Today, Friday, our first full day in Quebec, was new know-how for us – we decided to take the “Rouge Bus Tour” and buy the $36.00 bracelets allowing us to hop on and off of the red loop double-decker tour bus all day. A shuttle bus delivered us directly from our campground to the jumping-on place. It was 56 degrees and not predicted to get above 65 degrees, but we climbed to the top deck of the bus, anyway. We were given ear-buds and the plug-in gave us options for 10 different languages. We had 15 stops, nicely narrated in-between, and we could take as long at each stop as needed.
As I listed to the running narration of excellent history of the city, I enthusiastically thought what good fodder for my blog to accompany the pictures! Sadly, I don't remember anything beyond 5 minutes, and you will have to just settle for the the pictures.
For lunch we found ourselves in a high-eat district, although we weren’t quite sure of the prices because of the currency exchange – it seemed high-price when looking at the menus posted outside – but if we paid in our Canadian cash it would be cheaper. We settled on a little Italian eatery right in the middle of Old Town, French-speaking, Quebec. I got lost in the many beverage goblets and extra silverware place settings, and it seemed almost rude to tell the maître d' that we didn’t want wine or drinks. We each ended up with water and the ½ serving of spaghetti with meat sauce.
After lunch we resumed the cycle of “on the bus” (to listen to the narrated tour of the area) and “off the bus” (to walk the area and get pictures.) We completed the first tour one time, missing a few of the stops, and went back for seconds with an eye on the clock. We needed to be back at our shuttle location by 4:00 to catch the shuttle back to the KOA campground. Right on time.
At the KOA we pulled out a bottle of our favorite Lancers Rose wine – to celebrate our trip so far. The only problem is that Tom is not used to drinking much wine – and we had a whole bottle to kill. He got a little goofy – and I had just enough myself that I enjoyed him being goofy. Nite-Nite!
Leaving Glens Falls by 6:30, we followed the secondary road of Route 9 through the Adirondack State Park – a drive that very much had the feeling of the movie “Dirty Dancing” with the lakes and the lodges and the beautiful little towns. At Schroon we stopped to mail a package and walked the streets at 8:30 a.m. -- during the morning wake-up call. I couldn’t resist taking a video of a store window full of little solar dancers. I named the video “Dirty Dancing”. Eventually we were following along Lake Champlain all the way until we reached the jump-off portal to enter Canada.
Nobody was too concerned about security at the border – even pulling a 23’ Airstream that might have been packed with all kinds of contraband. One minute of questions about our length of stay and the food we were bringing in, but no comments at all about the dog in the back seat! Tom should have brought a few more 6-packs at the grocery yesterday!
Immediately we stopped and exchanged some money for the color-infused Canadian currency. There was a momentary confusion of conversions when Tom set the truck systems to the metric option, and everything, including our outdoor temperature reading, switched over. Yesterday we had been at 94 degrees, and today early afternoon we were at 20 degrees centigrade; that translates to mid-60’s Fahrenheit! And, today the speed limit had changed to 100 --- kilometers per mile!
We really poked along after lunch but on this particular portion of the trip the back-roads were not worth it – bumpy and not much scenery. We changed tactics and got back on a major road and made it into Quebec by 4:30. We set up in a KOA with full hook-ups, and began exploring all the tour options for “Old Quebec”.
After supper, we jumped in the truck and headed to old town Quebec right along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Never afraid to tackle the city, Tom took it head-on even knowing that there was a city festival going on, and some streets would be blocked off. No problem, Tom had a general idea of where to go, and the traffic of people on foot was more of a problem than vehicle traffic. We had a nice first view of the old downtown proper which, back at the Silvermine, led to a good planning strategy for Friday's all day excursion.
We were up early Tuesday morning, hoping to not have a back-up of Airstreams trying to leave the Fairgrounds – even with only a couple hundred left (out of 600!) it could have been a problem if everyone was to leave at once. No problem, we snuck out with no witnesses!
It had rained all night long, and this made me wonder about the flooding conditions on mountain roads that we would be traveling. There were no Interstates without going 100 miles out of our way, so we stuck to Route 219 for almost 300 miles without any signs of high water. It was one of those beautiful mountain drives that forces you to slow down and enjoy the scenery, and we drank in every mile of it – grateful to be on the road after 10 days on a sit-stay. We arrived at our KOA in Bellefonte, PA (where Tom had reservations) by 3:15. With a site next to the camp office/facilities, we did 10 days worth of laundry, and I even gave Charlie Button a bath in the double sink in the trailer. Fresh and clean, we are ready for the rest of our adventure.
