Friday, January 18, 2019

Delaware - Day 16

Trap Pond State Park
Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Not having the dogs here was a vacation for me.  I didn't get dressed until about 11:00 when I would normally be thinking of taking the dogs for their 3rd walk of the day.  I finally stirred myself just before 3:00 so I could go pick them up from their day care/boarding place.

I couldn't tell whether Lily enjoyed their absence or not while it was going on, but when the dogs got back she started hissing and clawing at them again, just like she did when she first moved in.  Only worse because this time she not only sat on the very very end of the bench to claw them, but she also reached out as far as she could to get to them.  This is a very small space and what she was doing was not reasonable for coexistence, but pretty good if she was trying to drive them out - not an option, of course.

The dogs were glad to be home (jumping up and down when they saw me) but must have had a good time because they've slept most of the time they've been back.  So it looks like a successful idea and I'll do it again later in the month.

On our last walk of the night I talked to the only other camper in the park that wasn't a campground host (I was wrong before - there are actually 3 host couples here).  He had a new type of RV that I hadn't seen before - a Class C that looked like a small Class A.  He said his wife was inside and that they were staying only one night because she had medical appointments the next day.  He said she's fighting cancer and has recently discovered trouble with yet another part of her body.  He looked in his 40s, so his wife is likely to be about that age too, and it must be extra hard on them for her to be so sick at such a young age.

All different kinds of people are living on the road.  Who'd have thought it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Delaware - Day 15 - Lewes

Trap Pond State Park
Tuesday, 15 January 2019
today's route
The roads seemed clear this morning, but I was still nervous about black ice because it was obviously below freezing when we left.  To safeguard as best I could, I took only main roads, figuring their level of traffic would have cleared the snow off yesterday.  The many side roads I've been taking lately wind around, sometimes in deep shadow from pine forests, and get much less traffic, so I was really worried about icy skids in inconvenient places.

I was late to day care, but at least we got there with no problems.  As usual, Dexter was overjoyed before I'd even parked.  I left them overnight for the first time, but I'm sure it'll work out just fine.

I was aiming for Lewes (pronounced "Lewis") on the Atlantic, and the already flat Delaware landscape seemed even flatter near the coast.  The fields were covered in snow and the pine needles were covered in frost - all very picturesque.

Venus Observatory
When I was in Lewes last spring I mentioned I'd seen a historic marker in a cemetery and would report on it when I came back through.  That would be now, and I can see why I thought it was worth mentioning.  This wasn't a marker about some person back in colonial days or something: this marker was titled "Transit of Venus Observatory."  I could see the title as I drove by today - sufficiently startling that no wonder I thought it might be worth checking out.

Venus moves across the sun (from our point of view) twice every 120 years, and 1769 was one of those years.  People around the world were working together to take measurements to use for figuring out how big our solar system is.  The measurements were taken in specific locations, and Lewes was chosen to be one of those places.  This article shows a clear photo of the historical marker and explains a little about the point of this exercise.  In another article I learned that Benjamin Franklin himself, as president of the American Philosophical Society, helped choose the Lewes site.

The next Venus transit is expected in 2117, and even modern medical miracles aren't enough for us to be alive for that one.

On the water
Lewes is pretty small (2,700) and it's easy to just keep driving through town because there's seems so little of it.  The 2 branches of Rt. 9 go over the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, a part of the Intracoastal Waterway.  Built about 100 years ago, it was intended to be used to haul freight but in reality it's been used mostly by pleasure boats.

The Lewes town beach and some condos and vacation homes are on the ocean side of the canal.  Also over there are the ferry from Lewes to Cape May (NJ) and the Cape Henlopen State Park, including Fort Miles.  I stayed in that park when I was here last spring and wrote about some of the fort buildings then.  That campground is huge, though, and very civilized - great for herding large numbers of vacationers but not so great for people like me who appreciate quiet, which is why I'm not staying there this time around.

Historic Lewes
I'd planned where I was going to go in town - the Historic Society and some of the old buildings - but it turned out so many roads were blocked with construction I gave up my plan and just drove around a bit.  Plenty of historic buildings in the main part of town.

Beginning 1637, Lewes was the site of the first European (Dutch) settlement in Delaware; it didn't last long but still has its claim to fame.  There were several tries there over the next 50 years and finally one lasted.

I stumbled across Mulberry Street and had to check it out.  When we were kids we often read a book called And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street.  I have no idea what the book was about, but I had to see what I could on Mulberry Street.  (I've since looked it up and, if you don't remember either, here's what originally happened on Mulberry St.
Mulberry Street in Lewes
Old houses.  That's what's on Mulberry Street in Lewes.  Very attractive, most of them in good repair.  Right behind me when I was taking the photo above was the building below.

