The Many Faces of Arizona

On schedule, we left Desert Shores at 9:20 Sunday morning to clear skies but more wind that we would have liked.  Captain Bill handled Contessa beautifully as he battled crosswinds along I-10.  We took Loop 303 around Phoenix (what a dream) and arrived at our first night’s destination of Pioneer RV Resort at 2:10p.

There is a lesson or story behind this word “resort”, as it can have a wide range of application.  Pioneer RV certainly fell within the broader definition, but the people were extremely pleasant, facility easily accessible to I-17 and north of Phoenix for an easy get-away the next morning.

A special treat was the large saguaro cactus in the center of the property in full bloom – and the American Flag flying proudly the next morning — Memorial Day.

We timed our departure to arrive Sedona at noon – the beginning of check-in.  We pulled into our “slip” at 12:00 on the dot!  What a lovely spot and within walking distance to Tlaquepaque (ta-LOCKEY-POCKEY) and the galleries.

The Captain and Oak Creek – directly behind our coach at Rancho Sedona

The mesas of the northern Arizona highlands have a stark and graceful beauty.  The sculpting of these mesas into timeless monuments will take your breath away.  The Native Americans tribes of Hohokam (hoo-hoo’ kam) lived here as early at 700 AD.  Then came the Sinaguan (meaning “without water” or farmers who rely solely on rainfall).  They were forced to leave after a violent volcanic eruption in 1066 AD, but returned along with the Anasazi (or “Ancient Ones”), where they built sophisticated multi-storied pueblos, whose remains still stand today.  They left abruptly in the late 1300’s, some believe run out by the Apache.

The first white man believed to have travel to the Red Rock Country was Antonio de Espejo in 1583.  Pioneers, prospectors and trappers began to arrive in the early 1800s.  In 1901, a Pennsylvania Dutch couple, Theodore and Sedona Schnebly arrived and purchased 80 acres.  Hoping to get a post office established there, Theodore submitted the name “Schnebly Station” but it was rejected because it was too long.  His brother suggested using his wife’s name and in 1902 the town was officially named “Sedona.”

Author Zane Grey wrote his famous book “Call of the Canyon” here and in 1923 convinced producer Jesse Lasky to film the silent hit movie based on that book in its actual setting.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Since then literally hundreds of movies have been filmed here and many actors/actresses have homes here.

The sun rises early here – and so do we!  Tuesday morning found us on the Munds Mountain Trail before 9:00a.  We had a lovely 4+ mile hike as we circled the base of Munds Mountain.

At every turn, we were stopping to look up and look down – to the amazing red rocks surrounds Sedona and the native vegetation at our feet.

The Prickly Pear cactus in yellow bloom, gives way actual edible “pears” from each of the nubs on the top of each paddle.

The Perry’s Yucca (known in other locales as a “Century Plant”) grows for up to 25 years before it sprouts its stalk.  The stalk will grow 3-4 inches a day, then bud, and finally bloom for 2-3 months.  The following year, the entire plant will die.

The afternoon was spent in a 4×4 Jeep adventure into a canyon.  There were only two couples and our quite knowledgeable guide bouncing from rock to rock down a rough hewn trail.

The bark of the Juniper Tree was amazing!  The Native Americans used the bark to make fabric!

Back to our “home on wheels” by late afternoon for a quick shower – and then off to a “restaurant not to be missed” according to dear Sylvia from Desert Shores.  And she was certainly RIGHT ON!

The Elote Cafe has won awards year after year – and their success continues with a rather small but amazing menu.  They are open 5-9p Tuesday-Saturday – and you better get there at 4:30p, if you want a seat!  At 7p,  you can almost count on a 1-2 hour wait for a table or a seat at the bar.

The Captain & I are truly “bar flies” so even though we did arrive at 4:30p, we chose two seats at the bar and were not disappointed.  Friendly conversation with the bartender and our seat neighbors blended with amazing cocktails and out-of-this-world food!  You MUST start with Elote, which is fire-roasted corn with a cream & poblano sauce.  Then it was carne asada for the Captain and smoked brisket enchiladas for the Admiral.  The beauty of dining at 6:00p is that you can sleep that night!

We delayed our departure on Wednesday morning until check-out time (11a), as we only had 90 miles to travel to Williams AZ, which at a 1p check-in.  Again, perfect timing as we pulled into registration at 12:59!  Tomorrow is the Grand Canyon by train!

The “Next Adventure” Begins

What a wonderful winter the Captain, Admiral & Contessa had in the desert of Southern California!  We arrived on Saturday after Thanksgiving to our “new to us” haven at Desert Shores Motorcoach Resort in Indio, CA.  Settling in took a couple months; but with the resources for a myriad of consignment shops and every retail outlet you could possibly imagine within 5 miles, a shell that had been neglected for several years began to take shape.

We had been here May of last year and contracted for some work to be done on the  patio, including a pergola (essential for shade in the desert), outdoor kitchen and  fire pit relocation, as well as repairs on a variety of “opportunities” that a neglected property provides.  We were so thankful that when we arrived, the work done on the patio was everything we wanted, completed on time and under budget! We spent weeks with Emmanuel & his boys from EQ Landscaping, Jeff at Desert Lighting Solutions and a wide array of opportunities that begins to make this place “ours”.

Our “backyard” with the fountain & island in the lake behind us –
you can see our neighbors across the lake

We had a marvelous season and met some great new friends.  And, just as in our boating years, having the shared experience of motorcoaching provides a camaraderie and connection that we truly enjoy.  We also found a church home here in the desert in St. John’s Episcopal Church only about 4 miles from home.  It is a small mission church with a compelling focus on multi-cultural celebration and inclusion.  We are so blessed to have a loving church family in both places we call home!

