Saturday, September 27, 2014

Vermont - The Little RV Visits the Northeast

I've said it before but I love all of the history in this part of the country. Everything is so old and the architecture is beautiful.  The details on the buildings always catch my eye and beg to be photographed.  Yesterday we spent some time in St. Johnsbury, originated in 1760, looking at the beautiful architecture and taking photos from every angle. 

St. Johnsbury is built on a hill and from a distance you see trees with many church steeples reaching toward the sky. We walked around the historic downtown area and noted most of that part of the city seems to have been built in the 1870s and 1880s.  
South Congressional Church and
 St. Johnsbury Academy

Fairbanks Museum 

North Congressional Church

North Congressional Church

Estabrook House Bed and Breakfast

This one's for you Alex.
St. Johnsbury Fire Department

Fairbanks Museum 

St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church

North Congressional Church

Of course after enjoying the town we headed to the countryside and found more beautiful scenery.
Countryside Farm

Unknown Lake, Vermont

Miles Pond

Friday, September 26, 2014

Southern Vermont - A First Timer Visits

I added a new state to our visited states map this week.  VERMONT!  I've never been here before but Rob has many times. I love it here because it is not crowded, it is beautiful and there is so much history. The trees are just starting to sport their glorious fall colors and the views are wonderful.  

Our first stop in Vermont was near Bennington near the southwest corner of the state. Vermont is such a small state we were able to explore the Southwest area in just a couple of outings. On our exploration we discovered three covered bridges. 
Paper Mill Bridge, Bennington, Vermont 1889
We drove through the countryside and saw so many things we wanted to photograph but there was no place to pull over on the narrow country roads. Rob was able to get a shot of this beautiful green barn.
The churches are amazing. They are the kind you imagine surrounded by horse drawn carriages of long ago.

We drove to the top of Okemo Mountain, a ski resort, and had a great view of the valley below. 
Our campground was surrounded by beautiful trees as well.  They also have a pond where you can canoe, kayak or fish. 
What trip to Vermont would be complete without a visit to the Vermont Country Store?

Yesterday we hooked up and drove to Northeast Vermont.  We are near St. Johnsbury and only a few miles from New Hampshire.  It was a beautiful drive through small towns and beautiful forests. 
We plan to explore this area of Vermont for the next few days before we move on to New Hampshire. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side, They Let Us In This Time!

Having seen the US side of Niagara Falls it was clear that the view would be much better from the Canadian side and it was. 

We decided to try our luck crossing the Canadian border again yesterday.  They let us in this time.  
Border Crossing into Canada at Rainbow Bridge

Our objective was just to photograph the falls from their side. It was another beautiful day and the views were amazing. The area surrounding the falls is beautifully maintained and we enjoyed a short walk along the walkway overlooking the falls.
First view of the falls
See the boat toward the right side of the photo above? 

There are several tour boat operators who offer a very wet ride up close and personal to the falls. They are all wearing red rain ponchos. 

Viewing platforms on the US side.
There are viewing platforms along the American side where you can get a bit moist as well. Most of them are in yellow rain ponchos. I see a few blue ones mixed in. 

There are actually two sets of waterfalls right here on the Niagara River. Horseshoe Falls are right next to Niagara Falls.  
Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls and another bunch of soggy tourists

This little bird was enjoying the beautiful day.

And one more for good measure...
We reclaimed our truck and drove around a bit. The area is beautiful.  I wonder if the locals take the views for granted? 
City of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

View from above the falls.

They let us back into the US!
Border crossing back into the US

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Little RV Visits Niagara Falls

This morning we woke up in New York. Yesterday we left Pennsylvania and drove just 150 miles to our new campground. We are on the shore of Lake Ontario in a beautiful state park.  The weather is sunny with a brilliant blue sky and water to match. 

During the drive yesterday we went through Buffalo, NY where you can buy a house desperately in need of renovation for just $1. Parts of the city were very pretty but parts really reminded me of Detroit.  Run down, burned out and scary.
Buffalo, NY
I am always impressed by the old and often intricate buildings over here in the Eastern US.
Buffalo, NY

It is really hard to get a photo while driving through a city on bumpy roads but I did my best.  There was so much more to see.

