Times Square, Ellis Island, Lady Liberty, Freedom Tower Gettysburg National Military Park

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Two Weeks on the Road – four stops with great fun times & memories!

October 14 – day 14 of our USA tour – we have made it to North Carolina – visited four campgrounds – all different with a range of comfort, vistas,  and weather.  We have spent time with new and old friends and family.  We have encountered all kinds of things from pouring sideways rain in Florida NY to bug infestations in Carlisle PA, heavy ground fog in Staunton VA, and glorious starry nights in Mt Airy NC.  It has been both a learning experience, and great fun along the way. We have struggled with terrible WiFi, poor water pressure and hard water from wells, bugs, bugs and more bugs! But we have loved this experience and all the adventure.

We stayed a Big Bear Campground in Florida NY – a small town 46 miles north of NYC – we had a great New York City bus tour with stops at Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty, and Ground Zero/World Trade Centers Memorial – a touching reverent place.  We had yummy pizza in a NYC pizzeria, a bumpy windy boat ride to the Statue, met some great folks from Fort Worth Texas with an Entegra Cornerstone motor home – a sweet ride!  We spent two whole days in the bus sheltered from the rain during the early October storm.and left for Carlisle in the sun finally.  There we spent four days visiting with Navy friends who we met in Boston 20 yrs ago – Bob & Sue – they took us to Gettysburg  National Memorial Park & Museum – that was a very moving experience – the battleground is preserved perfectly with memorials scattered around the fields to the soldiers who fought and died – both North & South – over 21,000 in three days.  The Museum was terrific, – the cyclorama oil painting of the battle first shown in Boston in 1913, has been restored and placed in a great new building.  This museum presented the battle in great detail and it is a must stop for all Americans –  a heavy reminder of the violence and vagaries of war.  Day 2 in Carlisle area was spent in beautiful Lancaster County – Amish Country – where we visited farms, a home and learned a great deal about the Amish – they are simple, peaceful people who live among the English as they call those who are not members of their faith (us).  They do not live in separate communities here but make great neighbors and are industrious and hard-working people.  All of their work is done without machines, personal telephones, televisions, computers, cars, trucks etc.  They use propane or wood to heat their homes and might have 1 emergency telephone that they share with other families.  They farm large tracts of land with horse & mule drawn tractors and plows.  They raise corn and other crops as well as herds of milk providing cows.  They pay taxes but rarely vote and do not participate in politics – they say it takes them away from God.  We stopped at a market to buy some produce and jellies.jams – they were very welcoming – it was a delightful experience.  We were impressed by their kindness and support of each other.  They treat each other – men & women equally and all share in the work and benefits of their productivity. They have a great community spirit we could learn from, although we found their lack of buttons & zippers on clothes to be odd.  The Amish came to America by the early 1700s upon invitation from William Penn.  They sought refuge from persecution in Europe for the practice of their faith and their culture has not changed much since then. We saw a number of schools – the kids attend only until eighth grade and then they work full-time with their families on their farms ands business.  It is worth a visit and it is a good reminder of how many people are here in America for their freedom!

The following day we went in the opposite cultural direction – The Hollywood Casino & Penn National Racecourse  – to enjoy a relaxing dinner  while watching with horse races. It was a cool way to spend an evening.  Carlisle was an interesting place to visit with some typically American small city architecture – surrounded by growing suburbs that have not lost their rural feel – especially with occasional Amish farms along the boundaries.  The farmland is rich and productive with sweeping vistas of corn and cows.  We departed Western Village RV Park on a great sunny day to travel.

We made it to Staunton/ Walnut Hills KOA by early afternoon and had time to drop into our grand-daughter Rachael’s volleyball game at her high school  in Highland County.  Friday was spent relaxing little as we try to do after each travel day.  That evening we joined our son and his family – grand daughters, Rachael & Katie at their beautiful home high atop a hill in Doe Hill VA.  I had a night ride in a ATV with Katie driving to fetch some hay for her horses.  I did wear a helmet, but she’s a mighty good driver! On the way back to the house we awakened some cows and saw two big deer darted across the path in front of us.  Rachael introduced us to her menagerie of pets – even a small hedgehog.  Lenny enjoyed meeting dogs – Gunner & Molly as well as two cats who were pretty friendly.  Saturday was spent at the Virginia Horse Center watching Katie ride Darby in several courses.  It was cloudy and cold so this was not an optimal day but we did meet Katie’s new horse Bly, who is a beauty. We brought Rachael back to the Taj with us to get warm and tour the bus. The family joined us for a visit that evening.  On Sunday Chris et all took us to the mountain nearby where Bradford proposed to Amy and we had some great foliage photo opportunities.  I also got to meet some cows up close & personal including Katie’s prize wining Angus cow.  It is beautiful country and we were lucky to be there in peak leaf peeping season. The hair pin turns through the mountains to Doe Hill were great photo chances – but neither Lenny or I loved them  – Rick did a great job driving the CRV – we did not take the Taj… We plan to return to Staunton & this KOA in late April 2016.  It was great to spend a few days with them all, catching up and getting the tour of their home & community.

