Tuesday, July 28, 2015

7/28 Fort Niagara, NY

I am back on the road and headed to New England.  My first stop was a campground just north of Niagara Falls, NY.  I have not been to the falls yet, but I did drive to Fort Niagara today, in spite of it being a very hot day!  (Looking forward to fall, I think.) 

Driving through Buffalo and Niagara Falls yesterday was not fun, especially with the traffic and this bridge.

In spite of the heat, I got out today and visited Fort Niagara.  It is located at the mouth of the Niagara River where it dumps water from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, so it was a pivotal fort during the French and Indian Wars, as well as in the War of 1812.  

Entrance to the fort....

Some of the defensive structures.

You can see a drawbridge just at the entrance to this building.

I could not resist taking a photo of the left and right weight mechanism to raise the drawbridge.

Need a few extra cannons?

The building at this far end is called the "French Castle."  It was built to look like a large house and referred to as the "peace house" because building a fort would have looked too aggressive.  It's walls are extremely thick, so it is obviously not an ordinary house.

Some of the fort out-buildings.

Here you could see how this "peace" house overlooked the river opening into Lake Ontario.  It's location was perfect not only for defense but as a fur-trading operation.
And some of the rooms inside the castle.

 This was a store where they bought furs and sold trade goods.

The third floor of the house was actually built to hold cannons.  When needed, the top windows could be opened and cannons rolled out and fired on the enemy.

A peaceful view of the river and lake from the castle.


7/26 Visiting Grandkids

While I am a full-time motorhome traveler, I don't travel or sightsee every day. That would be exhausting.  Some days I just sit around and watch television and other days I get caught up on chores and my part-time teaching.  Most of this is very unexciting, which is why I post only every few days.

This past couple of  months, I have been taken advantage of being in Michigan and Ohio to visit friends and family.  When I retired from my regular job, sold my condo and car, and took off for my life traveling in my new motorhome, I left a lot of memories and friends behind.  I try to get back to my "home" area at least once or twice each year, and this time I stayed longer than usual, so it was nice to see so many old friends and relatives.

For the past week, I have been spending time with three of my grandkids. I watched them for two days while their parents worked.  Among other things, I got to see a swim meet:

Mom was out of town, so we went to the natural history museum and hugged a dinosaur.

Got to dig up some fossil bones.

Saw a pretty little fox.

And some really old strange-looking animals.

Also got to see a new addition to the family.

And the last day before I had to leave my nearby campground, we had a daytime campfire and roasted some hot dogs right after it rained.  (Awning is at an angle so the rain can drain.)

And of course, finished up with some marshmallows and some-mores!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

7/22 Some of My Favorite Places

I am often asked what my favorite campground is.  Wow!  That is a big question, considering that I have spent well over 1,000 nights in campgrounds and have done three loops of the country over the last three years.  I’ve been thinking about this and have decided that is impossible to select even a handful of places, let alone a single place, as my “favorite.” 

One thing different about me compared to most RVers is that I am not vacationing in my RV, I live and work in it. While I enjoy traveling and seeing new places, I don’t always need a place with a lot of activities.  Sometimes, I just want a place where I can relax and do little but read and watch TV.  I also teach online, so I often need to just catch up on work for a couple of days.  What I DO like while I am working or vegetating is a view!  I worked in mostly windowless offices for so much of my life that I want to be able to look outside and see mountains, a lake or river, or maybe a desert vista.  I get a little claustrophobic in deep woods because it makes me feel hemmed in.  I much prefer those long vistas in more open areas.  (Open areas also make it easier to get a satellite signal, and I do like my television!)    

I also like to have birds and animals around. Sometimes I like to people watch, but I really prefer not to have too many of them too close to my home on wheels. Most commercial campgrounds are way too crowded with RVs packed into a small space, so I much prefer the larger spaces and more privacy of state or national parks. 

Anyway, enough rambling.  I am going to try to list about ten of my favorite places to camp, in no particular order:

  • Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, AZ.  – Situated on a mountain slope just north of Mesa, this place has widely separated campsites in a gorgeous patch of Sonoran desert with big cactuses and tons of birds, bunnies, coyotes, and wild burros.  Great view of desert during the day and of lights of Mesa at night.  There is a mountain behind the campground and lots of hiking and bike trails.
  • Fort Clinch State Park, Amelia Island, FL. This is one of two Florida state parks that are directly on the Atlantic Ocean. It is on the north end of Amelia Island, overlooking Georgia on the other side of the St. Mary’s River.  The campground is only about 250 feet from over a mile of pristine beach so you can hear the surf at night.  There is also a long fishing pier and the surrounding area is dunes and scrub, so you can face your rig so you also have a view of the dunes and the river in the distance. Sometimes you can see naval supply vessels from the submarine base on the other side in Georgia. Other positives are the two-mile entrance drive under the live oak trees and the nearby civil war fort.
  • Old Federal Campground, Lake Lanier, GA. – This is my favorite of several Corps of Engineering Campground around this lake, mostly because each site is along the lake and has a great view.  Lots of things happening on the lake and sites are nicely separated. 

