August 26

Although the temperature hit 100 again today, it looks like the heat wave may be over. It's about time! Tomorrow I will visit Mom again. Since Randy needs the car, I'll take an Amtrak train-and-bus combination to Washington, where I can borrow a car from one of my sisters. I have a 4 1/2 hour layover in Bloomington, but that can't be helped; I'm taking books and snacks and will just make the best of it. Mom does not mess around with technology like computers, so I will be "unplugged" for a few days. 

100 degrees today

Our friends left yesterday but we are still here in the heat capital of the world, aka St. Louis. Today it hit 100. We are still staying indoors when possible, but of course we have to take the dogs outside. On one of those walks I found a dead cicada on the sidewalk; I haven't seen those in a long time. I nudged it with my toe, then jumped out of my skin when it took off skittering across the sidewalk! I forgot these things play possum. And then I realized that I had been hearing the deafening sound of those things but it hadn't registered at all; my Midwest background is coming through.

We did go to Sam's Club to get some groceries and Randy realized that we were directly across the street from the (in)famous Quiktrip in Ferguson that was burned out in the riot. It's completely boarded up and quiet now; the company has even removed the oil tanks.

How to spend a hot day in St. Louis

Randy and I woke up early today, before our friends were up, so we went to Soulard's. This farmers market has been going strong since 1841 and it is one of our places in St. Louis. It's a great place to get fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, baked goods, cheeses, meats - almost everything for the kitchen.
Today was another day of 99 degree tempurature so we all agreed to stay indoors. When Clyde and Nancy were ready for the day, we all drove out to Forest Park to see the Jewel Box. As we pulled up to it, we realized that since the Jewel Box is basically a greenhouse, it might be pretty hot in there; that is not what we had in mind. We didn't even get out of the car; instead we turned around and headed towards Fitz's, a restaurant in the Loop. Fitz's is a St. Louis staple - they bottle their own root beer and sodas. You can watch some of the operation through the glass wall.
Enough looking, time to eat! We all chose different entrees but we all ordered bottomless mugs, which you can refill with different kinds of root beer and sodas. 
There is a new candy store in the Loop called Rocket Fizz. Never pass up the chance to check out a new candy store! This one is cool, with lots of old-style candies and local products.
By then we were tired to being in the heat even for the short walks between the car and stores, so we went back to the RV. For once I didn't go right to sleep, so we turned the air conditioning up as far as it would go and visited the rest of the evening.

Visiting Budweiser and Crown Candy with friends

Clyde and Nancy have come to St. Louis to visit us for a few days! We like to introduce our friends to great St. Louis food, so today we went to Hodack's for fried chicken for breakfast - a great way to start the day!
Then we went to Budweiser brewery, which is home to some of the most pampered horses anywhere. Normally there are a few horses outside for guests to admire but in this heat, all the horses were inside their luxurious, air conditioned stables. And because these big horses generate a lot of heat, some of them also have fans in their stalls.
But we were really there to take a tour of the brewery. They started the tour by giving us some information about how the beer is brewed. Then we all walked over to another building where, because it wasn't hot enough outside, we went to a sweltering room to get a quick look at where the beer is brewed. In 1904 the World's Fair was held in St. Louis and when the Fair buildings were torn down, Gus bought some really beautiful lights for his brewery, several of which were in this viewing area.
But it was so hot there that the tour guide whipped through her talk in about 1 minute so we could get out of there. We walked back to the main building and then the tour was over. When Randy and I took the tour years ago, we visited several buildings and learned about the entire history of Budweiser; now the tour is a fraction of that. Oh, well, it still ended as all good beer tours should, with free beer samples.
And back at the visitor's entrance (still in the air conditioning) was one of those beautiful Clydesdales! That made up for a lot!
We realized that that Clyde and Nancy had never been to Crown Candy Kitchen, so we made that our next stop. Crown Candy is a St. Louis landmark, famous for their hand-made ice cream, which they use in their luscious, huge shakes and malts.
We went back to our RVs for a short break before getting together in the evening. But I "napped" for almost 2 hours and missed everything else. I just can't drink beer.

Too Hot

It's HOT. Today's forecast is 98 and while it's not quite there yet, it sure feels like it is. The dogs have to go outside the RV Park to potty, so when I take Julienne out, in this heat I take an umbrella to create some shade for her. She loves the sun but this is too much.

Four years ago: A very different August

Well, there goes another day...

I found one on my old posts about spending the day with Pinterest and iTunes. That sounded like such a good idea that I fired them both up again. Had warm cupcakes with chocolate frosting for breakfast. I won't get anything done today but who cares!

