Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Oh THAT Niagara

June 17

When I set out I knew there were places that I really wanted to see:  Grand Canyon, The Everglades and so on.  For some reason it never occurred to me to go see Niagara Falls.  There I was in Pennsylvania looking for somewhere to go and right there on my map app was Niagara Falls - so I went.

I parked at the casino that is right downtown and "paid" for my stay by eating at the buffet.  They had gluten free desert and I ate waaay too many of them.

From the casino it's only a half mile to the falls so I avoided the $20 a day parking fee by walking.

It's really three falls, Horseshoe, Bridal Veil and American Falls

Super fun to take the boat tour.  You get good and soggy and they take you right up to both the American Falls and Horseshoe Falls.  It's also fun watching all those people destroy their expensive phones by taking pictures in what amounts to a hurricane.  I had my phone in a plastic bag.

It's an easy walk across the bridge to enter Canada and worth the trip.  The Canadian side has a walkway along the river from the bridge up to Horseshoe falls - like, right up to the edge of the falls.  Plus it's fun to tell the border checkpoint guy that you're only staying for half an hour or so.  How far did he think I would get on foot if I were escaping to Canada?

Another advantage of sleeping close to the action was that I could break the visit into two days.  I did the "cave of the Winds" tour on the second day.  There is no longer a cave but they put up walkways that let you get up close and personal with Bridal Veil Falls.

Although I managed to be polite enough not to take pictures of them, it looked like there was a mennonite outing to the falls that day.  Lots of young couples and families getting drenched right along with me.  Funny to see them trying to protect their hats by putting them under the plastic poncho.  I was soaked despite the exotic plasticwear we were given and I expect their straw hats weren't nearly as crisp after the adventure.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Camping in the Alleghany

May 31 - June 16, 2017

The best place to be when it's hot is in the trees and by the water.  There are a bunch of free campsites along the Clarion Rive in the Alleghany National Forest and I scooped up a nice one.  They are really set up for tent campers but some of the spots have a larger parking area.  I walked up and down the road almost every day and only saw one tent but there were a lot of trailers crammed into small parking areas.  The benefits of being able to arrive on a Wednesday I guess.

Hot cat.  Well, if I didn't give him all my cooling resources he'd be hot.

The first couple days were cool in the morning and I let the cats out.  They don't wander although Butch has a tendency to find a hidden spot to sit and watch the world go by.  By the third day it was warm enough that I was worried about snakes in the underbrush and EEEEWWWWW  Bo came in with ticks on his face.  I'm getting less freaked out by then and I'm certainly not going to let my cat get sick from a tick-borne disease so off they came.  eww.

Butch was mad that I could go out and he couldn't.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Who Knew PA was so Amazing?

May 26 - 30, 2017

Driving out of DE and into PA was a gradual greening process with increasing trees and farmlands along the roads.  I pulled into WM and pulled up the National Parks website to plan my time.  Valley Forge is not from from Philadelphia and I gotta say, local residents are extremely lucky.  Not only is it free, the park is laced with hiking and biking trails that take you over historic sites and through some very pretty scenery.  It's very much like a huge city park, but with guys wearing odd clothing.  Again, I took no pics.  I need to avoid getting blase about seeing cool things.

Hopewell Furnace is another fun place to visit with restored buildings that tell the history of forging iron in PA.

Plus I got lost while driving and took a few side trips through farmland on small, windy roads over tiny bridges.

Found some "grown in Pennsylvania" apples from Yakima.

Another "Walmart adapts" sign.  Parking for those that arrive in a buggy (Amish country).

View from that same WM

Idea was good but the chips were nasty.  More like extra salty barbecue chips.

Bo has decided that with all the driving his best bet is to start eating when I sit in the driver's seat and stuff as much in as possible before the vehicle starts.  Poor starvling.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delaware Sucks

May 21 - 25, 2017

Harsh, I know, but I have never felt so unwelcome in a state and based on some reviews from other free campers my experience isn't unique.

First WM I stopped at was fine.  Spent a day lounging and enjoying my sunburn, figuring I'd head out the next day.  Woke up to crappy weather and decided to stay and extra day.

Now, I park far away from the entrance and back into a spot on the edge whenever possible so I only take up one space.  I don't litter, I don't run a generator and I shop at the store where I'm parked.  In other words, I'm not even remotely obnoxious.

Fine.About 10am there's a knock on my door.  Officer friendly is informing me that I have overstayed my welcome and the manager would like me to leave.  Okay, It is a small lot and parking here is a kindness, I have no problem leaving.  The officer then asks for my ID and I assume he just wants to make sure I'm legit and all that --- NO!  He took my ID and ran my name through their little system!  WTF!  Treating someone like a criminal is so not cool. I was kind of torqued about that (OK, still am).

Anyway, after some internet research I believe that I don't have to hand a cop my ID unless I'm suspected of committing a crime so on the off chance this ever happens again I'll be denying the officer my ID and filming it.  I'm starting to understand why these videos show up on YouTube.

So.  Drove in the wind and rain to a nearby casino.  Although not a pretty place, I parked there for two days and no one cared, so that was nice.

Drove a little farther to another casino.  And I parked in the big-rig area - a gravel pad away from the parking lot, and it was empty, and the parking lot wasn't full, and I was paying my "fee" by eating at the casino restaurant but no, you can't stay here unless you are gambling.  Seriously?  Do you wonder why there are no rvers when other casinos typically have dozens of rigs in their lots?

