Friday, June 30, 2017

2017-16 Connecticut to New Hampshire (Including Rhode Island)


Moooo, to all my Iowa Friends, miss you all

North Grosvenordale Connecticut

a side trip to Rhode Island

Massachusetts, just driving thru
Concord New Hampshire

West Thompson Lake COE
gyspy moth caterpillars have eaten all the leaves
off the trees
Campground: West Thompson Lake – COE, $15 senior rate. 30 amp elec./water. A few over-the-air tv stations. Wooded campsites, beautifully raked and clean campsites. Mid week, one of the camp hosts came onto my site, early evening, to brush off my picnic table.  I was inside the camper and seeing someone out of the corner of my eye on my campsite scared the crap out of me.  

Campground: Epsom Valley Campground. Epsom NH. $21 PPA discount rate. Full hookups, 30 amp. Rustic looking park, pine trees, restroom/showers/small laundry room. Odd, the last couple campsites, I can get about 10 Tv stations, but none are ABC/NBC/CBS.... very odd.

Distance traveled: 39 miles

Foxwoods Resort Casino

My last day at Foxwoods Resort Casino, I went over to the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. It's a centerpiece of the native Indian tribes culture and history. The displays going back to the ice ages on up to the present are some of the best displays I've seen in any museum. No money was spared to create each venue. From descending into an ice cave, the recreation of a caribou hunt to a full immersion into an Indian village. It's amazing what can be created with enough money coming in from a large Casino resort. Before I left the museum I asked about the Indian tribe and how many members are a part of it. After reacquiring the tribal reservation lands, as so many of the original members had moved off the land to find work, they were able to gradually get many of the tribes members reestablished. Now consisting of around 990 members. Not all tribe members live on tribal land. The tribe elders have closed the tribe and will not permit any other Indian claims that might be out there. Only children born to certified tribe members will be added to the membership roster.

an 18 story elevator tower with viewing area on top

the manikins are so life like 

escalator takes the visitor down to the
1st level, The Ice Age....

Only 950+ tribe members remain 
bringing the tribe members back home

impressive museum

The wealth being generated by the casino must be enormous.

But I've moved on from my parking lot Rv site at the casino up to the NE corner of Connecticut, for a few more days before heading into New Hampshire.

And it's time to do a few chores that need to be done whether I'm on the road or not. In between all that touring, here are just a few of the things that keep me busy.

  • Fixing a squeak in the cabinet holding the fireplace. When I would walk out onto the slideout containing the fireplace/entertainment unit and dining room, an annoying squeak sound would come from the unit and the wall. I was able to separate the unit from the wall, a couple toothpicks would keep the space open long enough to fill with some silicone sealer providing a cushion. No more squeak.
  • One of the large mudflaps on the back of the truck was about to fall off. I re-secured it with a few screws and washers.
  • A side table between the two recliner tables keeps loosening up with all the travel movement while going down the road. Reworking the bolts and screws that keep it together along with more of that silicone sealer to hold them in place so they can't work themselves loose again should do the trick. I hope.
  • After arriving at the new campsite on a Sunday no less, I was able to go into a quaint little town for a visit with the Urgent Care facility. Housed in a lovely house, it's open in this small rural town 7 days a week. I had been concerned over a possible bug bite. Could it be a tick bite? No, it was probably a spider bite this time. And I needed to get some prescriptions refilled. The Doctor was most accommodating and gave me a prescription for my regular meds along with one in-case I do actually get a serious tick bite. It's important to take the meds as soon as a tick bite has been confirmed to reduce the potentially deadly results.
  • Get the oil/filter changed in the truck
  • Get prescription filled
  • Wash camper and truck
  • Fix the new wireless printer. Will not work with the laptop. I'm completely at a loss as to why it won't communicate wirelessly between the printer and laptop. After a couple frustrating hours, I finally found a suitable cable and connected them that way,,,, forget wireless communications, $%%#@*()!!!!

Of course I always try to keep to the retirees motto “one chore a day” but I might need to do two in one day since the list has grown over the last couple of weeks and I've only gotten to a couple in between all my travels and tours.

