Summer Travel Map

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Another good week

June 30, 2007
Broad Brook, CT

Let’s close out the week, which has been productive and generally peaceful.

Wednesday was a quiet day, as I did a few more things around the coach and Geri went off to spend time with Melisa. They had lunch at a restaurant in Tolland that we’d been to before and ended up doing some shopping with Jesse after he got home from school (it was the last day of school). Grandma always enjoys taking Jesse to the bookstore, so they had a good time.

While everyone was gone, I took the opportunity to dump the holding tanks in the coach. We’d been here since the 15th, so we were almost at the 2-week mark. The new See-Level tank monitors I had installed are working well, and we can see tank status at a glance right from the display in the hall. We were at 75% black and 50% gray, so it was a good time to clean them out. Usually, the percentages are the other way around since you generally fill up the gray tank faster with sink, shower and washer use, but we’ve been doing much of that stuff in the house so we really extended our timeframe. This is a good thing.

Since we have a macerator pump built in, dumping here is a fairly easy exercise. I carry a 75’ heavy duty garden hose dedicated for that purpose, which attaches right to the end of the hose from the macerator. A year-and-a-half ago, I purchased an adapter which screws into a 4” sewer pipe. Fortunately, Pat and Al’s house has a full basement, so I was able to run the hose through the basement door, fit the adapter into the clean out pipe, seal the washer pipe to prevent gas escape, and let ‘er rip. The whole process took about 30 minutes, 10 minutes to get set up, 10 to pump, and 10 to clean up and put everything away. As they say, it’s a crappy job but someone has to do it.

For dinner, Geri, Pat, Melisa, and Britt all went to Casey’s, the restaurant where Melisa’s worked for years. Alicia’s just started waiting tables there and she was working that night, so they had a good time. It was “all you can eat pasta” night, and leftovers were brought home for us to snack on. We had a quick thunderstorm in the late afternoon, but it didn’t get in the way of their plans.

On the “guy side”, Al’s uncle Charlie came over, and we ordered a pizza (which went well with a Dancing Bull Zin) and played 4 games of cutthroat cribbage. We each won a game, and Al pulled it out in the rubber match, although Charlie tried to claim a winning position with some argument about winning once and coming in second twice. We explained to him that it was cribbage, not NASCAR, but I think he was pretty well convinced of his position.

Thursday was a very productive day.

Al and I got an early start by dropping off his truck for detailing and then tackling the coach maintenance cycle. This involves changing the fuel filters (2), oil filters, EGR filter, and the oil, and lubricating the chassis. It’s a time-consuming process, and Al spent the better part of the day on the creeper under the coach. We took a break at lunch time to drop off a grinder for Alicia at the park down the street (she’s a lifeguard there during the summer) and picking up Al’s truck. We finished off the maintenance in the afternoon, with the 500-hour generator service (oil + filter, fuel filter, air cleaner).

While we were doing the generator, a mobile RV repair guy I’d called to look at the front air conditioner showed up. We’ve been having trouble with the front (there are 3 A/C units on the roof) for a while and, with the temperature rising, we needed to get it looked at. When it was really hot (over about 93°F) earlier in the week, the front A/C unit shifted to “heat pump” mode. This is a very bad thing. The tech looked things over and found that there was a missing thermocouple, which is a temperature sensor that connects to the control board. He put a new one on, even though he had no idea why one would have been missing, and it seems to be working at this point.

We also drained and refilled the hub oil on the tag axle, well, one side anyway. I’d had the driver’s side done in February when Massey’s in Phoenix replaced a bad axle seal, so the other side was a little overdue (I should have had them do it then but didn’t think of it). We’d have done the other side to keep them in sync, but there are two different axle covers on the two sides, and we couldn’t figure out how to remove the cap on the driver’s side. We knew we didn’t want to break something, so we held off for now. I have no idea how that happened; one more thing to research and try to track down, and then fix, of course. It’s always something! We finished up with a lot of clean up, and Al quickly changed the oil filter on his truck (he switched to the long life synthetic oil, but still does 3,000 mile filter changes). We wrapped up just as the day’s thunderstorm came through. It provided a temporary cool-down but, after the storm was over, the water on the ground just turned to steam and the temperature and humidity went back up.

While Al and I were working on the coach, Geri took Merlin and Maya Lynn to a local grooming shop for “tubbies” and a trim. They look pretty good, as their hair is growing back in after being cut way too short before we left AZ. They came home replete with patriotic neck scarves, so they’re all ready for Independence Day.

