Happy 20th Anniversary

July 12

Before we depart from La Jolie Rochelle, our breakfast on July 12 was enhanced by an unexpected visitor. No one knew exactly where our feline friend came from nor who might be its humans. But it wandered through and around the trailer for a good while before disappearing as mysteriously as it had appeared.

Cat1232

Janet also wandered into the river to take a photo of her Alto on site. I wish I’d done that, too. Nothing is so unfortunate as an opportunity not taken.

JanetOntheRocks1235

Just to have some fun, as we were leaving we saw Jim with a cartop carrier packed with “noodles” of all colors. He and Jack have a running joke about how much Jim loves noodles—he’s the one that gave us the idea to use them to keep folks from tripping on awning guy lines. We felt that Jim needn’t purchase any additional noodles (no matter the use to which he put them) if he used the space in an entire cartop carrier to haul them everywhere.

NoodleJim1238

From La Jolie Rochelle, our group departed in a scattered way aiming at an interim “rally point” that was close to the 20th Anniversary Celebration in Sainte-Marie, outside of Quebec City and near the new Safari Condo factory in Staint-Frederick. Individual owners collected ourselves—after breaking camp and, for those who needed to, visiting the campground’s dump station—in a neighborhood in the small village of Scott, that our guide Jim had selected—a place where 16 Alto trailers with their tow vehicles could assemble to await a 1PM sharp en masse departure to the Celebration site.

This was important because if a group of friends wanted to all camp together, all had to arrive at the parking lot-cum-campsite at the same time. That was what we wanted, so we parked for a while along a crescent road in a quiet neighborhood until all had arrived, and then we began our short trek to the Celebration site (the Caztel Center ice hockey rink [among other uses]) in Ste.-Marie.

As luck would have it, while we lined up on the crescent road, Jack and I met new friends, who had been unable to join us at La Jolie Rochelle. But since they were going to attend the Celebration, and because they’re from Ottawa and are friends of Jim, he included them in the “arrive with this group” gathering. I say lucky because they parked on the crescent directly behind us, and we kept that configuration along the way—we called it a Conga of Snails—to the parking lot. Alex and Christine shared our “open space” as our trailers were arranged door-to-door with one parking space between us. 

SnailConga3706
Snail Conga
GroupArrival1241
Group Arrival
DoorToDoor1247
Door-to-door

As it happens, they had one of the “old style” awnings and paired theirs with ours. Using a small grass embankment behind the trailers, and with some additional poles and guy lines, WE HAD SHADE!! Which was a good thing as the lot temps reached the high 80s that day, and rose to the 90s the next day.

Shade1246
SHADE!!
RoombanTV1245
Roomba and Tow Vehicle
AugieShade1251
Augie also enjoys our shade

So the single factor about this entire adventure we were dreading the most was completely removed from the equation. What tremendous luck. And they are delightful folks who share many of our own interests, as do many Alto owners, we have found.

AltoFriends1248
Friends to the right
AltoFriends1249
Friends to the left
ParkingLotView1266
View from our Big Front Window
RoombaParked1244
Roomba

After registration and continuing to set up our site, we all went back downhill to the Caztel Center for the evening’s kickoff events, and on display was the very first Alto trailer ever built by Safari Condo. They discontinued the “signature” yellow several years ago, and you can see the plastic windows have since been replaced with glass. And today’s Altos are significantly larger than #1.

FirstAlto1243

There was a craft beer tasting event and welcome that evening, with the “grand illumination” following at around 10:30P. The beer, from a regional craft brewery called Frampton Brasse, was quite good. And while the presentations were mostly in French with some translations, and while they made the Nadeau family happy, some of us were left in the dark about what was going on. But our Australian friends who stayed with the group at La Jolie were publicly honored and thanked for not only coming from the farthest distance, but also because they have been great helpers to the company in selling and answering questions about the trailers from some of the potential buyers down under.

