About Us

Welcome to our blog of our 2013 trip. We Have been camping since our honeymoon. Each summer we take a trip to a new part of our country. We try to stop at local fairs & festivals, take tours of manufacturing plants, do a little kayaking, and try to get an up close look at how people live! Join us! This Bog runs from our most recent post backwards. At the end of this year,I have left the past years blog. Double click on any picture to get a larger image. These are all low res versions. If you see one you really like, let me know and I'll send you a better image.

Liz & Bruce on the way to Minnesota, last year

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mon, August 1 – Thurs, Aug 4

We had planned generally on the pace of this trip slowing down once we got to Maine. First of all there are relatively few factories to tour, festivals are only on the weekends, and I can only report on so many beautiful kayaking trips. When we left the logging festival on Sat. we stopped at a nice little park right on Mooselookmeguntic Lake, one of the larger lakes in the region. This park was recently acquired by the Rangely land trust as part of a package with 100 acres of shoreline next door. The plan was for the Trust to create a wildlife refuge with their acquisition. Some people said however, the campground has been a campground, and it will be good for the town to have a place for travelers to stay. Let’s improve it! Wow what a thought!! They put at least a hundred thousand dollars into renovations, leveling sites, adding power and water, and installing a state of the art bathroom, laundry, shower complex.
We managed to snag a waterfront  site there for Monday-Thursday nights.

Here Jet really got her water wings. She is one of the most contrary Labs we’ve ever seen. She needs to be persuaded to eat, she is very timid about the water, and she barks at ducks. There was plenty of the latter two for her to deal with here. 
 It was here that Jet finally got in water over her head. Liz had her on the leash, and she siad that when she realized she was swimming she just started paddling around her in circles, and smiling!

We continued to Kayak, slept late, read books, and had a very relaxing time here.  We were facing south, but the sunsets were pretty good over the lake.

Thurs July 28-Sun 31

We were headed generally towards the town of Rangeley for their Logging festival on the weekend. We could not find a campsite close to town, so we opted for a little fishing campground on Aziscohos Lake.  We shoehorned ourselves into a small site. This was a fisherman’s campground, and the fishing was apparently good.
The Kayaking was good as well, and we worked that in. Needless to say there, were loons, and other wildlife.

Jet had a great time, suddenly deciding that the little wavelets that were coming in deserved a good barking. She jumped and splashed and played, and barked, and generally had a great time.
Friday night we went over to the logging festival, where we learned a lot about the logging techniques used in the early days, and to some extent still practiced today. Today Maine produces primarily White Spruce for pulp, and structural lumber. There is a growing industry taking ~20 year old birch and using a trailerable, self contained, machine, producing firewood for the pre packed fireplace market.  Imagine a machine taking raw logs in one end, and spitting out tightly wrapped packages of wood with Stop and Shop labels on them coming out he other.
Saturday we went to the Logging Parade, and what a parade of LARGE equipment it was. I  would love to show you all the lovely picture I took of this parade, but alas they were lost to the computer gods.
Unfortunately, we had absolutely no internet nor cell phone connection  in our Campground. I was told that there was a spot I could travel to, approx 3 miles away, and If I stood in the right place, and the moon and the sun were properly aligned, I could get a connection. There is very little hope of getting a data connection on cell service up here. I did occasionally use the library. I had been putting off doing a “very important upgrade” in my computer during this whole period.  My computer crashed while I was working on the blog and the pictures, and I had to do a restart. When I did, the everything on the picture card directory was lost.
Sooo all of my pictures of the parade, and the loggers competition went into the ether. I will tell you that the small community of Rangeley goes all out for this. The people were great, the parade had a great sense of humor about it, and they gave out tons of candy!
The competition was fun too. Having never been to one, it was very educational, and interesting. There is a real science to wielding an axe with the maximum efficiency, and cutting wood with a chain saw. Just observing these guys, I learned enough to save myself some time in the woods.