For dinner, we were in the mood for Mexican (well, Geri was and convinced the rest of us, not that it was hard), so we went to a new incarnation of an old favorite, Tacorral in Manchester. The original, long closed, was where Geri first introduced me to Mexican food almost 30 years ago (there was no Mexican food where I grew up). I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first but, like most things she convinced me to try, I got the hang of it pretty quickly. Since it’s a B-Y-O place, we brought a jug of pre-made margaritas that we picked up on the way. Linda and Wendell turned us on to these when they visited AZ in April, and they’re reasonably good and super convenient. And Tacorral’s always a bargain: dinner for 4, including their $2.50/person charge for supplying glassware for your B-Y-O: $46. Hard to beat…

On the way home, we stopped at the Bowers’ to see how they were doing in planning their party for Saturday (it’s a combined shindig for Mike’s birthday and their daughter Allyson’s graduation). It’s been stressful for them, but they are almost ready. We had a nice bottle of Merlot (pretty good coming from me, since I’m not generally a Merlot guy), but didn’t stay too long as everyone was getting tired, led by Al who quickly fell asleep on the couch.

Friday was also productive, starting with a good bacon-egg-home fries breakfast with Pat and Al. I took down the volleyball net that had been used for Alicia’s graduation part last weekend, and Al and I dropped off all the used motor oil from Thursday’s activities at the local auto parts store. Then we dismantled the borrowed tent from Alicia’s party and re-assembled it on the Bower’s deck for their party. The tent is becoming community property. After that, we replaced the steering arm on Al’s lawn tractor and he changed the blades, so he just had to mow for a couple of hours. Al really enjoys moving the lawn (they have over an acre), so he was a happy man. I used the time to tackle one of my projects that’s been neglected: getting rid of the old blinds and visors from the coach. I downloaded eBay’s TurboLister program and got most of the entries put together to put things up for sale.

Last night, we went to dinner with Pat and Al and the Bowers at a place Mike used to go to years ago: Unk's in Niantic. Before we left, we tried a version of Al's new drink with Tanqueray "Ten" gin instead of the Hendrick's, but it wasn't as smooth. Mike also brought over a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir, McKinlay's, that was quite nice, done in a Burgundian style with light extract and bright flavors. Although it was a relatively long drive to the shore (remember, this is Connecticut, which is just slightly bigger than the Phoenix metropolitan area), we got to dinner within 3 minutes of our reservation. No worrys, though, as business was inexplicably slow and we had a nice table outside on the deck. I spotted a Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa on the wine list and, as expected, they didn't have it. Their excuse was more creative than most places, though: "we're changing our list and we don't have that one in yet" as opposed to "we just sold the last bottle". In any event, a Brancott Sauvignon Blanc was a reasonably good substitute and we followed up with an Alice White Shiraz (passable but just barely). It was seafood all the way around, but the menu had enough Portugese (lots of pasta and spice) influences that moving to a red wasn't an issue. I just wish the selection had been better. Several containers of leftovers made the trip home, as the food was good and portions were large.

When we got home, everyone was in the mood for some Port, so I dug out the bottle of 1977 Fonseca I'd brought along on our trip. Although the cork was a little weak, the wine was drinking nicely. I'm glad we drank it now, since the color was fading and the wine itself was turning toward what you'd expect from a 30 year old tawny as opposed to a vintage Port, so it was just past its prime and wouldn't have gotten any better with more cellaring. This was a bottle that Al and I picked up at Zachy's in Scarsdale, NY, years ago when we used to go there every year to pick up special wines for Christmas dinner. It's been following us around for a long time, and it made a nice finish to a good evening.

I’ll finish the eBay stuff this morning with weights and measures, and make sure I have pictures of everything. Al has some baseball memorabilia that we’ll post as well. I need to get this done today, as I’d really prefer to close out the auctions before we leave here so I can get shipping done. I should have done it as soon as we got here, in hindsight.

After that, it’s off to the Bower’s party, although I think we have another graduation party to stop at before then. It’s going to be a long day… :-)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Back to normal...

July 26, 2007
Broad Brook, CT

Things have settled down quite a bit after the graduation. Everyone’s a little more relaxed and tolerant, and life is getting back to “normal” (whatever that is these days).

Sunday was Pat’s birthday, so we had a low-key celebration (nobody was up for another big bash). Al and I gathered all the trash and bottles (CT has a bottle deposit program) and cleaned up a bit while Pat straightened the house. For having 50-60 people at a party the day before, things were in remarkably good shape. A lot of cleaning up happened the night before when the perishables were put away, and paper plates and plastic flatware are real lifesavers for situations like this.

In the afternoon, we made a quick trip down to the CT shore, to Westbrook. Al’s a member of the Elks, and they have a facility right on the beach that we’ve been going to for years (we’re officially “freeloaders”, but our money is green so they tolerate us). We had cocktails on the deck and ate a quick dinner there before heading back home.

Monday was a quiet day as everyone who lives here had to go to work. I felt like I was working as well, since I spent most of the day on financial matters. Bills were downloaded and paid, and I started tackling a response to the State of New Jersey, which wants more money on our 2004 taxes. It never fails that something in storage back in AZ is needed while we’re on the road. I filed with TurboTax and they’re supposed to stand behind their product, but the jury’s out in my opinion. I’m pretty sure they were incorrect, but they hide behind “input errors” (i.e., you enter the W-2 info and they claim it’s your entire fault no matter what). I won’t be able to confirm this until I get back and reload the 2004 software, if I even can do that at this point. So, it’s back to Word documents and Excel spreadsheets for me!

