Trip’s End

Sunday, Apr. 21

We finally got a break in the weather, but most of the Alto crowd had left. Jack and I headed to South Hill for foodstuffs enough to fix dinner for John (arriving without Mary, who has fallen under the weather, or possibly the pollen) and additional Floyd friends, Brad and Ellen. 

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Because we’re settled and they’re arriving in the afternoon and likely won’t be set up before dinner time, we texted with them to let everyone know we’d handle dinner for all of us. We found the fixins for the fennel chicken dish we like to cook in the Dutch oven, and we also got some pork loins to grill for Mary and Allen who were coming to the campsite on Monday. 

I began cooking circa 5:30, completing it by around 6:30, and served directly from the Dutch oven, with Omnia heat-and-serve rolls and roasted potatoes. Afterwards, we cranked the Solo fire, and the Karl & Hari crowd came over from loop C to share.

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It was another glorious sunset, with the sun peeking below the clouds and shining brightly on the end of our peninsula, making the trees look like they were about to combust.

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No good sunset is complete without a good reflection photo off Roomba (it’s a thing with the Alto models that have lots of windows).

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Here’s a gallery of photos I’m calling “Sunset After the Storms”

Monday, Apr. 22

First thing in the morning, I watched an adult bald eagle fly over. The day dawned cold (47 degrees) but I was outside watching for birds and enjoying the clear morning by about 7. I wasn’t the only early bird, as a couple of fishermen were plying the waters near our site also.

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Before lunch, we took a bike ride with Brad and Ellen while John took a kayak paddle-about. We toured around the campground, and across the hydro dam, where we stopped both coming and going to watch bald eagles and osprey and enormous fish near the dam. I could have watched the birds all day.

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Instead of going back to the campground, we turned right at Rt. 4 and headed to the tailwaters of the dam, where there were tons and tons of birds all doing wondrous things, just carrying on with their birdy lives. We got off our bikes again to watch eagles and osprey and herons and cormorants and so many more. Saw this heron trying to hide while roosting in a tree.

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Returned to eat a late lunch and enjoyed the sun. Even though the breeze picked up as we ate, the sky was incredibly blue-blue, and the sun was toasty hot.

Allen and Mary came for dinner around 6, and we grilled a pork loin. John, Brad, and Ellen brought their own dinners and we all ate together. Everyone enjoyed another campfire, topped off with a celebratory dram to mark the end of our trip, as well as Brad’s (Apr. 24) and Jack’s (Apr. 26) birthdays.

Tuesday, Apr. 23

Naturally, on the day we must leave, the temp soared to 52 degrees and the wind stayed dead calm. Heard several lonely loon calls in the early AM.

We enjoyed a leisurely morning and said goodbye to Brad and Ellen around 8:30. Watched a contest between a lone loon with a fish, versus an entire gaggle of cormorants. The cormorants were doing a tag-team “harass the loon so it drops its fish” game, with much of the action happening under water. The loon would dip below, with 2 or 3 of the cormorants flying over to where it dove and diving after it. The loon would pop up again and other cormorants would fly over to it and dive after it when it dove for cover again.

Finally, the loon surfaced and up-ended the fish so it would go down its gullet, and suddenly, all the cormorants looked like they were bored, as if they’d had nothing to do with the loon at all. They all went different directions after the game was won by the loon.

Once the water warmed up a bit, John took a final kayak tour before he began to load up for departure. We ate an early lunch and began breaking camp in earnest around noon.

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Just as we were nearing our own departure time, we saw a Canada goose family swimming by. The water was a bit choppy by then, but the little goslings were pretty easy to see. The hard part was getting the youngsters and both parents in my camera’s frame at the same time. But I finally managed.

It was an uneventful drive back home, and we parked Roomba in the driveway near his garage overnight. All was well with the house and critters and we were thankful for Surya, our house sitter. Naturally, the first thing Mischief wanted to do was play ball. 

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I grabbed some meat and went out to see how Beebs (redtailed hawk) was doing, and she seemed quite keen on the food, but not so sure about me.

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Thus the 2019 Spring Trip comes to a close. It was wonderful and fun and so very exciting to share with so many of our friends and to meet new friends along the way. 

More adventures to come—watch this space for the next peregrinations we undertake with our Alto camper.

