Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kids at Rushmore

5 Wise Men

2 Jokers

Palin Boiler Room

Le Château Frontenac

Old City Quebec

Parked outside like dogs

and won't talk to each other

Carriage Path Acadia N.P.

Carriage Acadia N.P.

Northeast Harbor

Oh My Gaud!

Well, here we are FINALLY taking that trip back east to see the fall color.  The one we’ve been talking about taking since we moved to Anacortes.  Of course, we’ve been so busy the past eight years, we postponed until fuel costs are the highest ever and the economy is in major trouble, plus we decided to take the trailer and make it a two month long trip.  Just call us crazy!  Since I had suggested we might have to work our way across the country just to afford fuel, Susanne, a friend in Anacortes, gave me a clipping from a magazine showing an Airstream converted into a mobile food vendor.  What a great idea!  So far so good, we haven’t had to open the Silver Skillet for business yet, but we might have to when we get home!

The morning of Sept. 4th, after being the FIRST in Skagit County to vote in the general election, we hit the road.  We were so early the election office wasn’t prepared and we had to hand write our vote for President on a blank piece of paper which was then enclosed in an OFFICIAL envelop to be opened at a later date…..we hope!

We’ve been through Missoula many times but had never spent any time there.  This seemed like the opportunity.  The weather was gorgeous.  We camped on a side street, enjoyed the Friday night Art Walk plus two Farmer’s Markets and the Hemp Festival on Saturday.  It was interesting to see so many young college students taking part in the Art Walk.  Maybe the free wine and cheese had something to do with that.  The Farmer’s Markets were the best we’ve seen.  So many fruits, veggies, honey, jams & jellies, and a few crafts.  Ours in Anacortes is mostly craft and food booths with a few veggies thrown in.  The Hemp Festival was not all that exciting except for Senior Pato.  We found him in a trash can trying to smoke a rolled up hemp T-shirt.  The only high he got was a horrid headache and a scorched beak!

Dan’s dad passed away the Friday of Labor Day weekend.  Mike was 95 years old and in fairly good shape until the last few years.  After spending a couple of days with Gretchen, Adam and Osa in Philipsburg, Montana, we caravanned with Derek and Gretchen via Mount Rushmore to North Platte for Mike’s memorial service.  Their first time, our second, to visit Mount Rushmore and it is still awesome.   

On our way we camped an evening on a side street in Hyannis, Nebraska, where we caught the final three minutes of the Friday night 8 man football game, Hyannis verses Crawford, with steam coming off the huddle and almost the entire town in the stands and on the side lines.  That took us back a FEW years!

The memorial for Mike included many stories, lots of memories and much laughter with most of the family and several friends in attendance.  Gretchen and Derek continued on with us to Lexington and Ord, Dan’s birthplace and childhood hometown, for a trip down memory lane with their dad.  The current owner invited us in to tour the house where Dan lived from age 6 to 13.  The highlight being the discovery of the holes in the basement ceiling that had once held Dan’s chin up bar and that the light fixture in Dan’s bedroom is still the very same one as when he was a kid.

After we completed the tour of Ord, the kids headed home and we continued our trip through Nebraska, across the entire state of Iowa in one day, then through Wisconsin and Michigan towards Canada, all on two lane roads.  We thought we would head to Quebec City and spend a few days while waiting for the color to arrive.  After a couple of days, tired of Canada’s crappy roads and less than scenic highways, we decided to get out of Dodge.

We headed into upstate New York crossing the scenic Adirondack Mountains, driving through mountain villages and towns, stopping at Saranac Lake, and cruising through Lake Placid on our way to the Lake Champlain area.  The mountain towns were small and cozy with old buildings, small restaurants, and shops full of local crafts and outdoor equipment & clothing.  A few days earlier we were in Sault Ste. Marie looking for good coffee, free WIFI  and a Laundromat, hopefully all close in proximity, thinking there might be a business opportunity in opening a yuppie Laundromat internet coffee café.  Well, in Lake Saranac we had to laugh when we poked our heads into a Laundromat donut shop combo.  Close but no latte’.  As we drove through Lake Placid, home of two Winter Olympic Games, we wondered where the heck such a small town housed all the athletes and spectators, but then realized there were probably fewer people traveling to attend the Olympic Games back then.  Now the town is a winter training location with all kinds of shops and restaurants catering to tourists.  It’s a nice, neat, inviting little town.  The day we drove through, the weather was sunny and warm and the sidewalks were full of tourists.

