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, September 30, 2014

Exploring Acadia National Park

The days that our friends T and Kelly from Florida were here were absolutely glorious.  Cool mornings followed by sparkling sunshine and pleasant afternoons . . . perfect for hiking and exploring.  One of our favorite hikes in Acadia National Park is called Great Head.  The short 1.3-mile trail takes you up 150 feet for a panoramic view of Newport Cove and Sand Beach.  As you continue along the western side of the trail the rocky coast along the Atlantic appears providing awesome views. 


About the time we finished our hike, we were all starting to think about food.  The idea of what to eat was milling around and we decided to venture over to our favorite winery and farm cafĂ© (which is actually the only winery in town).  We sat outside on the patio soaking up the sunshine and eating rockin’ good pizza.


One place we had to take our friends was to the top of Cadillac Mountain where you are treated to sweeping views of Frenchman Bay and the surrounding islands.  There are two options for reaching the 1,500-foot summit of Cadillac Mountain – hiking or driving.  We chose the latter.  Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise in the United States (during certain times of the year).  The scenic drive to the top of the mountain officially opened in 1931 and meanders along the North and eastern side of the mountain for approximately 3.5 miles. 


“Cadillac Mountain” was named after the French explorer and adventurer, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac in 1918.  Prior to that it was called “Green Mountain.”  The lure of the mountain and its views have been an attraction for hundreds of years.  In the late 1800’s there was a mountain-top hotel and a cog railway that accommodated visitors.  Today, there is a small gift shop and information center but still offers the same great views.

Bar Harbor can be a bustling little town on days when mega cruise ships are in port.  A whopping 6,000 people from the multiple ships can fill the tiny town and make the sidewalks feel as if it is standing room only at a rock concert.  But, just down from the main streets is a place called the “Shore Path” where you can escape the crowds and get the best views of the harbor.  Originally created around 1880, the path has provided a wonderful place where people can stroll along the water, marvel at the granite outcroppings, and watch boats come and go.  It is a favorite place of ours and of Spirit's.


The four days our friends were in Maine flew by.  We had such a great time with them and appreciate them picking Maine for a vacation.  We'll see them again this winter in Florida.  Spirit's BFF is LeRoy, their dog so she can't wait to run with him on the sugar white sand!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Friendly Visit

People mistakenly think that since we travel full-time in our RV that we don’t establish long-term friendships, or if we do, our mobile lifestyle means we don’t get to see our friends. Not so fast home-bound people, we see plenty of old friends. At some point our friends are going to want to go on vacation and since we are usually in fun and interesting locations, we are quite successful at attracting them.

Which brings me to the recent visit from our good friends from Florida, Kelly and T. Who wouldn’t want to escape 90-degree weather and unbearable humidity for cool Maine ocean breezes? Since we are hanging out near Mt. Desert Island that means there is plenty to do.

First up was a visit to the Acadia National Park (NP) Visitor Center for a viewing of the 15-minute orientation film before we were off for a hike. A favorite hike of ours on the less-popular carriage road called Paradise Hill that brings you upward for spectacular views of Hull’s Cove and Frenchman Bay and back around to Witch Hole Pond.


The “carriage roads” of Acadia National Park were the brainchild of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Rockefeller realized that the presence of automobiles on Mt. Desert Island were going to interrupt the peaceful island lifestyle that was desired by the aristocrats living here in the early 1900’s.  Names like Vanderbilt, Ford, Morgan, Astor, and Rockefeller were commonplace as these families came to Maine to escape the hustle and bustle of large New England cities and enjoy the beautiful Maine summers.  Ironically, these early visitors were labeled “rusticators” having left their cushy lifestyles back home to summer in rustic Maine.  The 47-mile system of carriage roads have remained free of automobiles which makes for a pleasant place to walk and bike in the park.

Next on our tour was an Acadia NP “must see” – Cadillac Mountain.  Adventurous people can hike up to the 1,500 – foot summit, but for the rest of us, driving up to the top is a better (and less strenuous) alternative.  The views are spectacular!  Off in the distance is downtown Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and the surrounding Islands.  With views like this, it is no wonder Acadia NP regularly ranks as one of the Top 10 National Parks in the Country.


Another one of the iconic scenes in the area is the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse – which claims to be the most photographed lighthouse in the country.  The lighthouse was built of brick in 1858 on a stone foundation and stands a meager 56 feet above mean high water.  But it is the majestic setting and steadfast operation that makes it so appealing to onlookers and mariners alike.