Old Bethel Church
The marker shown on the right is on the building on the left.  If you can enlarge the marker photo, you'll see it mentions this building and Barratt's Chapel in Frederica as being the last surviving Methodist buildings from colonial days in Delaware.  As it happens, I've been planning to go to the chapel in the next few days, weather permitting, and I'm glad to have stumbled on this one as well.

The downtown area in Lewes is quite clearly old and very attractive, but didn't look like a good place for me to try to find a parking place.  Most businesses were lined up along Route 1 on the west side of town, and even there I couldn't always find an easy place to park.

I found a place that sold propane - just as well since I was nearly empty and it's expected to be quite cold tonight.  And I found a liquor store for a bottle of wine, and a grocery store for milk.  Lily was patient with all this but getting less so as lunch time came around.  I parked near the movie theater, bought my ticket early, and fed us both.

The movie I've been looking forward to is On the Basis of Sex, about Justice Ginsberg.  This is the first movie I've been to in over a year, mainly because it's taken me this long to figure out I need to dump the dogs at a boarding place to make the timing work.  Which is what I did.

I really like an earlier movie that Mimi Lederer directed called The Peacemaker, with George Clooney and Nicole Kidman, like it enough to have brought it with me on this trip.  I'm not quite as enthusiastic about this new movie, though this one wasn't intended to have the fast-paced action of the other.  It's well-done, though, the acting is good, the cast is sterling, and as a lawyer I really enjoyed the final courtroom scene (I've been in similar situations myself, though sadly didn't come off as well as she did).

The drive to the campground
Even though I went to the earliest showing of the movie, Lily and I still didn't get back to the campsite until going on 5:00.  The sun was setting and driving visibility was a challenge.

I passed a couple of advertising signs for someone named Schagrin.  I don't care how you spell it, if your name was chagrin wouldn't you change it?

I passed a sign advertising Frets 4 Vets, which I'd never heard of so looked it up, and it looks like a worthwhile group.  I remember hearing about a similar one in an NCIS program a few years ago, called MusiCorps.  But anyway, this one looks like they're working on a good idea.

I passed a small sign saying "Hatchery" by some very large buildings and thought Aha! I was right.  These buildings are housing chicken farms.  For once, this place had a sign with a name: Mountaire Farms.  I looked them up and yes, that's exactly what they raise.  I tried to find some photos online to show what kind of buildings I've been seeing, but none of them were available for me to use.  I haven't been able to take any photos of my own because when I see them I'm always going down narrow (no shoulder) country roads with zero turnoff areas.  Maybe I'll get lucky.

I passed an open snowy field and - even from a ways down the road - saw hundreds of birds circling around.  When I got closer I realized they were all Snow Geese.  They seem to be all over the state.  Big white birds with longish necks and black wing tips.  So pretty.

I was tired by the time I got to our spot.  Plugged in the electric cord, put on my flannel pajamas, and reveled in the thought that I didn't have to take the dogs out for any walks tonight.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Delaware - Day 14

Trap Pond State Park
Monday, 14 January 2019

I'm glad I decided not to go sightseeing today.  By midafternoon it warmed up enough so I didn't have to put on 3 layers of clothes to walk the dogs, but it was still only in the mid-30s.  And that was by about 3:00.  It didn't actually get up to 30° until at least after 9:00. 

The overnight cold made the snow so crunchy I didn't worry about whether we'd be sneaking up on the deer on our early morning walk, because that would have been impossible.  There was plenty of crunchy snow on the roads too, but there was also plenty of black ice and I had to be careful walking on it.  And that's why I'm glad I was staying put.

I spent most of the morning trying to figure out where I'd be able to go for the 2nd half of the month and what campgrounds I should plan to stay in, because I don't have a reservation after this Friday.  Part of my consideration is doggy day care.

I could find almost no day care facilities in the whole state of Delaware - all I could find online were kennels or in-home dog sitters, which isn't at all what I want.  Where I'm taking the dogs now is one of the only ones.  I tried several different search engines, too.  Weird.  And that fact really complicates my planning process, which is why I spent so much time on it.
Lily found a place in the sun
By midafternoon much of the snow on the roads was evaporating so I'm hopeful that I'll be able to make it in to day care tomorrow as planned.