Just before heading on to the Isles and into Vermont, we camped in the lot of an abandoned nursing home in Rouses Point, N.Y.  That’s probably the most interesting place we have boon docked on our trip so far.  It was smack dab in between two huge old, but restored, mansions (one President Taft had actually stayed in) in this small town full of huge, old, restored, and mostly well kept homes.  Our view across the street was of Lake Champlain.  Close enough that we could bicycle to everything we needed, which wasn’t much….latte’ and free WIFI!   Otherwise, we have camped in Wal-Mart parking lots, church parking lots and in wide spots along side the road.  Saving $$$$ for fuel!

We spent a couple days in the Burlington/Waterbury area of Vermont riding the bicycle trails and visiting the Shelburne Museum, Ben and Jerry’s and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, before we determined the color had not yet arrived!  Soooo it was back to Canada.  We were closer to Quebec City at this point.  We spent a couple fabulous days there.  Seventeen years ago, on a trip with Dan’s folks, we had visited Quebec City and loved it.  It was still as much fun.  The weather was great.  We walked the old and the new city, rode the gorgeous bike path along the water, ate scrumptious food, drank good coffee, revisited places from 17 years ago, and remembered good times we had there with Mike and Maxine.  We stayed at an RV campground the first two nights then discovered a parking area near the bike path.  We figured we could get away with camping on a side street a couple nights.  We had planned to head out the next morning, but the weather was warm and sunny and with the weekend coming up, why hit the road?  So we decided to stay, moved our rig, bicycled and walked more of the city.  Good thing we enjoyed that extra day of fun because we awoke to pouring rain the next morning.  Time to get out of Dodge AGAIN. 

We headed towards the coast of Maine, worked our way down the interior then started up the coast at Bath.  I have been ordering supplies from Halcyon Yarn in Bath Maine since I began weaving in the early 80’s.  I was in Heaven as I spent a couple hours in THE shop in Bath while Dan took photos around town.  This was the start of small villages and towns with old country stores, narrow winding roads to the end of peninsulas, one after another, up the coast. We were starting to see color.  Harvest décor, pumpkins and corn stalks decorated the yards and harvest wreathes adorned the doors.  As we worked our way up the coast we were pointed in the direction of Freeport, an outlet town, NOT to be confused with an outlet mall.  Freeport is the home of L.L. Bean which has a retail store open 24 hours, seven days a week!  The entire town is outlet stores and restaurants that are either housed in old historic New England style homes or buildings constructed to look like them.  One could barely recognize the Starbucks or McDonald’s except for small signs.   Nice, clean, neat town, but can you imagine living in an outlet town?!  We ended up there because we were told there was free overnight RV parking, which sounded more interesting than overnighting in a Wal-Mart parking lot!  We stopped by the McDonald’s to see if they had WIFI.  They were hiring for crew positions at $9 per hour.  We figured we probably still remembered enough to last a week on crew and could get by with two uniforms without doing laundry for the week.  We were considering living out of our trailer and working a week to help pay for gas!  Just a passing thought!

Rockland and Rockport were two of our favorite towns along the coast.  We stopped at both on the way north then came back down for a day without the trailer when we were camped at Acadia.  Towns are so close together in these small states, one after another.  Except for the traffic, it takes no time to get from one place to another.  We went back to Rockland for a Fall Craft Festival featuring 120 artists.  They were a little short on artists, nothing new and a bit conservative as far as the crafts are concerned, but that saved me $$$ and it was a beautiful day to be out enjoying fall.  Dan took photos and we walked town.  It was also a good excuse to stop at Cappy’s for THE BEST chowder we have ever eaten.  We had no trouble staying away from high priced lobster because it isn’t a real favorite of ours, but the chowder was another story.  We’ve eaten more chowder (fish, clam, shrimp and corn) this trip than we’ve eaten for the past umpteen years.  In Rockland we found an interesting used bookstore that served great coffee.  Who could ask for more?  It was a fun town to walk around.  We happened into an old bank building on the main street that had been converted to an art gallery.  It was worth going in just to see the gorgeous three stories plus roof top garden renovated building.  If only we had found it first and it was located in old town Anacortes.  Would have made a fabulous space to live in.

