The "Exited States" Part of the trip commences!  

We felt a certain amount of sadness as we left St Andrews!  It has always been a favourite with us and this time was no exception!  The weather had been great and cooking dinner on the BBQ while overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay, was a sure pleasure.  Somehow, the steaks just tasted that much better there … believe it or not, we still had a couple of steaks we had purchased in Bellingham before we left in August.  I did mention then that we had stocked up!  The larger freezer sure comes in handy; in fact, there is still one more steak in there that we can consume somewhere below the Mason Dixon line.

But, Tuesday October 7th seemed like a good day to begin to wind our way to warmer climes.  The night before, we had consumed our last bottle of wine, and before we went to bed, we said goodbye to the last of the single malt, so we were prepared to face the border guards with a clear conscience.  It seemed to be our "destiny" to leave Canada that day.  Off we go to St. Stephens, about 25 miles from St. Andrews, where the border crossing is located.  This is the same spot where we crossed last year, and if you remember, the guards were quite testy and even searched The Folly until they found several oranges to confiscate.  What would it be like this time, we wondered?

Of course, we hit the duty free … the thought that we didn’t have any single malt on board had to be exorcised quickly … and then got into the line up to cross the border. There were 3 or 4 trucks ahead of us and as many cars.  The line up stretched across the single lane bridge with all vehicles just waiting.  As we approached, it became clear that the trucks were being pulled out into a small lane behind the American Customs building where they had to pass under an apparatus that appeared to be a portable X-ray machine attached to a truck.  Now this is the first time I have seen this, and we were suitably impressed with the technology, but the thought struck, “what good would an X ray be of a truck’s load?”  It must have other technology built in….

The difficulty was though, that being a single lane bridge, everyone had to wait as the trucks were not pulled off until they were really close to the customs building.  Quite a difference from last year, I must admit. Eventually, we got to the border and the custom’s officer was very polite, but she did insist on searching Harvey.  We did have two limes … we had run out of gin several days before so could not consume them … and a potato that we offered to her as she entered.  “Ahhh limes”, she said.  You can’t take them across. But this year potatoes are OK”.  It sure is hard to keep up with the customs guys!

We were headed for Rockport on the Maine coast.  It is just a little north of Camden and Rockland which we had found last year to be really interesting places to visit.  This year we were going to expand our wanderings to take in places we missed, but still be close enough ... to hit the Lobster Man.  Our priorities have not really changed all that much.

This campsite, Camden Hills RV Resort, turned out to be fantastic!  The people were incredibly friendly and the weather perfect.  The leaves were just starting to change and would hit their peak in the next few days.  Originally, we were only to spend 2 nights there, but after reflection … we ended up there 5 days.  Each day, as we wandered somewhere, we noticed the changes in the colours.  It is a shame that the camera does not really show the intensity of the shades of the leaves … they always appear washed out. But believe me, they are spectacular.  Vibrant yellows and golds; intense reds; all set against the dark green of the coniferous trees.  If you have not experienced this spectacle, do yourself a favour and put a trip to the East Coast in October on your “must do list”!

On Thursday, October 9th, we decided to head to Bar Harbor.  We had heard so much about it that it had become a must for us.  As we drove into this really beautiful little town, we wished that the Bentley was not in the shop that day.  Our little Honda really did not fit in!  What a neat spot although we had to share that day with the inhabitants of two large cruise ships that had anchored off shore.  But, never mind, the experience was still worth while and the shops, with the typical “tacky tourist trash”, were interspersed with really nice funky shops that were worth the visit.  After several hours of wandering we headed back using the back roads through rural Maine.  It was delightful!

