch up on a few things. It is also nice to have an unestricted internet connection.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Upper Peninsula

Well, here we are. For the past several days my internet access was limited to a Verizon Air Card in a weak signal environment. It allowed for responding to essential emails, but nothing more. So I'm catching up on pictures. One shows our Empire, MI host's grandson with a salmon he caught on our fishing charter on Sunday. (More about that later) Two are shots taken in the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes National Park. One is a shot Durelle took through our dirty windshield on the Mackinac bridge to the upper peninsula of MI. The last one is a picture of the driver waiting for a navigator.

We arrived in Empire on Friday and were thoroughly and generously entertained by Dick and Jeanette Daniel until we left on Tuesday morning. Even if I had had good internet access, there wouldn't have been time to post a blog. Empire is a village of 450 people on the eastern shore of lake Michigan that is embedded in a national park. I believe that only about half of the residents stay through the winter. The hospitality started as soon as we arrived. It was steaks at their place on Friday...Durelle played golf with Dick and some of his buddies on Saturday...Sunday Dick took me and three of his local relatives on a salmon fishing charter. We netted two nice salmon and a lake trout, but I was concerned about raising the ire of the Coast Guard's environmental hazards folks because I spent most of the morning clutching the rail. It was rough out there. After a nap and a complete recovery, we had a nice meal at an upscale Chinese restaurant in the quaint town of Frankfort. Monday was the grand tour of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park followed by supper at the Daniels making good use of that salmon.
Today we left for the upper peninsula of MI. It was only 180 miles, but we stopped to visit friends in Traverse City. The Kerlins are fellow golden retriever folks that we usually see at Tyndall AFB in February. Route 31 up the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is very scenic but not quick. We are now parked just downstream from the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie and will be here for three nights.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Empire, Michigan

This is just a quick note to let you know we are still on the road. We have no sewer, internet or TELEVISION! We'll get up to date on Monday. Durelle played golf with my college roommate today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in the states

Greetings. The three pictures show us crossing into Ontario on Tuesday, crossing into the US in Port Huron (Sarnia, Ontario) on Wednesday and a recent picture of Belle that I thought was worth including. Today was quite different from previous days. We started off by immediately entering the trans-Canada highway. We set the cruise control for 1500 RPM (57MPH) and it did not disengage until we stopped for lunch west of Toronto. Of all the cities on the North American continent that I have driven through, Toronto really has its act together as far as traffic flow is concerned. As you approach the city, there are two lanes each way, but it quickly increases. Through a large part of the city there are five lanes each way...three are for through traffic and two are for local. There were times when there were eight lanes each way. As we got west of Toronto, the lanes decreased appropriately. The fact remains...I never had to touch the brakes all around the city of 2.5 million. From the time we stopped for the toll over the bridge to the US until we were cleared through customs was almost exactly one hour. It's a long time to idle that big old Cummins, but everything was smooth. We probably spent less than a minute at the customs booth. We are now back in the states and are looking forward to reaquainting ourselves with old friends

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

O' Canada

The following few paragraphs were written on Monday when we left Maine. I couldn't post them last night because I could not get any internet access at the campground in Quebec. I do have WiFi here in Ontario, but with some constraints. The good news is that we are on a hilltop with a view of Lake Ontario. The bad news is that we are too far from the transmitter to connect. so, I am down the hill a few sites, trying to see the laptop screen in the sunlight, struggling to support my loyal (?) readership.
Well, we finally left Maine. It was not easy. We pulled out of our site at 0804, which was a little early for the “receiving line” to get formed up. Some were still in nightgowns and robes. Nonetheless they were there. Bobbie missed it but hurried up the hill to deliver the required hugs where we were dumping the tanks to catch us before we pulled out at 0835…which was pretty good considering how hard it is to leave Maine.
Today’s drive was quite different than our usual. A quick glance at your Rand McNally will show that if you want to travel east to west across central Maine, northern NH and northern VT, there are few options. It is a return to the pre-interstate world where you travel on two lane roads (one each way) between small towns. Some of the towns included: China, Peru, and between the towns the speed limit may be 50 MPH, but the roads are hilly, curvy and, if construction is required, there are flaggers that reduce the road to one lane. As a result, the MPH was down as was the MPG. We travelled along the famous Androscoggin River, the site of the famous log drives, into Shelbourne and Gorham, NH. We then crossed the narrow end of northern NH and entered VT at Stratford, NH. From there it was a short drive to the border at Derby Line, VT. We stopped for lunch, and we stopped for diesel (so that we could make it to MI without buying fuel in Canada) and made it to Derby Line about 1430. Crossing northern NH and VT was interesting. The little towns that we passed through on the way were straight out of Norman Rockwell. We noticed great piles of firewood set aside for residential use. There were dairy farms and a lot of woodlots. The traffic was light, but the predominate vehicle was the logging truck. The views were pleasant, but I wasn’t often free to enjoy them. We traveled north of Mt. Washington and the Franconia Notch.
Crossing the border was quick and uneventful. We had unloaded most of the bargain booze that we had bought at the NH state stores on our fellow campers in ME. So we were legal at the crossing. As it turns out, the checks were very superficial. Our safety-oriented approach probably cost us $25, but I don’t feel bad about taking that approach.
Here I am resuming the saga on Tuesday. Today was an opposite drive from yesterday. We were basically on cruise control for 300+ miles. The exception, of course, was a half hour of stop and go getting through Montreal. Compared to the 7.2 mpg yesterday, we got 8.6 today.
I have a couple of other current pictures to post, but I am not at the bus and don't have the camera with me to download them. Tomorrow we return to the states and hope to have better connectivity.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Last lobster feed for 2008