I talked to Jo Ann about maybe having the dogs stay overnight on Thursday night because I want to go to a movie in Lewes, over on the coast.  Turns out, though, that I can't even take them in for day care on Thursday or Friday because she's too full.  I suddenly realized it's the start of a 3-day weekend and that might be why she's filled up.  She agreed, though, to let me bring them in Tuesday morning and pick them up on Wednesday afternoon, so I'll get to see my movie, I hope.

When I was walking the dogs this afternoon I found some of those cypress I hadn't been noticing.  These were just across the campground road from our site - I've been looking at them for days without registering what I was seeing.  You can even see a few knees here and there.

Bizarre shower facilities they have here.  For one thing there's so much iron in the water that all the fixtures are stained red or pink.  But the nuisance was that to take a shower you push a button and water flows from the shower head for 10 seconds.  Only 10.  Lots of hot water.  Great water pressure.  But after 7 seconds (one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three ...) the flow starts to taper off, and after 10 seconds there's no water at all.  Try taking a shower sometime where you have to interrupt yourself every 7 seconds.  But there was plenty of hot water and there was great water pressure, so you can't have everything.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Delaware - Day 13 - snow

Trap Pond State Park
Sunday, 13 January 2018

Even before I got dressed this morning I opened the door to see if it had snowed.  It had!  Lots of snow all over and no rain in sight.

The dogs loved being out for their early morning walk, and when we got back I measured what was on the picnic table: 3".  The table is under some pines so may not be the best place to measure, but I imagine it's pretty close.

Between the first and second walks it started snowing again so when we got back I measured again and, sure enough, there was now 4" on the table.
this is what 4" looks like
It kept up snowing off and on all morning, though sometimes it sounded like there were sleet pellets instead of snow.  And soon after lunch I started to hear big clumps of snow falling on our roof.  The noise scared Gracie quite a bit, but there was nowhere for her to escape it.  When we went out for a third walk, I found that the temp had warmed up a bit so the snow on the trees was melting, a wind had come up and was blowing the snow off, and also that there was so much snow accumulated that the tree branches couldn't hold it all anymore.  No wonder it was so noisy inside the RV.

By the time we'd finished our walk, the roads were slushy but there was still about 3" on the picnic table.  The forecast is for below freezing temps tonight, so I feel pretty sure the roads will be icy for much of tomorrow.  Unless things are a lot more melted than I'm expecting, I'm not going out again tomorrow.  But we'll see.

Delaware - Day 12

Trap Pond State Park
Saturday, 12 January 2018

The forecast keeps changing.  I've been hearing all week that we'd be getting a lot of snow during the day on Saturday with some possible on Sunday.  Then yesterday they were saying the snow would start late Saturday afternoon.  This morning they're saying maybe not till midnight with rain moving in before sunrise.

I've been hoping for snow for the dogs to play in, and now it's sounding like a very short window for snow during the night, to be likely all rained away by the time we get up tomorrow morning.

If I'd known this, I'd have stayed in to write yesterday and gone to the beach with the dogs today.  Oh well.  I'll still hope for snow.  I like it a lot as long as I don't have to shovel it or drive in it.

We mostly got clouds today and some quite chilly temperatures.  In between my blog-catching-up stints, the dogs and I walked all around the campground.

There are only 4 campsites being used besides mine - 2 of them are campground hosts and 1 is a youngish guy who leaves at 7AM and returns at 7PM, usually in a monster truck - big enough to tow a large piece of equipment.  It rumbles for a while when it's warming up in the mornings and upsets Dexter.

One of the campground hosts has a small dog he takes on brief walks occasionally; the other has a cat they let outside for a few hours every day.  The young guy doesn't seem to have pets.  The fifth camper, staying at the other end of the campground from the rest of us, turns out to have 2 dogs the size of mine.  I've been here for 4 days and only saw them for the first time today.

This campground is quite large, having 4 loops that each have about 30 spaces for RVs and a 5th loop just for tents where you're not allowed to drive. 

There are trees everywhere and close enough together that I have to watch out for them when I'm backing in to my site.  Mixed pines and various deciduous trees.  Massive amounts of leaves on the ground, which Gracie loves to roll around in and Dexter likes to search through and I like to scuffle as I walk.  It's a very comfortable place, especially with almost nobody else here.

Most of us are camped at the end by Trap Pond.  A decent-sized flock of Canada Geese seems to be living here, mostly on the other side of the lake but sometimes over here.  I've seen a Great Blue Heron here.  And a woodpecker and assorted other birds.  Very pleasant.  I was afraid being by the water would mean we'd be more subject to weather disturbances, but I've been noticing that even very strong wind gusts get funneled up to the tops of the trees and we don't feel them much at all down here on the ground.

I sure hope the snow doesn't disappoint me.

