We are tired.
Weary, fatigued, drained, exhausted…
Over the past several weeks we’ve driven an enormous amount of miles in both the RV and the car. We’ve camped in 9 different campgrounds in 6 different states (Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York, Ohio, and Indiana) and we’ve driven to or through 5 additional states (Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois). And all of this followed on the heels of a 5 week trip to Canada that included massive amounts of mileage and stays at an array of campgrounds that, oftentimes, made everything feel that much more exhausting. Add to all of that Dixie’s ongoing medical situation and the stress involved in managing her issues, and we are downright wrecked.
Now, of course, I am well aware that all of this qualifies as “first world problems.” Indeed, I imagine that right this very minute there is a person sitting in an office somewhere who, after reading the first paragraph of this post, has slowly sat back in their chair and, while narrowing their eyes until they can barely see and clenching their jaw so hard they can feel a headache coming on, has raised both of their arms straight in front of them and extended both middle fingers directly at their computer monitor.
And if that person is you, listen: I get it… I do.
Rest assured, we are endlessly aware of just how fortunate we are to be doing all of this, and we are certainly cognizant that many, if not most, people have much bigger problems than us. But…. I post a lot of pretty pictures on this blog, and I get a lot of comments about how people want to do what we’re doing, and one of the stated goals of this website is to help other people who are considering fulltime RV travel. Therefore, in my mind, it’s only fair to be honest about the things that go wrong as well as the things that go right. And lately, we’ve been feeling like a lot of things, while maybe not exactly going wrong, haven’t exactly been going right.
As a result, we’ve learned a lot of lessons about how to plan our trips, what we should prioritize when picking campgrounds, how to handle a sick dog, and the importance of figuring out when to say yes and when to say no. Over the next couple weeks as I catch this blog up to current day, along with the usual travelogue stuff, I’ll try to explain what we’ve learned through this experience. Hopefully, all of this will help other folks avoid making the same mistakes we’ve made.
Now stop flipping me the bird.
In the meantime, we are cautiously optimistic that things are about to turn around. We have several lengthy state park stays coming up, and, in our view, state park campgrounds are uniformly more enjoyable than commercial parks. And while at one time we envisioned using those state parks as jumping off points to go explore nearby cities, we have committed ourselves to not overdoing it this time. Additionally, while we both have projects we’re working on, we intend to prioritize exercise and outdoor time over sitting inside staring at our computer screens while the sun shines just outside our door.
Seriously, do you still have your fingers up? Put them down. It’s rude.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering why all this navel-gazing is part of a post featuring a young woman with a bad ass looking bird perched on her arm. Well, I’ll get to that, but first thing’s first…..
Just after Labor Day, we hauled ass (as much as one can haul ass while driving a huge RV) from Nova Scotia to Bangor, Maine. We had no time to enjoy our one night stays along the way and, by then, we were pretty burned out by the less-than-stellar commercial campgrounds we’d been staying at, so we were happy to just drive, sleep, and keep moving. We did, however, stop for Tim Horton’s.
Somehow, we’d managed to spend almost six weeks in Canada without trying their popular coffee shop. Our verdict: Damned Solid Coffee.
After a brief stop in Bangor, we headed south to Massachusetts for an appointment. As we were making the long drive from Maine, we started discussing one of our favorite restaurants – Durbar Square, a Himalayan/Nepalese restaurant we’d discovered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire a year earlier. Somehow we concluded that it would be perfectly reasonable for us finish the drive from Maine to Massachusetts, park the RV, unhook our car from the back of the RV, then get back in the car and drive all the way back to New Hampshire…all so we could get a bowl of soup.
(I know… it’s super difficult to understand how we managed to exhaust ourselves this month, right?)
But I’m telling you, this soup is really something special. It’s called Gundruk Soup and it’s exactly what you want when you’re in the mood for hot, spicy, comfort food…
…or when you just like driving a lot.
And since we we were traveling 120 miles round trip for soup, we figured we should probably order some entrees as well.
