May 28, 2011

Flash Floods Devastate Barre, Montpelier and St. Johnsbury Vermont

And the rains continue to come to Vermont...

"Thursday night an intense thunderstorm dumped between 4 inches and 5 inches of rainwater on central Vermont and St. Johnsbury. Within a matter of hours, the deluge engorged rivers and streams causing flash floods that poured muddy water into homes and residences, washed out culverts and carved out dirt roads. In all, about 180 people were evacuated from their homes as a result of the most devastating flash flood to hit the region in decades.

All that muck and water will travel downstream into Lake Champlain, which has been at a 500-year level flood stage for nearly a month. When the water reaches the big lake in a day and a half it will increase the lake which is now at 102.2 feet by 6 inches."

May 27, 2011

FCC report ranks Vermont 38th in broadband access

FCC report ranks Vermont 38th in broadband access:

Read the story and you will find that our neighbor, New Hampshire, is at the top of the national list for broadband access. One more feather in NH's cap.

The highlighted statement by Chris Campbell suggests that at the national level some kind of subsidy plan is brewing to increase the rate of broadband adoption. I wonder how that will be paid for? I suspect that subsidies will flow to broadband providers in sparsely populated areas just as was the case for POTS service in the pre-Internet days.

"While the IBDR states that 60 percent of Vermont households have broadband, another FCC report released the same day, the Seventh Broadband Progress Report and Order on Reconsideration states that broadband is available to 93 percent of the state’s population. Roughly 33 percent of the population of Vermont has access to broadband, but does not use it.

The goal, Campbell [Executive Director of Vermont Telecommunications Authority], is 100 percent coverage and 100 percent adoption.

“There is a conversation that has begun at the national level about ‘how do we make sure that people can afford to have access to this technology?’” Campbell said."

May 19, 2011

RV Travel Day 20 (May 18, 2011)

After traveling from the Sight and Sound theater performance of Joseph in Lancaster County, PA to Port Jervis NY then on to Hopedale, MA on Wednesday we parked the RV in a nephew's driveway, we provide this report to the proprietor:

Since we are members of the Good Sam Club team of inspectors for your facility, we give you this rating, which we will gladly post in our new, special edition of Trailer Life Directory for Relatives Staying with Other Relatives.
10 - 10 - 9.5
The first 10 reflects completeness of facilities. You have everything a motorhome requires for hook-up. The free Wi-Fi and the indoor TV reception were more than adequate.
The second 10 is for cleanliness. The restrooms and showers were A-1 (brand new, in fact), plenty of hot water, and always available.
The last rating falls a bit short of a perfect 10 because the site was not quite level. Next year, add a little height to the right side as you pull in (ha ha!). However, the site was easy to find and well marked by a neat sign on a unique signpost.
All in all, our stay at your facility was near perfect. Highly recommended! The office staff was the best we encountered nationwide. The adjacent restaurant was 5 stars and the chef deserves special mention because of the superb service and food.
We will post your facility in our 2012 Guide. Thank you for providing a quality respite!

May 17, 2011

RV Travel Day 18 (May 16, 2011)

Day 18
Our RV park is only a stone’s throw away from Hershey Park which is a massive complex, but we visited only Hershey’s Chocolate World. This is another high quality attraction which includes a free tour of a make-believe chocolate factory that explains the chocolate making process in pictures and with machines that simulate the real process. But, hey, it’s good enough for tourists and the kids don’t know the difference :-). If you go, don’t miss the 3D movie and you CAN’T miss the massive chocolate and souvenir shop along with a food court with excellent offerings...and they serve Green Mountain Coffee!

After the Hershey lunch we were off to Lancaster County, PA for the afternoon in the Amish country. We had been in this area a long time ago but it has since become a hyper-commercialized, tourist mecca. Yet the Amish horses and mules working the fertile fields while the horse-drawn black travel buggies navigate the ever more treacherous highways.

While in Intercourse, PA. we met Pat and Doug Richmond from Underhill, VT who were also RVing and heading back to Vermont. We had a nice chat commiserating about all the rainy weather. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable to meet up with fellow Vermonters so far from home.

