Monthly Archives: August 2008

Planning Labor Day in Jersey

Ah, the dogs are napping on the carpet in my parents’ air-conditioned house as we wait to hear whether the barbeque at the pool is postponed until tomorrow or not.  We plan to stay here about a week to catch up with my parents.

no love for angus by you.

The dogs get no love here



…I could skip spending more time in the Finger Lakes and head straight to Connecticut for a few days to hang out with the Salan family: Jerry, Kerri, Sasha, Kane, Luke, and Eddie the English Lab.  Schedules work out better this way and now I don’t have to worry about finding a campsite for Labor Day weekend because I can stay in Jersey with my parents!  I have been here since Sunday hanging out with the family, eating fabulous food, and checking out the sights.  The kids really like the camper and we have had a couple sleepovers this week in the driveway. 

pre-labor day 001 by you.

Sasha, Luke, and Kane 

Today I went to the see the US Navy Submarine Force Museum.  My dad used to work on submarines, which is why I was particularly interested.  At the museum you can tour the USS Nautilus, which was the first nuclear powered submarine.  I went first thing in the morning and I was the only on the boat during my tour. 

CT 034 by you.

USS Nautilus

CT 033 by you.

Close quarters in the submarine!

All the mannequins are rail thin.  After seeing pictures of my dad from his submarine days, I would guess they are pretty accurate representations of the submariner physique.  They say that submarine food is the best in the navy though. 

CT 028 by you. 

Don’t they say you can’t trust a skinny cook?

Yesterday we went to Bluff Point park in Groton.  They have a nice walking trail and pretty beaches.  Eddie had so much fun retrieving from the water!  After the museum today we met Kerri and the kids today in Old Saybrook, a cute little town with great shops.  Lastnight was delicious pizza and possibly the creamiest ice cream I have ever had.  It was so good that on the way out of town I might have to swing by for one more taste.  Coconut chocolate chip came highly recommended and I like it so much I’m afraid to try anything else for fear it won’t be as good.  It’s been such a nice visit here!  They let us pop up in the driveway (and invited us numerous times to sleep in the house) and we haven’t wanted for anything.  One morning Kerri brought me coffee in bed!  I told her it was a dream come true.

Getting back east

I didn’t look around too much between Wisconsin and New York.  We did stay at a series of really nice state parks: Pokagon (Indiana), Geneva (Ohio), and Allegany (New York), but one night apiece.  Now we are in Corning, NY, where I was born.  I really like it here, since it has trees and hills and a river and the pretty city isn’t too big.

Corning 007 by you.

Sorry to be so brief but the internet access isn’t so convenient.  I am headed up closer to the Finger Lakes from here.  Don’t harass me about wine tasting!  I’ll get to it if I get to it.

Cheeseless in Wisconsin

I have been keeping an eye out for squeaky cheese curds since entering the state but haven’t had any yet and it’s not looking good for my eating curds because I am not too from the Illinois state line and I plan to cross it today. 

We camped near Madison Saturday night and went into town that night to find that all the students were returning for classes and crowded downtown, greeting each other and finding out where everybody moved to. 

Madison capitol building by you.

I liked Madison all right, for a city.  They have closed off parts of the main drag downtown, State Street, to traffic which makes it pedestrian friendly, I noticed a lot of bike lanes, and the buildings aren’t too imposing so you don’t feel starved of sunlight in the city like you might in NYC.  We went back downtown on sunday morning hoping to investigate a used bookstore I spied saturday night, but it didn’t open ’til noon (too late) and all we found were a bunch of grumpy people.  I’m not impressed with the friendliness of the folks there, but I am probably particularly sensitive to an unrequited hello right now.

cow boat by you.

Cow boat just off the university campus

Good thing I came to Lake Geneva next; it’s the perfect antidote to feeling like an unwelcome stranger.  I am staying with my friend, Ginny.  She lives in a beautiful farmhouse just a mile from the lake on just under 3 acres.  It’s very private, has gorgeous flower gardens, and IT’S FOR SALE!  You, too, could own a little bit of heaven in a small pleasant lakeside town. 

Ginny's house by you.

The Venetian festival was this weekend and since I arrived on sunday, Ginny took me to the boat parade and fireworks down on the lake.  The fireworks were the best I have ever seen!  The finale was incredible, perhaps because last year’s fireworks were rained out and they had twice as much?  I will be sad to leave here but fortunately I can see Ginny again back in Blacksburg, where she lives for most of the year now.  (Lucky girl.) 

Venetian festival by you.

Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm

The reason I am not in Ohio or Pennsylvania by now is that I wanted to visit this farm in Decorah, Iowa.  The Seed Savers Exchange conserves and promotes heirloom varities of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  Over 25,000 endangered varieties of plants are currently being maintained at the farm.  They aren’t all necessarily growing right now, but their seeds are there.  They do have an orchard and a bunch of test plots going though, and I believe only one of the test plots was washed out by the recent flooding.  I learned something interesting about apples recently while reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan: apples don’t grow true from seed, so if you eat a fuji apple, say, and plant the seed, you won’t necessary grow a tree with apples resembling the one you ate.  Makes me want to plant some apple seeds and see what I get!  What if they’re delicious?  We could have a family apple.

Decorah, IA 011   Decorah, IA 009

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Assortment of apples in the orchard

In the gift shop they have a variety of books I found interesting and–most irresistible–hundreds of seed packets!  I have managed so far to resist buying seeds for myself but do have a full color glossy catalog that I will read cover to cover and hopefully I can have a garden next summer, in which I will go completely overboard and plant too many things.  Maybe I will plant Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon, which Victorian ladies used to carry in their pockets for their sweet perfume.  Their flesh is bland, though.  And maybe I will have Chet’s Italian Red Garlic, which was found growing in an abandoned garden near Tonasket, WA.  And Blue Jade corn, which I saw growing at the farm.  The plants are only 2-3′ tall and 3 to 6 ears grow near the ground.  It is one of the only corn varieties that can be grown in a container.

herb and flower garden by you.