We flew home for Easter and returned to the desert in mid-May.  Contessa had been at “the spa” getting some loving attention – new carpet, upholstery and some minor repairs on her air conditioning.  She is a happy girl and as ready to “get going” as we are!  So, tomorrow, Sunday, May 26, we’ll hitch “the Toad” (Jeep) to her and we will be on our way!  First stop – North Phoenix for one night and then to Sedona, AZ!


I-10 – on and on and on!

The journey into New Orleans was an easy 50 miles, but it is ALWAYS the last 2 miles that make for tense moments – and the search for French Quarter RV Resort was no exception.  Having replaced our Rand McNally GPS with a “new and improved” Rand McNally specifically for RV travel, we hoped for better results.  However, such was not the case, as we have now determined that the unit chooses to change destination addresses sometime during that day’s journey.  This time, it put us a block past our destination and on the wrong side of a divided street.  The Captain, however, skillfully kept making right turns on wide/major streets and we safely navigated to our destination.  Our friends, Bob & Sue Grote, however, missed a critical right turn and ended up in “all the wrong places” which required them to unhook their toad and back their bus up almost two blocks – with the aide of several gentlemen drinking out of brown paper bags.

Settled in to our sites, we headed out for an afternoon of sunshine, char-grilled oysters and the sites of Bourbon Street in the daylight.  Little did we know it would be some of the last sunshine we would see for five days!

Sue, Bob & Bill beside Contessa, Acme Oyster Bar (top right),
Dualing Pianos and Bill & Bob at Pat O’Brien’s Bourbon Street

The next day was primarily dedicated to the National WWII Museum – and what an amazing place!  Originally established as a D-Day Museum, it has flourished with support from many around the country.  Why, New Orleans, you might ask?  The primary landing craft (LCVP landing craft, vehicle, personnel) for the invasion of Normandy in 1944 was conceived and built in New Orleans by Andrew Jackson Higgins.  It could hold a 36-man platoon, a jeep & a 12-man squad, or 8,000 of cargo.


Beyond all Boundaries, shown in the Victory Theatre at the museum, is a 4D journey through the war narrated by Tom Hanks.  It is an awe-inspiring experience that no one should miss and yet is only shown at the Victory Theatre.

The museum now comprises four massive buildings and construction continues on a fifth building and canopied pavillion.  Memorabilia from tanks to uniforms and letters to personal quotes take you “there” in a way that few historical facilities can achieve.  Building 4 houses a sample of the aircraft used during the grueling and wicked four years of battle (1941-1945) in which the US participated.


Entrance to Museum Complex, B25 (above) and B17 Flying Fortress (below)

When we entered the Museum, it was a warm and sunny day.  When we exited some five hours later, the clouds had rolled in, the temperature had dropped and the promise of rain was evident.  Galatoire 33 on Bourbon Street was our dinner haven for the evening.

Friday morning, we ventured out with umbrellas – headed for Cafe duMond for a classic beignet & coffee.  However, none of us are fond of standing in long lines – and theirs was longer than a Disneyland ride.  Having already purchased tickets for the Hop On-Hop Off excursion, we elected to pass on the sugary delights – and how fortuitous that was!  We were able to get seats on the upper level of the double decker, but under the canopy should it start to rain.  Perhaps 10 minutes into the 2 hour trip, the rains and wind appears with gusto.  Again, fortunes smiled on us, the bus stopped at the “Visitors Center’ – almost everyone got off, and we were able to secure seats down below for the remainder of a wet, cold and windy ride!

After a quick bite at Cafe Beignet (gumbo & muffaletta’s – no sugar!), we returned to our coaches for the afternoon.  The evening was a delight – taking the recommendation of looper friends, Denise & Mark Gillespie, we summoned an Uber and headed for Katie’s in MidCity.  Service was great and the ribs were AMAZING!

Ribs - Katie's MidCity New Orleans


We departed New Orleans in cool temperatures, never imagining what the next days would hold.  As we continued west on I-10, having joined it about 15 miles north of New Orleans, we were humbled by the miles and miles of bridges that make the Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys seem short.  Because of the endless miles of bayou as well as the southwestern portion of Lake Pontchartrain, the bridges seem to last forever.  Or, perhaps, it is because the bridge side barriers combined with the endless concrete barriers around the multitude of construction sites seemed to encroach on the traffic lanes – and the ride felt like a roller coaster with major bumps, humps and rolls.

This was our longest day of the journey – 375 miles to Houston/Katy, TX.  We were traveling on Saturday, thus minimizing the risk of rush hour traffic, so we elected to go further and get west of Houston, making our next leg of the journey easier.

We were in a lovely campground just a couple miles off I-10, but it was so cold and rainy that we never even got a picture!  Sunday morning was spent attending a local Episcopal Church – sure made us homesick for the warmth and friendliness of our St. Philip’s!

After lunch, we decided the warmth of the Johnson Space Center was an appropriate way to spend a cold, rainy afternoon.  So much for planning. Even though the main Center housed a theatre and some amazing exhibits, the vast majority of an hour tour was on an open-air tram!  We were, of course, not attired for such an event, so it was not as pleasant as one would have liked.  However, Mission Control was an exhilarating experience and the Saturn V rocket warehouse took your breath away.


Orion Mission Control (top left), Saturn V 1st Stage (top right) and 2nd Stage (bottom)

We all agreed, however, that the 747 with the shuttle on its back was the highlight of the Center!  This particular 747 was one of three purchased from American Airlines in 1974 and retrofitted to be the “carrier pigeon” for the Space Shuttle Program (Enterprise, Columbia, Discovery, Atlantis, Challenger and Endeavor).   The Program ran from 1972-2011, with two failures – Challenger was a launch failure on January 28, 1986, where 7 crew members including a civilian school teacher lost their lives.  Columbia was a re-entry failure where another 7 astronauts were lost.