Delaware - Day 11 - southern Delaware: coast and swamp

Trap Pond State Park
Friday, 11 January 2018
today's route
What I really wanted to do today was catch up on my blog, but after rethinking the situation, I decided with the snow that's forecast for this weekend I'd have plenty of time to write then so had better go sightseeing while I still could.

The first place I wanted to go was Dagsboro.  Right.  Where??  But there was a woman in the laundromat yesterday who told me she'd spent her whole life in Dagsboro (except for several years in Florida and several more years somewhere else and for the last while she's been living in another somewhere, and she looked not much more than 40 so I kept wondering how long she'd actually lived in Dagsboro - and she kept repeating that several times).  Anyway, she said she'd loved living there, it was such a nice small town and the people were friendly, and then she'd come back to visit relatives (after going to Florida) and was horrified to discover lots of new houses and thought it was being ruined.  So I wanted to see.

Dagsboro looks like a nice little town, population 805 in the 2010 census.  And there are in fact, a batch of houses just off Main Street that are clearly much newer than the 1850-1950 era houses in most of the town.  It is unfortunately a complaint everywhere that nice places get ruined by people loving them to death.  That was my complaint about Austin.  I had a friend who was born and raised in Seattle and would never voluntarily set foot in it now because he hated what it had become.  Too bad if local government can't figure out how to deal with the changes and still keep their pleasant atmosphere.

All over Delaware I've been seeing housing being built.  Everywhere I've been in the state, housing developments.  Enough to make me wonder if Delaware's taken precautions to keep its farmland intact, like other states have done.  Also enough to make me wonder who it is that's moving into all these houses.  Is Delaware having a population boom?  Lots of people moving into the state?  It sure looks like it.

I drove over to the southern coast, to Bethany Beach (apparently well-known in the area) south to Fenwick Island (beyond which Maryland starts).  The small coastal communities all looked nearly brand new to me.  None of this quaint little 100-year-old seaside housing that I saw up in New England.  I'm sure it's all really nice, but it didn't look like any place I could afford.

As with all the East Coast beaches I've seen so far, Delaware doesn't allow any cars on its beaches.  Instead parking area and fences denoting walkways over the dunes.  Not having the dogs with me to enjoy it, I didn't stop.

The map shows a sizeable cypress swamp running from southern Delaware into Maryland.  I'd read that Trap Pond, where the campground is, is part of a cypress swamp preservation area, though I haven't seen any swamp myself.  So I went hunting for it.

The small country road I took across most of the state did in fact run through an area that was noticeably (even to me) a cypress swamp, complete with cypress knees (since without them I don't know how to identify cypress).  I saw farmland along the road and wondered if they had to drain the land to farm or if it was just a non-swampy part of the countryside.

The campground is about 15 miles from the swamp I saw, and I decided to take some extra time to look for the nature center nearby.  I found it, and there I found a sign saying Trap Pond State Park protects a remaining part of wetlands that once covered much of southwest Sussex County.  And as I drove from the nature center past the pond to the campground, I realized I'd been looking at cypress knees since I'd been here without realizing it.  Easy to be blind if you don't know what to look for.

Delaware, by the way, has a sum total of 3 counties.  New Castle County covers the northern third of the state, Kent County includes Dover (the capital) and the middle third of the sate, and Sussex County is the southern third.  (The county names alone proclaim the British influence in Delaware's early history.)

Disaster Cleanup
Back at the campground I took the time to finish what I'd started yesterday.  The professional had apparently come and gone, yesterday's mess had been cleaned up, and I still had tanks to empty.  So I did, without event (thank goodness).  But there still wasn't any water at the dump site so I had to pack up that hose yet again and take it back to my campsite where there's water.

I hooked up my water hose and got a reluctant stream of water (the temperature was at or below freezing all day) and washed the outside of the hose and the inside of the hose container out in all the leaves at my campsite.  I knew not to wash out the inside of the hose because of leaving human waste to lie around on the ground like that.  But I had to get off the relatively minimal waste on the outside of the hose, and that's what I did.  I figured if anybody wanted to complain, then complaints could work both ways, but no one did.

By the time I'd gotten that done and the hose repacked, my hands were feeling frostbitten.  Those vinyl gloves are great for keeping waste off your hands, but they aren't insulated.  So I went inside and turned on the heater and spent time getting warmed up.  That made Lily happy.

Delaware doesn't seem to use volunteers to clean up litter off the roadways.  I'm pretty sure it's prisoners that I've been seeing staffing litter crews while I've been here, and I haven't seen any of those "this highway adopted by ___" signs we see in so many places.