 

Janes Island State Park MD, Part 2

As you might have noted in the most recent post (Part 1 of this section, sharing April 7-10) I was slightly hurried to be done, without time to double-check. You see, I was in a library that closed 15 minutes before I was done, and I rushed to finish the post by 5PM.

In my description of April 9 of that section, I neglected to include two important photos: That of the library where we visited for cell and wifi several times (a very nice library, indeed—much nicer than the one I was working from when I had to rush the finish of the prior post), and the laundromat in Crisfield, which also was quite clean, roomy, and well-equipped. So these two pix are from our April 9 excursion into Crisfield for some “obligatories.” (By the way, I dearly love libraries!)

April 11 in Jane’s Island was laid back as we listened to music, Jack washed Roomba’s windows, and we tidied the living spaces a bit. Our morning began at 46 degrees but didn’t take long to warm a little. 

Jack headed to our fave seafood retail/wholesaler, and got enough shrimp for an excellent grilled (skewer) shrimp meal, with go-withs to satisfy the tummies. 

Another thing I forgot to mention was the situation at these campgrounds surrounding a dishwashing station. Surprisingly, many campgrounds don’t offer this amenity, which I think is an unforgivable oversight. They’re always going on about not dumping gray water or food scraps around your site, but they force those of us in small rigs (and tenters) to wash dishes on site and dump the used water afterward. 

Anyway, we always look for dishwashing stations, and (to backtrack a little) Chippokes had one at the “secondary” bathhouse in our loop, but it did not offer hot water. Pretty sure this was the normal situation (not just a seasonal thing) as it appeared to have no hot water feed at all. 

Janes Island, however, had a very nice hot-and-cold-running-water, very clean and accommodating dishwashing station (“counter” space on both sides of the sink). That said, there was an enormous hole where, in a “normal” kitchen, there would be a garbage disposal, so you had to be careful not to lose your spoons down there. Also, they’d evidently had some trouble with campers walking off with their drain plugs, so they wired them to the sink with twisted-strand wire and lock nuts. At the plug ends of the tie, when you reached under the sudsy water for a dish, you had to be careful not to stab yourself with the wire tips beyond the fasteners that had come untwisted with use.

On Friday, April 12, Jack and I took a long ride to a little place called Westover, following the “Crustacean Causeway” north of Crisfield. (Only getting a little lost along the way, and coming back along a different path).

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During the ride we passed a broken-down, sad old church, belching vines and weeds from its once-sculpted windows. I could imagine pretty stained glass in them during its heyday.

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We also saw a cute tiny house, unfortunately, right next to the big highway, but I had to stop and get a picture of it anyway.

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We got back from our ride just as John and Mary returned from another long kayaking trip. After we’d all showered up, we gathered for a Dutch oven jambalaya fixed by John and Mary (with additional shrimps from Jack’s purchase the day before). It was delicious, and J n M wanted to “host” us inside their trailer for dinner, so we arranged ourselves into “Little Debbie” for our meal comfortable, satisfying meal.

Bike Stats

  • Ride time=2:20
  • Stopped time=57 min
  • Distance=30 mi
  • Average speed=13 mph
  • Fastest speed=22.5
  • (There was a truly lovely stretch, straight and slightly downhill, with the wind at our backs just outside of Westover, where we really cadillacked along with little effort and got that “fastest speed” number pretty high)

Our final day at Janes Island State Park (April 13) was rainy. First thing in the damp morning, we discovered a tiny toad, ensconced in the folds of Jack’s camp chair, that had been collapsed the night before and was leaning against the trailer. He was a cutie.

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Since it was raining, we spent all day finishing the first of the three jigsaw puzzles Jack gave me for my birthday. 

 

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Difficult to tell here, but the puzzle represents a painting of a Paris marketplace in summer.

 

On April 14, we were sad to leave Janes Island, except for the fact that the mosquitoes, which had not made an appearance at all during our week, showed up with some vengeance a couple of the days before we left. All of us were somewhat surprised, as it was pretty cold and breezy. But who knows? Maybe there was a nearby hatch or something. Anyway, we got away by about 9:45 AM with heavy hearts and a promise to return. Next stop: Kiptopeke State Park near Cape Charles, Virginia.

