VIRGINIA Lexington, Austinville to Olin, NORTH CAROLINA to Fort Mill, SOUTH CAROLINA to Warner Robins, GEORGIA

Oct 6, 2018 Super early start, with a quick breakfast of yogurt and coffee at the Days Inn breakfast room, before hitting I-81S toward home at mom’s in Warner Robins, Georgia. The end stop was all that was on my mind.

Although scenery from the highway was amazing, the traffic flow through VA was shit! Thankfully, it lightened up after I got on I-77 S and I made my first stop in Austinville at the Circle K for gas ($2.55/gal) and road snacks (Tabasco Slim Jims, Lance Hot & Spicy Peanuts and a large, very strong coffee). I admired the view from the parking lot.img_20181006_101040

Back on the road, with giddy thoughts of hugging everyone after more than five months on the road, I stopped at the Olin Rest Area in North Carolina. The grounds were beautiful, with a water feature, and super nice facilities. Great stop!

 

Along the outskirts of Charlotte into South Carolina I drove, under an overcast sky. About an hour later, for kicks and giggles, I stopped at the SC Welcome Center to compare with NC. There was more concrete than grass and plant landscape, but they had a large information center, sitting area, and friendly staff, not to mention the cool swings out front that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

Jumped on I-20W in Columbia and crossed the Georgia border into Augusta. Two and a half hours later, I arrived in Warner Robins. The sun was shining! Wanted to surprise mom, so sent text to ask what she was doing. She replied, “Riding w/Levi to see Matilda at Theater Macon. What are you doing? Where are you headed next?” (with a smiley face). I pulled down her street, noticed Michael’s truck in the driveway and I parked at the front. Snapped a photo of mileage, at end of 2018 trek; a total of 11,400 miles through 30 states in just over 5 months.img_4558

img_20181006_183450Walked through the gate to the backyard. Nicole and Lila were on my hammock and Cody Boy in the yard. It felt soo amazing to see them! Luke, who was on the patio, went inside and told mom I was in the backyard. She thought he was kidding, but came out. It was awesome! Hugged everyone before mom and Levi left for the play, along with others headed out. Had a long snuggle with Cody in the grass. Weird feeling about this trek coming to an end. It’s time to recoup, complete blog to personal book and flow to next adventure. Since I was so eager to return after more than five months on the road, next adventure will be finding new home location. For now, will enjoy family.

UPDATE: Finished blog for book transfer on May 3, 2019.

CONNECTICUT Tolland to Stormville, NEW YORK to Jonestown, PENNSYLVANIA through WEST VIRGINIA to Shenandoah National Park to Lexington, VIRGINIA

October 4 thru 5, 2018 Yea, the sun!! It was warming up fast as I loaded up and hugged Charlene goodbye about noon. I hope to see her and Todd soon!

Got on 84 within minutes, then 91S through Hartford and down to New Haven, where I took a mini drive-around the impressive campus of Yale, the Peabody Museum and New Haven Harbor. Given the spectacular 2018 donation of $160M for renovations to the Peabody, by billionaire philanthropist and ’67 Yale graduate, Edward Bass, I definitely want to plan a visit after completion in 2-3 years.

In Southbury, I parked in the Southbury Plaza parking lot and popped in McD’s for a couple sausage burritos. Up 34 along the Housatonic River to 84W, I swung in to Alltown for fill up ($2.89/gal), before crossing NY state line. Stretched legs at the Stormville Rest Area (pretty spot), then back on 84 across the Hudson River, then the Delaware River, into Pennsylvania (at uppermost point of NJ). WHEW! I knew at this point I was ready to get to mom’s.

Jumped on I-81 S around Dunmore, where it started raining again, then carried on with a stop at one more rest area to stretch and take a break from the highway. Best spot was with the trees.

Swung in to a super clean Pilot in Pine Grove to top-off gas ($3.12/gal) and pick up smokes ($6.26/pack). Although I’d driven less than 5 hours from CT, I was exhausted and road-weary. My next stop was at the Days Inn in Jonestown and I made sure breakfast was included.

Not in the mood to stop for food, or order, crawled into bed with bag of food from ice chest. Dinner was a mix of pickled garlic, Kilwin’s fudge and a beer. Managed to stay up long enough to shower and watch a little TV, all the while thinking how badly I was ready to be at home base, before I crashed for the night.

img_20181005_073935Up, packed and ready by 6:30 am, I went for breakfast and several of their tiny cups of coffee before heading out. I was only 12 hours away from mom’s in GA, but decided to split it up.

Back to I-81 S and made my last stop in PA at Weis in Enola for ice. Although still overcast, views from the highway were breathtaking. Stopped and stretched at the West Virginia Welcome Center, where I hung out a while admiring the landscape, walking winding pathways, and chatting with the friendly staff; had to get my communication fix for the day.

img_20181005_120053Just a few minutes later, I was in VA, craving something tasty when the Flying J came into view. Stopped at Store #752, in their Subway for a veggie wrap. Yea!

With a hop from I-81 S to I-66 E, I arrived at the Front Royal (North) Entrance Station of the Shenandoah National Park. John Denver’s music played an integral role in my childhood; “Almost Heaven” popped clearly to mind. Thanks to mom, I had his voice on my travel USB.

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Until this trip, my previous experience in VA was with Mom, touring a cavern as a young teen, where I met a very cute boy, as we drove from NYC to TX. I got a souvenir T-shirt with, “Virginia is for lovers” and literally loved it to pieces. Thank you, mom, for creating so many incredible memories.

Avoided another $30 entry fee with my NP pass. This was the last park visited during my 2018 trek and term of my $80 pass. I saved $75 with visits to six national parks.

Enjoyed time in the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center, with its interactive park map of the Shenandoah Valley and mountain ranges, information (ecological, geographical and historical), knowledgable staff and Rangers, and cool gift shop, where I bought several souvenir, reusable shopping bags. The surrounding area has pretty views, with several trailheads; many hikers with packs were in the grassy and picnic areas. I considered one of the hikes recommended by a Ranger, by the waterfalls, but wasn’t in the mood to tackle muddy trails.

