Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Florida in April Part 2

Our last night in Florida we took Lyn and Don out to Applebee's restaurant in Brooksville. I could tell the strain of looking after our father had eased but she still felt responsible for his welfare more than she needed to. Thankfully she still looked forward to looking after Brenna during the week and was still riding. We had a chance to spend some time with Shawn and Lauren as well. Brenna was her usual delightful self and a pleasure to be around. Her and I went swimming one afternoon, summer like weather securely established in central Florida! But the north beckoned so we set out early the next morning, driving over to Spring Hill one last time to say goodbye to Dad. Marie had him sign some tax forms before we left, the last sight of him slowly and painfully making his way to breakfast. From Spring Hill we took SR19 to Otter Creek then the 24 to Gainesville where we caught  the 301 and headed north to Starke, picking up the I-10 to Jacksonville. We had hoped to get into South Carolina and look for a campground there our first night but as we had not got away from seeing Dad until almost noon we were still in Florida when we finally stopped around 6pm, pulling into the Big Tree RV Park in Jacksonville, just south of the Georgia border.
After hooking up to the power and water we prepared our first dinner in our new camper! A/C was  the order of the day but we slept well our first night in the new bed. The sun was setting when we   stopped late near Florence, South Carolina, the next day at the Swamp Fox campground. It was closed, being after 6, but we found a nice open spot near the washrooms and parked for the night.

Big Tree RV Park, Jacksonville, Florida

Swamp Fox Campground, Florence, South Carolina
So far we were enjoying life in our new small home, finding a few problems we hadn't been aware of before - the toilet pump wouldn't flush, the catch on the door wouldn't hold and would blow closed in a wind, and the heater - which we would need in the coming days - was blowing cold air! It was still lovely weather though and we had no problems with the truck handling 3000 plus pounds. Passing through Virginia the next day we stopped at the Good Earth Peanut Co. in the small town of Skippers and picked up some chocolate covered peanut brittle, butter toasted pecans and a big bag of Cajun roasted peanuts in the shell! Stopping for our third night in Bowling Green, Virginia at the Hidden Acres Campground we were already noticing a cooling of the air, especially at night. It was always strange travelling north this time of year to see spring in reverse - lush green leafed trees of the Carolinas receding to less foliage in Virginia to light green buds as we entered Maryland. And then the bare branches of Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont where we encountered snow still along the ditches and ice columns still clinging to northerly exposed rock faces!

The Good Earth Peanut Company, Skippers, Virginia


Hidden Acres Campground, Bowling Green, Virginia

Maryland Welcome Center

Allentown, Pennsylvania
Our last night on the road we stayed on the banks of the Delaware River at the Tri-State RV Park in Matamoros, Philadelphia, nestled in the Pocono mountains at the junction of three states : Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. It was a fairly cold night but the little furnace ran fine after fiddling with the thermostat. The noise from the nearby interstate was terrible and at 6am the construction company next door began loading a constant stream of dump trucks with rock. Why we chose to go through Pennsylvania is beyond me but we will avoid this place in the future - the roads are bad and hilly and full of semis. The amount of road construction in this state was worse than Montréal! We eventually got back on the I-91 in Vermont and crossed the border where we came through, at Derby Station. We had no problems with bringing in the camper - they never asked about it - and we were home before dark. While we were gone a violent wind storm had come through our region and we lost another 20 odd shingles from the roof, my firewood shelter, tree branches and god knows what else. Welcome to spring on the Domaine! And now we will get back to work, start to look forward to some warm weather and ...plan for our next trip! gws

early morning, Tri-State RV Park, Matamoras, Pennsylvania

almost home! Vermont Welcome Station

Florida in April Part 1

Since we returned from Florida in February (and after much searching online) Marie finally found a slide-in truck camper we thought would suit us and our future trips west, and, as it was located in Florida, decided to take this opportunity as well to say goodbye to Dad one last time. He is 91 now and with the onset of dementia quickly losing memory, cognizant skills and showing more and more signs of delusions and anxiety. Lyn and Don have coped with his mental and physical abuse for long enough and it was a relief to all of us when he was deemed unfit to be alone any longer and admitted to an assisted living facility, Forest Oaks of Spring Hill, earlier this month. So it was with slight trepidation on my part when Marie and I, with Muffy showing the way, headed south to New Smyrna Beach, Florida on Saturday, April 11th, leaving behind two feet of snow and spring that was still just a hope. Our planned route would take us into the US across the border into New Hampshire and on through into Milford, Connecticut where we had ordered a new set of Michelin summer tires for the truck at a local Ford dealership. But plans can be quickly tossed as we found out while we were on Interstate 91 near the town of White River Junction. A few minutes earlier as she was driving Marie began to have severe pains in her left arm and back, numbing of the face and tingling fingers - signs of what we thought were a TIA (a small stroke) or worse. We stopped at a pharmacy and clinic and were told to see a doctor, so I drove her to the closest hospital, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. She was immediately admitted and underwent a battery of tests. The doctors and the neurologist she saw were very professional and were finally able to reassure us that it was likely only a pinched disc in Marie's neck. We spent almost seven hours in the hospital and when we left Marie had none of the symptoms and was quite upbeat after her ordeal. And you can imagine my relief!!! We decided not to go any further that day and spent the night in an old inn across the Connecticut River in the old historical town of Norwich, Vermont.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, NH


