Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gone Fishin

One of the things we really miss being on the road is going to Mike's & Sherri's cabin at Pymatuning Lake. We have been going there for years on summer weekends and spring fishing trips with the guys. When we left in the spring they invited us to visit for a few days after the wedding and we jumped at the offer. They had plenty of space to park the rig. We did a little exploring of the area and got to fish on their pontoon boat. We had a great time telling stories and laughing with our dear friends and we even caught a few fish.
One of their new toys is a golf cart that Nanc got to practice on for those future years when we settle down in an RV village somewhere.
While we caught many fish, this walleye was the only one that went on the stringer. We hooked a bunch of catfish, a few perch, a crappie and some smaller walleye.
Here is Captain Catfish (Mike) who kept his reputation in tact by reeling in many, many cats. He also managed to snag a couple other species.
In nearby Linesville is a must see for anyone traveling through the area. At the Spillway between the hatchery waters and the lake there are thousands of carp, ducks and geese all vying for the bread thrown to them by the tourists. It is billed as a place where the ducks walk on the fish and has been an attraction that I remember visiting years ago when we visited my grandmother who lived in nearby Andover, Ohio.
I don't believe there is another place where you can see such a concentration of fish.
Just of I-79 at Meadville is a neat little attraction. PennDot (PA Department of Transportation) has allowed local students from Allegheny College to recycle highway signs to create a sculpture garden. There is a long mural along the fence and a garden of huge flowers on the corner of the lot. It is a worthwhile stop if you are traveling I-79 in Northwest PA. You just never know what new and exciting things you might see even in places you have been going to for years.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yanni / Tenenbaum Wedding

We moved on to the Hilton Garden Inn in Mayfield Village, Ohio for the Yanni/Tenebaum wedding. We were permitted to dry camp in the parking lot which was nice as we were able to be near all the action. This is the fifth of six Yanni children to marry and, as usual, a grand time was had by all. It was great to see all the kids with their families and our many friends who attended the affair.
The ever expanding Yanni family surrounding the bride and her new husband. I hope I don't miss any of them. From the left: Traci & John Yanni; Tommie, Jim, Elizabeth & Brittany Inghram; John's wife Patrice; Amanda & Alex; proud daddy John; Ben & Rachel Zajac; Elizabeth Yanni; Jason, Caroline, Allison & Carsyn Yanni. What a great looking family.
Patrice & John Yanni - Father of the Bride.
Joey (Magoo) and friend.
Wayne & Kathy
Kim, Bill, Becky & Ron
Pete & Jan
Since this was a Russian wedding there was a bottle of vodka on every table. Nanc prepares to toast the new couple.
The Ketubah is a marriage contract in the Jewish tradition that Amanda & Alex signed before all the witnesses.
Some of the 3000 cookies John baked for the wedding. The meal at the reception was a three hour multiple course extravaganza. Between each course the band entertained and everyone celebrated. It was quite a lovely affair.
We had a great time celebrating Amanda's & Alex's marriage and seeing many of our friends. It was also really nice to be able to stay in our motorhome and sleep in our own bed. Another advantage to being a fulltimer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Kicking Back with Friends