July 26 and 27

We arrived a few minutes early for the Conway scenic Railroad to go through their museum. As you might expect there were a few “train buffs” already there looking at the exhibits from the days when Conway was a vacation destination. I  gave  the rolling stock a close examination.  This group does a great job with their restoration. They apparently operate  a shop, and do a lot of their work themselves. The cars were all in top-notch shape, and there were a lot of them. 

We started up to Crawford notch, and the scenery was beautiful.   
The guide told us stories of old trips and people who inhabited the mountains. 

She was a character herself, and she made a lot of jokes at the expense of the conductor, here talking with the engineer at the top.

We opted for the 1:30 lunch so when we got  to Crawford, we switched cars and sat in a beautifully restored dining car. It was a more than pleasant trip, and was a great last day in New Hampshire.

The 27th was a travel day and we decided to go to the Rangeley Lakes region of Maine. We travelled along the gorgeous Androscoggin river. This last day in New Hampshire pointed out  ot us again one of the things we like about this state. Their road construction and maintenance is great. We found that without exception,  the best secondary and tertiary roads we travelled in NE, were in New Hampshire by far.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


It is now Saturday, July 30th.
I will include the post for the Conway Scenic Railway soon, but we have been in the Rangeley Lakes region in Maine way from cell service and internet. It is  tough, please be patient!

Sun July 24 and the 25th

When we arrived on Saturday night, we looked at the literature for Mt. Washington. They were having a special day on the 24th, allowing people to drive up at 4:00 AM for a sunrise viewing. The requirements for the max size for vehicles was on the website. After many measurements, and a couple of calls to the toll house, it was established that the truck that performed so superbly getting us through Crawford notch earlier, was not going to the top of Mt. Washington, by a couple of inches!
We went out on Sunday to explore a little. We hadn’t been in Conway for probably 30 years. Needless to say it had changed a lot, and one addition was the Conway scenic railroad. The restored, old time equipment they have is really impressive. I was surprised to learn that it had only been in operation since 1995. They run two train excursions, and we opted for the one up Crawford notch . This one didn’t run till Tuesday, the inevitable result of this kind of trip. The weather was a little cloudy, but, much worse was predicted for the future so we opted for the guided trip to the top of Mt Washington today.
At the base the weather looked perfect at the top. 53 degrees with a 20 mile wind and 43 with the wind chill. The visibility was 90 miles, our guide said they only get a few days a year like this one! We started crossing the Appalachian trail, and looked over our shoulder UP to the top of wildcat mountain ski area We would later look down on it!. Our guide told us that the climate proceeds 100 miles further north for every 1000 ft we gain in altitude. We quickly moved through the Canadian forest zone and up to the next one, It was a zone made up of stubby pine trees, 2-3 ft high. Around this transition zone we reached a patch of dirt road that was barely two vehicles wide. This is where the restrictions came from.
This patch washes out every spring, and they could not keep pavement on it. There were deep gullies on either side, and the company keeps a crew of rescue drivers on hand to step in for people who just get too scared and can’t drive any further. I would have loved to take the truck up it, but wouldn’t have wanted to miss the views from the passenger seat either. As we approached the summit the ground just was covered with rocks and moss and lichens. We were told there is permafrost a few inches down.
When we got to the summit (6288ft.) the view was spectacular. There were many hikers with their day packs and climbing paraphernalia. We saw the Tip Top house a restored lodge for days gone by that provided a cot, and a meal for adventurers who made it to the top. The Mt. Washington auto road is the oldest man made attraction in the US.
   Besides the antenna and the weather station sensors, there is the old weather station, where the US’s highest wind speed ever was recorded, 231 miles per hour. The building is chained to the ground, because there is no foundation for it.
The cog railroad was just leaving for a trip down the mountain. It was interesting to watch it pass the hikers on the way up and view the scenery it was leaving. I've got so many pictures form this trip I just didn't know what to include. When we got down we toured their collection of old vehicles. They have conducted tours in everything from stage coaches to Packards to the vans they use today.

