We spent the entire month of June in Connecticut visiting my family. Connecticut is known as the Nutmeg State. Probably because it drives RVers nuts.
That is a terribly unfunny joke…But I’m leaving it in here anyway.
The Trouble with Connecticut
As any RVer will tell you, traveling in the northeast can be tough. Roads often have restrictions (low bridges, etc), campsites are pricey, gas taxes are high, and, as we have come to find out, many campgrounds are simply not as well equipped as those you find in other parts of the country. In the end, you pay more and you get less over and over and over.
Connecticut takes all of these minor travel hassels and turns them into full-on travel hemorrhoids. The state seems to relish the opportunity to make RVers not want to visit.
For starters, campgrounds are hard to find and the ones that exist are obscenely overpriced. While our usual go-to solution is state parks, in Connecticut, a state park campsite with water and electric hook-ups runs $45 per night for out-of-state residents. Even more problematic? They don’t allow dogs. At all. You cannot camp in Connecticut state park campgrounds with a dog.
What?? That’s terrible. I understand restricting dogs to certain areas inside a campground (I don’t like it, but I get it), but not allowing them at all? In a state park? What kind of fascist crap is that? I mean, let’s be real here. A state park campground that doesn’t allow dogs is like a barbecue restaurant that doesn’t allow meat.
“Vegan Barbecue”??? No. “Dog-free campgrounds”?? Also no.
So, Connecticut state parks are not an option for us, there are no county park campgrounds, and certainly no BLM or national forests to work with. What does that leave? Well, there are a handful of private campgrounds, the majority of which are overpriced and/or located 40 minutes or more from my family. In past years, we had stayed at a private campground near my brother’s house, but they recently tripled (yes – tripled!!!) their prices, so I nixed them on principle.
That’s when I found what I thought might be a good option – Portland Riverside Campground. It’s a marina with a small campground in the back that offers water/electric sites for $28 per night (weekly rate). I was concerned about a couple reviews that mentioned issues with low voltage, so I reached out to the manager. She told me that sometimes when the campground was full of big RVs and lots of people were running their ACs, folks would have problems with low voltage, but that it usually wasn’t a problem.
Of additional concern was the fact that the campground doesn’t offer sewer hook-ups, nor does it have a dump station, but there’s a county waste facility down the road and we were told we’d be welcome to dump our tanks there for free. That didn’t sound all that bad – and we didn’t really have many options – so I booked a month long stay.
Unfortunately, we had a ton of problems.
We had low voltage the entire time we were there. Regardless of how many other RVs were in the campground, our surge suppressor routinely kicked on to keep the electrical system from damaging our appliances. Luckily, the temperatures were pretty cool so we rarely needed the AC, but if we did, we would have been out of luck (unless we were also willing to run our generator – which is not the way to make friends in a small campground). In the meantime, we couldn’t use our microwave if the refrigerator was running, we couldn’t use our electric water heater at all (which meant we were pointlessly burning our propane supply), and we had to ensure we weren’t turning on more than one high draw device at a time (coffee maker vs. hair dryer, etc.).
In addition to the electrical issues, we also had problems with our water supply. Multiple times, we turned on the water to find water pressure like this:
One time, we turned on the faucet and nothing came out at all.
As for the dump, when Kevin drove up to check it out, he discovered it was an open square pit with metal plates over the top of it. Remember Cousin Eddie dumping his tanks in the sewer? It was like that.
Which is gross.
Fortunately, I’d read somewhere that some Connecticut highway rest stops had dump stations. We drove to the one that was closest to the campground only to find that it was full. Literally – the tank was completely full.
So we went to another rest stop and – finally – found a proper, operational, sanitary, dump station.
It was 30 minutes away from the campground.
In addition to not having reliable electric, not having reliable water, and not having any sewer, the campground was like Mecca for mosquitoes. I have never in my life seen so many biting insects in one place. And these are not the bugs that come out at dusk on humid days and inflict their unique brand of misery for an hour or two. These guys mass like troops on the border, awaiting their unsuspecting victims to walk outside at 7:00 a.m. or 8:00 a.m. at which point they descend like Black Friday shoppers on a flat screen TV at Walmart.
End result? We couldn’t sit outside our RV at all and every walk with the dog was more a “sprint to get away from the campground.”
