Travel to New England

Tuesday April 19th 2016

I got underway about 10am from East Stroudsburg PA. It was a hard travel day. There was a strong north wind for most of the trip.

Crossing the Hudson river on Interstate 84 was a real adventure. I selected the middle lane of 3 and luckily the traffic was light. At least twice on the crossing I was blown halfway into the next lane. For this adventurous E ticket ride I had to pay a toll of $10, but that’s better than the toll I paid last fall on the Tapanzee bridge. I think that one was $23.

The hills in Connecticut were fun playing tag with the trucks. I can keep up the speed going up hills a little better than many of the trucks but if I can’t get out to go around them I loose momentum. Once that happens I’m slower than the trucks for quite a distance. I keep learning more about how this vehicle handles on hills so I will have a better idea how it may handle in the mountains out west.

About 3pm I checked into the Sturbridge MA Yogi Bear campground. Luckily April is still off season rates. The association with the Hanna Barbera characters turn a simple campground into an expensive resort complete with entertainment. My site isn’t the best, but it will do for a week or so.

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Parked on Site 149. The gravel area in front of the RV is site 150 entered from the opposite direction. Great if your buddies. Not so great if you aren’t .

The additional 200 miles north have brought predictable changes in the progress of spring. Fewer bushes and trees are in bloom and the temperature is a little cooler. I’ve gotten an extra blanket out for the overnight although it is not predicted to be as cool as one night last week. It’s better to be prepared than have to get up in the middle of the night to find the blank.

Now that I’m back in New England, I’ll be running errands and working toward getting my house sold. I am going to try and keep up a daily blog entry, but fear they may get boring.

Travel to Pennsylvania

Monday April 18th 2016

After 3 days of touring Washington DC, I was ready to get on my way north. A bunch of little things conspired against me so I didn’t get underway until 10:30 about an hour later than planned. My travel day ended about 3:30 in the North East corner of Pennsylvanian at the Delaware Water Gap KOA.

I really enjoyed my stop in DC. Catching up with the changes to the Smithsonian and the memorials on the mall is fun to do every few years. I could have spent another couple of days but would have had to take a down day in there to re-energize. I may stop on my way back south later in the year. Who knows, my plans are formed in Jello. All of the picture I took can be found in the Google Photos shared album Washington DC April 2016.

It was a great day weather wise but not that great of a travel day. I needed to buy gas today. I started the day with a quarter tank which is the point I don’t like to go below. All of the stations near the campground were typical urban stations; small and next to impossible to get the big motorhome in and out of. Using google maps satellite view I identified two good locations on my path north. The first was about 15 miles away and the second almost 60. I don’t know the accuracy of the gas gauge near the bottom of the tank so I really wanted to stop at the station 15 miles up the road.

The construction gods didn’t let me succeed. The exit I needed was right in an area under construction and I was concentrating on maneuvering through the zone. I missed the exit for the nearer gas station. I was a little tense for the next 45 miles as I watched for any other good opportunity. The second station I had scoped out on google was north of Baltimore. It proved to have easy access but not the best price. Price is not a variable access is all that matters.

The roads in Maryland and Pennsylvania are not the greatest and the hills of the northeast are starting to come into play. The stuff inside the RV really bounced around today. Tomorrow will be more of the same in New York and Connecticut.

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Site 66 at the Delaware Water Gap KOA not quite under the power lines but close.

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Flowering tree with the buds about to open at my site. Note that the bigger trees in the background haven’t started to bud yet.

I’m about 200 miles further north than last night. The foliage on the trees is not as far along. The big Oak trees are still almost bare and the buds on the smaller flowering trees are just starting to breakout. My guess is there will be even less foliage tomorrow night.

Natural History Museum

Sunday April 17th 2016

It was another beautiful day today. The temperature has gone up about 5 degrees each day since Friday. Today it reached 75 degrees.

