THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM



MONDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #34



It's hard to believe that we have been in Vermont for the last six weeks, but it's time to move back over to New Hampshire before heading further south and eventually back over to Cape Cod for the Labor Day Weekend.

I want to thank everyone who took the time to comment on our Facebook Group page and hope that the comments keep coming. I also suggest everyone makes it a habit to read the comments as well as this blog.

With this being our second time through the New England area we haven't been doing any of the vacation type sightseeing like we did last year. Most all of the big cities and attractions are off limits if you're trying to social distance, instead we're staying home, relaxing or working on a few minor projects around THE POD and ROVER.



TUESDAY - Today is a waiting game for us. Like most of our friends back in South Florida did yesterday we are now preparing for the what Hurricane Isaias, now Tropical Storm Isaias, has in store for us up here in southwestern New Hampshire. As with all tropical storms the two main concerns are high wind and high water.

First concern is the wind! Our forecast here is for sustained winds of 30MPH with gusts up to 60MPH later tonight. It's not so much the wind, but what might happen regarding the trees surrounding THE POD. I'm not sure when the last time a strong wind cleared out any dead branches from the trees high above us. I don't see any concerns from down on the ground, but you never know what lies high up in the trees.

I hope these trees are as healthy as they look!

Second concern is the water! The back bumper of THE POD is only a few yards away from the Ashuelot River and there is a flash flood warning for this area beginning later this afternoon. We have been assured by the campground owners that the river is in no danger of overflowing the banks enough to reach our campsite. Guess we'll just keep our fingers crossed on that one!

A river view from the front door of THE POD



WEDNESDAY - Tropical Storm Isaias didn't live up to the warnings that where sent out up here in our area. It seems that New Jersey and Delaware took the worst the storm had to give and by the time it reached us in southwestern New Hampshire it was little more than a bad thunderstorm.

We do have two branches, big twigs actually, on the roof of THE POD that will have to be removed before we hit the highway on Friday. Our winds and rain started around 7PM and was all but gone by midnight. We did however record our highest wind to date with our personal weather station with a 25MPH gust around 9PM. The rain was a complete non-factor in our area with the river behind our campsite rising only a few inches.

This morning we saw on the AccuWeather website there are over 1.2 million people in New Jersey without electricity and another 69,000 without power in New Hampshire, we're fortunate to not be one of them. I suspect most of the affected New Hampshire residents are along the eastern coastline, nearer to Maine.

Our hopes are that anyone reading this post was not too severely affected by the storm! If you care to share your experiences, please do so in the newly opened Facebook Group comments section.




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A THIRD AND FINAL VISIT



THURSDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #33



Just minutes after we got THE POD and ROVER all hooked up and ready to roll the skies began to darken. We weren't more than five miles outside of the park entrance when this is what we saw heading straight for us.

That was good timing or we would have gotten drenched trying to leave.

Luckily it all blew over quite quickly and it was all blue skies and clear highways after that. We arrived two hours early at the Army Corp of Engineers campground at Winhall Brook and had no troubles getting onto our campsite. In Vermont anyway, that's the difference between federal and state campgrounds, this federal park is a lot less strict about check-in time rules.

At just $13 a night (that's half price thanks to our Lifetime Senior Pass discount) it's a great bargain considering you receive on site water and electric, a free dump station and free hot showers.

This will be our third and final visit to Winhall Brook Campground. After more than two years on the road there are several campgrounds we have visited twice, but this is the only one to receive a third visit. Additionally, this will be the last time I have to negotiate crossing that long and skinny bridge at the entrance to the campground. Wish us luck!



SATURDAY - I want to try something new! First a few things that I do know to be true. Including this blog post I have written 274 posts here at TWO PEAS AND THE POD. So far there have only been 174 comments made to the blog and most of them come from the same half dozen people.

There are a little over 100 members in our Facebook Group, thank you very much, and at least half of them get around to reading most blog posts within a couple of days after each posting. We average 2-6 Facebook Likes on most posts, so I'm going to go way out on a limb here and assume you have actually read and liked the post.

A few people have mentioned to me that it is difficult to find and then comment on the blog platform. Since there is very little I can do about that I'm going to shut down all comments on the blog for a while. What I'm going to do, starting with this post, is to leave comments open on our Facebook Group.

My hope is that more of you might be inclined to comment and thus add more content and a wider conversation about the subjects I present here. I'm hoping to see two or three comments to go with the Likes on each post.

When we started this blog is was to keep family and friends informed about where we where and what we were doing. I was hoping that through comments we could learn what was happening in your lives, past, present and future.

