Thursday, December 13, 2018

New Jersey - Day 11

Clarksboro KOA
Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Very heavy frost overnight again.  The TV weather people said it feels like January.  Since I won't be here in January, I'm sure it's great to know what I'd be missing, but I'd have preferred to know about December.  Especially if it would have been warmer.

My hydraulic door opener is moving ve-r-r-ry slowly in this cold weather.  I wonder if people who have slides on their RVs have the same sort of hydraulics and, if so, if they have a similar problem.  I have to wait nearly a minute for the door to open all the way to let me and the dogs out, which seems excessive.  But I don't move as well in the cold either.

I saw the full turkey flock again in the woods near the RVs.  They show up early in the mornings and I'm starting to see them more often.  Nice.

Fortunately for my to-do list, it got much warmer today - up into the 40s and sunny - so it was much easier for me to make myself do things.  I took out the trash, dumped the waste tanks, did the laundry, took a shower, planned my itinerary for tomorrow - basically felt like doing something besides hibernate for a change.

New Jersey - Day 10 - Atlantic City

Clarksboro KOA
Monday, 10 December 2018

By about 5:30 this morning, we'd run out of propane and, therefore, heat.  The campground office doesn't open until 9:00, so I spent some online time trying to find another propane source anywhere in the vicinity, to no avail.  Well below freezing outside so, after awhile, it got pretty cold inside.  When I finally noticed both my puppies sitting in front of the heater, looking up at me telling me to start it up, I caved.  I started the engine and ran the regular engine heat for a half hour until the inside temp got close to 70°, and everybody started acting like themselves again.

We were waiting at the propane tank at 9:00 and they filled us up with 9.7 gallons, the most I've ever needed before, and I hope it's the last time (though doubt it).  The tank holds 12.8 gallons but can't be filled full as the propane needs room to expand in the tank (though I'm not clear on the process it goes through).  I just know it was empty because the heater wouldn't heat any more, which seemed pretty decisive.
today's route
I heard a new word on NPR today: "shambolic" which was used to describe effects of Brexit.  And we think we have problems.

The road down to Atlantic City - on the other side of the state, as you can see - showed me more farmland and horses all along.  Multiple wineries.  Bonesaw Brewery.

The road went by Rowan University in Glassboro.  It seemed pretty big so I looked it up.  It was started in 1923 as a normal school for training teachers and is now a highly ranked regional university.  Reminded me of the evolution of Southwest Texas State Teacher College in San Marcos, where I went to school for a bit.

I passed a tree farm.  This whole part of New Jersey has pine trees everywhere - easy to see, now that there aren't leaves on the trees any more.

In Hammonton I came across the Atlantic Blueberry Co. and, since I didn't know this was blueberry-growing area, I looked it up.  It was started in 1935 by a batch of 2nd generation Italian brothers, who planted a bunch of blueberries - and now it's one of the world's largest suppliers of high-bush blueberries.  Shows what immigrants can do for their new homeland.

Everywhere I've been driving I see frost on the roads and patches of snow in the shaded areas.  It's just not getting warm enough in the daytime for it to disappear.  There's still some at my campsite, actually.

Coming into Atlantic City I passed an enormous Jewish cemetery.  Huge.

I passed a large sign proclaiming: "Julia, World Renowned Spiritualist."  Almost tempted to stop off and check it out.

As I got close to the city, I passed dozens of cheap motels, reminding me of seaside towns everywhere.  Corpus Christi, for instance, has the same array.  But Atlantic City has such a casino-type reputation I tend to forget it's on the Atlantic Ocean.

When we got into town, we found this temple-type thing, and I have no idea what it's about.

As you can see, Ventnor Ave. is one of the streets at this intersection, inescapably reminding me of our old Monopoly board.  In fact, that board kept hitting me in the face.  I saw St. James Place, Pennsylvania Ave., Tennessee Ave., New York and Kentucky and Indiana and North Carolina and Connecticut Avenues.  Pacific and Atlantic Avenues.  They're all right downtown.

I remember coming through town back in the mid-1980s with my husband and step-daughter and thinking it's no wonder Baltic Ave. was so cheap in the game, because it seemed practically a slum area in real life.  Well, I didn't see it this time, but the town seems to have done a rethink about its ambiance.
Pacific Ave. today
As you can see in this photo, lots of the old buildings have been knocked down, replaced with parking lots.  But some are clearly still there and it's not hard to see what grandeur was once here.

When we got to town, I accidentally drove straight onto the Boardwalk.  One thing I noticed all day was that this town obviously doesn't expect anybody from out of town to drive in it because there were no helpful signs for motorists.  No "dead end" signs (I found, to my inconvenience).  No sign that would have told me not to drive on the boardwalk.  I didn't know the road ended.  It looked like it just went over this little hill and kept on going, so I did - or tried to.  Some outraged pedestrians kept staring at me as I tried to turn around, wondering how much weight the thing could stand.

We parked nearby and I walked the dogs twice and we had some lunch.  Very strong wind coming off the Atlantic, but it was sunny so nice out of the wind.
Step #2 - off the boardwalk onto the beach path

Step #1 - the boardwalk & buffer zone
Step #3 - greet the Atlantic Ocean
The dogs do love the beach.  They sniffed and rolled and ran (pulling me behind them) and had a great time, not noticing the wind.  (But I did.)
looking along the beach to the casinos
the boardwalk

Take a look at that little hotel in the boardwalk photo.  Actually, it's not a hotel - it's now condominiums.  But to me it's like a neon sign saying "1960s!"  It's right next to what was once a Hilton (the sign's been removed) and as soon as I saw it I thought of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack entertaining at Atlantic City.

Casinos everywhere, of course - Bally's, Tropicana, Caesar's Palace, Hard Rock, Harrah's.  Even a place called Oh St. Joseph Resort Club.  (Huh?)  But my favorite building was a restaurant.
Knife and Fork Inn, established 1912
Pretty neat looking, huh?  I saw it coming near that round columned structure and took this photo out the cab window.  Those are little crossed knives and forks on the sides.

We took some different roads on the way back and passed a flock of sheep.

I saw people outside their homes either decorating for Christmas or raking leaves - lots of both.

Odd kind of trip - felt as much like time-travel as anything else, though most of that was done in my mind.