In this area of NE Connecticut the gypsy moth are at the end of their caterpillar stage. Thousands of the little buggers have eaten all the leaves off of many of the trees, especially here in the campground. It looks like an eternal spring time with the trees just barely covered in leaves. Experiments are being made using a fungal growth on trees that kills the caterpillar. With a dry spring, it hasn't grown and killed the caterpillar like they would hope for. Caterpillar poop rains down from all the trees and it's expected that the leaves will come back out on the trees after the caterpillar goes into it's cocoon stage or just die off.

Newport Rhode Island

The Breakers "Cottage"
from the Gilded Age

From my campsite in the NE corner of Connecticut, I drove over to Newport Rhode Island. That's where all the gilded age “cottages” of the wealthy are located. The local preservation society owns and operates 9 of the grand houses and all are available on tour. Remember last week when I visited Samuel Clemens home in Hartford Connecticut. He is the one that coined the term “the Gilded Age” and he was not being kind when he used the term. As he thought it a disgrace to flaunt all that wealth and waste in on such things as these grand homes. Which I might add were only used for approximately 6 weeks out of each summer.

It's hard to imagine spending all that money just to have a summer place to entertain other wealthy friends. Each home would have had as many as 40 servants to take care of the family and guests and maintain the homes for those 6 weeks in the summer. I visited the grandest of them all, the Breakers as well as The Elms.

The Breakers, main Hall

Grotto under main staircase

main entrance Hall

The Breakers Main dining room

Breakers, dining room detail

loggia overlooking Atlantic Ocean

The Breakers

The Breakers, music room

The Breakers was the Cornelius Vanderbilt (summer home) mansion, one of a few the family built here in Newport. The Breakers was built in 1893 the architect was Richard Morris Hunt. 70 rooms on 5 floors and the house covers approximately one acre of the 14 acre estate overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. After Cornelius's death only a few years later, his wife Alice who would outlive him another 35 years. She gifted the house to their youngest daughter, Gladys, mainly because she had no property in America. Having married and become the Countess Gladys Szechenyi. Back then, the wealthy industrialist having money, but no titles, often had their daughters marry into European royalty. After selling the property to the preservation society, Gladys's family still have the right to use the house anytime they are in the area. The third floor apartments are closed off to the public and are for their use exclusively.

second floor bedrooms with hidden doors

the Breakers

I had purchased a ticket to see two of the homes and could have also visited more if I had the time and energy. The other home I visited was the Elms Mansion. It was originally built for a wealthy coal magnet. Having only 7 bedrooms, but as many as 40 servants, they also owned a few other homes to accommodate guests if needed. It is all so overdone and over the top.  Hard to imagine living like this.

Today, the wealthy still gravitate to New Port, as I drove past many other large mansions occupied by the wealthy with their perfectly manicured hedges, lawns behind massive iron gates.  Even Larry Ellison of Oracle purchased the former Astor's Beechwood mansion.  After restoration is complete, it will be used as a non-profit art museum.  Ellison will use the second floor as his personal apartments.  Though the public will be able to view artwork he has collected on both the main floor and second private floors when not in residence.  The mansions rooms will provide the proper backdrop for his art collection.

The Elms, Main entrance

The Elms, office

The Elms, living room

imported from Europe

the conservator, The Elms

Conservatory, the Elms

The Elms, extensive gardens

The Elms, dining room, very handsome

the Elms, breakfast room, oriental motif 

many of the mansions had a two story
butlers pantry, dishware on second
floor and a safe to store the siverware

Distance Traveled: 117 miles

From Connecticut through Massachusetts and into New Hampshire. It took about an hour and half to travel through Massachusetts before entering New Hampshire. My Google maps continues to welcome me as I cross into each new state. The new England states are much smaller and it doesn't take much to travel through them.

