Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy: My New Summer Camp Dog House

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

Macgellan and I have settled into our "summer camp" here in south-central Pennsylvania. We're in a really nice park with lots of space to walk, explore and even play my favorite game, "Loose dog!"

The weather was perfect over the weekend: Cool and clear with a gentle breeze that brought lots of sweet smells my way. It's raining again today, but that's okay because I have a new dog house!

Somebody left this old table here, and Macgellan has very nicely added sides and a back to it. Throw in my old bed (which I don't use anymore because I now own the big bed) and its perfect!

On nice days I like to sleep in the sun, or in the shade, or even under our picnic table. But on rainy days my new dog house lets me stay comfy and dry while still being able to enjoy the outdoors!

(Just in case you're keeping track: Since I retired, I've accumulated a big dog house, a little dog house, a big bed, two little beds and a truck. Pretty good for a poor dumb girl from the sticks, eh?)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


I've just set up "world headquarters of me right now" in south-central Pennsylvania. I'm at the same park as I was in for a while last year, and you can see that I've snagged a really good spot!

With the wooded area for "transients" to the southwest of me, I'm at least partially shaded from the worst of the afternoon sun. One benefit of having a short rig, I was able to park at an angle across the lot -- instead of backing straight in -- to maximize my view. Even when "transients" show up, I'll still have a much better view from my window than looking at the side of my neighbor's rig.

There's a small slope right behind my rig, so Happy also has a nice view from her usual hangout underneath.

It's all pretty well shaded, and she took no time at all to find a comfy space to lay out.

I tried to catch her sleeping again, but she picked her head up just in time.

Perhaps she wants you to know that she doesn't sleep all the time!

I'll keep you posted as things evolve here over the next few weeks… Stay tuned!

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Monday, May 20, 2013

US Hwy 20: Canandaigua -- Intermission

I've had a couple of really nice days in Canandaigua. The weather has been excellent, almost too good to be true. As you saw in Happy's last post, we're in a very pretty spot and have enjoyed spending time outside for a change!

Canandaigua is a little more touristy than I care for, but it has treated us well. Good restaurants, interesting shops and amusing attractions are topped off by a truly lovely lakeside setting.

As much as anything, it's been a perfect couple of days to hang out, catch up with myself and recharge my batteries. To be honest, this has been a long, hard drive and it's worn me down a bit.

I've got some work scheduled for the first half of June, down in Pennsylvania. Instead of racing to the finish line of US Hwy 20 in Boston, I'm putting an intermission into this road trip for a few weeks.

When I've taken care of business, I'll come back up here and continue east... Stay tuned!

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Happy: Welcome To Happy Hollow!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... Welcome to Happy Hollow!

This is my favorite campground so far: Comfortable grass everywhere, in a nice little wooded area!

I've got my water bowl and plenty of shade. Macgellan has his chair set up, and he's got my leash handy for immediate use on a moment's notice. I love this place!

(PS to my old pack mates back at SP Kennel: Can you believe how big my new doghouse is?!?)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

US Hwy 20: Conquered Concord

I left Lake Chautauqua this morning and rejoined US Hwy 20 in Westfield, NY, the "grape juice capital of the world." The town earned that nickname as the home of Welch Foods, which has been growing and processing vast amounts of the region's tangy Concord grape here since 1897. The Concord's success in the area accounts for the seemingly endless vineyards along the highway.

I don't have much to report about my drive today. A good two-lane roadway took me northeast along the shore of Lake Erie, then skirted Buffalo to the southeast before turning due east to the western edge of NY's finger lakes region. At and average speed of 45mph, a very long series of small towns separated by farms and woodlands made for a very pleasant drive. Cool temps, clear skies and no wind made the drive downright idyllic compared to most of what I've dealt with on this road trip!

I've stopped in Canandaigua, which you can see is a very tidy, prosperous looking little town of old brick buildings and festive bunting. I'm going to stay here for a couple of days… Stay tuned!

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy: Pillows Rock!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

Macgellan is working late tonight, so I thought I'd warm up the bed for him. Pillows rock!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

US Hwy 20: Lake Chautauqua

Lake Chautauqua is a very pretty area, and we finally had a beautiful day to enjoy it. Here's the view from our campground!

