Safari Condo Last Day

July 14-15

I’m quite behind in my posts, so I’ll try to keep the next few summaries brief.

Had quite a nice dinner with 700 of our Safari Condo friends on the evening of July 14. Met up with Denis and Christianne just prior, and headed over with them and our Alto group.

 Many of us were surprised at how well the serving went, and how delicious the food was when it got to everyone. There was a cheesy potato casserole with a superior filet mignon and it was truly (and unexpectedly) delightful. The wine, however, apparently ran out early and we had to satisfy ourselves with a marginal California red.

Many of us had to leave early to catch the Beatles show, and that was pretty good, but overly, incredibly, unnecessarily, painfully LOUD. If it hadn’t been for a very nice person in the row behind us handing me some earplugs, I would have had to leave. 

The act was pretty good, with fun costume changes taking us through the songs of each of the major Beatles’ “eras.” But whether it was because they had to do two shows in a row without time to let their voices rest between, or if it was just the guys in the band, most of their voices were blown pretty badly by the time our show launched. The singer playing John Lennon was the best of the lot. Also, there was some serious orchestration going on behind the “fab four” and those musicians were stellar.

Another late night (it was midnight before we got back to the trailer) was followed by another early morning as we all returned to the site of our dinner for a mass breakfast. Again the food was totally excellent considering the number of plates that needed to be handed out. There were a few folks who missed out on hot tea, and the coffee refills were slow to come around, but overall the quiche-like breakfast casserole, fruit, bread, and sausages (bangers) were delicious. After brekkie, folks began breaking camp to join the “parade” to the Safari Condo factory, and self-guided tour. 

We took our time, skipped the parade and the tour and went hunting for a place somewhere between there and our next stop in Ottawa.

Unfortunately, we got confused about where Denis had suggested we try, and by the time we messaged him and he got back to us, we were an hour past that destination. So he suggested a place that, when we found it, appeared to have a very long line of very big rigs trying to get in.

So we headed further west.

And finally pulled into a place another of our Alto friends had suggested, Parc National D’Oka, around 7PM. We were very tired, and when we hooked up at site 115, the pole with the power outlets was wobbly, and our voltage/wattage checker read “OFF.” Not good.

So we un-did everything and went back to the registration place to report that the electric service was not suitable. With apologies (“We’re so far away from everything out here.”) they re-assigned us to site 89, which was closer to the main road and check-in, and whose power pole was steadierut our safety unit still read OFF. Still, the ceiling vent powered up when we plugged in, and we were so very exhausted, we decided to chance it. Shortly after going through the minimal setup we slept like logs.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Snail Conga
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Group Arrival
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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.

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SHADE!!
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Roomba and Tow Vehicle
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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.

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Friends to the right
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Friends to the left
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View from our Big Front Window
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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). 

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

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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. 

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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).

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Mattamuskeet Journey v. 2018

Mattamuskeet Journey to see migrating waterfowl v. 2018

In January of 2016, we headed out with a newly-acquired Alto camper trailer (we named Roomba) to accompany tent-camping friends to Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge, camping at Pettigrew State Park in North Carolina, just on Lake Phelps.

That was so fun we decided on a reprise of that trip with the same friends, who are now also Alto trailer owners (they named theirs Moon Shadow). Last time, the temps were quite chill, and Mike and Barbara were tenting, although we shared our camper’s propane heat on a couple of occasions. But it was bitter cold.

This time was not as gray and frosty, but still cold overnights, and — well, I’ll let you read all about it in several posts.

Sunday, January 7

Left MoD when the temp was about 10 degrees. We began prep around 8:30 – 9:00 AM and had said goodbye to the doggies and were driving down Rt. 59 by about 11.

The weird thing about the whole stowing and prepping during this type of winter camping is that nothing that would be damaged by freezing could be out in Roomba nor in the back of the truck overnight. So we could not pre-pack as we so often do to assure an early departure. We removed our bathroom kits from our clothes bags, and put all the  food (including the ‘fridge food, as nothing was going in from our home freezer) and other things that would be damaged by freezing into the truck very last before hitting the road. We put the refrigerator food into the ‘fridge without turning it on, figuring that it would not freeze solid in the 3 hours it was going to take us to get to North Bend (halfway point overnight spot). Measuring by past experience, the interior of the camper gets really cold on cold traveling days, so we couldn’t even put the dishwashing liquid into Roomba where it usually stays.