Before I headed out I had one of those Not-Happy-Camper moments. I decided I'd head out to McDonald's for coffee and a quick breakfast. When I got back to the campground, the entrance gate was still locked. It was a couple minutes past 8 am and I thought for sure it would be open. One of the two camp hosts was working on his camper, each of which flank the front entrance. He refused to open the gate until 9 am. Said it was their rules, and couldn't open it. I drove over to the park office, where 4 park rangers sat. They all refused to open the gate Said “Sorry you should have been warned, we keep it locked during quite hours. We can't have people coming and going disturbing the campers.” But I'm a camper. Aren't you supposed to be accommodating me. Wouldn't budge. Finally drove back to the entrance and sat in my truck for about 15 minutes in front of the locked gate. Finally, the camp host took pity on me and opened the gate.

First time in 13 years I've ever been locked out of a campground. Most campgrounds, if they have a locked gate at night will give you a combination to open the gate after hours.

a fine new carpet to
keep out the mud and dirt
I'll be here at Epsom Valley Campground over the 4th of July Holiday. Though they are celebrating Christmas in July this weekend, not the 4th of July. Christmas decorations are going up throughout the park. I'm not planning on many adventures, as the traffic could be daunting with the holiday. Listening to the local radio today around 3:00, the announcer said that I-95 was backed up heading north through New Hampshire the entire distance through the state. Everyone heading towards Maine for the long holiday weekend.

My timing is back on track. Once I got to my campsite, part of which is just a soggy dirt patch where I come out of the camper. Fortunately, just down the road is a Camping World and I was able to purchase a really nice long outdoor carpet. With some rain in the forecast, this will help greatly to keep the mud and dirt at bay.

more photos:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

2017-15 Litchfield, Hartford and Mystic Connecticut


Litchfield Connecticut
Hartford Connecticut
Mystic Connecticut

Campground: White Memorial Foundation Family Campground. $18.50. No utilities, except water nearby. Dump station on exit. Campsites are rustic with picnic table, rocks/boulders on sites. Half the sites are on the water. Tons of little white flying insects when there's no breeze. They don't bite or anything, but I think I've eaten a number of the little pests every time I open my mouth.

Campground:  Foxwood Resort Casino.  Free Rv parking lot.  Dry camping

Distance traveled: 205 miles

route Ill be taking over the next couple of weeks
what a journey

I traveled a southern route through New York state along hwy 17 and a section of I-84. Hwy 17 was a surprisingly pleasant 4 lane divided highway that bordered the lush tree covered Catskill mountains. Using my trusted Google maps/gps the first exit heading towards my camping destination in Connecticut turned out to be a no go as the route was for “cars only”, “no trucks, trailers or campers”. I therefore continued along I-84 letting the GPS select the next best route. As I exited the highway to begin my northerly route, I stopped abruptly as a large sign indicated a height restriction of 10' 5”. Yikes, that would never do. The 3rd option turned out fine and I arrived at my campsite after a stop for lunch along the way.

The day wasn't over with surprises though. As I signed up for the campsite, a fair $18.50 a night, I would minutes later discover the campground named “Point Folly” had no utilities at the site except a water spigot. Point Folly may be I sign, I'm not sure. What to do? Well, I do have solar panels. The weather is expected to be quite overcast for the coming week which will hinder the use of electrical items especially without the possibility of collecting much solar energy. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 70's and fairly comfortable at night.

Life is an adventure and so I decide to stay. It will give me an opportunity to see what I can use in the camper with limited power options this week. Besides, I am within an hours drive of one of my main attractions/adventures for the summer season. I'm going to see the home of Samuel Clemens better known as Mark Twain. It's been on my bucket list for many years... too many to count and it might make me appear older than my youthful feeling/appearance. Ok the appearance part might give my age away but my feelings at getting to visit this historic home sure keeps me excited and feeling young.

Samuel Clemens, (Mark Twain) would live 17 happy years
here with his wife and three daughters 

before making a few bad investments.  They would
close up the house, move to Europe where the family could
live more cheaply and he resumed a world wide speaking tour

The next day, I drove some wonderful country roads heading to Hartford Connecticut. Up and down some awesome hills with grades between 8 and 9%. Traffic was a bit congested along the route what with morning traffic and some construction zones along the way. Past beautifully maintained country homes, all in the New England style. With many small panes windows, white square columns defining entryways, dormers and multiple eves. All classic designs.