Before we went to bed, Tom sat at the picnic table and completed the travel plans for tomorrow – a nightly task he tends to without fail. He maps out final routes and sight-seeing details and goes over them all with his co-pilot – me! Yes – I have my own personal vacation planner, tour-guide!
Off at 7:00 a.m. (Wednesday, day 12 of our trip) we had another short distance of about 350 miles to spread out over the day. We were on Interstate 80 across Pennsylvania and on the Western edge turned off on Route 209 to climb north along the New York/PA border. Here we discovered Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area – a big name for a thin strip of area that runs along the Delaware River. It was a perfect place to slow down, hike to two waterfalls, and eat lunch.
At one point in the drive there was a caution sign for “high impact with wildlife – next 8 miles!” I’ve never seen a sign like that before, but it meant business . . . within 5 minutes we saw a mother bear with three tiny cubs on the side of the road. I was so shocked that my reaction time with the camera was very slow. And, because we were preparing to get back on the interstate, Tom didn’t feel he could slow down with a line of cars behind him. Believe me – there is a bear and three cubs in this picture!!!! LOOK FOR IT!
Back on Interstate 87 we skirted the Catskill Mountains straight towards the Adirondack Mountains. Our Moreau State Park did not have electricity, so at 94 degrees we substituted in the Adirondack RV Resort with full hook-ups. We set up, and waited long enough to know the trailer was cooling down nicely inside for Charlie Button, and then took off for nearby Glens Falls.
This little town is very art-conscience with all kinds of venues that combine art and dining. This week, they just happened to be in the middle of a full-blown walking-around-town-arts-festival. Restaurant vendors were out in full force, and we walked past food offerings from Asian sushi to BBQ wings to cheesecake. There was also lots of live entertainment on the street, and the whole scene was lively and fun. We resisted all that food and headed back to our campground to cook Tom’s specialty-mixed hamburgers (with onions and green peppers) on the grill.
Tomorrow – the journey beyond the border and into Canada. We have reviewed the details of what we are allowed to bring and NOT allowed to bring, and feel comfortable that (if searched) we are within the regulations. We are allowed 1 potato each, and we only have 1 to declare at the border!
What surprised us the most today is that everybody was leaving the rally –- several days early. Many hundreds of people had come up to 2 weeks early and had endured the driving downpours that brought flooding to the area; with storms to move in again seriously tonight, maybe they were just tired of the rain. Or maybe there is something else going on we don’t know about! I would say that 2/3 of the Airstreams have left the parking lots at this point!
Tom and I took another Scenic Route excursion today on Route 60. This is the route that we would have taken to the Bridge Walk on Monday except that much of it was impassable because of high water. The drive was indeed scenic with West Virginia farms and a covered bridge hidden on a very "back" road.
Today we saw evidence of flooding all along the route. One little town was just a long mass of piled-up rubbish that had been pulled out beside the road for pick-up. There were lots of distribution centers for free food, Clorox, and bottled water. We did not make it to our destination of the little town of Rainelle, as it appeared there was still quite a bit of slow-down and blocking of the only road.
I saw a post on the WBCCI Rally Facebook page about a little store in Alderson being open today – one that we passed yesterday that had been closed. It was so unique looking that I persuaded Tom to back-track to it today. One way to support the locals was to show up and make purchases from their open stores! This store was a doozy, full of generations of history and unique items, and I bought a little art-deco hummingbird decorative fan to help stir the air in the Airstream.The owner of the store is the great-granddaughter of the original owner, and this interesting outside design was built especially to his order. The granddaughter left the small town of Alderson for awhile, but returned to take care of her invalid parents, and to keep the family store open. She told us that Fourth of July and Christmas are the main events that enable stores like hers to keep open, and the flooding of the town has been almost devastating. (I also bought a little something for you, Lou – I just had to leave some money in this hard-hit town!)
Our parking lot is getting more deserted by the minute and we now have open spots on all four sides of us. Tomorrow we are going to go to the flea market/craft sale in the morning, and at noon there is a picnic for the Region 4 members that are still here – fried chicken provided. In the afternoon I have a plan to do laundry so that we can leave Tuesday morning for the rest of the vacation.