Today was our last lobster feed for the summer of 2008. It was one of the classics. I have posted four pictures. One is an underexposed picture of a full moon reflected on Penobscot Bay that was taken last night. The three lobster pictures show lobsters going into the pot, lobsters coming out of the pot and sixteen folks doing their best to completely consume their lobsters. We extended in Maine, in part, to overlap our stay with a number of camping friends. Today it all came together. Next year we will probably not be driving 11,000 miles as we are this year. Of the places where we might choose to spend the summer, the Moorings RV Resort here in Belfast, ME is certainly the leading candidate. Yes, it would be nice to have a sewer connection and 50 amps, but the camararderie of this place will be hard to beat.
Monday we leave the states and head for Quebec. Tuesday will be a stop in Ontario, and Wednesday will see us back in the US in MI. We will hate to leave, but it will be good to be back on the road toward our next adventure.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A golden retriever in flight

Today was a quiet day...we never left the campground...never turned an ignition key. But it was still a fun day. Low tide was about 3:30 which gave us an opportunity to let Belle off the leash and declare a large part of Penobscot Bay a "seagull-free zone". If you will look closely at the picture, you will see that she is, indeed, airborne. For a 12 1/2 year old puppy she is doing very well. After an hour or so, we went back up to the rig and gave her a good bath and a thorough rinse to get rid of all the salt water. She is now dry, soft and smells good. After a couple of hours at "Happy Hour", I grilled a Porterhouse for us to split and roasted a couple of ears of fresh corn that Duane Peck brought us. Then we set up our chairs outside and watched the first few innings of the All-Star Game. It got a little buggy so we moved inside. The sky and the bay are spectacular because the moon is almost full. On Friday I should be able to get a spectacular picture of a reflected moon to include in the next post. Maybe life can get better than this, but I can't see how.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lobster Boat Races

On a bright, sunny, classic Saturday morning on the Maine coast I took a ten minute ride up Route 1 to the town of Searsport to watch a traditional Maine summer event. Most of these lobster boats have been so modified that they are no longer practical or safe for lobstering. The boat in the picture was timed at 62.7 mph! Those aren't NASCAR speeds, but they rival NASCAR sounds. Another spectator next to me said, "Listen for when he adds the nitro." I didn't have to listen very carefully. Even a quarter mile away the roar of a 500 HP engine at full throttle is rather distinctive. I'm certain that most of the crowd were locals...most of whom knew someone on one or more of the boats. It wasn't one of those idyllic postcard scenes of lighthouses or loons, but it was another interesting piece of the kaleidoscope that is the Maine coast.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Evening sky on the Maine coast

These pictures were taken out the window of our motorhome. The middle one was because Durelle said, "Red sails in the Sunset" a song most of you don't remember. The others were attempts to capture the larger scene. This was Friday, so the campground owners host a campground-wide happy hour: you bring the appetizers, and we'll bring the beer and wine. It is a great opportunity to meet other campers from other places and even other countries. After an hour or so, it breaks up and the "regulars" adjourn to the daily "Happy Hour'. On Fridays there are so many foods that supper is superfluous and normally undesired. We have been enjoying the company of a couple of Texas "newbies". They are trying out a very small "pop-up" camper, and tonight we loaned them an extra pillow and blanket. Since they have a son who graduated from Annapolis, we loaned them the West Point blanket.
Wandering around the country and visiting with a diverse assortment of fellow Americans is a pleasure that not everyone can enjoy. We appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to do it. We hope you enjoy our observations, and we will try to continue to keep you posted on our continuing adventure.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reversing Falls on the Bagaduce River

