In June of 2007 we took a motor home trip to Florida. Why Florida in June you ask…well Torey was getting married there so we decided we should be there for the big event.
Being a somewhat lazy person, I have pasted a copy of the news letter we sent out after our trip into this post and have added pictures for your entertainment.
Dakota, The Weather and Other Thoughts
July 9th – July 27th
Letter 1 – 6th Year
The weather here; well, we have no idea since we left on June 6th and have just returned. Since I can’t tell you about the weather in South Dakota, I have a few things to say about the weather of others. After living in an area for five-plus years where people think they are dying when the humidity gets over 30%, I don’t understand how we ever survived in Maryland and I don’t know how people live in the east at all in the summer. It is hot, humid, sticky, yucky and, in many areas, the air you breathe is brown. We had almost forgotten that air could be anything other than clear (except in fire situations). Having said all that we will assure you that regardless of the weather, we have had a great trip and say thanks to those of you we saw during our journey.
As you know the purpose or excuse for this trip was Torey and Kerry’s wedding. I say excuse because the trip has been much longer than if it had been just the wedding. We drove first to south Florida to spend a weekend in Homestead with Kathy’s brother Jim and then on to Sanibel Island, Florida, where the wedding was held. We stayed on a campground with my brother and his wife for a few nights before moving to the resort on the island for four days of fun, good eating, spending time with old friends and of course the Grand Event. After leaving there we headed north. We traveled along with my brother for the first few days and stopped in Wilson, NC for along overdue visit with my nephew, his wife and three boys. From there it was on to Annapolis, MD for a night and time to visit some old friends and make one new one. Wish we’d had a chance to see more folks, but we really didn’t have more than a day. After Annapolis we landed in Burlington, VT to spend a few fun days with Neil and Lori and then off for home by way of Canada and a stop in Thunder Bay, Canada. Kathy had a grandparent from that area. After that we headed for the house.
Now for the details…..
We crossed SD and when we hit IA we got a look at some of the high water they were having. We stayed at the state campground at Wilson Island which is just outside of Council Bluffs and the Missouri River was to the very top of the boat ramp and just short of the top of the river bank. We spent the next night at a Cracker Barrel in Illinois, just past St. Louis.
From there we headed through a corner of Kentucky and then on to Tennessee where we stopped for the night at Old Stone Fort State Park. This was a ceremonial site built by early Indians who were mound builders. We took the time to explore the site and walk the trail that surrounds the site. This park is just outside of the small town of Manchester. The day we left was the beginning of a three day music festival called Bonaroo, the third year it was held here and the town was expecting around 40,000 people for the event. We got to see a few of them as we stopped for groceries at a Wal-Mart on our way out of town. The Wal-Mart parking lot had quite a few motor homes in it, not unusual, and tents were pitched on every piece of grass in the lot. There were lots of people in their 20s and a few who appeared to have been at Woodstock and had yet to recover from that experience.
We left Tennessee behind and moved on to Georgia where we spent the night at a wonderful state park, Georgia Veterans Memorial Park. This part came complete with displays of planes, tanks, artillery and amphibious vehicles. The park was near Andersonville, the site of a Civil War Prison Camp so we took a side trip and toured the site along with the POW Museum that covers from the Revolutionary War through the first Gulf War. It was informative and moving to be there.
We then moved into Florida and spent our first night in a state park outside of Gainesville and then on to Homestead for 2 nights and a reunion with Kathy’s brother Jim. Kathy and Jim enjoyed catching up and Kathy got to see the house they lived in her senior year in high school while her father was serving in Vietnam. Jim was a gracious host and gave us a great tour of part of the Everglades along with some of the history of the area. We shared several great dinners and breakfasts with him and are hoping he will visit us in SD soon.
After leaving Homestead we drove across Florida to the gulf coast and spent 3 nights at Fort Myers Beach where we joined my brother and his wife on the San Carlos Campground. We really enjoyed our time with them. This is also when the only tragic part of our trip occurred. Whiskey, who has been our faithful traveling companion for 16 years, had a stroke on Monday night and this was confirmed by a vet on Tuesday morning. She had lost the use of her back legs and we had to have her put to sleep. She will be missed by us since she was a great companion both at home and on our trips. She had tent camped, motor home camped and had even been backpacking a time or two.