So the whole packing up thing was a challenge. We’d left our bed topper rolled and in Roomba for the entirety of this deep freeze (started about New Year’s Eve and overnight temps were in the low single digits — one AM we had zero degrees F — steadily for the whole of 2018). So the topper was stiff as a board and we probably could not have unrolled it even if we’d wanted to. Our hope was that it could ride in the back seat of the truck and thaw a bit, but it was too wide/stiff to fit into the cab, so we had to leave it in Roomba.

Once we arrived at North Bend Federal Campground (around 3P, after a stop for lunch and another for fuel) we plugged up (site 51–with between 2 and 3 bars of LTE and/or 3G cell service) and cranked the propane heater which solved the problem of the frozen bed topper nicely.

North Bend was 28 degrees, and there was still significant amounts of snow along the roads, especially at the edges. The guard said that there had been about 5 campsites used last night, but everyone had left.

They had sites 51 – 77 open, with one heated bathhouse that has maybe 8 private toilet/bath rooms. Site 51 is far from the lakefront, but pretty close to the bathhouse.

We did not unhitch, only leveled and set up, again pondering what would go where when we take off for Pettigrew State Park in NC tomorrow. We’re about 3 hours away from our next stop and, happily—although tonight will be lows in the teens again—the temps will be trending upwards for our whole stay at Pettigrew.

We have brought yeast rolls rising in Omnia, plus a lovely (but untried) chicken stew in the Billy Boil. After set up and a quick walk down to the lake (water levels are waaaaaay low—the “beach” I walked along was really the lake bottom) we are now happily ensconced in the warmth, and getting ready to continue our listen to another of the “Department Q” crime/mystery series (by Jussi Adler-Olsen) with Carl Merk: The Hanging Girl.

Powhatan State Park, Virginia

April 26 & 27, 2017

Our hope to be taking one good bike ride on Wednesday, April 26 before leaving Belle Isle was dashed by the weather and timing. Rained off-and-on overnight, and was still spitting when we got up. Tried to wait it out, but decided to simply go ahead and break camp to head toward Powhatan State Park without a ride.

Of course, it cleared up around 11, but we were already in full stow-and-pack mode, so we continued. Oddly, we left sun and headed toward clouds — not our usually MO, since our philosophy while traveling is “If it rains, leave town.” We were headed from sun into apparent rain on our transit day (also Jack’s birthday).

Completely uneventful ride to Powhatan State Park, except for the sighting of “creepy French fry guy” at an old diner or beer joint along the way, leering at traffic while standing next to an old phone booth.

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We also noticed a sign for a local, Goochland County craft brewery, oddly called Lickinghole Creek (like a local physical creek near which it happens to sit). Liked their logo and figured we’d head out to check them out sometime during our stay.

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Set-up was fine (site #5) as we were the only people in the park. Even the camp host was “off duty.” And those earlier clouds had also abandoned the joint by the time we arrived, around 3.

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Powhatan State Park, sort of between Farmville and Richmond, is brand, spanking new. They have the most modern, private, and sensible bath house I’ve ever seen anywhere — every toilet and shower is its own lock-able room, all are unisex, and a couple for handicapped even combine toilet, sink and shower in one room. There is a laundry and two dish-washing stations. Oddly, though, the bath house for our 29 sites is the only one on the property, I think, although I’ve not been down to the group camping area. The dump station is pristine and has four offload ports.

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There is tons of room for expansion, and I anticipate there will be a third canoe launch area into the James River, and a whole separate campground at some future point. Already there is a huge playground/picnic area, a nature programming center, an area and story board of a preserve for tree restoration (and the newly-planted trees, too, of course); and still lots and lots of wide open spaces.

But on Jack’s birthday, we simply settled in, built a fire, enjoyed a simple dinner and hit the hay early. Hoping we will have an opportunity to prepare a special birthday dinner before we head home on Monday.

April 27

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Roomba’s awning faces east, so got a good AM shot on the 27th.

A bit of backstory is required here. Through Facebook and various other means, Jack and I keep in touch with some of our rugby colleagues from our William and Many days (and Jack’s contacts continue through his post-W&M career, too). Anyway, from one of my blog posts, a fellow women’s rugby player I’ve known since the late 1970s got in touch and asked about our Alto trailer. We had also hoped to see her in Williamsburg this Saturday, but she’s continuing her  40-year involvement with women’s rugby by coaching a W&M Sevens team that is headed to a national tourney this weekend, and will be away.

