October 21st was our planned departure date to leave RI and begin our winter migration, first heading west, then eventually south. On one hand, we were looking forward to our departure, we nomads have a hard time sitting still in one spot for long periods of time. On the other hand, we were reluctant to leave our very familiar home base where the pandemic had been well controlled for most of the summer.
We had thought about heading to the southwest again but by the end of the summer, the virus was running rampant in places like El Paso, so we nixed that idea. But perusing the Covid risk maps and hospital availability stats of each of the states we planned to visit this winter showed that the majority of the southern states were very high risk areas. So we didn’t find any reassurance there either. Despite our nervousness about leaving our RI comfort zone, we knew one thing – we certainly didn’t want to experience the typical Northeast cold, snowy, winter weather.
But realistically did it really make a difference where we were? After all, we could isolate, wear masks, socially distance, do curbside pickup or have groceries delivered no matter where we were located. So far we had done a good job abiding by all of the recommended guidelines but our biggest concern was what would happen if one (or both) of us did get sick with Covid or something else? With the hospitals and medical staffs across the country so overwhelmed, would we be able to get the appropriate care we needed if one or both of us got sick from Covid or had some other medical issue? It was hard to speculate what the situation would be in a few months since everything was so fluid and changing rapidly. After much discussion we ultimately decided that the trip was a go, we would have to do all we could to minimize the risk which meant that we needed to continue doing what we were doing, while keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we would stay healthy.
In prep for our departure, we readied Quantum Leap for the winter, moving all items that could freeze to our climate controlled storage unit, winterizing the engines, the generator and the water lines, deflating and stowing the dinghy, preparing the cabin for the installation of our new rebuilt generator and performing a myriad of other tasks. A few days before we left, Dockside Maid Service had her shrink wrapped. With Quantum Leap buttoned up for the winter, there was no reason for us to delay any longer.
After saying goodbye to our neighbors at Sun Valley, off we went to our first destination, a mere 36 miles away. Why such a short distance? Because we had one last early morning appointment with our favorite dental hygienist in Mansfield, MA on the 22nd. Staying in MA would reduce travel time from over an hour each way to about 10 minutes.
It was an enjoyable two night stay at one of our favorite and very popular campgrounds in the area – Normandy Farms Campground in Foxboro, MA. Before going there, we were pleased to read that extensive Covid guidelines had been implemented to ensure the safety of both their staff and their guests. These guidelines included contact-less check in procedures (make/pay for your reservations on-line, a car pass and directions to your site were sent via email so no need to go in the office), closure of the Recreation Lodge, which included the indoor pool, arcade, fitness/wellness center, and lofts, the banning of outside guests entirely and the usual recommendations of social distancing, wearing of face masks and frequently using hand sanitizer stations located throughout the park.
After leaving there, a three hour drive would bring us to our next stop, Albany, NY, where we would visit with Rob’s Dad, outdoors and distanced. From there, we continued our journey west to Spartan RV Chassis in Charlotte, MI where we had a service appointment on October 29th.
Travelling along the northern tier of the U.S. is always difficult in the late September/October timeframe as many of the campgrounds are closed. Fortunately we found a very nice campground in Erie, PA that was open from May 1st to October 31st, Lampe Campground. Run by the Erie Port Authority, this campground offers 42 waterfront, back-in camping sites with water and electric hookups, restroom facilities with showers, a laundry, dump stations, a public boat launch and 24 hour security. Rates are listed on their website.
Arriving there without a reservation (I had called and left a message but there was no return call), the camp host explained that the person who handled reservations had been out sick and very nicely suggested several sites that would accommodate our big rig. We settled on site #39.
Fortunately we had a few hours to take a drive and do a little sightseeing of the area. Our focus would be a quick visit to Presque Isle State Park, a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie. Guess the park is a popular spot to watch sunsets from the beaches where there is an unobstructed view to the west.
According to this website, this is Pennsylvania’s only “seashore,” offering “its visitors a beautiful coastline and many recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating.” The road system within the park forms a loop approximately 13 miles in length.