On Wednesday Kathy and I moved from the campground to the resort on Sanibel Island where the wedding took place. We enjoyed 3 nights of luxury and time with the kids, their friends and some old friends of mine. We had some great restaurant meals at the Island Cow and Doc Fords along with a cookout. Friday night before the wedding Torey and Kerry had a dinner planned for all who had arrived by then instead of the traditional rehearsal dinner. A great time was had by all and it gave people an opportunity to chat and get to know each other. The wedding was on Saturday morning and due to some rain showers in the area had to be moved from the sand to an area under cover, but still outside. After the ceremony and some picture taking there was a great reception lunch for all to enjoy with music from a DJ.
Sanibel Island was a great place with miles of fairly un-crowded beaches to stroll on and sea shells to collect. Swimming in the gulf was nice, warm temps and low waves. The island had some fun shops to look through and great scenery.
All in all it was a great event and even though there were a few mishaps that could have turned many people into a bride/groom-zilla. There was the missing food for Friday night, leaning cake that arrived late and then there was the marriage license that was lost by the minister and at one point it looked as if they would have to go to the court house in Virginia when they returned from their honeymoon and get legally married. Fortunately the minister was able to locate the license and get it completed and to them before they left on Sunday. Torey and Kerry just rolled with the punches and seemed to be more concerned with spending time with their friends than the minute to minute details of getting married. This was a casual wedding, my outfit was sandals, tropical print shirt and khaki pants. No ties were needed and everyone seemed to appreciate the casual laidback attitude.
Besides family, the guest list included friends that go back to middle school days and people from the tour Torey took with her mom to Italy several years ago, the prize for coming the longest distance went to a friend of Kerry’s who traveled with his girlfriend from Germany, they are both serving in the US Army. Others came from Los Angeles, Seattle, Colorado, Vermont, North Carolina and many other places. Torey and Kerry are blessed to have such a fine group of friends and family.
We went back to San Carlos on Saturday night and on Sunday followed my brother there we headed on towards MD and arrived in Annapolis around 11:00 pm. It was a long day although we had a nice break at lunch and another when we stopped near Richmond, VA for some fuel and grocery shopping.
We were looking forward to our Annapolis visit to see some old, not age mind you, friends some of whom we had not seen since leaving MD. We had a great visit with Margie, her friend Jim, Joyce and her mom Carol. We had a great day with them and topped it off with dinner with our friends, my old co-workers, Kris and Vic. Also Leigh was able to join us for that and we had all had a good time catching up with the lives of our kids, pets and each other.
While at the camp round in Annapolis we spied a very unusual motor home and discovered from the owner that it was a one of a kind custom that was built on the chassis of a 6 wheeled Unimog German military vehicle. The owner had it built in Germany and then shipped to the USA for a trip around the Americas. I could not get a lot of information from him due to his lack of English and my total lack of German.
Our visit to Annapolis was far too short, but since we needed to be in Burlington, VT on Friday we headed north again on Thursday morning and drove through the land of toll booths. I would like to know what these states do with the tolls they collect not to mention the fuel taxes because it is obvious the money does not go for road repair. My guess is that it is needed to pay the toll booth workers and provide for their benefits and a plush retirement program. One thing we noticed was that at toll road authority offices there were large parking lots with hundreds of cars. Maybe congress should look into where highway funds are being spent instead of worrying about baseball and other really nonessential stuff?
We spent Thursday at a Cracker Barrel in CT and then on Friday morning after leaving CT behind crossed MA and part of NH before crossing into VT. We hit VT about 7:30am and found the VT Visitor Welcome and Information Center open and ready for business. It was the nicest and most informative visitor center of our entire trip and we stopped at one in every state to get a road map. It had tons of nice high quality information and displays for each region in VT that featured not only maps and info, but VT-made items from the respective regions. VT has an aggressive program promoting “Made in VT” and their crafts are phenomenal.
We arrived in Burlington around noon and got set up on the campground there. The campground was on the lake and only about a mile from Neil and Lori’s place by either the road or bike path. Neil came by for a visit that afternoon and since they had a prior commitment for the evening we were left to sit, read and relax on our own. It was a nice change from our frantic pace of the prior week.