The fog repeatedly teased with a brief lift now and then as I drove the winding, incredible Skyline Drive. Every now and then I could see images of the insanely gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains through the fog, but it didn’t last long.

img_20181005_135304During the drive, I pulled over, sat on the tailgate and enjoyed my veggie wrap.

In some areas, the fog was so dense, most drivers, including me, had hazards on and drove slower than the posted 35 mph. After being in the park for only a few hours, I opted to not continue the drive along Skyline; definitely plan to revisit in the future.img_20181005_150340

img_20181005_163641Made my way across to I-81 S, stopped in Staunton, VA for gas ($2.59/gal) at Circle K and seriously wished I’d stayed in the mountains, which I already missed. Spent hours stuck on the highway, due to construction and wrecks. It was great when traffic cleared, but still felt stress from earlier.

Stopped at a rest area, not sure where,  but it was what I needed at the time, with wooded pathways and a beautiful butterfly and bee garden.

img_20181005_170700This sign on the inside of the bathroom door made me laugh; purse hook was gone.

It was raining, again, and I didn’t feel any thrill for my tent, so I landed at the most affordable hotel I could find online, the Days Inn in Lexington, about 7:30 pm.

The office for check-in was interestingly located next to the Mexican restaurant, Muchacho Alegre, down the hill from the 3-floor hotel. Dropped my go-bag in the room, then walked down to the restaurant for a beer, salsa and chips. Not sure what was in the ‘cheese’ dip, but far too sweet for me. The salsa was tasty and helped mask the staleness of several chips. Ha! Enjoyed the atmosphere, then back up the hill I went for the night. I was soo ready to be done with the road; missed everyone terribly.img_20181005_203112

 

MAINE Cornish to Sanbornville, NH to Auburn, MA to Tolland (Charlene), CONNECTICUT

October 2 thru 3, 2018 Still raining, but not heavy, it was a beautiful morning. Felt so much gratitude for meeting Rick through Stefani, and Stefani through James. We are all connected and each definitely has a friend in me! Enjoyed Rick’s coffee while I packed up, then a big hug for Rick and rub for the pups, then I was on the road again.

I talked with Charlene the day before about a visit and was excited to be headed to CT. My first stop was at the Dollar General in Parsonsfield, only a few minutes from Rick’s, for Goldfish crackers, hand wipes and pack of smaller underwear. My ass has gone flat?! Next stop, again only a few minutes farther in Porter, on the side of the road by the Ossipee River. So pretty!

img_20181002_094451I wasn’t getting anywhere fast; I loved that it was OK. Headed south on NH-16 and needed more caffeine, so stopped at Circle K in Ossipee, NH for coffee and a pack of Traffic cigarettes ($5.09). Got a giggle from that pack above the smokes from Allegany.

img_20181002_095545The rain continued and I got hungry for real food, so next stop was in the village of Sanbornville, in the town of Wakefield, at Miss Wakefield Diner. It was the purple awning and the wood carvings that caught my eye off Rt 16.

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img_20181002_101210I have happy memories of diners as a child in Shreveport, LA at Murrell’s and Strawns with my granny, mom, sister and aunts. The visit here added my first as an adult. Sat in a booth and ordered coffee, couple fried eggs and a side of jalapeños. The food and service were good, but it was the unexpected gift that filed this diner in my memory bank.img_20181002_101219

I noticed the older gentleman, maybe in his early-80’s, sitting on a counter stool talking to waitstaff when I first arrived; there were only a couple customers. On his way out, he stopped at my table, said he had something for me and pulled a harmonica from his pocket. He filled that diner with sunshine! I got goosebumps and just gazed at him, smiling ear to ear like the Cheshire cat. When he stopped, I squeezed his hand and thanked him, he said goodbye to everyone and left. I felt incredible! A moment of kindness and sharing can truly transcend.

Topped off gas ($2.69/gal) in Rochester, then left NH-16 to NH-125 south. Picked up an ice coffee, with turbo-shot and caramel (yum), at DD and giant Slim Jims (2 for $3) in Plaistow, then hopped over to I-495 south. It was still raining and the traffic moved fast, even though the speed limit was only 55; I averaged 60. Pulled into the Massachusetts Visitor Center to potty and stretch about 12:30p.

I was feeling ugh-ish on the highway, with the continuous rain and drivers who made the occasional side-swipe gesture toward my personal space. WTF?! They need a refresher on the ‘look before changing lane’ maneuver. Took a break at the Park ‘n Shop in Auburn, MA for a 12-pack of Blue Moon to take to Charlene’s.

img_20181002_133607Noticed I was charged $.60 for beer deposit. Later learned it was $.05 per bottle and fully refundable upon return of the clean bottle to the retailer, or to a redemption center (may deduct processing fee from refund).

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Took 90W to 84 (Wilbur Cross Highway), past the Nipmuck State Forest, into Connecticut; extremely overcast, with low-lying clouds and drizzly rain.

I was ecstatic to land at Charlene and Todd’s home in Tolland. Todd was on the road during my visit, but it was cool to say hello through Skype with Charlene. They live with fur-babes, Abby, Rocky, Bandit and not sure what cat’s name is, but Bandit was on the road with Todd during my visit.

The first night was stormy, with lots of lightening, rain, reports of street flooding and unexpected excitement. While Charlene attended a wake, I showered and was in the process of washing clothes downstairs when I realized Abby, their large, oldest fur-babe, was at the bottom of the staircase; I had left the door to the basement open (ugh). I was in a bath towel, worried she couldn’t make it back up, on the phone with Britt, when I turned the corner and was face-to-face with Charlene’s brother, Stephen, coming in the front door. Between my crazy-ass scream and babble about who was who, it was heart thumping and hilarious. I will never forget the look on his face when I screamed – surprised the shit out of him!

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Abby made her way up, Charlene got home safely, had a few beers, smoked happy cigs, and hung out until late. Stephen had me laughing my ass off over his booming voice and animated stories. We talked and talked about family and much more. Great night!

Charlene’s a wonderful cook and so sweet. We more or less just took it easy, chatting, watching TV. Rocky was entertaining with his love for tennis balls, which he crushes. Can’t imagine how many he’s gone through, but can fit more than one in his mouth at a time.