                                                The Norwich Inn, Norwich, Vermont

The Norwich Inn was a quaint old place, rebuilt in 1891 after a fire destroyed the original building. A lodging establishment has occupied this site for over 200 years and I found it interesting the name of the tavern owner back then was one Oliver Hatch. There was an on-site brewery behind the inn where we picked up some local ale before leaving the next morning after a delicious and filling breakfast. We also received word that day our tires would not be available till Monday so we decided to spend the extra day we had in Boston, visiting with Mario and Elizabeth. Elizabeth has a big rambling three story house just north of the city in Salem, famous for its Witch Museum and everything to do with witchcraft...and Harry Potter. 1692 was the year witch hysteria enveloped Salem and the surrounding towns and villages and hundreds of accused witches were imprisoned or hanged there. It was the first time I had been to this town and was quite taken with this what was once a thriving port in the days of early maritime trade. It is full of museums and galleries, including the Peabody-Essex Museum we unfortunately didn't have enough time to visit. We did take advantage of the warm spring day and headed down Essex street towards the Visitor Centre and Derby wharf, once a kaleidoscope of colour and movement as the East Indiaman ships arrived from around the Cape of Good Hope with their cargo of tea, coffee, sugar, pepper and cotton textiles. We walked to the end of the wharf, passing by a replica of the 1797 Indiaman Friendship and to the lighthouse, built in 1871, then headed back to meet up with Mario and Elizabeth. That night Mario took us out for seafood at Turner's restaurant. It was a nice evening as we strolled through the Salem Common, trees starting to bud and people out on the grass enjoying the weather at last. Boston had had been hard hit with snow this winter, breaking a record with the snowiest season ever with over 110 inches!

Marie, Collins Cove, Salem, Massachusetts

enjoying Ziggy and Sons apple dumplings

Amazing Pizza and More, Salem, Massachusetts

Salem, Massachusetts

Me and The Friendship

Derby Wharf, Salem, Massachusetts

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Mario, Elizabeth and Marie, Salem, Massachusetts

Mario with his three Belgium Malinois dogs
Mario and Marie, Salem Common

The next morning we left early (6am) to catch the I-95 to Milford, telling them we would be there at 9 sharp to have the new tires installed. When we arrived we were told our tires had not showed up from the warehouse yet so we went off to do a bit of shopping. They still weren't there when we got back and after waiting another 2 hours for them to show up we finally said to hell with it, told them to put the old tires back on the wheels and left. We had wasted the morning for nothing and still had a long way to go, hoping to get into Virginia before dark. We would have to hope we didn't run into any rain as there was little tread left on those tires! We made arrangements over the phone with another Ford dealer in Daytona Beach, the closest one to where the camper was, who promised us he would fix us up Thursday morning, before we headed to New Smyrna Beach. The drive down through the Carolinas and Georgia was without incident and we arrived in Daytona sweltering in unusually hot weather.

crossing the George Washington Bridge, New York City

 passing by the Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC

California Tortillas Restaurant, Lorton, Virginia
tiny ABC store, Santee, NC that amazed us

Rodeway Inn, Santee, North Carolina


Days Inn near the Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
The dealership in Daytona Beach was a breath of fresh air and the service excellent - the tires ( Michelin A/Ts )were waiting for us, installed and balanced while we waited and we were on our way after only two hours. We drove half an hour south to New Smyrna Beach to meet up with George and Marie Hetzel who were selling us their 2008 Northstar Adventurer truck camper. As it was the first time I had ever put one on the truck it took a little while lining it up and making sure it was secure enough for the trip back north. It will take a bit of practice to feel comfortable loading it. From there we headed west across Florida to Brooksville to Lyn and Don's place, where we would stay the next four days. While there we would visit Dad at Forest Oaks, and then take one final trip to the house on Lake Lindsey to pick up a few mementos of my parent's lives. A sad day for me that I knew would eventually come, as it will for us sooner than we wish.  gws


me and George tightening up the camper

Marie and Marie with our new camper, New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Lyn feeding some orphaned wrens

Forest Oaks of Spring Hill, Florida

Arthur Steward

Gary & Arthur Steward, Spring Hill, Florida

Brenna Ruths, Brooksville, Florida

Brenna and bubbles

Brenna helping me wash the truck

the property, Lake Lindsey  Road

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

House of Jazz, Montreal

For the second time in the past few years Marie and I spent an evening out at the Maison de Jazz near the Vieux Port of Montreal. We had early reservations for dinner and enjoyed the house band while we ate and waited for the night's guest, Michelle Sweeney. She was worth the wait, the food not. I had read recent reviews and been told by Phil that we would find it less than appetizing. The service was good but not great, the white wine was served at room temperature and returned twice. I had veal that was tender but tasteless, Marie's salmon dinner was just ok. She had to return it as it was overcooked. The second time it wasn't much better. Desert was tasty, as were the cocktails. It is worth checking out for the music and ambience but eat somewhere else before arriving!


Our wine is still too warm...could you chill it to at least below room temperature?

Michelle Sweeney
We stayed with Phil and Fer, babysitting and doing some Easter shopping. Marie cut Williams hair, his first one day, and Amy and I took the bus and metro to Angrignon Mall to visit a small petting zoo they had set up there. She is so much fun to be with, well behaved and always catching the eye of whoever we are near.

Before leaving we had a chance to see Lara and Joshua. He is still strange with us and hopefully as he gets older and realizes we are not trying to take him away from Mommy he will warm up to us. Can't wait! We are off to Florida next week, Amy, William and Fernanda off to Mexico City. We will be gone about two weeks and will post if I get the chance. Happy Easter!  gws