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.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Venturing Inland to Maine’s Moosehead Lake

There are a few times in your travels when you find someplace you never want to leave.  It’s the kind of place where you pull in and it just feels right.  Soon, you are at the registration desk extending your stay…and again…and again.  When you finally do pull away from that dreamy place you are hit with a huge wind of sadness and unconsciously let out a big sigh of discontent before vowing to return someday. 

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The Birches Resort in Rockwood, Maine was for us that slice of paradise described above.  Our friends Debbie and Pat found the place and were our camping buddies for the week which made our stay all the more enjoyable.  The Birches is perched on Moosehead Lake about 30 minutes north of Greenville in the area collectively called the Maine Highlands.  Greenville is a pretty small town (we’re talking population 1,600) with a few restaurants, a fly fishing shop, a great grocery/outdoor/camping/clothing store and a scattering of interesting attractions (namely a flying moose and 1914 passenger ship offering lake excursions).  The Maine Highlands is known for its outdoor activities and attracts enthusiasts from all over the state and country.  So as much as you may want to sit around The Birches and relax in an Adirondack chair overlooking the lake you will be lured with all there is to do – mountain biking, wilderness Jeep safaris, fly fishing school, kayaking and canoeing, float plane adventures, white water rafting, hunting, snowmobiling, and much more. 

The Birches has a magnificent historic lodge dating back to the 1930’s that is warm and comforting.  The air is filled with smells of wood burning fires, fresh coffee, and salty bacon and sounds of crackling fireplaces, distant quacking waterfowl, and stories from the past.  The sunrises are magnificent, the food comforting, the people genuine, and the atmosphere rustically relaxing.  There are only a handful of campsites (for RV’s and tents) and a bunch of cabins all with great views.  Don’t be expecting to have all your creature comforts of television, wifi, and phone service because they are nonexistent or sketchy at your site.  However, the lodge provides all those services where you can enjoy them by the fire or at the bar.  There is also a full-service restaurant serving three meals a day with delicious comfort food like Thanksgiving turkey dinner, slow roasted prime rib, and French onion soup.

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Our visit coincided with that magical time of the year when chlorophyll has drained from the leaves leaving the eye captivated with the most mesmerizing collage of reds, yellows, and oranges it has ever seen.  There are no pictures, among the hundreds I took, that could do the peak fall colors surrounding Moosehead Lake justice.  Unfortunately, rain dominated the weather forecast during our visit so we had to make the best of the sun when it shown.   When we heard the sun might emerge for part of the day, we decided to take the ferry over to Mt. Kineo for a hike around the island where the mountain top delivered spectacular views of Maine’s fall splendor.  With dogs and lunch in tow we enjoyed a beautiful day of water, woods, wonderful scenery shared with great friends. Mt. Kineo is an 800 foot mountain comprised of rhyolite a material used by the Native Americans to make tools and arrowheads.  Mt. Kineo also attracted notable outdoorsmen like Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt. It is no wonder people have been attracted to this area for so long.

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Just down the road from the ferry is one of the area’s most popular attraction – a flying moose.  Legend has it that a 20181009_140553young Native American boy befriended a dying orphaned moose calf.  The boy nursed the calf back to health and they became inseparable friends.  One day the boy and moose were returning from a long expedition in the high country when the mighty Manosak River was raging and a landslide swept them into the turbulent waters.  They were quickly approaching the Devil Waterfalls when just in time the boy grabbed the moose’s antlers and climbed on his back.  The boy pleaded to the spirits of the forest to help them.  The spirits remembered the act of kindness the boy showed to the young moose when he was near death and granted them the power to safely float above the water and descend safely.  Two witnesses said that the moose’s decent was as if it had wings.

In downtown Greenville you will find the Moosehead Marine Museum which delves into the area’s past reminiscing about the logging industry, sporting camps, aviation, and the historic cruise boat the Katahdin. The Katahdin has graced Moosehead Lake since 1914 when the steam ship carried passengers and goods across Moosehead Lake. Today, she has been lovingly restored and her updated diesel engines offer regularly scheduled narrated cruises on the lake.  The three-cruise is a leisurely and informative way to experience the lake.  The boat has two levels with indoor and outdoor seating and plenty of lap blankets for when the weather turns chilly, a cafe, and great views.  We could not have picked a prettier time of the year to be there. Just too bad the skies were grey.