Delaware casino.  Note the complete lack of rvs in front of me, and the (possibly four but maybe only three rvs over to the left). Casino is barely visible to the right of the grandstand.

Washington casino.  Yeah, packed.

Fine.  Whatever.  I checked my WM parking app.  Hmm.  Many stores have no overnight parking policies but some allow it.  Let's check the reviews:

Max 24 hours.  Must leave by six am.  Must leave early.

Really?  Okay, well, I guess there's nothing to see in Delaware anyway.  There are plenty of states that welcome tourism.

Since my friend in New Jersey wasn't going to be available after all, I hightailed my butt outta DE and into the spectacularly beautiful state of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Oh My God!! Ticks!!!!

May 17 - 20, 2017

The E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area seemed like a reasonable place to chill for a few days while another blast of hot weather blew through.  It turned out to be less than ideal, partly due to the parking area being several yards from the trees, and partly because - dear god - we are in tick country.

When I pulled in there was a pickup parked with two guys doing something to a dog.  I immediately offered the use of my 'cat repair kit' but they said they were only removing ticks from the dog after a walk.  Eww. Thanks for the warning.  I immediately consulted Google and discovered that wearing light colored clothing and using DEET were an excellent deterrent.  Uh huh.

The next morning I went for a walk.  I was hoping the cooler air would deter ticks along with my long pants over knee-length socks and tucked into a second pair of ankle socks.  I sprayed my shoes, socks and pants with Off, and rubbed my DIY bug repellent over the rest of my skin.  I even tucked the repellent wipes into my hair before setting off to check out the hunting area.

It was a pleasant walk through knee-high grass although this part of the world seems to have flies that bite you.  FLIES!!  Shouldn't they be munching on deer poop or something?  Blah.

Got back after about an hour and found ticks all over my pants, socks and shoes.  So much for DEET.

I disrobed outside, carefully stepping into my sandals as I removed each tennis shoe and hung the clothes on the mirrors.  One site I had visited mentioned vinegar as a tick deterrent so I sprayed that on the pants, socks and shoes and left them to dry.

And then I didn't walk in the grass again.

Despite all this, I still managed to get four ticks on me and one on the cat. Eww eww eww eww.  I know there's some prescribed method for removing those suckers properly, but I went for the 'scream and tug' method.  Highly effective.

I'm thinking the ticks were so abundant that even stepping onto the mown area they got on my shoes and made their way into the camper.  Ewwwwwwww.

It also got much hotter than predicted.  The cats were miserable.

Bo gets patted down with water when it gets really warm.  There was a slight breeze coming in the door and I augmented it with a battery powered fan.

Even Butch, who glories in being toasty, was limp.

The fun part about staying here was watching the hunters.  They'd arrive early decked out in camouflage to trek back into the grass and wait for the turkeys.  A few hours later they'd trek back, climb into their pickups and go home.  Shortly after that the turkeys would come into the camping area to eat all those yummy ticks stalking unwary rvers. 

Sorry for the blur - it's the zoom on my phone.

Hot weather is over! Time for another beach!

Wild Horses

May 20, 2017

I left the camping area early to get to the beach.  Assateague Island National Seashore has wild beaches and even wilder horses (or ponies, depending on who you talk to.  Apparently they are the size of ponies, but have the structure of horses.)  They kindly graze in the parking area to greet visitors.

There are many boardwalks to the shoreline and I walked on the beach for a couple hours (and got really sunburned, but, whatever).

This looks like an insane amount of fun.

More ponies a short way off a walking trail

Mennonite (probably) vacationers.  For some reason it makes me really happy that even with a strict religion, people can go to the beach.  

Ponies stopping traffic.  No one minded.

I had thought about camping here for a night but walking the shore made me happy I hadn't.  The wind was super-strong and being even a few feet inland from the water blasted your skin with blowing sand.  The tents along the shore looked uncomfortably slammed by gusts of wind, and I'm not sure the noise of the sand-blasting and possible paint removal from the vehicle would have been worth the experience. Maybe it was an exceptionally windy day and normally you don't need to cover your skin to avoid being scoured.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Big F***ing Bridge

May 10 -16, 2017

I wanted to see the ponies on Assateague Island and was hoping to connect with a friend in New Jersey, both of which required crossing a really, really long bridge.  To delay the crossing I planned to camp overnight at the boat launch for the Great Dismal Swamp (because how can you pass up visiting a place with that name?) but Mr. Ranger politely asked me if I thought I was planning on camping there, and I just as politely so "No!  Of course not!  This is a parking area!"

Oh well.  At least I got a few pictures.

Just as well, I guess.  People that stayed in the real campgrounds left reviews complaining that it was like sleeping in a swamp.  Gee.

Now for that bridge.  I never quite realized this before, but I seem to have a thing about driving over bridges - and not a good thing.  Even the small ones are a little freaky and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge crosses, well, an entire bay.

It's 23 miles of bridge and tunnel (they made islands in the bay to anchor two tunnels) with a minimum speed (strictly enforced, according to the signs) and a sturdy breeze that all watery places seem to have.  I fell below the 50 mph limit coming up out of the tunnels (well what did they expect?  Stupid steep tunnels) but managed to be reasonably speedy the rest of the way.  There really weren't any gusts of wind but I was so intent on not being blown sideways IF a gust hit that I was pretty tense the whole drive.  Luckily there's a rest stop at the end that allows 48 hour parking.  I stayed one night and met a lovely gentleman who told me he's been rving for 25 years and offered up all kinds of advice. 

Deep breaths.  No bridges for a while.