Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A SMALL SHIP, A LITTLE ROCK AND A 17TH CENTURY PLANTATION…

Since everything is booked solid in Cape Cod for the 4th of July weekend, we head north about thirty miles to Plymouth, MA.  We get one of the last available sites at the Sandy Pond Campground. (Full hook-up, decent sized spaces and WIFI) It’s camping in the woods in an area of kettle holes. After spending so much time along the shore it’s refreshing to inhale the scent of pines.
Plymouth Rock unexceptional?

We’re only a few miles from the town of Plymouth, so we head down to check out THE Plymouth Rock.  Now this may or not be the actual rock that the Pilgrims first stepped on when disembarking from their rowboat that took them ashore from the Mayflower but any way you look at it, it’s probably the most underwhelming monument in America. 

Mayflower II
Nearby throngs of tourists are lined up to tour the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original Mayflower. It’s not very big, but then again there were only 102 passengers, 37 religious separatists, 65 merchant adventurers and an estimated crew of about thirty sailors.

Up the hill is the Plimoth Plantation.  This is a living museum depicting the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony as it stood in 1627 and a replica an indigenous Wampanoag home site.  Although the structures in both locations are accurate reproductions the costumed docents are quite different. 

weaving a fish net



We visit the Wampanoag home site first.  The staff members are all Native Peoples from the Wampanoag and other Native Nations. They are dressed historically accurate but they speak from a modern perspective about their history and current culture.  One young man tells us about the eating habits of the Wampanoag.  Seems their favorite delicacy was skunk.  The hunter would distract the skunk much like trout tickling and grab its tail, lift the hind legs off the ground (skunks can’t spray unless their feet are on the ground) and then club the skunk and bring the treat home to dinner.  An unsuccessful skunk hunter would not be welcome in camp LOL. 



let's party...
… like it's 1627

In contrast the Pilgrims in the colony are all role players.  Each person portrays an actual resident of the colony.  They use diaries of the original occupants to flesh out their parts and are totally immersed in the characters they portray.  These actor/residents are eager to tell you about their daily lives, their struggles and their religious fervor to establish a new world theocracy.  It’s a fascinating look into this chapter in the history of European colonization.




Arapawa Goat

Wiltshire horn Ram
The Museum also operates a breeding program for rare and heritage breeds of domesticated animals. 

All this Pilgrim tourism is fun, but what’s the real story of the Pilgrims, the original inhabitants of the area and the first Thanksgiving? There are lots of opinions on line and some surprising facts. Take the challenge and Google it.



Down on the wharf, we have dinner at Cabby Shack.  Dining on the deck is picturesque with views of the harbor.  Service is S.L.O.W. and the food is pretty forgettable. Stuffed Lobster was blah and the pan seared scallops were overcooked in a boring wine vegetable medley sauce… should have had a burger LOL.
Cabby Shack on Urbanspoon

The Plymouth Bay Winery specializing in locally grown artisan wines is an interesting stop.  They produce one grape wine from a native Concord grape that would make a fine accompaniment to a peanut butter sandwich.  All of their other wines come from local fruits. Now we’re not huge fruit wine fans but their Blueberry Bay wine is surprisingly quite nice.  It’s a bit fruit forward as to be expected, but it has a full body flavor and smooth finish.  Their other product is their Dips.  These are jellies made from their wines and fruits. It was hard not to buy one of each flavor.  Thankfully they can all be ordered online and shipped.

After leaving Plymouth we skirt around Boston, spend the night in a pull through site where we don’t have to disconnect at the Minuteman Campground in Littleton, MA and then head up to the Coast of Maine…









Wednesday, July 2, 2014

UP CAPE – DOWN CAPE – ALL AROUND THE CAPE…

Dennis Port, MA is a perfect location mid-cape to explore the peninsula.  Camper’s Haven RV Resort is the only park in this area. It’s geared to the seasonal camper who parks their rig full time here then visits on weekends and holidays during the summer months. They have a few spots for transients and we are lucky to get a space the week before 4th of July.  Water and electric and WIFI are provided and free bi-weekly pump outs take care of the sewer.

Lined up for the fishing derby
All Decked out for the
Portuguese Festival
The furthest point down cape is Providence Town or P-town. This is where the Pilgrims landed and signed the Mayflower Compact before finally settling across the harbor in Plymouth. Today P-town is the largest commercial fishing port on the cape and is also known for beaches, whale watching, artists, theatre and food… our kind of town.  We start off with a Dolphin Fleet WhaleWatching Tour.  A humpback named measles meanders about filling up on krill and small fish.  We don’t get any big breaching or slapping, but measles swims under the boat a few times obviously more interested in his meal than our presence.  Back on the docks we check out the Portuguese Festival fishing derby, and then join the revelers in town.  It’s a party atmosphere with street performers and music. 