I finally figured out that I've been seeing lots of chicken farms as I've been driving around.  I haven't seen even one that was labeled, but I'm sure that's what those huge buildings I've seen are housing, is chicken farms.  We're right next to Maryland which is known for poultry, and I can't imagine what else there'd be in so many unlabeled very large industrial-looking buildings.

I've seen several signs like this:
Oddly, that sign really works.  I do in fact look again every time I see it.

Delaware mostly has unadorned license plates like these.  They're all either black or blue.

Some of them have only 4 numbers and look more old-fashioned, but they can be on brand-new cars so I can't tell how they're issued.  Maybe you get to keep your license plate when you buy a new car.

Back to day care
I got another great report.  Jo Ann seems to have come around to Dexter, as people usually do after a while.  He really is a sweetie, but he's an acquired taste.

Delaware - Day 10 - errands in southern Delaware

Trap Pond State Park
Thursday, 10 January 2019
today's route
Doggy Day Care
Our first stop today was the day care to drop off the dogs.  Dexter knew as soon as we pulled into the driveway where we were and started getting really excited - not a good state for him as he starts over-reacting to almost everything when he's like that.  Especially to other dogs, which is what were inside the day care.  But he started settling down almost right away, which reassured Jo Ann into letting him stay.  Thank goodness.

The campground has laundry facilities (a washer and a dryer), but I got really tired of the seriously lackluster performance of the machines at the New Jersey KOA and decided to find a commercial place with onsite staff.  I found one about 15 miles away, but because the route involved mostly country roads it took the best part of a half hour to get there - seeing more small Delaware towns and more flat Delaware countryside on the way.

On the way I saw another large flock of Snow Geese flying.  Really so pretty.

It was a very nice laundromat, full of people who seemed to go there frequently - almost like Cheers, where everybody knows your name.  Very friendly.  Good, functional machines for an almost reasonable price.  It's much easier for me to do laundry when the dogs aren't around, insisting I walk them every time I enter or leave the RV and pouting if I don't.  Lily slept through it all in her perch by the upstairs window in the sun.

Near the laundry was a Food Lion, a chain I'd found when I was in this part of the country before and retained a good impression of, so I stopped there for weekend supplies.  My memory was right, it is a good chain with a reasonable selection and reasonable prices and pleasant staff.  Hard to beat that.  (I get absolutely sick of trying to find national brands at stores that insist on offering only their own version of the product.  This place doesn't do so much of that.)

I took a different route back to a gas station close to the campground where I remembered trying to buy propane when I was here last spring.  That was the time when I went to multiple places, none of which were able to convince their equipment to deliver propane into my RV until finally an RV dealership realized I was missing a gasket.  Since I now still had the gasket they gave me then, I figured this place would be able to sell me the gas, which they did.  Since bad weather is predicted for this weekend, and since the tank level was pretty low already, I didn't figure this was something I could afford to play chicken with.

Then Lily and I went back to the campground so I could dump my waste tanks, and that's where things went wrong.  The rule is to dump the blackwater tank first, then follow up with the graywater tank to help clean out the pipes.  So I connected the hose to my tank, plugged the other end into the hole in the ground, and pulled the plug on the blackwater tank.  Suddenly, all that waste started whooshing out of the hole in the ground into the surrounding area.  I quick like a little bunny shoved the plug back in, but there I was with a disaster area, more unpumped in the tank, and my hose in all that yuck.  It was clear the hole was plugged up, but it wasn't clear what on earth I could do next.

It wasn't all that far to the office, so off I went, still wearing the vinyl gloves but not wanting to take them off because I only had a few more pairs left and didn't know how many I'd need for the disaster mitigation work.  The nice lady in the office said she'd send someone.  I walked back to the disaster site.  The campground host tootled up, looked at the situation, and said they'd have to call a professional.  He offered to load me and my yucky hose up into his little golf cart so I could go somewhere to wash it off (the water being turned off at the dump site for the winter), but I only had about 10 minutes before I needed to leave for the dogs.

Instead I just packed the hose up in its container, yuck and all, thanked heaven that the weather was cold enough I wouldn't need to worry about the smell right away, and left to get the dogs.

Day Care redux
Jo Ann reported both the dogs had been great, that Gracie is wonderful (everybody who doesn't live with her thinks that) and yes, I could bring them back tomorrow too.

It was well after 4:00 by the time I got back to the campground, the sun was already getting low, the dogs wanted another walk, and after that mess earlier I wanted a drink.  I decided to postpone dumping the rest of the tanks until I felt more able to cope with any problems.