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Washington Monument

I got down to the mall in time for the 10am opening of the museums. I started with the National Museum of Natural History. This facility has been totally remodeled since my last visit. I recognized very few of the exhibits. The great elephant in the main hall was still greeting visitors and there were still cases upon cases of stuffed birds of the DC area.

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Elephant exhibit in Natural History Museum rotunda

I’m sure there were other artifacts that I’ve seen before, but the way they are displayed has been totally updated. In the past an attempt was made to display an artifact in a mock up of its natural setting. Now the focus is on information and education. If it requires grouping exhibits in unnatural ways for comparison or contrast, education takes priority. The number of interactive exhibits has been increased immensely.

The museum is still a confusing mess of rooms and passage ways that often requires you to double back to get to things you want to see. It’s designed for people to wander and learn not to see everything in the least amount of time. When the museum is as heavily visited as it was today, I want to just get in and get out. A day with fewer people would be needed for me to linger over displays.

The exhibit hall on Minerals and Gems was my favorite. I would like to know more about Minerals and Gems. There is huge display of crystals, minerals, and gems as well as some jewels. The Hope Diamond gets its own room and guard. If you’re into diamonds, I’d say it’s impressive.

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Hope Diamond through display case glass

The crowds chased me out of the Natural History museum after about 3 hours. My next objective was to get some culture. I went to the National Gallery of Art. I wandered through gallery after gallery of paintings and sculpture. Most of the galleries I went through contained panting from the 1500s through about 1800. I know very little about art, but I recognized some of the artist names and I’d even heard of a few of the paintings. There were people studying the details of the paintings and making sketches.

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National Gallery of Art rotunda fountain with Mercury

I realized after I left the National Gallery of Art that I didn’t tour a large section of the main floor. If I recall from previous visits that section contains the works of more recent artists like the impressionists. I had enough with the sections of the museum I toured.

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President Taft’s first presidential Limo. Displayed in a Glass Box on the Mall

I was back at my RV home by 3PM to eat a late lunch early dinner. The previous two days of touring I at lunch in one of the museums, but the Cafe in the Gallery of Art was to fancy for my tastes. So ends my touring of Washington DC for this trip.

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

Saturday April 16th 2016

Today my focus was on visiting the Air & Space Museum and the Capital end of the Mall. I drove to the Metro today since parking is free on the weekend. This saves the half hour or so on the bus. The museum opens at 10am and I was there right on time.

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US Capitol building west side. The construction staging around the dome is visible.

It has been a number of years since I visited the Air & Space museum on the mall. My last couple of visits were to the Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy facility at Dulles Airport which opened in 2003. This was my opportunity to see what has changed at the National Mall facility.

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Spirit of St Louis

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Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia

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Wright Flyer

Most of the big artifacts are the same. It’s not easy to change out aircraft and space craft. They may have put in some new items, but it’s hard to tell. Some of the galleries need a refresh of the narrative. For example, one display wall describes all of the commercial jet airliners through the 1980s. There are a lot of Boeing and Airbus airliners built since the 80s that have not been added. Yet a few feet away is an Airbus A320 cockpit mock-up fight simulation. So they’re trying.

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Italian Folgore 202 and US P-51D

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SBD-6 Dauntless and other aircraft

There are new galleries on Moon photographs, Time & Navigation and Moving Beyond Earth which deals with the shuttle program and space station missions. These captured my attention better than some of the older exhibits. The Time & Navigation gallery was particularly interesting. It showed the evolution of navigation from following the stars to the GPS era and time from the sun dial to atomic clocks.

I spent about two hours in the museum. I toured every gallery, but primarily took pictures in the galleries that hadn’t been significantly updated since I last visited. The new galleries got the majority of my focus.

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Azalea in a pot at the Botanic Garden

My next stop on the Mall was at the United States Botanic Garden. This facility is the home of rare and endangered plants. This weekend is the last two days of a special focus on orchids. Perhaps for that reason there were more people viewing the gardens than I expected. I went a little crazy with my camera. I took pictures of anything that had a color other than green.