Sucks I can’t locate CT photos, so Charlene sent these: Bandit with Rocky, Abby, then Rocky bottom.

NEW HAMPSHIRE Peterborough to Lincoln (White Mountain National Forest), Glen Ellis Falls (Glen) to Cornish (Rick), MAINE

img_20180929_133740September 29 thru October 1, 2018 Took my time to get containers to truck, add water to drinking cooler, and stack goodies in the ice-chest. So glad I shopped at Shaw’s in advance; looked forward to trying Jim’s jar of stuffed cherry peppers. Grace invited me to stay, to experience a New England winter with them. Although greatly appreciated, I wasn’t ready for cabin-fever weather. LOTS OF HUGS!

My next stop would be the White Mountain National Forest, the Kancamangus Scenic Byway and Passaconaway, as suggested by Becky and Jim.

Headed out early afternoon to Route 202, with first stop in Hillsboro at the Circle K where I picked up a NE seasonal brew mix of Sam Adams, large bag of ice for both coolers, and a small Hurricane Florence donation (least I could do).

img_20180929_152620Less than an hour up the road, with a hop to 93N in-between, stopped at the Canterbury Rest Area. The building looked like a small house with two big flagpoles in front. It was clean and the location was tree-surrounded, with a grassy area and several picnic tables. Very pretty!

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The farther north I drove, into the White Mountains, the more fall colors became richer. I stopped in Lincoln to look around and grab a coke; lots of hikers and families on vacation.

It was odd and exciting to see signs across NH that only required seatbelt use by 18 and younger and helmet use by 16 and younger. Imagine that! Adults being treated by the state to make decisions about their personal safety. In my humble opinion, a common sense matter should be addressed through education, not by laws. Whether or not an adult elects to wear the seatbelt/helmet is a choice that effects that person’s safety, unlike cell phone use while driving, which effects the safety of others as well.

img_20180929_170618To say I thoroughly enjoyed the breathtaking Kancamangus Highway (112) is not adequate. I F*ING LOVED IT! First stop was at the Hancock Trailhead, to stretch my body for a few miles in beauty. It was after 5 pm, crowds had thinned and the air cooled … perfect. Left all in the truck, except water bottle and key. FABULOUS!

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About 7 pm, I landed a spot at Passaconaway, just before Jigger Johnson. It was pretty damn cold, so got the fire started, then set up camp using headlamp. Enjoyed a cold beer while I made dinner with onion, cherry peppers, pepperoni, tortilla strips and mozzarella. May not sound like it, but delicious!

Tried new setup, with down blanket on tent floor, foam pad wrapped in wool blanket and my new sleeping bag on top with soft, wool material over pillow. Cleaned up pan, washed face and brushed teeth with cold-ass water, popped down the road to the vault potty, then snuggled in for the night.

img_20180930_092159Loved my new sleeping bag that kept me toasty through the cold night and had just enough room to turn over comfortably. Added couple extra layers of clothes, while I made coffee and slowly packed, but my toes would not warm up. Met Ken and Fran, senior campers who were traveling and stopped to say hello. I appreciated the chat and they were totally enjoying their 1/2 off camping fees at national parks. They were blown-away that I was camping across states by myself.

Prepped backpack for a stealthy hike and took off to a fantastic, magical place, physically and mentally. Crossed the cold Swift River several times. Cheers to extra socks!

Back in the truck, I snacked on hot peanuts, listened to Aretha and Cat, and admired the breathtaking views. Swung over to 302.img_20180930_124301

img_20190403_095708Passed the Attitash Ski Resort. Although I’ve never snow-skied, still want to learn how to snowboard.

Spent time at this cute place in Glen. I didn’t go inside the B&B, but thoroughly enjoyed the old bridge, with Saco River view, and the gift shop where I bought an awesome moose spoon-rest for my future home.

Gassed-up ($2.83/gal) at Patch’s Market, then jumped on NH-16N. Came across a small village of brightly painted, quirky houses and had to stop. It was Story Land and OMG, I definitely want to check it out one day, maybe even take some kiddos. Ha!

img_20180930_144906Farther up, I saw a sign for Glen Ellis Falls and took the turn. There were a bunch of vehicles; felt fortunate to locate a parking space fairly quickly. Completed the parking form and paid a few dollars toward park maintenance, then changed into hikers.

Down the stone steps, through a short tunnel directly under Rt 16 and out, into an incredible wonderland.img_20180930_144917

The walkways, stone and earth paths, were easy enough to navigate, for all ages. Incredible beauty that I admired for not nearly long enough.

Headed toward Cornish, Maine to visit Rick, friend of Stefani. Considering where I was, it might take a while. Ha! Saw a pullover spot, just a few minutes after leaving the Falls, parked, climbed down the little hill to a gorgeous area; sat on a rock gazing at the trees, the water as it made it’s way between, under and over to cascade, the sky. I was so f*ing grateful to be there – not just physically.

Again (haha), about 5 minutes up the road in Gorham, a quick stop and walk around at Wildcat Mountain Ski Resort. The location was gorgeous, with beautiful grounds and cool ski-benches by the inside restrooms.

img_20180930_171616Got to Cornish and it made me laugh; Cornish hens immediately came to mind.

Drove down the beautiful, tree-lined River Road along the Saco River. Phoned Rick to touch-base and, of course, stopped for a few photos, all while my bladder was about to burst!img_20180930_171624

Super excited when I pulled into Rick’s circular drive about 5:30p. His furry welcome wagon duo greeted me immediately, with lots of tail whacks and sniffs. Made a great escape to the potty, then hugged Rick and spent lots of time petting the lovable duo.

img_20181002_084021-1Rick showed me around the house and explained the incredible, beasty cooling system. Over the next couple of days, we talked, laughed, snacked and smoked. Pups snuggled and so did we. We spent almost one entire day being completely lazy, watching movies with the pups, while it rained and rained. Those labs kept me laughing. Check out the one foot on the floor!

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Rick was a delight, funny, smart and down-to-earth, with great stories and even better hugs. Felt good to have arms wrapped around me!