 

July/August Adventure Post One

We arrived at Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia after a 4-ish hour drive from home, leaving there around 10A on Thursday, July 5. Since it was a one-nighter, we did not unhitch (except to level Roomba, but the hitch was hovering over the ball since we didn’t move the car) nor do our usual set-up routine inside.

Think minimalist.

The day was hotter than 40 hells outside, and inside Roomba, it was in the high 90s as we set up camp. We used the ceiling fan to vent some of the hot air, turned on the air conditioning, and hoped to have temps in the 80s by nightfall. 

I’d prepped some ground lamb for a shepherd’s pie and put that together once the air was breathable inside, and heated it for a while in the Omnia. Since everything was cooked already it didn’t heat up the inside too terribly much, and we ate outside. Lordy it was hot.

The downside of Shenandoah River SP is that it’s a young campground, and there are few shady spots anywhere in the grounds. But we survived and slept okay.

Rolled out of there early Friday en route to Bald Eagle State Park (PA) for a two-night stay. Tried to find ice and a grocery store, but ended up doing without until the “Roomba Landed” at Bald Eagle. Conducted the whole set up routine, then ran out to find a cold dinner to bring back, ice for the cooler, and dinner for Saturday night also.

Found the absolute best butcher up the road (toward Lock Haven) in a burgh called Beech Creek. It was easy to miss, and even with the sign directing us, it was way way down a residential road and past an Elks Park (or some such) and we almost gave it up a second time, when we finally found Pete’s Meats. 

Great stop. Got chicken salad for the night’s dinner (unfortunately, it had sweet pickles in it—not anywhere near my fave thing) but was good and edible; and a Delmonico steak for our Saturday dinner.

Watched the entire place fill up with campers into the evening. Next door at 9PM, the loop’s final slot was filled by the arrival of a pop-up. Felt sorry for those folks, just starting their setup as I waltzed off to brush my teeth, and the sun finished setting below the horizon.

Got up moderately early (after sleeping without the air conditioner, in 50-degree breezy weather under our blanket and with the ceiling vent on low) had sausage rolls for brekkie and then got on our bikes for a “reminder tour” of the entire park complex, which is rather huge. We’d done such a “take every left-hand turn” ride here a couple of years ago, but it was during the off season, and we were virtually alone. This time, everyone and his aunt with all the kids were headed to the lakefront beach, the marina, the canoe/kayak livery, the fishing spots, or the dog-walking areas. 

In the end, we logged nearly sixteen and a half beautiful, cool, breezy miles by riding every paved left-hand road we met along the way, plus a few gravel parking loops as well. There might have been one or two right-hand turns in there, but that was only so we didn’t miss any lefts.

This truly is a beautiful park with tons and tons of stuff to do on the huge lake and off of it. Walking/trekking paths, bird-watching (we saw a juvenile bald eagle during our ride), shady lanes, an enormous Inn overlooking the lake, and all the water sports anyone could ask for. 

Some of the scenes from our ride:

Returned to the campsite for lunch, and lounged for a while as the southwest-facing awning’s shade diminished steadily in the bright sun. Still, it stayed in the 70s to the low 80s outside, and we’d turned on the air conditioner early enough in Roomba to keep that temp in the 70s (even though the camper is not in any shade at all). There are sites that have larger trees than ours does, and all the sites are well separated from their neighbors by hedges and growth-left-tall between them. AND we had forgotten that not all the sites have water hookups (ours didn’t) and not realizing we’d be waterless, we did not fill our tank. 

Still, for two nights water was not any kind of a problem because there’s a nice dish-washing station right at the bathhouse, which is near our site (Sycamore loop #87). Next time, however, we will try to get a site with more shade (although the breeze continued to be cool and refreshing).

This trip had commenced a couple of days after we picked up the “Beta Version” of the replacement awning made locally by our yurt-making friend. Many Alto owners want the older and now-discontinued version of the awning Safari Condo had offered as an option with their Altos. So we are testing a replica to see if folks like it, and if they’ll buy it from our source. 

The one we’re testing has a couple of “warts” that will definitely need fixing if/when the awning goes into production. But overall we’re quite pleased with the Beta Retro-Awning. Next week, more of the folks who’d expressed early interest in our results will be able to see it “up close and personal.” So we’ll see how that goes.