Bubala’s By the Bay offers outdoor dining in the heart of Commercial Street (dinner and a show?)  Inside is quiet with views of the harbor.  We’re hungry and take available seating inside.  First up signature cocktails and clams on the half shell followed by a shared salad of sweet and spicy roasted beets and goat cheese croquettes (OMG these are to die for!) on a bed of baby arugula drizzled with a red wine vinaigrette.  Main course is the Chef’s specials: catch of the day striped sea bass perfectly grilled and seasoned and the expertly seared scallops on a bed of linguini with a light cream sauce. All this accompanied by a nice bottle of sommelier suggested wine made for a wonderful meal with great atmosphere.
Bubala's by the Bay on Urbanspoon

Chatham Beach
Continuing up the peninsula at the ‘elbow’ is the town of Chatham.  Lots of upscale shopping and beautiful beaches to explore.  There is a small farmer’s market on Tuesdays from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. While waiting for the vendor’s to finish setting up we dine at the Kreme and Kone across the street.  There are three Kreme-N-Kone locations on the peninsula that are owned by different folks and   We order a similar platter with the same assortment of fried yumminess and it’s just better! So for the best, fried clams it’s Chatham and for ambience and the second best clams it’s West Dennis, either way it’s some of the best, fried whole clams you can get and both have wonderful soft serve ice-cream!




although their menus are almost identical they are not affiliated. We eat first at the West Dennis location with a deck overlooking the San River and are blown away by the great fried whole clams, scallops, oysters, French fries and onion rings. The clams are the star! Everything is fresh crisp but not over fried and not too greasy. We think we’ve had the best of this fried fare until we try the Chatham location with their deck overlooking the traffic on Main St.
Kream 'n Kone on Urbanspoon Kream 'n Kone Chatham on Urbanspoon

Salt Marsh
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History located in Brewster is small with a big punch. The Museum exhibits a collection of artifacts from around the area with an emphasis on education and the relationship between humans and nature.  Of special note are the Honey Bee Exhibit, the Osprey Cam and the Eldridge Arnold Decoy Carving exhibit.  The museum is also the steward of over 400 acres along the Cape Cod Bay.  We take a naturalist guided hike from the museum to the coast through forest and across salt marshes. The Docent's here are passionate and knowledgeable and there is something for everyone from preschool to really old folks!






Tons of Clams!

The Village of Hyannis is the commercial and transportation hub of Cape Cod.  It is home to the Kennedy Legacy Trail, Ferry service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.  It is the second largest fishing port on the cape.  In the harbor we watch huge baskets of clams, and horseshoe crabs being unloaded and check out some of the artist’s shanties. 


Cape Cod is known as a playground for the rich and famous but the big news while we visit isn’t the Kardashians (they’re too busy in the Hamptons.) It’s the great white sharks sited off of Chatham.  After living many years in Santa Cruz, CA we can hardly get excited about these amazing creatures… but wait a minute… we get to the cape and the sharks show up…

We wish we could stay here longer but we are terrible at pre planning and all of the RV parks on the cape are full over the 4th of July so we have to head up across the canal for the holiday weekend.


Monday, June 23, 2014

LIGHTHOUSES, LOBSTERS...AND WHAT THE HELL'S A STUFFIE?

It only takes a couple of hours to drive from Clinton, Connecticut to Newport, Rhode Island.  The Paradise Park RV Campground is just a few miles from Newport in Middletown.  It’s a neat, small, grassy campground with full hook-up, good WIFI and no other amenities. The daily rate is on the high side and they charge $8 per day extra if you plan use your electric water heater.  We opt to use our propane.  It’s been awhile since we’ve used gas to heat our water and the pilot fails to light.  But Chris goes all MacGyver with a toothpick, unplugs the valve and we have hot water!

Kung Pao Ka Pow!
When checking in we get the 411 on local attractions and the best restaurants to sample the local delicacies. (Translation: Lobster, Clams and Stuffies – a Rhode Island delicacy)  Once we get situated we check out our handy Urbanspoon app and head over to Anthony’s Seafood.  Anthony’s Stuffies (a Quahog - pronounced Ko-hog - clam stuffed with chopped clam meat, chourico, onions, peppers, bread stuffing and spices) and Kung Pao Calamari (Fried squid rings with hot peppers, plum chili sauce, peanuts and scallions) were featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives and if it’s good enough for Guy… well we have to try it!