In the midst of all the busy sightseeing, we could not neglect the rumbling of our stomachs that were calling for something to fill the void in them.  Maybe it was the bobbing lobster buoys off the coast of the lighthouse that gave us the idea for lobster, or maybe it was that Betsy hadn’t eaten it for two days that led us to Thurston’s Lobster Pound.  Lobster was a great addition to our perfect day and we were so glad our friends decided to pay us a visit.  



Monday, September 22, 2014

A Great New Website – WorkampingReviews.com

We just came across a great new website that we want to share with you – WorkampingReviews.com. The website is a useful avenue for people to share a review of their workamping experience. You get the good, the bad and the ugly.

With so many full-time RV’ers on the road, the number of workampers and workamping opportunities have grown. This website allows you to get a fellow workampers perspective and insight into a particular job and employer. While most workampers agree their experiences are positive, avoiding a bad experience is critical and a little background information will help. This easy-to-use website relies on public input that is done anonymously.

Parks reviews are ranked on a scale of 1-5 and include information on the number of hours worked/person/week, type of organization, if a stipend or wage was paid, any benefits or perks, and a section for general comments and job description. The review site also includes information on amenities such as wifi, cable, full hook-up, television reception, etc. As an added bonus, some people add pictures of their campsite.

Since we have spent the last two summers workamping and will do so in the future, a website like this will be a go-to for us. Make sure you check out this website and if you have previous experience, please input your information into the database to share with others. Happy workcamping!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Just a Little Summer JOB

It has been three months since we started work camping at Narrows Too RV Resort in beautiful Trenton, Maine, just outside Bar Harbor.  We knew the time would pass quickly and boy did it.  It seems like just yesterday I was getting re-acquainted with a riding lawn mower – an implement that I have not used since high school – and Betsy was learning the computer reservation system. 

What has made our work experience enjoyable are the wonderful people we worked with.  This was also the case last year when we worked at a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer park in Idaho in which we were just as fortunate to work with a tremendously fun group of people.  This summer was not different.  We had dinner parties, campfires and cocktails, scenic drives around the park, and many laughs with our coworkers.  And, we got a little work done.


So what did we actually do?  Well, I worked outside on the maintenance crew (with all the guys) doing an assortment of tasks which ran the gamut of mowing, weed whacking, painting, vacuuming the pool, trimming bushes, and yes  . . . cleaning the restrooms.  Plus whatever else needed to be done.  And I got to operate the backhoe/frontloader.


Betsy spent her time in the office checking in campers, making reservations, handling purchases in the store, and cleaning the rental cabins and cottages.  The mundane of day-to-day work was interrupted with an occasional power outage, computer crash, flooded building, and escaped cat.


Our three-month commitment was supposed to end September 1st but due to some unexpected circumstances in which other couples left earlier than expected we agreed to continue working until early October.  Just as well for us since now we will get to enjoy the fall colors that will transform the beautiful Maine landscape.

One of our campsites (#318) right on the water. Not a bad view from the "office."

This years work experience is quite different than last years.  Last year we were considered volunteers for the Corps of Engineers and worked 16 hours per week per person (although we willingly worked more hours).  The schedule was four days on, four days off and a “work” day of just four hours.  When we worked our hours and what we did was fairly flexible.  We didn’t get paid but we did get financially reimbursed for the mileage from our home base in Florida to the worksite in Idaho (which amounted to over $1,400) and our campsite was free.  (NOTE:  Our mileage
A real paycheck again.
reimbursement was only for one-way of our travel.  Had we stayed 16 weeks instead of 12, we would have been reimbursed for round-trip travel.) This year we are are paid “employees” for Equity Life Style (parent company of Encore parks) and actually punch in and out in the morning, for lunch, and at the end of the day.  The nominal cost of our site is $125/month plus $25/month for electric.  Our work schedule is more regimented and set by a fulltime employee.  Schedule changes have to be “approved” rather than just “worked out” with other work campers.  So while the work of the two places is similar, the atmosphere and regiment are different.  Not better or worse, just different. 

So if you are going to work camp make sure you do your homework and consider who you are working for, exactly what the job entails, the benefits, are you in a place you really want to be, and if their “management” style fits your bill.  We did a three month cost comparison of last year versus this year and found the results interesting.  While we didn’t get paid for our work last year, our site was free, we were paid for our travel, and we were in a very remote area so we did not spend a lot of money.  Yes we are earning a salary this year but we have to pay for our site and have spent more money during the week on restaurants and entertainment (which translates to eating lobster three times a week for Betsy).  Both our work camping experiences were in locations where we wanted to be in for an extended period of time and "working" was the most cost effective way for us to do that.