After two and a half months of being on the move we wanted to slow down and kick back a bit. But we have this thing about staying in all the 49 states we can drive to, so we needed to spend a night in nearby Rhode Island. It was only 85 miles from Salisbury, MA to Woonsocket, RI (you can drive that far in Texas and still be in the same county) where we spent the night at Walmart and added the smallest state to our map. Next we needed to add neighboring Connecticut and found a small (22 sites) COE park at West Thompson Lake that was only about 20 mile away as the crow flies, but a 45 mile trip in the motorhome because of a low clearance underpass. This was a nice quiet place with great trails and in four days we only left the park once for a beer and milk run. We will have to return to this area some time in the fall and do a little exploring. We noticed on the Escapees forum that 07 mates Dave & Kathy Bennett, whom we last saw in Yuma, would be visiting mates Ron & Linda Fleeger, who are spending the summer with family in Northwest PA. We decided to drive 550 miles and make it a mini reunion. We did an overnighter at Walmart in Bloomsburg, PA along with ten other rigs. There were more rigs here than at West Thompson Lake. We got a campsite next to the Bennetts at RV Village Camp Resort in Mercer and enjoyed the time with good conversation, food and adult beverages. We Western Pennsylvanians introduced Dave & Kathy to the great wings at the original Quaker Steak and Lube in nearby Sharon. After a couple of days they moved on to Niagara Falls so they could add New York to their map. We visited Ron & Linda and got to check out the new floor they are installing in their rig. They replaced the carpet with a wood floor and it really looks great. Since we are so near WashPA we put out the word that we were in the area and got a call from John & Patrice Yanni about meeting for dinner at the North Country Brewery in Slippery Rock. It was great seeing them and we had a fun evening catching up and hearing about John's daughter's wedding coming up this weekend.
Class of 07 mates Dave, Kathy, Nanc, Jim, Linda and Ron all look satisfied after their meal at Quaker Steak and Lube. We think the original is better than the newer chain versions of this restaurant.
Check out this unique urinal at the North Country Brewery. The beer and the food were great. Slippery Rock, which advertises itself as "the town known around the world" has come a long way from the days when it was a dry town.
If you are passing near this area the Avenue of 444 Flags in Hermitage is a must see. The idea started during the Iranian hostage crisis in the late seventies when after 100 days 100 flags were raised as a show of support. A flag was added each day until the hostages were released after 444 days in captivity. It is quite an impressive sight.

We are leaving here on Friday to attend the Yanni wedding in Cleveland. Then next week we are going to visit our friends Mike and Sherri Sharp at their cottage near Pymatuning Lake for a few days of fishing before our fall visit to WashPA. One disappointing change in our plans is we did not get selected for tickets for the NCAA basketball finals in Houston we were planning to attend next April. Oh well, something else to look forward to in the future.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Wee Glimpse of New England

After leaving Jean Paul and Celine we drove to Houlton, Maine where we boondocked at the Walmart for the night. We needed to exchange the few Canadian dollars we had and pick up our mail that we arranged to have forwarded to us. The next day we drove to the Black Bear Campground in Salisbury, Massachusetts where we were greeted with hot (98) and humid (98%) weather that had us holed up in the AC for a couple days. It was pretty difficult to take after a summer of very comfortable weather. The temps did moderate and we did a little exploring in the area.
There are thousands of boats in the harbors in every little town we visited.
We visited the Salem Maritime National Historical Site where they trace the seafaring history of this once important port. Salem ships played an important role as privateers during the Revolutionary War and brought riches from the Far East. The importance of the port declined when bigger clipper ships, which were too deep for the harbor, came into use. The ship, Friendship, is a replica of a typical merchant ship of the time.
This is the last of thirteen Custom Houses built in Salem to collect taxes on cargoes imported into the country. The oldest dates back to colonial times. The tariffs were the largest source of income for the early US government.
The Derby House, built in 1762, is the oldest brick house in Salem. It was the home of sea merchant, Elias Hasket Derby, Americas first millionaire.
This is the home of Salem native and author Nathaniel Hawthorne. He worked at the Custom House while struggling to become an author. Through his friendship with President Franklin Pierce he obtained a more lucrative job as a Surveyor. After Pierce's party lost the election Hawthorne lost his job and eventually turned this ordeal into his first novel, The Scarlet Letter.
The House of Seven Gables was owned by his cousin when it became the setting of Hawthorne's second novel. The tour of the house is very worthwhile with its secret stairs and hallways. No interior pictures were allowed.
One reason we wanted to stop in this area was to see Gini and Bob Huntley, our neighbors at the Rose Parade HOP. We visited their lovely home then went to dinner and had an enjoyable evening sharing tales of our travels. It was the third time this summer we met up with RVing friends on the road.
The Man at the Wheel statue was originally dedicated in 1923 to celebrate Gloucester's three hundredth anniversary. It is now part of a memorial to the more than 5000 Gloucester fishermen who have lost their lives at sea. Among the more recent names are the crew of the Andrea Gail who were immortalized in Sebastian Junger's book, The Perfect Storm. It is chilling to see so many names of those lost at sea from this one small town.
An old plant in scenic Gloucester Harbor.
Another town we "tried" to visit was Rockport, MA. It is another picturesque harbor town filled with shops and restaurants. Unfortunately it was so busy we were unable to find a parking spot after driving through the town three times when we finally just gave up. Despite the heat we had a great time here and plan to return in the future during the fall season in hopes of cooler weather and smaller crowds to take in more of the many, many historical sites.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reflections on Traveling in Canada