His property, where wild things flourished, made me think of a fabulous, old English farm cottage; loved it!img_4501

Delicious berries and other earthly goodies flourished in that wild, incredible yard. Awesome to see those poopers roam freely!

 

 

 

VERMONT Westminster to Peterborough (Nycki’s Wedding), NEW HAMPSHIRE

September 18 thru 28, 2018 Up early in tiny to hug Stefani goodbye in the rain, before she drove away to work. So much love and light packed in that beautiful woman. Stef left several sweet goodies for me, including a bright, yellow dress, awesome headband, couple nugs and “The Bodacious Book of Succulence”, but this is the best ever! I sent her a thank you video.

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On the way out, snapped a photo of this old cine-camera at drive entry. Next time I hope to see Stef and Jeff!

Before leaving Westminster, saw lots of beautiful plants and stopped at what I thought was a nursery, Allen Bro’s. Topped off gas, then popped in their store. Lots of souvenir coffee cups and locally made salsas and more. I bought hot, Green Mountain Gringo Salsa and walked through the nursery. Truly beautiful plants, many mums and cacti.

img_20180918_104457Only a few minutes east and I was in NH, ahead of schedule. From 12 to 101, drove through Marlborough to Dublin, where I stopped for coffee at the Dublin General Store. I said good morning to a woman in the parking lot and she replied with the same, along with a compliment. She said I looked “radiant and feminine.” After the past couple days with Stef, I felt stronger and radiant! Also realized I was wearing an assortment of treasures given and found; dress and headband from Stef, cardigan from thrift in TN, bag and sandals from thrift in WI, and earrings from Britt. The woman’s kindness made me smile even more and I thank her for sharing.  She offered to take this photo, so I could see what she saw.img_20180918_115957

Neat, family-owned store established in 1935, with an old fashion vibe and wood shelves. There’s a bakery, deli and pretty much anything needed from what I could tell. They must be great for lunch because it got busy fast; I headed out.img_20180918_120123

OH MY GOSH, road conditions got worse as I drove into Peterborough, with pothole-dodging constant. Felt like I was the only person driving even remotely close to posted speed limit; whoosh happened with each passing vehicle. Plus, tail was a super-magnet for assholes. Other than that … GORGEOUS!!

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Before 12:30 pm, I arrived at the home of my beautiful, first cousin, Grace, and her beau, Jim. Auntie M greeted me and it felt so good to love on her! Met and hugged Jim, then took a walk around the incredibly gorgeous property, before settling in on the back patio with salsa, chips and cold beer.

Over the next ten days, me, Mom, Grace and Auntie M spent time on that wonderful patio built by Jim; lots of talks and laughs. Auntie M and I also sang and did a bit of dancing one evening; very memorable. It was perfect, with an incredible view of fantastic old trees, chipmunks, birdseed robbing squirrels, beautiful birds and a turkey named Trump. Ha!

Set up in Chris’ room, who was away at school, and admired Caitlyn’s designs, chic abode and an incredible elephant collection. The adorable little soapstone elephant I picked up in Texas was happily accepted into the herd. Grace got home about 9 pm from work and getting her nails done, then proceeded to focus on wedding prep for daughter, Nycki, and her fiancé Jake. So exciting!

Focused on soaking up family love, which included Jim’s beautiful mother, Jean, who lives with them. The love and care provided to her was heartwarming, to say the least. Met Becky and Audrey (Jim’s sisters), Billy (Jim’s son) and Madison (Billy’s girl). All of them were easy to instantly love. On rare occasions, I saw Nycki and Jake as they fluttered through. Lots of wedding prep while all continued routine jobs.

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New England Patriots and Red Sox are HUGE in their house and it was hilarious listening to Jim banter on and on about them, and anything, in his thick NE accent. Between games, movies and all of us playing Jeopardy, the big room was constantly alive!

Jim showed me beautiful trails and bike paths around the city when we ran errands one day. He said, “Today we went to Nashua-ville and tomorrow is Manch-vegas.” He cracked me up – LOVE that he and Grace have each other.

Between Jim cooking river trout just for Auntie M (who graciously shared) and Grace and Auntie M’s fabulous dishes, we ate very well!

I got warm fuzzies every day; Billy and Madison curled up watching Star Wars, mom engrossed in her crossword, Auntie M and I hanging out on the patio, Jim painting house trim, Grace playing “Momma Mia” for Jean (again and again), Kit-Kat chasing anything, kids debating with Grace and Grace with Jim, all of us camped around living room yelling answers to Jeopardy, Grace making goodies for soon-to-be newly weds and Chris at school, Auntie M sewing my frilly bag lining, and the list went on. The house was alive and I loved every moment!

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Adore these two beautiful ladies

The wedding was absolutely grand at Best Western Plus Executive Court & Conference Inn in Manchester. Auntie M, mom and I got there early and went to the Backyard Brewery for a snack and beverage, or two.

We stayed for two nights, met wonderful people, friends of the happy couple and extended family. I was thrilled to see and hug my Uncle Tom, who made the trip despite serious illness. I hadn’t seen him in 45 years or longer. Memories of me, Tracy, Grace and Tommy, flooded back. We loved when he recorded us on his reel-to-reel; it was magical. He was a terrific father and uncle. At the wedding, his sister looked familiar, but I don’t know if that was from a real-life meeting or just photos; my mind is a curious thing.

img_20180921_200346One of the best wedding receptions I’ve ever been to, fun, beautiful, great food and music and so much love! Unfortunately, I didn’t join in on dancing, which I adore, because my feet were f*ing killing me. Should have worn tennis shoes with glitter, not heels. The reception is where I met Uncle Tom’s niece, Charlene, and her beau, Todd. Beautiful people! Me, mom and Auntie M laughed so hard as they shared their accounts of state-wide travels together in Todd’s big rig car transport. I was thrilled when invited to visit them in CT!

Mom had a hell of a return journey home to GA. From Manchester to Detroit, the lights went out due to stormy weather and there was a long delay. We were all relieved when she finally made it home, safely, after 3 am.