I haven’t mentioned before, but I was secretly hoping to find one of the old, wooden lobster pots for sale somewhere.  I figured it would look great in DogPatch!  We had no luck in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, but I still had hope for Maine.  I guess the RV Gods still were interested in us … one of the rigs that pulled in to the campgrounds had two … yes two … tied to the top of the truck.  On chatting with the owner, he was from Washington State, I found out that he had been in PEI and found a stack of them beside a mailbox with a note on them saying that they were for sale for $5.00 Cdn each.  And “No”, he said.  “He would not part with one of them even to me”!  This intensified my desire to find one here in Maine.  But, chuckle chuckle … the Gods got me!  The next day I saw a pile of them in front of a house … “For Sale” the sign read … $29.00 real dollars.  To add insult to injury, they still had the Canadian Fisheries tag on them.  To go from $5.00 Cdn to $29.00 Us was too great a jump for Elsie to make.  We will be returning home, sans lobster pot decoration for DogPatch.  Elsie did try to reconcile my sense of loss by saying, “there will always be another trip here someday.”  Cold comfort somehow …

Friday, we headed into Freeport Maine.  If you have seen all those discount malls along most of the highways down here, this is where the concept started.  LL Beans was the first store to do this and now all of the town of Freeport is one huge discount center with all the major players having at least one spot on the main drag.   We spent a happy hour or two wandering around dodging the other tourists.  Several shirts later … LL Beans has a really large, well stocked, over-sized shirt department that in the past I have had great success with … we headed back to Rockport to ready Harvey for a further foray south.

Of course, we are not just interested in the flora and fauna of the area.  There is always FOOD!  We set ourselves a quest in St Andrews that would be completed here in Maine.  The quest you ask?  We are on the Coast, and where the coast is will be shellfish.  So, our focus became, just where is the best Chowder located?  Well, we were very diligent in this quest.  It was not a job that we could not devote all our ability to!!!  We sampled clam chowder, mixed seafood chowder, and even various bisques in a number of locations on both sides of the border.  It was a tough job, but we felt that someone had to do it ... so why not us eh?  Ohhhh, the trials and tribulations of wandering folk!

There was a winner!  It was obvious right from the first sip!  It had tons of clams, perfectly done potatoes, with a sprinkling of tarragon on top and all covered in a cream sauce that just added to the bouquet.  It was a serious clam chowder lover’s treat that was obviously created by a man who truly knows and loves Clams!  If you ever get to Camden Maine, visit “Cappies”, order the clam chowder, and be prepared to be WoWed!

Man does not live on Chowder alone…  I hear you screaming … “Where’s the lobster?” Never fear, Elsie and I are not one dimensional!  Never fear!!! We had lobster.  We had lobster rolls, comprised of lobster meat served on a hot dog bun, as we wandered around the shops.  We had lobster sandwiches for lunch and on one night, we had fresh lobster here in Harvey.  As life is a constant learning process, we finally learned just how to cook shellfish.  Never, never, we were told, boil the sucker!!  All the flavour ends up in the bath water, and unless you are prepared to drink all the fluid left in the boiling pot, you are wasting the true flavour of the “dunkie”.  The answer is to steam them individually.  The guy from whom we purchased the two, two pound beasties, offered to steam them for us so we could see the difference in taste.  The ones we had in St Andrews were boiled.  We took him up on his offer, got a nice bottle of Semillon Chardonnay, and headed back to Harvey ready for the repas.

He was correct!  This lobster was incredible.  When compared with other lobster, this one excelled!  It really tasted of lobster, fresh succulent and tender!  This has to be the way to cook all shellfish.  Now, when we get home, if I can only stand the thought putting the crabs, one at a time, in a steamer and waiting for the steam to kill them …. Sacrifice sacrifice … are we the top of the food chain for a reason …????  Maybe Elsie will help me do the deed ... heh heh!

It was time to move on and move south … so on Saturday, October 11th we headed out.  The drive was not looked forward to very much by Elsie as we have now developed a suspicious view of Harvey’s operating condition.  It is almost like what more can happen, or what next can happen?  But off we went on the I 95.

That day we crossed from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and finally New York.  The road we were on proved to be terrible.  In the past, I have complained about truckers and their attitudes.  Well, we were in for a new description of unprofessional driving.  These guys are cowboys!   Harvey is the same size as they are and lighter so he would be easier to stop in an

emergency.  In front of you is a semi, beside you is a semi who is sitting inches from the bumper or whatever is in front of him and in your rear view all you can see is a semi trailer's radiator … all of this at 65 mph.  At least that was my speed … the damn truckers seem to think that they can drive at any speed … where are the damn cops???