  • Myakka State Park, Sarasota, FL. – I really like the newer full-hookup campground here because the spots are large, widely spread out, and have shrubbery in between for privacy.  Myakka itself is a wildlife haven.  There is the Myakka River, several lakes, swampy and drier scrub, an area of live oaks dripping with ferns and Spanish moss, and palms.  It is Florida’s largest state park and offers an airboat tour of the lake, tram rides through the drier portions, nature boardwalk, and a canopy walk through the tree tops. You can almost always see multiple alligators and lots of birds where the river goes under the entrance road.

  • Fort Robinson State Park, NE. – This place is out of the way in northeastern Nebraska in hilly country.  It is an old Army base that was an Indian agency, cavalry training center during several wars, K-9 training center, prisoner of war camp during WWII, and more.  It has a hotel in old barracks buildings, restaurant, cafĂ©, rental officers’ quarters, an indoor pool, tennis courts, summer playhouse, large full-service campground, stable space for your horse, a U of Nebraska museum containing two Colombian mammoths that died locked in combat, plus a military museum.  What more could you want? 

  • Watchman Campground, Zion National Park, UT.  – Incredible scenery in every direction, and a unique 1.5 miles entrance through the Zion Mt. Carmel tunnel.  This campground has a natural feel and is very close to the Visitor Center where you can catch a shuttle.  One trick, which I have not yet tried is to put your bike on the shuttle and take it to the end of the canyon and then coast back downhill!  No vehicles are allowed past the hotel, so all you have to worry about is the shuttles.

  • Grizzly RV Park, West Yellowstone, WY. – This is one of the very few commercial campgrounds that I really like.  West Yellowstone is very much a tourist town, but everything is bike riding or walking distance, and it has the best huckleberry chocolate chip ice cream I have every had!  The campground is on the edge of town, right across from the post office and two banks.  Roads are paved, large sites are gravel with a paved patio, and there is lots of well-kept grass and landscaping between.  Good cell service and they let you wash your RV at your site, which is very unusual.  A bit expensive, but well worth it.  Last time I was here, I rented a car to tour Yellowstone.  Impressive that they remembered what site I liked and gave it to me without my asking! 

Need to do more thinking, but that at least is a good start to a list of favorite campgrounds. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

7/17 Links to Other Interesting Blogs by Women Travelers

I have been mostly spending the last week or so getting work done and visiting friends and relatives, so very few photos of my travels.  I have slowly worked my way down from Sault Saint Marie, Michigan, to Sterling State Park, south of Detroit along Lake Erie.  I'll be spending the next few days getting more work done, taking my RV refrigerator in for repairs, and running a bunch of other errands before heading to Ohio and then New England. 

I thought some of the people who read this might be interested in links to some of the other women who travel alone and post a blog.  When I was researching and considering full-timing, I got a lot of information from their posts.  Note that there is a wide variety in preferences and "styles" of travel.   

The first one is Geogypsy.  She is Gaelyn who regularly works for the U.S. Park service at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  She has been living in various RVs for 40 years, so she is definitely the "senior" member of the group and an inspiration for others.  For the half of the year that the north rim is closed, she travels to other places in the U.S. and throughout the world, so she is truly a "geogypsy."  She is also a very nice lady who I met personally a couple of years ago.  Her blog is at http://geogypsytraveler.com/.  She recently had chipmunks in her ceiling and double-layer skylight, so you might want to scroll down to July 9.

Here is a list of some other women's blogs, in no particular order:
And a final special blog is written by a lady and her husband who have spent many, many winters in Mexico.  They have recently moved to Las Vegas, but I suspect they will still be doing some traveling.  http://lifeinbrowncounty.blogspot.com/ 

Last year, Carol and Bill, finally put together their journals from a trip they made to Argentina in 1978-79 in a 28' motorhome.  The challenge of this trip was not just driving all the way on very bad roads, but taking along four of their sons (ages 7, 9, 12, and 17) and a young close friend--7 people in a motorhome four feet shorter than mine!   They were certainly RV pioneers, and probably a bit crazy, as well. 

Addendum:  Here are a few more blogs by women who travel in RVs in case you are interested:


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

7/8 Aune Osborne Campground Again

I was here about three weeks ago and posted several photos, but the last day it was foggy, so I could not get good photos of the campground and river.  I am back for four days, with much better weather, so here are some more photos. 

This is really a fascinating place to stay because the campground is directly on the St. Mary's River, which is the only connection between Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes, so all shipping traffic must pass through here. The river is narrow and the best campsites are right along the river with excellent views. 

