Tuesday, February 2, 2016

We Have Been Here Before --

Fort Pickens Campground on the Gulf Islands National Seashore --but never with these guys, and that made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.

Actually, both Keith and Susanne have advanced degrees in Marine Sciences but they don't correct us when we go searching for "Dolphins", only when we are about to make a grevious mistake like not ordering the coconut shrimp. We were both on abbreviated trips to the Florida Panhandle but managed to connect for several days of non-stop merriment.

Our campsite was snuggled under the live oaks recovering nicely from a series of coastal storms...

...while their more open site featured a great view of the sunsets and an evening concert from the frog chorus.

The morning mist clouded the woody plants just beyond our bedroom windows.

There was, of course, beach walking...

And sunsets...


On a sunny Saturday, we walked the squares of downtown Pensacola, picking our favorites from the handsomely restored buildings, modest and grand.

Patty chose a pristine Cypress cottage, perfect in every way.

We happened on an elegant wedding near Seville Square and a monster pipe laying ship which Keith explained next day as we returned for yet another go at the coconut shrimp wharfside.


Of course we biked around the island, visited the fort, speculated on the gun emplacemnts and took the time-honored image of the long gallery of arches...


Patty even picked out a boat, but Al has to figure out the hitch....



Saturday, October 10, 2015



...Being a lengthy, convoluted and arcane account of the creation of this art. Not recommended for anyone actually seeking useful information...

I Guess it all started with a quick Google search. We had dawdled away lots of prime autumn weather with doctors, Volleyball and football. There were just a few days to reach Jonesborough TN and the International Storytelling Festival.. Al Thought he remembered the Distance at 630+ MILES and projected a two day excursion by (Aghh!) Interstates--Montgomery, Birmingham, Chattanooga, Knoxville, local transition to Jonesborough..

When Patty slipped into the Navigator's seat and adjusted her Black Belt in Ipad navigation, Al was already whining about the route he had chosen.

"I wish we didn't have to go through BIRMINGHAM..."

IN A VERY SHORT TIME, he received the revised clearance.

"Airsteam 26, in 22 miles, right turn on State Route 145. Transition to county 61, report Wilsonville"

(I love it when she talks Air Traffic Control.)

"Oh, and Honey, that's six and a half HOURS and we are now looking at an ETA of 7:15. We could make it in before dark and no overnight at Walmart ."

The road was gorgeous two lane with no traffic. We slipped around Birmingham , enjoyed the renovated interstate along Lookout Mountain and generally had a smooth flight, err, drive.

We were approaching Jonesborough as the sun was setting; we were low on fuel but the onboard calculator said we had enough...(If we stopped for fuel, we would lose 15 minutes we would need to slip into our preselected site before dark.) We proceeded on...

The transition from I-81 to the Persimmon Ridge campground was typical Middle Tennessee two lane --short steep hills, sweeping curves, double 90 degree turns . It was the golden hour and the barns and pastures glowed. I would be lying if I told you I didn't LOVE pulling an Airstream through those roads! We entered the campground in plenty of time to slip into our accustomed site.

The Fuel Monitors (both of them) were not happy, ringing bells insistently and inquiring in plaintive tones if we wanted her to search for a gas station...

Wait! An old white van was parked askew in OUR space -- No hookups, no camping gear in sight. One of our Texan friends who always arrive here a few days before us appeared at our side and, because this is the storytelling festival, gave us the long version. The key points being, apparently homeless older woman, quite skittish and hardly approachable.

"We have been bringing her food and offering help and kindness, but she seems confused. I THINK the manager told her you would be in tomorrow"

'nuff said. We will find another spot. You should know that this little city campground, while handy, is hardly uniform in its offerings. Few sites are level, some have workable connections and most have at least one oddity. The whole place is on a steep hill, each site being its own narrow little terrace. It was now Pitch Black Dark. We chose a site which had no less than six water spigots within reach, a sewer pipe and a brand new 30/50 Amp electrical box in a trench of newly turned red clay. The jaunt up the hill and back down set the fuel monitor into apoplexy.

Did I mention that it was Pitch Black Dark? Not to worry, we had Technology in the form of two little orange LED hazard beacons which could be aligned to provide a visual glide-path. So, with his lovely little Air Traffic/Ground Controller on the walkie talkies and our sweet Texan friend assisting, Al began backing into a terraced site with a mud hole below the upslope platform on the right and a three foot drop of exposed red clay on the left. It was a field of red clay relieved only by mounds of gravel. Yes it was still dark, but things were going along well. Al couldn't SEE the condition of the surface, but he could see the orange flashing beacons UNTIL Pat's instructions didn't seem to jibe with reality. He stopped. One of the beacons was MOVING! It wasn't an alien abduction; Tex felt Al might run over the beacon and was now holding it four feet off the ground approaching the driver's door to explain

We abandoned the attempt when Patty got a pyramid of leveling blocks FIVE high and we weren't level yet. We stationed Tex in front to watch our clearance from the only other rig in the row and Ground Control vectored Al into the next site below the three foot clay slope (remember that, there will be a quiz). This time five blocks high got us level. We locked everything down, lay our cheap Costco carpet over the red clay and Al limped off to the nearest fuel stop.