Ventured out several times in NH; explored beautiful foot-trails, bought a Solstice 20 degree sleeping bag (getting colder) with 15% coupon at EMS and hiking boots in Hubert’s, walked through historic downtown Peterborough and toured the lower floor of the Mariposa Museum & World Culture Center. Unfortunately, the annual Tibetan Tour had ended, but I was able to view the “And Still We Rise” exhibit of African American quilts reflecting 400 years of history. Incredible!

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From the upstairs window, I loved watching Audrey and Grace help Jean on the bus to day camp.

Auntie M, Caitlyn and I visited Murray’s Home Again, a thrift store in Peterborough, where I scored jeans, a top and skirt (love the embroidery at bottom), then went to Joseph’s Coat where there were beautifully colored goodies from across the world.

We visited a shop Auntie M loves and she picked up a new, beautiful crystal.

img_20180928_122725Took a break from sorting clothes on the bed. When I returned, this beautiful fuzzball (Kit-Kat) was sound asleep in the middle. I’d heard about him being unpredictable and a scratcher. We spent a fair amount of time together on the garden bench and he didn’t scratch me even once. Yea! 

Hung out for the rest of the evening, before calling it a night.

PENNSYLVANIA Lake City to Ithaca (Buttermilk Falls SP), NEW YORK to Westminster (Stefani), VERMONT

A20814E0-B70B-4CE7-82EB-DD683419C420September 15 thru 17, 2018 Beautiful morning! To help speed recuperation from previous night of fun, stretched while exploring Elk camp. The cabins are cute, spaced well, with personal decks. Awesome place for group retreat. There’s also a camper-yard where owners pay a fee for storage. Talked with ‘friends’ and drank lots of coffee. Heard news about Hurricane Florence effects to NC residents and texted James.

Slower than usual, but feeling good, broke-down and loaded. Visited with ‘Uncle John’ for a few minutes before driving out about 11a. According to Atlas, 86 (east) is scenic across upper NY, so that’s where I headed. Visited NYC as a teenager, maybe 13-years-old, when mom drove us to the uncle of our foreign student-resident. At that time, I was blown-away by the massive buildings, cool subway (told not to look at anyone), people everywhere, street food and insane amount of taxis, which I tried to count from our hotel window. We saw Annie on Broadway and more. Exciting trip!

Wasn’t long before NY showed me its opposite big-city side; wide-open, gorgeous with wildflowers, dense woods and wildlife. Warm fuzzies big time! The sky was baby blue with puffy, white clouds and traffic was amazingly light.

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Crossed the Chautauqua Lake with a quick stop at Bridgeview in Bemus Point for few gallons gas ($3.05/gal) before noon. Just down the road in Salamanca, I picked up cigarettes at Allegany Gas and Smokes (Seneca Nation has intriguing history – love to explore the Allegany SP forest in future). Grey clouds floated over and a few sprinkles, but was short-lived and it was hot!!

D0A9910C-71BA-4148-B6FA-1E81F52EB4E3Couldn’t resist this photo of a sleek Porsche in tow behind a matching, super nice truck. While on 86, a group of ten or more Porsche, different makes and colors, quickly passed; made me think of butterflies?!

Loved the rest area off I-86 in Hornell, just past Almond. Beautiful views. Last pitstop was in Corning, south of the Finger Lakes Region, for gas top-off ($2.95/gal) and more coffee.83A50306-1F20-4E30-8CE0-D7972F0E6E09

About 5p, pulled into Buttermilk Falls (love the name) State Park and checked in at the small, parking lot building for $26.75. Drove up the steep, curvy drive to the camp area. Cabins, tents and lots of campers (people). At mine, a tent was set up, so I called to confirm space number. It was correct, told her no problem and set up mine.

It wasn’t long before a ranger (?), Mr. McHottie, showed up. Enjoyed a somewhat lengthy visit that started with his inquiry about me being “ok” with a stranger in my site. Word had spread. It was thoughtful, but seriously?! First of all, my tent was like an average-size dog in a big-ass yard. Secondly, the site next to me, with campers I didn’t know (yet), was right next to me. Then it happened. I shared my perspective of how strangers are just people we haven’t met yet. They’re moms and dads, grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters and so on. They’re a part of our lives rarely given a second thought, although we’re with them, sometimes touching, almost every f*ing day. Yes, some are bad scary eggs, but the majority are awesome. Campers share a common interest in the great outdoors like golfers at a country club. We’re not out to harm!64D39E3C-4775-4E7A-8B20-B1991EC2AD44

Moving on … He headed out, probably thinking WTF and I went straight to the trailhead at the back of camp. Awesome trail! Got back after dark and hit the showers where a couple adorable little girls in swimsuits were dancing, singing and giggling in one of the showers. So freakin’ adorable!

Started cooking dinner when a four-door car called rolled in. The man, Behar, was quiet-spoken with a thick middle-eastern accent. He explained how the office called him and said he had to go since they were full and he hadn’t paid, which he’d planned to do after a big hike that took much longer than expected. When he asked if he could stay, I laughed. Of course he could! He paid 1/2 site fee (yea!) and we chatted briefly. Ate dinner, washed up and then zipped for the night.

We were both up early and bid adieu. Took coffee to the waterfalls and hit a fantastic trail walk before getting on the road. Would love to be near a gorgeous location like this to start every morning … goal for future!EC197613-892C-4067-BA32-C605899CCB87

A0548894-13BF-43BE-AB34-E2B5EA3793F8Aldi was first stop before leaving Ithaca, for wool blend socks, jumbo shelled peanuts, onions, olives and mushrooms.

Made u-turn to check out this fantastic place (Valley View Farm Fresh Produce), open seasonally (May-Oct), in Lisle, NY off Route 79. The couple’s daughter makes smell-so-good, organic goats milk soaps. Husband builds incredible wood-crafts (mailboxes, yard art, birdhouses) and they have jams, jellies, pumpkins, gourds, huge variety of fruit and veggies, and so much more. I loved the feeling I got here. Bought bright (delicious) tomatoes, jelly and a large pot of happy mums for Stefani.

Took these photos across the street and down the road from the market. Beautiful area! Walked around in a field of wildflowers – Incredible! Not sure what it is about old farm buildings that gives me warm fuzzies, but they do!

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As far as highways go, nothing beats the sight of rolling, forested areas under blue skies!img_20180916_122713

img_20180916_105747Got Tabasco Slim Jim, coffee and surprisingly good sandwiches from Mirabito convenience store in Greene and stretched at the rest area in Unadilla.

 

Filled up ($2.97/gal) at the Mirabito in Richmondville, drove through Schenectady to Troy, then swung off NY-7 in Hoosick, when I saw cows and other critters on the rooftops of two buildings. I was at the Big Moose Deli & Country Store.

At the time, given the number of “VT” signs posted, I thought I’d crossed the Vermont state line. It was totally a tourist trap and super fun to walk through, inside and out. Wood shelves, no metal, and walls packed with fun, over-priced goodies.

I bought this cool magnet,img_5044 then back on the road into actual Vermont. Took US-7 to VT-11, then VT-121, wow! The Green Mountain National Forest was breathtaking and the small towns were calling my name to explore (another time). In Grafton, I drove along the Saxtons River, under an incredible canopy of trees, with wild turkeys everywhere.

img_20180916_162403Vibrant backroads went on and on beautifully, but I had to pee so damn bad. Thought I’d burst when I came across this gem!

Feeling much, much better, found a place to pullover and took a beautiful walk along the creek.img_20180916_162712

Popped over to 91 briefly, before making my way to Stefani who lives with Jeff on what they loving named, The Vermesa. Jeff was away on a shoot and Stefani at work, so it’s like The Vermesa herself welcomed me, down the entry drive lined with trees into an incredible space surrounded by more trees and so much more; brilliant tiny house, whimsical gardens, tons of funky-creative art, outdoor living space, huge dirt-mound with throne, and magical beach with sand, chairs, hot tub and floaties. Beautiful!

When Stef got home, hugged her tight. Over a couple days, we smoked happy buds, drank beer, and shared meaningfully. I believe our connection was stemmed from being kindred spirits who feel strongly about many like-subjects; green energy, sustainable living, human rights, animal rights and more. When Stef was away, I ate her divine crockpot squash soup, showered, explored myself and every inch of The Vermesa’s beauty. They cherish the land and Stef feeds each and every creature on it; she craves a pet possum. I love her!

 

INDIANA Angola to Sandusky, OHIO to Lake City, PENNSYLVANIA

September 13 thru 14, 2018 Slept late and hung out on my cot, with an awesome tree view; lazy, very warm morning. Learned the state park’s name, Pokagon, was changed from Lake James SP to recognize the state’s strong Native American history. Leopold and Simon Pokagon, father and son, were significant leaders of the Potawatomi. Also, Pokagon is considered a winter wonderland in Indiana; cross-country ski rentals, toboggan run, ice-fishing and sledding. I’ve always wanted to try ice-fishing in one of those cute little huts, with a heater of course!

D386E3E7-D745-4D27-A1E3-47BEA2B63F35Up and moving (thanks to caffeine), spent time with my Atlas, reviewing different routes to Vermont. Excited to meet and visit James’ friend, Stefani, and her guy Jeff in Vermont. Packed up and drove around the property, where I met this very special and handsome furry friend.

Walked a trail and around the toboggan track. Gorgeous park property; definitely worthy of return visit.

Opted for I-20 instead of I-90 to drive at slower pace, avoid toll fee, get better views and check out towns. Took only a few minutes before I crossed the Ohio state line. Pretty agricultural country, small towns and several churches along the drive. Took a few awesome walks, without my cell, to soak it all in.5701C46F-9351-4381-BF3E-B5F73D17A680

EE0D00BF-95C9-41EE-B210-742C81C1CD60Stopped at Sunoco in Fayette for potty and gas ($2.82/gal), in Millbury at Sunrise Park (wrong turn but nice little park), and at Walmart in Fremont for coffee. Crossed the Sandusky River to Route 6, and called Mike with Cold Creek Trout Camp in Sandusky to confirm opening for tent. Took me a while to navigate the ridiculous construction on backroads to the camp, almost missed turnoff; finally arrived 7 pm.

Mike drove me to the tent area. Set up, paid $25 and walked around before lights out. Lots of RVs, big and small, but no other tenters. Cool camp! The water is perfect for trout fishing year-round with its constant temp of 48 and quite a few people live in their units for months at a time; it’s like a neighborhood in close quarters.

Morning fog was thick and low, especially over Cold Creek. Spider webs thrived and I could just barely make out fishermen in their waders past the bridge. Trains zipped by through the night (ugh) and morning. A neighbor offered coffee and I happily accepted. Keyed Ashtabula in Garmin to have stops along Lake Erie.

Back on the road with stop for ice and gas at Mickey Moose Mart (couldn’t resist $2.37/gal) before leaving Sandusky. Caught a couple rough photos of downtown Cleveland and Progressive Field, and stopped in BK in Willoughby for a fantastic grilled chicken salad.

Got to Madison and parked downtown to walk around town and through the center’s park. Beautiful day!

A few miles farther and I stopped at Geneva State Park. The park itself was beautiful and I enjoyed lunch by the beach area; however, I wasn’t impressed by the tent camp area, in a clearing by the parking lot of the park office.

Carried on to Ashtabula, stopped in Giant Eagle for restroom and Ohio brewed seasonal beer, then at Busy Beaver (like the name!) for 2-pack of propane and an extra, long-handle lighter.

Just over the Pennsylvania line, stopped in the Dollar General in West Springfield for a $5 tent rug, small $1 chopping board and coffee creamer (hazelnut) before hopping to PA-5. Stopped at a park, but no camping allowed. Did a search and talked with John of Uncle John’s Elk Campground, who said he had plenty room and to give him a shout when I got there.

Had a hard time finding it at first, but drove past houses, down what looked like was a residential drive to a wide-open space, with cabins, campers, playground and general store. It was beautiful! Called John, then set up camp about 6p. Short while later he showed up in a cart to collect $25. Elk Creek runs along the camp and the water is so f*ing clear and cold. Great trout place!