It has been five days since I have posted; yes, we're still here. Today we moved from site 16 to 28 partly as a favor to friends for whom 16 is their favorite site and mostly because, when we arrived, we extended a couple of weeks. After we both swapped sites, the four of us cleaned up and went to lunch. We brought along a pair of sisters-in-law from SC who have been here before. Our destination was the reversing falls on the Bagaduce River. Tides in the area are 8 to 10 feet. The second picture was taken at low tide, and the river is surging over the falls from left to right. Six hours later, when then tide is coming in, the white water will be equally vigorous from right to left.
The first picture is a shot of a quirky but correct traffic sign that has always fascinated me. The next shot is a close-up of our lunch. Take note Jeanette; on the right is Durelle's lobster roll, and that foot long hunk of haddock is my fish 'n chips. The last shot shows the sign on the diner so you know that I am not making up the name.
It is 85 degrees, dry, and with only a slight breeze that is enough so that we do not need the A/C.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A lobster feed on the Maine coast

Today the campground put on their annual July fourth lobster feed. OK, so it was done on the fifth...close enough for government work. The first picture shows the size of the group of participants. The second picture shows Jim Baker, the campground owner, checking one of the pots of lobsters and corn. The stainless pot that he is tending is my pot. I think we cooked 27 lobsters. The largest was 3 1/2 pounds and was awarded by a lottery. In addition to the lobsters and corn, the first course was steamed clams, and there was blueberry pie for desert. It was enjoyable to sit at a table with folks who had never eaten steamers or lobster before and help them to enjoy the experience. Without exception they were anxious to try new things. After the lobsters were finished, we (the old timers) adjourned to our usual circle for a slightly delayed happy hour. For the first time this year we had a campfire. Also for the first time we jointly identified a number of constellations of stars and watched for meteors. Belle got a lot of attention, and one of the dog lovers took her for a walk at about ten-o-clock.
One of the interesting anecdotes for today involved the guy parked immediately adjacent to us. He's a high school physics teacher from Houston. He rented a small pop-up camper and had it set up here. It's the first time for him. He's trying it for two weeks, and his wife is going to fly up and join him for two days. I took a picture of him sitting in our recliner in front of the outside TV watching the Red Sox. He has a drink in one hand and the remote in the other. I emailed him the picture so he can send it to his wife to show her what RV'ing is all about. I'm anxious to hear her reaction. We'll meet her later...should be fun.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fourth of July

The weather was spectacular. It was a classic fourth. Since it was a Friday, the campground ran its usual happy hour where campers bring hors de ouervers (sp?) and the campground provides beer and wine. I made my mussels casino dip made with mussels that I had picked up off the shore at low tide. There was enough food that we didn't bother with supper. There was a Portuguese couple from MA that made a beef and pork and linguica stew. There were marinated and grilled sirloin strip slices plus some fascinating marinated fava beans. The picture is of a schooner that happened to be sailing by with a number of tourists out for a day sail. We hope you had a fourth that was almost as good as ours. 

The Red Sox beat the Yankees in NY in game two of a three game series in NY...a sweep will be great. Tomorrow the campground is putting on a lobster feed with steamers, corn and apple pie. I'll post a picture tomorrow

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Camden and Rockport

Pardon me for the use of four pictures ... I couldn't choose just one. The first is Durelle and new friends from near Branson, MO. The second is a shot of some mountain laurel that I couldn't resist. It was taken at the "Children's Chapel" in Rockport, ME. The third is a schooner (I think) in the fog at the Rockport harbor. Finally there is a shot from Mount Battie of the Camden harbor again on a foggy day.
It was another quiet day in Belfast, ME. I had my second session of physical therapy on my calf which is improving substantially. After a haircut and some grocery shopping, I picked up Durelle and Jackie and Dennis Coulter and we went to Camden for lunch at the Water Front restaurant. After lunch we wandered along the shore to the "Children's Chapel" and then over a dirt road to the back way into Rockport harbor. It was not the low rent disrict! After that we went up Mount Battie to look down on the Camden harbor. Although not a photographer's dream because of the fog, it was a good trip. We came back to the campground, fed Belle, and went to a wine tasting at "Papa J's", the restaurant affiliated with the campground. We then rejoined "happy hour" until Bernie and Ann Dunn arrived from the Cape. 'Twas a good reunion, and there will be more to come. Today we made reservations at Red Bay, AL for March 17, 2009. It will be our seventh annual visit to Red Bay for routine maintenance on the bus.