After getting set up in our site and having a rest we drove to the City of Niagara Falls to see the falls.  Our campground reciept allows us free admission to any NY State Park during our stay at the campground. 

We got to the falls near dusk. Getting there is a bit confusing so it took longer than we thought it would. Our GPS didn't help matters either. We elbowed our way through what seemed like a million tall, non-English speaking people to the front of the viewing area, snapped a few photos and ran for our lives.  We are not fans of tourist traps but we really wanted to see the falls.

While we were getting kicked our of Canada the border patrol officers told us the falls are much prettier from the Canadian side because you can see the whole span of the falls.  We plan to leave our home behind and head into Canada to see the falls from their side. Hopefully they will welcome us this time. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Little RV Visits Lake Erie

We were up, out of our campsite and on the road at 11 am yesterday.  It was a late morning but we are both pretty tired. We drove about 120 miles to a campsite just west of Erie, Pennsylvania.  

When we arrived at the campground it was incredibly windy and setting up was a cold task.  You can sure tell fall is just around the corner. We are camped right on the shore of Lake Erie.  The lake was rough and the wind was creating whitecaps.  

We have decided to stay here for three days to rest, do laundry and empty the tanks before we head out again.  

Rob took a couple of sunset photos last night and they are amazing.  These came right out of the camera this way with no enhancement at all.

Our campground, while it has an amazing view, does not have much going for it. We have the worst water pressure I have ever experienced.  I shake my head every time I turn on a faucet. We are getting a great satellite signal but our internet signal is quite weak and our cell phones aren't working at all. It is only for three days so we can deal. 

Next stop, New York.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Little RV Gets Kicked out of Canada

Let me just start by saying I was diligent about doing my homework and preparing for our border crossing this morning.  The only problem was, I was wrong. This is a bit embarrassing but I want to share it because the information may be useful to someone else.

When we started researching our Alaska trip we had heard we couldn't bring any firearms into Canada.  Then we heard we could bring some but not others.  In order to make sense of all the rules I went to the official Canadian Welcomes You website for more information. Basically it said if you want to bring in firearms you have to declare them to customs using one of their forms and you have to pay $25. These are the definitions stated on the form:
Firearm Definitions
A non-restricted firearm is:

  • An ordinary rifle, shotgun or combination gun that is not described below as being restricted or prohibited.
A restricted firearm is:
  • A handgun that is not a prohibited firearm.
  • A semi-automatic, centre-fire rifle or shotgun with a barrel length less than 470 mm (18.5 inches) that is not prohibited.
  • A rifle or shotgun that can fire when its overall length is reduced by folding, telescoping or some other means to less than 660 mm (26 inches).
  • Any firearm prescribed as restricted (including some long guns).
A prohibited firearm is:
  • A handgun with a barrel length of 105 mm (4.1 inches) or less.
  • A handgun designed or adapted to discharge 25 or 32 calibre ammunition.
  • A rifle or shotgun that has been altered to make it less than 660 mm (26 inches) in overall length.
  • A rifle or shotgun that has been altered to make the barrel length less than 457 mm (18 inches) where the overall firearm length is 660 mm (26 inches) or more.
  • An automatic firearm and a converted automatic firearm.
  • Any firearm prescribed as prohibited.

The form even shows how to measure your firearm to make sure it meets their requirements.
Copied from Declaration Form, RCMP GRC 5589e (2014-02-04) 

We both grew up with guns and travel with our handguns. We also both have carry permits. 

Yesterday we decided to take a shortcut through Canada to New York so we downloaded the form and filled it out. 
Port Huron Border / Bridge to Canada

When we arrived at the border crossing and presented them with our passports and the form we were pulled aside to go to the inspections office.  Once we were parked in the inspections area an agent came to each of our doors.  They told Rob to put the keys on the dash and said we should get out of the vehicle and bring our identification.  One of the agents came with me to get our guns out of the RV. They took the guns inside the office while we talked to the other agent.  We were informed that is it illegal to being any handgun into Canada and that we had three options.  We could leave the guns with the border agents for up to 40 days, go back into the US and ship the guns somewhere and continue back into Canada or we could take a different route and stay out of Canada.  