Celebration1253

The pre-gathering materials encouraged all trailer and conversion van owners to “light up their Safari Condo” in whatever way they chose. We had our “blue moon” lights charged and ready to go, plus pulled out the “disco light” and we had a big gathering in the parking lot—sharing drinks, nibbles, and stories until midnight.

The evening turned cool, thank goodness, and the sleeping was fine after a big day.

July 13

The Caztel Center’s facilities (and charging stations, and air conditioning) didn’t open until 7A, so we started our morning sipping our beverages in our chairs outdoors, watching the “camp” awaken.

At some point Mark and Angela came by and expressed an interest in taking a bike ride, so we began setting up for that after a quick brekkie. We got away around 9:45, and another Alto owner and rider who’d made his own recumbent electric bicycle joined us. After filling our water bottles at the Center, we headed steeply downhill to the route. On the map (apologies for the poor quality of the pic) and apparently close to the Rivière Chaudière is the paved bike path indicated in green (opposite side of the river from Sainte-Marie). We headed northerly from Sainte-Marie back toward Scott, because Mark had heard that there was a beautiful, very French patisserie with excellent coffee in Scott. Of course, we went.

BikeMap1262

First, we headed past Scott to get about 10 miles in before heading back. The path was a bit confusing because there was some construction and we were worried because we could not read the signs very well. But it was all paved and we only had to creep past a couple of vehicles along the way, until we began down the shoulder of a busy road headed toward a couple of interchanges with the very big #73 highway. At the second interchange we returned to Scott and paused briefly at a pretty church with a lovely steeple and very unusual wrought iron steps.

At last we found the pastry shop and stopped there for a long time to enjoy not only the delicious eclairs, cake and coffee, but also the lovely setting.

We rode back toward the Caztel Center feeling somewhat heavy, but energized. It was around 2PM when we finally got back, after getting slightly lost along the very busy road directly below the Caztel Center (we over-shot our turn uphill). It was in the 90s by then, and if we had not had shade to sit in I might have returned to Scott to sit by the river on the lawn under the trees again.

Bike stats: 

  • Ride time = 1:43
  • Stopped time = 1:47
  • Miles = 22.3
  • Average speed = 13MPH

We rested and then spent the evening entertaining friends and being entertained by friends, sitting in the middle of the parking lot once the sun set. Michele and Claudette came by with nibbles and wine and whiskey, and that became our dinner. 

The Celebration activities include a Beatles show and lots of our group was assigned to the Friday night show, while we head to it on Saturday night after the group dinner. I guess the auditorium where the show was to be held would hold only half of our group of 700+ individuals (in 350 Safari Condo products Altos and conversion vans [condos] together).

I shall report on those final activities (and a Sunday breakfast for all) in the next post.

La Jolie Rochelle

Arrived Tuesday, July 10 after about a 3-hour drive to Saint-Raphël de Bellechasse, easterly from Quebec City. There (with a bit of hunting) we found Camping La Jolie Rochelle, a simply wonderful private campground along a beautiful babbling river. 

It was hot by the time we were able to get in and, with tremendous help from our host—he actually backed Roomba into the tight spot opposite a serious stone wall—we set up our Alto in site #13 of a long string of Altos of all stripes, model numbers, colors, and ages. We joined a mini-rally. I was seriously relieved that I did not have to back Roomba into that spot.

AltosAllInARow1210AltosOnTheRiver1208

Our grassy site was simply excellent, right on the river embankment, even sandwiched among everyone else, some of whom we knew from the rally we attended last year, some from shared Alto travels, and some only virtually, via Facebook. So it was really fun to put some faces with names we knew from the Altoistes FB group.

After setup, I shared a beer with Alto friend Jim, and realized I needed more beer. So Jack and I headed out to scope the area for a grocery. We found a lovely place called “Marche Traditions” and it was surprisingly good for a small grocer with only two checkout lanes. Full of good veggies, cheeses, beer, wine and everything in between. We got some go-alongs so we would not starve while camped in a parking lot for the Anniversary Celebration (which begins Thursday), and of course beer and wine to share and consume.