We made a new recipe for Pat and Al on Monday night. It’s a slow-poached Halibut, with cannelloni beans and diced grape tomatoes over wilted escarole. Geri was only able to get haddock at the local grocery, but it came out quite nicely anyway. We had several bottles of white wine, but the "Naia", a Spanish verdejo, really stood up to the flavors in the dish. Mike and Lynn Bower stopped by after dinner, and we finished up the evening with a couple of drinks. Al’s created a new cocktail with Hedrick’s gin (it’s pretty unique, with cucumber and rose petal flavors), Triple Sec and a drop of lime juice – shaken, not stirred. One of these at the end of the night will really help you sleep. More than one, well, you’re on your own…

Before calling it a night, Al and I returned the borrowed picnic tables to the park and chased out the remaining people hanging out there. Because he’s so close to the park, Al’s been anointed by the town to be the one who closes the park after dark each weekday night. Some nights it’s all clear, and other times the crowd needs a little persuasion to ht the road.

Tuesday was a continuation of Monday’s projects, focusing on finishing up the response to NJ. I had a chance to do a few things around the coach, adjusting a couple of the new blinds so they fit better around the windows. I have a list of things I want to tackle while we’re here, and I haven’t made enough of a dent in it. I forgot to mention that I took the Range Rover for service last Thursday. The first three scheduled maintenance sessions (essentially annual for us since it’s a 15,000 mile service) are included, and this was the second one. Everything went well, with me getting there around 7:20 AM and the service work being completed in about 90 minutes. Then I got the bad news: the front brakes had worn to leave only 1 mm on the pads. This is probably because we have 27,000 miles driven and another 31,000 towed. We have a supplemental braking system in the Range Rover that applies the brakes whenever the coach brakes are used, so I guess 50,000 miles +/- is the service interval on the brakes.

In any event, I have to get started on the other projects while I wait to hear back from NJ on the taxes. It’s time for engine and generator maintenance (oil, filters, fuel filters, lube, axle hub oil, etc.), and I have some Plexiglas that I want to install in some of the overhead cabinets to keep stuff from moving around while we travel. I should have enough time while we’re here.

I ordered a new camera bag today. I need to convert to a backpack from the shoulder bags I have now. My shoulders are shot from years of lugging around computers and luggage. I ordered it from B&H in New York, and it should be here by the end of the week. Maybe next week (projects notwithstanding), I’ll have a chance to get out and take some photos in the local area.

Graduation, Round 2

June 24, 2007
Broad Brook, CT

Friday and Saturday, June 22-23, were fun days with family and friends.

Friday evening was Alicia’s graduation at the East Windsor High School. The graduating class of ~100 students was hoping for fair weather, but the rains came midday. Showers on and off all afternoon meant that the ceremony had to be moved inside to the auditorium as opposed to the football field. This meant that each family was limited to 5 attendees in the audience. Since we were 7 total (Mike and Susan returned from Hampton Beach for the occasion), this was a little tricky. As it turned out, Mike was able to sweet talk his way into the back of the hall just as things got under way, so we were all able to be there.

Logistics were a bit of an issue, with the halls filled with more people than capacity, problems getting graduates to their entry point, delays in getting the auditorium doors open for the audience to be seated, several rednecks without tickets trying to crash the door, and generally tight quarters all the way around. I wanted to get some close-up shots of Alicia walking in and getting her diploma, but there just wasn’t room. Here are a few shots from the day:

Saturday brought fabulous weather and the after-graduation party. Pat had been planning this all week, and everything went off without a hitch. Al and I helped a little, getting the wine and beer (what else?) and picking up the catered food and ice on Saturday morning. Geri worked on the food, helping turn out a couple of trays of macaroni (tuna and chicken), loads of kebobs and marinated chicken from the grill, and her special sauerkraut (yum). Al borrowed a couple of extra picnic tables from the town park near their house, and a 10’ x 15’ tent from a friend. We had quite a good time putting the tent up (no instructions and limited help from the owner – “the cover goes on top”), but managed to get it right.

By Saturday afternoon, everything was ready and guests started to arrive. As you’d expect, the “kids” stayed to themselves for the most part and the “adults” tended to find their spots and stuck with them. The party continued on well into the evening, with fires in both the backyard pit and the chiminea on the deck as it cooled off quite a bit after dark. Quite a few people wanted to tour the coach, and we dubbed it the “VIP Lounge” after a while. A lot of folks would like to try the traveling life, and we’re more than happy to be supportive.