The Mark Twain house is stunning and though I was not able to take any pictures of the inside, I'll provide a link so you can see the interiors. The guided tour was excellent at $22 and they do have a number of other programs with living actors portraying various members of the Clemens family. Our tour took us through the richly decorated first floor, my favorite being the spacious library and conservatory with all of its plants and water fountain. The second floor bedrooms and all the way to the third floor billiards room and office where Samuel Clemens wrote so many of this famous works.

Thank goodness it was recovered from being converted to an apartment for a while and almost destroyed to build a new development on the site. Next door is the Harriet Beecher Stow House also available on tour. My bucket list should be getting smaller, though I seem to keep adding new items to it.

After the tour which lasted just over an hour, I could have easily gone on it a second time just to look over the house one more time, but instead I thought I'd drive into the rather stunning looking downtown of Hartford. Planning on going to their visitor center, driving into town with numerous jogs in the roads, switches to one lane roads and odd cross medians, the congestion and lack of easy parking made it impossible in my mind to stop and park anywhere near the visitor center. I reluctantly headed out of the city without exploring it further. My loss I'm sure. If time permits, I may drive back into town and give it a second try.

downtown Hartford Connecticut 

all traffic stops to let pedestrians walk in all directions
through the corner cross walks

Along with writing the American Classics like Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Innocents Abroad and many others, Mark Twain was also known as a superb lecturer/entertainer. Traveling the world, telling his stories and adding bits of wisdom and humor that never failed. Here are a few of Quotes from his books and lectures:

  • Man is the only animal that blushes, or needs to

  • We ought never to do wrong when people are looking

  • Never tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it
  • Always obey your parents when they are present
  • A full belly is little worth where the mind is starved

  • Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits
  • Prosperity is the best protector of principle
  • An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth
  • There is no sadder thing than a young pessimist, except an old optimist
  • The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds


The heavy overcast skies, an evening of rain and one lighting bolt and thunder so close it lit up the darkened interior of the camper momentarily. After two days of this the sun has once again shared it's sunny disposition with this part of the New England States. Though a bit breezy with temperatures in the low 70's, I enjoyed a walk through the historic part of downtown Litchfield. Too early for most of the shops to be open, it was still enjoyable to window-shop and then at the end of the main street, turn right and enter a heavily tree lined residential area. Filled with late 1700 and early 1800 houses. Beautifully restored and maintained. Not all the shops and stores have made it, as some are empty with for-rent signs in the windows. It must be hard to maintain a business in a beautiful area as this, yet not really be a tourist destination. I have noticed that the local restaurants are a bit more expensive than I'm used to and many unwilling to substitute the standard side items. Making it a bit difficult to order while on a strict low-carb diet. I end up paying for many side items that come with the meal, but asking they leave it off the plate. With no substitute, my meals have been quite small lately.

1780's to early 1800's

side porch detail

so many large homes/mansions

dogwood in bloom

Camper Update/Solar panels.

With the first couple of days being completely overcast, I limited my electrical use to running the fridge on gas, as well as some electric being used to monitor the unit. LED lights can be used at night, but I've refrained from using the TV or radio, just to conserve power, especially not knowing how many days it will be overcast. I have noticed that even with overcast skies, a trickle of solar energy has recharged the batteries enough to keep the basics running. Today, with the sun expected to be out most of the day, I turned on the inverter which provides the a/c, alternating current, to run the TV and recharge all my electronic devices of which there are many. With a constant breeze today, and all the windows in the camper open, it is very comfortable without the need for a/c. It's been great sleeping weather at night. I've been able to watch TV throughout the day without depleting the batteries, which remain fully charged with all that sunlight. I should be able to use the coffee pot tomorrow morning as long as the sun comes out to recharge the batteries even for part of the day. And I could use the microwave while the sun is still out. Life is good in an “unplugged” camping world. I'm a very Happy Camper.