New Jersey - Day 9

Clarksboro KOA
Sunday, 9 December 2018

We were only traveling for about 5 hours yesterday, and much of that was stopping to walk and explore.  But I'm still tired today.  Maybe this trip is aging me faster than I thought, or maybe it's the effect of cold winter weather plus short days taking away my initiative, but I can't seem to find either the energy or the motivation to go out every day.  I guess that's okay too.

I spent a lot of the day figuring out where I'm going tomorrow.  I decided on Atlantic City, but then had to figure out a route and what I want to see when I get there.  Amazing how much time that takes when, like me, you don't like the routes the computer programs offer (they love toll roads more than I do).

Someone here in the campground has trailered in an old VW convertible, with a license plate claiming it's "historic."  I've got a problem with something being labeled historic when I had a new one myself 45 years ago

Nice to be able to watch "Meet the Press" again. 

New Jersey - Day 8 - Delaware coast

Clarksboro KOA
Saturday, 8 December 2018

I'm sorry these next few posts have been so delayed.  Time seems to have gotten the better of me but I'll try to make friends with it.
today's route
Today I went first into Paulsboro to pick up my prescription refill at the CVS, and then went on through town heading east southeast.  My aim was the small towns along the coast of the Delaware River.

I found out about that question of where the boundary with Delaware is, by the way, and you might want to check out this link.  /nj-delaware-border/  Decided by the Supreme Court, oddly enough, less than 100 years ago.  Interesting.

I passed the Paulsboro chapter of the Sons of Italy.  Italian immigrants must have moved into this area in large numbers, because there are Italian names everywhere - on businesses and political signs, for instance.

Did I mention the other day that gasoline is much cheaper here than in Connecticut?  Prices hover in the neighborhood of $2.30/gal of unleaded, while in much of New England I thought I was doing well to find it at $2.75.  Big difference when you buy 25 gallons at a time.

That link above about the Delaware border mentions Finn's Point Cemetery, which is on the road to Ft. Mott.  What still exists at the fort includes 2 of these structures, and I think this sign helps explain them.  The moat area is on the other side, as far as I can tell.  I was handicapped partly by several other people walking their dogs in the area, and partly by the very very cold weather, exacerbated by a stiff breeze, making hanging around outdoors not what I much wanted to do.

So, okay, when the Spanish-American War started looking like it was coming, Ft. Mott was one of several defensive posts established to discourage the Spanish from invading via the Delaware River.  Troops were actively stationed there 1897-1922, and post WWI they still had a detachment here until 1943 (I guess WWII needed troops elsewhere).  The grounds are extensive with lots of signs explaining things, but I'd need better weather than we had before I'd want to make a study of the place.

Range Light
Back down the road toward the Finn's Point Cemetery is this thing called a range light.  I'd misunderstood and thought it was a lighthouse and went to see why it was so definitely inland.

Turns out it isn't a lighthouse but, instead, a "range light."  The protective covering on the sign has been so weathered that it's a little hard to read, especially when there's some sunshine on it.  It's mostly about the history of this particular light, but the part in the lower right-hand corner shows how the range lights worked for navigation.

For most of the day's drive I went past wetlands full of reeds like these in this by-the-road photo.  I found out a lot more about this later in the day, as I'll show.

I saw 15 vultures (I counted them) sitting in a leafless tree beside the road, and what had probably been another vulture carcass in the road.  Unsettling sight.

I stopped in Salem - "historic Salem" according to the town, though I'm not sure what part of history it owns - at the Friends' (Quakers') Cemetery.  I wanted to see the historic oak that lives there.  And it was worth the trip.

Friends' Cemetery

This tree must be incredibly impressive in the summer.  I took the photo of the cemetery because I was surprised by the grave markers.  I've never seen a whole cemetery with what you might call humble gravestones.  It was nice, in an odd way.

explains the historical importance of the site
From there I went down the road to a village called Hancocks Bridge, named for the bridge erected by Mr. Hancock in 1709.
Hancock's Bridge today
The original bridge had to be rebuilt several times due to floods on Alloway Creek (this site is near the Delaware River), and was replaced with an iron swing bridge in 1885 (to allow boats to go upriver - the creek runs quite a distance into New Jersey).  This current bridge was built in 1952.

I'm intrigued by the run of pilings you can see leading under the bridge, because nothing explains why they were put there.  Originally a breakwater?  A dock?  They all look like wood poles driven into the creekbed.  I don't know if the water height was normal or unusually full.

Next to the bridge is more wetlands and there were several informational signs about it.

Wetlands along Alloway Creek

This area had the same sort of plant life I'd been seeing all day.  You can see the extent of the area, and I'm guessing the whole area along the Delaware River is much like this.

I was interested in the bird info here

Across the street from all this was what I'd gone to see in the first place: Hancock House.  Aside from its age and site of historical events, it's the unusual brickwork that makes it a continuing point of interest.
Hancock House from the side

info re: the brickwork

Hancock House from the front

This house was the location of a massacre during the Revolutionary War and, unlike many of the events labeled "massacre," this one seems to have actually been one.

This sign, like the range light sign, has been weathered, but I think you can still get the gist.

On my way back through Salem, I passed the Salem County Mosquito Commission, which rates its own building.  That seemed excessive to me, seeing as how New Jersey's not really a southern state so how much of a mosquito problem could they have?  Turns out, a big one.  Probably all the wetlands play a big role.  They've had positive tests here for both the West Nile virus and another virus not as well known but still not good.  During the season they do weekly street spraying for mosquitos, which is more than they do in Austin.

All day long I drove past farmland.  Lots of horses, a few cows, but many orchards and vineyards and lots of cropland.  Fallow now, of course, but obviously worked during the growing season.  I saw for myself why New Jersey's called the Garden State: nickname arose a while back from someone noticing NJ was the backyard for both New York City and
Philadelphia and was growing all their garden stuff.

New Jersey's got a Preserved Farmland program to protect farmland from being plowed under by developers, and I saw signs everywhere of participating farms.

I also saw indications everywhere of Swedish settlers, which I hadn't expected, so I looked it up.  The website this link takes you to seems to be in love with ads, but the information is still interesting.