We had just the right amount of beer and wine (I have no idea who drank 1½ magnums of White Zin, which I recommended against buying, but there you go), and made a dent in the food with enough leftovers to fit in the ‘fridge. The Bowers broke out a bottle of special 20 Year Old Tawny Port, which was excellent. I’ll have to get the name!

Some pictures from the party:

Sunday, June 24, 2007

CT updates - a quiet week

June 24, 2007
Broad Brook, CT

Other than our trip to NYC on Monday, things have been generally quiet here in CT up until the graduation on Friday. We had a nice visit with Mike and Susan before the NYC trip; they left for a few days at Hampton Beach, on the New Hampshire shore Wednesday-Thursday. Mike’s daughter, Jackie, and her two daughters, Kaitlyn and Aleesa, visited from their home in Maine for the weekend. It was good to see everyone, especially since Mike and Jackie are the only two of “the clan” who have moved away from CT. Pictures are here:

We got a call mid-week that Mom was back in the hospital, but doing well. She had a period of weakness and disorientation and got an ambulance ride, but tests aren’t showing much so far. She got another transfusion and is doing better, but they’re keeping her until next week and will run more tests.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday were generally dedicated to graduation-related activities. The graduation was Friday evening and the “after party” was Saturday. I’ll create a separate post(s) on those activities. The preparation involved moving a lot of stuff around, deploying extra picnic tables and a tent, and arranging for an awful lot of food. While a couple of trays of sausage and peppers and stuffed shells were “outsourced”, most of the stuff for the party was put together at home. This meant numerous trips to the store for planned, unplanned, and forgotten items. Al’s pickup truck got quite a good workout!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Day trip to "The City"

June 20, 2007
Broad Brook, CT

On Monday, we took a day trip to New York City with Mike and Susan. Susan has lived in Illinois all her life and this was her first trip to NY. Unfortunately, we only had a day to see a few sights and check off a few "been there, saw that" places. Since it was a little difficult to get a handle on what things were of interest in advance, I planned a short walking tour in midtown (Grand Central, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Times Square, Herald Square, Empire State Building), leaving time for spontaneous changes. Good thing!

We left home around 7:00 to get to New Haven to take the first off-peak (i.e., cheaper and less crowded) express train to New York. The train left at 8:50 but we were worried about traffic in Hartford and New Haven on I-91. Since we had four people in the car, the major southbound jam for 10 miles going into Hartford didn't impact us at all -- we took the little-used HOV lane! We arrived at Union Station in New Haven with plenty of time for buying tickets and a Dunkin Donuts stop.

The train ride from New Haven to Grand Central Terminal is 73 miles, and we arrived right about on time around 10:30. We walked through the main concourse and had a chance to review the day's plan. This was good because it turns out that Susan is actually afraid of elevators. So bad, that when she worked in a building with six floors, she had to take the stairs every day. So much for going to the top of the Empire State Building. I immediately switched plans to bypass that site.

So, after Grand Central terminal, we walked to Rockefeller Center. By that point, Geri was getting tired so we found a spot for her to sit while Mike and Susan and I walked some more. We went north on Fifth Avenue past St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Plaza Hotel to Central Park. We walked through the extreme southern end of the park and came out by the carriage rides. The aroma was a little strong, so we went south to Carnegie Hall, West to Broadway, then south to Times Square. This route takes us past the Ed Sullivan Theater where the David Letterman show is taped.

In Times Square we saw the Naked Cowboy, a guy who hangs out in his underwear all day playing guitar and posing for pictures with tourists. What a gig.

From Times Square, we walked back to Rockefeller Center, picked up Geri, and went down to the concourse to have some lunch. We found a pizza place and had several slices. It wasn't Nick and Joe's (right down the street from us when we lived in Brooklyn) but it was good enough.

We then ventured into the subway. You can get the train right from Rockefeller Center, so we proceeded all away to the extreme southern tip of Manhattan, Whitehall station. From there it was a very short walk to the Staten Island Ferry. We only had to wait 15 minutes for the Ferry to depart. The day was quite sunny and nice, although a little warm, so the sea breeze felt good. The Ferry goes right past Governor’s Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. It doesn't stop, of course, but the view is pretty good anyway.

Once you arrive in Staten Island, the only thing there is to do is turn around and go back to Manhattan. The last time we took the ferry, with Pat, and Al, Alicia, and Britt, it cost 25 or 50 cents for the return trip. Much to my surprise, this time the return trip was free. Even better!

By the time we got off the ferry, everyone was getting a little bit tired. Especially tired of walking. Rather than walk through Battery Park and up towards Ground Zero, we got back on the subway and headed up to Prince Street in SoHo. We poked around in Dean and Deluca's for a short time (avoiding the temptation to buy a black summer truffle), then tried to find the SoHo Kitchen & Bar, a place we went to several times when we lived in New York. Unfortunately, my memory isn't what it used to be, so I didn't remember which street it was on. And, since it was out on my original plan, I didn't bother to check for the address before we left home. Oh well, maybe next time.