We will always hold dear our memories of May 2011, when Ivory Lady was making her spring journey from Marathon to Charleston and we were anchored immediately off Cape Kennedy for the launch of the final Endeavor mission.  Atlantis embarked on its 33rd and final mission of the Space Shuttle program on July 8, 2011, landing at the Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, having orbited the Earth 4,848 times and traveling nearly 126 million miles.

Shuttle Atop 747

Our second day in Houston was spent doing inside chores, while Bob & Sue went to the movies.  Dinner was spaghetti aboard Contessa, the consummate comfort food for a cold and rainy night.  We did, however, brave the cold to prep the coach for travel the following day, ie. holding tank empty, water tank full, etc.  Even though it was to be a short day and we therefore couldn’t leave until 9:30a to coincide with check-in time in San Antonio, we were sure it would be more pleasant to do the outside chores in the afternoon rather than early the next morning with a freeze warning in place.  What – freeze warning in Houston!  Yes, sirree!

And, again, the best laid plans – while we were preparing the coach and toad at 8:30a for a 9:30a departure, Captain Bill identified a serious issue with the Jeep.  Evidently the roller coaster ride on I-10 between New Orleans and Houston had loosened the nuts from the Blue Ox mounting bracket that allows the toad to be connected to the coach!  We wouldn’t be attaching to the Jeep until it was repaired.  And, to add insult to injury, it was beginning to snow!

With the magic of the internet and the kindness of the Texas people, we were connected to Gary’s Tire & Auto only about a mile from the campground.  After alerting Bob & Sue, we were off to meet Gary.  After about an hour, they determined the issue and confirmed their ability to repair – BUT – they had to take the Jeep to a body shop to have the bumper removed before they could accomplish the repairs.  Another two hours passed, Bob & Sue departed for San Antonio and we arranged to either depart late or stay another day, when Gary proclaimed we were “good to go”.

We calculated we could easily make the 175 miles to San Antonio before dark, even though we would be arriving later than our preferred 3:00p.  While the rain and snow flurries had subsided, the wind was a force to be reckoned with – and it gave Captain Bill a work-out as we headed west.  As we made our way toward San Antonio, blue skies and sunshine appeared and it was a very welcome sight.  Somewhere close to San Antonio, we crossed the halfway point for our trip to our “western destination” – sure felt good!

Again, the last two miles added a couple elements of anxiety with low hanging power lines, abrupt railroad crossings and the GPS changing destination address, but we made it to our destination without issue and what a relief it was.

We awoke to clear blue skies, no wind and warming weather – so after an abbreviated workout in the lovely fitness center at the campground, we pointed the toad toward New Braunfels, northeast of San Antonio.  Dear friends, Gayla & Ferril Sorenson, have purchased a fabulous lot on which to build their “next home”.  It was so nice to see the land and be able to picture its progress into the lovely spot we know they will make.

A visit to Gruene Historical District and then a cruise through New Braunfels, complete with a visit to the Gruene Dance Hall where many a country singer got his/her start and a stop at the “smokehouse” for good German meats, was a great way to spend the day.  We topped it off with a late afternoon visit to the Alamo and an evening on the Riverwalk.


While history focuses on the Battle of the Alamo in March, 1836, the Alamo served as home to Spanish missionaries and Indian converts for more than 70 years.  Texas became the 28th state in 1845 and seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America, until the end of the Civil War.  Except for the Civil War period and until 1877, the Alamo was used as a supply depot by the US Army.


Today has been a lovely day — a workout & yoga, getting both the coach and the toad washed, doing a few chores and just basking in the sunshine and noticeably warmer weather.  The sunshine is giving way some clouds, but there is no rain in the forecast and we are to have two lovely days for our “next leg” that begins tomorrow morning.  We will depart early for 315 miles to Ft. Stockton, TX, overnight without even unhooking the toads and then off on Saturday morning for Las Cruces, NM. (All on I-10!)

FINALLY – On the Road Again!

Guess there is a LOT to catch up – since we haven’t posted since our Summer 2017 trip to the Canadian Maritimes!  We did spend a couple of months last winter in Florida, which confirmed several things for us.  The results are seen in our current and future plans.

During the summer of 2017, we were able to purchase the wooded area (~1 acre) across the Little River from our home in the mountains for a home for Contessa.  There is no way we could take her across the one-lane bridge, dirt road & driveway onto our home property, but with her “directly behind” us, we are set.  Of course, the land needed to be cleared sufficiently, a parking pad of gravel built, electric and septic tank installed and well drilled.  Some got accomplished while we were gone, but the final task of well drilling wasn’t completed until September of this year.

While in Florida, we began to accept that the reality of Florida as a winter destination for us had passed its allure.  Having lived there for 25+ years, the sense of adventure was long gone and while we enjoy visiting friends, our wanderlust is seeking more.  As well, our initial plan of north in the summer, south in the winter and “home in the mountains” for spring & fall had some holes in the thinking.  Specifically, if you want to go northwest in the summer, it takes many months to get there!  So…… we are on the road to California!

Contessa pulled out of her summer home about 11:00a on Tuesday, October 30 – just as we had planned.  Admiral Jann just MAY plan a bit too much, but at least we know where we are going and when – and that someplace will be leaving a light on for us when we arrive!