The whole area I explored today was sparsely inhabited - only small towns or villages - mostly farmland or wetlands.  I wasn't expecting it.  Considering NJ is the most densely populated state in the union, I gotta expect a whole lot of people in the northern part.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

New Jersey - Day 7

Clarksboro KOA
Friday, 7 December 2018

Pearl Harbor Day

It was before my time, of course, but I heard memories of that day from my mother and my husband and know that even when it happened they knew the bombing was not just horrific, but also significant.  And when my generation goes, there will be no living memories of it at all.  It will be as much a part of history as Paul Revere's ride (". . . hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year.")  I guess life is always like that.

»  I woke up to a temperature in the lower 30°s and not much better expected for a high.  In fact, the weather folks are saying the average temps for this period are normally in the upper 40°s, but this year they don't expect it to even get to the lower 40°s, and a wind chill expected to lower it into the 20°s and 10°s.  Can't say I've adjusted yet, either physically or mentally, but I guess I'd better get busy.

» This KOA has a catch-and-release pond in the middle of it, and a flock of Canada geese is spending a lot of time there.  At least a dozen each day and sometimes 3 dozen.  But today I'm sure there were 4 dozen and possibly more - hard to count because they wouldn't let me get too close and many were bunched up together.

Also the dogs found a flock of turkeys while we were walking.  The campground is right next to private wooded land and, through the trees, both dogs saw the turkeys before I did.  In fact, I doubt if I would have seen them at all if the dogs going crazy hadn't worried the turkeys into putting some distance between us.  Then I started seeing them one by one by one - there were at least 18 of them.  Their protective coloring works.  Pretty neat to see.

» The roads still seemed slick, at least for much of the morning, and I spent the day here.  Spent some time online and on the phone trying to find a doggy day care that might suit Dexter's needs, and we have an appointment for next Wednesday at one about 30 miles from here (according to the map).

» My RV insurance policy is coming due and my insurance agent, who was unpleasantly surprised at the information that I'm living in it, having apparently not retained that fact, seemed to have trouble finding a policy at a reasonable price.  But she's working on it.

» Once the day warmed up (nearly to 40 I think) I filled the onboard water tank.  The RV has sensors for all the tanks so I can check from an indoor control panel what their status is.  And almost none of them works. 

My blackwater tank sensor always reads full, even when I've just emptied it.  An RV repair guy told me it was probably clogged by waste and I could unclog it by flushing several buckets of ice down the toilet and letting it slosh around while I drove all day - and he demonstrated - but since that lasted about 2 days, I don't see it as a useful fix. 

And besides, my graywater tank sensor always reads empty, even after a week of filling it up.  And I now know that my freshwater tank sensor always reads full, even when it quite clearly isn't, and that's obviously not caused by clogged waste.  So not terribly useful.  Too bad. 

I ignore them now and empty my sewer tanks once a week, every week.  And I'll just plan to fill up my water tank from time to time until the weather warms up enough to plug my hose back in.

» I finally gave up on trying to find Trifexis (flea and heartworm pills) up here and called my vet in Austin - I figured if I have to order by mail, and if I need a vet's prescription, I might as well see if they wanted to do it.  They said not only did Trifexis not allow my vet to send them by mail but also nobody else was allowed to do it either.  All those online ads were completely contrary to company policy, because they're trying to hang onto quality assurance protocols.  Anyway, Ann said since this isn't exactly flea season I should switch to HeartGuard temporarily.  One box would take care of my 2 dogs for 3 months, and by then maybe I'd be somewhere where vets carried Trifexis.  So that's what I'll do.  You live and learn.

» I had to wait for office hours in different time zones, both to call Austin and then to call Olympia, Wash., where my credit union is.  I absolutely adore my credit union - Twin Star Credit Union, very small organization but extremely great at customer service.  They've been bending over backwards to help me out on this bizarre trip I'm taking and allow me to do all kinds of things by phone, talking to a real person.  In this case, helping me with that non-useful $75 limit the credit card fraud unit had slapped on me because they were uncomfortable with me having an address in Texas but spending money in New York and Maine and Massachusetts . . ..  Nice people.

» I learned the CVS had cleared the prescription for one of my medicines and the refill was waiting for me.  I know other chains would provide the same service, but I can recommend the service CVSs all over the country have been providing me.  If you consider taking a lengthy trip like mine and you take pills, this is something to keep in mind.

» That toll bridge I went over a few months ago saying they'd send a bill based on my license plate - I did get the bill, but paid it late, and now they've sent a past due notice so I called them up to be sure they'd gotten my check, which they had, but best to be sure since I believe them when they say they'll get my license suspended if I don't.  I didn't know that pay-by-plate system really worked, but it does, even for a state half-way across the country.

» Still being at least mentally paralyzed by the weather, I hadn't planned to go anywhere tomorrow because of the cold forecast, but I need to pick up that prescription so decided it was time I saw a little more of New Jersey.  Since I'm not yet familiar with this state or its roads, it took me quite a while to plan a sightseeing route for tomorrow.  I'll see what I can find.

One thing I learned that I didn't know is that the dividing line between New Jersey and Delaware isn't as ordinary as I'd thought.  As is common, for much of the way it runs down the middle of the Delaware River.  But after a while, the line turns toward land and, apparently, New Jersey acknowledges that part of its land is actually Delaware's.  I'll see what I can find tomorrow.

I've already spent most of my first week here in the campground, not seeing a lot of New Jersey.  One week out of 4 isn't fair to the state, not when there's so much to see.  I'll just have to conquer my tendency to hibernate.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

New Jersey - Day 6

Clarksboro KOA
Thursday, 6 December 2018

The weather prediction I heard a few days ago was that today the temps would be in the lower 40s, but this morning they're saying probably not out of the 30s.  All the snow on the roads froze overnight, and I cut our early morning walk short because I was having trouble staying on my feet.  Especially the way Dexter pulls when he gets excited (meaning almost all the time).

Most of the snow evaporated during the day, but I still see patches that will probably freeze again tonight.

I'm still resisting buying an insulated water hose because of not wanting to find room to store it for the 10 months of the year I won't need it.  I'm hoping it'll be a mild enough winter that I can get by on just keeping water in my on-board tank and using my water pump (and hoping it doesn't break down again). 

The forecast is for below freezing at night for the next full week, but then maybe it'll warm up enough to plug my hose back in.  Of course, it's still just December and there's a good 2-3 months of winter weather to look forward to, but always optimistic, that's me.