Trouble in Ferguson

During our time in Maine we chalked up some significant expenses, including fixing the Jeep's A/C, repairing the RV awning, fixing a leak on the ice-maker line, getting new driver and passenger seats and putting on new tires. The cost of RV tires is astounding! Since our position in Maine was an un-paid one, Randy is now working to offset some of these bills. He takes the Jeep to work and I stay at home, doing my "after-trip" cleaning. He's working so many hours that I have started cooking dinner for us; it's been a long time since that happened.

It's good to be back in St. Louis, but nearby Ferguson, a northern suburb of St. Louis, is struggling. An 18 year old suspect was shot by police and now there are nightly protests which degrade into riots, causing looting and destruction. We are 10 miles away from the trouble but it fills the newscasts. This is an unhappy situation that is being made worse by the actions of others, many of whom are not from this area, or even from this state. From what I read and hear, the residents of Ferguson (of every race) want justice but they are not part of the destruction that is tearing apart their community. During the day the residents band together and clean up the area from the previous night's rabble. The Ferguson schools were supposed to open this week but that has been delayed. So sad; this cannot be the way to justice.

Back in the Midwest

We spent one night at a small campground in Ohio, then on to Illinois. You know you're in Illinois because of the thick hedgerow of cornfields on both sides of the road.
We arrived at Mom's on the 10th and planned to stay a few days. We like to hookup to 50 amps, can get by on 30 amps, but Mom's place only has 20 amps. So Randy had to make some adjustments; it's tough when you have to wire your own hook-up!
The first couple of days we kept busy visiting family, including Theresa and her husband Tomm, and Sharon. Randy also found time to do some fix-it tasks for Mom before he had to leave to go to St. Louis. When he left, I stayed in Washington so I could spend a few more days with my Mom. Mom and I have a routine for my visits which includes a lot of yard sales, so we started with those. Our search for yard sales took us through some of the neighborhoods that were hit by the tornado last yearA lot of homeowners have already made great strides towards rebuilding, but in some areas there is still a long way to go.
Now I've joined Randy in St. Louis, where we will try to get a few tasks done. Seems like there is always something to fix, clean or replace on an RV!

A lot of driving and the C. F. Martin Factory

After leaving Boston Wednesday morning, Randy drove the RV over 8 straight hours. We didn't want to go through New York on the George Washington bridge again; fortunately our route took us over the Tappan Zee bridge. That would have been fine except that both Mapquest and our GPS directed us to the Saw Mill Parkway. Right after we made that turn we saw signs saying "only cars are allowed". That would have been helpful to know before the exit! Not sure exactly why only cars are allowed, but we passed under a couple of low overpasses without height markings and there were more ahead, so we turned off that road and ended up on downtown Main Street. The GPS just kept telling us to get back on Saw Mill Parkway and I didn't have a map with small roads on it. Eventually I used the GPS's map feature to get us back on the highway. All in all, it was not a fun day. We spent the night in Lenhartsville, PA. In fact, we spent 2 nights - just didn't want to get back on the road the next day. So the next day we just relaxed and visited the C.F. Martin Guitar Factory in nearby Nazareth.

The guide told us they have about $14,000,000 worth of wood in stock, getting a humidity adjustment. Apparently it takes a long time to get wood to just the right level of dryness. Each guitar has 150 parts and assembling it takes 300 steps. What impressed me was the fact that most of those steps are done by people, not machines. After lumber was cut I only saw one robot in the assembly area. It was doing polishing; apparently that job was transferred to a robot because it caused carpel tunnel syndrome.
 The rest of the jobs are performed by craftsmen.
Besides the regular guitars, they are currently making a few D-100 Deluxe Acoustics, created to celebrate Martin's millionth guitar. It sells for $115,000 and the word on the floor is that they are all sold. The woman who is finishing the neck for one gave us a closer look at the details.
Every tiny, shiny piece of the design is cut out and glued on BY HAND. The material is abalone pearl. It comes from abalone shells, which are crushed and formed into a thin sheet to give the craftsmen a flat surface to work with.
The whole factory has the wonderful smell of wood.
They get that iconic guitar shape with a very plebeian tool - clothespins! Several desks are full of  clothespined guitar shapes.
After the tour we went to the museum. They have a lot of older models there, including Mandolins, Archtops and Harp guitars. They also have reproductions of one-of-a-kind items, like leather guitar covers that were made for people like Elvis Presley, Hank Snow and Rick Nelson.
The craftsmen at CF Martin love a chance to show-off. The commemorative 1,000,000th guitar is amazing, front and back.
And they have a unique "DaVinci Unplugged" guitar, decorated with designs from Leonardo's most famous paintings.
We really liked this place - they have a fascinating product and give a good, informative tour. We had skipped lunch so we grabbed a quick hot dog before we headed back to the RV. Along the way we stopped at Dietrich's Meats and Country Store. This store is definitely "Pennsylvania Dutch". They stock lots of canned product (canned in glass jars, not metal), including Pickled Pig Snouts. 
And if you are particularly fond of pig, you can buy a whole Smoked Pig's right next to the Smoked Pig Toes.
Later that night, after we got back to the RV, we learned that Mom went into the hospital for tests. So today Randy drove another 8 hours. Everyone is tired, and the critters are bored out of their minds.
But we got through Pennsylvania, a little bit of northern West Virginia, and tonight we are camping in Ohio.