RoombaAmongFriends1211
Roomba is at the right of the photo, with the awning that has the blue noodles on the guy lines.

The evening was a “gathered meal,” or one in which everyone brought to a central location (six picnic tables pushed together beside the pool area) whatever they were having for dinner anyway, and if one chose, bring something to share. If nothing in the cupboard to share, no worries. We all just ate together, and it was a very fun evening. We had gotten some desserts pre-made from the Traditions grocer, and they seemed to be a big hit with the group, although I did not have one.

GroupDinner1186

PartialAltoArrayFrAbove1183
This is a pic from our picnic site of a few of the Altos gathered here.

Before and after we ate, we were able to tour one of the Alto model 2114s, an extra-long Alto version — the first than many of us had seen, and I think about the 11th ever sold (they had just been released earlier this year). 

GroupDinnerw-2114-1185

Also, another Altoiste who goes full time using a Safari Condo conversion van to pull an older yellow Alto rolled in to join us.

CondoPullingAlto1189

A campfire was built and many gathered around it into the night, but I cocooned in Roomba to read and get my eyes closed by ten. Jack stayed with the group until about 11, but I did not wake up when he got in.

On July 11, I arose early (6:30) to find the temps had dropped to 40 degrees outside. With an extra shirt and long pants, I carried my tea outside and watched some gulls preen and dry themselves on some rocks in the river shallows. 

GullMeetingCloseup1205GullRock1194GullPool1200GullFlying1202

I watched them for a long time before Jack got moving.The sun came over the trees and enlivened all sorts of life including a pair of kingfishers that flew above the water upstream and out of sight. 

After breakfast, we sat and read and visited and chatted with fellow Altoistes until plans began to come together for a bike ride. Mark, Richard, Jack and I ended up headed to a paved bike path that my understanding is was once a rail bed, now converted to a bike trail. In full, it is 70 km, paved the entire way.

We started by driving what seemed a long way to begin at “P7” in Armagh. This had been the rail station, and off the parking lot was a cafe/snack stand. We started at 1:30 and rode outbound about 12 miles, and turned around to come back for a total ride of 24 miles in 1:38 of ride time (we paused a few times to drink water and decide whether or not to continue).

Trail1227

Along the route I saw a female pheasant, likely near her nest, just standing beside the trail. We also saw a goshawk zip past along the timber line near a gravel road, and saw many Monarch butterflies. We also heard but did not see a red-tailed hawk soaring above somewhere.

The trail was very nice, fairly straight and pretty flat, and it was a good ride. Richard is a serious cyclist so he kept our pace up, and I averaged 14.6 MPH over the duration.

Richard peeled off at Route Principale, on our return and somewhat close to the end of the ride, to take the main roads back to the campsite via a more direct route than we’d traveled to begin. Mark, Jack, and I stopped at the little cafe to grab an ice cream and some more water.

Bicycle1230

Upon our return another 2114 had arrived. The family we have often camped with in the past “traded up” their 1723 for the larger 2114 to better accommodate their family. They came straight from the pickup at the factory to our little gathering, and moved that beast into their site with the Caravan Mover, with a little help from their Altoiste friends, since they’d never used one before.

A few of us gathered to share beverages at our campsite, and we talked to Cynthia and Gail—Alto owners from Australia here for the Celebration—for a long time, sharing stories and once again, putting faces with names we’ve corresponded with for years over the internet.

A simple meal after our showers, and more Alto friends, Michele and Claudette, whom we met for the first time in April when we were camping at Virginia Beach, arrived and we shared a glass and slapped mosquitoes together as the sun set.

Everyone is looking forward to the celebration activities tomorrow, so we (mostly) hit the beds early, although a hearty few sat by the campfire again into the evening. 