Mount Airy was our next stop – the home of Any Griffith – which we did not know until we arrived!  At Mayberry Campground we have a spectacular site overlooking the park – this is just below the Blue Ridge Mountain Plateau area – after traveling south from the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, this is a welcome change. The stars at night here are spectacular as we are far from the glow of city lights.  Yesterday, we visited the small Andy Griffith museum and enjoyed memories of a calmer time in our lives. This stop here was a chance to recharge our human batteries after a week and half of driving, setting up camp every four days and visiting friends & family.

We depart Mt Airy NC tomorrow for Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA where we will be for two months – till early December.  Photograph coming shortly –  after I download them.

Catskill Mountains – Saugerties, Kingston, Woodstock & Bethel

The second part of this trip was an 8 day stays at Saugerties/Woodstock KOA Campground at the base of the Catskills  A small campground with maybe 60-70 sites for tents, RVs and cabin renters.  The weather was perfect most days – less humidity than in the Poconos, although it is a forest area – it was less dense and more breezy  The mountains were lovely as were the small towns we visited and enjoyed.  We visited Opus 40  – a magnificent earth sculpture in Woodstock designed, created & constructed by Harvey Fite alone, single handedly! The mountains in the distance behind this amazing sculpture make the entire experience inspirational.  I will post several Opus 40 photos – it is a spot not to be missed if you are in this area.  Also recommended is a Hudson River Cruise – 2 hour trip down the river from Kingston with pleasant narrative and views of the lovely historical architecture and river front – still unspoiled by development  The river itself is not recommended for swimming but the sights are worth the $13 per person  – for seniors.  Also don’t miss The Red Onion Restaurant in Woodstock  and Miss Lucy’s Kitchen in downtown Saugerties. We found these on TripAdvisor and they lived up to their reviews. Dinner at the Onion was delicious – best Caesar salad in years with a pleasant Syrah selected from the impressive list.  Seafood Risotto and two fabulous desserts crowned a great meal that was definitely up to our Boston standards – in a converted old victorian surrounded by thick forest and daunting mountains. It did have a lot of New York City types there as it was a Friday night – so many folks come for the weekend … :-).  Our server was delightful  – recently arrived from LA (?)and she brought humor and warmth to the experience.  There are not a lot of four star restaurants – McDonalds, local pizzerias and diners abound, so it was a pleasure to find these two places.  There were no similar restaurants in the Delaware River Gap area.  Miss Lucy’s Kitchen had the best homemade pastrami you can imagine – and one sandwich is enough for two – we discovered.  Its a small place just off the Saugerties main drag – seats about 30 but great little bar with comfy stools and reasonable wine selections – we would do dinner if we ever get back that way.  Saugerties was a sweet riverside town with interesting architecture and obvious attempts to retain its historical character. Its an artsy area – with a creative atmosphere everywhere and a number of artists studios. Each summer there is an auction to raise money for youth organizations and this year theme is decorated cars about 15 inches in length – they are exhibited around the main street area along the sidewalks.  You will see photos of the cars too.  Kingston appears slighted bigger also historic – because of port location it was the first capital of New York during the mid 1600s. The river cruise departed from the dock area so we had a chance to see the historic preservation underway.  The river is dotted with unique lighthouses – two mark these two ports – they are still in use although not manned and one is a bed & breakfast as well as a museum  We walked out to the Saugerties Lighthouse through a dense marsh/flood plain – which gave us many bird watching and photographic opportunities – Lenny got a chance to get wet and cool off there – it was in the 90’s that day.

We also drove to Bethel  one day – site of Woodstock Festival.  I along with thousands of others never made it there – stuck in traffic somewhere just inside NY border.  The museum is worth the trip – the presentation of the Festival’s historical context takes you back in time – its a time warp – the memories come flooding back.  The field was bought by some well intentioned folks several years ago and is preserved in its natural state – Bethel Center for the Performing Arts is the site above it with the museum and concert area  The trip there from our campground took several hours but the mountain roads, occasional waterfalls, winding rivers, streams and farmland made it a beautiful journey.  It was cool & important to connect again with what changed us all forever – the music, art, the protests, the Vietnam War and the struggle to have a voice in our futures.

On the trip we met all kinds of people from Canada, Florida, South & North Carolina, Iowa, New York, Maine, Vermont, California, Quebec, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts – there is an amazing array of diversity out there on the road – its fascinating and there is never a dull moment. This trip reaffirmed our decision to start our USA Tour full time in late September.  It’s what we want to do.  It will not be without pitfalls – we dragged the Honda for a few hundred feet as we were leaving NY with the parking brake on and that cost us a new tire.  Won’t do that again.  Rick had a reoccurrence of gout but we got his meds ASAP via his PCP & CVS.  I fought mosquitoes everywhere but have found some successful anti bite strategies.  We learned a lot about the beautiful bus we own and how to use all its features.  We also got lots of new ideas from other travelers.

This is going to be a lot of fun!!

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