On the other hand, one of the KOA staff told me the Farmer's Almanac has predicted an unusually cold winter, and the Farmer's Almanac is pretty trustworthy, they say.

For anybody who's been wondering, Lily's starting to get used to the dogs.
 You can see here that she's decided being warm is more important than keeping her distance from Dexter.  Big breakthrough, I thought.

She's also getting to know her environment.
In addition to my bedroom window, she likes sitting in front of the window by the upper bunk.  I'd say she's explored every area of the RV now except the kitchen.  And she wants to check that out, clearly, because I can sometimes see her measuring the jumping distance between the table and the countertop.  So far I've caught her before she jumps, and I don't think she's trying it at night - mostly it's just when she wants something to eat and I've got food over there.

I'm beginning to get the feeling that I'll be missing a lot of NJ, just like I missed a lot of CT, because of the weather and that's a shame.  There's a lot I want to see but there's no possible way I'm driving on icy roads if I can avoid it.  I guess I'll just see what happens.

New Jersey - Day 5

Clarksboro KOA
Wednesday, 5 December 2018

This morning's weather report says - surprise! - that the Jersey coast, where I'd been thinking of moving today because it'd be warmer, is actually expected to get at least 3" of snow, while the Philly area might or might not get a bit in the afternoon.  They were a little off: it started snowing here at about 10:00 this morning and kept it up all day long.

Campground choice
That only one campground called me back after waiting 2 days for return calls means to me it's the only other one that's got space available.  I took a good look at my new map and realized that New Jersey really is a small state and, unlike in Connecticut, this KOA is pretty much in the middle of the state.  Plus here there are highways going almost everywhere, where in CT a lot of the state was served by more rural roads.  Plus plus there's the significant price difference between my only 2 choices.  So I decided to stay here for the whole month.

KOA said I'd have to move to a different part of the campground, out of the short-term stay area, but the dogs and I have been walking over to the other area every day anyway, so that didn't seem to be a problem - especially not when I realized I'd still be close to the showers and laundry area.

First I had to disconnect my frozen water hose, which I'd left plugged in because the original forecast was for temps right at freezing, and instead it got down to 24° overnight and my hose was stiff with frozen water.  No advance warning about the snow, lousy prediction of temps - I'm beginning to lose faith in this particular group of weather people.

Once we got moved, the critters and I just hunkered down for the rest of the day while the snow and the temperature kept falling.  Cosy, though, now that I have plenty of propane.

RV choices
By the way, for folks who are thinking of getting the kind of RV that has slides, I have some ideas you may want to keep in mind. 

For the last few nights, I've had neighbors on both sides who came into the campground just for one night, and who arrived when it was starting to get dark or after dark.  When I get to a new campground, I plug in my electric cord and maybe plug in my water hose (and maybe not) and I'm done.  For these folks, that's just the start.  They're out in the dark working to stabilize the RV so they can put the slide(s) out safely, and if it's a trailer and not a motorhome they're also putting down struts on special pads (so they don't sink into the ground) to get it level.  It's a time-consuming process and I don't envy them a bit.

I know slides would be the answer to my wish that Hermione Granger could just magically expand the interior of my RV without expanding the exterior, but I seriously wouldn't want the hassle.  Especially not since I'm traveling alone.

In addition to thinking about the mechanics of it, think about what you'd have inside if for some reason you couldn't put out the slide - because of high winds or because you'd stopped on the side of the road or in a parking lot or because you got in late and were leaving early - whatever.  I've seen some RVs configured so the mattress was rolled in half when the slide was pushed in and the people wouldn't really have a bed unless they could put the slide out.  That sort of thing.

I decided no slides just because I have no faith that they'd work for 4 years with no trouble and then I'd be stuck with a problem.

Something else to think of is the idea of towing a vehicle behind a large RV.  Aside from the difficulties in driving that kind of setup, there's the difficulty in dealing with it once you get to a campground.  First it's finding a campground that will take you - they adore me when I say I have a small RV with no slides and no towed vehicle - they always ask, and they always say oh yes we can find room for you, when it's clear they'd have said no to a larger setup. 

And not all campgrounds can offer pull-through sites.  When they have to back into the site, people first detach the towed vehicle and drive it out of the way, then they go back and maneuver the RV into the space, and then they stow the extra vehicle and the towing gear in front of the RV.  Not so much of a problem for 2 people traveling together but a huge nuisance for 1 person.

Every decision you make about how you're traveling can limit where you can stay.  It's bad enough if you're traveling with pets.  NJ's state campgrounds, for instance, have a limit of 2 pets per site, which leaves me out now that I've got Lily.  (You wouldn't think indoor cats would count, but they do.)  And many campgrounds don't allow any dogs at all, or don't allow what they consider "aggressive" breeds (and why oh why don't they include Pomeranians and some terriers and other small dogs in that category?).

Anyway,  these are just thoughts I've been having while watching what happens with my and other people's choices.  It's quite obviously a very personal decision, and I guess what I'm really saying is think it through - all the way through - very carefully before you invest your money.

New Jersey - Day 4 - Cherry Hill

Clarksboro KOA
Tuesday, 4 December 2018
today's route
I stopped at the campground office this morning to ask about their monthly rate, which is $690 + my kilowatt hours used.  I paid $825 + elec at the Connecticut KOA, and I figured the lower cost is because the cost of living is lower down here.

But then I got a call from one of the campgrounds I called yesterday, and they charge $825 + elec, too.  It's not far from Atlantic City, which may be why it's so much higher than here, but what a difference.  I'll be interested to see what others charge.

I'd heard that there's a very old log cabin still standing in Gibbstown, a few miles from here, and decided to go take a look.
This is actually what I saw, though this is an online photo.  The original cabin is the 1-story part, and the rest was added later.  Amazingly, it's not that far from its 400th birthday.  Imagine what that cabin's been through in that time.

Next, a stop at a grocery store.

I was so frustrated at not being able to find a NJ map at the visitor centers, and the KOA here didn't have any either, but the AAA map that's all I've got doesn't show most of the state/county roads, including the one I took to get to the campground.  It finally dawned on my pea brain that maybe I could buy one somewhere, like an office supply place, and sure enough, an online search produced a Barnes and Noble in Cherry Hill, not all that far from the KOA.  I called them first, just in case, and was assured that they do indeed have road maps of NJ for sale.  So that's where we went next.