We worked our way up the coast to Acadia National Park.  We’ve wanted to visit here for years and couldn’t believe we were finally there!  Several years ago, while living in Fallon, we watched a program called “The Good Life”.  One episode covered Jack Perkins (host of “Biography” on A & E) retiring and building a house on Bar Island which is part of Acadia National Park.  You can walk to Bar Island at low tide; otherwise you have to take a boat to get there.  It sounded like such a perfect life, living on an island that is surrounded by the park, that we have wanted to visit Acadia ever since.  I think seeing that program is what made us consider moving to Maine as part of our five year program.  So much for that, since we’ve decided we moved to the best place first!  Not only that, but when we stopped at Bar Harbor we were horrified to see a Princess Cruise Ship in the harbor.  We couldn’t believe it.  If cruise ships could find a way up the canals they would be going to Mono Lake!  If we wouldn’t have already decided not to move to Maine, that would have done it for sure.  It would be like seeing cruise ships in the water out our window in Anacortes and having thousands of shoppers converge on our little town on a regular basis.

The first morning we were up early and walking to Bar Island by 6:15 a.m.  We hiked the island and found the house that Jack Perkins lived in.  Nobody lives there now, it is owed by the Park Service and all the windows and doors are boarded up, kind of sad.  After our hike on Bar Island we went to the Oceanarium to take a tour of the Maine Lobster Museum and hatchery.  We learned all you would ever want to know about fishing for lobsters and raising them in a hatchery.  It was very cool and interesting.   The weather was nice although a bit windy, a perfect day to bicycle the carriage trails in the park.  No motorized vehicles allowed so the carriage roads are great for biking.  Some hills but not bad.  Stopped at Jordan Pond for afternoon tea and popovers.  How long has it been since you’ve had a popover?!   Forever for us.  I remember my mom making them for us when we were kids.  We sat at a table outside and enjoyed the view of the pond.  It was picturesque and relaxing. Then continued on our bicycle ride until the clouds started to build up into very dark threatening rain clouds.  We stopped at a shuttle stop and waited for the next bus hoping it wouldn’t start dumping until we were on the bus.  No luck, it dumped rain, but we were able to stand under the trees and keep relatively dry.  It’s amazing how quickly it turns from clear skies to dark clouds then dumps rain, different than in our area of the country.  This was our most fun day in the park.

We also were up early another morning, driving to photograph sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the east coast, an incredible view, but colder that heck at that time of the morning.  We drove the main park loop, took the free park shuttle on the loop to North Harbor, and spent some time walking and browsing Bar Harbor over the four days we spent at the park.  Maybe it was because we had looked forward to coming here for so long, but Maine and Acadia National Park were not what we expected.  We aren’t really sure what we expected but we found the park very manicured and Maine very touristy.  To Dan, Acadia seemed like Central Park only out of the city.  Glad we did it, but once is enough.  It was time to head back to Vermont since the color forecast was that the color was reaching its peak and was to be one of the most spectacular in years due to all the rain this summer followed by the recent hard frost.  Can you believe in this part of the country every state actually has a foliage hotline??!!

More on our time in New Hampshire and Vermont in the next installment.  Until then we’ll leave you with a few things we’ve noticed in this part of the country……….

  • Dunkin Donuts are in every town, big and little.  I’ve only eaten one hole and it wasn’t nearly as good as I remember them being when I ate them in Eugene so many years ago, but the coffee is much better than it used to be.  What ever happened to Dunkin Donuts in out west? 
  • More people and more traffic!
  • We saw a Smart Car with a small trailer that would hold luggage in tow.  Now that’s an idea.
  • When we were parked in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Rockland, Maine the only four rigs parked there were from WA, OR, CA and MT.
  • Hard to find good espresso in Maine.
  • There are no billboards in Maine or Vermont.  In fact, all the business signage is very small, blending in to the surroundings.  It’s kind of nice except for when you are looking for a specific location.  It’s there on the sign but easy to miss. 
  • This is fall in every sense of the word……..sights, smells, weather and décor.

More from the Silver Skillet………………..


Friday, October 31, 2008

Mount Washington Hotel

Yard Decor

Dog Chapel

Dog Chapel Yard

One Lane Dirt Road

The Fox News Pundits

Craftsbury General Store

East Orange Church

South Dakota Badlands

"0" Miles to Wall Drug

After leaving Acadia National Park and traveling back across Maine we entered New Hampshire.  We ended up spending the night in another one of those strange outlet towns.  Being in the midst of the White Mountain National Forest, this outlet town had a ski resort feel to it, but it was still pretty weird.  We traveled through the White Mountains featuring Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, at 6,288 ft.  Nearby, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, is Mount Washington Hotel opened in July 1902 and host of the World Monetary Fund conference in 1944.  The U.S. government chose this site for a gathering of representatives from 44 countries.  The conference established the World Bank, set a gold standard at $35 an oz. and chose the American dollar as the backbone of international exchange.  The fact that we were viewing the location of this famed monetary conference in the midst of our current economic crisis was not lost on us.

