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The Travels of Bucket List Bessie

John & Pat go fulltime in an RV

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FULL-TIME RV LIVING

Maine post-mortem

We learned a lot of things on our week-long trip to Maine last week. It was the first time in New England for both Pat and myself and we had a great time discovering a beautiful state.

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tollgate

1. Tolls are expensive, especially when you have two vehicles and one of them is an RV – about twice as expensive as a car.  Going up and coming back we made extensive use of the I-95 corridor that runs up the Atlantic coast from Florida to Maine.   It’s a toll road for most of the trip through the northeast, although I seem to recall that south of Washington, DC it becomes free of tolls clear to Florida.  From Baltimore to Maine and back, we spent close to $60 just for the privilege of using I-95 and the New Jersey Turnpike.   The problem is all of the narrow (North to South, that is) states like Connecticut and New Hampshire.  Every one of them has its hand out and, If in some instances it may be possible to bypass the toll roads, other chokepoints like the Tappan Zee bridge get your money instead.

2. Tank capacity: Full hookups are nice but not strictly necessary.   Although our site only had electric and water, Pat and I do like our showers so we didn’t stint.  This is our vacation after all.   So we lived with the fact that the grey tank filled up every 2nd day.  On one occasion early on, the camp honey wagon came by to empty our tanks, but its pump broke down in the last half of the week and we were on our own for the rest of the trip.   We pulled the RV around to the dumping station to dump both tanks and then returned to our site, thereby learning by doing.  We had to do this twice, once in mid-week and again when we were pulling out of the campground for good.  We lamented the fact that the 30′ Cruise America Class C we rented had a chihuahua-sized grey tank in a bulldog-sized RV.  Two lessons were learned here: tank size matters and back in the woods loop where our site was, the pain of pulling out of the site to go dump the tanks would be double in a larger Class-A like the one we’re considering for our future home.

lynx

3. Levelers are a must.  For whatever reason (and I can think of a few) C/A does not supply them. We tried a solution using scrap wood but later on we just popped for two packs of Lynx Levelers; at $32 a pack they are not a cheap solution but they are adjustable and provided a quality leveling experience.

4. Quiet time is nice, if you happen to be a couple of old farts like us.  Most of the kids in our loop were allowed to run wild during the day, and they did so quite  politely, but by 10PM things got quiet and sleeping with the windows open became really pleasant.   Early in the week was the best time as most folks seemed to go home on Sunday and Monday, and then our loop got quiet on Tuesday through Thursday.  By Friday things picked up with the new weekenders.

5. Cooking over a fire is pleasant, convenient and congenial.  It only rained once, just before a visit by our local relatives.  Since we were doing burgers, dogs and s’mores over the fire as a key part of the visit, I had to stand over the fire for about a half-hour with an umbrella to keep it from going out, looking like an overweight male Mary Poppins trying to avoid a hotfoot.

6. In tandem with #2, shower size quickly emerged as a major factor in which motor home we will buy.  The shower in our Class C was about 24 inches by 30 inches – doable but pretty awkward – several times we opted to just use the shower house, which was clean and well-kept, because it wasn’t as cramped.   I decided that at least a 30×40 shower will be a must-have in our future retirement vehicle, and adjusted my short list of potential coaches accordingly.
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Parade during the Yarmouth Crab Festival.  It was a good thing no houses caught fire during the parade since every piece of firefighting gear from every town around Yarmouth was parading past in review.  Including this somewhat extreme example.

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The Freeport/Durham area is a very pleasant place for an RV’er in the Summer and I recommend the KOA.  When we weren’t visiting with relatives, we attended small-town parades and crab fests, we shopped in Freeport (an upscale boutique town with much to offer the tourist shopper), and deflated by and in the CG pool on days when nothing particular happened.   A Maine dinner is all about seafood (Got Lobstah?), and we ate way more of this than I’m used to.   We’ll definitely be back one day.

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Seals catching the rays in Portland Bay

Our First Trial Run

Pat and I really wanted to visit our nephew and his family in Maine, and we decided to turn it into a dry run for our RV retirement. We’re renting a Cruise America Class C RV in Hartford Connecticut and driving it the rest of the way to Durham, Maine, to the KOA campground where we’ll spend a week getting reacquainted with our family diaspora and checking out the black fly population.

Lessons learned so far:
1. Don’t ever, ever drive the I-95 corridor on a weekday, and possibly at any time.  Even avoiding NYC at rush hour by taking 287 thru the catskills added 2 hours to the trip.  Road construction, rush hour traffic thru Philadelphia and bottlenecks like the Tappan Zee bridge over the Hudson River all contributed to our 9PM arrival at our hotel in Hartford.  On the return trip we plan on cutting West from Hartford to Scranton and down to home via Harrisburg PA. Much nicer drive.

2. New York State roads are as bad on the eastern end as they are on the western end of the state, where Pat’s family (and all of my previous NY driving experience) hails from.  We didn’t even need a sign to tell us when we crossed over from New Jersey; my lower lumbar region suddenly got into that New York state of mind as I did the giant pothole slalom.  It disappeared nicely after we got into Connecticut.

We’re overnighting in Hartford and picking up the coach at 9AM tomorrow for the 3-hour journey to our destination.

America’s Largest RV Show

Pat and I realized our need for information in this enterprise we’re trying to embark upon, so we drove up from Baltimore to Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Aside from being the chocolate capital of the U.S. and the home of one of the better theme parks on the East Coast, Hershey also plays host,  yearly, to what is billed as “America’s Largest RV Show.”   I admit that I have nothing to compare it to since this was my first RV show, but it looked pretty big to me.  Many, many RVs of all stripes, price ranges and levels of luxury were stuffed into a vast parking lot as close as common sense would allow. Everybody in the RV world seemed to be there, including
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campgrounds and RV parks from distant states all vying for attention from the many visitors.  At $10 a day for admittance it was a pretty cheap education in RV tech, and I walked away with most, if not all, of my questions answered.  We’re staying overnight nearby and adding a second day to our adventure.

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