Shelly, a frequent flier to the camp with her husband, an avid fisherman, introduced herself as I cooked and we hit it off. She told me about sunset watch spot by Lake Erie and I headed there after dinner, along with couple other campers, Donny and his girl. They made me laugh and sunset colors were beautiful. Lots of petrified wood!

Back at camp, I hung out between Shelly’s camp and Donny’s. At Donny’s, I totally partied; smoked weed, drank, and sang while his 80’s style strobe light bounced across the trees. At Shelly’s, I drank beer and listened to fishing stories from her husband and their friends. Made it back to my tent and zipped up, so f*ing late. Awesome night!!

 

MICHIGAN Manistee (Orchard Beach SP) to Angola (Pokagon SP), INDIANA

September 12, 2018 Beautiful morning and great sleep, especially considering the tilted cot. Unzipped to see several campers had joined during the night, as well as a couple hammock-ers. Awesome!24FFE783-1EF4-4DBA-97E5-164231F7AD73

Got coffee going with the last of the propane; made note more needed. Thoughts zipped ahead and after camping for 5 peaceful days in upper and lower Michigan, I wasn’t looking forward to getting back on an interstate. Took a long walk around the campground in the beautiful sun that was warming things fast! Sat at a picnic table to update my journal.

Packed up camp, smoked a rolled cigarette, then headed for the bathhouse. The shower had a nozzle that looked similar to a fireman’s hose and shot water fiercely; perfect masseuse for my head, neck, shoulders and back.

Took 55 E from Manistee; gorgeous highway scenery! Stopped at the Dublin EZ Mart in Wellston for ice and a couple Giant Slim Jims. Poured water from ice chest in the parking lot, refilled, and then went back in for a pack of Pall Mall’s ($6.06); the tobacco pouch would be backup.

Stopped at a couple rest areas to potty and stretch, after getting on I-131S; the small, Tustin Rest Area in Burdell Township with cool historical marker about Swedish immigrants and the Big Rapids Rest Area 534 with super clean property, lots of parking and pretty landscape.

Absolutely loved my time in Michigan and wanted to see and do much more, but the time frame for being in NH was pressing (in hindsight, I had time to spare). Continued through Grand Rapids, with a stop at J&H Oil Co in Byron Center for gas ($2.83/gal), across to 94, then south on I-69 into Indiana.

Landed at Pokagon State Park in Angola before 7 pm and instantly fell in love with it!

With dense greenery all around, I set up camp ($17 primitive + $9 car fee UGH) in 244 and ate a salad with my new favorite Secret Aardvark black bean sauce from Florence, OR.

A few minutes after clean up, I got this little visitor with its big presence and I backed away for a long, amazing walk. When I got back, my little friend was gone, thank goodness, and I dropped a few moth balls around the perimeter.6754F53C-9C1A-4886-85B4-80082896CF30

Temperature was definitely warming up, so used sleeping bag for extra padding instead of cover. Checked in with family and thankful all were good. Michael got 19 staples from back surgery and only that area was painful; no nerve pain. Yea! Said goodnight to the trees, and all the little critters I could hear.ABD7F11D-49C1-4EC2-8BE2-AA6C1DA50E9F

Slept like a log until just after midnight (the witching hour), when potty time hit. Oh joy! With headlamp and bear spray, I headed to the restroom, in the middle of an opening a few minutes away. Looking outward instead of down, I walked so close to a skunk that one more step would have been deadly in one way or another. We startled the shit out of each other, more-so me! I was silently screaming, “Don’t spray me, don’t do it!” He or she continued waddling along toward the women’s door; didn’t seem interested in me. I slowly backed away, for the second time same day, and went around to the men’s. With eyes to the ground, I swung headlamp left and right back to the tent. My internal radar was on high-alert for any and all activity, but back to sleep I eventually went.

 

 

 

 

MICHIGAN Leelanau State Park to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and Orchard Beach State Park

September 11, 2018 Great night sleep with millions of stars; woke before 7 am to awesome sunrise. So glad I threw the tarp over tent! It and the picnic table cover were soaked from air moisture, not actual rain.

Draped tent and tarp across big rocks and bushes to dry; picnic cover on clothes line (fyi no nails required at any time). Made coffee and soaked in the view; perfect timing to see several swans.

I was sitting on the tailgate, putting on my shoes, when an older gentleman on a bicycle stopped and said hello. He introduced himself as Tom, said he wasn’t much of a people person, but I intrigued him. Couldn’t help but laugh at that! We talked for quite a while and swapped stories.

He was from Midland, MI, 72-years-old, and camping by himself a couple sites from mine, where there were two cool kayaks and an older camper. He was on a getaway, which he did for several days at a time, every few weeks. His philosophy for a good life was simple, for kids to live off parents, then parents live off kids. After retirement and a few years of living the ‘camp and smoke shit-loads of pot life’, he moved in with his son to take care of the home maintenance. He said it’s the perfect arrangement for both of them and he’s been there ever since.

Shared a chunk of Kilwin’s fudge with him (breakfast of champions) and he gave me a bottle of soda and route suggestions. Like Jason, he told me to avoid Detroit. Ha! Took a drive around the campground, so beautiful, quiet and clean. Will definitely return!

A couple minutes down the road and I was in the parking area of the Grand Traverse Lighthouse (restroom by the lot was very clean). Interesting history and incredible grounds. They had the flag lowered in memory of 9-11. Beautiful place.

Back on 22 South (good reason it’s marked scenic on the Atlas) and made several stops to check out wood trails around Maple City and Glen Arbor.

Used my NP pass to cover $25 fee ($45 saved) at Sleeping Bear Dunes, parked, filled water bottle, sat at a picnic table by the awesome recycle bins to pull off shoes and socks and excitedly hit the Dune Climb.306FD3C2-E27D-4401-9201-F5130EA543CC

Holy shit! It sure as hell didn’t look that steep from the parking lot. I had to push my ass to keep going. It was hot as hell, but absolutely gorgeous day with occasional, heaven-sent small breezes. Stopped couple times to take in the views at different heights … hahahaha, right. I was catching breath and resting leg muscles.

