Sunday, October 12, 2014

THROUGH MIDWEST TO WILDWEST...

It’s raining when we leave the Mothership and continues all day.

Adios Ohio…

Hello Indiana…

More rain in Indianapolis…


What’s Up Illinois?


Stop for the night at the Cedarbrook RV Park in Mulberry Grove, IL.  Seems like a nice park with lots of trees and a pond. Overnighters have their own lot with pull-throughs and full hook-ups, WIFI functional.

Hey there Missouri!

Kansas already?



Homewood RV Park: Small park close to the highway with a pull through full hook-up and ok WIFI.

Pass the Mid-point of the USA on Highway 50.




We get to Dodge City and it’s time to take a break from all this towing/traveling.  We park at the Gunsmoke Trav-L-Park with a pull through in the back with good WIFI and full-hookup. It’s practically around the corner from the Boot Hill Casino andResort the first of three State-owned gaming centers in Kansas and the lowest performer.  It’s a clean low-key casino where a good number of folks seemed to be winning. (We somehow just didn’t fall into that category… sigh…)


Dodge City was a wild frontier town of the Old West. From 1876 to 1885 Texas Longhorns were driven to the Dodge City stockyards where they were collected and rail- shipped back east.  During these years the city became famous for gunfighters, saloons, gambling halls and brothels. Today it still relies on the bovine for the major source of income: feed lots and processing plants. The largest plant is near the airport, which explains phrase most uttered by first time visitors as they disembark: “My gawd, what’s that horrid smell?” It’s not really that bad, as long as you stay upwind.

Classic Steakhouse
Ambience
Since we’re keeping upwind, steak seems like an appropriate dinner in the Queen of the Cow Towns, so we head over to Casey’s Cowtown Club to savor some of their Prime Kansas Beef.   Dinner’s come with a salad, choice of potato, vegetables and rolls.  Salad is a Midwest special: Crisp Iceberg lettuce, a few slivers of red cabbage and one small piece of tomato. (Yawn.) Our potato choice is twice baked, with good flavor and consistency. (Yea!) Green beans are the chef’s vegetable choice.  Too bad they weren’t fresh. (Ban the Can!)  The rolls were light and warm, fresh from the oven. (Smile.)  With the exception of the vegetable of yuck, all of the side dishes rate on the high side of OK.  One bite of the Rib Eye and The Dodge City Strip and all is forgiven.  Generous portions, perfectly prepared per our requests and deftly seasoned are melt-in-your-mouth red meat perfection.  Forget the sides… It’s all about the meat!
Casey's Cowtown Club on Urbanspoon


The Doctor
will see you now.
We get rain in Dodge…so off we go to the Boot Hill Museum.  Here we get the picture of what the city looked like during the cattle shipping heydays.  (Too bad all the streets around the area are the land of franchised fast food.) At the museum, we start with a short film about the real history of the town and then walk up to the Boot Hill cemetery and the native gallery.  We are reminded once again that our nation was occupied prior to our ancestors’ colonization, and of the sometimes not so pretty history.  Then it’s back down through working replicas of the original town.  The general store has a collection of Colorado vintage sundries displayed and an assortment of Wild West themed items for purchase.  The saloon is open for business. No Spirits, but they do serve on tap the Beer that rhymes-with-sewers.   We opt for their house made Sarsaparilla, a tasty soft drink much like a root beer.  The rest of the storefronts are stocked depicting the 19th century lifestyle. 

Combo Plate

One last dining experience here… since we’re definitely west of the Mississippi, Mexican food is back in rotation.  We pick the El Charro restaurant based on the number of cars in their parking lot during lunchtime.  While we await our orders we check our Urbanspoon app… Yikes, a 66% rating and really confusing reviews… big portions… small portions… expensive… reasonable…  does disappointment taste like chicken?