We’re also testing a solar light string that we picked up to use when we won’t have power (or be able to erect an awning) at the Safari Condo Anniversary Celebration next weekend. Neat little “blue moons” charged with their dedicated solar charger. They’re kind of cool, although the blue light doesn’t provide the true lighting we like from our rope lights we normally string on the awning. But the blue moons are pretty.

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Later, after showers and packing up and racking up the gear (decided against a later-evening bike ride) we re-heated some macaroni and cheese from our freezer, roasted some fresh corn purchased yesterday from an Amish family’s roadside veggie stand, and the Delmonico steak we purchased from Pete’s Meats. What a delicious meal! We even topped the perfectly-cooked meat with Jim Gauvreau’s “compound.” What a treat.

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With the Solo Fireplace roaring and the sun setting, we began to enjoy the heat of the fire, and watched the birds go to roost in the “wild areas” of this marvelous park. Definitely a high recommendation to anyone passing through this part of Pennsylvania (Howard PA, near Lock Haven, PA).

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Training and Rest Days

April 14 & April 15, 2017

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The campsite and park layout.

Very cool here, but the wind has at last stopped. We slept very well (and a long time) under our blanket with the ceiling vent going on low for “white noise.”

Fixed coffee and tea, and Jack grilled some sausage patties that we enjoyed on slider rolls for breakfast. By about 11, we were cycling toward the “start point” of the mapped route Jack had gotten off the internet, called the “Crustacean Trail.” It purportedly began in Crisfield’s municipal park, which wasn’t much of a park at all, and we were to take Chesapeake Ave. to begin, the internet map said, “and follow the signs.”

No signs were visible either on posts along the way nor painted on the pavement.

We rode all the way into town, and stopped by the Visitor Info Center along the way, to get some advice and maps and recommendations from the nice lady there. Armed with all we might need to carry on, we rode down to the dock at the terminus of Main St. but still never found Chesapeake. No matter. We carried on, retraced our inbound ride, checked various maps, and at last got onto the route.

 

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Reflection selfie in Crisfield

 

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At the end of one of the residential streets in Crisfield, we saw the humongous wind turbine along the coast of the town perfectly framed by the road’s trees.

The sky was slightly overcast, the humidity was negligible, the temps were cool, and the traffic was nearly non-existent. We had a very fine day of cycling, with our ultimate destination being Westover, which looked like a pretty big “dot” on the map. We thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to find a late lunch there.

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A couple of the sad but interesting derelicts we saw along the way.

At just past one and 23 miles logged, we found Westover, and nothing but a couple of fuel stations, one with a no-name (I’m guessing a “Sheetz style”) foodery, and one with a Subway. We opted for the Subway instead of a microwaved hot dog.

Had a decent Subway sandwich, re-filled our water bottles, and headed on the return trip, but without all the gee-ing and haw-ing in Crisfield. There had been a loop we’d missed on the outbound run, that we collected during the return. Basically, the “trail” crossed Rt. 413 back and forth, and the entire route was quiet backroads on the east and west sides of 413. We certainly could have ridden 413, as there was significant shoulder and sometimes even a designated bike  lane, but that is a moderate thoroughfare and we wanted (and found) more calm and serene routes.

And, of course, the wind found us on our return. Not nearly so strong and steady as what we’d experienced the night before as we set up camp, the wind was nevertheless a significant presence along the return route. We took turns “drafting” for one another.

There were several really lovely stretches along the ride, especially one length of road that had hardwoods on one side and a tree farm of tall pines on the other, creating a tunnel effect. Many interesting homes and some derelicts that were equally interesting. I always wonder what stories derelict houses could tell, could they speak (or could I understand).

Along one stretch with a particularly deep pine farm situated next to a green-green field full of a cover crop that was about a foot tall, we heard the distinctive “bob-white” of a quail. Amazing. It echoed through the forest, and we heard it calling several times in sequence. I haven’t heard the call of a bob-white quail in years and years.

We saw some ducks and geese on a couple of inlets, and I spotted one American kestrel on a power line over a stubble field, but other than that, the birdlife we saw consisted of vultures. Lots and lots of vultures. We even saw one sitting on the top of a chimney that was still standing among the ruins of a fallen-in house. Another of his kin rose from the rubble inside what used to be the house as we passed, disturbed by our noticing and talking about its comrade on the chimney.