Time to eat again and we chose Red Lobster and had a really nice meal. But just as we were leaving a deluge hit and delayed our trip back to the RV park for 15-20 minutes. As I write this the rain continues, though mostly light showers.

Tomorrow we’ll attend a show at Sight and Sound in Strasburg before heading northa to NY.

May 16, 2011

RV Travel Day 17, May 15, 2011

Day 17
Today was a travel day from Waynesboro, VA to Hershey, PA pretty much a straight shot on I-81 north arriving at about 3:30pm at the Hershey Highmeadow Campground. Carol had a craving for pancakes so before leaving Waynesboro we spotted a Golden Corral with a weekend breakfast buffet. We got in just before breakfast service ended at 11:00 and transitioned to lunch. So we had breakfast and lunch, though they serve steak with the breakfast. This was a far better Corral than the one where we had supper in Nashville with Jacques. So, no lunch today and a salad for supper.
Showers and sprinkles all the way to Hershey and a heavy downpour after we set up for the night.

May 14, 2011

RV Travel Day 15 & 16 (May 13-14, 2011)

Day 15
Up, down around and up and down and around agin describes the whole day on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway
We began in Asheville, NC and no sooner were on the Parkway when we stopped at both parkway headquarters and a fabulous Appalachian arts and crafts shop and exhibit, and ended the day in Meadows of Dan, VA, a peculiar name for a town.

The weather was cloudy and cool in the 60s and 70s depending on altitude with sprinkles and some fog when in the clouds. Most of the time we were above 3,500 feet and our high point was 5, being on top of Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield. 
Traffic was practically non existent. We saw more bikes and motorcycles than cars. What a pleasant ride with maximum speed limit of 45 mph, but with all the ups, downs and arounds, we probably averaged 30 mph with the RV downshifted in 3rd and 4th speed nearly all the time.

The highway design and layout is superb and very well maintained with dozens of vista lookouts Couldn't see vistas because of the low overcast...most of the mountains were in the clouds), picnic areas and historic sites.

We spent the night in Meadows of Dan RV Park.

Smartphone maven and snoozing Scuffer

Day 16

We had a late start this morning with showers and sleeping in a bit. After a brief stint on the Parkway to visit Mabry Mill

we traveled I-81/64 to Waynesboro, VA in the beautiful Shennadoah Valley where we arrived eariier than usual at at the Waynesboro North 340 Campground. (What were they thinking when they chose that name, descriptive, but not very alluring?). We had an outstanding supper at Gavid’s Steak House, a family restaurant that serves a 10 oz. ribeye cooked to perfection any way you like it for 15 bucks including baked potato and a salad bar and a food/dessert bar with absolutely scrumtious fixins...all you can eat, except for the steak. Carol and I went way off our diets feasting on this fabulous food. The saving measure is that we did not stop for lunch. If ever in Waynesboro, don’t pass up this meal!

Depending on the weather, we may drive part of Virginia’s Skyline Drive tomorrow as we head for PA.

RV Travel Day 13 -14 (May 11-12, 2011)

Day 13
Before arriving in Charlotte NC, we had trouble yesterday with the propane generator which is needed to cool the cabin when we leave the dogs for any length of time during this 90 degree weather. I called the repairman, as I indicated in my last post, and he ‘promised’ to come just after noon on May 11.

So we visited the Billy Graham Library in the morning.
This place is quite impressive with one of the best multimedia displays I’ve ever seen. Billy’s life and ministry are portrayed in a series of rooms with video and audio of very high quality.

Also a massive bookstore and dairy bar is available. What an amazing life he has led under God’s anointing. He has spoken in person with more people than any man in history with the consistent message of God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ. This impeccably maintained place is well worth a visit in Charlotte and there is no admission charge for this high quality facility. Bessie will greet you at the entrance.

Arriving back at the RV park at noon, I received another ‘promise’ that Mark, the RV repairman would be here at 2:30.

We hung out and relaxed, but made the decision that we would leave at 4:00 pm for Asheville regardless. He didn’t show and didn’t call so we were in Asheville by 6:30 with little traffic enroute. Mr. Caudle is not reliable.

