On the Road to Maine (May 9 – June 10, 2019)

On Thursday, May 9th, we left Tennessee and headed north to Indiana to visit Phil’s 99-year-old mother and his elder sister, Barb Anderson, and her family. We drove 295 miles the first day to North Bend, OH where we spent the night at the Indian Springs Campground. The following day we drove 258 miles to Elkhart, IN where we spent five nights at Elkhart Campground. We had a pull-through site at the end of a row so we had a large grassy area outside our door.

We visited Phil’s mother each day at the Hubbard Hill Retirement Center. At age 99, she spends most of her days dozing but we were able to spend some time conversing with her.

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The rest of our time was largely spent relaxing. On Saturday we went to dinner with Barb & Dan Anderson and Emily & Cody Hall. On Monday we drove to Shipshewana, IN and visited several Amish stores, including Yoder’s Meat and Cheese where we loaded up on unique groceries. On Tuesday we were hosted for dinner at the Andersons.

On Wednesday, May 15th, we drove 252 miles to Streetsboro, OH where we spent three nights at the Streetsboro / SE Cleveland KOA. The campground was very nice but recent rains had made the ground of the pull-through very muddy.

On Thursday, we drove to Canton, OH to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The exhibits were quite interesting but we had no trouble seeing everything in about two hours.

On Friday we drove into Cleveland and visited the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This museum was designed by the famous architect I. M. Pei who, coincidently, died the day we visited. Its distinctive pyramid-shaped design had six stories and there were exhibits on each floor. We spent four hours visiting the museum but could easily have been there longer.

On Saturday, May 18th, we drove 220 miles to North Tonawanda, NY, located between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, where we spent four nights at the AA Royal Motel and Campground. This was a no frills campground tucked behind a small motel but it had decent-sized pull-through sites. Although not inexpensive, it was considerably less expensive than the other campgrounds near Niagara Falls and was adequate for our needs.

On Sunday we visited Niagara Falls. Although we knew the attractions would be crowded on the weekend, the weather forecast for Sunday called for a high of 82 degrees vs. highs around 60 degrees on Monday and Tuesday. After an unsuccessful search for cheap parking, we found a parking lot near Goat Island in the Niagara Falls State Park and shelled out the $30 parking fee. We walked across the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island and, after seeing the lines for the Cave of the Winds attraction, decided to get our tickets immediately. We had 25 minutes until our assigned time for the Cave of the Winds so we used this time to walk to the viewpoint for Horseshow Falls. We then returned to the Cave of the Winds entrance. After watching a short film on Nikola Tesla’s design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system at Niagara Falls, we stood outside in the hot sun for another 45 minutes before entering the elevators down to the walkways below the falls. Unfortunately the harsh winter had destroyed some of the wooden walkways but we were still able to get close enough to the American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls to get somewhat wet. Since the tour did not include ponchos, we chose not to go as far up the walkways as some other braver souls who got completely drenched.

We then walked out on the observation deck. Since this attraction was not fully open for the season, there was no admission charge.

We had originally planned to take the Maid of the Mist cruise to the falls but it was also not yet open for the season. However, we could see that the Hornblower Niagara Cruise was operating from the Canadian side so we decided to take it instead. We walked across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada where Phil had a humorous exchange with the Canadian border guard about being a Texan who doesn’t own any guns. After purchasing our tickets for the Hornblower cruise, we were issued red disposable ponchos that only provided protection down to our knees. The cruise began with a short visit near the American Falls but the fun really began when we approached the Horseshow Falls. The boat passed close enough to the falls that we were soon soaked below the knees. It was a very fun experience and we were glad we had done it on a warm, sunny day.

After returning to the USA via the Rainbow Bridge, we found our car and drove back to North Tonawanda. We had a dinner of delicious chicken wings at Sawyer Creek Restaurant, near our campground.