Anyway, if you ever find yourself in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, or really, even if you’re nowhere near it, you should definitely visit Durbar Square. I promise, you won’t regret it… until a month later when you’re super tired of driving all over the place and you think back to that decision and ask yourself, “What the hell were we thinking??”
When not traversing New England in search of soup, we used our time in Massachusetts to visit with family there….
as well as in Connecticut (resulting in even more driving…because we’re so dumb.)
Vermont Makes the List
After Massachusetts, we headed, once more, for Vermont
One of the goals of all this travel is to find where we’re going to live when we’re done with it and Vermont is officially number 1 on the list.
…during the summer.
Yeah, we’re not living in Vermont in the winter because we’re not crazy.
But summer… Oh man…. Simply put, Vermont is summer perfection.
We were only supposed to spend 2 nights there on our way from Massachusetts into New York, but when we got to Crown Point Camping Area, we found that an entire section of this awesome, heavily wooded campground was completely empty because it was after Labor Day. After spending 6 plus weeks in ass-to-elbow Canadian campgrounds, we looked at our new neighborhood…
and we looked at the huge pile of brochures the campground owner had handed us at check-in….
and we promptly changed our schedule so we could stay in Vermont a couple extra days.
That schedule change allowed us to visit just about every one of these places which, at the time, was great! As you’ll see below, we had a fantastic time, but, knowing what we know now, we would do things very differently.
The Vermont Institute of Natural Science
VINS is a wildlife rehabilitation facility that mostly focuses on rescuing raptors (aka: birds of prey). The facility is home to a number of them that, because of their injuries, cannot return to the wild.
These resident birds are considered ambassadors for the facility. Several hundred other birds are taken in by the Institute each year, rehabilitated, and released back into the wild.
When we first got there and paid our $15 per person fee, we were wondering whether the experience would be worth it. However, within minutes, we were absolutely convinced this was a first rate facility with incredibly dedicated volunteers and staff. We spent the better part of a day there, attending various programs and talking to staff members – all of whom were extremely knowledgeable and more than willing to explain what they were doing and why.
We may have also crashed a class field trip to learn about turtles and snakes.
What??? Turtles are cool!
Additionally, we watched a demonstration with some of the ambassador birds….
We were truly impressed by this organization and glad to support their mission.
The first time we were in Vermont, we happened upon a glassblower’s studio in Stowe and stopped in to have a look. We loved the experience, so this time, when we saw there was another glassblowing facility nearby, we decided to check it out. We learned that Simon Pearce is a famous manufacturer of handmade glass products, and their facility in Quechee, Vermont is home to a really nice restaurant and shop.
What we didn’t realize until we were standing there was it’s a completely different type of glassblowing than what we had seen before.
That Stowe shop was an artistic one, where the proprietor created pieces of decorative artwork. Simon Pearce is a “production” facility. Meaning, the pieces are meant to be used – drinking glasses, wine glasses, bowls, etc. And the craftsmen who work there are primarily paid by the pieces they produce. They will typically make the same piece over and over again across the day, and it takes years before they’re making more complicated pieces. The shop runs 363 days per year with multiple glassblowers working in shifts. Each piece is individually appraised the day after it’s made and accepted or rejected for sale. The glassblower then receives feedback about what mistakes he made and how to improve his work. As they continue their employment with the company, they are constantly honing their skills and becoming better at their craft.
The cool thing is, they love talking to visitors. Even though they are paid by the piece and if their work is substandard, they don’t get paid, they were more than happy to chat. We talked to this guy for about half an hour. We could tell he loved the work he was doing and was very proud to be part of this company.
The American Precision Museum
This museum is located inside the old Robbins and Lawrence Factory in Windsor, Vermont. During the 19th century, the factory produced guns, railroad car parts, and machinery.
The museum explains the development of machine tools – devices that could create the same item over and over and which would allow for parts that could be swapped out. These machines were crucial to the industrial revolution.
Inside the museum are all kinds of historic machine tools. Hanging from the ceiling are the belts that powered the machines (all of which was powered by the river outside).