Large Burrito
The house salsa is really flavorful, but lacking heat.  Our server brings us their other two salsas – the “California” similar to the house with the addition of fresh cilantro and the green salsa – a jalapeno heavy and super spicy sauce.  We find that equal portions of each combined makes for one really fine salsa.  The Chips are served warm, but some of the chips are pushing the stale scale.  The combo plate with beef taco, enchilada and a flauta with rice and beans is a good value, lots of tasty beef fillings encased in light crisp tortillas enhanced with a generous addition of the hot sauces. The large pork burrito with a substitution of green sauce instead of the rojo is super spicy and also a generous portion. (Half went home in a box with some of the rice and beans.)  This one was hot enough without additional sauces.  The meat was tender and full of flavor, a pretty great dish. Overall, a pleasant dining experience, with attentive wait staff and a good value meal.
El Charro Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Well it’s time to get the hell outa Dodge… keep pushing westward…

Monday, October 6, 2014

PILGRIMAGE TO THE MOTHERSHIP… OR FIVE STATES IN FIVE DAYS…

colorful highways

With the White Mountains at our backs we hook it across Vermont towards New York State.  We opt for the back roads through the Green Mountains instead of the interstate highways.  The fall colors are a variety of turning to peak and the quaint towns seem to say, “Come back when you can stay awhile.”


no time to dally…
we're on a mission!




We make it to The Arrowhead Marina and RV Park just past Schenectady.  This is a real pretty park right on the Mohawk River.  We get a full hook-up site at the far end along the river, so the advertised free WIFI does not connect.  Whoever designed this park must have liked circles, as most of the sites are back in, like spokes on a wheel.   A nonissue for all the rigs with no back windows but we get views of everyone’s ass.   It is also in close proximity to a busy rail corridor and a non-gated crossing so there is a lot of rumbling and train whistles throughout the night.   It’s an ok spot to stop for the night, but not sure that we would come back for an extended stay in the area.


View from the passenger seat
NY state @ 70mph
We choose the southern route (SR 17 & across New York State because: A) the toll on the northern route will cost almost $30.   And B) the gas mileage differential is $10.00 more for the southern route. Quick math: $20 savings.  More fall colors as we pass the New York countryside and the return of the occasional roadside billboard. (New England prides itself on limiting these advertising goliaths and Maine and Vermont actually ban them.) The route takes us along the NY/PA border and we cross into Pennsylvania for about five minutes.  We stop in the southwestern area of the Finger Lakes near the western shore of Keuka Lake at Camp Elmbois.  Another beautiful campground; with ponds, free use of paddleboats, trees and grass, water and electric hook-ups, dump service and great WIFI.  It is also just down the road from the three wineries that were recommended by Wendy & Tom (a great couple we met back in Lubec, ME.) 


Dr. Frank's
Vineyards and Keuka Lake
After setting up we head over to Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellar, New York’s most award winning winery to do a little tasting. They also claim to have the second oldest old vine pinot noir vineyard in the nation.  After excessive tasting (and re-tasting) we choose a 2012 Pinot Noir, 2012 Cab Franc and a Salmon Run Meritage The Pinot and Cab Franc would probably do well after a few years in the cellar, but since our “cellar” is the space under the fridge – we’ll compensate with the Vinotemp.  We also get a bottle of their Blanc de Noirs, a sparkling vintage from Pinot Noir grapes. It’s a fruit forward rollercoaster on the tongue and a dry finish with a pucker.

We stay one day in the Keuka Lake area. The weatherman lied. It is supposed to be sunny and warm and it’s cloudy and windy.  More wineries are on our agenda today.  Bully Hill is another recommendation. It’s $1 per pour for full menu tastings or $5 for 5 from a limited menu and a commemorative wine glass: The pours are exceptionally stingy and the cost of tasting is not applied to a purchase. Yesterday at Dr. Franks we observed an unpleasant tarry chemical finish in all of their white wines, it was not too pronounced in their reds.  Here at Bully all of their wines both white and red have the same note, but more intense.  When we discussed this with our server, his comment was, “Welcome to New York, did you get lost on your way to California?”  We laughed, “We are from California.” He gave us two complimentary tastings of some of their signature wines, but they still had the same note.  Oh well, we tried…

Walking to the parking lot the smell from their smoker assaults us and we immediately turn to the restaurant for lunch.  Since we’re not enamored with their wines, we order a couple of local brews.  Interesting, these also have that same tarry chemical finish… so it must be the water, or the soil or the air here.  Weird…  We order a couple of the specials: The Sauerbraten is, juicy and tender with sides of braised red cabbage and potato salad, a delightful meal. The Oktoberfest Sampler comes with smoked pork, smoked sausages, sauerkraut and Pierogies. Neither of the smoked meats have any real smoky flavor.  The sausages are pretty pedestrian, the smoked pork is two thin boneless pork chops that you need a chainsaw to cut. Ray Chainsaw Sawyer Murphy could saw the Ten Commandments on these babies.  The best part of this meal is the Pierogies they have just the right amount of crunch on the outside and a creamy potato filling.  The views of lake Keuka are great.   At this point we’re not ready to face any more disappointment so we call it a day.
Bully Hill Vineyards on Urbanspoon

Back at camp, owner Dave and Sheila invite us to come out drinking and dancing with them… we are so tempted, but we know us… we’ll go out drinking, wake up not feeling like traveling… extend another day… and…. before you know it, it’s November… as painful as it is, we have to keep to the plan.

It’s raining again.  We want to just say, “Screw this!” Extend our stay and wait out the storm.  But, we dilly-dallied way too long in New England and we have to keep pushing on.  The weather breaks mid morning and we get back on the Southern Tier Expressway and head out across New York toward Lake Erie. We’re driving into a heavy head wind, which makes us really glad we chose Airstream!  Still lots of fall colors and pretty scenery, but it fades as we approach PA.  We get to the western end of the Southern Tier Expressway and follow onto I90 across the western end of Pennsylvania along the shore of Lake Erie.  Before you know it we’re in Ohio stopping at the Indian Creek Camping Resort in Geneva.  We get a full hook-up pull through on the end by a pond.  They charge for WIFI, so we pass on it. It’s pretty for a mega resort and great for a one-nighter.

Next Stop THE MOTHERSHIP!  There is an unwritten rule that every Airstream owner needs to make at least one pilgrimage to the Airstream Factory in Jackson Center, Ohio.  It is the best place to have body work done with a full warranty, so lots of people bring their dented and ripped Airstreams to the factory to be made new again.

Rural Ohio
The village of Jackson Center sports a population of about 1,500 people and 315 of them work at Airstream.  Reading on-line reviews of Airstream one gets the impression that this is the center of nowhere. Yeah, its rural here, surrounded by fields of corn and soybeans but this is just small town America and there is plenty of “civilization” within an hours drive or less in any direction. We spend a couple of nights at the Terra Port, (Airstream’s on site RV Park.) It’s free if you’re having work done and $10 for Airstream geeks who just want to visit and take a factory tour.  We fall into the latter category. 

Vintage Parade
 The factory is surrounded by Airstreams.  It’s a sea of silver bullets, some shiny and others not so much.  A line of vintage units, including Wally Byam’s gold trailer are displayed out front.   Behind the service center, customer units wait for repairs (some with pretty big ouchies.) and more vintage trailers await renovation. We actually recognized one trailer from California with a huge tear in the right rear corner.  Two months ago we saw this unit pull in when we were in Lubec.  (We didn’t get a chance to meet them before they left the next day.) We’re really not surprised to see it here, since it takes 2 months to get an appointment for repair.

Welcome!
End Caps A Waiting
The factory tour starts with a brief history of the plant.  Since we will be entering a busy manufacturing facility, visitors must wear closed toe shoes, earplugs and safety glasses.   Airstreams are built entirely by hand.  The only automated process we see is one robotic arm drilling the rivet holes and cutting out the windows and doors in giant sheets of aluminum.  Everything from the laminates on the cabinets to the riveted bodies is constructed without the aid of robotics or conveyor systems like other manufactures. Just men and women with hand tools. Even the trailers are moved around the plant by hand or forklifts as they near completion.  It appears to be a complicated crowded maze and the tour takes us right through the middle of this organized chaos.  They currently produce approximately 150 trailers a month in their 135,000 sq. ft.  facility and have a backlog of about 600 units.  No wonder they just announced a $5.9 million expansion project to add 94,000 sq. ft. by 2015 and 125 jobs over the next three years.
Airstream Body Assembly

Well, we have now visited the birthplace of our darling Dimples. Four years ago this month we ordered her… time sure flies when you’re having fun… and we sure are!
k

THE ADVENTURES OF DAVE AND DIMPLES VOL 3.17


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

THE COLORS ARE HERE… THE COLORS ARE HERE!

Every day we head out to view the ever-changing botanical pigments.  We see the colors go from turning - to moderate - to peek.

The east-west route: highway 112, known as the KancamagusHighway, (AKA the Kanc) is 56 plus miles of uber scenic and mountainous sections of the White Mountain National Forest between Bath and Conway, NH.  This is also known as one of the best fall foliage viewing areas of the country. No wonder as the colors intensify the traffic increases:



North- South: U.S. Route 3 runs from the Canadian Border through New Hampshire to Cambridge, MA. In this part of Hew Hampshire it’s known as the Daniel Webster Highway.  This is another scenic and very popular route from North Woodstock through the Franconia Notch State Park as it runs along the Pemigewasset River. “The Famous Old Manof the Mountain” used to be here. Word has it that he collapsed and fell into the lake in May of 2003, but considering the alien activity in the area there may be another explanation for his disappearance.  But there’s still Mount Pemigewasset AKA Indian head.
Indian Head

There are also more covered bridges to explore:



We stop at the Basin, a favorite attraction in Franconia.  Here a small waterfall travels sideways into a large pothole 30 feet in diameter and 15 feet deep. From here we hike up the Basin-Cascades Trail that parallels the Cascade Brook.  The trail is rocky and root filled, but the wide granite creek bed is easy to traverse.  Along the way we meet a group of Amish folks.  These three couples are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. They are a friendly group and we talk about wanting to see what’s around the next corner and knowing when it’s time to turn around.  Just below the Kinsman falls they decide to head back and we continue on…


Cascade Brook
Plain Folk on the trail
Cascade Brook
Kinsman Falls

Rock of Ages
Granite Quarry



Since we haven’t quite gotten enough fall color we take a side trip over to Vermont, to check out Montpelier.  On the way we stop at the Rock of Ages granite quarry and take a tour of the quarry and a self guided tour of the fabrication plant.  Rock of Ages is best known for creating memorials (AKA Grave Stones) but we are surprised to learn that they also create solid surfaces for precision and industrial applications.  (Like the precision grinding of the Hubble Telescope lens.)
Capitol of Vermont

In Montpelier we shoot the capitol and then break our rule about not eating Mexican food east of the Mississippi and grab some lunch at Julios Cantina. Sometimes you just have to break the rules. Especially when it’s a beautiful fall day and there’s alfresco dining, where we can kick back and enjoy the view of folks heading to and from the farmers market while listening to a street musician strum his guitar.

They are out of Negra Modelo  L so we opt for a couple of Tecates. The complimentary chips are fresh and the accompanying salsa flavor full but lacking heat.  Our waitress brings us some of their “hot” salsa; that still needs a generous addition of Cholula Sauce to spice it up.  With low expectations we order their Chicken Chimichanga plate and a couple of Street Tacos.  The Chimichanga is crunchy, not greasy with plenty of well-seasoned fillings, so the lack of heat can be forgiven.  The sides of black beans are also tasty and better after we added a generous scoop of salsa. The Steak and green chili street taco was tender and delicious.  The Chicken, Chorizo and Goat Cheese Street Taco was absolutely perfect: spicy, tangy and a real surprise. 

As we are finishing up a trio of tourists are seated next to us.  They ask us “What’s good here?” We recommend the Chicken & Chorizo Street tacos. They’re originally from Vermont but now reside in Phoenix, AZ and like us, are leery of Mexican cuisine in the east.  We joke about miserable Mexican food in Boston and they ask, “Were they baked Beans?”
Julio's Cantina on Urbanspoon

On our last day here we head back to the Flume Gorge, this time schlepping our tripods to reshoot the gorge.

Avalanche Falls

Cascade Bridge and Pool

Cascade Bridge top

September is now over… the colors are fading… temperatures are dropping… time to start the pilgrimage to the Mother Ship…