Just a few reflections on spending two months in Canada over the last year. In many ways it is very similar to the US while still being a foreign country. They drive the same cars on the same side of the road as we Americans do but when you see a speed limit sign that reads 80 don't go 80 mph or you will learn more about the Canadian legal system. Our simple rule was to multiply by .6 to get a close estimate of the actual speed limit in kilometers. The same rule applies to distances so don't get discouraged when you see a sign at two in the afternoon that says your destination is still 100 km away, it is really only 62 miles. We found most main roads to be smooth and very well maintained but the farther off the beaten path we traveled the worse the roads became. That said we are from Pennsylvania so we are very familiar with potholes. We only encountered one low underpass, but it is important to know how tall your rig is in meters. Our 12'6" translates to 3.8 meters. Another metric issue is temperatures that are reported in Celsius so when you hear it is going to be 25 you don't need to get out the winter clothes. Near the end of our visit we learned this little trick to convert temps to Fahrenheit. Double the Celsius reading and add thirty. While not exact it will give you a good idea of how to dress. That said in Newfoundland you ALWAYS need to dress in layers because the weather can change by the hour or by driving 25 miles down the road.

Money is another thing that is similar as they use dollars and coins that are the same denominations. But, the first time I got change that was all coins I thought the clerk had made a mistake not realizing she had given me loonies (dollar coins), and toonies (two dollar coins). We did find several campgrounds that would only take cash and so we had to exchange money. The first time I went to the bank the fees made the exchange even, even though the US dollar was worth more. Also, the bank would only exchange smaller bills not Ben Franklins. I later discovered that the banks (Scotiabank and Bank of Montreal) did not charge for using there ATMs and my local bank gave us the best rate so it was the best way to obtain cash. We still used the credit card where possible and even with the 2% fee per transaction, the exchange rate was better than exchanging money at the bank. We found just about everything to be more expensive than in the US. Make sure you stock up on all the nonperishables you can carry as replenishing your cabinet will cost you dearly. One thing that is very expensive that you are allowed to bring into the country in only limited quantities is booze. Wine that Nanc buys for seven dollars here was double that and a "12" pack of beer was nearly $24.00. We did find alcohol to be less expensive in Quebec. Most food was more costly in both grocery stores and reatuarants. Meals were usually bland, but the fish chowder, brewis, jigg's dinner and salt fish were all excellent. All the local seafood we had was great from the Newfoundland fish and PEI mussels to the lobster we had in Quebec. Another major expense is fuel. Don't get excited when you see gas for "only" $1.00 because that is per liter and translates to about $3.80 a gallon. We paid $4.00 a gallon for diesel in Newfoundland. Campground costs, just like here, vary greatly. Last summer in Vancouver we paid $318 (US) for a week and Pippy Park in St. John's was $285. They are both urban parks with easy access to the cities and in places where there are not a lot of options. Our cheapest campground was the Viking RV Park near L'anse aux Meadows that was only $10 a day Passport America rate.