And since we couldn’t sit outside and enjoy the views of the water, we were stuck inside looking at the boatyard portion of the marina….
On the good side, the campground was only about 25 minutes from my dad’s house, so we could shower and do our laundry there, and we were spending so much time with my family, we rarely needed to be at the rig. Additionally, it was relatively cheap, and the people who work there were super nice.
But yeah. It wasn’t great. Especially for an entire month.
Back to School
As we were hanging out one evening, I received this text from my brother:
Of course, my brother knows damn well that I can’t say no to my nephew. Who could say no to this? He’s better at doing “puppy dog eyes” than your average puppy.
So yes, of course, we’ll chaperone. How hard can it be?
But first, we had to get by the school board’s background investigation process which I can only assume led to a delightful conversation at HQ:
Q: So…. these people are not parents of a student in the class?
Q: They’re not parents of a student in any class.
Q: In fact, they are not parents at all.
Q: And they are currently unemployed.
Q: And they have been unemployed for some time.
Q: And they don’t live in the state.
Q: And the address they have provided is not a real address.
A: Mmm hmmm.
Q: In fact, the address they’ve provided is a mail forwarding company.
A: You betcha.
Q: And in fact, they don’t have a home address at all because they (checks notes…) they live in a bus.
A: Admittedly, when you say it out loud, it does not sound ideal…. But… we need chaperones.
Q: Sure… Why not?
So, on the appointed date and time, we showed up at the school, met our nephew’s teacher, sat in very tiny chairs, took part in the morning discussion about how we were all feeling and what we were most excited about for the day, and headed off on the big yellow school bus!
Fortunately, the classes were broken into smaller groups, and the teacher, likely sensing our abject terror, kept us with her and her group. Our main responsibilities were making sure no priceless pieces of art were destroyed and no one wandered off from the group and went missing. (Apparently, parents get upset when you lose their kids…)
Honestly, they were very well behaved and other than the occasional reminder to stay with our group when we intersected with other groups of kids, we didn’t have much to worry about.
So all in all, it was a pretty easy – and I dare say – FUN day!
More importantly, our nephew had a good time…
Speaking of not being able to say no, our niece can’t say no to Thor, so she was happy to give him all the attention he wanted while we were visiting. She’s really good with him and, fortunately, he’s very good with kids, so we could kind of relax – something we couldn’t do with Dixie who was more a “maul first, ask questions later” kinda gal.
When we weren’t putting Ashley to work entertaining and taking care of our dog, we got to watch her perform in her school choir performance…
as well as her dance recital….
She was in four different dances, got an award for 10 years of dance (which is no small commitment), and danced beautifully. We were very proud of her!
A day in Mystic
We also spent a day hanging out with my other brother and sister-in-law (Jeremy & Jen) in the lovely waterside town of Mystic. This town contains a world class aquarium, a quaint colonial style town full of tourist shops, and numerous spots to grab a drink or a meal while watching the boats drift by.
We met up for lunch, perused the shops, stopped for drinks, perused more shops, scarfed down some ice cream, and finished the day with a pretty walk at sunset. It was the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon catching up with them.
The New England Air Museum
One of the things we were working on while in Connecticut was planning for my dad’s 80th birthday party. Kevin’s parents were kind enough to jump on a plane and come up to CT to help us celebrate, which was great. In the days leading up to his party, we went out with them several times.
One day, we headed up to the New England Air Museum located in northern Connecticut near the Massachusetts border. Connecticut has long been a center of the aerospace industry and the defense sector so it makes sense the museum is located there, but to be honest, I’d never heard of it before. We were seriously impressed by this facility. Not only did the museum contain an impressive collection of aircraft, but the docents who work there were just awesome – engaging, knowledgeable, and happy to answer any and all questions.
This is an impressive little museum and well worth a visit if you have any interest in aviation.
The Stuff That Matters
As much of a pain as Connecticut can be for us as RVers, it was really nice to spend so much time with family, to help my dad with various projects, and to have this big get-together of extended family to celebrate his birthday (click for larger photos and captions).
The past several years with my mom’s declining health were tough, and last year was incredibly stressful and draining for my family. It was nice to have some time to just enjoy each other’s company and move forward.
