Bits and pieces

IMG_2776Labor Day is approaching.  In Anchorage it made me melancholy.  It signaled the end of an all-too-short—and therefore exceedingly precious—Anchorage summer.   And it meant that the long, gray (exceedingly gray) Anchorage winter was not far behind.  A winter that eventually turned me into a rabid sun worshiper.  This year is different.  Summer may be winding down, but we have an East Coast fall to enjoy and will be moving to warmer weather for the winter.

And, for the first time in decades, we are not workers this Labor Day.  I am savoring the sweet existence of retirement and the ability to do pretty much whatever the hell I want.  So, on Labor Day, I will lift a glass to all the workers who went before and made it possible for us to retire before we became broken down old drones.  And another glass to all who continue to work, wishing them luck in navigating the maze of labor and workplace issues today, with the shell of a labor movement limping, or in some cases, waddling, its way through the confusion.

On a purely selfish level, Labor Day allows us to breathe a sigh of relief because it means that the summer RV/campground season is coming to an end.  Having been insulated by the scarcity of people and immensity of land in Alaska, we did not really comprehend just how crowded campgrounds would be in the Lower 48.  We started this trip before the summer season hit and struggled to find campgrounds that were open.  But that early start gave us the luxury of staying in some amazing, nearly empty campgrounds while school was still in session.  As soon as school let out, we have had to vigilantly plan ahead to make sure that we have reservations some place—any place—every single weekend.

We went from this:

Just us--nobody else-at this amazing campground on the Cassiar Highway.

Just us–nobody else–at this amazing campground on the Cassiar Highway. 

To this:

Just us--and about a thousand other people--at this campground in Massachusetts

Just us–and at least a thousand other people–at this campground in Massachusetts.

Which brings me to the next bit of this post—campgrounds.  We have been relatively promiscuous when it comes to campgrounds.  We have stayed at wide variety, from bare-bone gravel lots to “resorts.” We try to keep an open mind, mix it up a bit, and enjoy what each has to offer.   Last week, in a few hours we moved from the pastoral and ocean serenity of Recompence Shore in Maine to the bustling, efficient Massachusetts family resort, Normandy Farms.

From a working farm,


Sheep in the pasture at Recompence

to a trailer farm.

Trailers in the pasture.

Trailers at Normandy Farms with no farm in sight.

It was a culture shock.  My first reaction was horror at the sheer number of people in the campground (400 plus sites, so well over a thousand people).   But once I left my “what are these people thinking?” attitude behind, I started to understand the place.  It was a bit surreal and Disneylike–huge, meticulously groomed, highly organized, and over 100 cheerful, employees.  But it worked.  The place was enormous, with ball fields, basketball courts, fishing lake, bike park, fitness center, massage, sauna, four pools,  snack bar, bocce ball, Frisbee golf course, children’s ceramics classes, state-of-the-art horseshoe pit . . . you get the idea.  The place does what it does very well, with creativity and zeal—and it’s not cheap.

Normandy Farms streetscape

Normandy Farms streetscape

The recreation hall with its tangle of bikes

The recreation hall 

It was not our style, but we enjoyed seeing families spending time together—and seemingly having a lot of fun.  Kids were riding bikes all over the park, without parental hovering, to a variety of kid-geared activities, while their parents relaxed and socialized. Our neighbors, like many there, were enjoying some three-generational bonding, with a full outdoor set-up of a movie-style popcorn popper, a stack of short 2X4’s labelled “Adult Jenga,” booze, and an elaborate corn-hole game.


Even the dog park was adorable

Even the dog park was adorable,.

and amazing, with a washing area and kennel

and amazing, with a washing area and kennel.

Which brings me to the final piece of this post—the reason we were there in the first place was that we had to make an 8 am Monday appointment for our refrigerator repair and this was the nearest campground to the RV place.  We hitched up the night before so that we could creep out early during the official “quiet time.”  After two days in the shop, our refrigerator is working.   Labor Day and cold food—good to go.