There is a hotline you can call to find out when ships are expected to pass through the Soo Locks, just upriver less than a mile from here.  There is also a website that shows the location of all ships, ferries, and tugboats in the three upper lakes:  Superior, Huron, and Michigan.  If you find a ship and click on it, a window opens with some information, but if you click then directly on the name of the ship, it gives you more detailed info and photographs.  http://ais.boatnerd.com/

The campground sites are open, but not too closely crowded together.

This is the boat launch in the next door day use area. 
This strange thing is the Ironmaster, which is a barge that is pulled by a tug.  It supposedly hauls coils of iron and spent most of last winter frozen in the ice on this river, but luckily out of the way of the shipping channel.  It is VERY rusty and looks ready for the scrappers, frankly.

There is another tug waiting behind her, I assume for the purpose of getting her into and out of the locks safely.
 This ship just coming around the river bend is the Herbert C Jackson.  Most of these ships, by the way, are named after shipping company owners or executives.

Just a few hundred feet from the day use area is the ferry to Sugar Island.  It is, for obvious reasons, named the Sugar Islander and operates late into the night.  I know this because it blows its horn whenever it crosses the river.

This is a really big ship.  It is actually a barge pushed by a tug:  the ship is the Great Lakes Trader and the tug is the Joyce L. VanEnkevort.

More ships will be coming through the locks and downriver during the night.  I will try to take some photos of the lights. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

7/3 Huntsville, Ontario

Not much happening in my life right now.  I slept in this morning and decided today would be a do-nothing day.  Or at least do nothing but read, watch TV, and surf the internet with the free WiFi I have in this very dull campground.  One secret to my life is that I do not travel every day or even do much of anything every day.  (Think of a rainy weekend day with no chores that need doing.) 

The best part of living in a motorhome full-time is that you do not have to be in a hurry to get somewhere or see something.  Life is a lot more leisurely for me than it is for vacationers because I can spend more time--for example, most people spend maybe three days in Yellowstone because they have to get to Glacier National Park.  I spent three weeks in Yellowstone in 2013 and then spent more than a week in Glacier.  Nice!! 

I took a drive yesterday to Burk's Falls, Ontario, to try to find more about my grandparents and great-grandparents, but not much luck at the local library. This county apparently does not have a big heritage center as Grey and Bruce county do, or at least I cannot find them. 

I was able to drive to the cemetery where my great-grandparents are buried, but there are only grave markers for a couple of them.  Later, using a skewed map given to me at the library and some census information, I was able to find the property my paternal great-grandfather lived on, but need to go back and try to find it via road.

Got bit by a lot of huge horseflies yesterday and have been applying the prescription ointment given to me by my doctor last month.  I seem to be reacting a lot more severely to bites than ever before, so I am hoping this stuff works better than the multiple kinds of over-the-counter stuff I tried in Florida.  I have a large welt on my scalp, so I may end up wearing one of my head mosquito nets if I have to go outside in the woods again.

Tomorrow, I head to a small museum and a cell phone store to see if I can get pre-paid cell service for my old I-phone. 

7/2 Eight Rules for RVing

I had wanted to call this a nice even "Ten Rules for RVing" but could only think of eight rules.  Will be happy to take suggestions, however. 

I started this list a long time ago when I learned my lesson the hard way about keeping chocolate in a motorhome.  People laugh when I tell them I have a chocolate drawer in my refrigerator, but it really is more important to have one of these than a vegetable drawer!  (The chocolate space is also shared by cheese, which is also important to have.)

So, since today was a pretty dull day, here is my list:

1.   Chocolate always goes in the refrigerator.  Leaving any kind of chocolate out in a hot RV results in an unsatisfactory puddle.

2.   It will take you twice as long to drive somewhere as you thought it would.  That’s actually a good thing, as it is nice to enjoy the drive.

3.   Pictures and maps posted by campground lie. Campsites are at least 30% smaller and twice as sloped as advertised! To adjust for this, pick a bigger and flatter site than you think you need.

4.   You can never have enough plastic bins.  Everything must go in a bin or container of some sort or it will eventually fall on the floor while you are driving. 

5.   Things disappear faster in a small space than a large one. Buy clear plastic bins to help you find the things you put somewhere but can’t find.  Think of a purse with too many compartments.   

6.   Things leak, even though they are surrounded by weather-stripping.  A driving rain will sneak past the tightest of weather-proofing to get into underneath storage.  See #4 above about plastic bins.

7.   Stuff in the refrigerator jumps around at every bump.  Therefore, food needs to be restrained with spring-loaded curtain rods, or you will have pre-scrambled eggs and things will fall out when you open the door for a snack.

8.   Pack half as much as you think you need, but take twice as much money. RVing is really not a cheap way to live.