         Contessa on her parking pad – and the new shed that covers the well head

First stop was a whopping 35 miles away, but with closing the cabin, stops for fuel, weight & balance and tire pressure adjustment, it made the most sense to take our time, stop in town for a few last hugs and then have dinner with Dear Friend/Sister Nancy Weir!

Lakewood RV - Hendersonville

Contessa in the beauty of Fall Colors – Flat Rock  NC

Wednesday started early for us – and earlier than we like as it was still dark.  Only the opportunity to have breakfast with dear friend, George Richardson, would have us creeping out of the park in the dark.  The reward was a glorious ride down US25 as the sun came up over the mountains and the colors were spectacular.

Walmart provided the parking lot, George provided the local transportation, Waffle House provided the breakfast – and a good time was had by all!  We were back on the road by 10a with a destination of Lake Allatoona, north of Atlanta.  Captain Bill decided that the struggling starter battery really needed to be replaced.  Dealing with these types of queries is so easy with internet & cell phone service – so off we went to Open Road RV just a few miles north of our final destination.  Of course, it was two batteries – but they had them!  And, of course, Captain Bill reminded the Admiral that the two batteries and installation was less than half of one Ivory Lady battery – and she had eight!

Our destination at Allatoona Landing was motivated by being close to Cousins Ken & Linda Ratts, but also to meet Haley Stewart, daughter-in-law of our dear friends, Jill & Danny Stewart from our home Church, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Brevard.  Haley was a delight and we had an opportunity to spend a bit of time with her each of the two evenings we were there.

Contessa @ Allatoona Landing, the train just outside the campground (we love the sound of it!) and Bill, Haley & Crash with ball to throw!

We also had great visits with Ken & Linda, as well as daughter Megan, daughter Samantha and her guy, Zach.  Lots of family talk – and hopes for a Ratts Reunion in North Carolina next June.

On Friday, Contessa & Crew departed – this time in the daylight – with a destination of Helena, AL and a visit with Nephew Jim Davis.  It was an uneventful journey that kept us out of Atlanta rush hour and an arrival at Cherokee Campground about 2:00p.  Keeping with our desired travel of 3-3-3, we went less than 300 miles, arrived before 3p and stayed at least 3 days.

It was a lovely long weekend with Jim, spending time in his home as his first family visitors since he moved here in January to join Warrior Mining, following completion of his Masters work at Virginia Tech.  We toured Helena, which is a quaint “old town” with a GREAT pub for lunch.  We journeyed to Tuscaloosa to see the University of Alabama campus (on a Sunday) and have lunch at Avenue Pub, owned by the Craig, son of our dear friend Laura Oxman in Brevard.

Jim’s home, breakfast prepared by Jim, pictures from the Train Museum, Goodfella’s Pub-Helena and Avenue Pub-Tuscaloosa

Today we headed out early, but thanks to “standard time” we had morning light.  Everything was going according to plan until Captain Bill said, “OK, here we go with the power cord retraction” and nothing happened!  A check of fuses (MANY) with no obvious resolution then led to the Captain having to hand-roll the power cord into the coach.

This was one of our longer days with 289 miles to Picayune MS.  We had sporadic rain but, thankfully, I-59 is a much less “loaded” interstate so the travel was relatively easy.  We pulled into SunRoamers RV Resort before 1:00p to a lovely site – and a business card for a Mobile RV Service.  Kenny & Jeremy arrived by mid-afternoon and, with the help of Captain Bill, identified the issue with the power cord retraction motor – it had “lost” its ground.  Whew!  It was an easy and inexpensive permanent solution and we are ready to head to New Orleans tomorrow.

So, some of you may be wondering — CALIFORNIA?  As we considered warm locals for the winter and a way to “see the west”, we made a trip to Indio/Palm Springs area in early March.  The trip had a two-fold purpose – visit friends, Bob & Sue Grote, and investigate whether we wanted to winter 2018/2019 in that area.  At the end of the weekend, we had purchased an RV site in the same community that Bob & Sue also own!

We returned in May and contracted to have some exterior work done to make the unit more outdoor hospitable – we are excited to see the results in just a few weeks!

So, tomorrow we will roll into New Orleans and connect with Bob & Sue.  We’ll travel west together – prepare for a winter of sun and exploring a portion of our fabulous country where Bill & I have spent precious little time.


Two More Battlefields and Home!

We’ve been gone over seven weeks.  When we first planned this trip and looking at it through the filter of two years (17 months under way), it didn’t seem long enough.  Now that Contessa is “headed towards the barn,” we’re both anxious to get there! That being said, when we pulled out of Watkins Glen and headed due south, we were anxiously anticipating a few days with Nephew Jim, who would be meeting us in Harpers Ferry, WV.  The trip fit perfectly into our 3-3-3 plan, as we drove 287 miles, got in by 3:00p and were staying three nights.  Jim arrived in time for dinner that evening (Thursday) and we laid out a plan for our two days together.

PA - Fog
Interesting Fog Bank as we drove down US 15 thru Pennsylvania!

Brother Rik (Jim’s Dad) had given us a book on Harpers Ferry, so we arrived at the National Park entrance with some knowledge of the history and significance of this quaint town.  Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac River and Shenandoah River and is now literally on the point of Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

In 1859, Harpers Ferry was a booming town with both the rivers and major rail transportation.  Radical abolitionist John Brown of Bloody Kansas led a doomed raid on this small industrial town intent on seizing the arms at the Federal Arsenal.  With these arms, he was convinced that African Americans, both free and slave, would follow him in an insurrection.  After fighting with the townsmen and local militia, Brown and his men were soon captured by US Marines, led by Army Colonel Robert E. Lee.  Some historians contend that this was the battle that ignited the “Civil War” and certainly, the storied trial and hanging of John Brown  ignited the passions of many.  However, the “War Between The States” was a conflict on States Rights (Southern View) vs Unity of the Federation (Northern View) until after the Battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862, when Lincoln published the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the States of Secession.