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You may think that Moosehead Lake was named so because of all the moose hanging around. But not true. The Lake got its name from its shape. When Moosehead Lake is viewed from Mount Kineo (on its east-central shore) it supposedly resembles the head of a moose or a crouching moose. On the subject of moose. Yes, there are plenty in the area. In fact, we donned blaze orange on our hikes in the woods because moose hunting season was in full swing. While Betsy and I never saw a moose Pat and Debbie saw a handful during their excursions in the area, including calves.

Just down from the Birches is the Kennebec River which is known for its amazing fishery. The Kennebec’s headwaters are Moosehead Lake which flows some 150 miles to the Atlantic Ocean. I spent my fair share of hours wading the river and casting into the pools and riffles despite the cold and dreary weather. For me, just being in the water with a fly rod was success enough. Of course, landing a beautiful spawning male brook trout would have made things a little more exciting.

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It is always hard for us to leave the Maine coast but this year we carved out time to visit Moosehead Lake and were sure glad we did.  We were all truly sad to leave the Birches and the Moosehead Lake Region. Of all the years we have been coming to Maine this was our first experience there and truly a great one.  Especially, since we got to share it with our friends Pat and Debbie and their black lab, Beau.  So now you know about one of our favorite camping spots.  Shh, don’t tell anyone!  (And P.S. The Birches does have workcampers!)

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Introducing Road & Home Accessories!!

When it comes to outfitting your RV with accessories, the advice you get from dealers and other RVers can be daunting and expensive, no matter what type of RV you have.  But there are some items we have found essential to have on hand.  Eight years of full-time RVing has been plenty of time for us to come up with a list of extra accessories that you may not use on a daily basis but that you will be glad that you have when the situation arises.  We turned to Road & Home™ as our source for getting everything we needed.  Road & Home™ has a comprehensive list of products for RV and mobile home repair, covering the spectra of electrical, plumbing, HVAC, locks, and RV hookups that are available on their website and those of their affiliate partners like Amazon, Lowes, and Menards. 

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Their Ready for the Road Checklist is a comprehensive list of repair and replacement items that are good to have on hand to ensure your camping experience is a great one.  All of our items came in a nifty backpack that fits perfectly in the RV basement and makes it easy to find when we need a replacement part. 004

So, let’s talk about what’s on that checklist: 
  • 25' RV Hook Up Cord
  • Electrical Dogbones (a.k.a. Power Adapters)
  • 15- and 30-Amp Outlet Adapters
  • Sewer Hose and Clamps
  • 3” Sewer Cap
  • 25' Drinking Water Hose
  • 40-50-pound Water Pressure Regulator
  • 90° Brass Hose Adapter

Let’s face it, RV parks are not all made the same.  Water, electric, and sewer hook-ups may be in some of the most awkward and poorly placed locations at a campsite, especially older parks that were designed and constructed when a 32’ foot RV was considered a “big-rig.”  Owning a 45’ motorhome means we have found ourselves in need of extensions to reach our coveted water, sewer, and electrical hookups.

Have you ever found yourself in a position where you wanted to pull forward into a back-in site so that you would have a fabulous view of nature out your front window?  But, your factory installed electric cord just wasn’t long enough to allow you to do this.  We have found ourselves in that position numerous times and having a 25’ extra electrical cord allows us to hook up our electric no matter which position we choose.  Two other electrical accessories you may need at some point are a power adapter (commonly referred to as a “dogbone”) and a 15-amp adapter.  The dogbone lets you reduce down from 50 amps to 30 amps or allows a 30-amp RV to plug into a 50-amp hook-up pedestal.  This comes in handy for us as sometimes we find ourselves in campgrounds that only offer 30-amp service when we need 50-amp.  We have also used this in times of cooler weather when we don’t need 50-amps to run our air conditioners and 30-amps would suffice.  Since most campgrounds charge less for a campsite with 30 amp service, choosing that option allows us to reduce our camping costs.  Occasionally, we have left the RV in storage and needed to plug into a 110v outlet to run our residential refrigerator and maintain the battery banks.  Having a 50 amp to 30 amp dogbone and a 30 to 15 amp adapter allows us to plug right into a 110v outlet so we are worry free, and everything is charged and ready to go when we return.   

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In addition to the extra electrical cord, we always carry spare water and sewer hoses.   Who would want to pay for a full hook-up site and not be able to use those amenities because you can’t reach them?  Or what if you spring a leak?  There is lots of wear and tear on sewer hoses being left out in the sun, stuffed into storage containers, or suffering the wrath of a weed eater that comes too close.  (The latter has happened to us!)   The last thing you, or the campground wants, is a leaking sewer hose dumping undesirable waste on the ground.  A spare sewer hose and clamps are all you need to make sure you have a tight and clean sewer connection.  One other sewer item that is good to have on hand is a sewer cap that fits over your 3" sewer outlet.  Nobody wants a faulty sewer cap that is broken or doesn’t seal properly which can make for very unsanitary messes, so carrying a spare is a good idea.  The Road & Home™ RV Waste Cap comes with a garden hose flush attachment so you can easily flush out your tanks.