Fri July 22 and Sat the 22

We headed off to the Cabot Cheese plant on Fri. I had read in a book on covered bridges there was an unusual one in Wolcott. It is a covered railroad bridge, with a full length cupola to allow the smoke to escape. Enlarge the picture and you can read the sign for more info. It was very nicely restored and mammoth, as you can imagine inside. The proportions just seem out of order compared to other covered bridges.
Cabot cheese is a dairy co-operative, all of the participating farmers put their product into it, and they own, run, and profit from the results. Cabot has become best known for their Cheddars due to the leadership of a manager from the 50’s and 60’s. There are many dairy co-operatives, another well known is “Land of Lakes” out in Wisconsin. A lot of these are formed because the farmers do not like the government’s subsidy program where we pay farmers not to produce milk. The ones we all know have done a great job of marketing their name. These farmers are promoting their product as opposed to accepting subsidies. This has increased the values of the farmers investment in their farms and in their share of the co-op. Their cop-op has merged with another one form NY, that I had never heard of. Cabot’s farmers are not rich by any extent, and they work hard. But they have beautiful well maintained farms, and we were impressed.
Cabot has developed a much wider variety of cheddars than we had known from the supermarket. They had a great selection of sharp and extra sharp cheddars that are really good, are not sold in CT, and we bought a few of them. They are all made the same way that cheeses are made, the trick is in the ingredients, and the post processing, and aging. We liked the Crowley “cheddar-colby” sharp cheese, we saw earlier, and this was due to the rinse they performed.
Another interesting thing about Cabot, was that even up in small Cabot VT, the heat wave has impacted them, They were on a “reduced power” day due to the heat wave.
ON the 23rd we moved over to North Conway NH. We decided on Rt 302 through Crawford Notch State Park. What a dramatic entry. The weather was clear and the views of the White Mountains was beautiful. We could see the summit of Mt Washington and the whole Presidential range. Wow!
Unfortunately, there are no pictures, because I was driving. By the way, the way we outfitted the truck trailer combo worked out perfectly. The disc brakes on the trailer were incredible, and the truck gave me complete control. I came down a couple of double-digit grades with very little braking, using the exhaust brake.Great!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wed July 20,Thurs July 21

Wednesday was a travel day, we were heading towards Stowe VT. Almost everyone who has ever been to Vermont has been to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, and we are no exception. As our truck began the trip up VT100 from the I-89 exit, the wheel developed a tendency to want to pull to the left. The weather was hot, (for VT, but not as hot as some of you are seeing in other parts of the country) so I gave in, if not for the tour again, but at least for an ice cream cone.