We were so upset and worried that we changed our plans to drive straight south on I95 through New York, Washington, Philadelphia and to look for a calmer, more sane and less traveled route.  We pulled off the "road from hell" and found ourselves wandering through Yale University and passed by the stadium, rowing club area along with many very nice homes.  What a switch from the I95.  But, there are always drawbacks aren’t there?  This road was narrow with more cars than  you would imagine.  But, finally we did make it to Newburg, New York to visit, once again, Chez Sam, or Wally’s World, or Wal-Mart.  Not the most salubrious a site, but the price is certainly right.  The next day, Sunday, found us winding our way from New York, through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and ended up in Virginia.  A lot of states in two days ….

We found a campsite in Winchester that was only a few miles from Antitum, Harpers Ferry and the Shenandoah Valley.  What a place for a history lover!  The campsite was really great and the weather was perfect!  With the exception of one night we had winds, but they only gusted to 50 mph, and since we were veterans of Hurricane Juan, we were rather non-plused about it all.  Oops … are we getting cocky or what?

We spent 5 days in Virginia.  This is a really beautiful state!  Winchester is attempting to rebuild itself, and the area is well kept and very clean.  With the weather like it was, we spent one day visiting Harper’s Ferry which turned out for me to be a bit of a let down.  The other civil war battle scenes we have visited were better set out than this one.  Granted, it is a small town where people still lived and worked, but the actual battle information has not been well set out for visitors.  This is the 145th anniversary of John Brown’s attack on the city so most of the information was about his attack and what eventually happened to him.  Unfortunately, it has been over 35 years since History 425 at good ole UBC so my memory was very sluggish recalling what happened … in a Canadian perspective of course.  But, it was interesting, and it was simply fun driving through the countryside of Virginia.

On another day, we drove the Shenandoah Valley which resonated with images of Dan Boone and Davy Crocket etc.  The valley is in the Appalachian Mountains (Blue Mountains) and the road runs along one of the many ridges that run from Maine to Alabama.  In fact, if you have 7 months, it is possible to hike the Appalachian Trail – The Gulf to the Canadian Border.  We decided to give that one a miss for this year!

The next stop was North Carolina and in particular, Statesville, the supposed home of NASCAR.  This place was a disappointment!   The town, itself, was largely industrial with little of the grace that we had found in Winchester.  The campsite did not help as I kept expecting to hear banjo music and the other RVers there seemed very unfriendly with the exception of a couple who had three Boston Terriers.  We did talk to them, and I could understand him whenever he spit out enough chewing tobacco so that his voice became clear.  The trees were what they call “live oak” which means that they never totally lose their leaves.  The Spanish moss hung from all of them making the place look dull and somber.  We were located beside what they euphemistically called a lake.  It really was only a spot to breed mosquitoes though a few of the more hardy RVers did try to fish for big mouth bass and carp… more carp than anything I think.  All this, plus I never really got into the Red Neck NASCAR thing, meant that we spent three days there and fled.  Hopefully, South Carolina would be better.

And you know what???  It was fantastic!  Charleston is beautiful with all the charm of the old south in the historic district:  graceful homes, long streets with beautiful trees shading the walkways, and loads of restaurants.  To top it all off, it was totally flat.  This is a real walking town.  Charleston is exactly how I had always pictured antebellum South.

I haven’t mentioned the weather much as it has been consistently good.  The temperatures are always in the mid 70’s in the day and at night they drop to the mid 50’s.  Exactly the kind of weather I really enjoy.  However, as we are working our way south, there has been a subtle change.  The humidity is starting to climb.  Charleston is the first place where we really began to notice it.  We lucked into a “one of a kind” type campsite located really close to town in a city owned park.  The park was huge with all kinds of hiking trails, a large lake, and a beautiful campsite.  Each site was individual, nestled between oak trees and a ways away from your neighbour.  Every Christmas, the park becomes alive with lights.  As you drive around after dark, they were installing an unbelievable number of scenes in theme groups.  As you pass the lake, there was a huge duplication of the city’s main bridge… much like the Lion’s Gate … that links Charleston with its suburbs.  The bridge just glimmered and seemed to leap out at you!