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We always carry a spare fresh water hose for the times when we can’t reach a spigot or in case of contamination.  As a means to keep the hose clean, we link both ends of the hose together so that no bugs or dirt get in.  The saying “you get what you pay for” is true when it comes to water hoses, as less expensive ones are more likely to kink and spring a leak.  The best way to attach your water hose is with a 90-degree brass elbow which is another great accessory that eliminates the stress on the fittings and allows the hose to hang straight down from the intake.  While the brass adapter protects your hose and fittings, you always want to have a water pressure regulator at the spigot to protect your RV's internal plumbing.  Most RV plumbing systems are designed to work around 40-50 psi, but some parks have extremely high water pressure approaching 80-100 psi which can severely damage your plumbing.  These little handy devices are often left behind, so it’s good to have a spare just in case you forgot to unscrew it at the last campground.  

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So, while the summer season may be coming to a close, some of the best weather is fast approaching, and fall is a great time to spend time in the outdoors.  No matter what time of year you are camping, you don’t want to be left without the supplies you need for a stress-free, fun adventure.  Check out the Road & Home™ Ready for the Road Checklist.







Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Day Exploring Owls Head, Maine

The town of Owls Head was named for an image of an owls face that appears on rocky cliffs near the Owls Head Lighthouse that is only visible from the water.  We mistakenly thought the town had an over abundance of those majestic nocturnal birds with big eyes and rotating heads, but we were wrong.  The one thing we were right about was that it would take us a whole day to explore this little coastal town just south of Rockland.  Of course, there was a lighthouse and lunch in the mix and we also threw in a state park, winery, and museum. 

The adventure started at Owls Head State Park – a 13-acre park which is home to one of the area’s scenic lighthouses.  Originally constructed in 1825, the white and black cylindrical beacon safely guides mariners into Rockland Harbor.  Interestingly,  the lighthouse is number one on Coastal Living magazine’s most haunted lighthouse list.  Lore claims there are at least two ghosts at the lighthouse.  One is known as the “Little Lady” who is frequently found in the kitchen or looking out a window where doors slam and silverware rattles but people say her presence is more peaceful and calming than ominous.  The other spirit is thought to be a keeper from beyond the grave who still makes his home there.  We didn’t experience either of the supernatural while we were there, just some beautiful views. 

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Another state park in Owls Head is Birch Point Beach State Park which is a small park located on the coast which is a nice place to cool off in the ocean on a hot summer day where the beach is broad and the water shallow.  It is also a nice place to walk along the shore looking for sea glass or enjoy a picnic under the plentiful shade trees or on the rocks in the warm sun. 
 
My first intention for lunch was to hit up the general store known to slap some beef on the flat top and deliver a warm and juicy burger nicknamed the “5-napkin burger” by locals.  To our disappointment, it was closed with a big “For Sale” sign on the door.  Plan B was to scoot on over to the airport for another eatery I had been reading about.  The Salty Owl Cafe is located inside the terminal which was easy to find since the airport is tiny (even though it’s the biggest airport around) and the most populated place in the terminal followed only by the two TSA agents sitting outside.  The 20180527_121516owners describe themselves as “two kids from away (Arizona actually) that moved to Maine site-unseen to open a little cafe at a little airport in a little town called Owls Head.”  This duo took their experience in restaurants and baking and set out in their home kitchen to perfect the hand pie.  These neat little tasty packets are popular in Michigan where they are called “pasties” but let us tell you the Salty Dog’s are way better.  Instead of tasteless, pasty filling that needs tons of gravy or ketchup to make them palatable these little packets are elevated to a gourmet level with flavors like pork chili verde, roasted curried vegetables, and lemony ricotta chicken.  They also have amazing salads and polenta bowls – all of which are sure to please the wandering gormand.  So next time you think about overpriced boring airport food just know that is not always the case.  No one in the restaurant was catching a plane, they were just there to eat good local food at more-than-reasonable prices.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum is a very popular destination.  The facility is jam packed with airplanes, automobiles, bicycles, carriages, motorcycles, engines and more.  The concept grew from two guys living in the area who thought it would be neat to see old airplanes flying around Owls Head.  It didn’t hurt that one was the head of IBM and the other had a last name of "Rockefeller."   This place is more than a static museum as there are hoards of visitors for events going on all summer long from airplane fly-ins to antique trucks coming to show themselves off to antique car auctions and lots of family-fun events. 