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Orchid on exhibit at the Botanic Garden

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Closeup of a blossom

From the Botanic Garden I walked in front of the Capital over to Union Station to catch the Metro back to my car in College Park MD. I got back to the campground about 3:30. It was a short day but I saw a lot of interesting stuff. Tomorrow I’ll focus on the Natural History Museum.

Washington DC Monuments

Friday April 15th 2016

I took the 9:00 bus from the campground to the metro station. I made it to the National mall by ten. There were no surprises. The bus and the metro worked as advertised. Considering all the times in the last year that Washington Metro issues have been in the news, that’s saying something.

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Washington Monument

There was a parade of buses in front of the museums along the mall. They were bringing hoards of school kids to tour the museums. All during the day one group of students after another were trailing their leader around the museums or monuments. Worse yet some of the school kids were allowed to run around the museum in groups of 4 or 5. I am sure the kids get something positive out of the experience. Unfortunately, it complicated my own experience.

The museums now have full security checkpoints at the doors. A complete bag check and metal detector pass was required for everyone. It took over 20 minutes to get into the American History Museum even in the shorter “no bags” line. The lines for the Natural History Museum and Air & Space Museum were even longer. I only went to the American History Museum today largely because of the lines.

The American History Museum has been almost completely remodeled and updated since my last visit. The west wing of the building still has areas being updated with sections scheduled to open this year through 2018. Some of the new exhibits are very well done and but others are laid out in a way that just confuses me.

The exhibit area built for the Star Spangled Banner Flag is very dramatic and informative. It is a huge improvement from the way it was displayed in the 1980s when I first saw it. Other artifacts that I have seen on previous visits are in new locations while other less movable objects have been surrounded by new exhibits.

What confuses me is the choices used for grouping artifacts. One of the new West wing areas on Inventions and Inventors has areas grouped by location and areas that are chronological. In the chronological area they also group items by category. I just find it confusing. In one area you’re looking at automation of farm equipment then 2 feet away how McDonalds markets products in Japan. The common element is they both happened in the same decade.

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World War II Memorial

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World War II Memorial with Lincoln Memorial in the background

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Korean War Memorial

After about four hours getting in and touring the American History Museum I moved on to the monuments at the west end of the mall. The last time I was on the Mall the World War II memorial was under construction. It is a large area of granite between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Its size and popularity matches the significance of the war to the people and history of the last century. It documents the states and US territories that provided troops to the war and the major battles of the war. It is a significant monument, but I don’t think it is as dramatic as the Korean Memorial or as personal as the Vietnam Memorial.

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Washington Monument and Capital Building as viewed from the Lincoln Memorial

I made it back to my RV home shortly after 4pm. It was an exhausting day. Tomorrow I’ll need to dodge the parades in town. The Cherry Blossom Parade and the Emancipation Day Parade are both tomorrow. I think the Cherry Blossom Parade was delayed because of weather when it was originally scheduled. All of the Cherry Blossoms have dropped off the trees.

Cherry Hill Park

Thursday April 14th 2016

I got underway from my location just north of Richmond at about 10:30 this morning. My destination was the Cherry Hill Park RV Resort in College Park Maryland. It was a good travel day, low wind and sunshine.

The trip was a little over a hundred miles, but it was in heavy traffic all the way. If my destination wasn’t right on the DC beltway I would have avoided the DC area all together. US route 17 northeast from Fredericksburg VA gets one out to Interstate 81 to go up through Pennsylvania. This avoids all of the toll roads and congestion of the Northeast corridor that starts between Richmond and Washington DC. I didn’t have any issues with the journey, but will have to deal with the congestion again on Monday when I leave.

Checking in to the campground was a long process. I was third in line for one of four clerks checking people in. In addition to paying and getting a site assigned, you receive an overview of all of the amenities available and the DC touring options. I’ve been here before so I expected some of this, but things have changed a bit since I was last here ten or more years ago. I departed the office with more brochures than I’d normally pickup at an information booth.

