Second Week: To Maine and Back

Our boys have National Parks Passports that can get stamped at every national park we go to – if we remember the passports!  We have not remembered them once since purchasing them, so we put our stamps on scraps of paper and put them in a pile to add to the passport later…which we also never get to!  Nonetheless, we decided to head up to Acadia National Park in northern Maine and spend part of a week there just hiking and relaxing…and collecting another stamp for our park passports that we left at home.

We had planned to actually camp in Acadia National Park, but there were not any open RV sites, so we found a private little campground nearby called Mountain View Campground.  It was a gem, a simple little place without all the amenities that lure touristy crowds, just tent campers and RVers – and a skoolie – sharing an oceanfront lot to enjoy the view and unwind. It was beautiful.

Just up the street from our campsite in Sullivan, Maine was an AMAZING seafood restaurant and ice cream shop. It wasn’t fancy – more of a diner feel – which made the prices reasonable. We ate steamers and lobster and fried clams and fried shrimp and fish fry…all fresh from the sea. The ice cream was also extraordinary. If you’re an ice cream person like me, you know there are different variations in quality from ice cream shop to ice cream shop. I don’t know what supplier they used, but it was so creamy and delicious, and with unique flavors in addition to the usual.

Basic activities always take more time than I anticipate; this has been a lifelong flaw of mine, mis-estimating the limited amount of things possible in a given time. We were torn between just sitting and relaxing and going to various beautiful trails for hiking and swimming.  After the first couple of days, we decided to extend our stay a bit. It is really nice to have this kind of flexibility. We hiked the Schoodic Peninsula and steered clear of the island portion of the park because all the online reviews and the locals said the island is overcrowded and the peninsula is more beautiful.

We also took the boys swimming in a couple of different mountain “ponds.” Most of us would call them lakes – huge, beautiful, and remote.  We saw bald eagles, evergreen forests, and waves crashing on rocky cliffs.

We have developed a love/hate relationship with having our dogs with us on this trip. It is so good for them – hiking and swimming and being around people…with dogs. The being around people with dogs part is the hate side; we still haven’t mastered that! Gracie gets especially excited, jumping like crazy and pulling so hard that we can have trouble holding onto her. She is so strong that we have our dogs on gentle leaders, collars that go over their noses and turn them around if they pull too hard so that they can’t get as much leverage. Inevitably, many people who see the gentle leaders think they are muzzles and then are scared. The only way to correct this misperception is to say, “Don’t worry; they aren’t muzzles.  They could still bite you if they wanted to, but they’re nice.” Clearly, that won’t help, so we just smile and keep walking.  I must say that I’m not scared for a minute that anyone’s going to try to break into the bus, so I sleep well…when they aren’t barking.

We receive lots of curious glances and questions about the skoolie. I have to admit, I like being the hippie girl with dreads walking to the skoolie. Most people are intrigued and infatuated with the idea of remaking an old school bus into an RV and think we’re pretty cool. There are also those who don’t appreciate our look and our grey water run off, but you’ll have that. I think if we upgraded from spray painted silver to something cool on the outside, we might win a few more people over.

We connected with another family who had a boy the age of our kids. They had fun hanging out all week, and the dad was our mussel expert that was cited in some of my social media posts many readers likely saw.

After our extended stay, we were all ready to move on toward making the long trek home – about 20 hours of drive time. I discovered a fantastic website – freecampsites.net – and found a place to park for free overnight on the Erie Canal near Albany, NY (the capital of New York, a bit of trivia for those of you who thought the capital was NYC).   We pulled in late at night, after crossing the highest point of elevation east of South Dakota. Much to our dismay, our dogs had one of their worst barking nights yet, while we were left hoping the freecampsites.net site was accurate and that we were allowed to camp overnight in the parking lot. We spent half the night trying to shush them and were up by 6:00 a.m., ready to face the day. Since we had such an early wakeup, we were able to hike Peebles Island, look at the locks, and enjoy snacks and music at a farmers’ market before the heat of the day. The canal, the town, and the island views were beautiful, but all our phones were out of charge from going 24 hours without hookup, so we couldn’t capture it with pictures and the Relive app…probably just as well to have a gadget free hike with family and pets.

With a pack of fresh pastries, we hit the road and made our way across New York state. Our next destination is a campground in the Cleveland, Ohio area to spend a few days before finishing the trek home.  Our current discussions are surrounding the best way to prepare the skoolie for off-grid living so that we aren’t reliant on campgrounds that come with related fees and socially unique dynamics.

First Week of Skoolie Life

What a full and wonderful week it has been!  Any entry entitled by the week will be a summary of events.  For deeper ponderings, I will add separate entries.  As many of my readers know, I’m a thinker, so more time to think equals more thoughts to share.  I’ll also work to link deeper thoughts on a particular experience to the separate post so that you can peruse as time allows.  Now that we’re organized, let’s dig in!

We took off on Saturday, June 30th around mid-day.  The bus had been in the shop longer than planned, so we ended up with more last minute projects and packing than we hoped.  Amidst the hustle and bustle, we skipped lunch (we’re prone to such things) and set sail.  Once we were on the road and realized we skipped lunch, we let the boys dig into a big bag of chips to fill their bellies…on a bouncing, nearly 100 degree bus (from sitting parked and unplugged in 95 degree weather while we packed and prepared).

You guessed it!  First stop equals puking on the way to the restroom due to travel sickness (I guess we can’t call it car sickness anymore).  Our spirits still high, our sick one claimed the front spot on the sofa and wouldn’t budge for fear of getting sick again.  (He is actually just now trying out other spots on the bus a week later and beginning to believe me that it probably had more to do with the empty stomach, 100 degrees, and bag of chips than just the bouncing alone!)  The rest of us ate lunch…and, of course, we all needed some soda pop to help our bellies.  😉

We drove late into the night because the bus was cooler once the evening came, but we eventually stopped at a rest stop to sleep in our bus for the night.  We wanted to shut the windows and start the generator for the AC so our dogs didn’t bark at every person who parked, but the new (expensive) generator failed us, so we slept with the windows open.

In the morning, we hit the road again and arrived at my parents’ in the countryside surrounding Montrose, Pennsylvania mid-afternoon on Sunday.  Everyone was excited to see the bus – we’re the main attraction these days!  We spent the evening eating, relaxing, and saying “hi” to extended family.  By 10:30 pm, the whole crew had arrived to spend the next few days celebrating my parents’ 50th anniversary!  In all, we were eight adults and twelve (grand) kids, staying in the house, and RV, and of course, our bus!

The next few days were filled with kids playing in the pond, 4th of July festivities, connecting with friends, the giving of gifts, looking at old slides, and a lobster fest.  Each of us “kids” and our families’ took a day of kitchen and meal prep duty so that my mom didn’t have to deal with cooking for all of us and cleaning up after all of us.  Though, I suspect there was plenty of other cleaning up after us that occurred after we left!

We also spent a good bit of time working on the bus.  There were things we hadn’t set up sturdily enough that needed to be re-secured to handle the kind of bouncing and lurching to which we subject the contents.  We also returned the faulty generator…and learned that generators are advertised for what they can handle at half-capacity!  Who cares what something can handle at half-capacity?!?  I’m not a half-capacity kind of lady; I need to know what something can handle at full-capacity!  Since we are traveling fairly far north, we are just doing without a generator for now and using the windows if we are not hooked up on a campground’s 30 amp service.  (Feel free to congratulate me on my new vocabulary awareness like “30 amp service!”)

Thursday morning, we headed up to Boston, Massachusetts.  My dad’s family is from that area, so I have lots of memories there, and we have never taken the boys.  We have our pets with us on the bus (two dogs and a parrot – some of the main reasons we opted for the bus), so we were a little perplexed on how to tour the city without our pets either keeping us out of the museums or making campground owners nervous due to our absence.  So we splurged on a pet-friendly hotel in the south seaport district.  We were still a little worried about Charlie (the parrot), but the temps were just right, so he stayed on the bus the whole time.  One of the biggest surprises of this journey is how great Charlie is doing!  We expected him to be nervous the whole time, but he is loving the bus…only acting nervous in transit (reference above mentioned bouncing!).  Our dogs did great in the city!  The hotel and neighborhood were very pet friendly…and chic.  It was our type of place.  I’d never heard of Aloft hotels before this, and I need to give them a big shout-out here.  I would recommend them with or without a pet – super clean, super hip, and super service!

We jaunted around to all the things – the public gardens to get pics with the statues of the ducks from McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings (and we saw real swans nesting too!),

the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, food trucks, the Freedom Trail – not bad for a day and half!  On the way out, we stopped by Newton, where my great-grandmother and my grandmother lived.  We ate some delicious regional food from an eastern European grocery.  We then went to find my grandma’s house, parked our bus in front of someone’s house so we didn’t have to figure out how to turn it around at the end of the one-way street and walked the boys and dogs down to see the house that used to be our family’s (didn’t stick out like a sore thumb at all!), and then spent some time enjoying the neighboring park before hitting the road again.

We started our trek to Acadia National Park in Maine and planned to stop part way at a rest area for the night, but the going was good, and we went the whole way.  The national park was full, so we found a lovely little campsite nearby that has ocean view RV parking.  We are enjoying the perfect summer weather up here – mid-seventies by day and mid-sixties by night.  Every time I walk back to Green Pastures (my name for the skoolie, based on Psalm 23), all I can think is how much less money I spent than each of those RVs, and it makes me smile. But now we are dipping into week two, so details about Maine will have to wait for next week’s post.