On Tuesday we visited a couple of less well known sites in Niagara Falls. Our first stop was at the Second Coming House of Prophet Isaiah. Until a few years ago, Isaiah Henry Robertson was just a middle-aged home-builder who had moved to Niagara Falls to buy cheap houses. He’d fix them up, then flip them for a profit. Then God spoke to Isaiah and told him that Isaiah was actually in Niagara Falls for a very important purpose: because it was where the world would end in 2014. God told Isaiah that he would guide Isaiah’s hands to transform a run-down Niagara Falls house into a carnival-colored showplace, a beacon to catch people’s attention so they could be saved. At the time of the Apocalypse, every person on earth will fly past his house and those that accept Christ as their Lord will be saved. The next stop will be Goat Island, which divides the American and Horseshoe Falls, where Jesus will separate the saved from the damned. The latter will tumble into the Niagara Falls whirlpool, transformed into the Lake of Fire.  Although the Apocalypse didn’t happen in 2014, Isaiah is still a believer and will bless the cars of sightseers.

Our next stop was the Third Street Art Alley with numerous murals lining the alley.

We then drove to Lockport, NY where we walked along a portion of the Erie Canal and watched a cruise boat sail through one of the locks.

Upon returning to the campground, Phil washed the road grime off of our trailer and both of our vehicles. It was long overdue.

On Wednesday, May 22nd, we drove 195 miles to Verona, NY where we spent two nights at The Villages RV Park at Turning Stone, an enterprise of the Oneida Indian Nation. The campground was beautiful with lots of trees and ponds throughout. After dinner we visited the Cross Island Chapel, which claims to be the world’s smallest church and seats only two people.

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On Thursday we visited the Turning Stone casino. We each got a guest card with a free $10 credit to get us started. We both played the slot machines and, although we went through the credits quickly, quit when we were at breakeven on our own money. We did invest a little bit at the casino by purchasing a couple of cannoli for lunch. We then watched the action in the Bingo room but discovered that it was more complicated than we were used to. We considered joining in the game but learned that we were witnessing part of a four-hour session. The next session wasn’t going to start until another four hours so we decided to pass.

On Friday we drove 137 miles to Lake George, NY in the Adirondack Mountains where we spent a week at Ledgeview RV Park. We had anticipated the trip would be almost entirely on interstate highways I-90 and I-87. Thus, we were surprised when Phil’s GPS had him exit I-90 several exits before reaching I-87. It got even more interesting when the new routing directed him to drive up a steep road that was closed to through traffic. We spent most of the next hour talking to each other over our cell phones and comparing the routing instructions we were getting from our respective GPS’s, which were often quite different. Since Phil’s GPS is configured to select routes that will accommodate our RV’s height, we were hesitant to follow Jan’s GPS routing. However, there were some times when the directions on Jan’s GPS seemed less scary than Phil’s so we took our chances and went those ways. We drove the next 25 miles over fairly small county roads with numerous sharp turns and stop signs. When we finally connected with I-87, we were within about 20 miles of the campground. We were very happy when we completed the drive which, although a shorter than usual drive, had been rather stressful.

The campground was quite scenic and heavily wooded with very tall trees, although we had requested a site in an open area so we could use our satellite. It appeared that every site was filled for Memorial Day weekend but many of these campers vacated on Monday.

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On Saturday we drove to Prospect Mountain and drove up the 5.5-mile Veterans Memorial Highway to a parking lot near the summit. There was a free shuttle bus available but we opted to hike the steep trail to the top. From the summit, we had 100-mile views of Lake Gorge and the Adirondacks. There were remnants of the Prospect Mountain Cable Incline Railway which was at one time the longest cable railroad in the world. It was built in 1895 to transport wealthy visitors to the Prospect Mountain House, a hotel previously accessible only by horse-drawn carriage. The hotel went out of business and eventually burned down but its fireplace is still visible. Upon returning to the parking lot, we discovered a service road that led up another mountain. Since our hike to the summit had been so short, we decided to hike this road which led us past several radio towers.