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Site 32 at Cherry Hill Park RV Resort. The flowering tree shows that spring has arrived in Maryland

Later in the afternoon I attended a full briefing on using the DC area bus and metro system. The campground has a bus stop right in the park and has got mass transit down to a science. The transit system has switched to an RFID based Smartcard for paying fares since I last road the Metro. I had the time so I went to the presentation to see what I could learn. Most of the information I already knew, but I was able to buy a SmarTrip card to use on the Metro.

Also, this afternoon, I got the oil in the car changed. There was a Valvoline Instant Oil change up the road a couple of miles. This is the same chain I’ve been using in New Hampshire so there computers knew my vehicle. The car’s idiot display indicated the car wanted an oil change soon, so I bit the bullet and got the oil changed rather than waiting until I got back to New Hampshire. Even though it was the same chain, I think I paid a lot more than I’ve paid before. Just one more thing to get used to on the road.

Tomorrow I’ll take the bus and Metro into DC. I’ll get off the Metro at the National Archives stop, come up out of the ground and start sight seeing. What I’ll see and in which order is all up to whim and chance. Saturday and Sunday I’ll repeat the process except I’ll probably drive to the Metro since parking will be more readily available and buses less frequent.

A Routine Chores Day

Wednesday April 13th 2016

Today was dedicated to domestic duties. I made a grocery run, got the laundry done and did a few maintenance tasks around the rig. It was a clear day cooler than the last couple of days in the 60s; a perfect day for hanging around camp.

This section of the campground gets filled up every night with travelers. I watched the exodus this morning starting at around 7AM and continuing to the checkout time of 11AM. As the last overnight residents left I followed in my car heading for groceries. I am familiar with this area from previous stops so finding the Walmart at the next exit up the interstate was a snap. By noon I was back at the campground fully stocked for a few more days.

The next item on the days agenda was the laundry. I took my dirty laundry, the detergent and a supply of quarters to the office area where the machines were located. At this campground a single load cost $2 to wash and $1.50 to dry. The washers had a nice feature of a count down clock so I knew how long it would take to complete. I don’t wait in the hot noisy laundry rooms. An hour and a half later the chores for the day were complete.

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This is the entrance to the campground. The sign is high enough to be seen from the interstate. In the center of the picture behind the car on the access road through the trees you can see a bus on Interstate 95.

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry that Interstate 95 is very close. It is very easy to watch all of the RVs and trucks going north. Competing with the highway for the most noise is a small airport behind the campground. Several times during the afternoon single engine planes taking off drowned out the highway noise. The only noise producer missing from this campground is a railroad track. I am not really complaining, they don’t really bother me. The airport is silent at night and the road noise is not a distraction.

About 2PM, the camp sites that were vacated in the morning started filling up. By 5PM all the good sites were taken. A few small sites remained available. The campground was turning travelers away. One more confirmation that I need to continue to make reservations along the highway.

Rainy Travel Day

Tuesday April 12th 2016

It was a rainy travel day today. I got picked up and ready to go by 10AM. The forecast was for occasional showers transitioning to sunshine. They missed the mark a little. I had rain all the way to Richmond Virginia around 200 miles. It had stopped and was starting to clear when I stopped for the day in Ashland just north of Richmond.

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Heading down the rainy road

The heavy north bound RV traffic has caused me to reserve sites ahead of time. This results in a penalty if I change plans, so not traveling in the rain wasn’t a good option. This was not my first time traveling in the rain, I traveled in the rain a couple of days going south to Florida. As long as you keep the air moving on the windows to maintain visibility and keep good spacing with the cars in front, it isn’t that big an issue. A little more tension than I’d like, but rain is easier to deal with than wind.

