Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

RV Park Review–Bourne Scenic Park (Bourne, Massachusetts)

Website:    Bourne Scenic Park
Location:   Bourne, Massachusetts
Date:         October 2016
Price:        $48/night


This campground is on the banks of the Cape Cod Canal and owned and operated by the Bourne Recreational Authority.  The park has a “state park” kind of feel but with amenities you would find at a private park.  There is a wide diversity of activities including fishing, hiking, scheduled activities, a recreation hall with video games and jukebox, and store (outfitted with groceries, ice cream, beverages, and other miscellaneous items).  The park is quite large with 465 sites, some of which have views of the canal. 

20161025_142109
Site description:

There are 465 RV sites to choose from that are either water, electric (30/50 amp), cable or no hook-up tent sites.  There are also lodges (with water, electric, cable) and rustic cabins.  Of those 465 sites, 50% of them can be reserved for the entire season (April 1st – October 30th).   No sites with sewer however, grey water dump stations are randomly placed thoughout the campground and can be accessed with a garden hose (pictured below). 

                      20161027_08340720161027_082159

Some roads were paved while others were gravel/sand.  Sites and patios were grass, sand, or gravel.  There are six pull thrus and the rest are back-ins.  The one thing we did notice was that the site layout in some areas is not traditional meaning they are not all in the same direction and configuration.  Some sites run parallel while the next one runs perpendicular. 

   20161025_14194020161026_092048
20161025_14140720161025_14145920161025_134557

Leveling was not an issue for us in our site (C-25) but the majority of sites would be a problem for a motorhome to get level without the aid of blocks.  In fact some sites were ridiculously unlevel and took a scary amount of blocks.

20161026_092422
We choose a pull-thru because of our length.  Utilities were well-placed and all worked well.  The cable hook-up yielded 99 channels.  Campsites have a picnic table and fire pit.  There was no wifi but our Verizon phone picked up a strong signal.

20161025_134754
This park is not totally big rig-friendly for a 45’ rig.  The office staff gave us a choice of 8-9 sites that would work for us and there were probably more that would fit 40’ rigs.  The main roads were easy to navigate with our rig and tow car; however, some of the side roads would be difficult because of the trees.  The pull-thrus are a good option if they are available.

Amenities:

There are two pools, hiking/biking trails, playground, basketball courts, camp store/restaurant, pavilion, and picnic area.  Restrooms and showers are spread throughout the park and were clean.  There is a dump station located close to the park exit. 

                         20161025_13452620161025_134456
20161025_141055
The park has live music on Saturday nights and various other activities like sack races and scavenger hunts.

Surrounding area:

Bourne Scenic Park is conveniently located near many of Cape Cod’s attractions including beaches, golf courses, historic landmarks, restaurants and shopping.  The park is approximately one hour from Boston, Providence and a 30 minute ride to the ferry terminal taking you to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.  Closer to the park is downtown Bourne and Buzzards Bay which are just five minutes away and have groceries, fuel, restaurants, shopping, etc. 

What we liked:
20161025_135047
We liked that this park had a paved hiking/biking path and was big enough for a good walk.  It was in a great location for exploring the Cape and the towns of Sandwich, Hyannis, Buzzards Bay and more. 

The people in the office were super nice and helpful finding us a site.  They gave us a map with all available sites for our size and let us drive around to decide.  Our site was nice with a large patio and while we were there just before the park closed for the season it was very quiet. 
20161025_142013
What we didn’t like:

We were there in the off season and enjoyed that very few people were in the park but we got the feel this place could be really busy in the summer.  Sewer would have been nice but since we were only there for two nights it was not an issue.  The park is a little pricey at $48/night but you are on the Cape so they can command that. 

Spirit’s two cents:

The big plus for us was the paved trail that ran the length of the canal that you could easily access from the campground.  There were a couple of hiking trails thru the woods that we found which served well for a dog walk.  There is no off-leash dog park but the park is big enough for a long dog walk.