We choose to take a different route.  The agents took the guns out of their cases and put giant zip ties through the barrels then locked them into a lock box and sent us back across the border to go through US Customs.  The Canadian border agents were absolutely polite, respectful and very helpful the whole time we were there.  

The US Customs side was far less cordial. They weren't rude but they were extremely cool and just a bit cranky. The whole process took 2 1/2 hours and we were right back where we started this morning.

We got an education we won't soon forget. I'm sure I just misunderstood the instructions or the form or something but there it is.  We got kicked out of Canada. 

Right now we are in Ohio parked for the night.  We'll continue our trip in the morning.  It'll be just a bit longer.  

Feeling the Need to Move Faster in the Little RV

We are awaiting grandchild #6 who is due to arrive at the end of October in Connecticut.  Seems like last year about this time we were headed to the West Coast for grandchild #5. 

By the way, Clementine (#5) started walking yesterday at 11 months.  She's a climber too so Mom is really getting a workout. 

We've dilly-dallied, tarried, loafed and otherwise poked along across the country over the last 3 months.  Our plan is to head into Maine to see the fall colors and the sights including Acadia National Park. From there we want to see Vermont and New Hampshire and land in Connecticut for the arrival of #6 in about 6 weeks.  

Our last two travel days have been much longer than usual.  We have gone over 500 miles since we left St. Ignace, Michigan the other day and today we plan to go about 200 more.   Our route for today will take us across the border into Canada and back into New York State for a visit to both sides of Niagara Falls. We'll also see the final Great Lake, Ontario.  

I think being as far as New York will make us feel like we can accomplish the trip before the arrival of #6.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

Mackinac Island - A Most Memorable Day for the Little RV

When people find out we are full time RVers they often ask what our favorite place to visit has been.  I always fumble for an answer because we have been to so many great places but none were really head and shoulders above the rest, until yesterday. 

It was another gorgeous day here in Michigan.  We wanted to go to Mackinac Island during our stay so we just packed up and headed to the Star Line terminal. 

Route from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island via ferry.
Mackinac Island is only accessible by boat. It makes sense because it is an island after all. There are no motor vehicles allowed on the island except emergency vehicles like two a firetrucks an ambulance and very few maintenance vehicles. Getting around on the island can be done by foot, bike or horse drawn carriage.  

Within 30 minutes of purchasing our tickets we were on the top tier of the boat heading for the island.  The trip was quick and the view coming into the marina was so beautiful. 
Mackinac Island Marina
The Grand Hotel Carriage
Lola and Sharon and those "summer cottages"

We disembarked and spotted a carriage heading for the Grand Hotel so we hopped on for the trip up hill. 

Once we had seen the hotel we strolled back down the hill in search of a carriage tour.  We wanted to do the drive yourself carriage ride but when we checked with the office we were told we could not stop to take pictures. You have to keep moving. That would never work for us so we ended up hiring a private carriage for a one hour tour of the island.  

Our driver was Adam and he was awesome. He lives on the island year around and is friendly and professional. Our horses were Sharon and Lola. The tour started in front of the park just a couple of blocks from the ferry dock.  We went up the hill and around the Grand Hotel then along the bluff and saw the "summer cottages".  How do those poor people manage a whole summer in those cottages?

We drove on around the island and we passed the summer residence of the State Governor and the old fort. We stopped on a bluff with a beautiful view of the harbor. 
We passed the beautiful St. Ann's Church built in 1874. The gingerbread work on the church is beautiful.
The downtown area near the ferry docks is a bustling place with everyone coming and going.  The bike rental stations are on the same street along with many shops and restaurants.  

We had a wonderful dinner at The Pink Pony Bar and Grill. We are able to eat out so rarely that we enjoy it very much when we do 

After dinner we took the last boat back to the mainland. The last boat of the evening takes a longer route and treats the passengers to a ride under the Mackinac Bridge.  

I've been trying to put my finger on the reason I loved the island so much. It was beautiful, filled with flowers and the hoof-beats of the horses and so relaxing.