By this point it was getting to the late afternoon and there was not much more walking to be tolerated. We got back on the subway, changed at 14th St, and went right back to Grand Central Terminal. When we changed subways, we got on the Lexington Avenue line, one of the narrower lines in the city. The cars are about 2 feet narrower than most of the subways. Since it was now about 4:30 p.m., things were starting to get a little crowded with commuters. Going to Grand Central Terminal. We made it, though, even though Mike said he felt violated.

At Grand Central, we had dinner at the Oyster Bar restaurant. They had almost 20 different kinds of oysters on the raw bar. We made our selections and had a nice dinner along with a few glasses of beer. Since they had Chimay Ale on tap, I had to have some. After dinner, we had to wait awhile before the first off-peak return train left. We found the bar from Michael Jordan's steakhouse on the balcony level overlooking the main concourse. We sat for a while and had a couple of glasses of wine, then got on the train back to New Haven.

It was a short drive back to Broad Brook, but we were pretty tired so Mike and Susan left for Melissa's house, we had a snack, and we hit the hay. Other than lots of walking and maybe too many stairs, it was a pretty good to day.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A great visit to PA/NJ

June 16, 2007
Broad Brook, CT

Wow, am I behind, or what? It’s been several days since the last post, and I know what’s happened. I started to break out of a routine time for blogging. Morning or evening work best, so I’ll have to work on that.

It’s been a busy week. On the Alabama front, Mom went home on Wednesday, and should have in-home care lined up by next week. She’s up and about using a walker, so that’s a good thing.

Last week was a good time in the Philly/South Jersey area. We had a chance to meet up with quite a few people and catch up. Since we lived and worked in the area for 8 years, we had the advantage of knowing our way around and even a few shortcuts. On the other hand, since we left NJ just about 2 years ago (the movers left on June 9, 2005 and we hit the road to Texas that evening), it was also fun to see how things had changed.

A quick rundown of the week:

On Monday, we kicked back and did a few things around the coach, which helped us get rested for the remainder of the stay.

Tuesday we had dinner with Peter and Paola Baxter. Given that Peter is the “food guy”, we had a great dinner. I was able to help out a little (stirring the risotto), and we had a couple of very nice wines before and with dinner. He still has some of the green walnut liqueur we brought back from Hungary! We had a good visit and will try to catch up in Phoenix or someplace else.

Wednesday was a long day. We left the coach at 9:30 because I’d made arrangement to deliver the old inverter to NJ at 11:00. We hadn’t gotten 100 yards down the road when we ran into a traffic jam. Well, the closest thing they have to a traffic jam in Embreeville, PA, which is just a wide spot in the road. Actually, it’s a narrow spot. On a narrow bridge. Where two trucks were stuck because they couldn’t pass each other. So, we had to find an alternate route, which meant we were way late getting to NJ. We were able to reschedule, though, and everything turned out fine. We had lunch at Nardi’s Deli (changed hands and no longer good), ran into a former neighbor, Rick Taylor, who has started a chain of eat-in/take-out restaurants, got Geri’s nails done, stopped to visit Barbara and Jim Sanford (and their poodle, Satin Doll) who live across the street from our old place, had a visit from Dawn who used to clean our house, and had dinner with Vera and Lena (mother/daughter) who used to live next door to us. Fortunately, we were able to bring Merlin and Maya Lynn with us; we didn’t get “home” until 10:00.

Thursday was a much slower-paced day. I picked up and put away most of the outside stuff. I had lunch in Frazer with Matthew O’Mara. Matt and I used to work together at TP and EDS. He’s now back at Bearing Point and doing quite well. Later in the afternoon, we stopped in for a visit with Wayne and Doris Guymon in Chadds Ford. We poured a glass of Paringa Shiraz and walked through the garden, Wayne’s pride and joy (or obsession, as he calls it). We haven’t visited for a couple of years, so it was a real treat to see how the property is maturing and learn more about all the things he’s been doing. We had dinner at a local restaurant, and (since the corkage charge was a reasonable $10), Wayne brought along a wonderful 1990 Beringer Napa Cabernet, which (fragile cork aside) was drinking wonderfully. Since we were relatively close to “home”, we were able to adjourn back to their place for some Port before calling it a day.

Friday was a travel day. We hit the road right on schedule around 8:40 and did a little cross-country driving (south to US-1, east to US-202, north to King of Prussia) before getting on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Extension to the New Jersey Turnpike. We’d planned to take I-287 to bypass New York, but the traffic reports showed clear sailing so we took a chance. We cleared the George Washington Bridge just at noon and, after some slow traffic at points in the Bronx and in Connecticut, we arrived in East Windsor at Pat and Al’s house by mid-afternoon.