In the 1850s, Harpers Ferry was in its heyday. However, due to its strategic location, it changed hands often during the war.  The town fell under the authority of 28 different commanders and for the most part, Union troops occupied the town. The years of war brought devastation of the homes, lives and businesses of this town and a staggering blow from which the industrial town never fully recovered.

The town today is a beautiful blend of well-kept residences, National Park historic sites and lovely shops & pubs.  We spent a delightful day touring the town and savoring a beautiful day more like mid-September than late August.

St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church – an Active Parish in Harpers Ferry

The Appalachian Trial comes right thru Harpers Ferry
& A Young Gentleman Repairing Gravestones as quite interesting

Early Saturday morning, our destination was the Antietam National Battlefield just north of Sharpsburg MD, some 25 miles to our north.  In the fall of 1862, General Robert E. Lee was having tremendous success against the Union forces, but at great expense to the people of Northern Virginia.  Lee felt it was crucial to take the war onto Northern soil for several reasons; 1) he believed Lincoln would be forced to negotiate once the Yankees felt the direct price of war, 2) both France and Britain were close to “supporting” the Southern desire to secede and a victory on Northern soil would likely cement that support, 3) food for soldiers and horses as well as munitions and supplies could be secured with victories, and 4) he felt that Maryland would support his efforts, as they were a slave state being “forced” to remain under Union control.  At the same time, Lincoln was anxiously awaiting a victory, as his Cabinet had advised him to delay his Emancipation Proclamation until such time as the Union was seen as “winning” rather than as a “desperation announcement.”  As well, the mid-term elections were looming and he was very concerned about the “will of the people”, who were weary of the war and might lean to the democratic candidates who were much more tolerant of slavery.

As we did in Gettysburg, we arranged for a private guide, who spent almost 3 hours with us.  This is, in our opinion, the only way to get a real insight into the facts – political, economic and personal – of these hallowed grounds.  Both National Park employees and the Licensed Guides have such a passion for painting a picture of the events, treasuring the history and guaranteeing we left with both a reverence for the commitment of the soldiers and a resolve to do everything in our power to prevent such bloodshed again.

In one day, September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam became and remains the single bloodiest day in American history – 23, 110 men were killed, injured or missing.  Union forces numbered in the 80,000s and Confederate soldiers about half of that number.  Six generals would lose their life that day as men and boys, green recruits and those seasoned in battle, fought in three major battle areas from 5:00a until dark.

The landscape where Battle Raged – “The Cornfield” were the first of the battle began

The “Sunken Road”  and “Burnside Bridge” where the second and third phases of
the Battle was fought.  

The National Cemetery – 4,400 identified and 1,700 unknown Union soldiers are buried here
The last interment was a local US Navy soldier killed when the US Cole was attacked 

The following day, neither side chose to commence thefighting – and on September 19, Lee led his army back across the Potomac to Virginia.  His first attack on northern soil had ended in defeat.  It would be nine months before he attempted it again, this time in Gettysburg.

Sunday morning, we departed Harpers Ferry, WV – Jim back to Virginia Tech to complete his Masters’ Degree and Contessa and The Toad headed for “the barn.”  We arrived home mid-afternoon, Monday, August 28.  It has been a great trip, we’ve learned a lot about the RV life and Contessa, visited with many friends along the way, experienced places we’ve longed to see – and with our trips to Gettysburg, Fort Adams, Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Tompkins in Sackets Harbor, Harpers Ferry and Antietam, we have been

NY - Sackets Harbor (1)

Well Fort-ified!

The Great State of New York

With all the miles and all the different states & provinces, we made more overnight stops in New York than anywhere else on this adventure.  We had spent a considerable amount of time here during our Great American Loop adventure in 2015 on Ivory Lady and knew some of the breadth and depth of this Great State.  When people say “New York”, it conjured up the “City” which is so far removed from the rest of the state in so many ways.

The vast major of major highways run north and south in New England, driven in large part (we assume) by the mountain ranges and associated valleys that also run this direction.  Our choice when departing Ashland NH to Lake George NY was to travel a couple hundred miles out of our way, or take the “scenic route” on secondary roads.  As we were traveling on a beautiful day and a relatively short distance (172 miles) and with consultation with Cousin George, we elected to head south on I-81 and then go across country on Route 11, avoiding the northern Route 4 which would have been beautiful but much higher elevations.  One thing we have learned about Contessa, she LOVES to go downhill – at a speed we would rather not encounter!

NH - Sailboat is Faster!“Honey, we’re going up hill so slow even a sailboat can pass us”

It was a gentle and uneventful trip, until the last six miles, when traffic at one intersection had us backed up for 15-20 minutes.  Then, to avoid the remainder of the back-up, Captain Bill decided to turn right on US9, which took us directly through Lake George Village – a mega tourist town on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Finally escaping the traffic, we headed north to Adirondack Camping Village.  Unfortunately, when we booked the reservation, the instruction to approach from the north rather than the south (our chosen direction) was not provided, so the 150 degree turn with Toad was EXTREMELY problematic.  So, there we are, blocking the entire entrance and having to do an immediate detachment of the Toad while on the apron of the highway.  Fortunately, we have gotten very competent in coupling and decoupling the Toad and the three cars trying to get into the campground behind us blocked any traffic risk.  Once decoupled, Captain Bill was able to back-up Contessa and complete the turn.