Happy and I spent the day cruising around the lake, a circumnavigation of about 45 miles. We stopped here and there to check things out, even making a visit to the local Ford dealer to have a basic service done on my truck. Just another of the many logistics required on a long road trip!

The lake is surrounded by a number of small, old villages. Back in the day, they were probably pretty well separated and delineated from each other. Now, they're pretty much a rolling sprawl of tangential towns, connected by an assortment of vacation establishments: camp grounds, golf courses, motels, marinas, etc. There's still a little farming in the area, but not much that I could see.

It's all very pretty, but not really all that interesting. The area is much more about relaxation and recreation than exploration. I found myself happily heading back to my headquarters in the RV park to enjoy the setting. You probably won't be surprised that I have the place to myself!

The weather is supposed to stay very good tomorrow, so I'm going to push my luck and hang around. I may do a little more exploring, but don't be surprised if I join my narcoleptic dog in a lazy day of sleeping, reading and catching up with myself… Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy: Sunshine!

Hi!... I'm Happy... I'm always Happy... That's why they call me Happy!

We had another short drive today, so I didn't get my full quota of sleep in the truck. Lucky for me, it's nice and sunny in our park this afternoon.

Macgellan says I'm narcoleptic, whatever that is. I say I just know a good place to take a nap when I'm in it, which is pretty much anywhere!

US Hwy 20: Tri-State Hop-Skip-Jump

I pulled out of Geneva this morning, happy to put the eeriness behind me. US Hwy 20 continues as a decent two-lane road through a few old towns, most of which look slightly more prosperous than what I've seen. Shortly, and with barely any fanfare, the road crosses into Pennsylvania.

There are only about 50 miles of Pennsylvania coastline along Lake Erie, so it's a pretty quick traverse. Mostly it's a series of "historic" towns -- so the signs all tell you -- that date from the early 1800s. They're generally tidy and healthy looking, another notch up the economic scale.

The city of Erie is a little spotty and I was satisfied to drive right through it, hindered only by stop lights practically every block. In between towns, the rural landscape begins to feature vast grape vineyards. There's a lot more to that story, which I hope to explore in depth tomorrow.

Shortly and with little fanfare again, the road crosses into New York State. There's nothing beside the sign to delineate the transition, though the quality of the roadway did improve.

I've driven just a short distance into NY and turned south a few miles to Lake Chautauqua. I'm now camped on a hill overlooking the lake, centrally located amid a varied assortment of towns and attractions. The weather has cleared and warmed, so I'm actually hopeful about having a couple of nice days to enjoy the area… Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

US Hwy 20: (E)Erie

Just in case you thought I was kidding, here's a photo of my lone camper in this huge park.

Just in case you thought I was kidding, here's a panoramic photo of the deserted "strip" in town.

It's very eerie here on the Erie shore. Nothing is open, there's nothing to do, and the weather was nasty again today. I'm pushing east tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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Monday, May 13, 2013

US Hwy 20: Lake Erie Shore

East of Toledo, US Hwy 20 is an excellent four-lane road, smooth and wide open while traversing gently rolling hills. About half way to Cleveland, it changes back to a decent two-lane that passes through a number of old rural towns.

I kept looking for a reason to stop, but there didn't seem to be much going on. Like so many of the towns I pass through, they're trying to hold onto their viability -- and dignity -- but slowly losing ground to the larger highways and malls. I happily settled for a very nice countryside drive.

Unlike my premeditated decision to avoid dragging my rig through downtown Chicago last week, I intended to stay faithful to US Hwy 20 through Cleveland. My plan fell apart almost immediately, as I somehow got shunted onto a very confusing set of interstates. At least I got a nice shot of the stadium and major buildings!

Just east of the city, I regained US Hwy 20, but almost wish I hadn't. For many miles, I slogged along a rough road through even rougher neighborhoods. For the record, I may make it a policy on future road trips to avoid any city larger than 100,000 people!

Eventually the vast urban sprawl thinned out and I was running nicely near the shore of Lake Erie. I've stopped in Geneva-on-the-Lake, which hails itself as the first summer resort in Ohio. The famous lakefront "strip" looked like a ghost town when I drove through it, but I plan to check it out better tomorrow.