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Before heading home, we stopped in at Breakwater Vineyards for a taste of their wines and to pet their goats (and to taste the competition since I am working at a winery this summer).  They are located on a 32-acre farm up on a hill overlooking Rockland Harbor which makes for a scenic and relaxing place to spend time and sip wine  Most of their wines are made from grapes that come from America’s best known wine regions like California and Oregon but they do produce Maine-grown wines from their 3,000 vines growing on the property.  The tasting price of $3 for four pours is a great bargain and good way to sample their wines that include a mix of sweet, dry, and fruit varieties. 

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That was a full day.  For a tiny town of roughly 1,500 residents it sure kept us entertained and vowing to come back. 




Friday, July 13, 2018

Anything For Friends

We have settled nicely into our Maine summer campground and are loving having our friends Pat and Debbie parked next to us for a month.  This mid-coast area of Maine is chock full of interesting things to do, see, and of course eat! There are world-class art museums, gorgeous harbors, nature centers, wineries and breweries, festivals, and plenty of lobster shacks.   It seems our friends are just as smitten with Maine as we are.  Pictures don’t lie.

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Debbie discovered a summer-long event called The Great Maine Scavenger Hunt.  The scavenger hunt is the brain child of Downeast Magazine who developed a “scavenger hunt” as a fun and entertaining way to get people to explore the state of Maine and discover quirky places, unique traditions, and iconic sites.  The scavenger hunt consists of 40 “tasks” spread across 2,000 miles around the state that guide participants to hiking trails and taprooms and paddling a lake to lobster at a lunch counter.

Debbie embraced this challenge with gusto and was loving the unique and interesting experiences and places.  The challenge had her sitting at an old fashion soda fountain in Bar Harbor drinking an “egg cream” (which has no egg or cream in it!) and touring a Shaker Village.  She loved the experiences and soon Debbie was hooked and decided that she was going to conquer Maine and check all of the scavenger hunt boxes.  Why accept the challenge?  Those who finish all tasks before Labor Day win a five year subscription to Downeast Magazine, get their smiling face on the wall in the magazine’s Rockland headquarters, and, of course, bragging rights!  All tasks require a selfie with specific instructions so there is no cheating and doesn’t cost a thing (except gas money).  Only 18 people completed last year’s scavenger hunt in its inaugural year, so she could be one of the elite.

We love supporting our friends so of course we agreed to participate in some of these events. We attended a bean supper – a Maine tradition dating back to the Wabanaki Indians who cooked their beans with syrup and fat and is very popular during the summer.  And, we put up no resistance when she reached #11 which was to “Visit the Old Port in a Glass” which meant we were going to Cellardoor Winery which happened to have free tastings and a delicious Brazilian food truck in the parking lot.

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But then there was #24 – “Run a Codfish Relay.”  Yes, that’s right Pat, Betsy, and I were enlisted as the three suckers she needed for a four-man team that was to run around the historic streets of Boothbay Harbor with two codfish in our hands while clad in deck boots and slickers.  Admittedly, we tried to get out of this event for the couple weeks leading up to it as running around with smelly, slimy dead fish were not our idea of enjoying the day.  I know what I said earlier about supporting friends in their quest to succeed at something … but really, a cod fish race? 

Alas, we were not going to let her down so we piled into the car and headed for the event which was part of the 56th Annual Boothbay Harbor Windjammer Days Festival which is a great summer event that swells the town to its gills for six days.  Betsy and I attended the event in 2011 and remember it as being a great time with lots of live music, pirates milling about, family-fun parades, dazzling fireworks, a lobster eating contest, and of course, a fleet of 17 windjammers that grace the harbor under full sails and wow onlookers.  

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Once we found out that the race carried a $100 cash prize, we started strategizing and planning our winning attack.  Keep in mind, this was done while sitting outside at a bar with margaritas and beer while watching the windjammers sail.  No cash prize for us as the boots and slickers proved a little difficult to get into for us slightly-impaired southern girls and the local high school track team was way more serious than us anyway.  Win or lose, we had a blast and thanked Debbie for getting us into such a fun and comical once-in-a-lifetime (we hope!) event. 

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But Debbie, can we stick to wine and beans next time?

All the participants had a blast and pictures show everyone smiling –o.k., maybe not at first but by the end of the race they were all smiles.  This woman's facial expressions say it all! 

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Now doesn’t that look like fun?