On Sunday we drove into Lake George and walked the Lakeside Parkway along the southern edge of Lake George. It was a hot day so we took several breaks and enjoyed the views of the lake.

On Monday we drove to Bolton Landing, a small neighboring town, to watch their Memorial Day parade. After the parade, we decided to stroll along the downtown shops to allow the traffic to clear out. As it turned out, we ended up following the crowd to Veterans Memorial Park and arrived in time for the Memorial Day commemoration ceremony.

On Wednesday we drove to Pottersville, NY and toured the Natural Stone Bridge & Caves Park. The stone bridge is the largest marble cave entrance in the eastern U.S. and is still being carved by the beautiful Trout Brook. We did the self-guided nature trail that covered ¾ mile and over 500 stairs of irregular rock, timber and root. It even included a small climbing wall that we both scaled. We followed a map that listed 20 stops and provided descriptions of each. The attraction had been open for the 2019 season for less than a week and the owner was still clearing uprooted trees and doing repairs to the walkways that were damaged over the winter. He told us that, although there is always damage caused by the winter weather, the ice they had last November was the worst he could remember. The scenery was beautiful and we were able to get very close to the rapidly flowing water.

That evening we went to opening ceremony of the annual Lake George Elvis Festival. Lake George has been hosting one of the largest Elvis Festivals in North America since 2014. In total, there are over 50 Elvis Tribute Artists performing during the five-day event. It is apparently no longer politically correct to call them Elvis impersonators. The tickets for a weekend pass range from $129 to $269. Even a single headline show was too pricey for us, $60-80, so we limited ourselves to the free opening ceremony where nine of the so-called “headliners” performed two numbers each.

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Finale with all nine Elvis Tribute headliners

On Friday, May 31st, we drove 124 miles to Fairfax, VT where we spent three days at Maple Grove Campground. This small, family-run campground only has 26 RV sites and nearly all of them are filled with seasonal campers. We had requested a pull-through site, although all the sites appeared to be back-ins. Fortunately there was no one in the site that would have backed up to ours, so we were able to pull forward through that one into our site. The campground is heavily wooded with very mature trees. We were unable to use our satellite dish but the proximity to Burlington, VT enabled us to get a lot of over-the-air channels.

We spent Saturday in Burlington. The skies were somewhat overcast but the temperature was ideal. Our drive into Burlington took us through the campus of the University of Vermont. The campus sits on a hill above the city, providing views of Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. It’s a big campus with beautiful buildings and grounds. Our first stop was at the Burlington Farmers’ Market, which has been held every Saturday since 1980. It was clearly a popular attraction as we had to drive around quite a while to find an open parking spot. More than 90 vendors have stands offering seasonal produce, flowers, alcohol, crafts, prepared foods and more. The prepared food stands offered a wider variety of ethnic foods than we normally see at other farmers’ markets. We also strolled through the neighborhood by the market and found that a lot of old warehouse buildings have been repurposed as storefronts for offbeat products.

Our next stop was at the Church Street Marketplace. The city offers two hours of free parking in the nearby garages but it took us two trips through the garage before we managed to get a spot. The Church Street Marketplace is Burlington’s award-winning open air mall with historical architecture, festivals, street entertainers and over 100 places to shop and dine over many city blocks. We discovered that we had arrived during the Burlington Jazz Festival and there were stages set up at various spots throughout the marketplace. We had lunch at an outside café and could hear the music from up the street.

Our final stop for the day was at the Waterfront Park. Again, we were able to park for free in a nearby parking garage. We walked along the boardwalk that ran the length of the marina. We took time out to sit on a swinging bench and enjoy the views of Lake Champlain with the Adirondacks in the background. The scenery was beautiful.

The weather on Sunday was very overcast with quite a bit of rain. We started the day by visiting a covered bridge in Fairfax that is still in use. We then walked the trail through the Fairfax park.