The RV park I'm in is huge, and considered one of the best in the country. As you can see, I'm in a nice spot that backs up to a lake. At this point you probably won't be surprised that hardly anyone else is here, so Happy and I have the place pretty much to ourselves!

Hopefully the weather will hold tomorrow and we can have a nice day on the lake… Stay tuned!

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

US Hwy 20: Indi-hio Farmland

The weather was very blustery today: Cold and overcast, with persistently strong winds. Although there were a few wiggly moments on the road, I continue to be quite pleased with how my short, low-profile trailer handles the wind. I can't image what it would have been like dragging one of those tall, super-long behemoths.

US Highway 20 east of Michigan City is a typical four-lane, but soon downshifted to a nice two-lane country road. I set the cruise control at a modest speed and enjoy a very pleasant, pastoral drive.

Just as I noticed that the farms looked particularly prosperous, I passed a buggy and realized I was in Amish country. That explained it, because the Amish always seem to have good looking farms!

Almost before I knew it, I crossed into Eastern time zone then into Ohio. Attractive farms continued to decorate my path, and the miles just melted away.

I've stopped for the night near Toledo, as yet undecided about whether I'll remain here tomorrow or move on… Stay tuned!

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

US Hwy 20: Indiana Dunes

I had never heard of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore before, but I spent the entire day exploring it and am really glad I did. Covering 15,000 acres along 15 miles of the southern Lake Michigan shoreline, it's an intriguing combination of beaches, dunes, wetlands, forests and history.

Created by glaciers of the last ice age and continually influenced by millennia of wind and water, many miles of sandy beaches are the area's most prominent feature. The lakeshore is nestled between two immense industrial areas that invariably appear as backdrops in photos.

Behind the beach is a series of rolling ridges, with the eponymous dunes situated in various locations.

The dunes are visually stunning, rather imposing and very hard to photograph. Several approach 200 feet tall as they continually evolve, move, grow, erode and reform.

Between the beaches, dunes and the surrounding woodlands lies an extensive range of bogs and wetlands.

All together, they are claimed to have one of the world's richest diversities of species, to be preserved forever from industrial and human overwhelm.

Well defined and clearly mapped trails range throughout the entire park.

I didn't care much for the bog walk, but several miles along the beach were a welcome leg stretch.

The wood trails were beautiful, finally giving me a sense of spring having arrived!

Besides the nature attractions, there's some interesting human history here.

The area was settled by a few families in the early 1800s, and their homesteads have been very well preserved.

The facilities were not open at this time in the season -- of course! -- but wandering around them gave a pretty good impression of their residents' lives as trappers and farmers. The good old, simple days!

As always, Happy was my constant companion throughout the day.

With this photo, I'll let you draw your own conclusions about how much she enjoyed it.

I don't have much to report about Michigan City itself, besides that it's basically just an old crossroads town.

Several malls along the highways offer every kind of modern chain store and restaurant, while the old downtown area is fairly worn and a little rough.

How many times have I written that on my old US Highway road trips?

I've had a good day here, so I'm going to continue east tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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Friday, May 10, 2013

US Hwy 20: Into Indiana

After four good days in Milwaukee -- good weather, good work, good dog park, etc. -- it turned cold, windy and rainy again yesterday afternoon. Those conditions persisted this morning, so Happy and I packed up and hit the road with the simple plan to drive the interstates south then east around Chicago. It turned out to be a pretty miserable day on the road, probably the worst of this road trip so far. That says a lot, no?

For one thing, it seems that every road in Wisconsin is under construction. That is certainly true of the interstates we were on today: Rough patched roadways, narrow and shifting lanes, the works. The roadway got better when we hit the Illinois tollway, but the insanity shifted into a higher gear altogether. Driving the speed limit (55 mph) in the right lane is a nightmare as trucks zoom by at 70 or more. Pulling off every 20 minutes to pay a toll is also pretty annoying, almost enough to make me break down and get an EZ-Pass account!

In due course we crossed into Indiana, the self-proclaimed crossroads of America.

I'd planned to get back onto US Hwy 20 just as soon as possible after clearing Chicagoland, and was even more enthusiastic to do so than I could have imagined. I know it doesn't look like much, but I was pretty giddy with excitement when I saw the familiar -- now cherished -- sign welcoming me back and pointing me in the right direction.