Day  14
We had ferocious thunderstorms last night, no wind or hail but heavy rain and continuous lightning and crashing thunder. Jesse is fearful of thunder so she does anything possible to huddle with one of us. Scuffer seems immune to the storms and sleeps right through.

Off to Biltmore this morning which is only 4 miles form the Bear Creek Campground. I purchased tickets online yesterday so we were all set upon arrival to pick up the tickets and drive to one of the many parking lots which are all served by squeaky clean air conditioned shuttle buses driven by ‘old’ men (They’re probably retired and Biltmore doesn’t have to pay benefits!). The stats on this place are mind-blowing. You can learn more here. There are 1800 employees, likely making it Asheville’s largest employer.

I could go on and on, but you really must visit it for yourself. Think Shelburne Farms (That Vanderbilt money was everywhere!) on steroids, but without magnificent Lake Champlain! The views at Shelburne Farms are more beautiful that at BIltmore, IMHO.

One reality that enabled the ‘largest home in America (250 rooms) to be occupied by the Vanderbilts and their guests in 1895 was the advent of electricity, it seems to me. Without it, the place would nave been more like a medieval castle than a 20th century home.

We had lunch in the Arbor Grill at the Antler Hill Village and Winery. I had one of the best burgers ever... made from Carolina bison and cooked to perfection. Yum! The wine shop is huge and the Biltmore label adorns many varieties, although I don’t know if it’s made at Biltmore or nor.

The generator worked fine while we visited the Biltmore house in the morning, but again would not start while at Antler Village. Arrrgh! We drove to an RV repaid shop a few miles away, but they could not fix it on the spot, so we’ll have to muddle through if the problems persist. The diagnosis is that maybe an oil pressure cutoff switch activates when the engine becomes hot and requires a long time to cool down. The generator may have to removed from the rig in order to fix it.

We did a bit of shopping at Wal-mart and now are settled in for the night. We plan to travel the Blue Ridge Parkway north tomorrow.

May 10, 2011

Flooded Lake Champlain Story and Photos - May 2011

I'm thankful our home is several feet above the lake in Colchester. The lake level was more than 3 feet above flood stage and the highest it has been in at least 100 years. The damage is severe and the tally will be in the 10s of $millions.

RV Travel Day 12 (May 10)

Day 12 (May 10, 2011)
Today is a travel day with a late start from Cleveland, GA after a shopping spree at Wal-Mart to refill the pantry and refrigerator. Then on to South Carolina and North Carolina. The propane generator ran fine powering the A/C to  cool the dogs while we shopped. But when we stopped for a late lunch just before entering SC on I-85 (lots of traffic on this route especially between Greenville SC and Charlotte NC), the generator would not start and stay running. We need it because the temps have been 89-91 for the past two days.

We are in Charlotte NC tonight at the CaroWinds Camp Wilderness which is associated with a large amusement park on the SC/NC border. I called Mark Caudle, a RV repairman ("Road Tech To The Rescue, Factory Trained and Insured, Low Prices, Satisfaction Guaranteed" reads his business card), who travels to the site to make repairs. He said he would be here a bit after noon tomorrow. We hope to have time to visit the Billy Graham Library in the morning and be back to meet the mechanic after noon.

We have the park nearly all to ourselves because it's so early in the season. The shower in the spic n' span restrooms (They get a '10' for cleanliness) felt especially good this warm night.

Day 11 (May 9, 2011) RV Travel in May

Day 11 May 9, 2011)
Marguerite had a full day planned and fortunately it was sunny and quite warm. We began with a visit to her daughter’s beautiful home on a pond out in the country. They are traveling in Italy so we missed meeting them.

Then on to Sautee Nacoochee to visit a friend of Marguerite who operates a B&B. From there to the Pottery Museum of North Georgia and its associated craft/art gallery.This place is a marvelous museum in a superb award-winning building connected to a renovated former grade school with one of the best craft galleries we’ve seen. High quality creations all from within a 50-mile radius at very reasonable prices. Carol was 'in heaven' and bought a few items for herself and some gifts.