NY - View from my bedroom window“Nice wooded and level site – this is the view from our stateroom”

Sunday morning, we ventured into Lake George Village, attended services at St. James Episcopal Church (where we would return later in the week), made a trip up Prospect Mountain, explored the town and then enjoyed a dinner cruise of Lake George that evening.

Great views of Lake George from Prospect Mountain

Top left is our boat, bottom pic The Sagamore Inn

We were off early the next morning in The Toad to explore Fort Ticonderoga and Lake Champlain.  Built by the French in 1755, Fort Carillon (as she was named then) was the site of the bloodiest battles of the French and Indian War.  British ultimately capture the Fort in 1759, but not before the French blow up the powder magazine during their retreat to insure the British cannot gain access to the munitions stored there.  The British rename the fort “Ticonderoga” – and Mohawk Indian word meaning “Land between Two Waters.”  Situated between Lake Champlain and Lake George, it was a crucial control point from northern invasion.

In May 1775, just six weeks after the battles of Lexington and Concord ignite the Revolutionary War, Generals Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold capture the fort’s small British garrison, and renamed her Fort Ticonderoga.  This was a strategic win for the American forces, as it provided essential artillery, especially cannons, to continue the revolution.  During British rule, the Americans were not allowed to have foundries or facilities to manufacture arms that could be used in an uprising.  In December, 1775, Henry Knox and his group of men move 59 cannons (almost 60 ton) some 300 miles across the frozen lake and over the Berkshire Mountains to Boston.  With the British being unaware of this artillery movement, they woke one morning in early March; saw the battery of cannons and Boston was saved from British capture.

While General John Burgoyne forced the American evacuation of Ticonderoga in 1777, the losses incurred during that battle was a significant component in his surrender to the American forces at Saratoga Springs NY. It was one of the final battles of the Revolutionary War.

Fort Ticonderoga played only a small part in the War of 1812, as the British forces were thwarted further north in Plattsburgh, preventing the advancement of forces.  Following that war, the Fort was no longer the site of military personnel and fell into disrepair.  Local residents, perhaps understandably at that time, appropriated materials from the fort to build homes, barns and public buildings.

In 1820, merchant William Ferris Pell purchased the fort and adjoining 546 acres.  He had a fence erected around the fort and is credited with the first act of preservation in the United States.  He and wife Mabel built “The Pavilion” as their summer home along the shore of the Lake Champlain.   In 1909, their grandson, Stephen Pell and wife Sarah initiated the reconstruction of the fort, with the Officers’ and Soldiers’ barracks and walls being massively repaired and ultimately, the magazine (destroyed by the Americans prior to evacuating the fort during the conflicts.  Today, it is the home of tens of thousands of artifacts.  We felt this Fort rivaled our experience when the Four Amigos were so impressed with Fort Mackinac, which saw the first conflict of the War of 1812.

NY - Ticonderoga - Mt Defiance (1)A trip up a winding dirt road with deep ruts took us to Mt. Defiance, where there was a great view of Fort Ticonderoga, with another 80 miles of Lake Champlain to the north.  We reflected that earlier in this adventure, we had toured Fort Adams in Newport RI – where Forts Ticonderoga, Sumter (Charleston SC) and McHenry (Baltimore MD) would have fit on the parade grounds with room to spare!

While we often see or hear of events occurring just before or just after we’re in a location, this time we hit it just right.  On Wednesday evening, we returned to St. James Episcopal Church for the first evening of the two weeks of the Lake George Music Festival!  In its seventh season, this event brings together professionals and current students or faculty, or alumni from many prestigious institutions.  Our evening of chamber music featured artists from Yale School of Music, The Julliard School and the Royal Academy of Music as well as the New England Conservatory.  It was simply breath-taking music and an evening we will not soon forget.

The next morning, we headed Contessa west, but rather than take truly secondary roads, we headed south to the New York Thruway.  It was such fun revisiting (if only as we drove past) many sites The Four Amigos had traversed along the Mohawk River and Erie Canal in the summer of 2014.

While we were stuck on the Erie Canal in late June and early July, we had visited many of the sites of The Thousand Islands, including Clayton NY and its Antique Boat Museum and the Boldt Castle.  But we had not seen the eastern shore of Lake Ontario nor Sacket’s Harbor.

Beach at Brennan Beach RV Park – and a Glorious Sunset from the Beach

Sacket’s Harbor was a real surprise to us, but we have marveled on how much of the War of 1812 we have explored during our Loop and now our Land Cruise.  Sacket’s Harbor has the largest deep water harbor on Lake Ontario, and was a key military post for the American forces.  As well, the Navy Yard there was responsible for providing the ships necessary to protect and command the Great Lakes for the United States.

In the early weeks of the War, the British had seized control of the Great Lakes. In September 1812 U.S. Navy Captain Isaac Chauncey was ordered to assume command of naval forces on Lakes Ontario and Erie with the directive to “…use every exertion to obtain control of them this fall.”  Within three weeks he had directed and brought 149 ships’ carpenters, 700 Seamen and Marines and some 100 cannon, along with a good quantity of muskets and other supplies, to Sacket’s Harbor where there was already a small navy yard.  In May, 1813, British forces from Kingston Ontario crossed the Lake to Horse Island; on May 29, they attacked the American forces defending the harbor and Navy Yard.  While they were unsuccessful in their attempt to take Fort Thompkins, many of the Americans had retreated (per plan) to Fort Volunteer across the harbor.  Lack of effective communication had many believing that Fort Tompkins and the Navy Yard were about to fall to the British, so they set fire to the munitions magazine and the ships under construction.  Fortunately, the General Pike was so new in construction that the wood was still green, so while damaged, it was not destroyed and was able to be completed over the next months. It ruled the Great Lakes for the remainder of the War.