We also saw some lovely purple wisteria, some beyond-their-prime camellias, and all-in-all some very respectful drivers, offering us lots of room on the roads. The day was punctuated by the aromas of wisteria growing near the roads alternating with the peculiar and distinctive scent of poultry farms. And the occasional dead thing on the road or in a nearby ditch.

Despite the rather unpleasant odors mingling with the scents of spring, we had a completely delightful ride. Cycling stats: 43.5 miles; 12.6 MPH average, ride time 3 hours, 25 minutes.

Back at camp, we rested for a bit, took showers, and re-heated that leftover chili and baked dinner rolls from a couple of days ago. The sunset was just lovely over the water. After dark, we watched another pass of the International Space Station next to Daugherty Creek with the gang of next door neighbor kids and their parents and grandparents, and went to bed.

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Tomorrow, we might take our bikes across (via ferry) to Smith Island, if the ferry runs and the weather holds. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

April 15

Did I mention the pollen? It collects inside, outside, all around the town. Kind of amazing stuff. Happy, we’re not suffering too badly from breathing yellow pine pollen all the time, although a bit of extra sinus stuffiness is evident.

Our plan to take the ferry today was quashed by the rather dismal forecast. We really didn’t want to be on a ferry nor stranded on a remote island when the predicted rains rolled in.

Instead, we decided to drive (not cycle) north along 413 and 13 (the main north/south drag along this stretch of Earth) to see what Princess Anne (small, historic but apparently atrophying town) might have to offer in terms of brunch or lunch.

There were some areas of the northern outskirts of the town that had some significant renovation of the historic homes going on. And the University of MD/Eastern Shore makes up a significant portion of the area.

Still, there were no eateries beyond franchises, even around the campus area. Lots and Lots and Lots of student housing, however.

So we moved on north to Salisbury, where it wasn’t long before we found a CRAFT BREWERY!

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Yay. So we spent some time and $ at Evolution Brewery and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Jack wasn’t into drinking beer, and I couldn’t decide, so we got a flight to sample.

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Really REALLY liked their No. 3 IPA, which was notable for holding its head. I thought of it as a cross between Get Bent and Fresh Squeezed, with more body than either. I saved that for last, and we worked our way through the others during our meal. Jack had a crab cake sandwich and I had a catch of the day (mahi-mahi) sandwich, both of which were totally yum. They had hand-cut fries to go with all their sandwiches, which were also perfect.

The Pilsner, I’d order again on a hotter day (it was quite cool, overcast, and blustery outside, and inside they must have turned on the AC because we were both chilly). The Red, neither of us cared for greatly, and the special 608 that the waitress said was her fave, was totally meh unless paired with food. Then it began to be toned by what you were eating and it was tolerable.

The No. 3 IPA, however, was truly good — in fact, we found some in a sixer at the Acme (used to be Giant) Grocery store, and along with some other necessaries, brought it home to chill at camp.

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We found a seafood distribution company along the road coming back to Janes Island SP, and stopped to see if they sold retail, and they did, so we picked up two pounds of large shrimp to cook on the barbie when we got home. Fresh asparagus, rice, and grilled shrimp. It just doesn’t get any better than this. And we took our lovely meal in what Jack has come to call our “tree house,” which I hope is the new name for our screened room, where Jack has been spending a lot of time lately.

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Forgot to take a photo before we ate, so here’s the remains of the day.

Good day — and it never rained, after all, except before we got up north (could see it on the roads). By the time we got back to camp, it was in the 70s and pretty hot. After dinner we watched another pass of the ISS, among a cloudy horizon, and saw a hint or two of a coming storm.

During our drive, we also saw our first two osprey flying around en route up north since we arrived in MD.

The storm hit with thunder and lightening after we’d hit the hay, and the rain came down hard for a nanosecond — not even enough to wash off the pollen from the car. Strange stuff, this ubiquitous pollen.

Camping in style, 2017. Life is good.

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We strolled over the the Nature Center and climbed the “lookout” but not much to see, except a couple of folks kayaking along Daugherty Creek.