Feel free to ask questions and share your own insights and experiences. It will only make this blog richer and more entertaining to read!




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BUTTON BAY STATE PARK



MONDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #32



I'm happy to report that today's travel route came off with only one small GPS hiccup. Ever since our GPS routed us through Smugglers Notch we've been a little leery when the street signs showing the way to our destination don't coincide with the instructions our GPS is voicing to us.

Such was the case today when we drove past a sign saying turn here for Button Bay State Park. Turns out both routes would take you where you wanted to go but the GPS route was probably a few tenths of a mile shorter. I suspect the difference was the shorter route went through a small residential neighborhood and the city posted their signs to keep you on a little larger and more traveled industrial area route.

Either way we got here just fine and once again had to wait over an hour before they would let us check-in. No way to avoid it when there is a three hour difference between check-out and check-in times and only 52.7 miles in between campgrounds.



MONDAY - I am often asked, with all the places we could possibly go visit how do I select the ones we end up at? I have several different answers to that question. Sometimes it's a recommendation of someone we've met, sometimes it's the result of our favorite campground review website, Campendium, which posts a Camper's Choice List every year. Sometimes it's just the nearest campground to an attraction we want to visit, like a cave tour or a National Park property that doesn't have it's own campground.

But it the case of the three state parks we have visited while here in Vermont it comes from a National Geographic book I purchased several years ago. In this book the State Park Superintendent from each state nominates their choices of the top four or five parks they suggest you visit while in their state. These choices are made on the overall appeal of the park and not their campground atmosphere, heck a full third of them don't even have a campground.

Vermont's Superintendent selected four parks, the three that we have just camped in, Smugglers Notch, Grand Isle, Button Bay and the fourth is Mount Philo State Park. Now Mount Philo does have a small campground up at the summit, but they only allows tent camping and today we found out why.

The 968 foot tall Mount Philo is the dominant feature in the small Vermont town of Charlotte. There is a one-way single lane road that winds it's way up to the summit and then back down. There are several tight hairpin turns and one very narrow spot, even narrower than Smugglers Notch, that would prohibit any trailer more than 13 foot long to be able to negotiate.

From the summit picnic area you can see Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains of New York to the west, with the Green Mountains of Vermont visible to the east and south. We felt a cooling ten degree reprieve from the heat while up at the summit compared to the campground we left behind back down on the lake.

Words can't describe the views from the top of Mount Philo
so I guess we'll just have to share a few of the photos we took.



MOUNT PHILO STATE PARK



The view from where we parked the truck.
A short walk from the parking lot brings you to this wonderful picnic spot with a view.
The final few steps up to the summit of Mount Philo.
The view westward to the Adirondack Mountains of New York
That's all New York State on the other side of Lake Champlain
This is a view of the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont

HOW TO TAKE CONTROL OF THIS SLIDESHOW

Option 1 - Do nothing and cycle through the photos at the predetermined speed.

Option 2 - Hover over any photo with the cursor and use the forward and reverse arrows that appear on the left and right centers to speed through the photos. Photos will still change at the predetermined speed if you wait too long. Keep your eye on the clock in the upper right hand corner.

Option 3 - Hover over any photo with the cursor and click on the pause button. You now have full control to go forward or reverse at your own speed. You can also select any of the little round buttons under the photo to navigate through the photos.

WANT TO SEE THE PHOTOS AT A LARGER SIZE?

1st - Click near the center of any photo and it will open to a larger size than what appears in the slideshow.
2nd - Click on it again and it will open to it's original full resolution size.
3rd - You will have to use your browsers back button to return to the slideshow after viewing the full resolution size photo.


Twice today we have driven over this bridge and caught a glimpse of the waterfalls. On the way back to camp we decided to stop and take a photo of Vergennes Falls from down at water level.

Vergennes Falls in where else, Vergennes, VT

We also stopped at a roadside store and picked up six ears of local, fresh picked daily, sweet corn on the cob, along with a pound of Vermont thick sliced bacon, a small sample of Vermont maple Syrup, some locally made Vermont Cinnamon Apple Jelly and some Vermont Smoked Sausage. Of course all of this set us back about $45, but you know what I say, "When in Vermont, eat like the Vermonters do!"



WEDNESDAY - Every day since our arrival here we have had an afternoon visitor, at least this one is smart enough not to try and take up residency inside THE POD. He hangs out in our back yard where we have the perfect position to watch him from (i.e. our office window at the dinette table). He sticks around for about an hour each day before he disappears back into the shrubbery.