On Friday morning, we “land-cruised” around to the south shore of Lake Ontario for a planned weekend with dear friends from Marathon who summer in Sodus Point.  When the Four Amigos were stranded in Brewerton NY for 4th of July, 2014 with high water in the Erie & Oswego Canals, we were rescued by Dave & Sue Williamson and spent a few lovely days with them then.  So, an opportunity to route through Sodus Point on this journey could not be missed!  As well, Rosemary Thomas lives literally “just down the street” – so we were able to spend great times with all of them – dinners in their homes, walks on the beach searching for sea-glass and “wishing stones”, a cruise down the Lake to Fair Haven, and a lovely road trip to neighboring towns and visits with Dave & Sue’s sons & families.

Top left is Dave & Sue’s home – with literally thousands of sandbags that have been there since May attempting to stem the high waters from reaching their home!  Below that, Dave & Bill are solving all the problems of the world!  The bottom left is the Lighthouse where both Sue and Rosemary are extremely active leaders.  The center bottom was the view from our coach during our stay at South Shores RV Park!

On Monday, we turned Contessa south – to the Finger Lakes Region of Central New York.  At first blush, the number of wineries along the shores of the 11 lakes that comprise the region seem to rival the California wine country. Wineries opened in New York in 1976 following approval from the New York Legislature. Having spent such an idyllic time in Sonoma last summer, we chose to spend the majority of our time in the region visiting the Corning Museum of Glass, the Town of Corning, Watkins Glen State Park and the Village of Watkins Glen.

The Museum of Glass was exceedingly well done with major beautiful exhibits and a wide array of glass blowing demonstrations.  Corning Inc (formerly Corning Glass Works) created the museum in 1951 as a gift to the nation on their 100th Anniversary.  It is dedicated to the art, history and science of glass with a collection of more than 45,000 glass objects, some over 3,500 years old.  Downtown Corning has been recognized across the country for this focused effort to revitalize and empower the entrepreneurial spirit of business.  It was a lovely walk across the Chemung River and lunch at Hand & Foot.

The demo areas were superb – and the pedestrian bridge across the River had a full size maze to navigate!

The Watkins Glen State Park was rated one of the Top Three State Parks in the US in 2016 – and it did not disappoint.  Rain and a cold front came through last night, so the hike this morning was spectacular!  Glen Creek has poured down the glacially steepened valley side for 12,000 years, leaving 19 waterfalls and cascades, some of which you walk behind on the gorge trail.  We spent about two hours, walked some 7,000 steps and climbed 24 flights of stairs – truly an amazing experience!

With such a beautiful day, we couldn’t resist an hour aboard the 1934 Stroller IV cruising the southern waters of Seneca Lake.

Bottom left is Hector Falls, dropping 165 feet – it is the third highest waterfalls in New York State

Seneca is the largest of the 11 lakes, extending from Geneva NY at the north to Watkin Glen at the southern tip.  Fed by a plethora of creeks (including Glen Creek) and springs, approx. 324,000 gallons of water enter the Lake every minute!  While Watkins Glen is known for its International Speedway and scenic beauty, the major employers in the town are US Salt and Cargill, both mining salt from 1800’ to 2400’ below the surface of the lake.  To mine the salt, there are two wells, each 500’ deep.  Water is injected into one well shaft, which forces the salt & brine up the second shaft.  From there it is transported by a series of pipes to holding tanks, where it is processed for 24 hours while removing foreign particles from the salt.  It is then moved into large evaporation tanks and the pure salt that remains is packaged under various labels as table salt, water softener pellets or livestock salt lick blocks. The volume of production was amazing – US Salt alone ships between 12 & 14 ton of salt each day!

We’ll have a fire in the fire-pit tonight and prepare Contessa for an early departure tomorrow.

Back to the USA – and Days Savoring New England

As we drove thru the Nova Scotia countryside, we savored our eight days in this idyllic land and promised ourselves we would return.  The people were absolutely delightful, the landscape a gentle blend of mountains and oceans, and the weather was glorious – we felt truly blessed.

It was an easy travel day, and while the mileage was more than we “normally” do, it was all on the great Canadian highways.  We departed Martin’s River early and traced our steps back thru Halifax then headed north to our return to New Brunswick.  Along the way, we passed the highway exit for Stewiecke, Nova Scotia, touting “halfway between the Equator and the North Pole!”  Our stop for the night was on the north side of Moncton, with a pull-thru site at a campground less than a ½ mile off the highway.

One component of land yachting vs. sea yachting  —  there are very defined “quiet times” at campgrounds, so even though we might be ready to roll at 6:30a, we wait until the normal 8:00am end of quiet time to fire up the diesel engine.  That is exactly what we did the next morning and were on the highway long before 8:15a – headed for the US and a couple of nights close to Bangor, Maine.

Chris, owner of the KOA Campground, was entertaining and obviously totally committed to making his facility a great experience for everyone.  He and his wife have owned it for five years, after spending 31 years near Ft. Myers, Florida.  We enjoyed our stay – and will reconnect with them in December, when we will all be at KOA Madeira Beach at Christmas!

One of the many things we enjoy is a “road trip” (to some known as a “Fishcapade”), when we head out (by toad/car) without a timeline or destination.  The adventure and the thrill of the find is a great part of the freedom we are enjoying so much.  We headed, amazingly, to the coastline in search of a real Lobster Pound.  And, boy, did we hit the jackpot!

ME - Young's Lobster Pound (4)

Belfast, Maine is a quaint town with a healthy downtown commerce (read tourist) with vibrant harbor and waterfront area.  American Cruise Lines brings the “American Constitution” a 175 passenger ship into Belfast as one stop in their seven day adventure of the Maine coast.


