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.