It's been a long time since I was in a book store, and I had to keep reminding myself that I'd have to store anything I bought to restrain myself to just the map.

Then I made a stop for gasoline but found an attendant there who insisted on doing it for me.  (I later learned at the KOA that New Jersey is one of the very few states that won't let us pump our own gas.)  My problem with that was that the attendant at the Valero station where I stopped didn't speak much English - a problem because I had trouble explaining I wanted him to fill it up, instead of going to a specific dollar amount.  Once he'd started pumping, I thought I was making conversation when I guessed it'd be about $100, but when the pump clicked off at $85, he insisted on keeping on pumping to fill it up to $100.  I practically had to grab the pump out of his hand to get him to stop.  Visions of gasoline on the ground from an overflowing tank were flashing before my eyes.

It was also a nuisance because I was trying to understand this business of him pumping my gas, Oregon being the only state I knew of that wouldn't let us pump our own.  I tried 3 times in different ways to ask him if that's the way all gas stations in NJ are or was it just this chain, but he was quite clearly not understanding any version of that question.  It was a very weird experience. 

A sign on the way to the campground told me that I'm in East Greenwich.  Since that's the town in Rhode Island where my mom was born, I figured I'd better look it up.  Turns out Clarksboro and Gibbsboro are indeed in East Greenwich township.  Their website says they had nearly 10,000 people living here by the 2010 census, which was nearly double the population in the 2000 census.  They don't say but I'm guessing it's the proximity to Philadelphia that did it.  But it's an attractive area, semi-rural.

Once back at the KOA I got my propane tank filled up and then dumped my sewer tanks.  It's supposed to get pretty cold tonight so I wanted to be ready.

New Jersey - Day 3

Clarksboro KOA
Monday, 3 December 2018

Still tired, still hard to get myself moving.  Instead, I spent much of today planning where I'd go tomorrow.

I discovered online that most of the doggie day cares in the area are in Philadelphia and, because of my self-imposed rule to stay in the state-of-the-month, I didn't want to go there.  I'm only booked at this campground until Wednesday, though, so I think I'll hold off until I know where I'm going next.

The internet helped me locate a handy grocery store, much needed because I'm not only almost out of milk and bread but also dog and cat food (yikes!).

I spent some time calling the half dozen or so campgrounds I'd found online that said they were open in December, leaving voicemails to call me with availability and prices.

I cooked some chicken in the slow cooker that I'd gotten just before leaving CT.

I called around to every vet place I could find in the area to locate the Trifexis (flea medicine) I give the dogs monthly, to no avail.  The few who claimed to have heard of it told me to order it online.  But not knowing what campgrounds I'll be staying in and when complicates online ordering/delivery, so I'll hold off.  I have a month till the next dose is due.

My wonderful brother sent me a big batch of mail - mostly Medicare-sign-up-season letters, it seemed - so I went through all that and found a couple of actual bills that need to be paid.

I took a look at sights to see in New Jersey, and took a look at upcoming weather forecasts.  It looks like, beginning tomorrow night, this whole area can expect below freezing temps at night, and nothing in the daytime that's what you might call warm.  On the other hand, the coastal areas (of which New Jersey has quite a bit) look like they'll be at least 5° warmer than the Philly area where I am, so I'd like to find a campground over there for a bit.  Just have to see what people say when they call me back.

That kind of day.

New Jersey - Day 2

Clarksboro KOA
Sunday, 2 December 2018

I was so tired when I went to bed last night I figured I wouldn't want to try to go anywhere today, and I was right.  I'm still dragging from all that driving, and I've noticed that long drives make me have nightmares about missing a red light or something that causes a crash, which wakes me up, so I'm missing sleep - extra tiring.

During the night it started to rain, and that kept up all day.  The morning TV weather (yea!) predicted about ⅓" of rain for the Philadelphia area, and I think that's what we got.  Even after it stopped raining there were low clouds and heavy mist or drizzle, and it was just generally dark all day.  At least it wasn't as cold as CT had been.

This KOA isn't nearly as nice as the last one - smaller, no wooded areas to walk in, lots of uneven roads which, today, led to lots of muddy puddles.  But the staff is just as nice and they have a very large doggie play area.

As I noted, I can get TV stations now - lots of them - so finally have morning network news and weather again.  Today being Sunday, I got to watch Meet the Press for the first time in ages.

I think it was in western Massachusetts that the dogs wrenched my arms and shoulders trying to chase after some wild animal or other, and 3 months later they're still bothering me - especially after such a long day of driving.  I've been lucky that they don't very often both hurt at the same time.  Instead they switch back and forth - one will hurt too much to do even ordinary things like putting on a shirt, so the other takes up the slack, and by the time the first one starts to feel better the other one starts hurting, probably from being overworked.  I've tried the heating pad, cold compresses, Ben-Gay - nothing really changes much.  When I boarded the dogs for 2 nights, the rest period really helped - but then they came home and it started up again.

Anyway, the pain is telling me I shouldn't try to drive anywhere for a little bit and give my arms a break for a few days.  There's so much I want to see in New Jersey, but I'm learning that this trip is a long haul, not a sprint, and if I need rest then I should take it.  So I will.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New Jersey - Day 1 - getting there

Philadelphia South/Clarksboro KOA
Saturday, 1 December 2018

state #9



I haven't driven this far in a long time and it wore me out.  I left the CT KOA just before 8:00 and checked in at the NJ KOA right at 3:00.  We had 3 rest stops in between but were otherwise on the highway all day.  Long day.

It started with a very heavy frost on the ground - almost looked like snow it was so heavy - and skim ice on the deeper ponds.  I had coiled up my water hose last night, not wanting to have to deal with thawing it out in time to stow it away for driving, so at least that wasn't a problem.

At a service area along the road I saw the longest limo I've ever seen.  There would have been room enough for a basketball team inside.  Seriously.

When I got toward the middle of the state (still in CT), I started passing exits with names familiar to me from when I was staying in the other campground - North Branford, Bishop's Orchard, Thimble Islands, Leete's Island Road.  But I found I had to work my brain a bit before I could remember where they all were, what they looked like.  But it came back to me and I can now remember well where the grocery store and the Tractor Supply are and how the roads run.  I should do more memory recall exercises as I travel through a state so I don't forget things as easily.