A non-family get together…
In addition to all the family stuff, we did meet up with one set of RV friends. Melanie and Cameron (on Instagram as @melaniemeanders and @cam_reprogrammed) have been traveling fulltime for almost a year now. She reached out to me through this blog before they took off to ask about some stuff and we’ve been in touch ever since. They also have family in Connecticut and happened to be in town for a wedding, so we met up for what turned into a 3+ hour lunch. We had a great time talking to them, we have a lot in common, and we’re looking forward to crossing paths again down the road.
And with that, it was off to Vermont for a couple weeks… before coming back to Connecticut for one additional week. More on that next.
Where we stayed: Portland Riverside Campground, Portland, Connecticut.
Great post! It was wonderful to see you and Dad’s party went off without a hitch! Mystic was a blast, I’m glad we got to show you all the things we love about it. Looking forward to family fun part deux in just over a week!!
It was great seeing you too and we’re looking forward to part 2…. and then part 3!! So much family time!! Safe travels next week!!
Looks like a beautiful area and time with family is the best. Bummer that you have so few choices for parking. The marina didn’t look too bad until you mentioned the bugs. I think we get spoiled hanging in the west. We’re spending the summer in the Midwest, and I’ve had more bites from mosquitos, flies, and ticks than I have in the last five years put together. Oh well, we’re still having fun. I look forward to hearing about your Vermont trip.
I am right there with you. The west definitely spoiled us in terms of bugs and humidity and it has been a kick in the pants dealing with that again. I do love all the beautiful greenery up here and I missed hiking through forests, but there’s a price to pay for that – and that price is dousing ourselves in bug spray and taking two or three showers each day. Ick.
We didn’t know that about Connecticut campgrounds, so we will definitely have to research A LOT before we get there. So glad you had fun on your nephew’s field trip. I did many of those with my daughter (well, because she’s my daughter). The most memorable was the zoo when she was in kindergarten. I was dubbed, “Hey, Dani’s Mom,” and heard it a million times. Then, there were the monkeys. Those little devils were feeling quite frisky (the amorous type of frisky), and they didn’t care if they had an audience of wide-eyed 5 year olds watching them attempt to procreate. “What are they doing, Dani’s Mom?” “That monkey’s hurting the other one, Dani’s Mom.” “They must be playing a wrestling game. It’s time for a sno-cone, are you ready?” Those were the days. I’m so happy you are having quality time with your family. Safe travels to you!
Hahaha! That’s hilarious!
“But we just had a snow cone, Dani’s mom…” “Well, you’re getting another one. Let’s go!!”
I love it!!
We were your neighbors at the Portland Campground for a couple days in early June and your review is spot on. How did you like the “recreation area” in the center of the loop (a.k.a. the ditch with a stump)? I came by and knocked on your door to ask about the dump station and we had a short, enjoyable chat. Thanks for the tip about the highway rest stop having a dump station, that worked out great for us as we departed and headed home. Just remember the Portland campground as a way to make you appreciate the better campgrounds you stay at. If you ever pass through northern Virginia give us a shout and we’ll show you around.
Hey! Of course I remember you! It was nice then, as it is now, to know we weren’t being hyper critical or unfair about that place. Sometimes it’s hard to not get worn down by these campgrounds that seem to overcharge and under-deliver, and it makes us wonder if we’re just becoming overly negative about our experiences. But, in a situation like that, where we didn’t have any of the normal utilities, we couldn’t use our outdoor space, and the things that had been advertised weren’t at all what we expected, I think it’s reasonable to be a bit disappointed. So, thank you for confirming that we were not being unreasonable in our assessment. I hope and trust that you had smoother travels on your way home!
Well you could have just used that wonderful porta potti instead of having to go somewhere and empty your tanks. 😉 Have you guys tried Thermacell for mosquitos? Works great! Glad you got to spend some quality time with family.
LOL. That is a solid suggestion. I mean, that IS what those things are for and they did leave it RIGHT THERE!!! Hmmmmm…. 🙂
We have not used Thermacell, but you are the second person to recommend it, so it’s going on the shopping list! We’ll try anything!
We’ve only stayed (in Beluga) once in Connecticut at the Aces High RV “resort” in East Lyme. It was a nice enough place, albeit expensive. Mostly, we just flew through the state on the way to somewhere else. Looks like that was a good decision!