Since we changed our original plan to arrive in Powhatan SP earlier than expected, we invited Pep and her partner, Lisa, up to see Roomba. They accepted, and we set up a time for their arrival on Thursday. Pep said she had a final practice that afternoon with her team before their departure Friday, so they arrived early and we did some catching up, met their lovely pups, Bella and Rugby, and toured and talked about Safari Condo, Altos in general, and our model (R-1713) specifically.

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Rugby wants to come into the back seat as we drive to lunch.

Then we went off to lunch in Goochland proper, at a  placed small but crowded with locals called the Courthouse Market and Grill. Yummy sandwiches, burgers, onion rings, fries . . . very tasty and easy. More talk and catching up and rugby was enjoyed by all (with the possible exception of Lisa, who is not an “ex-rugger”).

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It was a great time to be with them and I think we all had a great time, and they might sally forth from their summer home in Maine to Quebec and check out the Safari Condo operation, possibly sometime this summer.

After their all-too-early departure, and with many good wishes for a safe and successful tournament to Pep and many good wishes for further Alto exploration to Lisa (as I am, she is a layout person so we had some brief talk about magazines, etc., and as she cuts back on her teaching career, seeks freelance work in the print design field), we said our goodbyes.

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Tribe Rugby!

Shortly thereafter I donned my cycling gear and left Jack lounging in the shade with his blues blasting from the Blue Bose Bluetooth and did a couple of circuits of the campground.

The two canoe launch areas are steeply downhill from the campground proper, offering more climbing practice than we’ve been able to experience to date on this trip, so I did those two downhill speeds and uphill cranks twice.

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James River from Canoe Launch Area C

 

Cycling stats: Rode for about an hour and a half; 16.8 miles; average speed 11MPH; fastest speed 31MPH. Here’s the interesting stat: 500 feet of ascent (that’s a cumulative total). It is significant because all of our ascents to date along the flatlands of the Eastern Shore (with the exception of our ride through Assateague, which barely made it to the 100 feet mark) could be counted in the tens of feet, with a couple of our rides logging zero feet of ascent.

Thinking ahead to the Tour de Floyd ride, I was glad to get a bit of climbing practice into the training mix. And the canoe launch areas were quite nice, with skid launching areas, and one with a pavilion, and trail access to a canoe-in camping area (that I did not go down the trail to visit). Launch area A even had boat racks and trailer parking.

This is a very nice campground altogether, although all the signs prohibit swimming in the James River due to swift water flow, underwater obstructions, and steep drop-offs. Seeing the water speed past, I could imagine the dangers — even of being in a boat — of swimming.

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Canoe launch with steps on either side of a boat skid to the James.

Lakawanna State Park, Pennsylvania 

We got a late-ish start, but departed Shenandoah River State Park on Sept. 27 with JB & Martha (the other two RV-ers had left by 10A). Almost immediately, as we trundled through Front Royal, we lost JB & Martha in their Class C dragging a dolly with a Prius. 

Saw an adult bald eagle perched in a snag near the interstate as we headed through MD on Rt. 81 N, just before entering PA. Of course, I didn’t have my camera handy enough to snap a pic. There was tons and tons of construction zones along the route of our very long day.

We stopped off Interstate 81 near Harrisburg, PA at a Panera’s for lunch (around 1P) and as we finished, we got a phone call from Gloria, who reported JB & Martha were looking for our cell numbers because they’d experienced some strange dashboard warning lights since the day before. 

The backstory on that: en route to Shenandoah River SP, they had been squeezed between two semis and a couple of vehicles when someone hit their breaks or did something unexpected, and JB had to really hit his own breaks which locked up and skidded, but everything that was supposed to work did, even the breaking system on the Prius dolly, so they were able to avoid disaster. After that incident, they pulled over to the side of the road to get their nerves back on level and take visual inventory of their situation. When they got back into the RV, the yellow lights were illuminated on the dash.It took them a while to find the Operator’s Manual for the Class C to see if there was a problem if they continued, their thought being that, since all appeared well and their breaks were still working as expected that the yellow lights would cease at some point.