Working our way through these mountains the color was vibrant, the day sunny and the wind colder than………..!   Not even a Near Moose as we crossed New Hampshire, even though moose is the #1 road kill in that state.  We saw plenty of Moose Crossing signs, but not one dang Moose.  Dan thinks it’s just a ploy used to slow down traffic, probably less expensive than patrolling the state. 

Once we hit St. Johnsbury, Vermont, a cute little old mountain town, we parked in an empty car dealership lot on the outskirts of town and used this location as our base camp for a few nights.  We unhooked the trailer and took day trips in the truck.  It was the perfect location……..a good walk to town, nice book store with great coffee, a health food co-op just up the street and, best of all, access to several scenic areas famous for narrow roads that creep through villages and small towns with covered bridges, old country stores, New England style inns and homes, churches and cemeteries, all set off by the best fall color we have ever seen!

While staying in St. Johnsbury we stopped at Dog Mountain on the outskirts of town.  World renowned artist and author Stephen Huneck created Dog Mountain so people can experience his artwork and share his passion for nature.  He built the Dog Chapel as “A Place where people can go to celebrate the spiritual bond they have with their dogs.”  It’s such a funky place, on the top of this grassy hill, with a view for miles.  Every year he hosts footloose and fancy free Dog Parties that I’m sure must be a blast.  We were a week early for the party, but did enjoy his Labs, fun artwork and spending some time at the Dog Chapel, the interior covered with photos of and tributes to pets from hundreds of dog lovers from around the world.  Check it out at www.dogmt.com.  Be sure to look at all the photos.  There are lots to see, great fun!

We were up early most mornings (the curse of traveling with a photographer) driving around most of the day, stopping to poke around villages with country stores where we enjoyed homemade soup for lunch and met friendly locals.  I mean, these were REALLY SMALL places, most with just a gas station, country store, cemetery, sometimes a post office, always a church or two, and TRULY friendly people.  One morning as we were looking for Jenny Farm, a photo op recommended by a friend of Dan’s, we were approached by a lady “drawn to us because of our Airstream trailer and WA license plate”.  It’s AMAZING how many people are drawn to our Airstream.  It’s like because we travel with an Airstream we are OK, someone to share stories and experiences with, probably NOT axe murders.  Anyway, Diane, as we came to know her, lives in the area and knew all the perfect photo ops.  She insisted on driving us around to show us all these places, and so she did, for a few hours.  I mean, after all, she was wearing an Obama button so how leery could we be?  She invited us to park on her property that night which turned out to be down a secluded one lane road (The state plows all the one lane roads to the last house!) in the middle of hills and trees in color for as far as we could see.  The view was WOW.  Dan was in Heaven taking photos while I enjoyed the view and the quiet.  That evening Diane stopped by the trailer and we visited for a couple of hours.  Experiences like this really MAKE a trip.

Before we left St. Johnsbury we took a tour of Maple Grove Farms where 100% maple syrup is made.  First of all, “farm” is a little deceiving.  The small factory was just down the street from where we were staying in the trailer, hardly a farm, but the tour was interesting.  We thought we had learned everything we could possibly know about making maple syrup until we found out the REAL scoop from Diane.  As we traveled the roads around the area we saw many Sugar Shacks where individual families are tapping maple trees and making their own label of Vermont 100% Maple Syrup.  Diane told us this is some of the best syrup in Vermont.  We ended up purchasing some made by a neighbor of hers, which Diane swears by.  We had also purchased some syrup at Maple Grove Farms so we’ll have to see if there really is a difference.  Not being a connoisseur of maple syrup, I couldn’t find a significant difference from the “real deal” we purchased from the neighbor and the maple syrup we purchase for A LOT LESS $$ at Costco.  Actually, the real connoisseurs, Dan and Gretchen, can definitely tell the difference.

 Next we headed for Stowe.  We parked our trailer in Waterbury about 7 miles from Stowe and used this as home base so we could leave the trailer again.  We went to Stowe for a Fall Craft Festival featuring 178 artists.  We couldn’t believe the traffic, bumper to bumper, mostly going to the festival, although later it dawned on us it was a three day holiday weekend which accounted for MUCH MORE TRAFFIC!  It was a juried show and featured many artists from the area.  Still nothing new and mostly very conservative, but the weather was sunny and warm, we had a good time and a good falafel for lunch.  We discovered a great coffee shop with free WIFI and a nice 5.5 mile (one way) bicycle trail.  Decided we had to come back for more of both the next day.

The next day was even more gorgeous, a perfect day for a bicycle ride.  We rode the trail up and back twice, stopping at the Farmer’s Market along the way for lunch and the great coffee shop for an afternoon break.  The scenery on the trail was unmistakably FALL.  Much of the trail was an obstacle course due to the holiday weekend……….many families from all over the country, speaking many different languages with many children in tow.  We found it interesting that most of the non English speaking families had more children, no matter what the language was.  Many families were on rented bicycles and it was obvious they didn’t ride on a regular basis as they often stopped to chat in the middle of the trail, rode on the wrong side of the divided trail and some parents kept better track of the kids than others.  It made for an interesting ride.  There were places you could really get your speed up, then BLAM, you rounded a corner to find a little kid in your lane.  SKREECH!!!!!  Near Misses rather than Near Mooses!  Anyway, we all survived and all seemed to be enjoying the day.  One kid had playing cards in his spokes.  How long has it been since you’ve heard that sound?

It was a pleasure to return to our trailer in Waterbury each evening.  We were parked right behind Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.  Talk about a wonderful aroma 24/7, not the mention, great coffee, free WIFI, fantastic homemade soup and a Laundromat just across the street.

After the fun weekend in the Stowe area we started our trip home. It was kind of sad to leave Vermont, which ended up being one of our favorite areas of the trip.  IF we were going move, which we AREN’T, we would definitely choose Vermont over Maine, but both states get way too cold for us.  Although we do have to admit, there is no better place than Vermont to experience a picture book fall. 

We took two days to cross upstate New York on Hwy 20.  They were days full of sunny weather, small towns and fall color somewhat different from VermontVermont is mainly trees, upstate New York is farms and fields, large areas of green, mixed with areas of trees.  You get kind of a patchwork quilt effect of color as you cross New York.

We had a short, but fun, visit with Ann, Tom and Maribel (Dan’s niece and her family) in the Toledo area on the way home, with the added perk of Karen, Dan’s sister, joining us from Detroit.  We met Maribel, their 2 year old daughter, for the first time, ate FABULOUS Mexican food, played several games on the Wii (which was a real kick), and enjoyed a morning at the Toledo Art/Glass Museum before hitting the road again. 

We crossed Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and into Montana in a matter of five days.  We were ready to be HOME and the weather was turning COLD.  But we couldn’t pass up Badlands National Park in South Dakota with its incredible rock formations.  We arrived in time to enjoy the park at dusk, providing Dan with some good photo ops.  Spent that night in the parking lot of the infamous, Wall Drug Store in Wall, South Dakota.  I’d never heard of Wall Drug, but it’s wild and crazy.  It all began in 1931 with a little drug store giving away free ice water to draw in customers  and has become a huge tourist trap full of all sorts of stuff and junk to eat, do and purchase.  They provide free parking, including parking for RVs, plus have an off loading area for busses.  They even provide maps of the grounds.  Guess that’s a sure sign it’s a good place to stay far away from in the summer.  When we were there, we were the only ones parked in the lot that night.  The next morning as we strolled through the endless isles of STUFF, we were among the few tourists there.  The restaurant had a handful of locals having breakfast, probably because the coffee is only 5 cent a cup.  Whether the coffee is any good or not, who knows???

After spending a couple nights with Gretchen, Adam and Osa in Montana we made it home Saturday and are glad to be here.  Until our next adventure, we’ll leave you with a few misc tidbits:

  • We only saw one Starbucks that had permanently closed……..WHEW!
  • There are no big signs, billboards or brightly lit streets and parking lots in Maine or Vermont which is great for the view, but not so good if you are looking for a street, road or specific location.  We had to turn around a LOT……not all that easy when you’re pulling a trailer!
  • It’s a small world……in the Laundromat at the campground in Barr Harbor we ran into a guy who lives in Bow, about a stones throw from Anacortes.
  • It’s so cool that Vermont hasn’t straightened its roads, making for lots of little, twisting, curvy roads all over the state.
  • Halfway through the trip we were both DESPERATE for a hair cut so we tried Super Cuts, which is cheap but not necessarily all that SUPER!
  • Life is NOT fair…….Dan lost 7 pounds on the trip while I came back the same weight as when I left. 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Sr. Pato