I used to chaperone our son’s field trips regularly until he asked me not to. He felt, strongly, that it wasn’t right to discipline other people’s children! Who knew?
Despite the bugs, the campground’s electric and sanitary shortcomings, and the tiny chairs, it looks like you enjoyed some nice and fuzzy family time. And…. fodder for some good stories (which is what these bad experiences are really for)
When I posted this article on my Facebook pages, a couple people commented on that Aces High Campground. It looks like a decent campground, but it would be over an hour from my family which is part of what we struggle with. And yeah, they were also commenting on the almost criminal pricing – $70 per night? For Connecticut? Insane….
As for your chaperoning skills, I am 100% sure whatever that kid did to receive your ire was well deserved and your response was completely reasonable. And even if it wasn’t, life is hard kid. Better get used to it and toughen up!!! (and this is why I am not a parent…:) )
I never knew it was called the nutmeg state, huh… Glad you had a good time with family and friends, I’m sure it made the campground more tolerable. I know there are lots of lovely campgrounds in Vermont!
See? You learn something new from this blog every day! Irrelevant…. and unhelpful…. and completely pointless, but “new,” nonetheless!! 🙂
I look forward to your posts! You guys make me smile. What a great turnout for your dad’s birthday. Enjoy!
Thank you, Jana! I hope you are enjoying your summer!
I once spent a month in Connecticut… on 95. Or at least it seemed like a month. Glad you got to spend time with your family!
Hahaha… Ah, yes… yet another thing Connecticut is known for – its ubiquitous traffic. So much worse than it should be and yet another reason we do not enjoy driving through it in the motorhome.
I hope retirement is treating you well!!
You’ve confirmed my worries about RVing in New England, at least in part. The question is how one can get to the good stuff (Acadia, Cape Cod) without having to travel through the difficult areas. I guess the good news is that RVers can just drive through CT in about two hours unless they are stopping to visit family.
We totally appreciate the problem of not being able to sit outside. Every time we experience that (because of bugs, persistent bad weather, or other RVs just situated too close to us) it reminds us that without that extra outside space we really are trapped in a small tin can. Luckily you had plenty of family activities to take you away from the disappointing campground! One of the great blessings of our lifestyle is being able to visit family when they really need us in bad times, but I am particularly happy you had the chance to enjoy good times with family after a difficult several years.
I think your analysis is correct – you can just drive right through some of these places to get to “the good stuff.” Unless you have a compulsion to stay in all 50 states for some period of time, there’s really no need to travel to some of these spots. And you CAN find campgrounds to stay in for a night or two – you just have to pay too much for them. But places like Acadia, Boston, and Vermont are most definitely worth it. Just know you’ll be enduring some long travel days and expensive accommodations during that time period.
I agree with you completely about the beauty of this type of travel as it relates to spending time with family. We spent many years completely neglecting everyone because we were so tied up with our own lives. It’s nice to be able to spend quality time now.
I’m glad you had great family time…always good to connect. I learned something new from your post right off the bat…Connecticut, the nutmeg state? Ummm ok. Love your blog. 🙂
Ok, I’m gonna blow your mind here… You ready? You might need to sit down for this one…. Connecticut is ALSO known as “the Constitution State.” Whaaaaaat???? It’s got TWO totally different, totally awesome monikers??? The excitement that comes along with this amazing state is almost too much to handle!!
We camped at River Dale Farm Campsite in Clinton 6 years ago and it was $40 a night!
Bugs, humidity, low voltage, and no sewer connections are deal killers but if left with no choice what can you do? In your case, you had family celebrations and gatherings and bonding to keep you away from those awful RV sites. Life, after all, is all about family and relationships!
Your posts always give us a chuckle 🙂
Hey, That place doesn’t look bad, but it’s about an hour from my family which is part of the challenge. It looks like their 30 amp FHU sites are now $45 per night and the 50 amp ones are $50 per night. It’s all just so hard to justify given what’s available in that area (not much) and how much a similar site would be in the south or west. Either way though, you are correct, the important thing is having the ability to spend time with family and we were able to make that work, so mission accomplished!
Have you ever thought of writing a book based on your blog? I think it would be a best seller…..much funnier then “Dear Bob & Sue”! Just a thought!!