The plant has grown a little from our first visit, years ago, but most has not changed. This includes Ben & Jerry's personal commitment to their social mission. While we find ourselves out of snych with most of this philosophy, and believe me, Vermont is jammed packed with folks who do subscribe to it, I find it interesting to observe. While the guys still have the social mission first in their statements, their other two are given equal weight. I don't know if this is because of their ownership by Unilever today or not. Regardless the chocolate chip cookie dough, and coconut 7 layer bar were a cold snack on a hot day.
We continued on to our campground, and later in the day we went up to Stowe and The Trappe family lodge, another place we had not been to for about 30 years. It has grown dramatically over the years, but is still beautiful and has superb views. They not only have this lodge, but cabins and remote villas. It probably could be called the Trappe family campus or complex! Amazing when you consider it was started by refugees from the Nazis, and has grown mostly by family members.
The draw for us to Stowe was not the things that draw most people. Liz has an interest in Geology, and I love manufacturing. So we wanted to go to the granite quarry in Granitville. Thurs. morning saw us there where we would see white granite quarried, and fabricated into monuments and industrial items such as surface plates, and rolls for the printing process. We started with a tour of the quarry. It was immense. This photo shows three quarries, the oldest in the back, up to the current one they are working now. The water in the second one is 400 ft deep. Each step in the quarry is 100 ft.
Here is a shot with my longest telephoto. You can get some scale from the men. There are a couple of technologies used to extract the granite. The oldest here is drilling cores, around 3-4in and 6-8 in apart. They then use primacord explosive to separate the stone. They also use diamond bits on long chain about 1/4in dia to cut the blocks. The blocks are then raised using the cranes you see, and set down in the back for trucks to pick up. This granite is very fine grain, meaning that when it bubbled up as lava, it cooled very fast. Like the marble we saw on the other side of the state, granite comes in shades and different colors.
This granite comes in two shades, grey and white. When we went to the monument shop, we saw many different kinds of granite being fabricated in to monuments, tombstones, industrial products and more. The shop was immense, and I'll only show one shot here. They use automated sandblasters, masking, & coloring techniques. They fabricate products using granite from company quarries all over the world. Granite is very dense, weighing 170 lbs. per cu ft. So while this tombstone is heavy, some of the industrial products they make surpass this. They fabricate rolls 4 ft dia. and 20 ft long for paper processing out of granite because it will not flex - at all! They also make surface plates from a few sq ft to some we saw that were 25-30 ft long and several ft wide, as well as thick. These are ground flat to within tiny fractions of a human hair over the entire surface. Incredible. They had a couple of fun things too. This is a tile I'm sandblasting in a booth. The picture is a moose. The company is always looking for new markets, they have an estimated 4000 year supply of Granite here. It descends down 12 miles! So years ago they came up with Granite bowling alleys, and built one. We borrowed a kid to demonstrate, and he got pretty good. the word from the PBA was that 'you couldn't put any english on the ball", so it would not hook. This is the one and only!

Monday July 18, and Tuesday July 19

Monday took us to bear country, Vermont Teddy Bear! Most of you New Englanders have visited I'm sure. For those that haven't it is a kid's dream, no matter your age. They, of course show you how the bears are made, provide plenty of "bearly funny" puns,

and show you the bear hospital, where your injured bear can be brought back to it's former glory under the lifetime warranty.
On Tuesday we stopped by Maple Landmark, another Vermont company using native Vermont material to make products and shipping them all over the world. This one started with a 12 year old Mike Rainville making things from maple in his Mom's garage. The company has grown nicely, and Mike is today using the latest in laser engraving with old time New England craftsmanship in his products. While he is in a large ~ 50,000 sq ft plant now, he still has A LOT of family employed.
Everyone from his Grandmother (who sits upstairs in an inspection station with a view!) to his sons, and about 35 other employees.
They bring in the finest quality kiln dried maple and pine for their products. While my eye picked up a few potential OSHA problems, the shop was amazingly clean ,and the employees were protected from injury to an extent often not found in a small operation such as this. When we first walked in to the shop, they showed us the laser cutting machine where they cut logos for attractions and other names.