Wednesday, November 23, 2016

RV Park Review–Normandy Farms (Foxboro, Massachusetts)

Website:   Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort
Location:  Foxboro, Massachusetts
Date:        October 2016
Price:        $55/night (This included a discount of $10 off the first night for first-time campers)


We planned a brief stop in the Boston area with the intent of seeing the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Both of us have been to Boston many times in the past and were just in the area to see the library.

Normandy Farms appealed to us for various reasons.  One reason was the fact that they have dog walkers that will come to your RV and take care of your precious pooch while you are away.  Not knowing how long we would be away from the RV that service was a great option.  As it turned out, we did not need to use this service but for some it would be a great perk if you were going to be gone all day.  And with Boston traffic, we can see how that could happen.

When you enter Normandy Farms it is more like checking into a hotel than RV park complete with a concierge and express check-in.  The park is gated and a code is needed to enter and leave giving you a sense of security.  Driving in you quickly realize how huge this park is with some 400 RV sites, tent sites, yurts, lean-to’s, safari tents, and cabins.  (Click on the picture to enlarge.)

Site description:

There are plenty of RV sites to choose from the “premium” full hook-up (50 amp) to basic with just water and electric and many others in between.  Both back-in and pull thrus are available as are sites with shade and full sun.  Premium sites have paved patios while other sites are gravel.  Roads are paved and plenty wide enough for big RV’s to navigate.

   20161020_10284820161020_103210 
   20161020_10572920161020_102829

Cable yielded nearly 100 channels.  Wifi worked well at our site and other places throughout the park.  All sites come with a fire pit and picnic table. 

We chose a paved full hook-up pull thru with paved patio (Site E1).  Our site was easy to navigate in and out of and was definitely big rig-friendly with ample space for our 45’ motor home and tow car.  All utilities were well-placed and functioned properly.  The site was level.  At the time we were there in October the campground was not very busy but we imagine that things get a little crazy when the park is full. 

20161016_145731
Amenities:

There is a really long list of amenities for this campground….four pools (include an indoor heated one), fitness room (with elliptical, treadmills, bikes, machine and free weights), creative arts center, camp store, 20,000 square-foot activities building (with adult only lounge, pool table, arcade, games, wide-screen televisions, sauna, Jacuzzi), restaurant, huge off-leash dog park (you can reserve individual day kennels), BMX bike park, horse shoe pits, baseball diamond, volleyball, fishing pond, shuffleboard, disk golf, and playground, and probably a few more things I missed. 

During the busy summer months there is a long list of activities ranging from yoga to kids games.

20161020_10541720161020_10541020161020_105439
20161020_10410320161020_103819

Surrounding area:

Normandy Farms is approximately 35 miles from Boston.  If you don’t want to drive to the city, you can park at the nearby train or subway station and ride into the city. 

You are just five miles from Gillette Stadium (home of the New England Patriots) and Patriot Place (a hub for shopping and dining).  About a mile from the campground is Foxboro State Park where you will find 20+ miles of hiking trails.  Also within a five mile radius are plenty of restaurants, shopping, hardware store, grocery store, and more. 

What we liked:

Definitely having a nice long site with a large paved patio and full hook-ups is a super plus. The dog park was the best of any campground (more about that below).  The fitness center was great which had functioning equipment and a large television to help pass the time while working out.   

20161017_093334
The adult lounge (pictured below) was a great idea and a nice place for people to get together and watch television or hang out.  With everything this campground has to offer this is the kind of destination park where you could be busy all day and never want to leave.

20161020_105423
What we didn’t like:

It is hard to come up with anything we didn’t like.  If anything, it would be the price (but that is hard to say because you really get a lot if you take advantage of all the amenities). 

Spirit’s two cents:

Four paws up from Spirit.  First, the campground is so big it is easy to get in a good dog walk.  Second, the dog park is huge.  No tiny KOA dog park here.  This park is by far the largest we have ever found in a campground and larger than many public dog parks.  Plus, there is a dog washing station, water fountains (for dog and human), agility-type obstacles for them to play on, dog kennels, and a bin with balls and frisbees.  If you are looking for hiking trails, a state park is one mile away. 