Oh man, that is a really awesome compliment, but I can only imagine how much of an undertaking that would be and, deep down, I am super lazy. Like, seriously – just worthless. HA! Well, I guess it’s possible that, one day, I’ll stop being a bum and do something real. Never say never, I guess…. Thanks Debbie!
I thought your opening joke was very funny! And your right nobody could turn down those puppy dogs eyes and I got such a laugh at what I’m sure was the thought process the school board went through 🙂
I’m really not sure which would be worse – that the board looked at our situation and was OK with it, or they just didn’t even bother looking…. Either way, it is pretty odd that no one thought it was worth asking some additional questions.
Lucky you did not say you used to be lawyers, that surly would have been your rejection to be around small kids…. glad you got to spend time with family and if you are like we are, we just go home to sleep so Campground doesn’t seem to matter as much, ours has a pool and we have yet to have time to enjoy it.
Funny enough, after years of never taking advantage of these campground pools, we’ve just recently started visiting some of them. We figure we’re paying (obscene amounts) for the privilege of staying in places that have pools, so we might as well use them! But yes, in general, we usually keep ourselves occupied enough that it’s not that much of an issue. By the way, I am keeping tabs on your kitchen remodel for your daughter and I am duly impressed… Really nice work!
Well, I was just getting ready to put a big “X” through Connecticut and then I got to the part about Mystic, which is where we’re planning to visit this fall. So I’m leaving it on our list. We’re also planning to stay in the state parks, so maybe that will be better…but seriously, no dogs allowed at all in the state parks? We don’t even have a dog and I think that’s a stupid rule!! Are there rules against goats in the park? :-))
It sounds like you had a wonderful visit with your family, even with the totally lame campground situation. And of course, it would be impossible to resist those adorable kids. Your field trip experience (and the background check) was hilarious! The teacher kept you close by, LOL. She didn’t want you making a run for it, obviously.
And such a sweet birthday celebration (and a big turnout!) for your dad. Memories to cherish, for sure.
You know, the rules specifically exclude “dogs” from the campgrounds and do not mention other animals at all, so I feel you would be perfectly fine bringing your goat (or llama or chicken) to the park. Speaking of which, are you gonna get this done or not? I’m starting to think you’re not very serious and I am going to be very disappointed if this doesn’t happen. Focus, Laurel!! 🙂
As for Connecticut, there are a lot more campground options down near the water in places like Mystic than in central Connecticut where my family lives, so I think you’ll be OK. The campgrounds will be pricey, but at least you’ll have some options. And Mystic is a fun place to visit so I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s touristy without being obnoxious and there’s plenty to do and see in the area. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts after your visit!
Anyway, we did have a great time visiting with the family and we’re looking forward to doing the same with Kevin’s family when we get to Florida.
Certain non-tourist areas in the northeast are tough to find parks. I guess land is just too valuable to “waste it” on RV parks. Glad you did at least find a spot to park while visiting family. Good you spent most of your time away. Those family memories will be so worth the inconveniences, well, once you have time to move on and pretend the RV park didn’t exist. How special to get to see your niece dance and attend a field trip with your nephew. But having your whole family together for your dad’s birthday was such an awesome event. Enjoy the rest of your northeast stay!!
You are absolutely correct on all points. I think much of the issue just comes down to availability of land that can be set aside for things like campgrounds, and RVing just isn’t as popular in the northeast as it is in other places. Therefore, there’s not much infrastructure for people like us. But, at the end of the day, the important thing was really spending quality time with the kids while they’re still at an age where they want to hang out with us and spending time with the family all together. We can’t take anything for granted anymore and time with both my family and Kevin’s family is really important.
Glad you found a place close to your family, even with it’s drawbacks sometimes it’s all about location. I had a hard time finding a place for us when we came thru, eventually found a great private campground though it was pricey. I’ll be glad to get back west out of the bugs, IL has its fair share of them too.
Yeah, I think you can certainly find “somewhere” to park on any given night, you just pay a premium for the privilege of doing so. Not the end of the world, but certainly not ideal either. And we, too, are most definitely looking forward to getting away from the humidity and the bugs. One thing we never got tired of while traveling around the western part of the country was being able to walk in and out of the RV at night without closing the screen door. There were no bugs hovering outside waiting for their chance to fly in! That was a nice benefit. here? It’s like Mission Impossible trying to take the dog out for his evening walk without letting ten million bugs in!