Language is an area where Canada is both the same and different from the US. While signs were written in English and it was spoken everywhere except Quebec, the dialect of Newfoundlanders was often very difficult to understand. Our whole time in Quebec was with Jean Paul and Celine Dugas so we always had someone to translate, but there were many people who spoke little or no English. We found that a friendly smile and a bonjour would often be enough to get someone in Quebec to use a little English with someone like me who does not understand French at all. Because of the language, being in Quebec seemed more like being in Europe than North America, so it is a less expensive way to have a wonderfully different cultural experience.

For natural beauty many places we have visited in our travels have been wonderful, but seeing icebergs, puffins and so many whales were all near the top of our list for great natural spectacles. These are things we would not have seen in many other places we can get to by RV. There are a couple of natural things about Canada that really bugged us and they are the black flies and mosquitoes. At times they were so bad they even chewed on me but Nanc, who is a real bug magnet, was eaten alive. That said, I'm sure there are places in the states that are just as bad but we have not been anyplace where they were this bad since going on the road.

Communication can be an issue as our Verizon air card would work but for a very, very high charge. We never used it because more than half the campgrounds had wi-fi and most local libraries had hot spots. Our phone worked, but once again it was expensive. We used it sparingly and our bill was still high, but not as high as signing up to extend coverage to Canada for our stay. One thing we discovered was that we could not access our voice mail so for our entire visit it showed a message. We just had to figure if it was really important the person would have tried again.

The first and last thing you must be prepared for is crossing the border and you need to check both the US and Canadian customs web sites. We crossed the border three times in the last year and the first time we made the mistake of crossing in the truck (commercial) lane and were reprimanded but allowed to pass without a problem. Crossing to little Campobello Island was an experience, as going in the Canadians searched the rig and returning two hours later the Americans did the same. The third crossing was totally uneventful even though that was for our longest stay. Don't forget you now need a passport to get back into the US. Overall we give our Canadian experience an A and look forward to adding additional provinces to our map.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Gasp├ęsie et Amis

We moved on to St. Omer, Quebec where we were able to park our motorhome by the home of Jean Paul and Celine Dugas whom we met at Betty's in the spring. They have a beautiful place between the waters of Baie des Chaleurs and the mountains of the Gaspe Peninsula. After two months of travel with short stops it was great to have a week to relax and spend time with friends. Jean Paul and Celine are very familiar with the fulltime lifestyle as they lived on a boat sailing the East coast of North America for seven years in the 90's. We loved hearing the stories of their adventure. They were wonderful hosts and guides as we explored the area.
The mountains of Gaspe and Bais des Chaleurs. John Paul's and Celine's home is near the church. They have a beautiful sun room that looks out over the bay.
St. Omer from the top of Mount Saint Joseph.
Johane Landry, between Celine and Nanc, is a local artist who has had her work exhibited in the Louvre. We visited her studio and an exhibit she has in the church on Mount Saint Joseph. Her oil paintings are excellent and reminded us of paintings by Van Gough.
The four of us enjoy a beer sampler at Le Naufrageur, a local brew pub.
We have wanted to go to Gaspe for years and Perce' Rock has always been the symbol of that area to us. It is an impressive monolith jetting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Four tourist taking in the sights. Aren't the shirts appropriate as it is Betty's that brought us together.
Roucher Perce' et de l'lle Bonaventure in the background. The island, once the site of a fishing village, is now a National Park.
This claw found on the beach will give you an idea of how big the lobster grow around here.

We had heard the local lobster was great and we had to give it a try. Nanc was really impressed as we selected the size we wanted in the store. With Celine's help Nanc prepares to drop one in the pot. The master chef, Jean Paul, pulls out the perfectly done lobster and we enjoyed a great meal.

We had a wonderful week in Quebec where we got a real taste of the local culture with Jean Paul, Celine, their friends and family. Once again meeting up with friends on the road is one of the great things about this lifestyle. We are already looking forward to seeing them again somewhere down the road.