We wanted to spend some time driving the West Virginia roads in the area, and we had been provided a little booklet Scenic Drives of Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia. During our two excursions away from the Fairgrounds we had traveled several of these roads, so Tom looked for and chose a completely different road still in the immediate area. Of all the roads he could have selected he decided to follow one of the “lesser” back roads – not even on the scenic drive booklet. We were told that the “Wrong Turn” movies had been inspired by these mountain hills, and I was not too excited about being too far off the main roads! Tom highlighted our route in yellow.
As we followed Route 63 out of Ronceverte down to Bluestone State Park, we saw many signs of flooding along the Greenbrier River: high, chocolate-colored river, mud washes on the roads and in residential yards, emergency vehicles, mud covered displays in small business windows, washed out trees, clothing hanging in treetops, repairmen in bucket lifts, stacks of newly delivered lumber, signs advertising flood relief . . . . all pointing to the devastating flood that was just one week ago.
Airstreamers had plunked right down in this area just as the flood-waters were happening, and rather than cancelling the rally, people went to work helping the besieged town and area residents. Thousands of dollars were donated for flood relief, and Airstreamers pitched in unloading supply trucks and helping to rip out flood swollen business interiors for thousands of man-hours. I ran into a woman from the Humane Society who saw my Airstream credentials and ran up to give me a hug. They had so many displaced animals to care for and a donation of over $700 from Airstreamers bought food and cages and helped with placement of pets into foster homes.
During our drive we stumbled across a little park that was the location of miner John Henry’s contest against a steam-driven rail spike. I doubt you can read part of this story from the picture. John Henry was the miner that challenged a steam-driven rail driver, threatening to eliminate his job, to a contest. Many think the story of John Henry was a folk story -- but it was 100% true and this little celebrates his win. The statue of John Henry was magnificent.
We also drove through a portion of the Bluestone State Park and checked out the campgrounds. Tom declared he would not bring our 23’ Airstream there to camp because of the very narrow roads, tight turns, and steep hills. Heading back we passed through another portion of the New River Gorge National Recreation area and stopped at a visitor center. Then, back to Interstate 64 and a 20 mile drive back to Lewisburg. A nice little scenic loop road that I think they ought to add to the book!
We arrived back at the fairgrounds by 2:00, and continued the day and evening with customary rally stuff!
If I known the extent of what I had signed up for today – I would have chickened out long before I got there . . . ignorance is bliss! As it was, by the time I figured out what we were to do, I was tightly sandwiched in between Dan and Tom, on a 24” wide cat walk, with a 3’ high rail, 25’ beneath the New River Gorge Bridge, 851’ above the New River (the second oldest river in the world!), with a harness and a “leash” attached to a cable as my safety net! Oh yeah – I was scared! For over 1 ½ hours!
Our brave group consisted of Dan and Dawn, Sue and Terry, and Tom and me. Tom had been charged with the check and list of names of all the Airstreamers that had paid to make the trip, and we left a bit early so that we could stop for lunch, and get the list in the right hands at the Bridgewalk. Being first was good deal for us, as they only take people in small groups, and we joined with another couple to form a group of 8 – and started the walk within 20 minutes of showing up. First, we had to gear up, and receive a safety demonstration from our guide!
Next we boarded the bus for a short run over to the bridge. Before heading underneath the bridge, our guide walked us down to an overlook so we could see what we were walking. He got our group picture in front of the look-out! At this point -- it really didn't look like a problem!
Here we are geared up to walk the catwalk used by the bridge inspectors – walking 1 ¼ miles – out into the open spaces of the New River Gorge! With traffic buzzing by just 25’ above our heads creating a constant and loud vibration. And we're to let go of the hand rail long enough to take pictures? At this point -- totally ignorant of what that meant!
As we wound our way down a path beside the bridge we finally saw our first glimpse of the catwalk we would be walking. Still, from this viewpoint it didn't look very bad. But, it did get worse, minute by minute!
Into the first part of the walk, we were greeted by a pair of Peregrine Falcons -- our guide had never seen a pair together. He often saw aggressive females guarding the nest and usually just had to wait until she would fly away. Not only did we see this mated pair, but they followed us along the bridge! And we also saw the discards from some of their more recent meals!