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Site E-28 at Americamps RV Resort

This campground is close enough to I-95 that you can see the trucks go by through the trees. It is  noisy but nothing that I’m not used to.   I’ll be here for 2 nights. I hope to get the laundry done and do some grocery shopping before I go into tourist mode in Washington DC until Monday.

Back on the Road North

Monday April 11th 2016

I got underway from South Carolina about 10:30 this morning. Today was a much better travel day than my travel days last week. The wind was not as strong so I was not constantly fighting to keep the Motorhome in the lane.
It still wasn’t perfect. South Carolina likes concrete roads. The seams in the road can get a good bounce going. This is particularly bad on older or patched concrete. I suppose concrete lasts longer than other paving materials, but I wish they could keep it smoother.

I had to buy gas today. This is more complicated than filling the tank in the car. I need to find a place that has enough room to get the big rig in and out without backing up. When pulling a car you can’t back up without disconnecting the car. I usually plan ahead by using Google maps to identify places that I can stop at successfully. Many of the Flying J truck stops have special RV lanes. That is what I stopped at today.

It still took well over half an hour to fill the tank. First I had to wait for another rig to finish before I could get into one of the two RV lanes. Then I needed to position the RV correctly relative to the pump. It only took one extra pull ahead (remember I can’t back up). The next part is the same as filling a car; swipe a credit card and start pumping. Today the pump wasn’t very fast and it had a $75 limit per transaction so after putting in 43 plus gallons I had to start over again. The second swipe of the credit card only needed about 12 gallons to fill the tank. You rarely know ahead of time how much fuel the credit card processing agent will allow on a single swipe. Sometimes it is $50 or $75. What I really prefer is the $100 cut off but that’s rare.

I try to fill the 80 gallon fuel tank when it gets to a quarter on the gauge. I also wanted to buy gas in South Carolina. The prices are the lowest on the east coast in South Carolina. I only paid $1.73 per gallon from a station at an Interstate exit. I saw lower prices in the Charleston area over the weekend.

It is interesting to observe the progress of spring as you move north. At the Georgia South Carolina boarder all of the trees were in full leaf. Two hundred and fifty miles north were I am tonight, the leaves on the trees are in there early stages. I wonder what it will be like in another couple hundred miles?

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Tonight’s site number 38 at the Fayetteville RV Resort

This is a one night stop. I’m trying to move at a comfortable pace to get to the DC area for the weekend. My version of the two and two rule is travel about 200 miles and don’t travel more than 2 days straight. This is my modification of the version often discussed on the internet of travel 200 miles and stay 2 nights.

Finishing up in Charleston

Sunday April 10th 2016

Well the cold weather and my travels north intersected this morning in South Carolina. When I got up this morning it was around 40 degrees. Once the sun was out for a while it got into the 60s, but this is the coldest temperatures the RV has been in since January. The forecasts are for warmer temps even as I move north over the next few days.
Today was an uneventful day. After 2 days of touring I stayed at home today. My focus was on watching the Masters golf tournament and planning the next week of travel. I’ve decided to stop in Washington DC for a few days. It has been a few years since I’ve been so it will be interesting to see what’s changed. If my new plans hold, I should be back in New England by the 19 or 20th of the month. I have made a few reservations but have more to make.

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Arthur Ravenel Jr cable stayed bridge over the Cooper River from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant NC. By some accounts it is the longest cable stayed bridge in the western hemisphere.

During my visit to Charleston SC I’ve seen the two big things I wanted to see. Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown were on my must see list. For the most part they lived up to my expectations. Some of the other big tourist draws to Charleston do not really interest me. I have seen a lot of old houses even some with the remnants of slave quarters so tours of Plantations and downtown neighborhoods are not that interesting. Even so, I drove through one of those Charleston neighborhoods. The trees and landscaping were nice.
I’ve put all of my pictures from Charleston in a Google Photo Shared Album. I’ll probably stop back in this area in a few years to see other things. For example, the battleship North Carolina is up in Wilmington, NC and there is always Myrtle Beach.