Saturday morning we rode our bikes to their place for brunch and then a stroll to downtown Burlington for some shopping. We also took in a farmers market on one of the town squares and tasted some great cheeses, goats’ milk, yogurt and a really great hamburger.
Burlington is an easy town to walk or bike in and this makes getting around fairly easy. Neil and Lori are a 5 minute bike ride, a ten minute walk or a short run from downtown. Shopping in downtown is easy and everything one needs from groceries to running shoes is available there. Lori can bike to her work as a surgical RN at the medical center in about ten minutes.
As in many downtowns and college towns today there is a wide variety of homeless and Burlington does provide all kinds of services for them. I would expect that as winter approaches that this population drops greatly.
Saturday and Sunday dinners were cooked by Neil and Lori which is always a treat for us since they are both great cooks. The meals included lots of fresh garden stuff from the “Farm”. Neil and Lori have joined a program that allows you to buy a share of a farm and for this you get a certain percentage of what they grow. This program seems to be all across VT and is great for those who want fresh vegetables and for the farm owners. The farmers get paid up front and this allows them to budget for their operations more efficiently. This share program is part of VTs very aggressive “Buy VT” program.
On Monday while Lori was at work Neil, Kathy and I went in search of covered bridges, we found two, and had a great picnic on the top of Mount Pilot. We also spent some time at the Vermont Wild Flower Farm and left there with some seeds to plant here at home. Their climate is similar to ours and many of the flowers that grow there will also survive our weather.
On Tuesday we said goodbye to VT and headed north and into Canada. We entered Canada through Quebec and discovered that the official language of Quebec is French. All signs in Quebec are required to be only in French. This, according to a couple from Ontario who were our neighbors on the a campground the first night in Canada, came about when the rest of Canada decided Quebec could become their own country, but had to take their debt with them. Quebec decided against going it alone and then declared French as the official language of Quebec. Obviously there is no concern for political correctness there. We were also told that tourism took a sharp drop when this occurred. Apparently they are not overly helpful to people who do not speak French and will not acknowledge that they do speak English.
We stayed at 4 different provincial park campgrounds in Canada. These are similar to our state parks. They were really nice campgrounds with great staff. Most of the staff are college and university students and seem to take great pride in their work, their parks and their country. The campgrounds are well laid out and the spaces are not crammed on top of each other. In some cases there was close to 100 feet of woods between sites. Also all of them have electric hook ups for campers and motor homes.
The drive across Canada was mostly along the shore of Lake Superior and there was no shortage of beautiful scenery. Also miles and miles of the roadsides in Canada are covered with wild flowers and it really does add to the beauty of the drive.
We exited Canada and returned to the USA just south of Thunder Bay and than headed south through Minnesota towards SD and home. It seems, at least for us, that as we get closer to home there is a real urge to get there. We tried to find a state park in Minnesota to camp in, but because it was a holiday week they were all filled. We did find a private campground to the north of the twin cities that had space. Nice little campground and the only one in MN, according to the owner, that allows ATVs to be ridden on the grounds. It was quiet there despite the ATVs and most of the campers seemed to be there for the season.
After crossing into SD we spent the night at Lake Vermilion State Park just west of Sioux Falls and then up in the morning and home by mid-afternoon.
We saw see some wildlife on our trip including alligators, cormorants, herons, hawks, vultures, chipmunks, ducks, geese, swans, deer and a rode side black bear in Canada. We also heard loons on a lake in Canada early one morning.
One thing we noticed during our 6500 mile trip was how green the country side was compared to past trips. The spring and early summer rains have greened up the country. This was especially noticeable to us as we crossed SD since this is the area we are most familiar with. SD is greener than we have ever seen it and that is a really nice sight to us.
And while we are on the subject of travel; Kathy and I recently added up the states we have been to and it totals 41 and 3 Canadian provinces. We have been in 34 states with the motor home plus 2 Canadian provinces and we have tent camped in another 7 states and 1 Canadian province. So far we have had an amazing journey and need to say thanks to all of you who have allowed us to share a part of your journey as we have traveled on ours.
Wisdom from a T-shirt in Canada: “Always carry a compass…..it’s awkward to have to eat your friends”