Interesting scene of 24 houseboats on Horseshoe Pond in the photo below. This map not only shows the location of the pond but also the beaches and trails in the State Park and Lampe Marina and Campground which is located across the water south of the peninsula. As we looked at these floating houses, lots of questions came to mind – are they moored or free standing, are they owned or rented, what do they do for electricity and sewer? The answers to all those questions are answered in this article.
It would have been nice to stay a little longer to perhaps enjoy better weather and explore some of the hiking trails within the park but as mentioned above, we were on a tight schedule so we had to move on.
Because of Covid, Spartan had changed their usual procedures for their service customers. In the past, coach owners would arrive the day before, walk down to the service center to meet with their service advisor to review what work needed to be done. The next morning bright and early at 7 a.m., a technician would come to the parking lot to drive your coach to the service bays. Customers would then either spend the day in the waiting room or find something else to do until their coach was returned to the parking lot in the late afternoon. For those of us with pets, it would usually turn out to be a very long day.
This year, however, customers were not allowed in the customer service center so service items would be reviewed either by phone or via email. The technician (wearing a mask) would still arrive at the coach by 7 a.m. to drive the coach. What was great this time though was that we were allowed to stay inside the coach, plugged into the electric service with all four slides out, all day while in the service bay.
At the end of the day, the tech would drive the coach back up to the parking lot for our overnight stay. Wow, love the new process, hope they permanently adopt this. No moving the litter box, food and water to the back of the van, juggling Sparky between the back of the van or sticking him in a carrier and moving him to the lounge area all day. Not sure who was happier – Sparky or us!
Our service appointment involved a chassis inspection, replacement of various filters and installation of four new Michelin tires (two tag and two steer tires were replaced in October, 2018 due to an alignment issue). Our service took a full two full days to be completed.
Friends Betsy and Nancy (RV-A-GoGo) and Pat and Debby were also at Spartan for service appointments. Even though we had to socially distance and wear masks, it was great seeing them!
Any one who has ever been to Charlotte, MI knows that there isn’t a lot to do in the area. But thanks to our friends, we had a new experience – a trip to Horrick’s Farm Market in Lansing, about 20 miles away. OMG, this place was huge and totally unbelievable! To say I was in heaven is an understatement. It was so overwhelming I didn’t know what to look at first. The photos below will do the talking!
Lots of mushrooms to choose from – portabello, crimini, trumpet, oyster and chicken of the woods. Never heard of lobster mushrooms (reddish ones in the front row). Hmmm, wonder if you are supposed to dip them in butter! Then there’s turmeric root, tamarind, Jerusalem artichokes and Chinese long beans. How about some aloe vera leaf, an opal squash, a snake gourd, Chinese or Indian bitter melon or sing kwo squash? In the background are cannisters of different spices, seeds and beans. Heaven!
If you need Nyah May (Columbia), Jamaican Yellow Flat Leaf Yam (Dominican Republic), Malanga (Mexico), Malanga Lila (Columbia), Eddoe, Boniato Potato (Brazil) and Yucca Root (Costa Rica), then this is the market for you! I don’t know about any of you but I have absolutely no idea how to cook or use any of it.
Now apples I recognize…
In the Tavern, there are 49 taps of great beer which you can order (underneath the signs). Purchase a 6 oz flight, a pint or a growler (a large 64 oz jug that is often used as a “take-out box” for draft beer at breweries or brewpubs, typically glass, but can also be plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel). Or order a glass of wine. Whatever you purchase, enjoy it in their tavern, on the patio, or take it with you while you shop!
Walls and walls of beers and wines….
There was a room with nothing but popcorn (popped and unpopped) in every flavor and type of kernel imaginable. Missing our usual trip to Yoder Popcorn in Shipshewanna, IN for our favorite Ladyfinger type, we just had to buy some!
Next to the popcorn was a room dedicated for those with a sweet tooth offering a wide variety of candy and ice cream. Gourmet food items as well as general groceries were on display on shelves in another area, a deli offered a variety of cheeses, dips, hot soups and sandwiches, a section displaying a different types of meats, a garden area and oh so much more. Did I mention I was in heaven??? If you go, plan on spending a few hours there!
On Saturday, the 31st, it was time to head south towards what hopefully would be warmer temps. More about the next leg of our journey in our next post!