B7ADD293-D7F6-43CC-B14D-A55991F721B8My tootsies felt amazing in the sand; supreme exfoliation!

Fantastic view and fun on the way down, but had to take it slow or I’d easily be head over heels.9727DF5B-7C70-4341-9C3F-C0973274E15A

Loved the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive! Fantastic woods, overlooks and historical markers.

The walk toward Dune Overlook got more sandy and the vegetation was gorgeous; several shades of green.

At the top, there was a wood trail, like a mini boardwalk across the sand, with water peaking in the background. Breathtaking views … stood in awe for quite a while.

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Legend detail is on a marker on the pier. I look forward to camping on the Manitou Islands in the future.

On the road again. Learned the bike path that runs parallel to shoreline was built from re-purposed rail beds of trains decommissioned years ago. Will definitely take a bike next time.

Swung off to check out an RV/Campground; $34/nite rate. Campers were crammed together like sardines, tent area was concrete with a view of RV butts (WTF?!) and the sound of 100 dogs barking (slight exaggeration). Needless to say, back on the road I went. Switched from 22 to 31, with a stop in Beulah at E-Z Mart for coffee and potty, then got gas at $.50 off a gallon ($2.35/gal) at BP in the tiny village of Bear Lake.

7238DAAD-228A-44B3-B3C5-F40FB57BE50ANext stop was Orchard Beach State Park, listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, at almost 6 pm. Met Becky, very friendly, at office counter (happy no phone to register), picked site 53 and returned for check-in; paid $30 (she waved passport fee!!) and set up camp. I loved the site, even with its wonky ground. It was a tight fit with the cot turned, pressing against tent sides; inserted sunshades as moisture barrier.

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I tried the pastie again, with added jalapeños, but still tasted like shit. Probably better deep fried or baked; saved the jalapeños and tossed the pastie.

The restroom was very clean, even the property around it was manicured with gorgeous trees. The park’s position on the bluff provided an outstanding view of Lake Michigan, especially at sunset, which I watched with several other campers from benches that faced the lake. The only downside was the staircase leading to the beach was closed-off, maybe for repair.

After sunset, I walked back to my site. Adored the tree by it! Rolled a couple smokes and talked with Tracy. Walked around for a couple hours, before zipping up.

CFF75FC1-0BBE-48C3-9FE3-0029DEADB9EA

MICHIGAN Wilderness State Park to Alanson, Petoskey, Leelanau State Park

September 10, 2018 Woke feeling good, joints quiet, and Carol’s instant coffee made it even better, with added sugar and Irish butter. Still hadn’t found the American Spirit tobacco in a pouch to buy (used Nick’s in WI), so I had Montclair ($5.13/pack).

Packed and loaded after drying tarp and tent using wind-up clothes line and dad’s rope. Jason drew suggested paths on my map and I headed out. Got wonderful news that Michael’s back surgery to remove a large, ruptured disc went very well. Looked forward to healing updates.♥

South on US-31, I spotted a park sign and followed it to a small parking lot near water. Looked it up and learned the access, where I was, led to an island donated by a local resident, Derry Williams, in memory of his wife and son. The Crooked River separates the island from the mainland and village residents donated 4,945 hours of labor to the Sanctuary Island Project. There’s an awesome, self-propelled ferry (wheelchair accessible) to access the island park. Beautiful and definitely worth a stop!

Gorgeous day! I parked and walked around the wonderful village of Alanson. Went inside W.W. Fairbairns hardware store, run by four generations of the Fairbairn family since 1895 and a historical landmark.

Tigerlillys was definitely the best all-in-one florist I’d ever visited; lots of color, home decor, gifts, and more. The merchandise layout was creative and color-coded!

Just before Conway, I saw a parking lot with boat trailers and stopped. Great place for a stretch and beautiful view of Little Traverse Bay.

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D67F3557-A5DB-4B49-A8F4-4D62B058132EIn Petoskey, I scored a wedding outfit (size 6 beat size 12/14 starting this trek!), shoes and a green, wool blanket for total of $31 at Gold Mine North. Big thanks to Jason for suggesting the place; such a win!

Found the American Spirit tobacco at the LTBB/Biindigen (Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa (Ottawa) Indians) convenience store and also got ice, Blue Moon, Slim Jims and papers.84810836-73FC-42EB-A3DA-6C60AB3E1883

Parked in the Sunset Park lot and climbed down the fabulous tower stairs to Bayfront Park, where there was a gazebo, stream, walking trails, and a small waterfall. Beautiful!

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Enjoyed salad by the boat dock, not far from the park.

Kilwins was the most exciting place for me at that moment. The smells were fantastic and the people were super nice. They offered free chocolate tours, but I just wanted to sample everything and admire the artwork in goodies. I bought a decadent slice, just over 1/2 lb, of their Signature Turtle fudge for $10.

Slowly made my way around the shoreline, the Little Traverse Wheelway, with lots of stops to admire views. The roadside parks were superb!

In the town of Charlevoix, very charming and hopping, had a small beer at the Town House Bar on Bridge Street.7EE06E9E-9198-4C77-A8C0-2BD6B9872CBD

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I got a giggle by “Cheers!” on receipt from the Citgo where I got couple cokes on sale.

The drive was beautiful, it was after 6:30 pm and time to find a camp. Couldn’t help myself with one more stop at the Greilickville Harbor Park, which was so pretty with lots of geese.

It had been a great day and I was super tired. Beautiful drive and so many small communities that looked amazing off 22. Arrived at Leelanau State Park after 8 pm and registered on the yellow phone outside the park office. Picked a spot by the shoreline, across from dense woods and not far from the vault toilet. Set up tent behind bushes to help block water wind.

It was going on 9 pm and I was craving hot food. Fired up the stove, added teaspoon of coconut oil in pan and browned the thawed pastie (pasty), while watching the colors in the sky, sunset remnants, fade. Beautiful!

Unfortunately, the pastie was too bland for me to enjoy and I was too tired to doctor it; back in the ice chest it went. Draped the small tarp over tent, looped corner ties to surrounding rocks, then zipped up.