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When the rain started, we decided to take a drive through the Lake Champlain Islands. Lake Champlain stretches more than 100 miles from the Canadian border and forms the northern boundary between Vermont and New York. Within it is an elongated archipelago comprising several islands – Isle La Motte, North Hero, Grand Isle, and South Hero – and the Alburg Peninsula with bridges connecting the islands and the mainland. We stopped at Hero’s Welcome, a large general store that offers a little of everything in several buildings. They even have a dock for customers who come by boat. Jan managed to do some early shopping for Christmas.

On Monday, June 3rd, we drove 94 miles to Fairfax, NH where we spent a week at Riverside Camping and RV Resort. As we started to set up, Phil discovered that the 10-foot long slide in our hallway and bedroom wouldn’t extend. He had heard a concerning noise when he extended this slide in Vermont but had been hopeful that there was no real problem when he was able to retract the slide without any problem on Monday morning. Without this slide extended at least about 8”, we are unable to access the bathroom, the bedroom or the hall closet. Although we were able to use the campground bathroom, the only clothes we had available were the ones we were wearing and the weather had turned considerably colder. Phil called our RV dealer to ask if there was a manual override to allow us to get the slide open. While we waited to hear back from the dealer, Jan searched the Internet for a solution. When we did hear back from the dealer, it was suggested that Phil climb up on the top of the slide and use his electric drill and a flexible bit to rotate the motor. There is very little space between the top of the slide and the ceiling. Phil had to squeeze into the crevice and slide his body to a point where he could reach the motor. Although he isn’t claustrophobic, it was still a very uncomfortable feeling. Unfortunately his efforts didn’t result in any success and the dealer told us we would need to find an RV technician to fix our issue.

Phil spoke to the campground owner and got business cards for four nearby RV techs. One of our neighbors, who has been RVing for 30 years, dropped by to see if he could help and ended up suggesting that we select Craig Beane RV Service.  Phil called Craig Beane but only got his voice mail. Since we couldn’t access our bathroom, we then headed to Rite Aid to stock up on toiletries. Craig’s home was only a few miles away so we drove there but he wasn’t at home. Shortly after returning home, Craig returned our call and suggested a possible solution. This necessitated Phil climbing back into the hole but, again, the suggestion didn’t work.

We were fortunate that we did have access to our air mattress which is stored in the basement. However, since the air mattress covers the heating vents in the living room and we had no pillows, we had a very cold and uncomfortable night’s sleep. We woke up Tuesday morning with no idea as to how long it would take to get our issue fixed. Phil called Craig again and Craig agreed to come right over. Upon his arrival, Craig quickly diagnosed our problem as a broken gear and he thought he had the right part back at his facility. Unfortunately, Craig quickly determined that he was too “thick” to fit into the hole. Luckily he had an assistant who was thin enough so he ended up doing all the hard work. Once they returned with the part, it took over two more hours to replace the gear box and readjust the cables. We were incredibly relieved when the slide finally moved and we could access the bathroom and bedroom again. Although the service call was not inexpensive, we hope to be reimbursed for all but the deductible by our extended service contract provider. Considering the alternative of sleeping on the air mattress again and the need to go clothes shopping if the repair hadn’t been completed timely, it was money we were more than willing to spend.

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Phil supervising the RV Techs (notice the foot of the tech laying on top of the slide)

On Wednesday we were finally able to get out and do some sightseeing in New Hampshire. We started by visiting the Mechanic Street Covered Bridge and the Mt. Orne Covered Bridge, both in Lancaster, NH. The Mechanic Street Covered Bridge was built in 1862, with repairs to the abutments in 1967, and is still open to passenger car usage. The first Mt. Orne Covered Bridge was built in the 1860s or 1870s but was destroyed by a log jam in 1908. The current bridge was built in 1911 and rehabilitated in 1983, with vehicles up to six tons still allowed up to cross using the single lane.