Then a visit to two winery tasting rooms and a purchase of some fairly decent Merlot and Traminette
Then it was time for supper at a buffet in the restaurant in Unicoi State Park with some delicious trout, a house specialty. This restaurant and lodge at Unicoi is 100% state owned and operated and a superb facility offering extensive lodging and outdoor trails and activities.
Laundry at Marguerite’s finished the day. Shopping scheduled for tomorrow to restock the larder.

Day 10 May 2011 Travel Sunday, May 8

Day 10 (May 8)
Another warm day traveling with temperatures in the low '80s as we headed southeast from Decatur TN into the mountains along the TVA lakes and rivers. Lots of rafters and kayakers along the TVA rivers. We stopped at a gigantic flea market in extreme western NC and wandered through the dozens of permanent stalls. It seems everything was for sale (We thought of Gayle and David)!

As we entered northern Georgia in the Cherokee National Forest we went through an area where a tornado,  part of the huge storm system that devastated to much of Alabama, touched down last week with significant damage to tress on both sides of the highway.

We checked in at the Leisure Acres RV Park at about 4:00pm then we found our friend, Marguerite, who lives in Cleveland GA where we had a light supper and conversation. 

We then spent 6 hours in the ER of Northeast Geogia Medical Center in Gainesville for a severe pain in her left torso which had been raging since 10:00am. They did all the tests including a CT scan and found no life threatening problems. Meanwhile, the pain disappeared. We’re guessing it may have been a gall bladder attack.

May 8, 2011

Day 9 (May 7) RV Travel in May 2011

Day 9 (May 7)
We said goodbye to Jacque’s gracious Franklin, TN hospitality at mid morning Saturday and headed to I-65 south then 840 to I-40. Once more, the roads in TN are really excellent and we enjoyed fine weather as we traveled to Decatur, TN to visit with Helen Hamann, a friend who we met at various fiber festivals and who has stayed with us in VT a couple of times. I brought the rib eye steaks and wine and Helen prepared the rest for a glorious outdoor meal behind her rented log cabin.

We enjoyed a wonderful guacamole appetizer, walked the dogs along with her Black Lab Otis in the fields of a former alpaca farm. Our ‘dales got along wonderfully with laid-back Otis. Even when visiting other dogs at a nearby farmhouse, Jesse was OK with them.

The wine and steaks were superb with asparagus and salad. Yummm!

After cleaning dishes, we watched a documentary about the Barnes art collection drama in Pennsylvania and turned in a bit later than usual. Soon we’ll head for Cleveland, GA, about 3 hours away.

May 6, 2011

Day 7-8 RV Travels May 2011

Day 7 (May 5, 2011)
The trip to Gaylord's Opryland hotel and Convention Center was well worthwhile. The hotel and convention center with acres of climate-controlled tropical gardens is extraordinarily well kept and a pleasure to walk through. We had dinner at home with Jacques who prepared several delicious salads to accompany grilled chicken.

And then a quick visit to Grand Ole Opry's home a short way form the Hotel and Convention Center.

Jacques friend Bob, an elder in Journey Church, joined us for dinner and we learned of his tumultuous life in California and Nashville as he came to a deeper understanding of the God's work in his life. He was an encouragement.

Day 8 (May 6, 2011)

Today we visited with old Vermont friends Don and Jean Marriott who live about 40 minutes from Franklin near a lake. We visited with them for most of the day enjoying a nice meal. It was good to catch up from the last time time we visited them when the lived in Virginia.

Tomorrow we travel to Decatur in southeastern TN to visit another friend.

May 4, 2011

Day 5-6 RV Travel in May 2011

Day 5
The rain finally stopped as we were between Covington and Louisville KY on I-71. Attempting to bypass Louisville via  I-265 to I-65 south we ran into a long traffic jam. Playing with Google Maps and the traffic layer on my Droid2, I was able to see the jam and an exit just ahead that we took to pick up I-265 further south. For this assistance, the phone was very smart.

After an uneventful 200 miles we arrived at our friend Jacques in Franklin, TN just south of Nashville and enjoyed a delicious pot roast. Jacques is a very good cook!