First Landing Days

1074-JackOnShore

On our first full day at First Landing State Park, Jack and I lounged a lot. We took a lovely walk on the beach, although it was seriously windy and brisk. Even the birds were hunkered down on their “condo”and I took one pic of a pelican (we saw many) because our friend Annie, who will arrive here on Sunday, just adores pelicans. I sent the pic to her to let her know she’d be able to see some once she arrives.

1072-ShorebirdCondo

1078-Pelecans

1073-PelicanPole

Saw some interesting stuff and picked up a nice shell, that reminded me of our Safari Condo Snail that John had made for us last year.

After our beachwalk and lunch, we got the bicycles down for a “shakeout” cruise around the campground and across the road to remind ourselves of the trails that are appropriate for bikes. It was a leisurely 7-mile effort without any pain.

We found a site (175) that has potential for future camping. It’s a drive-through, slightly sandy where the truck might park, but quite nice, with lots of potential for hammock-hanging and privacy.

John and Mary arrived around 5P, to a nice site (177) — in the photo you cannot see a really nice, shady area directly adjacent to their set-up, excellent for hammocks or chairs, or more working space or a screen house. Their setup is quite fine and works well in the site.

We four went out to dinner instead of cooking, as J n M were tired after their drive, so we had excellent seafood (fast service, good beer) and could have chosen to sit outside on the deck but the wind kept us inside. The place was called Dockside (along Shore Dr. northward, on the left and tucked back from a couple of other seafood restaurants nearer the road), and they also sell fresh seafood to purchase and cook yourself.

The next day, we did some more lounging as J n M settled in. We’d been eyeing a spot above Roomba, where some live oaks cling to a dune, as a potential hammock site. The path up to the trees was covered with live oak leaves, so it was incredibly slippery. I tried to clear them off a bit so we wouldn’t break our necks.

2399-LiveOak

We hung the hammocks and had a nice lounge in the wind and shade. Jack actually fell asleep after reading a bit.

2400-JackHammock

After lunch, we all four rode across the highway to the trail heads that actually go everywhere. We were looking for a woodsy trail that would take us toward Virginia Beach proper, and found it in the Cape Henry Trail. It’s quite a nice trail, although we had to watch closely for roots and pockets of deep sand so we wouldn’t go butt-over-teakettle. There were many other users also, on a sunny Friday. There is a break in the trail that you can take either toward 64th Street off Atlantic Ave, or you can go right toward an inlet and beach/picnic/boating area. We paused there to assess our timing.

Mary wanted to visit an elderly friend, so she and John turned back at that point, where Jack and I carried on along the Cape Henry Trail toward that same inlet to which one can drive. The trail along this stretch was quite narrow and the “footing” became increasingly sandy, the closer we got to the very pretty inlet.

1085-WaterThruTrees

But this section of the trail was a raptor area, and we saw many flying osprey and I watched one settle into a high nest in a snag, in the middle of a tidal marsh. Its mate was circling and calling, possibly announcing a hatch, or just communicating with the parent that settled into the nest. By the time I got my camera out, all you could see of the nesting parent was its head.

1088-RaptorTrail

We ended up having to walk our bikes through deep, deep sand at the edge of the beach area that was being extensively used by mothers and young kids as we passed. Once I emptied the dune’s worth of sand from my shoes, we carried on to the parking and boat launch area, and rode back along the road to where Mary and John had turned back. We refilled our water bottles, and rode up to 64th St., turned left to head back to camp, and ended up with a nice 14-mile day, with a decent average speed of 9.5. I got “into a zone” as we tore up Shore Drive past the army base and back to camp, and really exercised my legs into the wind all the way to our turnoff. 

While she was out, Mary stopped by Dockside (totally mobbed on a Friday night) to pick up some shrimp. The “mediums” were enormous! We collaborated for dinner: Jack marinated the shrimp for a while in some Old Bay, and then we skewered them to cook on the grill; Mary made a salad; and I cooked up some rice. We had quite a lovely dinner together under the screen tent.