As I passed New Haven I started seeing places I hadn't seen before, such as the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge at New Haven.  It's got an unusual construction and I wanted to include a photo here, but the ones on the internet that don't have a copyright problem don't show it clearly.  You may want to look it up for yourself.

Just past the bridge at some road construction I saw a highway sign saying "shift right 2 lanes," which apparently meant I (in the far right lane) was supposed to follow the road farther right.  At least, that's what I did.  But I don't remember ever being told to "shift" myself before.

When I passed Bridgeport I saw what almost looked like an oil refinery, which seemed most unlikely so I looked it up.  Bridgeport isn't laying claim to any oil business but does boast of being one of 3 deep water ports in CT so gets a lot of shipping business, has major shipping repair facilities, and is the 2nd largest receiver of bananas (the actual fruit - whoda thunk it?) on the East Coast.  I just always thought of Bridgeport as a bedroom community for NYC so am impressed with all this activity.

All through CT I saw many many private buses - at least 18 of them.  They didn't seem to be part of a tour or a school group and surely weren't all rock bands going to another gig.  Seemed odd.

We stopped for a break at Saugatuck, the place the train went from Naugatuck.  And like Naugatuck, Saugatuck has a river of the same name, but seems to be part of Westport in some way.  We passed the Westport Railroad station, which has several HUGE parking lots nearby (for commuters, according to the signs).  And we parked in the empty lot for an enoteca and pizzaria incongruously named Tarry Lodge (you'd hardly find a building that looked less like a lodge anywhere).

At Cos Cob I saw dozens of boats of all sizes that were shrink-wrapped, and oddly some still seemed to be in the water, though that doesn't make sense.

I ran across the first area of serious congestion at Stamford.  Never did see a reason for it but it had us at a standstill for a while.

I met another congested area when I got near the Tappan Zee Bridge - now officially the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge, but nobody calls it that except the Cuomos, apparently.  Of course there's a story behind that and here's the link, if you want to take a look.  Now that's another bridge I would have loved to include a photo of but ran into copyright problems.  As I was driving up to it I kept thinking how much it reminded me of an enormous sailing boat with all its sails and rigging.  Pretty neat looking bridge.

I wasn't in New York for very long but was reminded by their signs that the state speed limit is 55 mph.  I doubt if there were many vehicles other than me who were actually going as slowly as 55 mph, but that's the official state position.

And on into New Jersey.

My first impression is that New Jersey is packed with towns, one after another after another.  I couldn't tell where one ended and another began.  Maybe it's easier on the side roads but on the toll roads, designed for through traffic, I lost track in a hurry. 

For instance, at one point, the Garden State Parkway (New Jersey's nickname is The Garden State) had 2 huge cemeteries, one on each side of the highway, and I'm not at all clear where that was.  Maybe South Orange?

But New Jersey is ranked 11th among the states for population, yet #1 for population density.  The difference may be because New Jersey ranks 47th in size - it's only 70 miles wide and 170 miles long - so that's a lot of people to pack into a small space.

I passed an enormous building - could see it coming from a distance and thought it must be a place of some distinction - and it turned out to be Galloping Hill Golf Course.  Very large parking areas filled with cars.  Guess it was a good day for golf.

I stopped at 2 rest areas that had designated visitor information centers, looking for state maps (preferably) or anything with tourist information in them.  Not a chance.  These "information centers" each consisted of a huge map on the wall and pamphlets with lists of hotels.  Not even any place where an information person could be during tourist season.  I'll bet the federal government hasn't bothered to check on what their money is going for; apparently some of the states are diverting that money into something else.

Anyway, at one of the rest areas I saw a sign saying "Now available - robotically served frozen yogurt!"  I'm still having trouble imagining what that could be.

I passed 2 gigantic warehouses - one for Wayfair and one for Amazon.

I remember the Garden State Parkway from about 40 years ago, and thought at the time it really was sort of a garden with lots of vines and plants along it - it was really pretty in places.  Either I didn't get to those places today or things have changed because now it's just a highway.  Maybe when I get farther south I'll find what I remember.

By the way, on the NJ map at the top, I've got a line going almost across the state from east to west, but that's not accurate.  NJ has so many highways that on that little map I mistook the route I took.  Assume instead that I didn't go wandering off in the wrong direction but instead took a direct route from the state line to the campground south of Philadelphia.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

My month in Connecticut

My take on Connecticut

Where I went this month
I learned this month how thoroughly my style of travel has been dependent on conveniently placed campgrounds.  There being only 2 open this month in the whole state didn’t give me any real choice about where I’d stay, which severely limited what I was able to see.

You can see from the map that I missed the whole western third of the state and most of the north, and I’m really sorry about that.  Especially because to a great extent I caused this situation myself.  Remember last March I was planning to start my month-per-state with April in New York, but discovered NY still had a fair amount of snow in its northern half so switched to Pennsylvania instead.  That changed the month I’d be in the next 12 states, because my original plan was to visit PA in April of next year.  Thus, here I am in Connecticut in November.

What’s done is done, and the revised schedule works out much better for West Virginia which I’ll now visit in April instead of March, but it’s a shame for CT.

I was further limited by my very strong desire to take Dexter especially to the doggie day care that had been recommended to me, in hopes of getting rid of at least the top layer of his energy and maybe getting him better socialized.  Since that day care was in the northeastern section of the state, I had serious drive time from either of the available campgrounds just to drop off the dogs, hampering my ability to spend time sightseeing elsewhere.

Then there was the weather, which mid-month started getting 10°-15° colder than normal and made it much harder for me to be as ready to get up and go and I have been.

On top of all that were the repair problems I seemed to keep running into, requiring time off to visit the RV repair place I very luckily found (“luckily” because they were so competent and so reasonably priced).

All in all, I guess you could say I lost momentum this month.

But I’m not sure how much I really missed.  Over and over I kept talking to people who told me there’s nothing much to see in CT.  They’d tell me to check out Mystic Seaport, maybe, but I kept getting a ho-hum attitude.