Driving at the posted speed limit of 45 mph makes progress slower, but also a whole lot more pleasant -- and even downright relaxing after the interstates. The two or three stoplights in each town add a welcome punctuation to the roll, and offer a chance to look around or check the map without concern for safety. Greenery at the side of the road and my old friend the railway alongside round out the picture. Color me happy!

I've stopped in Michigan City, IN, and plan to stay here tomorrow. There are some famous dunes on the nearby shore of Lake Michigan that should be nice to check out, especially if the weather clears a bit. Who knows what else I might find, now that I'm very happily back on track… Stay tuned!

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Saturday, May 04, 2013

US Hwy 20: Northern Illinois

It rained all day yesterday, often torrentially. I used the day to get some work done. Happy slept. In the afternoon I developed a case of cabin fever and went to a movie (Iron Man 3 -- Awesome!). Happy slept. The rain let up a bit in the evening, so I made her go out for a walk. She did her business in a cursory manner then slept through the night. What a life!

It was still overcast this morning, but without rain. Happy was obviously well rested, because she played an epic game of "loose dog" while I drank coffee and hooked up our road rig. She grinned from ear to ear when she figured out we were going for a ride. As usual, she hopped up into the passenger seat, curled up and was asleep again in moments. My dog the narcoleptic!

US Hwy 20 east of Galena returns to being a two-lane affair, and continues that way across most of Northern Illinois. A series of significant hills characterize the drive, much higher and longer than those we've crossed over the last two states. The farms have also "greened up" considerably, making the scenery much more attractive.

By mid-day I was across the state, just a few miles from Chicago. I've got a two-day work gig early next week in the Milwaukee area, so I put a virtual stake in the ground and turned north. I'm now parked at the Wisconsin State Fair Ground RV facility and Happy is now asleep in the sun.

I may have time to do a little exploring around here, but I'll be pretty busy with my other work through Wednesday of next week. Once that's complete, we'll shoot back down to Chicago and continue east… Stay tuned!

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Thursday, May 02, 2013

US Hwy 20: Galena, IL

The weather was beautiful yesterday, so I postponed my chores and explored instead. I can report that Galena, IL, is a truly charming town, due in large measure, I believe, to its topography.

With its namesake river -- and a substantial levee -- to its front, there is an expansive green space and natural border which is very pleasant to walk or just look at.

With a fairly steep and substantial hill to its rear, the town feels like it is protected -- even watched over -- by some large, striking structures atop the rise.

The net effect is that the town is nestled -- even cocooned -- in a comfortable, walkable and quiet space. Most important of all, it seems to me, is that this topography has prevented the typical sprawl that so many small towns suffer from. All of the big stores are out on the highway, in a shopping center about a mile away. They're readily available, but not interfering.

As a result, the old Main Street runs a delightful few blocks, featuring an aesthetic variety of brick buildings. As far as I could tell, they are all old, original buildings, well preserved and maintained. There's some foresight, discipline and diligence of the townsfolk to be admired here.

Although most of the parking spaces are occupied, there's very little actual traffic. The assortment of shops indicates that tourism is a major driver, but the town is not touristy. There are many of the usual establishments for a town like this -- e.g. trolley tour, ghost tour, souvenir shops, etc. -- but they are part of the background, not the lead story.

There are numerous boutique inns, and a selection of good restaurants. There are a number of gourmet and wine shops, a few art spaces and many small, historical buildings and features, each with their own entertaining story.

The combination local and U.S. Grant museum is worth a look, featuring a good collection that's well designed.

Grant was once a local store clerk here, before becoming president and everything in between. His modest house sits on another hill across the river.

All considered, I give Galena strong marks as a place to visit. It makes for an excellent place of repose in the middle of a long trip, and worth consideration as a long weekend destination.

I'm glad I explored it yesterday, because the cold, wind and rain caught up with me today. I've gotten my chores done, and enjoyed some time hanging out with Happy. We still have the entire park to ourselves, and she has enjoyed playing "loose dog" -- her version of "keep away" -- which seems to be the only game she knows how to play!

Despite a continued forecast for bad weather, I plan to stay here tomorrow… Stay tuned!

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