I took another tour of historic part of Litchfield today. Going into the Jeffrey Tillou Antiques shop. What an awesome collection of New England antiques. Most in the 10-12 thousand dollar range and higher. I was able to take a few pictures throughout the 3 story gallery. Later I would go into the Litchfield Historical Society museum and as expected, the collection in the Tillou Antique shop was much more impressive than most of the displays in the Historical Society. Both were free entry today so I think I came ahead on that deal for the day.

Delft Charger, Adam and Eve

Eagle, Ca.1820-1840 $85,000

Distance traveled: 88 miles

Foxwoods Resort Casino

Mystic Connecticut

I'll only be at the Casino and Mystic Connecticut for two days, but this is a return to a very special place for me. Not the casino, though I'm sure I'll enjoy a good buffet meal and put a few dollars in the slot machines. No, my goal is to once again to walk down what was a magical street and place back in time when I was in my late 20's.

Foxwoods Casino

Tangier Shops/casino

A Mystical Experience:

I was on my first big adventure back in the 1980's, and I had driven all the way from Orlando Florida, heading up the east coast to visit a few spiritual retreats in Massachusetts and Upstate New York, before heading back home along the Skyline Drive. The trip would take a full two weeks, driving my Toyota Corolla station-wagon. I would sleep in the back of the station-wagon along the way. I would stay in a state park in New Jersey and pick wild blue berries along the hill in the back of campsite.

Mystic Seaport was not on my agenda, it just happened to be on the way. And what a remarkable experience it would be. Today, as I drove into town from the north end, high up on the hill, next to the tall white church and steeple, the bells began to ring. Back in the early 80's when I arrived, I saw the white church up on the hill as I entered town from a different direction.

Getting out of the Corolla so many years ago, I walked a short distance, and then entered a shop next to the seaport and lift bridge. The proprietor was open and friendly asking me where I was coming from and where I'd be going. As I started to tell him about my journey and that it was a bit of a spiritual journey at that, he became so interested in my story that he called over to a local boy in town and asked him to go down to the pub and get a six pack of beer, so we could relax and he could hear about my journey through life.

As we talked I caught a glimpse of a large Sailing ship passing by the back door window as the shop was right on the bay. We shared our goals in life and what we most wanted out of it. To have a stranger interested in my story, such as it was at the time, has always been a moment I've remembered throughout the years. Walking out of the shop and viewing Mystic Connecticut, probably through rose colored glasses at the time, I was very tempted to call into work and tell them I would not be coming back.

It was that special of a feeling. Fortunately, my desire to be a gypsy and vagabond came with a caveat.. I didn't want to be a poor one. So of course I did eventually finish my spiritual travels and return to work. But now, here I am, experiencing it all once again. Oh the original shop and shop owner are no longer there, but the town of Mystic is still here and so once again I'm able to walk down those streets, talk to the shop owners, have an awesome lunch by the seaport all while enjoying my gypsy lifestyle.

And that's what I call a 5 Star experience and adventure worthy of repeating. My heart is filled with joy, thankfulness and a humble gratitude for being able to do just that.

which boat would you choose?

Mystic Harbor

Mystic, with it's iconic white Church on top of the hill

I believe this may have been the store
my where my story took place so many years ago

so many colorful flower boxes throughout town

Mystic Seaport

drawbridge leading into Mystic Conn.

This could have been the shop I entered so
many years ago, such good memories

I shared the above story with a delightful sales gal at a most unusual shop called Sea Bags: Maine. Learning about what life is like today here in Mystic. The story I'm told is that the owners traveled the world, enjoying every place they went. Eventually coming back to Maine, where they wanted to start a company that could employ locals and give back to the area they so loved. Using old sails, they created bags made from what would normally go to a landfill. Each a unique design hand crafted. The shop sells sea bags made from the used sails they say have “soak(ed) up the sun, salt, smiles and adventure” before their craftspeople transform them into bags. They now have 12 stores along the east coast. Now that's a success story all and of itself.

Sharing life's moments along the way....

Additional photos: