Saturday, September 24, 2022

All About Ashtabula and the Area

Jefferson, Ohio.  Thousand Trails Kenisee Lake. Site: B-9

Highs: 50's to low 60's.  Lows: 40's to 50's. Fall is here!  ATT hot spot--download speed is 4.88, upload speed is 0.6. that's terrible! Forget about streaming anything on using your phone hotspot! T-Mobile Mifi download speed is 9.37, upload speed is 1.38--not very good but we can still use the internet! Water is about 56 psi's, so that is good water pressure. Sparky is reporting these speeds now on the blog because it's important to know which how the connections are is going to work for researching, posting photos, a blog, water and sewer hookups and communicating with family. More and more people are working on the road and need to know these things.

We are in Jefferson, Ohio, just outside of Ashtabula, in the northeast corner of Ohio, very close to Lake Erie at Thousand Trails Kenisee Lake RV park, free with our camping membership. We are here for four nights on our way to Indiana next. The road leading into the park turn off is narrow and winding. Be careful and watch out for deer as well. Note: DO NOT FOLLOW GPS directions or Mapquest directions to get to the park. Both will lead you straight to a low clearance (10ft. 8") bridge. 

Kenisee Lake is a very small park with two small lakes, 119 sites, only a few are available for pull through (10?) and the rest are back in. Many sites are taken up with seasonal rigs. This seems to be the trend at many Thousand Trails parks. The park has BIG, wide open green spaces and huge resident flocks of geese. They could put a ton more sites in if they wanted to. 

All sites for campers moving on through are out in the open, with no trees and are gravel and grass sites, level. There is a pool (now closed for the season) and a very small laundry room if you need it. The cons are: the gravel sites flood when it rains, and a variety of cell phone services all struggle with speed and good connections. The park is located in a small town with limited shopping options, but if you don't mind driving a bit, there is plenty to see and do in the area. The pros are: it's clean, it's quiet, and in the county you can take a covered bridge tour on your own, or check out the barn quilt tour on your own as well. The town of Geneva-on-the-Lake, a summer resort town right on Lake Erie is nearby, but pretty much shuts down after Labor Day. There are LOTS of wineries (30) in the area. And of course, lots of recreational opportunities at Lake Erie and a very nice bike trail just a couple of miles from the RV park, called the Western Reserve Greenway Bike Trail, with the trailhead closest being Eagleville trailhead. 

In addition, here are some other ideas if you are in the Ashtabula area:

Pick apples at Brant Apple Orchard, (Aug-November) and try a cider slushy or cider donuts. We got some cider and it was delicious! 

Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge
Do the covered bridge tour on your own...get a map and off you go! There are 19 covered bridges in the area. It's a fun drive and the map places you logically and most efficiently as to how to visit them. Check out the beautiful Smolen-Gulf Covered Bridge--the longest covered bridge in the US, but definitely not the oldest. It is 613 feet long. There is a beautiful park there, too. Here is a shot of the bridge side walkway, (to the left), there is a walkway on both sides. 

Root Road Bridge

If you are an architecture buff, know that there are 5 truss patterns found within the 19 covered bridges. They are: the Burr Arch, the Town Lattice Truss, the Howe Truss, the Inverted Harp Truss, and the Pratt Truss (which is the Smolen-Gulf Bridge). The insides of these bridges are AMAZING! 

Middle Bridge-Howe Truss

Eldy is waving hi thru the Root Bridge!

The map tells you the year, the type of structure, the clearance, and the dimensions. The shortest clearance is at 9 ft., 4 in. The truck cleared it-barely! One of Sparky's favorites this time was the State Road Bridge seen below.

State Road Bridge

There are two driving tours for the bridges, if you wanted to cover them all. The north and eastern tour covers 13 bridges and spans 69 miles, the south and western tour covers 6 bridges and spans 68 miles.

Mechanicsville Bridge + Quilt Pattern

If you are a history buff, check out the Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum in Ashtabula, take a tour through the 19th century Jefferson Depot, the Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum, or the Victorian Perambulator Museum, a truly a one-of-a-kind in the world. That would be a history of baby carriages in case you are not familiar with the "p" word! Lucille Ball's baby carriage is in there, apparently and there's enough historic perambulators to fill 15 rooms!

You could go looking for beach glass at Conneaut (pronounced "Connie-ought") Township Park or Walnut Beach.

Italian pizza oven at Nights and Weekends

Eat pizza at the Nights and Weekends Pizzeria in downtown Ashtabula Harbor. Fantastic pizza, and the wood fired oven is from Italy!  Some great locally brewed beer there, too. (Yep, smiles a satisfied Eldo).

In early August, the largest D-Day re-enactment in the WORLD takes place in Conneaut. It's a free event and over 3,000 reenactors help make it happen.

At Brant's Apple Orchard
If you are a crafter or sewer, you might want to take in the Barn Quilts Tour by doing a beautiful drive. Barn quilt motifs are painted on the sides of barns, shops, sign boards, or historical places of significance all over the county. The concept began with a lady in Ohio who wanted to honor her mother and her Appalachian heritage. You can learn the story of each pattern at: BarnQuiltsAshtabulaCounty.com




The covered bridge tour and the barn quilt tour is all in the same piece of literature available at the RV park office.
Church in Jefferson with quilt pattern

Sparky's Place
And of course, we just HAD to try Sparky's Place....on Broad Street in Conneaut for a huge fish sandwich and some terrific cheese curds. Just about everything made from scratch. Sparky says, if it has her name on it, it's got to be good--well, we hope, anyway...And it was! It has a cool atmosphere. The owner has it decorated with kitschy stuff all over the place and TWO leg lamps (seen in the movie "A Christmas Story", a classic--"It's 'FRAGEE-LAY'".)

In the short four days we were there, we did a lot of these things and topped it off with the Grape Festival on the weekend, the day before we were to leave for Indiana. This was the first time the grape festival had been held in two years and so the turnout was great. All things grape here--grape ice cream, grape pie, and purple cows. Concord grapes off the vine are amazing!

Sparky ALMOST signed up for the adult grape stomping contest, but watched the little ones do it instead. They came before the grownups. A lady celebrating her 40th birthday had the guts to stomp in a mini dress! The grapes are in a small barrel, held by a guy in a white hazmat suit with a face mask. (He put one on later after getting juice on his face) and it was not at all like we pictured it would be, but still fun to watch. They played funky music with a beat to get the contestants to stomp faster.

We had a great stay in Ohio, and are looking forward to a return visit for some more great spots in Ashtabula County to visit and check out next time. We head out tomorrow for Howe and Elkhart, Indiana, for an extended stay.

Both Eldy and Sparky will be having cataract surgery and doing all the catching up with dentist and doctor visits, to get those out of the way, AND visiting with Eldy's son's family. We are also looking forward to seeing the fall and leaf color changes in Indiana.  See you down the road!




 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Finishing Up in PA

We finished up our stay in Pennsylvania with some fun things. We loved our stay here. Lebanon, (where the RV park is located) is a nearby town to Hershey and the surrounding farming area is truly beautiful. There are so many big, beautiful farms and rolling hills. It appears to be a very prosperous area.

We went to the Hershey RV show just for fun, and saw some fabulous floor plans for fifth wheels and motorhomes. Sparky's favorite was the New Horizons fifth wheel floor plan, light and airy. It's a very expensive fifth wheel RV. If you just happen to have $109,000.00 for the sale price, it could have been yours at the show! 

Since a new fifth wheel is not in the cards, Sparky really wants to try to lighten up our interior somehow. It's so dark! It would be a major undertaking to paint the cabinets, and we think it wouldn't turn out nicely, so Sparky will try to lighten up the valences and we eventually plan to get rid of the black queen sofa bed and put in two light colored rockers and a little table instead. It's interesting how RV designers have trends just like the housing market. Everything was dark wood for awhile, and now it's farmhouse white and light. This is our current living area.
For one improvement, since we couldn't swap out our fifth wheel for another one, we decided to replace the mattress that came with our used rig for a different one. It was a king, very thin, poorly supported 6" thick Beautyrest. Both of us had been having a lot of back issues and sciatic problems, so we thought maybe if we got a new mattress, that would help! Now the problem is, you can't get a traditional mattress thru the narrow front door of the RV without bending the heck out of it, especially if you need a KING. So what are our options if Sparky wouldn't go any smaller? A mattress in a box! It's the latest "thing" in mattresses....saves lugging the big thing home in a truck, or having to have it delivered if you don't have a truck, and for RVers, a piece of cake to get it inside and set it up. We went from an RV king mattress which is 72" X 80" to a regular king mattress which is 76" X 80". As soon as we started to take off the outer layer of plastic, the mattress started to make noise....."PSHSHSHSHSHSHHHHHH...." We thought it might explode right out of the bag, haha, but it didn't. Once all the plastic is off, you can see it expanding slowly in front of your eyes. You wait about 24-48 hours for the internal coils and foam to fully expand before sleeping on it. It has really made a difference in the amount of support and we are both sleeping much better with the new mattress!

Sparky went riding back out on the Lebanon Valley Trail a few more times. The trail is being majorly resurfaced in the worst areas with a crushed cinder/sand combination plus asphalt paving in some sections--woo hoo! Wonder what the story is behind this umbrella? Did the wind catch it and toss it to the trees? Did someone purposely throw it up there?
You never know what you might see on a trail! Sparky thinks "deer" but sometimes it's something else. Yep--several chickens and roosters! 
Or a rat snake....This one seemed like a big one!



We checked out the Hershey Museum, about all things chocolate and Milton Hershey, an amazing businessman for his time. Did we mention that many of the streets in downtown Hershey have names like Chocolate and Cocoa Avenues? And that 55 of their street lamps are shaped like wrapped Hershey kisses and 52 are shaped like unwrapped ones? Hershey's kisses used to be individually wrapped of course, from 1907 to 1921 until someone invented a machine to wrap them. From 1942 to 1949, the production of Hershey's kisses totally stopped because there was no aluminum foil available due to the war effort.

Remember Hershey-Ets?
The museum was really great. Milton Hershey was a businessman ahead of his time. Armed with only a fourth grade education, at the age of 18, he began his own business of making caramels, then switched to chocolate, because chocolate was a burgeoning, booming market back in the early 1920's. Hershey was a visionary, he believed that happy workers were productive workers and he designed the town around his factory to be a place where people could own their own homes at affordable prices, enjoy their time away from work through recreational activities, and that they should have a say in how the company was run. If he took care of workers' needs, they would be happy to work for his company and they were. Hershey's company workers came up with many productive and innovative ideas that made Hershey chocolate company world famous. He felt education was so important that he donated all of his entire fortune three years after his wife died, to found the Milton Hershey Industrial School for orphaned boys in 1909. The school has become well known now for its providing an enriched environment for children who come from struggling families.

And last but not least, we found an excellent Mexican restaurant in the nearby town of Palmyra, called Rey Azteca. We highly recommend it if you are in the area. A big menu to choose from, really good street tacos (Sparky's favorite) and a ton of choices of burritos. 

And with that, we say goodbye to a fabulous stay in Pennsylvania. Sparky will miss that beautiful Lebanon Valley Trail, but there are more trails to come. If you stay at the Thousand Trails Hershey Park in Lebanon, PA, the trailhead closest to the park is called the Colebrook Trailhead.

It's on to Ohio, to Kenisee Lake Thousand Trails park for four days. We are going to an apple orchard, going to see a few covered bridges, and attend a grape/wine festival. There are over 30 wineries in the Lake Erie area where we will be staying!





 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

A Bit of Time in Pennsylania

Timothy Lakes South, site #4, back in. High's: 70's to mid eighties, lows: high 50's to low 60's. ATT terrible, T-Mobile terrible, can't even run a speed test.

If you are an RVer, starting to make your way from the northern states where you have spent your summer to the southern states for a warmer winter climate, you have two main choices that many take. One, you start heading south towards Florida or the states along the Gulf coast, or two, you head towards the southwest or California. Florida is so popular for winter RVers and snowbirds, that it is extremely difficult to reserve campground spaces for the winter, and you have to start MONTHS in advance, trying to reserve a spot.

Having lived in Florida for seven years, hating the heat and humidity and the traffic congestion, we prefer Texas and Arizona. So, after a lovely summer in Maine, we are heading towards the midwest first, to Indiana where Eldy's family is, then to Texas and Arizona. First stop after leaving Maine, is usually somewhere in Pennsylvania. Our destination was the eastern corner of PA, where we have a Thousand Trails membership park called Timothy Lake South. It was a driving distance of about 345 miles, a long driving day for Eldy. We usually try for an average of 300 miles per day or less. We usually try to get in a park on a Tuesday or a Wednesday for the best choice of sites. The weekenders usually leave by Sunday or Monday so the full timers are waiting to come in mid week to be able to choose a decent site. There are several Thousand Trails parks in PA. We like staying at Timothy Lakes South, in Bushkill, PA. This is the park that the deer wander through early morning and late afternoon and the park is near a private nature park called Bushkills Falls, which has seven waterfalls and great hiking trails. We scored a really nice shady back in site. NOTE: This campground has very HIGH water pressure, like 80-100 psi at the spigot. If you have an older rig, you could blow out your pipe fittings or do even more damage if you don't have some kind of water regulator at the spigot. The campground even sells cheap water regulators at the camp store just in case. The office told Sparky someone blew out their kitchen sink fittings because of the high pressure. We think the high pressure is from upgrades in the park to old water spigots at the sites. It never used to be that high on previous visits, but that is just a guess. High pressure is a welcome change from such low pressure at many campgrounds that you can barely flush your toilets sometimes or have a decent shower without feeling like it's a "dribble" shower. When we first turned it on, it blasted the water out of the toilet bowl, haha, as we cleared the lines of air when we first hooked up. Newer rigs can supposedly handle pressure up to 100 psi's easily, but check your owner's manual to be sure.

Unfortunately, cell service in the middle of the Pocono Mountains is TERRIBLE. It doesn't matter whether you have Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T. We have tried our AT&T hotspots, and our T-Mobile mifi, and nothing is working very well. People complain all over the place about how bad the internet is here. Isn't it something how much we depend on that these days for entertainment? No streaming here, and tons of buffering. Might as well read a book or two instead. You can sign up for something called FastWave at the campground, but it's not fast, and the "wave" is a little puny rolling one, haha. We are lucky if we can even send texts or make calls that don't drop. If you drive out of the campground and into the next town, you can get a better signal, but that's not very practical if you want to watch a football game on the weekend! So Eldo has to suck it up and just do without. And trooper that he is, he is ok with that for one week, but no more than that, haha.

That's what we don't like about this campground. Here's what we do like...Shady sites that are not hard to get into, a choice of being out in the open or back in the woods, a nice pool, a nice playground for the kids, and very nice staff. The pool closes Labor Day weekend and that's it! No matter how hot it still may get, the pools in this part of PA close Labor Day.

Sparky has actually swum in the pool several times late in the day. Because it's unheated, it's not frequented by any but the very hardy. Temps at night have been in the low fifties so that is keeping the pool nice and chilly!

Sparky rode the McDade Trail, a "recreational" bike/hike trail that is very nearby and goes for quite a few miles. There are several trailheads along route 209, Sparky gets on the one that is closest to the campground, right by Marluca's Italian restaurant and deli and heads out north on the trail, which runs parallel to 209. They've recently paved the road to the trailhead and made the bridge road wider so bikes can safely ride at the side of the road to get to the trail entrance. A lot of the trail is shaded, which is great! And you do pass through some beautiful sections of forest as you ride. Kinda makes up for the bad rocky gravel parts.

The trail itself is not very good. It's very large rock gravel which makes for a bone jarring ride, even on a Trek comfort bike. It's very uneven and hilly, with steep quick inclines and descents and hasn't been leveled in some time. Sections of the trail along farmland were severely domed from run off rains. Sparky did a total of sixteen miles out and back, which was enough for a bad trail, and was disappointed to see that it had deteriorated from the last time she rode it. There are also overhead branches that will smack you in the face if you don't watch out. 

You ride along farmlands on one side, and the Delaware River on the other. You can see the river through the trees occasionally. There are some beautiful sections through forest and the trail is probably 75% shaded in the portion that she did ride. There were few riders on the trail the day Sparky went, but she almost got run off the trail on a very narrow single tracked corner turn, when an avid cycler came careening around the corner, never announcing himself. Scared the bejeezus out of her!

Ebeneezer Scrooge
Labor Day was a very busy weekend at the campground. The campground had almost completely filled up by Friday. Lots and lots of families with kids. They are having a ball!  So we took it easy! Sparky crafted, making another Scrooge and Eldo enjoyed the breeze outside the rig. Very few bugs, we are surprised we aren't getting attacked in the woodsy part!


 
Two days after Labor Day, we left for Hershey, PA, more specifically, Lebanon, PA, where we are staying at one of our
membership parks, Thousand Trails Hershey. There are several Thousand Trails parks in Pennsylvania and are circled on the map.
Thousand Trails Hershey is actually 14 miles from the town of Hershey. It's one of the nicer Thousand Trails parks. It's big....320 roomy sites, a nice little putt putt course, a big, beautiful pool and spa and laundry facilities. The pool closed Labor Day, darn it! It also has a country store with hand dipped ice cream and other tasty treats. It's a really beautiful park with lots of open spaces in and around the sites, beautiful trees, and decent interior roads. It's easy to navigate round in with a big rig, unlike some parks we stay in.







In a Thousand Trails park, you almost always drive around to choose a site that has been generally assigned to you based on your size when you made your reservation. It's a site reserved generally and not specifically as far as where it's going to be in the park, if that makes any sense. So we came in around 12:30 AFTER check in time which is 12 noon. Don't show up a minute sooner or they will make you turn around and go back out of the park till it's noon or later. We drove in and around in our big rig and found a great spot! (B-2) It's a corner lot with lots of room on all sides of us. We love it! Nice big shade tree at the side and plenty of room for the truck. We will be here for two weeks. we hope to do the Hershey plant tour along with the Hershey RV show. Should be a fun week!


We are happy to be here, it's such a nice park...they have a fair amount of activities for families, too, and some live entertainment on the weekends. Also, every Saturday night, they have the "Hershey Howl". go outside at 8:45 PM and let your inner wolf out with a big howl! Just one will do, haha. We are getting closer to family, too...Sparky is happy because there is a rails-to-trails just a few miles from the park. It's called the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails and is about 18 miles long.

Next week we will take in the BIG Hershey RV show--The show covers 33 football fields (!) for the size of its presentation of anything and everything RV related--the 2023 models, things you can buy for your RV, and hopefully, some seminars to learn some new things. Looking forward to sharing the latest and greatest RVs with you! It's fun to look and see what the manufacturers think people will like and want to buy. 

Like us...We never thought we would end up with a towable fifth wheel, but here we are. We were hoping to find a class A motorhome (the big rectangular box style RV with fancy painted sides that tows a car behind it) back in 2018, but during Covid, those types of RVs were rare and flying out the door faster than we could make an offer. After looking long and hard, and not being able to find a class A motorhome, we got a great deal by looking at a package deal--a used 2018 Dodge truck and 2019 Jayco Pinnacle fifth wheel, (when you have a fifth wheel, the truck tows the RV) and we are very happy with it! (Except Sparky doesn't like trying to park the big dually, explains E.) Bigger is not always better, especially when trying to get into state parks and national park campgrounds. There are size restrictions with those types of places--many say 38 ft. or smaller. Initially, we were hoping to find something shorter but it just wasn't available at that time. So when you do have a rig over 40 feet, you need to have a BIG powerful truck to tow it, so that's what we have. And when you are living in an RV full time, most people really want and need more space. (So Sparky has more room for her craft stash, laughs Eldo). Ummm, yeah, well...that, too.

More about the Hershey show next week...See you down the road!





Sunday, August 28, 2022

Maine-ly About Maine....

Wells, Maine.   High: 81, Low 67 Site #309 out in the open, AT&T not good, texts don't always go through, dropped calls...T-Mobile wifi not much better.

We are winding down our time in Maine, we leave in ten days. Eldy took another train trip to Elkhart on the Amtrak to get some preliminary eye doctor work done in preparation for cataract surgery, staying with his son and family for a few days and Sparky stayed at the RV park to take some last side trips to iconic Maine destinations nearby.

Eldy REALLY loves train travel. His trip to Elkhart was a total of 19 hours. He took Amtrak from Wells to Boston, then from Boston to Elkhart and back for the return trip, too. He loved it, even sleeping in the regular train car. The seats have footrests and recline way back so he was able to sleep. Eldy likes to watch the train cams often in different parts of the country, particularly Elkhart, as it is one of the larger train hubs in the nation. We've heard it's the third largest in the country. He's always amazed at how many Amish get on the train in Elkhart, but no surprise there, there's a large Amish community nearby in Goshen and Shipshewanna.

Old Orchard Beach

Meanwhile, Sparky got up at 5:00 A.M. one morning to head out to Old Orchard Beach, about a 30 minute drive from the campground. She had seen some beautiful shots of the iconic Old Orchard Beach pier. Hers are not as pretty as a lot of them out there, but it was cool to see it and get some photos just the same. It's a popular destination spot for engagement photos. The 500 ft. pier seems to be entirely closed in which is too bad because it's nice to be able to walk out on a pier farther out, watch the ocean, feel the breeze on your face and smell the ocean smells and maybe see a big fish or a dolphin.  The pier is old school timber architecture and really showing its age. It looks a bit dilapidated and reviews have said the inside is dark and dingy with just a few shops open. It must have been quite the destination in its day. It was originally built in  1898 out of steel and had a casino with a ballroom at the end of the pier! The ballroom is gone now, but there used to be big swing bands and famous jazz players who came to play there.

The town itself is a throwback to the 1960's with a big amusement park right in front of the ocean. It has a vintage roller coaster and the park opens at 4:00 PM in the summer. Head to the beach for the day, then head over to the park for carnival amusement at night.


under the pier, cool timber structure
Speaking of the beach, it's about 7 miles long..It covers three towns--Scarborough, Old Orchard and Saco. The beach right by the amusement park in Old Orchard was extremely dirty with litter near the pier. Ugly litter---lots of pop bottles, water bottles, drink cups, trash. There were trash bins available along the beach, not that far at all to walk over and deposit your trash -- but people just left their litter behind on the sand. Apparently, drinking booze is overlooked as long as people are not flaunting actual bottles. Sparky saw shot glasses at the beach in the sand! She picked up some large litter and could have filled a garbage bag within a few yards of walking the sand. So sad.

Back at the park, Sparky put up a hummingbird feeder and oh, boy, did the hummers come! We think previous site renters had bird feeders. There was an abundance of bird seed all over our grassy plot next to the site. Hard to pick the best 
hummer photos, but here are a couple....


hummer photobomb!




Another iconic Maine destination is Portland and the lighthouses in the area. Sparky signed up for a 5 lighthouse biking tour in Portland, kinda pricey for 129.00 per person. FIVE lighthouses, an EXTRA LARGE lobster roll lunch, for about 14 miles of bike riding, a narrated tour with a guide and a maximum group of eight cyclers at a time, with Trek bikes/helmets provided. This was booked directly thru Summer Feet Cycling in Portland. If you should accidentally see this tour offered thru Trip Advisor, they charge a lot more--fourteen dollars more! Book directly thru the bike shop. They appreciate that!

Sparky will tell you right now that 1. There is elevation involved going up and over the Casco Bay Bridge and on the return trip an even steeper climb, plus some hilly areas along the way, but nothing that most people in average shape cannot handle, 2. The bike seats are HARD, the bikes are Trek FX bikes with rough handling gear changes and lower handlebars, and NO step through style. Several people, including Sparky, had trouble swinging their leg over the mid bar and the saddlebag provided on the back. She had to lay the bike down on its side to get on it, lol.  3.There is a lot of on street riding. During the early morning start of the tour,  not a problem, coming back, very congested car traffic and you are riding along very close to the cars along some cobblestone street areas once you get back to town. The trip starts in Portland's Old Port district, over the Casco Bay Bridge, thru Ferry Village, then on to Bug Light, the first lighthouse which marks the entrance to the Portland break water. It's a shrimpy little lighthouse, so that's how it got its cute name. At this stopping point, we learned a little bit about Portland. It has burned completely to the ground FOUR times. After the 4th fire, a law was passed that all structures had to be built from brick, and after that, no more fires! Most of the buildings are brick in Portland and you can see a lot of them lining the waterfront. Portland was also a big rum district back in the day and there was an interesting story about how the mayor tried to confiscate, stockpile and stash away the locals' rum in his basement when prohibition came. The townspeople found out about it and all hell broke loose. They got their rum back. 
Bug Light


Liberty memorial/kiosk
After Bug Light Lighthouse, we stopped at an interesting looking ship formation. This memorial kiosk covered the history of the Liberty ships built during WWII. Lots of great information about the ships. Sparky learned a lot about these war ships through the kiosk. Liberty ships were designed as merchant cargo ships during WWII to be built as fast as possible under the Emergency Ship Building Program under President Roosevelt and welded rather than riveted. You've heard of Rosie the Riveter? Well, the South Portland shipyard, one of the ports where the ships were built, had Wendy the Welder. Women entered the workforce during that time in record numbers as the men were entering the war. The average time to build the ship from start to finish was 52.5 days. The shipbuilders worked seven days a week, 365 days a year in three shifts. The ships were welded instead of riveted and sections prefabricated, numbered and partially assembled with sequence and position for assembly to save time.  Some of the ships experienced cracks and fracture failures before ever seeing service, but they were still a valuable asset to help the Allies win the war. They were able to build these slow (11 knots per hour) but necessary cargo ships faster than the German U-boats could sink them! The ships had to endure, monsoons, typhoons, bombs, mines and icebergs, but helped the Allies maintain their supply lines. Two hundred sixty-six ships were built in Portland. And think of the winters back then! Temperatures in Maine fell between 10-30 degrees below zero back then! 
Out of 2,700 Liberty ships built, only 200 were lost. Eventually, the Liberty ships were thought too small and too slow, so another line of ships took its place, the Victory ships.

Before losing lens cap
Continuing on, a ride to Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse. This lighthouse is on a long breakwater ledge on the Southern Maine Community College campus. This lighthouse was twice the size of Bug Light but still small. You had to walk a VERY large boulder path with deep crevices and rock hop from one boulder to the next to get out to the lighthouse. Sparky lost her lens cap down a crevice there. (Good thing she didn't drop her keys! exclaims Eldo.) Sparky panicked for a second when she heard that CLINK, as the cap hit the rocks below. But thankfully, she had placed the truck keys deep inside her fanny pack. Whew! 
The boulder walk to the lighthouse was a little nerve wracking, you really had to practice "mindfulness". Apparently, Sparky didn't as she lost her lens cap, but at least she kept her feet from getting stuck in a crevice.

Fort Preble, a 19th century fort, had very little left of it's structure, but if you used your imagination, you could envision the troops guarding the waterfront. Sparky missed a little of the history as she just HAD to get this photo of a schooner passing by through one of the sentry ports.....

On to Shore Road, Portland's wealthy district of ship owner homes. Sparky was too busy watching street traffic and avoiding potholes or possible damaged pavement to see the houses along the way. Next lighthouse, Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse. It was very cloudy at that point so it was tough to get a decent photo. Actually, it was too foggy and dreary to get one at all. So here is one from the internet.
Some doctor bought it recently, for $95,000. Sounds like a bargain, really! We don't know if he was going to live in it or rent it out for an Air BNB, haha.

Next, a stop at Portland Head Light. It is the MOST photographed lighthouse in America. It's a classic and so beautiful. The sun came out for this shot!

Portland Light before the sun came out

We ate lunch there from a local food truck. It was very good! Sparky could have gotten a lobster roll, but settled for a caprese sandwich on ciabatta bread. It was delicious! There were three kinds of lobster rolls you could have ordered and an assortment of Maine crafted soda drinks, blueberry soda, or Moxie--a sort of sharp, bitter root beer, Dr. Peppery type of drink. It's the official soft drink of Maine, but Sparky opted for her drink of choice--Coke. The bees and wasps invaded our picnic, but we held them off. We took a few more photos of the Portland Head Lighthouse...The lighthouse tower is only open one day a year on Maine Open Lighthouse Day and only a limited number of tickets are sold for people to be able to go in...288? Something like that. Sort of like the lottery!
Silly me at Portland Light

We spent about 20 minutes at Portland Light, the last lighthouse and then it was time to head back. First, a group shot....Sparky thinks she was the oldest in the group.

We headed straight back to the waterfront where we first started. The total bike riding time, actually on the trail (the Eastern Bike Trail-a rails to trails which was a nicely paved portion), and streets, was about 2.5 hours, and the mileage was a little over 14 miles. The total time of the tour was 4.5 hours.

Is this a really good bike tour? Sparky would say, and this is just her humble opinion, it was just all right. It was a little too expensive for a tour like that, and the information and history given was very short and sweet. The bikes were just OK. There was a lot more street riding and although the group was cautioned about safety rules, it was a little nerve wracking to be on city streets during prime traffic time on our way back. If you go on one of these bike tours and you are in the middle to the last part of the bike "train", please remember to STOP for red lights. The rest of the group WILL wait for you to catch up. Sparky witnessed a VERY angry driver who waited for several bikes to pass through in front of him while he had the green light. Another caveat: the bikes had NO reflective rear light on the back. NONE. There really needs to be reflective lights on bikes for street riding. Even better, flashing red lights on the back for as much on road riding as we did. Sparky wished she would have asked if you can bring your own bike. It would have been great to have a little more information or history to the tour for the price. What was nice is that we were able to explore for a few minutes on our own at each stop, but there wasn't enough time to explore the museum at Portland Head AND get photos. Sparky did enjoy having enough time to explore on her own and look for photography shots. It's great when you are an avid photographer and want to get that perfect shot, like this schooner shot through a sentry hole (?) at Fort Preble. 

The other drawback was the pace. When you lead a tour like that, you have to watch and pace the entire group based on your slowest rider. We averaged 6-7 mph, and later, the group requested a little faster pace. The group was on average, a younger group, so everybody appreciated the pickup of the pace later on. For some, slower is better....but Sparky appreciated the quicker pace. If you do do the tour, street parking is limited nearby, but there's a city lot for 15.00 a day or less. Other than that, we had a really nice college student for a guide and she was knowledgeable and took good care of the group. This was just one of several bike tours offered in Portland.

There are also so many cool towns nearby Wells. There are resort towns and beach towns all along the coast of Maine, of course. Resort towns seem to attract the wealthy and have pricey restaurants, big mansions, pricey food and accommodations and big yachts, haha. Beach towns attract a different crowd and seem to have more reasonable prices for dining and activities. Old Orchard is a beach town. Beautiful Kennebunkport, a short distance to drive, is a resort town, and is the summer home to the former Bush presidents. You can view the compound from across the harbor. There is also a VERY upscale fantastic restaurant there called Cape Arundel Inn. We had a terrific birthday dinner there last year which was a birthday present from Sparky's brother, Rich. You can see the Bush compound from the restaurant windows while you dine. Kennebunk, another fishing/harbor town, right next to Kennebunkport, is a beautiful little town to visit. The flowers and landscaping are AMAZING in the summer. 
Both towns offer amazing dining experiences, lobster boat tours, and plenty of tourist shopping. Both of them are extremely popular tourist towns in the summer. AND--Kennebunk has the Eastern Bike Trail which you can hop on behind Kennebunk Elementary School. There is an information kiosk to the side of the school at the spur entrance to the trail and plenty of parking for both the school and cyclers. Just park as far to the side of the school as you can, away from the entrances to be courteous. Sparky has seen SASQUATCH on the trail! Really!
Check out the footprint in case you don't believe....haha...

Ogunquit
 is another little town (pop. 1,000) that swells in the summertime, on Highway 1, south of Wells. It has the popular mile and a quarter long walk (one way) along the harbor called Marginal Way with 39 benches to stop and sit and watch the waves crash onto the cliffs and shore. 
There is also Perkins Cove, a terrific little village with shops, restaurants and galleries to explore inside of Ogunquit right where the Marginal Way walkway begins. 
Perkins Cove


a restaurant at Perkins Cove

Barnacle Billy's is the top rated restaurant in Ogunquit. They are Maine-ly known (haha) for their lobster dishes, but of course! Sparky rode her bike down to Ogunquit and the Marginal Way for one last look today. There are several entrances where you can pick up the trail. Sparky took the entrance in Perkins Cove, one end of the trail. She locked her bike at the wharf and then walked the seaside trail and back. 
It's right around a mile one way and there are a few ups and downs on the paved trail. 
You pass by stately homes on your left and the ocean constantly on your right. You might even pass by an artist on your walk.
Swimming in this part of Maine in the Atlantic Ocean is not for the faint of heart. Water temperature today was 68 degrees. You can't say you haven't been warned!
You also pass by several rocky cliff beaches that look amazing. Check out where the lifeguard sits for one of the beaches. Actually, there are a few swimmers off to her left, and to the right of her.




It would be difficult for a person in a wheelchair to navigate Marginal Way as parts of the path are extremely narrow and a little steep here and there, but it can be done. The scenery is fantastic.

Riding her way back through Ogunquit from the Marginal Way (no bikes allowed on the walkway), Sparky was passed by a twenty-something young man on a banana bike flying by. (Remember those?) He calls out to Sparky, "Let's get a movin', grandma!" as she is huffing and puffing up a hill in first gear. She grins and says, "I'm a workin' it. I'm a workin' it!" She gains momentum, he starts slowing down because his bike doesn't have any gears. By the time she gets to the top of the hill, she passes HIM by, really rollin' now, he's about dead in the water and had run out of steam and she calls out, "Time to pick up the pace there, dude!" She laughs as she flies by him, he laughs.....and off she goes....

By the way, there are TWENTY-SEVEN lighthouses in the downeast Maine region, the gold area on the map. That's home to more lighthouses than all of the rest of Maine combined. Lots of day trip possibilities if you come to downeast Maine. 
Our current location, Wells, Maine is 137 miles southwest of Acadia and is not considered to be in the Downeast Region, but there so many things to do and see in this area as well! We stayed in the coastal region of Maine all summer and just barely scratched the surface to capture all the beauty, the nature, the hikes, the shopping and dining- it's mind boggling! Not to mention the Amtrak to Boston trips under two hours if you want to take in a baseball game or visit all the cool historic sites in Boston. Wish we had been able to head way north, but no membership parks up there, just moose, maybe, and rustic campgrounds. For anyone wanting to see moose, you have to get farther north, think Baxter State Park area and Moosehead Lake, wa-a-a-y up north. Amazing nature of a different kind up in northern Maine--it's much less populated--lakes and forests, the Appalachian Trail, moose, and much much more.

And there you have it, folks....We are leaving Maine this week and headed west--Hershey, Pennsylvania, here we come! We will miss our nice friends who we have met during the summer for the second year in a row....Bob and Paula, and our friends that we met in Batesville, IN, are here...Donna and Ken. It's wonderful to know that when you are RVing, there's a very good chance you will see friends again that you've met down the road, and we do!

Thank you for following and reading along with us. We love sharing our travels! And Sparky likes writing the blog so she can remember stuff, because a year from now, she will say, "How long was that bike trail in Kennebunk?" Or, "What company did we book that lighthouse tour with?" Things like that....(She really means, "What is the name of that restaurant just down the street from the park that we liked so much for breakfast?" and "How long did it take to get to Joann Fabrics from Wells?" laughs Eldo.) Ummmm, yeah...OK.....guilty as charged...

See you down the road!
Painted Lady Butterfly in Kennebunk on the flowers