Our daily afternoon visitor

Our side yard view from the doorway. The cabins are closed due to COVID restrictions so we have no neighbors, just like we like it!




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HE WAS NOT ALONE!



THURSDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #31



After removing our uninvited guest from THE POD last night we got a peaceful night of sleep with no additional loud snap of the trap noises. We thought we had our mouse problem dealt with.

We returned the borrowed mouse trap to the camp-host in the morning and thanked her once again. Check out time was 11:00AM and check in time at the next campground wasn't until 2:00PM so we hung around as long as we could talking to the camp-host before hitting the road.

We left right at 11:00AM and since we had only a short drive to our next destination we knew we were going to arrive early. Now most state parks will let you check-in early, some even charge a small fee for that privilege, but in Vermont State Parks there appears to be no room for negotiation.

We arrived around 12:30PM and were informed about the 2:00PM check-in time, but we already knew that, and were turned away. The park employee did say we could check back around 1:30PM to see if our site was ready. Now I know it's necessary to have some kind of rules in place or people will start showing up at 8:00AM wanting to get checked in. But if your site is empty and already cleaned (and ours was, I sneaked in and checked) what's the harm in letting us check-in a little early?

In order to pass the time we drove back to the dump station, which is located outside of the campground gates, and proceeded to dump our half-full tanks. We needed to drive down the street and around the block to be pointing in the right direction to reenter the campground before we got parked.

Then we just waited!

After a short while Tricia got bored and walked back up near the check-in station to take pictures of the lovely flower beds and it wasn't until 1:45PM that she stood waving the entrance pass over her head for me to bring the rig back to the gate.

This wasn't the first time we had to wait until check-in time and I'm sure it won't be the last.


Around 4:00PM we started thinking about what to prepare for dinner. We had skipped lunch, having eaten a few snack crackers and pistachios while driving today, and decided on nice big salads. That's when I opened the door under the sink to retrieve a couple of paper towels to use as napkins and guess what, that's right, mouse nibbles on the outside paper towel. They're still here, we've got hitchhikers!

I drove back into town to a hardware store we saw on the way in today and Tricia stayed back to get some more work done. I got to the store and they had mouse traps in two-packs. I picked up a pack and started for the register but thought maybe I should get four. I'm glad I did!

Tricia baited the traps with peanut butter, hey it worked last time, and we set them throughout THE POD in the hidden spaces behind cabinet doors where they appear to be exploring. Within the next five hours, before we crawled into bed, we had evicted two more mice from our house. Let's hope that's the end of them.



FRIDAY - We slept in a little late this morning until 7:00AM, sunrise was at 5:33AM, and before we ate breakfast we checked all four of our traps. When checking the storage area around our water pump Tricia informed me, "We got another one, that makes four so far." I've said it before and I'll say it again, "Let's hope that's the last of 'em."

We have yet to find where they are building their nest using our toilet paper and paper towel pieces they've stolen. Until we do that, I'm not naive enough to believe we're rid of them all.


UPDATE: As of 10:30PM we have now dispatched Mouse #5! The last three have all been snagged by the trap in the water pump locker, which is located just below our wardrobe closet. Tomorrow I should empty out all of our clothes and start looking for their nest. It shouldn't be to hard to spot, I just need to look for all our missing toilet paper and paper towel scraps!



SATURDAY - The entire eastern boundary of Grand Isle State Park is a shoreline of Lake Champlain. There are only a few places you can access the shoreline. There is also a small dirt boat ramp for launching kayaks and small motor boats. Sadly there are no sandy beaches to be found here, only a rocky area which goes all the way down to the edge of the water.

Early morning view of Lake Champlain as seen from Grand Isle State Park, VT


I could use everyone's help here! Does anyone know what this furry caterpillar type creature is?

I caught it cutting through our campsite early this morning and damn near stepped on it due to it's excellent camouflage. I'm not sure where it was headed but it wasn't in any particular hurry, just inching along at a fairly relaxed pace. But isn't that the way all caterpillars travel?

I can't imagine this guy is an aspiring butterfly, it would be huge because this thing was about the same length as my index finger and much thicker around.

Maybe one of our butterfly fanatics can help in identifying it? By the way, the top of the photo is the head and the bottom of the photo is well, I guess the tail, if that helps. Unless of course it was crawling backwards!


UPON FURTHER RESEARCH: If I have it correct, all TRUE caterpillars either turn into either a moth or a butterfly. There are however creatures that visually resemble a caterpillar, but are actually something entirely different.