Herb and flower garden

The heritage farm is more than just test plots and gift shop, too.  They have a couple hiking trails and they are keeping a herd of Ancient White Park Cattle, a rare breed from the British Isles. 

What a great visit!  Afterward we walked around downtown Decorah (a town where people still sit on their front porches) for a little while and I went to the food co-op hoping to find avocadoes and cilantro.  I have a taste for tacos but no luck finding those ingredients.  I did find chipotle hummus and really delicious green beans.  Now I am settling in to read my seed catalog, though I wonder if I should save it for winter.

Upgrades and yard sale finds

This is a gratuitous post just because I have wifi in the camper.  It is just starting to clear up (I think) after a driving rain.  I feel bad for the people in tents.  We have arrived in Decorah, been for our first walk, and identified some routes we’d like to check out later.  I’m glad we did all that before the rain started. 

I’ve been thinking that traveling has been more comfortable lately than I remember it being in the beginning, partially I assume because I have gotten used to it, but also because we have made some improvements to our system. 

Crucial improvement #1: the capability of running the fridge on propane.  I’ve mentioned it before, and not only does it allow us to keep groceries more reliably, we have a better selection of campsites.  Frequently, the sites with no hookups are more attractive to us and now we can indulge in them. 

#2: ant-proof dog food container.  We picked this up in Livermore and I had wanted one for a while.  It has a screw top and I think my roommates will like it, too, since the top doesn’t come off its hinges and fall off anymore.  I left the dog food outside in Mississippi and we had an ant infestation.  Fortunately, there wasn’t much food left.  And they didn’t appear to be biting ants.

#3: 6-gallon water container.  First we had the kind of couple-gallon disposable plastic container you buy water in from the grocery store that we reused all the way into California.  Then I found a bug in it that resembled a worm and I couldn’t drink out of it anymore.  Next we had a 1-gallon Coleman container I bought at a yard sale in Livermore for $1, but it leaked even after my attempts to seal it with a sealant most likely not recommended for food containers.  Last week Derek called my attention to a couple items at his neighbors’ yard sale in Leadville, one of which was this great aquatainer which is watertight and has a convenient spout.  (I also got a food dehydrator for $5!)  I should have paid more attention to yard sales in a place like Leadville where the people tend to be outdoorsy and do-it-yourselfers.

#4: The Stroller.  Obviously, this allows us to go some places when we might otherwise be hampered by Angus’ lethargy.  He’s been doing pretty well lately but it’s nice to have, especially when you have access to a smooth bike path.

#5: New camper tires.  We had a lot of flat tires in the beginning, but I think since New Mexico the camper has been on new tires, and by ‘new’ I believe I mean tires that did not come with the camper in 1998.  We actually had a couple more tire changes recently: one was bald and the other had a variable but constant leak.  I hope to make it back to VA on these ones. 

I’m off to see if I can get a run in before Angus starts barking about dinner.  This is a picture of a calf we saw at the Picket Fence Creamery in Woodward, IA.  I wanted a better shot, but Lucy was crying and the yellow lab was barking and my groceries, including a tub of peanut butter, were in the car with Angus so I was rushed.

Picket Fence Creamery by you.

Near Ames, Iowa

If you think that this

Ames 012 by you.

is what Iowa looks like, you would only be partially correct.  Yes, unfathomable amounts of corn grow here, but that doesn’t make it as dull to drive through as you might think.  After we drove through Omaha and crossed into Iowa, suddenly the terrain became hilly and sometimes terraced.  We passed scores of farms and I was enthralled. 

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A view in southwestern Iowa

Lucy was not, however.  I’m not sure what happened to her, but since leaving Leadville every time we get in the car she starts panting very fast, as if she’s nervous.  It hasn’t been hot, so I know it’s not that.  I wonder if it is related to the diarrhea incident…oh, did I fail to mention that?  En route to Flaming Gorge NRA with Heather from Yellowstone, Angus snagged the front seat and Lucy stayed close to the front of the car with us.  It was warm, so I assumed she was panting because she was hot.  Usually if she needs to get out of the car she paws my shoulder and she never did.  Just before arriving at the campground I smelled it, and congratulated Angus since I assumed it was his usual gas.  Then I realized that Lucy had diarrhea in the back.  Heather patiently tolerated my little temper tantrum (she’s good at that) as we were choosing a site and soon we were drinking beers and joking about whether the pop-up would blow over in the wind if we zipped up the windows to keep out the rain.  Anyway, Lucy doesn’t seem a happy traveler in the car lately but she hasn’t yet refused to get in. 

We are staying in Story City, which is 13 miles north of Ames.  This is the first time since leaving Leadville that we are staying two nights in one spot, which feels great.  Plus, we have an excellent site.  Our three main criteria for choosing a site are these 1) shade, 2) grass, 3) proximity to neighbors.  We are camping in the tent area of a beautiful private campground across from, yes, a cornfield.  Our site is completely grassy, shady except for the early morning when it doesn’t matter, and our nearest neighbor is 40 meters away.  Behind us stretches a large and half shady park with a couple trails for walking, and if we go sit near the office we have wireless internet access.  Also, we share the park with this cool tractor and have a sweet-smelling port-a-potty close by which only I appear to be using, all for $16.05 per night.  Oh yeah, and the showers are free and hot.  I feel so pampered.

Ames 005 by you.