I looked down and saw "Home of the Shays, Cass West Va" being burned in a mass of train whistles. What a serendipitous event! Liz's father grew up in Cass W. VA. He logged on the mountain when he came home from fighting in WWll. They used the Shay engine then to get the logs off the mountain. He witnessed an accident, where dozens of logs broke free and came flying down the mountain at him and his fellow loggers. He said then that this job was more dangerous than fighting Germans and he left for Ohio! These train whistles were being laser cut for their gift shop.
As we toured the shop, we saw lots of things you'd see in gift shops, but also many toys, which is their main business. They make, paint and assemble thousands of "Name Trains", "Montgomery Schoolhouse" toys and many other well known wooden toys. The laser cutting ability is a great addition to their capabilities enabling them to be competitive on short runs and produce products successfully in high cost VT. As we were completing the tour we came across the guy who was drilling the train whistles we started our tour with. We Also saw a picture of John Ratzenberger from the travel channels "Made in America" from when he did an episode on Maple Landmark. This was a personal tour given by a woman who cared deeply about the company and what it stood for.
Just around the corner, we discovered the workshops of Fred Danforth and his wife Judi, Pewterers. Fred is one of a long line of pewterers and only took up the craft after he met his wife to be and saw pewter spun. He loved it immediately and went to Canada with her to learn the trade from an artisan. Pewter is an alloy of 90% tin, 8% antimony, and copper.It is extremely malleable which makes it excellent to work with. It can be spun, molded, and soldered to make interesting artwork, as well as dinnerware, and jewelery. Here is Fred in the back spinning a candle holder. Spinning is a technique that allows a metal blank to be put in a lathe and spun. A shape tool is then pressed against the metal, pressing it towards a shape mounted in the chuck. Gradually, with repeated pressings from outside to inside, a flat metal blank will take the shape of a candle holder base, or even a creamer, such as Fred's helper is making in the foreground. The shop displayed many of Fred's work for sale, as shown in  the photo. They were also pouring pewter jewelry, Christmas ornaments, and small components for dinnerware. Judi carves the mold, a reverse is made, and then molten pewter is poured in to it.

On the way home we stopped by the Univ. of Vermont 's Morgan horse farm. It was the place where the U.S. Govt. started a breeding farm to preserve and to promote the breed. Morgan horses served with distinction during the Civil War. They are all descended from a horse owned by a General named Morgan. His horse was very distinctive. It has one less vertebrae then other horses, and a couple of other characteristics. These are transmitted no matter what breed of horse they are bred with. They are closely related to Arabians.  It was thought they would be a strategic benefit to our country. Later, UVM took it over and now runs it. They actually make a profit selling Morgans to people from all over the world.
Whew! what a day.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sunday Aft. July 17

Sorry, I got my order mixed up a little. On Sunday afternoon we went down to the southern part of Lake Champlain, to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Liz and I continue to marvel that we're not running into any crowds. We're not sure if that is because we're where there aren't any vacationers or if it's just that our tastes are different. Regardless, it is very pleasant. This museum was again sparsely attended, but very well done. It was miles from the main highway which probably accounts for the attendance.
We started off with a demonstration of the original 1 or 2 horsepower ferry. This staffer is standing on a turntable that goes underneath the deck of the boat. They would have one or a pair of horses walk on the turning table. Needless to say it was quickly replaced by the steamboat.
They had a benefactor who was really into Ice Boating. He found this 1902 ice boat in shambles somewhere, restored it, and started taking it out on the lake in the winter. He rejuvenated ice boating, and sailed her for a number of years, before donating her to the museum. The museum created a building especially for her, and surrounded her with over 90 small craft, from dug out canoes to modern Kevlar kayaks.
We continued our education on the role that Lake Champlain played in our Independence. We had already heard the story of how Benedict Arnold, cornered in the northern part of the lake, by the British, was destined to be be captured with all of our nations lake boats. He hatched a plan to silently paddle his boats around the British boats in the dead of night. He made it almost down to Ft. Ticonderoga, when the British caught up. Arnold landed and escaped with his crew, burning his boats, behind him. He left a small group of soldiers, with orders to fabricate a bridge across the lake during the winter. This they did by assembling caissons out of 25 ft long timbers then filling them with boulders. The guy in charge only kept some records so there is no history as to how this was accomplished. They theorize the men took everything out on the ice, stacked it up and then sunk it section by section. They admit it doesn't make much sense, but that is all they can think of. When spring came, Arnold and his troops were back, and they successfully fought the British, and due to this bridge they defeated them with very little in the way of marine strength. The bridge footings are all still there, save one which was destroyed for commercial travel. This timber floated to the surface, and was recovered.