The museum brings on interested high school students to demonstrate how some of the machines operate…
The facility had a wide variety of these tools, old and very very new – like a 3D printer that was actively working on a project while we were there.
In Vermont, when you go to a store, you can hang out with friendly Alpacas.
I’m telling you, everything is better in Vermont.
The Vermont Toy Museum
We also visited the Vermont Toy Museum. It’s a pretty basic set-up (it looks like it opened 20 years ago and hasn’t been renovated since…), but it really did have an impressive collection. Their motto is “Hey! I had one of those!” and it’s true – as we were wandering around, we kept hearing people exclaim exactly that. (Click on the photos for larger views…)
Fruit and Beer, and Fruit Beer
In addition to stopping by Harpoon Brewery to enjoy some flights, we also stopped in at this awesome Farmers Market in nearby Woodstock. It’s a permanent shop with lots of great local products. And, lo and behold, there happened to be a representative from Citizen Cider, which we discovered on our last trip to Vermont, providing customers samples of their ciders….
Needless to say, we went shopping…
(And those strawberries and raspberries tasted as good as they looked).
Now, of course, all of this Vermont stuff sounds like lots of fun, and it was. But lurking behind these enjoyable experiences was the thing we’d been dealing with all summer, the cause of so much of our stress and exhaustion, the gift that kept on giving….
Of course, I’m talking about….
(I know I have a bunch of new readers recently…. First, welcome, and thanks for reading my nonsense; Second, the short version is our dog was having apparent spinal cord issues and our vet put her on a course of steroids that completely screwed up her stomach. You can read more here and here…)
Anyway, without going into too many details, suffice it to say, it’s good we have such a warm relationship with Canada because our dog crapped all over their country. She pooped on 3 different Provinces, had diarrhea at 7 different campgrounds, and produced enough gas to power the entire city of Quebec. She was like Hansel and Gretel, except instead of a trail of breadcrumbs, she left a trail of farts.
Sorry Justin… You and your country are wonderful and you didn’t deserve that.
Dixie didn’t deserve it either. Poor puppy. I’ve never seen a dog so miserable for so long. She was either sick to her stomach, suffering from painful gas, or starving because we couldn’t feed her normal amounts of food. We tried everything the vet told us to try – prescriptions, special canned foods, 24 hour fasts, home cooked bland diets, probiotics, everything. She would start to get better for a couple days and then revert back to the misery. Over and over and over for weeks.
Adding to the stress, on multiple RV trips she suddenly had an urgent need to go to the bathroom and, unfortunately, Canada is not big on rest stops or shoulders, so while Dixie, bless her heart, was trying her best to stay calm and not have an accident, we were trying to find safe places to pull over our 55 foot house/car combo.
Making matters worse, Dixie can’t go up and down the stairs into our RV these days, and she hasn’t been strong enough to start working with a ramp yet, so Kevin has been carrying her in and out of the RV every time she has to go out. This meant that when she would wake us up in the middle of the night because she wasn’t feeling well, Kevin would always be the one who had to take her out. (Though, just to be clear, I think I paid my due by being the one who handled the Superfund cleanup sites when she had accidents in the RV.)
In any case, just recently, we FINALLY got her on an antibiotic that has seemingly crushed the demon bacteria that had taken hold in her belly. Hallelujah!
As for the problem that started all this, we’re still not sure. She’s not falling over as much, she’s not dragging her back paws as much, and she seems to be stronger, but she’s still not 100% and we are just now starting to take her on longer walks. Time will tell, I guess.
Anyway, I have once again written a ridiculously long blog, but this covers the 13 days from the time we started our exit from Canada to our brief trip to Vermont. As you can see, we were covering a lot of ground, seeing a lot of sites, and still dealing with a sick dog, all after spending five weeks doing the exact same thing in Canada. So… Lesson #1: Don’t do that.
Next up, we have a couple stays in upstate New York, followed by a whirlwind trip across Ohio, followed by a very fun long weekend near Chicago.
Where we stayed: Crown Point Camping Area