Friday night turned into a party, with Mike and Susan arriving shortly after we did (they drove in from Illinois), followed by Melisa and Jesse, Mike and Lynn Bower, Pete with Josh and Belle, Sal from across the street, and maybe one or two other folks. We motored through a few bottle of wine with dinner, and finished off with a choice of Irish Whisky and/or Grappa. As they say, “a good time was had by all”.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Catching Up

June 10, 2007
Unionville, PA

I thought it was time to catch up for the last few days. Posting has been delayed a bit as we've been busy and moving, and this may happen again from time to time as we're not always going to have a connection (even with a dish on our roof).

We've left the DC area and are now just outside Philadelphia, near West Chester. We made sure that everything was battened down last Friday, which was good since strong thunderstorms ran through the DC area after dark. As usual, Merlin hid under the bed and Maya stayed in someone's lap. Fortunately, the storms were in relatively narrow bands so it wasn't a constant type of thing. I dumped the holding tanks and put all the outside stuff (grill, stove, lights, hoses) away before the rain came, so we were in excellent shape.

Saturday morning, we left the park around 7 AM. We had a "low pressure" alarm on one of the tires on the Range Rover (27 psi instead of the required 44 psi), so I pumped it up before we left. Although it was still up when we got to the Philly area, I noticed a large screw/nail/bolt/something sticking out of the tread, so I'll have to take it for repair on Monday (tomorrow).

We arrived at our destination park early on Saturday. Check in is 2 PM and we arrived before 10 AM. Fortunately, the people occupying the site we were scheduled for had already left, so we were able to pull right in. this was good since Geri had made a hair appointment at our "old" place in downtown Philly for 12:30 PM. I got her there just a few minutes late; there's no direct/highway route between where we are and downtown.

We're parked on a knoll with a relatively clear sky, but there's a tree right in the way of getting a satellite signal, so our main dish isn't "up". The park, like many these days, has a free WiFi connection, and our front "dome" dish is getting a DirecTV signal, so we're OK for now. The minor inconveniences are that the dome isn't getting the NYC network feeds (I need to call tech support for the dish on that tomorrow) and the printer is on our internal network not the park's. Neither is a huge deal for us for a few days.

While Geri was at hair, I shot over to NJ to get gas and wine (neither are cheap in PA). I bought 2 1/2 cases of wine at Canal's (one of our favorite wine shops) plus some grappa and Irish Whisky (for medicinal purposes only). Then, I did a little grocery shopping at Wegmans, a relatively new addition to the south Jersey shopping world. It's a chain focused on the NY/PA area, gradually moving east. It was similar to Central Market, in the Texas market, slightly better than Whole Foods but in a more limited geographical area. Just the same, we'll probably stop there once more before we leave the area.

Today (Sunday) was a slow day. We had "second sleep", which is always to be savored. Geri took the pups out to pee around 7, and the next thing we knew it was 9-something. We always enjoy that. Geri made us a great "Sunday Brunch" of loaded omelets and foccacia toast and we did a little shopping before heading over to Bob and Sarah Lopes' place for margaritas and fajitas. Dave and Sandy Thompson (in town for the annual bicycle race -- Dave as a spectator) and Bob Haver (a good friend from the Towers Perrin days) joined us. We had some good Scotch (Dave brought it down from Canada), margaritas, and wine (a Barossa Shiraz and a Clos Pegase cab from CA). We were mature enough to not over-do it, since we had a 35 minute drive through back roads to get back to the coach and the pups. Fortunately, we made it back without a hitch, and we didn't even leave a bread crumb trail. :-)

The pups were happy to see us, of course, and we did a quick walk so hopefully they won't have to "go out" in the middle of the night. The rest of the week should be fun. Tuesday night, we're planning to catch up with Peter and Paola Baxter (Peter and I have been called "Frick and Frack" on the food and wine front), and we have a few other friends we want to see while we're here. We'll be leaving for CT on Friday morning, so we have plenty of time.

Finally, some photos

June 10, 2007
Unionville, PA

OK, I'm way behind on the photo front. Today was a cloudy day, so I've been experimenting with different ways to manipulate, store, and post travel photos. As I mentioned in an earlier post, there are a lot of different options, at varying costs. For now, I'm working within the Google family of tools, using their Blog and Photo sharing sites. We'll see how this works out and probably change later or add options as needed.

I've posted two albums today, culled from several hundred pictures taken with the new camera.

1) Scenes from Annapolis Harbor <>

As posted earlier, Geri and I went to Annapolis as a day trip. I wanted to give her a chance to have Maryland Blue Crabs. I brought the camera equipment (well, the 35mm equipment, anyway) to continue to familiarize myself with the D200. Most of the day's shots were simple "travel snapshots", so I selected a few that don't have any particular theme.