Cold temps to warm our hearts

Cold temps to warm our hearts

We now are happily parked in our kindhearted relatives’ (thank you) driveway enjoying time with them and exploring and revisiting the South Shore below Boston, where George grew up.  We are going to spend some time in Boston and Cape Cod in the next few weeks and then head south.  Zoe may not want to leave because she is in love with everyone here—human and dog-wise.

Path to the dog beach in Plymouth

Path to the dog beach in Plymouth 

Lots of birders in the marshes heading to the dog beach

Lots of birders in the marshes by the dog beach

Dog beach in Plymouth

The beach itself

One happy dog

One happy dog 

With her gorgeous cousin, Smokey

With her gorgeous cousin, Smokey

Enjoy Labor Day.

The Boston skyline from Hough's (or Houghs) Neck in Quincy

The Boston skyline from Hough’s (or Houghs) Neck in Quincy.

Hough's Neck

Hough’s Neck

George's home at Hough's Neck when he was in late elementary school

George’s home at Hough’s Neck when he was in late elementary school

Looking forward to some Boston time

Looking forward to some Boston time


Dog days

Zoe experienced two firsts in one day–90 degrees and 100 degrees.  Tough temperatures for our Alaskan girl.  As we left Pennsylvania for upstate New York, the thermometer and the humidity kept climbing.  Sweaty for us, panting-inducing for Zoe.  A fan and wet paper towels on Zoe’s head helped keep her heat level down.  It’s time for Zoe to shed some of her beautiful coat to adapt to this sauna weather.

Trying to chill

Trying to chill.

We stayed for two nights at Keuka Lake State Park on one of the Finger Lakes.  The campsites were huge and very pretty, but there weren’t any good sticks for Zoe’s ritual exploratory strut, so she had to make do with a chunk of firewood.  We did a little exploring of the region, which has beautiful old houses, some nice farmland, and huge lakes.  But it was really crowded.

We also were looking forward to trying some Finger Lake wines.  The ones we sampled were . . . how do I put this?  Notes of turpentine?  Aroma of dirt?  One was described as a “bold, brooding” red.  I don’t know what a brooding wine is, but I would have described it as “feels like it will take the enamel off of your teeth.”  We must have missed the good ones.

We now are in the no-eye-contact zone of New York and New England.  In contrast with most of the country, where people greet you, smile, and chat when you walk around a campground, most people here pretend that they don’t see you, doing anything to avoid possible eye contact or acknowledgement of your existence. We grew up in New England and understand that it’s just the regional culture, but it still feels weird and unfriendly. Zoe expects everyone to respond to her, so doesn’t understand these Easterners at all.

After two nights in Keuka, we moved down the road a bit to an RV park at a casino complex.  It was a meticulously groomed, spacious park that was eerily empty of people, because they were all in the casino.  We aren’t big gamblers, so we enjoyed our privacy at the park while everyone else was losing their money.

Enjoying the grill and watching the weather.

Grilling dinner and watching the weather–all by ourselves.

Gone gambling.

Many in the casino crowd were noticeably unhealthy-looking.  Maybe that’s why they were gambling.  It didn’t look like much fun, though, based on their grim expressions hunched over the slots.  On the other hand, they were cool in the air conditioning, while we were sweltering outside.  A thunderstorm cooled things off, but not for long.

Zoe smells rain.

Zoe smells rain.

Thunderstorm through the bedroom window.

Thunderstorm through the trailer bedroom window.

Zoe was not too impressed with the casino campground.  It was far too carefully landscaped to have good sticks lying around for play and it was too hot for more than short walks.  Most egregious was the lake.  An inviting expanse of water in which she could not swim—no dogs allowed.  Stupid rules.  To cool Zoe off in 96 degree heat, I gave her a solar shower.  Better than nothing.

The shower water got too hot in the sun.

The shower water got too hot in the sun.

About to park in the shade with Zoe after her shower.

About to park in the shade with Zoe after her shower.

Connecticut Ho!  Happy Independence Day.

This one's for you, Aileen.

This one’s for you, Aileen.