The Owner’s Manual, however, urged them to seek a dealer to double-check and re-set the lights indicating the ABS and Anti-Skid and a couple of other safety measures were okay. So they had pulled over in a rest stop and made some phone calls, but no one had gotten back to them by the time they called us and we stopped by the rest area to check up on them.

After some discussion, they still felt that their ability to stop the vehicle was not compromised, and that if they took it easy, they could carry on. So instead of waiting for a call back (which incidentally never came) while sitting, they thought to carry on to Lakawanna State Park (PA) with us, and wait for the call while gently moving down the road.

All went well, and we all made it to Lakawanna in good shape, if a considerable time later than we’d expected. Ken and Diane had been shuttled off to a dog-friendly part of the camping area, while we were next door to Kerry & Gloria (ours was site 28, a lovely woodsy spot with a path through the woods to the main road in front of the lake); and JB and Martha had the third site down, in which they were unable to get level. They moved the next morning, slightly farther along.

Site 28

Any of you who remember our Cooperstown (or several other trips) of last year, know that we dearly love Lakawanna State Park. It is really a great location, if the sites are a bit of a leveling challenge. Getting there, you roll through lovely agricultural country with barns + silos, stone houses, well-kept fences, and just an amazing, rolling countryside.

Anyway, with Ken & Diane (and Barley Boy) up the hill and around the bend, it was difficult to get together for campfires and meals, so during the stay we mostly hung with JB & Martha while Kerry and Glo hung with brother Ken and Diane.

That night, Martha was kind enough to share with everyone some leftover ribs JB had smoked for their house guests before joining us. Gloria added some baked beans to the repast and it was very nice (for us) not to have to cook after a very long day. Everyone except Ken & Diane ate at our picnic table, but we all turned in early.

The following day (Wednesday, Sept. 28) dawned clear and chilly. It was in the middle 40s when we awoke, but the temps rose to the mid-60s by noon. The wind was blowing falling leaves everywhere and it was truly a taste of autumn. 

Jack and I unloaded the bikes and took a lovely tootle around the whole park, using our “take every right turn” method of seeing all the loops and public areas. JB suggested we call this the “bike tour boogie,” based on what he and Martha used to do with their dinghy when they piloted a boat. But for them it was the boat tour boogie. Maybe we should call it the Site Tour Boogie, because we do it mostly to check out the campground and see where the best sites are, and what amenities we can find.

We went into several areas that were closed to camping, up high above the lake, and then carried on down along the lakeside public areas. There are access areas for picnickers, boaters/fisher people, family gatherings, hiking trails, and the water park they were still constructing last year when we were here.

There were many of these dry-laid stone walls scattered around the area.

As we rode, the sky began clouding up, the wind was colder/wetter, and the predicted rain showers appeared to be moving in. We decided to get back to camp, and begin the breakdown process early, so if/when it rained, the awning and stuff would not get wet. I fixed us some sandwiches for lunch while Jack began breaking down camp. Our plan was to leave space in the car for the grill, because we thought we’d be grilling brat-type sausages with onions and peppers on the griddle for dinner.

We went into Clark’s Crossing or South Abingdon Township (not sure if Clark’s Crossing is a part of the Township or what, but our navigation system called it South Abingdon Township) to a Weis grocery store to re-supply and get some firewood. It did begin raining but only for a little while as we went and returned. While in Weis, I found some pre-made, refrigerated pizza dough, so we changed plans and decided to try a pizza in the Omnia Oven. 

The moment we began merely thinking of making a fire, the rain came again. So we retreated for some Camembert on nice crackers while we waited to see what the weather would do. When it stopped again, JB came over and he and Jack started a fire, while I looked for a fire-poking stick. Once it was going pretty well, and we were having some adult beverages, it started raining again. We decided to remove to our respective abodes for our dinners and re-assess once we’d been fed.

The pizza turned out okay, but next time I would pre-bake the crust just a little before putting on the toppings. We tasted a hunk each and found it to be slightly undercooked, so we put it back on the fire for a bit, and our second lumps were quite good indeed. I only used half of the dough, so we’re going to try again within the next day or so.

Ended the evening with JB and Martha ’round the fire (Ken and Diane had already built a fire up at their site by the time we had built ours, so Kerry joined his brother up the hill). We had a final toddy around 9:30 while the last of the wood burned, and then all turned in expecting an early departure in the AM.