2) Day trip to DC <>

I took a "solo" trip into DC one day. It's a "Trains, Planes, and Automobiles" kind of a process. OK, no planes other than those flying overhead, but the heart of DC is pretty close the Reagan National Airport. In any event, the RV Park we stayed at has it's own bus terminal right next to the office. They sell bus tokens, Metro passes, etc. right there, and it's the "end of the line" for a bus route that goes to the local Metro (subway) station. I bought a token and a 1-day Metro ticket and off I went. It was about a one hour total trip, and I got off the Metro near the Archives. From there, it was a couple of blocks south the the National Mall. I stopped in the Air & Space Museum (more to use the loo than anything else), and continued west to the other end of the Mall. I walked north to another Metro stop near Georgetown rather than trudge back to my starting point, so I had to make a connection from one line to the other. I've been to DC enough times in the past (mostly business) to make it easy enough to get around.

A few observations:

It was a nice enough day for pictures although the sky was a little washed out (I'll play with Nikon's Capture NX to see if I can help that). Since many places in DC don't allow tripods, I didn't bring mine and regretted it from the photography point-of-view.

On the other hand, I was glad I didn't have the tripod from the weight management perspective. I've been planning to pick up a good medium-to-large photo backpack for a while now, and I really should have done it by now. The bag I have carries my 35mm stuff, except the filters, which are in the medium-format bag. Carrying the bag on one shoulder all day really aggravated my shoulders, making me remember why I stopped doing that with my computer bag while w*rking! I'll decide and order one for delivery to CT so I have it before we get to Maine and Canada.

Another "I just know better" moment: I hadn't gotten an hour into the walking on the Mall when I knew that I had the wrong shoes on. My Naot sandals are generally comfortable, but my walking shoes (or better -- fashion aside -- my hiking boots) would have been a lot better on my feet. I came really close to having a couple of serious blisters, and had to walk very carefully for a few days to avoid making them worse. I think I dodged a bullet on that one.

I also didn't bring any water with me, on the premise that I didn't need the extra weight and that I could buy some as needed. Underneath that, there's always a worry about finding a restroom. As it turns out, the National Park Service apparently doesn't want the whole tourist population using the nearest tree, so there are facilities spread around, actually more than street vendors.

I also learned that there are better times to visit than early-June. When I first went to Washington on my 8th Grade Class Trip, I didn't notice so many busloads of kids running around. I'm sure that's because I was one of them. Now, they all wear matching t-shirts in some bright color (yellow and purple seem popular) with their school's name on them. We had to wear jackets and ties (no, really, we did!). And I'm sure we were more respectful of our surroundings (well, maybe not, but it seems that way). On the other hand, Our trip to the Lincoln Memorial was cancelled because there was a large anti-war rally happening at the Reflecting Pool (remember the scene in Forrest Gump?) so we weren't allowed farther than the Washington Monument.

One last observation was that the grounds were looking quite peaked. The grass along the Mall is in pretty bad shape and many of the buildings and signs were showing their age. A lot of the directional signs haven't been updated in years (e.g., the Korean and WWII memorials aren't on the "you are here" maps). More budget cuts, I suppose.

All in all, a good day!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Maryland Blue Crabs

June 5, 2007
Annapolis, MD

We firmly believe in the old adage, "When in Rome, do as the Romans". For us, that means taking in the local food and (if possible) wine options. So, "when in Maryland", you've gotta have Blue Crabs. Accordingly, we set out today for Annapolis to see the sights and have lunch at "Buddy's Crabs & Ribs". It's right on the harbor and has been there for years. Al and I went there once several years ago when we were in the Baltimore area visiting friends (a long story not to be repeated here).

The trip from the Beltway to Annapolis is relatively short, east on US-50. We were there in about 1/2 hour, not counting the local traffic in Annapolis proper. Once off the expressway, it doesn't take long to get into narrow one-way streets reminiscent of parts of Old City Philadelphia. We found a place to park and walked around a bit, then had lunch. The crabs were good but filling (we brought 2 home to pick out the meat for salad), so we just had a salad for dinner. They weren't as good as the ones I had in Mumbai, but garlic beats Old Bay seasoning every time.

We stopped in a wine store (Mills Fine Wine & Spirits) and picked up a bottle of McCallan's and a Lompoc Pinot Noir. High prices and a very strong Red Burgundy section go together, and I didn't find a "local" section (not a real surprise), so we didn't buy much but it was fun to browse.

We're starting to get back to our regular routine of walking the dogs twice a day, and we can take various paths through the campground so we don't have to go the same way twice. Unfortunately, that means that there are new smells and spots to stop at, so progress can be a little slow at times.

Tomorrow's plan calls for a couple of projects around the coach and then a trip into DC by subway (the bus to the station leaves right from the park).

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Quiet Day

June 4, 2007
College Park, MD

Today was a "decompression day". We've been on the road and having something going on every day since we left Alabama. Today, we had "second sleep". That's when you get up around 7 AM and take the dogs out to pee, but then go back to bed and sleep until 9-something. Oh, yeah.

We thought about making today a clean-up day but didn't quite get the traction on that we'd hoped. I went up on the roof and put some C-10 sealant on a couple of spots that looked ready to let some water into the coach, which is pretty important since we're in "rain territory". While "Barry" is almost gone, we had another round of severe thunderstorms late this afternoon.