All in all, we are glad we decided to work here and are thankful for the wonderful people we met who made our summer so great.  Bar Harbor and the surrounding towns are places that lure us back time and time again.  Who knows, maybe we will be back next summer, we liked it so much!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tonight: Premiere of "Flippin' RV's"

If you're not doing anything tonight, tune into the premiere of Flippin' RV's at 8 ET/7 CT.  The show features a couple from Flyte Camp Vintage Trailer Restoration who scour the back roads of America in search of cool vintage trailers in need of restoration. The first episode is called Big Trouble with Tiny Trailers! Check your local listings for the exact time in your area.

The first episode will re-air Sept. 4 at 12 am and Sept. 10 at 7 pm if you already have plans this evening.

Monday, September 1, 2014

RV Travel....the Way to Go

Love to travel but hate the hassle?  Looming terror threats, cramped over-priced airplane seats, and musty impersonal hotels can make traveling downright miserable.  So have you ever tried traveling in an RV? If you answered “no” maybe you should consider it.  There are many “pluses” to taking your house with you. Whether it is a travel trailer perfect for a weekend getaway, a 40' motorhome to live in full-time, a convenient-sized pop-up you can tuck in the woods, or renting a mid-size Class C for a family vacation, RV's come in all sizes, shapes, and price ranges.
How about the million dollar Newmar King Aire for comfort
and style.

The biggest benefit of RV travel is that you take everything with you . . . food, favorite soft pillow, cozy sheets, books, cloths, wine cellar, even Fido.  RV's eliminate the age-old ritual of driving around for an hour looking for a restaurant while the kids are in the backseat whining.  RV'ers simply pull over and raid the fridge.  Want to sleep in your own comfortable clean bed every night? You can.  Vacation (or live) in an RV and you'll quickly realize there is no packing and unpacking, lugging suitcases up and down flights of stairs, sleeping under an over-floraled comforter disguising a lumpy mattress, only to wake up cranky and face a stale continental breakfast.  Then you must pack up your belongings that exploded out of your overstuffed suitcase (because you didn't want to pay airline baggage fees), cram them into a super small trunk and head out looking for your next room for the night.

The stereotype of RV'ers as gray-haired retired tightwads has been dispelled with a growing number of younger folks driving around in their half million dollar motorhomes with golf carts, boats, and motorcycles in tow.  In fact, more RVs are now owned by those ages 35-to-54 more than any other group.

RV towing a trailer with a boat, SUV, and golf cart.
The best way to determine what you want (or need) is to start looking, do some research, and talk to other RV owners.  Large RV shows are a great way to familiarize yourself with what is available.  But beware, these shows offer everything under the sun in the RV world so your head may start to spin.  RV terminology alone may confuse the wannabe RV owner.  Tag axle, wet bay, slide-out, inverter, macerator.  What are these things? With daunting terminology and a plethora of options it is best to take your time before buying an RV.  Lucky for the prospective owner that there are classes, seminars, books, DVD's, webinars, and plenty of word-of-mouth if you hang out with RV'ers for any length of time.  There are many great online organizations and clubs that provide useful information and resources like AmeriGO RV Club (you can even get a one-year free membership by clicking here).  Resist the urge to buy until you have looked at all options in your price range and make sure the unit fits your needs. After all, an RV is something you want, not need.

A well-adjusted Tear Drop trailer that is sure to make friends in the campground.
One alternative to buying is to rent an RV.  For the prospective buyer this not only gives you a chance to decide if you like living in an RV, but what options, styles, and sizes you might prefer.  Finding an RV that suits you may take time and renting offers a great option.  Rental RV's are also great for family vacations. Many RV's are rented by families taking a summer vacation and want to be on the move so they can pack everything into their two weeks of National Park sightseeing.  Check out RVShare for a wide array of rental options all over the country - everything from a pop-up to a 45' motorhome.

Another advantage of RV'ing is that RV parks and campgrounds offer so much to do in a safe environment that is a destination within itself. Put aside the standard swimming pool and playground, some RV “resorts” go over the top and include full sized golf courses, putt-putt, spa services, fine dinning, bocce ball, dance pavilions, tiki bars and much more. You can find a place to park your rig at casinos, amusement parks, wineries, ranches, NASCAR tracks, fairgrounds, and other establishments. RV parks remind us of little “Mayberry” towns where kids safely ride their bikes up and down the street while dad fires up the grill. If you are looking for unspoiled wilderness with hiking trails, fishing streams, and majestic forests then state and national parks may be your preference.

Our rig perched over the Laguna Seca Speedway in Monterey, California
Camped with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean
Nestled in the woods of Montana
RV'ing allows you the freedom to change your outside environment while keeping the inside constant. You can indulge in the lure of the open road and the comforts of home. An RV offers a ticket to somewhere and the great thing is . . . you get to decide where that somewhere is.