SUNDAY - I've got good news to share with everyone! For the last 24 hours, and the first time in several days, we have not seen any mouse activity or had any sprung traps (sans mouse). We are keeping our fingers crossed that our house is finally mouse free! But I still haven't found that nest!

Today is our last night here at Grand Isle State Park and once again we have not really been able to do much sightseeing. Tricia is still working everyday, yes Saturday and Sunday included, to try and meet her deadline and I was finally able to accomplish a little bit of progress on a project that has needed attention since we bought THE POD.


I removed all the cloth bins from our wardrobe closet, looking for the mouse nest, and thought it might be a good time to tackle the project of reclaiming a few precious inches of closet space on my side of the closet. My side shares a wall with the side of the shower stall.

Airstream thoughtfully placed an access panel in the closet to the backside of the shower valve in case it ever needs repair. What I don't understand it why they made the access panel box six inches deep. After removing the panel I figured a 1-1/4 inch deep box would serve the same purpose, thereby gaining 4-3/4 inches of space on two of my five closet shelves. It may not sound like a lot but it sure makes the task of removing and reinserting those two cloth bins a lot easier.


Campsite #60 at Grand Isle State Park, VT

This is about as far north as we can travel this year. We are only 25 miles south of the Canadian border and it's closed due to the pandemic. So tomorrow, we hit the road and start slowly heading south. We should average about 100 miles per week, heading south by southwest, until the end of the year in order get back to warmer climates before winter arrives.




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TOWING THROUGH SMUGGLERS NOTCH



THURSDAY

TRAVEL DAY
YEAR #3 - STOP #30



Once again our expensive Garmin RV770 GPS got us into trouble. It is specifically designed for RVs. You enter your rig's height, weight and length of your truck and trailer combo into the GPS so that it won't route you into situations where you shouldn't be, like low clearance bridges, bridges with low weight limits and hairpin turns you wouldn't be able to navigate through.

It even has custom avoidance features like toll roads, u-turns, unpaved roads, carpool lanes and ferries. We had all those items selected to avoid when creating our route for today.

I should have known it was going to be a bad day when we encountered a road closed sign and a DOT employee blocking the road we were supposed to go down. They were doing a scheduled inspection to a bridge and offered no detour route other than to make a u-turn and go back to Vermont Highway 108. Luckily there was an industrial park entrance at the intersection where the barricade was set up and we were able to make a very tight u-turn inside their fenced in private property.

After making our u-turn and arriving back at Vermont Highway 108 the Garmin GPS rerouted us and we were once again confidently heading down the road. With about 20 miles left to go to our destination the route took us off Vermont Highway 108 and within in a few hundred yards we were traveling on an unpaved, rutted dirt road, though ranch lands.

Five miles later be were back on the same Vermont Highway 108 that we had just turned off of. That dirt road basically just cut the corner off the nice paved Vermont Highway 108 route and saved us about a mile of travel distance, gee thanks Garmin! Just a short distance later once again the route has us leaving Vermont Highway 108 and this time, no kidding, it basically took us through a parking lot. I didn't fall for that little trick!

Then where the parking lot reentered the highway it had us going once again off onto a side street. This time I did fall for the trick and found ourselves on another residential unpaved dirt road which quickly began to deteriorate into a gravel road with low hanging tree limbs. It eventually narrowed to basically a one lane road and a very steep incline. This is the point we met an oncoming SUV who had to back up about 50 yards to a point were we could pass each other.

After carefully maneuvering around the SUV we came to a stop sign. And yes, once again found ourselves back on the same Vermont Highway 108 that we left just a mile back down the road. We were now just 7 miles from our destination and we saw a sign that read, NO SEMI TRACTOR TRUCKS ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT. Great, now what! I read the sign, but after traveling a few hundred feet we had seen nowhere that we would have been able to turn around in.

My thoughts were, we're not a semi tractor truck, I guess it will be OK to proceed. After all I didn't really have a choice. The road immediately began to climb upward and we began seeing cars parallel parked on both sides of the roadway and our guess was their occupants were out hiking.

Up, up, up we climbed and soon the painted line down the middle of the road disappeared and the road began to narrow. We started seeing more and more cars on both sides of the road and people walking up and down the roadway with backpacks and hiking sticks. Soon I noticed people pointing and spinning around to look at us as we passed.

Then it happened! No more cars, just people walking and the road came to a blind turn with a tight zig-zag on a 16% downward slope where huge boulders lined both sides of the road. The asphalt roadway went right up to the base of the rocks. With no other choice than to go forward, I carefully maneuvered between the two boulders and proceeded down the mountain.