  20161016_16142020161016_16160120161016_161621




Saturday, November 19, 2016

Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts

We decided to make a quick stop in Mass to see a childhood friend of Betsy’s and check off another presidential library.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to hang in the area but are hoping on another trip to explore more of the cape.  We had just enough time to see a few things that covered the gamut of history, food, friends and glass. 

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is the nation’s official memorial to the 35th President (1961 -1963). The stunning structure at Columbia Point on the south side of Boston fittingly overlooks the sea that Kennedy loved so much and the city that launched him to the Presidency with admiration that lives on today.  The site was chosen by his wife Jackie who also selected the relatively unknown architect I.M. Pei whom she felt had the imagination necessary to capture the breathtaking view for her first husbands’ fitting memorial.  As with all official Presidential Libraries and Museums, it was built with private funds (dedicated in 1979) and is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. 

007027001017

The museum briefly touches on Kennedy’s childhood and early years before politics with an introductory film then quickly moves into his presidency.  Kennedy was well known for his iconic televised speeches and the museum has created many vignettes with large-screen projections and interactive displays that highlight this aspect of his career.  Kennedy moved the country and world with simple yet lasting phrases like, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on” and “We celebrate our past to awaken our future” as well as the often noted, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”

Kennedy’s presidency was filled with foreign policy challenges.  It was a time when the cold war was stirring, the Berlin Wall was erected, Vietnam was exploding, and the Bay of Pigs put the world on edge.  On the domestic side he is remembered for creating the Peace Corps, addressing civil rights issues, improving conditions for those with disabilities, and the lofty goal of landing a man on the moon.  

008014011

In addition to the Kennedy Library and Museum is the Ernest Hemingway Collection - the first ever major museum exhibition devoted to the work and life of Ernest Hemingway.  The collection contains approximately 90 percent of the Nobel Prize winners manuscripts and an extensive array of photographs, reels of sound recordings, video tapes, motion picture film and printed material.  Hemingway’s widow Mary contacted Jackie and offered the collection of works to the JFK library which was then in the planning stages.  During his lifetime, JFK expressed admiration and praise for Hemingways’ work.  Despite a U.S. ban on travel to Cuba (due to the Bay of Pigs incident) JFK made arrangements for Mary to enter Cuba to claim family documents and belongings, a gift she would later grant to the library, a place where she felt would be a “place where [Hemingway] would be to himself and have a little personal distinction."
20161026_131706
We had a great time catching up with Betsy’s friend Suzie over dinner and she was kind enough to spend the next day showing us around the quaint cape town of Sandwich.  One stop we made was to the Sandwich Glass Museum.  The museum is centered around works of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company (1825 – 1888) and combines classic exhibits with state-of-the-art technology to bring static objects to life.  Your visit starts with a glass blowing demonstration where beads of glass are carefully transformed into a wine glass or vase.  As you move through the museum you wander into multi-media exhibits that illustrate how glass objects were used in everyday life from salt bowls to fly traps. 

20161026_12061620161026_10072020161026_11384320161026_11472220161026_114304
20161026_140126
Before leaving Cape Cod we just had to pay a visit to the Cape Cod Potato Chips factory.  We never miss an opportunity to see how something is made.  This family-owned business started in 1980 in a small storefront in Hyannis with the intent of making the best potato chip possible.  To achieve that goal they believed the kettle-cooked process was best.  Unlike typical commercial brands made using a continuous frying process, in which potato slices travel through a tub of oil on a conveyor belt, Cape Cod chips are cooked in batches in kettles, fried in a shallow vat in oil while stirred with a rake, producing a crunchier chip.  While Cape Cod did not invent this process, they sure made it popular.  Apparently customers like the chips as the company has experienced rapid growth going from making 200 bags a day to 350,000 with nearly 20 flavors of potato chips and popcorn and corn chips.

The self-guided tour (which didn’t allow photographs) walks you through the process of sorting, cleaning, peeling, frying, centrifuging (to remove excess oil), inspecting, salting, and packaging.  Don’t worry if you think watching potato chips being made is going to make you hungry because you get a complimentary bag as you exit through the gift shop. 