We arrive at the late lunch/early dinner hour and the place is slow.  At the counter we order, two spicy Stuffies, Kung Pao Calamari and Fried Clam Strips then take a seat in the dining area to await our food.  The atmosphere is casual and the place begins to fill up. Our food is delivered piece meal. Each dish arrives as soon as it comes out of the kitchen so everything is absolutely hot and crisp. The Stuffies arrive first - clamshells packed with their spicy clam stuffing.  They are tasty, with a good clam flavor and a bit of spice and very filling. The Kung Pao Calamari is tender with a light crispy batter the sauce is perfect, not too much or too little and the scallions and peanuts add a bit of zest and crunch.  This is one amazing dish – the best ever! The fried clam strips are last to arrive, they perfectly fried – tender and light. They come with fries but after the Stuffies and Calamari we have to eave them on the plate.  This meal is so wonderful; we return a couple of days later and do it all over again (But we only order one Stuffie to share.)
Anthony's Seafood on Urbanspoon

(Another dining recommendation is Flo’s Calm Shack. We drop by and try their “Famous” Stuffies and Clam Cakes.  It’s very disappointing, lots of stuffing and very little clam or anything else.)


Excessive Opulence

Coastline
In Newport we stroll the Cliff Walk along the eastern shore. This world famous public access walk combines the natural beauty of the Newport shoreline with the architectural history of Newport’s gilded age. It is a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District. To the east - cliffs and ocean and the western side is lined with the excessive mega mansions of the uber rich from the nineteenth century. It’s a delightful way to spend a sunny afternoon.



View from the Fort
We drive along the ten-mile scenic route and stop at Fort Adams, the largest and most complex fortress in North America. Our timing is perfect to catch a guided tour through the fort.  Our guide is a quintessential New Englander with the dry wit, attitude and accent.  We tour the public areas of the fort and venture behind locked doors and gates to: view the officers quarters, Ascend to the scenic overlook for great views of Newport Harbor, Learn about current and future restoration and finally descend into the labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath the walls of the fort.  Afterward we are awarded a Fort Adams Tunnel Rat Patch as a memento.



The Columbia
Spindrift II
You can’t visit Rhode Island without viewing lighthouses so we book a Rhode Island Lighthouses & Newport Harbor Tour.  While waiting in the queue we strike up a conversation with another couple.  They mention that they are staying at a local campground and we ask if they have an RV. “No” the woman replies, “We have an Airstream.”  So until we board the conversation revolves around the shiny trailers and places we’ve traveled.  We board the Millennium, a high speed jet propelled catamaran and cruise the Narragansett Bay and Newport harbor.  The thirty mile narrated voyage takes us past islands, mansions and ten lighthouses. (Well, nine lighthouses and one rubble foundation.) It’s a gorgeous day and lots of folks are out on the water, the Columbia (Winner of the 1958 America’s Cup) sails past us along with boats of various sizes and shapes, Tall Ships to Jester Dinghies, it’s a sight to behold.  We also pass the Spindrift II – an ultra modern high-speed trimaran that looks like a floating Klingon war ship. Lots of pics on this trip!

Nine Lighthouses

Only the foundation remains of  Whale Rock 


We spend a little time wandering the piers in Newport and stop at the Aquidneck Lobster Company, to check out the lobster tanks.  Behind the store is the Lobster bar, and our tummies are craving lobster.  We get a seat on the deck with 180-degree views of Newport Harbor.  After ordering a couple of cocktails, we decide on the Prix Fix Special for two:  Raw platter of Oysters, clams and Shrimp, Steamer Clams and two one and a quarter pound lobsters, we order one steamed and one stuffed and baked.  This is a pricey special dinner and we are so not disappointed.  The oysters, clams and shrimp are fresh and tasty and the cocktail sauce with a generous splash of horseradish is outstanding.  The steamers are in a light broth with onions, and on the side - ramekins of clarified butter for dipping they are sweet and succulent.  And then the main event, the LOBSTER… One steamed to perfection and the other baked with scallops and stuffing. These also come with lots of butter.  A side of rice pilaf and a Caesar salad complete the meal.  It’s a lot of food, but we enjoy every bite!


YUM!
The Aquidneck Lobster Bar on Urbanspoon

The Ocean State is pretty amazing... it may be the smallest state but it’s big on attractions… and amazing food… so we will add it to our list of places to return to… but we have a date with Cape Cod, so we’re off…

k


THE ADVENTURES OF DAVE AND DIMPLES VOL 3.04


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

TRAINS AND BOATS AND DON’T FORGET THE LOBSTA…

From New Jersey we head northwest making a wide berth around the NYC congestion and stop for the night in the Poconos at the Ironwood Point Recreation Area on the edge of Lake Wallenpaupack.  We have a wooded site with a view of the lake through the forest, H2O and electricity.  If it weren’t for the rain, the scenery would be spectacular.  But since Mother Nature is not smiling at the moment, it’s just another dreary day at the lake. 

It’s still raining as we head into Connecticut.  Here we stay at the Riverdale Farm Campsites.  This is a large resort just outside the town of Clinton, along the Hammonasset River with a swimming pond and a lot of activities for families.  Our space is over on the quiet side of the park away form all the activity.   It’s perfect for our sensibilities with full hook-ups and decent WIFI. 


A shack by any other name...

The next day the rain has not let up.  Not a good day to go to the beach, or take a hike or even sightsee, but it’s a good day to find some Lobster.  A quick internet search gives us a list from Yankee Magazine of the top twelve lobster shacks in New England, and low and behold Lobster Landing is just down the road WOO HOO! Technically speaking, Lobster Landing isn't even a shack. It’s a ramshackle, 100-year-old, wood-frame shanty by the water selling lobsters, oysters, and steamer clams to take home and cook. The adjacent food trailer sells three items: hot dogs, sausage pepper onion subs and hot lobster rolls plus bags of chips and soda that you fetch yourself from a cooler near the order counter. Seating is in a makeshift dining area on cheap plastic chairs and tables on a broken clamshell deck under a plastic tent.

Heaven on a bun!
Since it would be sacrilegious to order hot dogs or sausages here, we order up two made to order Hot Lobster rolls.  They come in a big submarine bun, the center of which is cut away before toasting, and stuffed with a half pound of butter-dipped claw, knuckle, and tail meat.  No mayo here, just Lobsta with butter and a squirt of lemon. Who knew that heaven can be purchased for $15 a roll!

Lobster Landing on Urbanspoon

All Aboard!
The skies final clear and we decide to check out the local’s local attraction.  The Essex Steam Train and Riverboat Ride.   Our 2½-hour journey begins at the historic 1892 Essex Station where we board vintage coaches for a journey into the heart of the Connecticut River Valley. We splurged on first class tickets. (Coach passengers sit on benches and buy candy bars and soft drinks, first class get individual upholstered swivel seats and bar service with vintage cocktails.) Along the way we pass through: quintessential New England towns, pristine meadows, and quaint farmland. We pass a millpond with waterfall, and trestles and bridges over rivers and creeks, along tidal wetlands and natural bird habitats.  We see Cormorants, Ducks, Swans, Greenland Geese, Blue Heron, Egrets, and Red-winged Blackbirds and a Bald Eagle.

Goodspeed Opera House


At Deep River Landing, we board the Becky Thatcher riverboat for a cruise upon the Connecticut River. The deep water, coves, inlets, marshes, wildlife, and rocky shoreline are pretty spectacular considering that the river was badly polluted in the mid-20th century, fouled by industrial and sewage wastes. Thanks to the federal Clean Water Act of 1965 pollution entering the river, has been reduced and it’s pollution rating has improved from a “D” (boating but no swimming) to a “B” (boating and swimming.)  There are also historic sights including Gillette Castle, Goodspeed Opera House, and the Haddam Swing Bridge. Upon Becky’s return to Deep River Landing, we board the train again for the return trip back to Essex Station.

Yale the modern side...
We’re not too far from New Haven, so why not go to Yale?  It’s a beautiful campus with old collegiate gothic and modern iconic brick and stone buildings on wide tree-lined streets, fitting for one of our top universities. 

ThePeabody Museum of Natural History is one of the best we have visited. We are here to see the special exhibit, Tiny Titans. This is the latest in paleontology, fossilized dinosaur eggs, bones of tiny hatchlings and teeny tiny embryos from sites around the world. With hands-on displays, life-like models, stunning artwork, and more than 150 dinosaur eggs on display, Tiny Titans offers a rare and exciting look at the lives of dinosaurs, as well as their living descendants—nope not lizards… it’s birds!
Nesting Mama 

There is a second special exhibit with the meteors. A meteorite that has been identified as a fragment of the planet Mercury that traveled to Earth after an impact on Mercury’s surface blasted the stone into space. Yes we have now seen a bit-o-Mercury up close and personal!

In the permanent exhibits, The Great hall of Dinosaurs with the Age of Reptiles Mural, has iconic dinosaur skeletons, the Riddle of Human Origins exhibit has brass replicas of early humanoid skulls mounted next to replicas of modern human skulls that you can touch and feel the difference between our ancestors and us. The Hall of Mammals features their evolution.  There are also Connecticut specific exhibits of native birds, minerals, plants and vertebrates and Native Americans.  And to round everything out they have Egyptian mummies and artifacts.

Southern Connecticut along the Long Island Sound is beautiful. The towns are quaint in a Martha Stewart sort of way.  Although houses are painted in many different colors, some neighborhoods sport house after house of white with black shutters… homogenized… BTW homogenized milk was invented in Connecticut…

so after tiny dinosaurs… next the tiniest state...