Across the harbor from the town and waterfront is Young’s Lobster Pound.  A beautiful day provided the setting for a crowded dock & deck at Young’s – the lobster salad was fresh and crisp, the grilled haddock was simply mouth-watering and the potato salad was out of this world!  We had a leisurely lunch, a few stops at must-see shops and were home by late afternoon, ready to prepare for an early departure the next morning.

Our original travel plan took us on secondary roads of Route 2 through the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Green Mountains of Vermont.  We had encountered an issue with the air brakes on The Toad (Jeep) when we pulled into our site in Prince Edward Island.  While it wasn’t an issue with the topology of the Canadian Maritimes, we were hesitant to take Contessa up and down (especially) narrow mountain roads without the brakes on the Toad.  We’ve said all along the plans are made to be altered – and with a bit of research, more than a few phone calls and some assistance from our Camping World in Hendersonville/Asheville, we got an appointment at the Camping World in Chichester New Hampshire for 9:00a Wednesday morning.  Out of Bangor nice and early Tuesday, we took the southern route back to Portsmouth New Hampshire and then across to Chichester, arriving by early afternoon.  We checked in with CW to reconfirm our appointment and then headed for Great Meadow Campground, less than a mile away.

NH - Oyster - A Buck A Shuck

Can’t Resist A Buck A Shuck!

Bright and early, we appeared at Camping World.  Kass checked us in – confirmed that we were waiting for the vehicle and the cell numbers were correct – and The Toad went into the work bay by 9:00a.  There is only so much wandering around the store, sitting in the lounge and touring campers a person can do – and we’d wander by the Service Deck about every 20 minutes in hopes of finding Kass and getting an update.  Finally, at 12:20p, she’s at the desk and then the dreaded words – “Oh, the technician wants to speak with you”.  Turns out, the tech had identified the problem within 5 minutes of the Jeep being in the bay and had asked Kass to contact  us.  There is a “break-away” switch that applies the brake if it detects the toad has broken away from the coach.  This plug had been pulled out of the socket perhaps 1/8” – but being newbies and without any documentation or troubleshooting materials, we missed it.  So the tech had been waiting for us for three hours and it’s now 12:30p, so he had to go to lunch before he could connect the toad with the coach and test his theory.  Six hours and $170 later, we had learned a few valuable lessons!

Fortunately, our destination was only 46 miles away – and Ames Brook Campground was by far the most beautiful site we have seen on the entire trip!  The owners are pleasant and run a tight ship.  When a site is vacated, a young man on a golf cart arrives within 5-7 minutes.  He clears any debris, trims any bushes or grass, blows the site clear – and it’s ready for the next guest.  All the sites have tree line barriers between them, the wi-fi is strong and reliable and there’s  a good combination of seasonal and transient campers.

NH - Ames Brook Campsite (2)

Ames Brook meandered through the Campground and right behind Contessa

We love the Lake Region of New Hampshire for so many reasons.  Dear cousins, George and Cherry Tyler live in Laconia, the lakes are beautiful (Squam Lake was the film site for On Golden Pond) and the plethora of wooden boats (ChrisCraft, Garwood and Hacker) are  all close to our hearts.

Thursday, we headed around Lake Winnipesaukee to Wolfeboro enjoying the views and vistas.  As we drove up Route 3, Bill thought he recognized a “memory” from years ago that we promised ourselves we would check out on the way back.  The town of Wolfeboro, named for British General James Wolfe, is a haven for boaters and water lovers during the season.  With a natural harbor, Wolfeboro was a center of commerce when transportation relied on water for goods and services, as well as personal travel.  As every town is want to do, they have a “claim to fame” and Wolfeboro’s claim is they are “The Oldest Summer Resort in America” as some of the country’s wealthiest and most prominent families of the Northeast (Boston, Philadelphia and New York) would vacation here.  As well, many influential international visitors have enjoyed the peace and tranquility, including such names as Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco and French President Nicolas Sarkozy quite recently.  A trolley tour of town, a delightful lunch at the Wolfeboro Tavern, a visit to the Wooden Boat Museum (imagine that!) and a stop at the Butcher & Seafood Market completed a delightful day.

Amazingly, we remembered to check out Bill’s “memory sighting” on the way home – and sure enough, and much to our surprise, it was the quaint roadside motel complete with tiny restaurant that we had stayed in 16 years ago when we visited the region during the Antique Boat Show then held in Weirs Beach (it has since moved to Wolfeboro).  When we stopped for pictures, the owner came out and chatted with us – and invited us to return for Saturday morning breakfast, as her husband would be cooking!  It was superb!

NH - Yankee Trail Motel Route 3 (2)

But what Bill had first seen was the street sign up the road from the motel.  We love to check out the interesting names of roads as we traverse the backroads of our beautiful country.  This one has always been our absolute favorite!


Cousin Cherry had had cataract surgery on Tuesday, so we were thrilled that she was up to a road trip on Friday and George was a willing chauffeur!  They joined us at Contessa for a tour and then a scrumptious lunch at The Common Man.  It was so good to “get a visit” and we look forward to seeing them this winter on Anna Maria Island.

Our last stop in the region was the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in nearby Holderness.  It is a ¾ mile walk with animals native to this area, including mountain lions, bears, birds of many species and fish of the waterways.  It is truly an outstanding place for learning for young people and a joy to encounter at any age.  These animals have been injured or for some reason cannot survive in the wild, if released – a loving and safe environment for them.

Then it was back to Contessa and prepare for the next leg of our Journey, which will include stops in four locations in the State of New York while avoiding the City!