Rollins Pond, New York

Monday, August 17: Got away at a fairly early hour from World’s End, headed on a very long drive up to Rollins Pond campground, in New York’s Adirondack State Forest. Had some more GPS issues, and once again, spotty cell service; and one directional challenge (we were sure we were headed north on a small state road, when we were actually headed south) which we rectified before we drove below the Mason-Dixon line again.

But it was a beautiful drive, and (mostly) construction free. Except when I was driving. Jack thinks there’s some sort of curse that dictates, when I’m behind the wheel, we will find road construction.

image image image image

One time along the way to Rollins Pond while on Interstate 81, we rounded a hill and there was a full-on stoppage of traffic. I had to stop quickly (not suddenly) but as the traffic piled up behind me, I was afraid someone might round that same hill with less time to stop than I had, and crunch. But all was well, and the hold-up was just a very long line of folks trying to form up into a single lane. The traffic was truly extraordinary on a mid-August Monday. College students going back to school, last gasp vacations for families before school starts, yadda.

We had filled with fuel and were looking for dinner groceries in a pretty little town called Tupper Lake when we hit some serious construction right in the town. All the roads were torn apart, and the bumpy surface factor was in the 10 range (1 being smooth/recently paved). We could not move Blue Roomba over that stuff faster than 10 MPH and the folks behind us must certainly have been cross.

With all the construction detours and our attention to Roomba-comfort we might have (possibly) missed a directional sign, and that’s when we ended up heading south when we thought we were going north.

Once we got back on the right path, we were quite GPS-challenged trying to find the proper entrance to Rollins Pond campground, but when we found it, it was completely abuzz with so many people and campers and enormous trailers and camper-busses that I thought we should just try a perfectly good parking lot instead of navigating the VERY LONG way up to our site. I was worried we were in trouble when we went through the first checkpoint and the guy said, “To get to Rollins Pond, you have to turn right here and head up to site # 134, where you’ll find a right turn. That takes you to Rollins Pond and you’ll see another check-in station.”

The trick is you have to pass through at least one other campground to even find Rollins Pond: we began at their site #8. Crept along avoiding bicyclists, pedestrians, huge campers, some folks (unsuccessfully) backing into their sites, boats and boat trailers, etc. etc. etc. for a very long while until we could turn off (at site # 134!) from the very busy campground and head to Rollins Pond.

Our second “check in” was delayed by someone trying to stay without a reservation, but we got through. Then realized our site was #185, whereas we began our second lengthy trek at site number 1. Joy.

Things got better still (NOT). When we got to our back-in site, we were headed the wrong direction for the angle of approach. And there was the Rock of Gibraltar in the direct tire-path our little Roomba (not to mention our Subaru) was going to have to traverse to get in there.

A tight turn-around with a good amount of backwards/forwards just managed to get us arranged in the correct direction, and Jack did an excellent job guiding me into the narrow, tree trunk- and rock-strewn site.

And it got better again, as we had zero hope of leveling our poor Roomba in the indicated place for camping. More boulders and horribly uneven terrain just made it impossible. I even backed the trailer straight off our leveling wedge one time.

So we pulled up into the narrow “access” corridor (close to the Rock of Gibraltar) and at long last managed to level and raise the roof, instead of giving up and heading to a WalMart parking lot. It was late, we were tired and hungry, but I gotta say, Rollins Pond is completely lovely.

image

We gave our nearest neighbors a tour and chatted with them over a glass of wine for a while, and then I went down to the pond-edge to watch the sunset.

image image

I’m so glad we did not abandon the effort, even if it was a great deal of effort for only a “one night stand.” Rollins Pond does not allow the big motor boats that are common off the lake that sports our first campsite tour — so Rollins is ideal for swimming, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. It was quiet and serene and I hope we get to go back again.

Just not into site #185. Ever.

image image image image image