We next drove to Littleton, NH where we spent a couple of hours exploring its downtown. Littleton’s downtown is a bit of a trip back in time, with a Main Street brimming with businesses and small shops to browse. Running parallel to Main Street is the Ammonoosuc River. Our first stop was at the Riverwalk Covered Bridge. This long pedestrian bridge across the river was completed in 2004. We then ate a delicious lunch at Millers Café & Bakery, adjacent to the bridge. In 2009, Millers Café was recognized as one of the Food Network’s 50 Best Sandwiches in the USA.

After lunch we strolled up Main Street. Our first stop was at the Pollyanna of Littleton sculpture, the centerpiece of the historic downtown. We had seen banners throughout town declaring Littleton as “The Glad Town.” As we were taking pictures, a local resident approached us. He invited us to the Official Pollyanna Glad Day on Saturday, June 8th, and showed us a copy of the agenda for this annual full-day celebration, including a sing-along and the Pollyanna Glad Day wave. We asked him about the connection between Littleton and Pollyanna. We learned that a hometown author had written the two Pollyanna books.

Our final stop on Main Street was at Chutters, a huge candy, fudge & gift store. Its claim to fame is the world’s longest candy counter, which measures 112 feet long.

On Thursday we drove to Shelburne, NH and hiked the 3-mile Mount Crag Loop. The loop was created by three different trails but it was well-marked so we had no trouble finding our way. The trail to the summit of Mount Crag was pretty much a non-stop climb of moderate steepness. It was quite buggy so we resorted to wearing our mosquito netting that we had purchased for our Alaska trip but had never used. The view from the summit was spectacular, with snow on some of the distant peaks. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the summit.

On Friday we drove to the White Mountain National Forest and attempted to hike a loop formed by the Valley Way, Brookside and Air Line trails. Our AllTrails app shows this loop to be 3.5-miles and of moderate difficulty. The Valley Way trail was quite pleasant, with a moderate incline along a fast-flowing stream with lots of waterfalls and rapids. Our difficulties began when we reached the Brookside trail. The path required us to cross the stream and it took us quite a while to find a place where we could do this safely, without wiping out on the slippery boulders. Shortly after crossing the stream, the trail required us to cross back over again. Finding a way to get across this time required even more effort. Although the trail continued to provide beautiful views of the stream, the ascent become much steeper and required lots of climbing over tree roots and rocks. Although the tree markers and proximity to the stream had us confident that we were still on the Brookside trail, we had no Internet service so we couldn’t refer to the AllTrails map to see if we had missed the cutoff for the loop. Phil had taken a picture of the trail map when we started the hike so we knew we could connect with the Air Line trail at the Madison hikers’ hut. However, we didn’t know how far that would be. After hiking for 3.75 miles, we met some hikers coming down the trail. Phil asked them how much farther it was to the Madison hut and their only response was “a ways,” which was not very helpful. We decided to give up and return down the Brookside trail. Rather than have to cross the stream again twice, Phil had the idea to blaze our own trail on the west side of the stream. This proved to be a mistake and we ultimately had to give up and find a way across. Our desire to get back to our car outweighed our concern for safety and we took considerably less time in selecting our paths across the stream on the return. After some wandering around in the woods, we finally picked up the trail again and worked our way down. We were exhausted by the end of our hike, which turned out to be 7.5 miles of mostly hard climbing. In hindsight, we discovered that the trail marker for the cutoff to the Air Line trail only had the name of another trail, something that was not shown on the AllTrails map.

On Saturday we returned to Littleton to do some shopping. While there, we decided to do a short hike, the Kilburn Crag Trail. This was a fairly easy 1.4 mile out-and-back hike. The trail was quite muddy in places but we were generally able to find firmer ground along the edges. The end of the trail provided a beautiful panorama of downtown Littleton surrounded by mountains.

Sunday was our last full day in New Hampshire. We went out trying to find the campground’s nature trail but never did find it. However, we did meet some of the seasonal campers and were invited over to join them in a game of corn hole. After being beaten rather badly, we opted to return to our air-conditioned trailer rather than enduring the mid-80s temperature.

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