After supper we went for  walk in downtown Franklin, a wonderfully quaint town that has been restored, including a visit to St. Paul's Episcopal Church which is open 24 hours a day and served during the civil war as a stable for Union cavalry.

Jacques is in process of remodeling his condo and we brought the dog pen inside and set it upon his old living room rug. Of course, Jesse and Scuffer smelled out every square inch of the downstairs and were anxious to do the same upstairs which had just been remodeled. We set a barricade at the foot of the stairs to prevent that and they slept peacefully in the pen downstairs while we slept upstairs. No problem.

Day 6
At 7:00 I attended a prayer meeting with Jacques at The Factory, the location of Journey Church, a congregation of 700 that leases space at The Factory. The Factory is the former location of a large stove manufacturing works that has been converted into shops, art boutiques and antique places.

After a hearty breakfast we set out for Leipers Fork, a small restored artsy crossroads community.

Then on to lunch at the legendary Loveless Cafe, a non-descript building not far from the Natchez Trace, a historic place with great food that was a favorite place for music celebrities in the 50's and 60's with continued excellent home cooked Southern food of wide variety

Downtown Nashville with a visit to Centennial park and the Parthenon, an exact duplicate of the original in Athens. Nashville in bygone days fashioned itself as the "Athens of the South" so built a wooden replica of the Parthenon for their centennial celebration and exhibition in 1897. In the 20th century, it was rebuilt with stone because the citizens of Nashville liked it so much!

Then on to downtown Nashville including Ryman Hall, which was home of the Grand Old Opry from 1943 until 1974, then  renovated to its original splendor and reopened in 1994.
and the music district
After a rest, we'll dine out tonight at Golden Corral, which has plenty of American food and some tasty steak. Goodbye diet tonight!

May 2, 2011

Day 4 RV Travel in April and May 05/02/2011

Day 4
We’re sitting now in Oak Creek Campground in Northern Kentucky just south of Cincinnati listening to the rain...more rain. Just north of Columbus on I-71 sprinkles began and evolved into steady rain by the time we were half way to Cincinnati and rush hour traffic. Blah. The Ohio River looked near flood stage.

Earlier in the day we roamed around Amish country on the back roads in Holmes County towns such as Walnut Grove where we had a big lunch at Der Dutchman. These folks own a string of restaurants and gift shops in Amish Ohio. The meal was OK, not wonderful, but fairly priced with good service and typical Amish cleanliness.  I think we have been eating “Mediterranean” for so long that this belly-filling food with lots of starch and flour was not so much to our liking. It was lacking that fresh taste we are used to. We also stopped at a small store off the beaten path in Train purchasing some smoked bologna and horseradish flavored farmers cheese...Yum!

This area of Ohio is packed with Amish farms and we saw a few travelers in the traditional black buggy. Tourists were sparse, but in summer with nice weather, I’ll bet the county is overrun.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Franklin, TN by early afternoon staying a few days with our friend Jacques and visiting Don and Jean who live nearby. Hope this rain stops. It’s no fun driving on the Interstate with tires throwing up that fine spray which make for poor visibility.

May 1, 2011

Day 3 RV Travel April-May 2011

Day 3
Sunday, May 1, is cool and showery in the morning as we spent the night in the parking lot of Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. We attended the 8:30am service and then a class following. Parkside is a megachurch south of Cleveland with an emphasis on expository Biblical preaching rather than a performance orientation like Fome large churches. The complex has a massive auditorium that seats ~2,000 with three Sunday services and multiple classes teaching all ages.
The complex has a large bookstore, bigger than any Christian bookstore in Burlington, VT.

After a lunch a Buffalo Wild Wings (our first experience at that restaurant had our mouths afire) and some quick grocery shopping, we were on our way south and are now at immaculate Evergreen RV park smack in the middle of Ohio Amish Country. It really is a superb site, among the top two or three we’ve ever stayed at. After walking the dogs, a shower, a swim and 10 minutes in the jacuzzi, we have just finished supper. Tomorrow we’ll visit some locations in Amish Ohio, a very prosperous farming area with many tourist stops, not unlike Amish country in and around Lancaster, PA. Then we head south for our next overnight in Kentucky.