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Monday, October 02, 2006

Lake Champlain Islands

Monday we awoke to the sound of rain.. again. This was without a doubt the quietest Wal-Mart parking lot we have ever been in. Other than the fact that Masenna is a relatively small town, and somewhat remote, this is not a 24 hour Wal-Mart Supercenter. It closed at about 10:00 PM last night and after the few associates left for the evening, we heard nothing. And if the parking lot sweeper came through, the sound of the rain on the camper top must have drowned him out.
There was a little activity around the store when we woke up at about 8:00 AM. Its kind of funny actually, when we open up the front window curtain to see whats going on, we see an Aldi Food Store.

After a quick cup of coffee and a little breakfast, I go out to check the tires, car in tow and see that all looks well. But it it COLD! The rain must have been the escort for that cold front comming through, and it really did chill things down quiet a bit for this southern sunshine loving bunch of campers. I think it is in the mid to lower 40s and that seems pretty cold to us. But with the sun up and the sky clearing, it feels pretty good, just like you would expect fall in New England to feel.

We have not been on the road long when I begin to look for a gas station. I was hoping to hold out until we got to Vermont. Gas prices are pretty high in NY. When we crossed the NY/PA border they were about 25 cents per gallon higher. Our tank holds 75 gallons, so thats $15 dollars or so that I could save. But if we run out of gas on the road.. well that wouldn't be such a good thing. It is not long before we enter the Mohawk Indian Reservation. We start seeing signs for a casino, so I assume that a gas station or two is nearby. And since it is on Mohawk land, the NY gas tax doesn't apply, so it should be a little cheaper. Just in case there are questions about whose jurisdiction we are under, we pass a large sign saying "This is Mohawk Land, not New York Land."

The first station we see is a convience store with the gas pumps lined up in a couple of lanes going towards the store. Not cool! If I pull a 32 foot motorhome pulling a car behind in there, I'd never get out. Finally we see a smaller station with pumps parallel to the road. I get in and begin to fill up. An employee of the station comes out and looks at me kind'a strange, then goes to help the car that pulled in next to us. Thats right, I said "help", as in full service pumping of the gas for the customer. I didn't know any place still existed where there was an attendant pumping gas, I thought those were all extinct now. After he finished with the other customer he walks over to us. I apologize for taking his job over, but he's ok with that and we talk for a few minutes while the 65 or so gallons dribbles into the RV tank.

As usual, we began by talking about the weather. Cold - I thought, but not that cold for the region. Just wait he said.. a few weeks and the snow will start, and it will be really cold. Seems they had had a very wet autumn so far, and were expecting more snow than usual this winter.
He asked where we were from... (not sure why he didn't think we were locals). It turns out that he had been in the military and had lived in Beaufort SC for a few years. After that, he decided to return to NY. "Never could get used to the humidity and the bugs." he said. Coastal SC can get pretty hot and humid in the summer, but it sure doesn't approach 20 below in the winter.
Before long we are approaching Vermont and the Lake Champlain Islands area. The sun is finally out, Pam is settled into her navigators position with Bobbi on her lap, and we are finally there.

The Lake Champlain Islands are very pretty and exactly what you would imagine a New England setting would be. Houses on the lake shore, boat piers behind them, even a few boats (motor and sail) on the water today. The leaves on the trees are spectacular. The road winds down through the islands with the lake first on the left, then on the right, then on the left again. With the trees reflecting from the opposite shore into the water it looks like double colors.
We cross several bridges and the road has taken a more easterly direction. We pass over a couple more bridges and on to a rather small island with the water easily visible on both sides. We have been looking for a spot for lunch, but the pull off up ahead is already crowded with cars, so we keep going.

A little later we are back on the interstate - I-89 between Burlington VT and Montpielier, the state capital. The first rest stop is the Vermont welcome center, so we decide we can't wait another minute and pull in to make lunch. This welcome center had free internet WiFi avaialble, but I didn't try it. I am not sure if other Vermont rest stops have internet access or not.
Soon we are approaching our exit from I-89 onto Vermont Route 100 headed north to Stowe. That exit is at Waterbury VT. On Rt 100 we soon pass Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory, Cold Hollow Cider Mill (all crowded with tourists) and pretty soon we see the entrance to our campground up ahead. Gold Hollow Campground will be our "home" for the next 4 nights.

We pull in to the campground entrance and realize that it is on an old farm in a meadow. This is a beautiful spot with the grassey fields all around and the gold hue of the mountains in the background. We check in at the office and get our site assignment - #73. The manager tells us that the sites have "back to back" utility hookups. That means that the water, electric, and sewer connections for 2 campsites are in the same general spot between the campsites. That also means that one camper pulls into his site, while the other backs in so both can reach the connections. In some campgrounds this is very inconvient, but we have a pull in, and there is a couple of trees, the picnic table and a large grassy area between us and our neighbor on the awning side of our RV. Besides that, after pulling in, the view out our front window is wonderful. No campers or streets in front of us.. only a large grassy field with mountains in the distance. What a view! This is going to be great.

We soon get a call from our friends from Texas. They have arrived at the Burlington Airport and will be heading to their Inn in Stowe shortly. That is only a few miles from our campground.
Let me explain something before going any further. Our friends are very special frinds to us. They are concerned (and rightly so) about identify theft and other internet based identity problems. Therefore, I will not mention their names or any other personal information about them. We have known them for about 15 years and try to visit with them at least once or more each year. The last few years we have been able to get together for a vacation. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have close friends with which we can share special times and special places. So while I will not mention them, realize that they are very much a part of this trip.
We get our call...their flight was uneventful, and they are in their room at the inn (sounds like Mary and Joseph doesn't it...), and we'll go pick them up for dinner in a while.

That will work out fine because Bobbi is about to go crazy spending so much time with us over the past 4 days. Cats really are curious creatures. They sleep most of the day and roam around most of the night. During a normal day, we are working or doing other things in and mostly out of the house. I think getting into the RV with us really bothers her internal schedule. For the first day she is not really sure what we have in mind, so she sits on Pam's lap watching everything go by. Then the first night she is on her usual sleep a little, wonder around alot schedule. The second day out she is beginning to get tired, and seems like she can't wait to get to the campground where she can settle in. When we get to a rest stop for a few minutes, she tries to get in the bed or closet where she likes to sleep during the day. Then when we start up again, she is back up front with us looking like she's thinging "when the heck are you going to stop this moving house and let me get some rest!" So now here at the campground, she is wanting us to just get out and leave her alone for some piece and quiet.

We drive the few miles to the inn and greet our friends. It is really great to see them again. We choose a restaurant that is in Stowe for dinner, a place called Gracie's. Stowe is really a ski resort area. It is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country, maybe the oldest. But the fall "leaf peeping" season as they refer to it, has become larger than ski season. The streets of Stowe are lined with antique shops, gift shops, galleries, and restaurants, not to mention the many inns, hotels, resorts, and the ubiquitious bed and breakfasts that we see everywhere. It sometimes appears that anyone with an old house has turned it into a B&B.

Now I know that some of you are reading this and think I am describing a very "tacky" (I think that is a southern word that means gawdy) area similar to a Myrtle Beach or Gatlinburg TN. But it is no where close to that. All of the resorts and shops are somewhat understated and somehow tend to blend in with the town. No big billboards, neon lights, no Ripley Believe it or Not kind of places. Lots and lots of people though. Downtown Stowe is New England Mountain witht he meeting house/church with the large white steeple on top. Comming down from the mountain the road winds its way through meadows and woods for an occasional down into the valley where you can see to colors of fall and the white spire of the church steeple rising above all else. In spite of the crowds, this is a rather peaceful and relaxing place.

Gracies Restaurant: This is an interesting place indeed. Gracie as it turns out, is not the owner or cook, it is a dog. The whole place is dog themed. After a great meal at a table not too far from a family with a loud bunch of kids, we part ways and look forward to tomorrow, when we can really get started exploring some of the Vermont mountains.

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