Time to go

We are headed back to the Midwest to spend some time with our families. The good folks at Pumpkin Patch sent us off with their best wishes, and we leave behind our own best wishes for them. Pumpkin Patch is an wonderful place for Workampers, vacationers and seasonal travelers. If you are going through Maine, stop there!

As to our trip, it got off to a bad start. We pulled out of our site on schedule, before 8 am. But when we tried to hook the Jeep up, we could not get it into neutral so we could tow it. We had to put the RV back on our site and drive the Jeep to a garage.  The guy there ran some tests which were inconclusive, so we had to left the Jeep there and walk back to the RV park. We put hooked the water, sewer and electric lines again, put the slides back out, and unpacked a few things, not knowing how long we would have to wait. Fortunately within an hour we got a call that the Jeep was working. Apparently a connection got a little dirt in it. Randy walked back to the garage to get the car while I packed up the RV again, and we left Herman around 11:30 - almost 4 hours later than we intended. 

Randy drove us as far as Littleton, on the north end of the Boston outer beltline, and we checked into the Minuteman RV Park. We stayed here in 2011 while we visited Boston. They have done some work on the place and it looks nicer. Right now it's a welcome harbor because we are really, really tired. Randy was up at 5 am this morning, so it's been an extra long day for him. A quick dinner of home-made quesadillas, and it's time for bed.


A lot of Maine is rural, so many houses have a big barn nearby. That is common elsewhere but Maine adds its own twist by connecting the two. I would say about 70% of the barns are attached to the house by one or two smaller buildings. Usually it's clear to see that the in-between part was added after the fact, although sometimes they do a nice job of making it match. I call them House-Barns, and some of them are huge.
Considering the winters they have up here (downeast!), this makes good sense. Going to and from the barn in winter has to be a pain. But a local person gave me an even better reason for the join-up. As she pointed out, many of these are older buildings and, according to her, the small in-between room often includes an outhouse. And that makes even more sense - it's bad enough to go to the barn in the winter, but to go outside to the restroom? 

Schoodic Point

Schoodic Point is one of the famous tourist sights around here, so one sunny day we drove over to see it. Along the way we stopped at a scenic lookout by Taunton Bay. Here the tide rises and falls about 12 feet. Not nearly as high at the tides the Bay of Fundy, but it's still pretty impressive. The are clams here but they don't allow clamming, which is a pity, now that we know how to do it. On the next beach we stopped at was a treasure trove of small snail shells. They completely covered the ground - you couldn't walk without crunching shells.
We got back in the car again and drove off but before too long we stopped again, this time for this view. This rocky beach has its own charm, and we were surprised how many colors were visible in the rocks - green, black, pink, grey, yellow, etc.
Back in the car one more timea, and this time we made it all the way to Schoodic Point! And it is so beautiful - wild and gorgeous with endless waves. 
The rocks that are such an important part in the landscape in other placesare the landscape here. The coastline is solid granite.
Interestingly, in a few places there is a dark line of stone running right through the lighter granite.
But sometimes that dark line is a chasm, not a filler. You want to be careful not to mistake one for another!
We climbed around on the rocks and watched the ocean for a long time, and then drove slowly around the coastline, stopping often to enjoy the changing view. Away from the point it was still rocky but in a smaller way, with more foliage. It was all good.
We topped it off with lunch at Chase's Restaurant, where Randy ordered the Crabmeat Rueben with hand-cut fries. All the fries and onion rings we've had in Maine have been hand-cut and hand-breaded, which is much better than the pre-packaged stuff!
We also stopped at a craft shop in town. The owner was a friendly lady who told us their busy season would start "when the bugs start crawling in". Seeing my blank look, she explained that means when the soft-shell lobsters come in closer to the shore. Soft-shell lobsters can be caught but they cannot be shipped out of state, so for a few months the local lobster prices drop, which brings more people to the area. She also said their second busy season would be "when the peepers show up". That, it turns out, means when the tourists come back to view the beautiful fall foliage. There appears to be a whole lexicon for Mainers! As we left the area, we saw a sort of a huge billboard that celebrates the local love of lobsters.