Later, Dawn, Sue, and I all agreed that we were in various stages of terror before we reached the half-way point, but we all decided to woman-up and not let it show. Here we are at the half-way point (with the river directly below) where the guide stopped to tell us more detail about the bridge and the gorge. Sue and Dawn got brave enough to sit down on the cat-walk and let their legs dangle into the nothingness! Terry actually laid flat-out on the walk-way.
Our guide was accommodating enough to let us linger to watch a group of rafts and kayaks shoot through the rapids directly below us. They were very slow approaching the rapids -- almost as if they were having second thoughts. Focusing on someone else terror down below helped us to forget our own high above. While we watched, Terry told us many stories about his kayak excursions on that section of the river in the early 70's!
While we were still getting into our stride early in the walk, two bridge employees passed us -- no leash, no harness, no problem! As we passed the halfway point we caught up to the platform where they were working -- outside of the cat-walk safety rails, they were geared and tethered!
Reaching the last quarter mile, I think we were all walking more self-confidently -- even a little jauntily. It was finally feeling like one of those things I was glad I had done but would never do again. I'm not even going to blog about the two-hour trip back to the Fairgrounds and what we did the rest of the afternoon, except to say it was the usual round of eating, drinking, socializing . . . and saying goodbye to Terry and Sue who were off to a family wedding in Pennsylvania.
We were excited to begin the day attending the Airstream corporate presentation – a packed affair. Getting there early, we sat through the SkyMed program put on by Justin Humphreys and Will Klein. This is a service that will fly you from anywhere in the world to your home – in the event of a major medical crisis. It will also arrange to have your rig driven home. Come on, Tom – what peace of mind that would be!
The Airstream CEOBob Wheeler and Justin Humphreys, leading sales and service, were full of interesting statistics, demographics, reports, and projections for the company. Their summary of the strides Airstream has made in the past years since the big recession in the industry, and their predictions for future growth were all triumphant! I was happy to hear that the 16’ Sport was the biggest selling unit – taking away that honor from the 25’ Flying Cloud! They say this is due to having younger buyers who want to be more mobile. I also heard about a new program Airstream to “register” your Airstream if it has a name – they will send you an engraved little sign with the name on it! Got to register The Silvermine . . . and His!
It was fun meeting new people and running into people we already knew; I guess that is what the rally is supposed to be about. Tom and I checked out to go to lunch and come back to the trailer to let Charlie Button out – with plans to link up with others in the afternoon.
The 1:00 meeting on "Apps for Travel" was very good, and I attended the first part and then rushed off to meet up with Sue and Diana for some girl exploration – crafts, quilting, etc. We in turn met up with Tom and Terry after their tech session was over. I made Tom go look at the 2017, 25’/twin bed, Flying Cloud . . . .already looking to trade up our 23'??? (They call it two-foot-itis!)
Supper was our first cooking gathering back at the trailers in the parking lot, and Dan and Dawn, accommodated all of us with tables under their awning. Aaron, Stephanie, and baby Madeline (fairly recent members of NOVA) joined us with a bottle of wine.Then, at 6:30 we were off to the 7:00 meeting for daily announcements. The entertainment/singer was very good, but some of us left early with our own evening entertainment in mind!
Although it didn’t seen like a very rally-correct pursuit, I wanted to clear the truck bed of all the junk, and load up in lawn chairs for a trip around the fairgrounds to see all of the Airstreams. . . redneck style! It was much too far to walk it all – and this has been on my truck-bucket-list since we first bought it. Tom accommodated us, and Dan and Dawn joined me in the bed of the truck and we drove off to pick up Danielle. It was a lovely evening with perfect temperature, and the sun was behind the trees . . . needless to say, we garnered quite a few comments as we drove around. Tom even crossed the main highway and drove around the fairgrounds proper, where we did a drive-by of the building just as the entertainment session was getting out. Then, on an inspiration, he drove us to the ice cream stand up by the cattle barns . . . where we all unloaded for a treat. All in all, the tour was about an hour and I was able to get plenty of pictures of the silver beauties.
I am not sure how many airstreams are in attendance. I do know that the first 500 were able to have full hook-ups, and after that the fairgrounds was able to install additional water and electric for many more with a pump-out service. But, a lot of people had to cancel because of the floods devastating the area. The last I heard was that there were only two airstream units that did not end up with water and electric! Today, I qm going to search out the exact number of airstreams and attendees to include in my blog.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown