Monday, September 12, 2016

The POD has Landed on the East Coast!

Last I left you, we had camped at the horse camp near Watkins Glen, NY.  We also had a great time visiting with our camp neighbors, Adam and Kim and their super sweet young sons.

The family left Sunday, and we packed up on Monday, Labor Day, to set out toward Ithaca.  But, we received a call from Adam before pulling out, inviting us to visit them in Ithaca.  They live on 24 acres of woodlands and had an open area around their home where we could park the trailer for a couple of days.  This was such a generous offer and we readily accepted! Plus it put us within about 8 miles of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.



We arranged to get to their home later in the day.  So, we thought we'd go into town for lunch and to walk around.  With Ithaca being a college town, there were lots of interesting shops and restaurants.  Keep in mind, we were towing the trailer!  You probably can guess how this goes!

Street were narrow.  Traffic was busy. Workmen were everywhere. We finally hit a detour, but presume we didn't follow it correctly!   We ended up at a dead end on the college of law campus, with backing up as the only way out!  Students were everywhere and seemed amused by our predicament.   Michael, though, has become masterful at moving the trailer around, so he got us back on track.

We bee-lined it out of town and headed toward the countryside where Adam and Kim have their home.  Since we still hadn't had lunch, we stopped at a produce stand and loaded up on fresh fruit and vegetables.



After a nice visit with the farmer, we ate some lunch and then made it to Adam and Kim's home.  It turned out that we had a great time! The kids were awesome and Jackson, their older son, really was playing the flute I gave him very well.  We practiced together and he tried out my other flutes.  He's got a great fluting future!

Michael cooked dinner with Kim the first night and did a fish fry our second night.  We ate outside, beside a pond.  After dinner, we set off fireworks that Michael had collected during our travels.   Then we sat out admiring the star-carpeted sky!  Overall, we had a fantastic time and felt so appreciative of their warm and comfortable hospitality.



Our visit to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology was like a visit to the moon for an astronaut!  For any serious birder, a day at least has to be spent here.  There's a building that houses the visitor center, research facilities and seating area where you can sit and bird the bog through a glass wall.  (Watched a beautiful green heron fish for supper!).  We watched a short video and walked a trail a short ways.  It was 1pm and quite hot, so there wasn't much in the way of bird activity.

Inside the visitor center there was an enormous wall mural, beautifully painted, of the evolution of birds.  It was fabulous.





In the auditorium, prints of assorted bird nests werected exhibited.


Our visit was great!


Wednesday morning (9/7) we hit the road, reaching Connecticut and Rhode Island over the next couple of days, sleeping at a Walmart and a Cracker Barrel.  We reached Cape Cod MA on Saturday the 10th, and it felt like we never left when we saw the welcome sign.








I will write about our visit to the Cape soon!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

We Love NY!

Some days feel like things cannot get any better, and then they do!  We are in western NY and have been super happy here!  What a picturesque area of the US.  This is Lake Seneca.





As I write we are in the Finger Lakes National Forest at Backbone Horse Camp.  We were lucky enough to find this spot on Thursday (8/31) as Blueberry Patch Campground was full (only 10 sites).  We forgot that this was Labor Day weekend!


Well, this little camping spot for horse riders has really large sites with spots for putting hay and tie-up posts.  There's a corral, too.  When we pulled in to check this campground out, no one else was here.  So we selected a spot even though we were not sure if it was okay to camp here.  There were no signs saying we couldn't be here, so we chose a site away from the corral.

 Fortunately,  a family took the site to our left (no horses) so we felt better about being here.  Horse trailers began rolling in throughout the weekend  and hearing the horses neigh and seeing the riders go by has been awesome!


We are surrounded by apple trees and woods and green grass.  The folks next to us, mom and dad and two adorable boys, have really helped to make this place special.  As we sat around a fire together last night, conversation turned to Native American culture.  I mentioned that I play the Native American style flute and they asked me to play which gave me much pleasure.   I ended up giving the older son the High Spirits pocket flute that had been gifted to me by a bus driver at Glacier National Park last September.  Just a joyful experience!




We are just outside of Watkins Glen,  known for its international racing Speedway.  On Saturday,  we went into town to do a mountain of laundry, and then walked around.  Watkins Glen attracts sports cars of all shapes and sizes and colors as well loads of cool motorcycles.  On the sidewalks, there are imprints of race winners, and I spotted a couple of women!










A scenic ride to a small town nearby called Mecklenburg took us to a post office so we could pick up our general delivery mail.




Prior to arriving here we had been in Olean, at a Walmart for a night.  We had traveled through Seneca Nation (Allegany)  near Salamanca and stopped to visit a cultural museum that was unfortunately closed.  Signs showed their messages in the Native American language too.






Jamestown NY is home of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute; he is known as the father of modern birdwatching.  There's also an Audubon
Sanctuary.  However, we didn't visit them as wanted to keep on track to Ithaca to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a couple of days.  We will visit Jamestown in the future.

We've been traveling east on I 86.  The scenery has been green and lush.  Labor Day, we will continue east, with a possible detour north to Seneca Falls on Cayuga Lake.  Although we have visited this spot years ago, the birth place of the women's rights movement has a really great museum.  The route on 414 is also designated as a scenic route.  More to follow on our Finger Lakes travels!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Heading East

We are east coast bound! It's getting kind of exciting knowing we're heading towards Cape Cod and will see many friends and favorite places in September.  And then down to NJ to visit more friends and family!

Since we left the beautiful Lions Club park in Gilman, WI, we have cruised through Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,  and into Pennsylvania.

As I write,  we are staying in a Cracker Barrel restaurant parking lot for the night (Tuesday,  8/30) in Erie.

We have slept in the parking lots of outdoor outfitter stores Gander Mountain and Cabela's, along with one Walmart in Illinois.   We are happier staying overnight at the other stores versus Walmart.  We just feel more comfortable overall.   It's great that these retailers, this restaurant, (and Walmart) allow RV'ers to do this.  Typically, we are looking for a place just to sleep and then move on, so a free campsite at one of these locations is welcomed!

Once we depart Erie, tomorrow  (Wednesday), we plan to head further east to the Allegheny National Forest here in PA, or to another spot that calls out to us!  We will look for free, or what is called "dispersed" campsites, which are
permitted in national forests.  If we find a nice spot, we'll  stay a few days.

The last several days of driving took us by an endless stream of farms.  Rolling green farms of corn, soy bean, and other crops flew by with beautiful shades of greens and gold.  It really has driven home the immensity of the farm industry and the sense we have been in America's heartland.  Very impressive!









Bird-wise we have seen more sandhill cranes, along with turkey vultures, assorted unidentified hawks, plus sharp-shinned, broad-winged and red-tailed hawks.  Lots of blackbirds are on the move and are still seeing migrating monarch butterflies.  Love the changes and activity that comes with summer transitioning to fall.

We only had a quick peek at Lake Erie, but want to visit the Great Lakes next spring.  We have a tentative plan going forward into 2017.  After NJ this September,  we'll head down the east coast to Florida, then to Quartzsite, AZ for a HUGE RV gathering that we have been told about, and that we need to attend at least one time!  From AZ we will book it back to Livingston, Texas where we have been hired as "work campers" at the Escapees' Rainbow's End campground for the months of February,  March,  and April.

Work camping is very popular with full-time RV'ers as a way to supplement monthly incomes.  In our case, we won't earn a salary, but instead will get a free site with hook-ups (water, electric,  and sewer).  This will allow us to sock away some money, give the car and POD a break from wear & tear, and save on fuel.  All we need to do is work a combined 20 hours a week!  Michael will be cooking three meals a week, and I will work in the office registering campers and taking reservations.  And I will help Michael out as needed.  And when we aren't working, we will bird all around Texas!

Come May, we are planning a trip back to Michigan to look for a Kirtland's warbler, found primarily in one spot in MI that has stands of Jack pines, required by these birds for food and habitat.  Then up to the UP, and then to the northwest (and maybe Canada) for the summer.  We'll be planning in more detail once we are closer in.  Boy, are having fun!  And are we blessed!

Chicago skyline




Nevelle scopes out all patches of grass!





















Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Nature

On Wednesday, August 17, we switched our campsite to a drier site at Chequamegon National Forest.  We had a few rain storms that left the site we were in wet with puddles.  This new site is brighter, which helps with the solar and with bringing birds in!

We just saw a rose-breasted grosbeak and although the bright pink triangle on his breast was mottled, he was a pretty bird nonetheless.

Several hummingbirds frequented our nectar feeder in the old site, and one scoped out our new site already!  Look closely to see the hummers:

Hummingbird on right side.


We are surrounded by beauty:






After a few days at the forest, we headed to Gilman,  a small town nearby.  We discovered a lovely little park created by the Lions Club.   What a little slice of heaven!



We haven't left this spot since we got here on Sunday, the 21st.  Although not a formal campground,  we haven't been asked to leave.  There aren't signs saying "no overnight stays", so we have felt fine here. 

The park sits on the Chequamegon Flowage, and the water we see here leads to a fishing pier.  It comes in from a big body of water to the south and it hosts lots of birds.  

During the day, the sun's been shining through clear blue skies.  It's been breezy making the warm weather perfectly tolerable.  The tall grasses in the water blow north in the breeze and harbor some ducks we believe are female northern shovelers.

This morning, the 23rd, we watched a hundred or so red-winged blackbirds take wing from last night's roost among the grasses.



The evening, though, is really spectacular!  The colors are golden as the sun gets lower and the birdlife gets active!  A few at a time, hundreds of sandhill cranes come in to roost south of us.  We can't see the roost area very well, but their bubbly calls travel on the wind to us. 


At least 2,000 blackbirds have gathered each evening and last night we saw over 60 common nighthawks, a rare sighting to see so many at one time!

Fall migration is starting to occur and not only are the birds staging for this, we have seen many monarch butterflies fluttering by on their way south.

And we have two young and one adult bald eagles soaring above us and then, talons forward, head down for a fish.  Really cool to watch.

Our plans have changed once again!  Instead of heading north to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, we are saving that for next spring.  Instead, we will depart Wednesday morning,  8/24 and head east.

We'll travel through Ohio, a bit of PA,  and into NY, where we will check out the Finger Lakes and head into Ithaca to visit the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology.   Looking forward to that!

From there we will go through western MA and onward to Cape Cod for a 9/11 arrival.  Our friends Sandra and Rick are letting us park our trailer on their property for our time on the Cape.  Then onto NJ to visit family and friends.