True to our habits, we headed to Whole Foods this afternoon. Geri found a recipe for a poached Halibut that was great -- a keeper. The poaching liquid starts with sauteed shallots/garlic with a white wine reduction, chicken stock, white beans and quartered grape tomatoes, with a little red pepper flakes for kick. It's served over wilted escarole. Good stuff. We'll scale the recipe and make this one again for friends.

After the thunderstorms passed, the weather cleared out quickly so we sat outside for a while. We spent a little time meeting and chatting with the people in the coach next door. They're from Santa Rosa, CA (love wine country) and have spent time in AZ near us so we had a chance to compare notes on places we've been. We'll see them again since we're here for the rest of the week and they're here through the 12th. They're trying to decide whether or not to stop in NYC on their way north. As expected, we vote a resounding "yes".

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Barry? Barry, who? Call Noah!

June 3, 2007
College Park, MD

Well it's been raining on us for just over 48 hours. Only 1,008 to go before Noah takes over. We've been in the "non-tropical" remnants of Tropical Storm "Barry" since Friday afternoon. When we got to Jacksonville, it started to rain. When we put The Weather Channel on, we heard all about how "Barry" (we completely missed, "Aaron", the "A" storm) was coming ashore near Tampa and how welcome the rain was. OK, we had heard about the drought and the fires, and had even driven through the smoke. We get it: they need a little rain.

Unfortunately for us, we're traveling in the basic track of the storm. It rained hard all Friday night. We drove almost out of it on Saturday, getting to Selma, NC a little ahead of it. It rained all night and all day driving up to the DC area. We arrived in College Park (on the north side of the DC Beltway) about 3 PM (spent about 1.5 hours within 15 miles of the place, stuck in traffic due to an accident) and it rained all the way. It rained while we hooked up. It rained while I went to the office to find a better spot than the one I gave us (the park's pretty big at over 350 sites, but they put us in the section where all the Carnival People are staying and we just didn't fit in -- not that there's anything wrong with Carnival People!). It rained harder while we unhooked and moved to a different spot and hooked up again. We just need to stay in and dry out at this point.

It looks like we'll have more rain overnight and into tomorrow. This is really a shock to the system for two people (and two dogs) who got used to the Phoenix sunshine really quickly. And to think we lived in NYC for two+ years, and had to be out and about (oot and aboot for our Canadian friends) no matter what the weather. How soon we forget!

All that said, we're happy to be here. I want to revisit many of the sights in DC (Geri's "just along for the ride" this stop) that we haven't seen in years. We hit DC for a wine tasting a few years ago, but we haven't done the Mall and the museums in a while. I'd like to get some interesting pictures (I'm behind on the photo front). If the weather holds, we'll be in good shape.

Speaking of good shape, we're continuing to check in on Mom each day by phone. Rick and/or Annette are doing the drive from Albertville to Gadsden each day as well, and it's a lot more of a drain on them. Mom's sounding better, even though she's still confused about what she had for dinner. :-)

After driving the coach since the alignment, we have mixed reviews. I can definitely feel the difference in the smoothness of the ride. Whether it's the alignment or the wheel balancers, who knows. On the other hand, we have a little bit more "play" in the steering at the center position. I'll have to do some more research to see what moves we make next to help. It's a constant process, of course.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Heading North!

June 1, 2007
Jacksonville, FL

We were finished up with the coach alignment earlier than expected today so we're headed north! We "dry camped" (no hookups) outside the facility's gate last night and all was well until about 3:30 AM when I heard another motor running. It was a "car carrier" truck (a converted 18-wheeler with all sorts of racks and lifts for hauling about 10 cars). It was lit up like a Christmas Tree with running lights and had an on board generator that actually sounded like a gas (not diesel) model. We had our generator on all night for the air conditioning, and ours was definitely a lot quieter. As it turns out, it was a couple with a new addition: a little girl who couldn't have been more than a month old. They made an impression in the alignment shop's waiting room (not sure when the last breast feeding in there was).

We had all three axles aligned (steer needed adjustment and drive + tag were OK), had the steer and tag tires shaved to round and re-balanced, and the Centramatic automatic wheel balancers installed. Everything was done just about noon (started a little after 7 AM); I'd expected it to take most of the day. It probably would have taken longer if more adjustment was needed.

We spent the morning staying out of way. We had breakfast at Denny's (in Dave's honor) and Geri made arrangements for the pups to have a "tubbie" at PetsMart. The coach was actually ready before the dogs! We picked up a few things at Wally World, Lowe's, and Sears (clothes, not tools for a change!) and were back on the road north before 2 PM.

Tonight, we're staying at the same park as Tuesday/Wednesday. It's on I-295 on the north side of Jacksonville, a few miles from the I-95 junction. We're all set for the trip up to DC, so the next blog post will probably be Sunday.