I think this post combined with so many others who have traveled through the eastern states (particularly the New England area) have permanently deleted that area for us in the RV sense. I am studiously ignoring all the bug reminders since we will be east of the Mississippi next year.
I also wondered why you didn’t take advantage of the Honeybucket (ha!) and also wondered what happened to your port-a-dumper thingie?
It looked really fun to be able to chaperone for your nephew and see not one, but two programs with your niece. My fav, as you know, was the pic of kids looking at artwork — a classic! What a wonderful thing to be able to have some relaxed family time.
Did you have pizza for lunch in Mystic? Yuk-yuk-yuk 😀
Even though it presented some RV difficulties, Connecticut sure looks green and fresh!
Hmmmm, I know it sucks to get here, but I think you guys would really love Acadia… Like, really love it. The hiking there is just phenomenal and there are some gorgeous campgrounds that you would enjoy within the park itself (Schoodic Peninsula, specifically). Don’t rule it all out yet. If you decide to just make it happen – get from point A to point B with minimal stopping, I think you’ll find the park to be absolutely worthwhile….
As for portable waste removal – the marina didn’t offer any service like that (also a rarity for that kind of situation), and we only use our own portable tank for removing gray water. We are not dumping black water into that thing. Oh, hell no we are not!!! But again – because there was no dump station at the marina, there was nowhere for us to even take it. This is the first time we’ve encountered that issue.
I am pretty sure I went to Mystic Pizza when I was still living in CT all those many (Many) years ago, but haven’t been back since. I think that movie is getting dated enough now that many won’t even go looking for it. Because we are all old.
Finally, the one thing we really do love about the northeast is its beautiful greenery this time of year. For all its difficulties as RVers, it is a lovely environment to hang out in.
It looks like the campground worked out even though not perfect. The family time more than made up for it from the looks of things. Cute kids.
That is definitely true! Even with all the aggravation, it ended up being a great month!
Glad you had a great time with your family and got a respite from the lovely campground. Can you believe we’re back in Tucson IN THE SUMMER? Sean loves the heat, I love the pool, and we both love the wifi so we’re back for a month on our way east. Oh and you can make an awesome faux pulled pork with jack fruit. Just sayin’. 😀
I need to hear more (or more importantly – taste) this faux pulled pork! I don’t usually do “faux” anything, but you have me intrigued!! As for Tucson, you know we love that city and that park was the nicest KOA we’ve been to. I could totally see setting up there for a few weeks… the only problem would be actually leaving the pool!
Found your blog by way of Raven and Chicakadee, and so glad I did, as I really enjoyed reading this post. In particular, the question and answer session with the school had me laughing out loud. I could so relate. We (with our nomadic lifestyle) are often seen as being rather weird and strange compared with more conventional types out there.
Love that you live in a bus and travel with your dog and look forward to reading more….
Thank you, Peta! I appreciate you stopping by and leaving such nice comments. It’s finny because, at one point, our plan was to retire early (like, in our late 50’s) and then travel internationally like you guys are. I spent years reading international travel blogs and I was completely obsessed with the idea. But, then, circumstances changed, we had a dog – who was never going to agree to move to Cambodia – and we decided to try to move our travel timeline up and stay domestic. But I am still so intrigued by what you are doing and it is still very much a “some day” possibility. All of which is a long way of saying: I am happy to have found your blog too and will be interested to follow your travels and learn as much as I can! You really just never know where life will lead.
Thanks for all the posts. I really enjoy reading about your travels. Trying to convince my wife to go full time, so I made need to keep the trip from hell off her reading list. LOL. Thanks for being honest and funny about what it really is like.
Haha… yeah, I think if you’re making a case for full time RV travel, you might want to avoid the posts about tires flying off, bug infestations, and tenant mice. Perhaps a post about Yellowstone or Zion might be a bit more helpful? ????
Honestly, it’s usually pretty great, but life is still life and bad things will still happen. I think as long as you’re realistic about what it is – and what it isn’t – you’ll do great. And when it comes down to it, it really is the best, most economical way to see the country.
Anyway, thank you for your kind comment. I really do appreciate it. And if you have any questions, feel free to email us. We’re happy to help.