And this attitude seemed to extend to their feelings about the state as well.  I tend to use the same formula when I’m talking to people – are you from around here? do you like it here? what do you like best? what do you suggest I see here?  That kind of thing.  And in Connecticut, when I’d ask if they liked it where they were living – for the first time all trip – almost without exception they’d hesitate, then shrug a little and say something like “I guess” or “it’s okay” - clearly conveying a total lack of enthusiasm.  I couldn’t believe it.  It didn’t matter how old they were or where they were living.

There was only 1 exception: a woman in Stonington who said without hesitation that she loved it there, because it had a nice small-town feel.

But I met a woman who’d moved here from New Jersey 26 years ago and still preferred it there than here.  I met a man who’d grown up here and was delighted he’d moved up to Vermont 7 years ago and had come back to CT only to sell his house.  I met a woman who was pleased to be planning her move up to Maine.  I met a woman at AAA, of all places, who told me not to move here.  It was incredible the lack of pride most people seemed to take in this state.

I would have expected at least a few people to say CT would be great if there were fewer New Yorkers here, or that they enjoy it much more in the summer than the winter – or anything to mitigate the general negative feeling they were giving me.

And to continue this bash-CT trend, I’ll say these folks are by far the rudest batch of drivers I’ve come across yet.  I wouldn’t have been surprised if the rudeness came from cars with out-of-state license plates (e.g. New York), but instead what I saw were CT cars being rude.

They tailgate, they speed as much as Texans (with a lot less cause because they don't have as far to go), they refuse to let anybody (not just my RV) merge ahead of them.  I don’t know how they are with pedestrian crosswalks because the pedestrians I saw jaywalked routinely, but the traffic sure didn’t want to stop for them.

On the plus side, CT seems far more focused on recycling than any other state so far.  The KOA tells guests recycling is mandatory.  Even the tiny Totoket RV park had recycling bins and asked me to use them.  This seems so odd when people don’t seem to like where they live and when I’ve had a hard time this whole trip finding recycling places – and in CT they’re insisting on it.

Also on the plus side, CT roads are absolutely the very best I’ve come across so far.  I don’t like those stupid curbs they’ve put on their state routes, but the road surfaces are, almost without exception, superb.  They may not put any money into tourist assistance, but they sure make their roads nice to drive on.  And they do a beautiful job of labeling the streets and roadways.

I think I missed some pretty scenery in western CT, but Connecticuters told me that along with the scenery I'd find large numbers of New Yorkers who had their second homes over there, and they spoiled the Connecticut feeling.

I know I missed seeing more of the coastal areas.  And I missed historical sites that I either couldn’t get to or were closed for the season.  I would have wanted to get to Stamford and Bridgeport, names I’ve heard all my life.  And Danbury once had 40 hat factories there – it must be an interesting place to visit.  I heard from somewhere that Greenwich has Cos Cob, but when I looked it up, all I found was that Cos Cob was a train – the local newspaper editor, present for the 1848 inaugural run, noted that citizens and livestock “were nearly frightened out of their propriety” by the train whistle.  I learned as I was leaving the state that Cos Cob is also a town near Greenwich, presumably where the train had its run.  

But taken all in all, I’m not seeing this as a state I’d want to come back to for a second look.  What a shame.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Connecticut - Day 30

Mystic KOA
Friday, 30 November 2018

The temp fell below freezing last night so I didn't have any water coming through the hose into the RV this morning.  About 6:30 or so I unplugged the water hose, hoping the ice inside would melt sooner if it was disconnected, and turned on the inside water pump instead.  But today the pump wouldn't stop running.  Well, it ran when I turned on the water.  Then it kept turning itself on at about 20-second intervals.  I thought maybe it was just adjusting to having water in the tank again and would stop after a bit.  But it didn't.  And then I finally noticed that when the pump ran, water ran out of the hole where the water hose was supposed to be attached.

The RV has 2 separate water holes: the one that the hose attaches to and stays attached because it's creating indoor plumbing from a city water spigot; and the one that goes directly to the water tank where water is stored to be pumped out by the water pump when I'm not connected to a city water spigot.  The water pump isn't supposed to have any connection to the city water source - but mine does now.

This is apparently part of the problem I was hoping we got fixed earlier this month when the flow from the city water spigot was passing through the pump and filling up my water tank.  The RV repair guys said I might have a messed-up valve in the pump that would need to be replaced, but I thought we had it fixed without doing that.  Apparently we didn't.  And now I'm going to have to find an RV repair place in New Jersey as an early item of business when I get down there.  Quel nuisance.

It was raining earlier this afternoon, and now it's snowing.  Doubt if it will stick, but I'm guessing it's gotten colder than the 40°+ predicted for today.

The woman who sold me the t-shirt yesterday suggested I use the Tappan Zee Bridge to bypass New York City tomorrow.  She was afraid I'd run into traffic at the sports stadium that hosts football games for both the Jets and the Rams (I think she said), not to mention the City traffic, even on a Saturday.

But when I tried to get driving instructions, the mapping program refused to send me to New Jersey by any route other than straight through Manhattan.  Why would ANYbody want to go through Manhattan on their way to somewhere else??  So I had to be very creative to get the directions I wanted. 

And then I discovered the program insisted I take the New Jersey Turnpike almost all the way through the state to the next campground.  The problem with that is that the turnpike is a toll road, while right next to it is I-295 which is free.  They're parallel so it's not like one is a more direct route than the other.  Weird.  So I had to be even more creative and made up my own directions. 

I don't mind toll roads when they're the obviously faster route, and I'm already planning to take the Tappan Zee Bridge (toll bridge) and the Garden State Parkway (toll road) and the NJ Turnpike (toll road) for part of the way.  But I can't understand why the mapping program refused to present I-295 even as an alternative to their preferred route.  So I guess I'll find out tomorrow if I've outsmarted myself or not.  But it took me ages to get the route figured out. 

I'm only going 260 miles - normally about 4-5 hours of driving time.  But with traffic, the mapping program predicts an extra 3-4 hours.  Hoping that's just because today is a work day, and because it routed me through major cities, and that on a Saturday by an alternate route it might work out better.  But I'll need to leave before 8:30 tomorrow morning just to be sure, and even that may not be early enough with the short days we're having now.

Another adventure, another experience.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Connecticut - Day 29 - Mystic

Mystic KOA
Thursday, 29 November 2018

today's route
Today was the last day for doggy day care in CT, and I begged them to wear the dogs out please.  Lily didn't seem to have hurt feelings at all about being left in sole possession of the cabin (I, of course, don't count).