In the morning we deployed the awning as rain was imminent. Later we watched our new neighbor position his long trailer a little crosswise in the site we abandoned. Jim parked his Tow Vehicle beside his trailer on the brink of the red clay terrace. We greeted and exchanged cards and a little travel history and headed out for the day's adventures in a light rain.

Midday Jim calls. The pickup had spun out on the clay slope and slid into the upright to the awning. His truck had a dent, our trailer was still poised on its pyramid, but the upright was crushed and the Sculpture above was created from the cross beam. Jim was sick and apologetic but a man of action. He assured us all would be made right, he already had an RV tech on site and the long process of finding parts for a Dometic awning (that Airstream only used for a couple years) was in full swing coast to coast -- a totally satisfactory outcome and a new friend. Oh Yes, there is ART. Any pointers on how to site the work?

















Monday, August 31, 2015

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK....Some things change...

...but very little.



There's the sea, the fragrant greenery and the immutable stones...and, of course, the boats...



Nearly every year since their honeymoon, Joanie and Tim return to Acadia. We often tag along.


This year we scheduled two weeks at Seawall Campground in the Park while they rented Aunt Betty's Cottage near the heart of Bar Harbor. They enjoy strolling the dog-friendly streets with Chance.

We love hearing the rush of the surf from our campsite, the low-key gentility of SouthWest Harbor and the morning popovers at the Common Good.

WAIT! Where are the Popovers??

Oh, thank goodness, they have just moved their location a few miles from the ravenous but appreciative Seawall campers to the middle of Southwest Harbor where the view isn't the same but the clientele equally appreciative and surely more numerous. The new location has outdoor seating, great free WIFI and superior popovers coming out of the volunteer-run kitchen every few minutes. Live music is a regular addition and there are always warm conversations with folks from all around.

The charms of the little town are many. Pies baked before your eyes ...




..pretty little shops and a bakery window stacked with fresh bread.










Many things change for the better.

The roads South from Bar Harbor are smoother this year.

But the evil winter season was devastating to the Flamingo population...

Every library on the island has a book sale this month. People around here stock up for the long winter, but they are good about re-donating the books in the Summer.

...kids continue to try to unbalance, Balance Rock...

...or one-up nature...


...the best food in town is at Mama Serpico's...


....where the fun is




...kids find crabs and share their delight...


....young men scale mountains and share the glory...



... Grandmothhers act silly and we all laugh...










Saturday, August 22, 2015

Franconia Notch and the Kancamagus Highway

When last we passed through Franconia Notch it was late September -- County Fair time. The Fall leaves were just loosing their grip in the face of blustry winds. B&B's were everywhere, inviting but desolate; Large parking lots were empty at "attractions", most restaurants were shuttered.
..might be pretty busy in Summer, we noted.
YEAH!! No wonder that guy winced when we told him where we were heading.
Our converstation with Wayne had been very pleasant as we met by the edge of Joe's Pond and exchanged our liberal, granola-eating, live-free-or-die, used bookstore Bona Fides, but our planned itinerary caused him unspoken dismay.
We said goodbye to Wayne and rough-textured hwy 15 and slipped down a long smooth entry to Interstate 91/93. (we can be excused this lapse since this leads to the ONLY Interstate that is also a National Parkway. The Notch is gorgeous and the traffic moderate, so we were totally unprepared for the madhouse at the Flume/State Park Visitor Center which includes shops, snack bar and admission tickets. We were looking for a camping place at the park and a chance to ride the bike trail.
That's Full, we heard from a very cheerful attendant.
Commercial or goverment? she asked reaching for the catalog of New Hampshire campgrounds.
You need hook-ups?
Not really.
That your Airstream?
Errr, Yes.
...and you don't need hookups?
....but you want to stay close to this...?
Time once again to declare our Granola-eating Bona Fides. This accomplished, she whipped out a strip map of the Kancamagus Highway.

This is 34 miles of National Forest Highway -- the FIRST National Scenic Byway. She quickly highlighted a necklace of five NF campgrounds.
This one is about midway ... (between the waterslides of Lincoln and Conway was left unspoken).
The Gauntlet of vacation experiences for the next few miles left little doubt that we would prefer to leave "this" in our wake.
Look a waterpark..take the next left!
We "proceeded on" to Jigger Johnson NF campground, the forest-lined road cooling us and the 3000 foot climb doing the opposite for the Ginormous Mechanical Conveyance (GMC). The forest has reclaimed this "intervale" where White Pine 80 feet to the first branch were once marked with the "Broad Arrow" of the English king, destined to be masts for the Royal Navy. Then came settlers, part-time loggers, then railroads, then industrial clear-cut logging just before the great fires. Our site is spacious, level and surrounded by 85 year old trees and lots of low conifers. The White Mountains are back and getting better.

Nearby, the Russel Colbath Historical Site taught us much about the place and the logging history. The interpreters were a joy and we nearly overstayed our welcome.