We had heard the stories of the gunboats that Arnold constructed and used during his battles on the lake. I imagined them to be large sailing ships, but they were not. They were built quickly and very simply. They were little more than a floating barge under sail with a large contingent of cannon on board. The museum recreated the gunboat Philadelphia, pictured here. Besides the two cannon your can see here, there were 4 other, 2  on each side. There were also 44 men on board. Nothing below for quarters, simply open deck to sleep on. Not exactly a cruise! they have found another under the surface and they are raising funds to raise her!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Weekend of July 15-17

We moved over to Burlington for the weekend. we found a little park on Mallets Bay, part of Lake Champlain. We've got lots of things to  do and see here, from a few factory tours, to museums.
We'll stay until we hit the ones that interest us most.
We started off with a walk down by the bay in the evening on Friday, (while our laundry was in the machines), Very pleasant, nice breeze, beautiful boats.

On Saturday we went to Burlington's aquarium, and ecology center, ECHO. It is the Glass window structure in the center. This is a  nicely done aquarium, showing marine animals from Lake Champlain. Here we began to hear the story of Lake Champlain and the crucial part the battles during 1776-7 played in our country's independence. ECHO had a beautiful little cafe, and we took our lunch out on the patio on the waterfront. The weather was warm, but not unpleasant because of the breezes off the lake. We watched ferries and tour boats come in and out.
After we left ECHO, we went across to a ship the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum recreated, the Lois McClure. She is a sailing canal Schooner, described as a 19th century "18 wheeler". These were flat bottomed narrow boats made to be loaded with coal, marble granite, timber, or what ever needed to be transported.
. They were operated by individuals or sometimmes families.
Here is the area in the stern below deck, where a family would live. There were two additional bunks in the bow. This boat was built by the museum as a floating exhibit and it spends some time here in Burlington, and also down at their headquarters in Vergnennes VT
On Sunday we went back to this area, and boarded the Northern Lights, kind of a recreation of an old steamboat that used to work the lake carrying passengers and freight . This was a combination lunch cruise, and before we left dock we began to hear from a local history teacher who would be our tour guide. He was very good at telling the history of Lake Chaplain region. When he got to the story about Benedict Arnold and the fall of 1776 you could tell this was where his interest lie. He described the lakes importance, the struggles both the colonists and the British had in equipping themselves with ships, and especially the importance of Arnold.
Up here in Lake Champlain country, they recognize that Arnold did not finish his military career with glory, having changed sides. But they recognize the battles he won and his courage in technique. Like Bennington, where we just were, people here believe this is the place where the colonists fought the crucial battle that set the new nation up for the big win in Saratoga the following Spring.
The cruise took us by some of the geology of this region and  our history teacher guide turned into a more than adequate Geology teacher. He described the collision between the two continental plates that formed the Adirondack mountains to our west, the lake we were on, and the Green mountains to our east.

This is really quite a geologists dream landscape, because  of the difference you can see in the rock, representing completely different formation, time,and distance traveled. The display we saw the day before in the museum highlighted how the land around the lake was once much lower, allowing it to actually become a part of the Atlantic oceean. They actually have skeletons of Beluga whales that were recovered from this area. when the glacier melted, the land "bounced back" and the lake then became freahwater.

Just outside the breakwater, we were told about a canal schooner the General Butler, that sank, and that is now an interesting dive site. It is the yellow buoy. This lake, while not as large as any of the great lakes has an equal potential for disaster for captains. Storms can develop from the west, and a boat can become in trouble very fast. This happened to the schooner, and the captain headed for Burlington. As he neared it, he ran ground. Then the waves came crashing around the boat raising it up, then bringing it down on the breakwater, repeatedly. He managed to get everybody off, but then they were all huddled on the rocks, in near freezing weather. The harbormaster, seeing all  of this, got in a life boat and rowed out and rescued them.
One last highlight from the cruise, this Coast Guard station. Because Lake Champlain is mostly pleasure boating today, the coast guard has little to do in the off season. Thus this stations designation, "Vacation Station"