As you went further into the park the winding road led you to scene after scene that literally took your breath way.  The opening day is not until November 15th, but they were slowly putting up more lights and testing them so we did not see the final display.  They say that there are more than 1 million lights involved when they are finished.  Apparently, when it opens, they sell tickets to each car and then in convoys they slowly proceed through the park.  They make enough money from this to maintain the park for the entire year.  If the Park’s Board in Vancouver could only get off its collective backsides, they could do something very similar in Stanley Park that would be the talk of the country.  Instead, they seem to be more hung up on closing the Zoo and Aquarium and installing parking meters.   Typical of the lack luster, mouth breathers we call politicians.  Another story ….

We took the shuttle from the campsite into the visitor center and found where Grey Line tour buses were.  There were a number of tours to chose from, Ghost Tours, Tours of the old houses, historical City and, of course, a 30 minute one-way cruise to Fort Sumter where the first shot of the Civil War was fired.  We ended up doing a 90 minute, narrated tour of the historical city and then headed off for an hours visit of Fort Sumter.   It was a long day in the humidity but very enjoyable!  Elsie seems to be relaxing and enjoying herself here ... but then who couldn't with this weather? 

Fort Sumter was impressive!  The boat trip out to it was about 30 minutes so we even incorporated a cruise in this trip!  The fort itself is located at the mouth of the harbour which is the 4th busiest on the east coast.  After docking, the pilgrimage began.  Some of the people hardly spoke and just wandered around and touched things.  The rest, of course, being Americans, were loud and fun loving … clicking pictures at a speed that would be on a par with Japanese tourists in Vancouver.  There isn’t much left of the original Fort as the northerners blew most of it up in the later days of the Civil War.  After, it was rebuilt for the Spanish American conflict and then again during the two World Wars.  With a little imagination though, you could picture just what it had gone through in the past several centuries.

Harvey’s appointment at the Doctors was getting closer so we had to continue our push south.  I have to say that Harvey is acting really well since we started south.  I don’t know if that is because he is heading south, and he likes warmer weather, or that there are fewer and fewer “fit and finish” things that can go wrong … oh gawd… I hope the Rv Gods didn’t hear that one!!!  But, he is driving well albeit a little hot as we still do not have the dash air conditioning working and with those two huge front windows, … yech!!

Savannah, our next stop, is considered a sister city to Charleston.  It is true as they both are laid out in similar fashion and boast of similar history.  We spent three days in Georgia and enjoyed walking around Savannah as much as we did Charleston.  There does seem to be more French influence here but the food is excellent and the city very picturesque with lots and lots of small squares with trees and benches on which to rest.

Our next stop, Jacksonville, meant that we have crossed into Florida.  As the days are hot, hitting the mid to high 80’s in the afternoons, we are limiting our driving to the mornings.  We drive only a couple hundred miles and then find a campsite.  Thus, we ended up in a quite nice spot in Jacksonville for two nights.  Here we ran into something I have only heard about … rabid football fans following their favourite teams and setting up huge tailgate parties.  Apparently, Georgia Bulldogs play Tampa Bucks once a year in a neutral field and this year the field in Jacksonville … the spot the Gator Bowl is played.  Now these guys are rabid!  They show up a week before the game, set up elaborate campsites full of Bulldog lights, signs, moving arms and even neon lights that flash over and over again.  Most of the people, dressed in appropriate colours, red and white, in this campsite do not have tickets for the game but they do have external TVs that run constantly.  The idea, I was told, that when the game is on, you wander around, drink in hand, to various campsites and swap ideas, lies etc.  After the game, it doesn’t much matter who wins on the field, all the watchers suffer from “hors de combat” and the next morning is very quiet as the assembled pilgrims slowly pack up and head home.  Frankincense and myrrh have been replaced with Bud, Coors and bourbon for this group of pilgrims.

We have heard a lot about a site in Tampa called Lazy Days Campsite.  As we have to scrub Harvey inside and out, we thought that if we got there on Wednesday, we would be able to do a credible job by Sunday.  You can’t send Harvey to the Doctor without clean underwear can you?  This would be the last drive without the dash air, and we were getting excited … Harvey will soon be like new!!!  I have to admit, Elsie has been a brick dealing with Harvey’s misadventures.  I was worried at one point that she would explode if anything more happened. But, she has remained under totally control which is probably a good thing because if two of us went off … it could spell at most a disaster or at least an arson charge. So … Monday November 3rd is approaching quickly.

Now the campsite, Lazy Days just outside Tampa is really different!  To start with, on the same property is a Crackerbarrel Restaurant, a Flying J truck gas stop, a Camping World (the RVer’s candy store) the campsite itself, called Rally Park, and the largest RV Dealer in the US.  This dealership carries almost every conceivable maker and model of RV and have hundreds on site.  They have 300 work bays in their repair facility.  In fact, they sell over 800 units per month.  Now let’s see … average cost would probably be 250,000 per unit times 800 … hmmm that means 20,000,000 per month Wow!  Pretty soon we will be talking real money … 20,000,000 times 12 … my mind just boggles at these numbers!

The National Sales geek I ran into said that currently, they are getting 4 of every 10 Trop-i-cals National makes, and they hope to raise that number to 6 of every 10.  He went on to say that they pre-sell each one before they even get it on the lot.  They can’t get enough of them.  Well I thought, if Harvey doesn’t continue to behave ….

Enough negativity!  Harvey will be fixed and running well after his hospital visit.

The campsite is huge with over 300 sites and as we arrive, most are full.  There is a rally for the King of the Road 5th wheel owners going on so there are over 80 of these rigs and add all these to the A Class rigs etc, it makes for a busy place.  All the roads in the park are paved and each site has quite a nice grass verge, and cement patio.  That is not all though.  Believe it or not, they also supply free breakfast, free lunch, cable vision and a daily newspaper which is delivered to each site each morning; all this for $24.00 per night.  This has to be the best deal we have run into yet!  Add all this to the beautiful weather we have been enjoying, and you get a place that will be very hard to leave.

I should mention that as we backed into our site, we noticed the rig just behind us.  Guess what … it was a brand new Trop-i-cal that was being delivered to its proud new owners.  Oh ho! I thought as I headed towards the new “victims”.  Just then Elsie grabbed me and demanded that I be gentle!  I took a big breath of air and realized that raining on their parade just as they get their dream machine would hardly be “cricket”!  I backed off and was very impressed as they obsessed over their purchase.  It was a lovely machine, and I thought that they would learn soon enough.  My tongue was almost bitten through several times but common decency prevailed, and they left two days later none the wiser.  I think Elsie thought that I could not hold my tongue that long but I fooled her huh!

This is Saturday afternoon and Elsie is off shopping.  I hope to finish off the pictures this afternoon and upload all this junk on Sunday.  We have to be up and leaving here at 5:45am Monday in order to be at Lakeland by 7:00am.  Harvey’s doctors start early so we really will not be very popular with our neighbours as we fire up the diesel that early.  Oh well, shit happens …

There was not anything going on here last night even though it was Halloween.  Only Elsie was busy ... 

We have managed to scrub Harvey inside and out in the last few days so he looks brand new.  Given the way he has run since leaving Moncton, I have to say that we are back to really liking what we are doing.  This has been a fantastic several weeks as we wended our way south, and we now are looking forward to the trip through south Texas.  As we approach the 3 month point of the trip, we are back to thoroughly enjoying ourselves.  The only down part is missing family and friends back home.  We really enjoy hearing from all who send email and the gossip you supply keeps us amused and in touch with Vancouver.  So … if you get a chance … click here

Joe, Elsie, Barley, Hops and a recovering nice guy, Harvey...