Gifford's Ice Cream - worth the calories!

Gifford's Ice Cream is a Maine favorite. Besides having it's own ice cream stands, it is also sold in the popular restaurants such as Govenor's. We are always looking for a good ice cream brand, so yesterday we tried Gifford's. We trying to decide which flavor to try when suddenly we saw "The Outdoor Adventure". Six half-scoops, each a different flavor - what a good way to try a lot all at once!
We both wanted to try each flavor, so we ordered two of these. It was a lot of ice cream to eat in one sitting, but by golly, we did it!

What I Have Been Doing

All those flowers that Marilyn bought in May had to be planted and tended, so I have been busy with that. The thing I miss most about not having a house is working in the garden, so this is a pleasure for me. In front of the resort is a large area rocked-in area for flowers. 
At the top level is a decorative "Pumpkin Patch" sign. This year it sort of got covered by flowers, but everyone seems to like the arrangement.
The rocks divide the area into several sections, so I planted each section differently - red and white on the top level, purple (Marilyn's favorite) in the middle level, and each of the lower level sections with a different color scheme. My favorite section is the one I planted in flowers that are striped in pink and white, like peppermints. Each section has a little bit of white, to make the colors pop. Some flowers have already faded by now but there is always something else blooming. Behind this area is a long rock wall decorated with blooming hostas, interspersed with flowers to create bright spots of color. Near the driveway they have an old manure-spreader parked. I kept calling it a wagon and someone would always correct me - "that's a manure-spreader". Personally I prefer to call it a wagon! Regardless, it dresses up nicely with big baskets of flowers, vines, and a couple of fake Canadian geese (which is the best kind of Canadian geese).
Since the name of the Resort is Pumpkin Patch, they like some orange spots. Marigolds are a strong orange color, so I rocked in a small area near the driveway for those.
They alway want wave petunias in the flower boxes under the office windows, and this year they grew extra well.
Most of the flowers she bought this year are annuals so they will not come back next year. The husband of the wife-and-husband team who own the resort thought it would be a good idea to put in something that would come back next year. So near the first parking site I rocked in an area for some perennials and Marilyn picked out some pretty ones she liked. They were put in a little late this year but they are growing well, so next year they should be showier.
In the back of the resort I found an old fashioned well pump. I thought it looked pretty cool and asked if we could put it in the resort. It turns out this pump has sentimental value to the owners, so they were very happy to have it displayed. It sits on a wooden stand which I suggested we turn into a planter, but they wanted to see it decorated like a well. So I painted the pump, painted the stand blue (which was as close to water as I could get with the supplies available), built a short rock wall around the stand and tucked in a few little plants. It's not quite what I wanted, but it's so much better than having the pump hide behind the shed!
There is a husband and wife team (Fai and Nancy) who work here every year; they are good friends with the owners and have worked side-by-side with them to create the resort. A few years ago the owners decided to create something special on a big patch of grass and call it Fai Park, in honor of all sweat and labor that Fai has put into the resort. They had plans drawn up and a nice hydrangea tree planted, but nothing else happened for several years. This year they asked me what I thought. I came up with a different design and they let me create it. 
I planted long row of roses to separate the park from nearby parking sites. On the other side of the park I planted peonies and hydrangeas, spaced apart so the big mowers can get around them. One corner will hold an arch (when they get or build one) with climbing flowers. Last year someone planted spreading ground cover and tall flowers under the hydrangea tree, so I worked around those, planting bright sections of red, purple, white, yellow and orange. Across from where the arch will stand I wanted to do something for the birds. We cannot put up bird feeders because they attract destructive squirrels. So I suggested a birdhouse area, planted with sedum. One one side of the birdhouse we put in a birdbath, and on the other side I built a Fairy house.
The birdbath has a little gnome resting under it. I created some rock toadstools to match the birdbath and a little white granite path that goes across the mulch to the other side...
in case he wants to visit the Fairy house! Fai found an old stump for me to use for this. I stripped the bark and thought the wood was so pretty that I didn't want it to weather into grey, so I put a sealant on it. Then I created a little wooden door with a faux-pearl doorknob and a threshold of smooth grey granite. I picked enough white granite chips out of the road to fill in around the door and create paths to the the birdbath and to the outdoor patio, where a fairy rests on her gazing globe. A planter on top of the stump holds a big basket.
Most of this is perennial, which makes Jim happy; just the flowers on the fairy house and under the hydrangea tree will need to be replaced next year. Several people, guests and staff, say this is the best that the Resort has ever looked!