That's when I realized something, we just drove ROVER, our 18 foot long truck while towing THE POD, our 28 foot long Airstream, up and through Smugglers Notch in northwest Vermont. While it was thrilling, it's not something I ever want to try and do again!

A short distance later our trusty GPS informed us we were finally at our destination. We quickly realized there was nothing here! No turn offs, no driveway, no sign saying welcome to Smugglers Notch State Park campground, nothing, just trees and rocks.

I turned off the GPS and Tricia got out her cell phone and searched for the campground. It is located three additional miles down the road so I guess the GPS was right, we were technically in Smugglers Notch State Park, just not at the campground entrance like we expected. When we finally turned into the campground entrance I began to relax, we were here, safe and pretty much sound.

Tricia got out of the truck to go up to the office window to check us in. She came back to the truck, knocked on the driver side window and told me the ranger didn't think we would be able to fit THE POD into our campsite. My immediate thought was, he would probably think the same thing about us fitting ROVER and THE POD through Smugglers Notch!

With no where else to go for the week I asked if I could just try and make it work. After some back and forth he agreed to let us into the campground and sure enough we managed to shoe horn THE POD into a very tight and narrow Campsite #4 here at Smugglers Notch State Park.

Campsite #4 has a very long and very narrow driveway to back into.

But once you are completely at the back of the site it's nice and spacious.

I guess all's well that ends well!



SATURDAY - Shortly after arriving here I made a call to Freedom RV Service, a mobile RV repair company in this area. For the last couple of weeks our water heater hasn't been working while we're on propane, it works just fine on electric. After taking a look and checking fuses, wiring and propane connections, and anything else I could think of, I was convinced there was something wrong that we weren't going to be able to fix by ourselves.

Fortunately the repair company would be able to get someone out today, Saturday none the less, and take a look at it. After the technician arrived and spent just a few minutes troubleshooting the situation he determined that the electronic ignition board has gone bad. The board went in with just a couple of screws and was pretty much just plug and play. Ten minutes later we were back up and running on propane, just as good as new.

While the service call wasn't cheap our extended warranty policy should reimburse us completely, minus the $100 deductible of course. I wouldn't hesitate calling Gus again if I needed service while in northwestern Vermont.



MONDAY - Also shortly after arriving here I called for a service appointment at the Ford dealership for ROVER. It's nearly time for another oil change, his fourth, and I wanted the brakes and transmission checked out. It's been 25,000 miles since we had the brakes replaced after just 14,000 miles and the transmission was running very hot while we were squeezing through The Notch on Thursday and I wanted to make sure we didn't do any harm.

We got the oil changed and both the brakes and transmission checked out just fine so we're safe to proceed along with our travels.



WEDNESDAY - Tonight is our last night here at Smugglers Notch State Park in Stowe, Vermont and we really didn't get a chance to sightsee very much. Tricia had a deadline to meet for work and with the less than favorable weather we've had this week it just didn't work out. We could have done a $30 per person gondola ride to the top of Mount Mansfield and had a great picnic lunch, but there wouldn't have been any grand vistas to behold, not with this weather.

Stowe Resort gondola ride could have been fun but we decided to save our money for something else.


The campground host site is directly across the street from us and they certainly do have my kind of sense of humor.

They have quite a few outdoor lights and several signs posted around their site, but the one pictured here is my favorite and shares some very good advice.

The retired couple are in their 16th season of camp-hosting here at Smugglers Notch State Park and they take great care of maintaining this campground. There are flowers and solar lights near the end of most campsite driveways and all around the bathrooms and dumpsters. It really makes the campground feel very festive and homelike, we appreciated all their efforts.

I learned all this when I approached them to ask a very important favor.

It seems that we have managed to acquire an unwanted guest in THE POD while we have been visiting here. I asked if they happened to have an extra mouse trap I could borrow for the night. Our guest has been gnawing on our precious toilet paper and paper towel rolls in the middle of the night. They also have helped themselves to a sleeve of saltine crackers that didn't fit into our plastic containers.

The host told me this season hasn't been to bad, but in the past they have trapped as many as 200 mice in and around their trailer and campsite in one six month season. I think we have only one, but that's one too many!

If our trap is not successful tonight I guess we'll then have our first official hitchhiker when we leave tomorrow for another Vermont State Park campground just 65 miles west of here.


UPDATE: As of 8:47PM last night we have evicted our unwanted guest and we are sure he won't be returning. Now let's just hope he was alone!




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TWO PEAS