I wanted to get some errands done and decided to go to Mystic, taking different routes than I had before.

I don't think I've ever mentioned my souvenirs from each state I visit.  I thought about it probably a lot more than it deserved before I started this trip and finally decided to get a t-shirt from each one.  They're much more lightweight and portable than the other things I considered (wine from each state, for instance - except it's heavy and how would I keep it during the winters?).  So here I was with the month almost over and I still hadn't gotten a CT shirt.  I decided to get one in Mystic, which I thought would remind me of how I spent my time here, considering so much of it was spent in this part of the state.

Because it was a weekday and relatively early in the day, I found a parking place in downtown Mystic right next to several clothing shops.  I first tried The Black Dog General Store, which turns out to have a black labrador printed on every single piece of merchandise they have, none of them saying Mystic or Connecticut but all of them saying The Black Dog General Store.  Not what I had in mind.

Across the street I found the Tidal River Clothing Co., locally owned, with very nice and only slightly expensive outdoor wear.  Including a selection of Mystic t-shirts, so I was in luck.  Very nice shirt.

Next I went back to the grocery store where I'd shopped before Thanksgiving and stocked up on all the things I'm running out of.  And especially went to the liquor store below it to get another bottle of Teacher's scotch before I leave a known source.  It's not a product that will go bad by sitting for a while, and after not finding it in the last 4 states I'm not sure the next ones will have it either.

I still had some time left before I needed to go back north for the dogs so I went over to the campground.  It had occurred to me that maybe my water pump hadn't really broken but instead that I was out of water for it to pump.  I'd of course looked at the water tank when it first happened and it looked to me to be at least half-full, but I figured it was worth a try.  And sure enough, I pumped a lot of water into the water hole and then the pump sounded a lot more like itself.  Sometimes the obvious answer is the right one.

Along the road today, I passed the 1st Congregational Church of Canterbury and its sign saying "Carols Cookies Cocoa" coming up in December.  Sounded pretty good to me - sorry I'll have to miss it.

I passed a house that had inflatable Christmas figures in the front yard, except they weren't inflated - probably just blow them up at night.  But there was a fairly strong wind today that was blowing the deflated baloons (and me) around and, as I drove by, they suddenly started rearing up like they were coming to life.  It was actually a little spooky.  Probably just a strong gust caught them just right, or maybe the owner was doing it and I just didn't see him.  But it looked like they were rising up on their own.  I've heard that robots will take over the world, but inflatable Santa Clauses?

There was an hour-long NPR program about a museum in Hartford called the Wadsworth Atheneum.  I guess they've got a really good exhibit on modern art, which I've never warmed to.  But the odd thing to me is that they kept pronouncing the museum as ath'-uh-NE-um.  I've spent my whole life pronouncing it ath-E-ne-um - as in the goddess Athena.  So I've just looked it up in my trusty hardcover Webster's dictionary I've actually lugged along on this trip for just such occasions and learned that I've been wrong my whole life.  And apparently so has everybody I've ever met, though I can't say this is a word used in my daily conversations so maybe not everybody.

I passed an intersection with Cow Hill Road on one side and Pumpkin Hill Road on the other.  Makes me think about the people who used to live in this area.

I drove back through Norwich a couple more times and still like it, still like looking at some of those fancy houses.

When I picked up the dogs, they'd just been running for a while on the treadmill and were seriously hyped up.  It's true they slept the whole way back to the campground, but it took a while for them to calm down.  As long as their energy level tomorrow is lower than usual because I still have things I need to do before we leave CT on Saturday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Connecticut - Day 28

Mystic KOA
Wednesday, 28 November 2018

I saw the news reports about all the snow in the mid-west and how it was coming this way, so I figured it might be pretty cold here by now.  But I still had water coming through my water line this morning, and when I walked the dogs it wasn't bad at all.  It wasn't as cold as I expected and there was no wind at all, so our first walk was downright tolerable.

Of course, things changed by our 9:00 walk, because the wind had definitely started picking up and it seemed like the temperature was colder as well, and between the two I was sorry I hadn't put on my new long underwear.  I was chilly.

I'd intended to go into Mystic today to do some shopping and give the dogs somewhere else to walk, but by our 2nd walk I'd already changed my mind.  I'll be on the road tomorrow anyway, taking the dogs to their last day care session, so I decided to do my errands then and spend today getting more little chores done.

I've mentioned before, I think, that some of the folks who are staying here through the winter have insulated their underneath areas.  I thought you might be interested in what that looks like.
This type was much more favored at the Tototek Valley RV Park - almost all the RVs there had something like this.  But at this KOA, this is the only RV with this type.
This flexible silvery stuff is much more popular at the KOA.

I have no idea the relative insulation value or ease of installation.

Not everybody has bothered, though.  The RV next to the pink insulation one doesn't have any insulation, and I'm pretty sure the guy who lives there has a job he goes to most days so is probably here for at least a while longer.

I think if I had a trailer, or if I had some transportation besides my motorhome, and if I planned to stay the winter, I would definitely insulate.  Especially since the KOA is charging 15¢/Kh. 

Actually, I haven't even used 100 Khs while I've been here, because I don't use electric heat, don't have an oven, use my TV only for a couple hours at night, and am very careful about turning off my lights unless I need them.  But most people apparently do things differently.  The KOA told me some people end up with a couple thousand Khs each month.

And on a different subject entirely, I forgot to mention earlier in the month that I'd seen a pair of swans swimming in a pond over in the New Haven area.  I don't know which type of swans they were and the bird book doesn't help.  The picture showing their range is too tiny to let me see anything except any of them might be in coastal CT during the winter.

And I didn't mention Monday that I noticed a flock of juncos here at the campground.  Technically, Dark-eyed Juncos, and the subspecies over here is likely the Slate-colored Junco.  Juncos are one of the first species I learned in Alaska (though that was a different subspecies), and the wonderful thing about them for a casual birdwatcher like me is that they're so easy to identify - they clearly show white stripes down each side of their tails when they fly.
Junco - 6" - pretty, aren't they?
I've also been forgetting to show what Connecticut license plates look like.  CT doesn't seem to have many specialty plates, and the ones they have tend to follow this color pattern, so they're always easy to spot.