Unfortunately, our time on the cape was short and didn’t allow us to get to Provincetown and the National Seashore but maybe another time when we can spend more time with Suzie exploring the area. 





Sunday, November 13, 2016

RV Park Review–Melville Ponds Campground (Portsmouth, Rhode Island)


Website:   Melville Ponds Campground
Location:  Portsmouth, Rhode Island
Date:        October 2016
Price:        $38/night

We chose this park due to its location close to downtown Newport (a mere five miles).  There was lots of sight-seeing we wanted to do and the other option which appealed to us was Fishermen’s Memorial State Park but it was a good 30-40 minutes away from downtown Newport and required paying bridge tolls.  There is another park closer to downtown but it seemed more like a parking lot and not so good for Spirit.  Melville Ponds was also appealing because it was adjacent to a county park with wooded hiking trails, a large pond and an off-leash dog park.

Site description:

The park has over 100 sites and spread out over many acres.  Roads are gravel and easy enough for big rigs to navigate.  Some sites are set beneath large trees in an attractive wooded setting while others are in an open grassy area with pads being both gravel and grass.  The park is a mix of seasonal and transient campers.  Site types include full hook-up (max 30 amp), water/electric only, dry camping, and a large tent section.  There is a dump station located at the entrance to the park and gray water dump stations are spread among sites without sewer. 

       20161023_09254120161023_092954
 20161023_09341620161023_09191620161023_092529

We chose a site in the open because the winds were projected to be 40-50 mph while we were there and we did not want falling branches on the coach.  Our site (F4) had 30 amp and water.  Satellite reception (Dish TV) was good and we were able to get a number of air antenna channels.  The section that we were in was very big rig-friendly and one site that can be used as a pull-thru.  There were numerous other level sites in the main part of the campground that we could have fit in. 

     20161023_09312520161023_093045

Each site has a picnic table and fire pit.  Leveling was somewhat challenging in our site as we were on a downhill slope.  Most sites in the main part of the campground were level.   
  
             20161023_09294920161023_092151
    20161023_09244520161023_092504

The park is open from April 15th to November 15th.  Prices vary depending on the season, if you have a weekly/monthly rate, and the type of hook-ups you want.  We paid $38/night for water and 30 amp service.

Amenities:

The bathrooms and shower house are located in the middle of the park and were very clean.  There is a small camp store, large playground, basketball court, and open air covered pavilion with picnic tables.

   20161023_09343120161023_093032

Surrounding area:

The park is located within 1/2 mile of restaurants, gas stations, grocery, shopping, and more.  Downtown historic Newport is a 10-minute drive away and you are only 35 minutes from Providence.  There is definitely lots to do in Newport and Providence.  You can tour 70-room mansions, visit the beach, brush up on tennis history at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum, watch boats cruise in and out of a beautiful harbor, shop, eat at fabulous restaurants, and gawk at the charming historic homes.  Click here for a link as to what we did.  We certainly would have liked to stay in the area longer and really enjoyed it. 

   049163294

What we liked:

The location was great for what we were doing – not too far from Newport but in a nice quiet section of town.  The distance between sites was far enough that you did not feel cramped or on top of your neighbor.  The nearby hiking trail was perfect for Spirit.  While it was just a few miles long, it was great because it was within walking distance and she could swim in the pond.  The close proximity of restaurants was an added bonus. 

What we didn’t like:

Leveling was a challenge for us and we had to manipulate the jacks and use boards so our front wheels were not off the ground.  (Keep in mind there are plenty of level sites we could have fit in but we choose the open one.)  Because the weather was cool there was no need to run the air conditioners but if we had to the 30 amp limitation would have been problematic.  Wish the site would have had sewer but for only four nights we were fine using our tanks.

Spirit’s two cents:

The park got a four paws up from her.  Not only was the trail and pond nice but across the street was a large open mowed field where we could throw a tennis ball for her.  A very large off-leash dog park was less than 100 yards away.  However, while we were there a “closed” sign hung on the gate but not sure why.  Overall, the park is large enough for a decent dog walk. 

20161021_083231