Heading South

We arrived back in Montreal after a one nighter in New York en route from Barcelona.

It was Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and we were ready to get our woollies on and bring on the fall colours. Leaving the warm Mediterranean and arriving in Montreal wasn’t too bad. At night it was a bit frosty but our trusty trailer has a great heater and not much real estate to heat.

 We moved back into our wonderful waterfront campground on the south shore facing Montreal and proceeded to get ready to go south. We managed to pay a few final visits to our favourite markets, Jean Talon and Atwater, a few rides along the St Lawrence, the ’76 Olympics site and the Route Verte bikeways.

We were staying at the marina in Longueuil again but this time there were not as many campers. In fact, the huge marina parking lot that was empty all summer, save for the thousands of seagulls, was full of pleasure boats that were “on the hard” for the winter. The yacht club next door had hired a crane for the weekend and was pulling boats out there too. And Port de Plaisance was ready to hibernate until next year after we left.

Elly and Taylor were busy with their theatre careers and we were itching to go south. We celebrated a lovely thanksgiving dinner with their good friends (the roller derby aficionados from an earlier post) and their big family. It was very nice to be in a family setting for that holiday atmosphere and we were very thankful for Leora’s family’s hospitality. And that cranberry sauce. Tangy. Cranberries left whole so they exploded with each bite. Memorable.

On October 15 we headed across the border.  We chose to go due south in an effort to get away from all things winter as soon as possible. We drove down the New York state side of Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain is a long expansive lake that borders Quebec, New York and Vermont. Years ago, when I worked in Montreal, I went wind surfing on Lake Champlain. I went in one direction with the wind and the rental company had to come save me. Not sure if I had crossed any borders. Ha!! Driving the highway south, we couldn’t help but yelp at every bend in the road when another, rolling hill, or glassy lake reflected the scarlet red sumac, persimmon maple forest yellow aspen and sprinkling of evergreens that balanced the autumn colours. With a baseline of grasses and vertical tree lines in grey, cream, ochre and black.  I tried painting while driving. Nope. 

Crossing the border at this time in history can be a roll of the dice. This was our third crossing into the US in half as many months so we were unsure if there would be any oddities and weird screening questions. We had just heard of a Canadian couple, retired, that had been denied entry because they said they were going to volunteer at a music festival. They were not allowed back in for 5 years. Contemplating a snowy return drive through the Rockies and huge winds across the prairies if our plans were to change was the lesser of our goals. In anticipation we stayed emotionless yet friendly. The border guard asked us if we had any fruit or vegetables, how long we were staying, and we disclosed.  We told him truthfully, “half an eggplant, some spinach and an apple”,  and we were on our way to BC for the end of February 2020. “Have a great trip.” he said, and that was it!! Yay!! We weren’t going to be hung out to dry like other poor souls that had, for no apparent reason, been turned back. Quota? Who know?s…We had heard some miserable stories but it wasn’t our time. Thankfully, they didn’t want our Gin-ventory!!!

Driving the highway from Canada south is like relearning history lessons we had as kids. I remember hearing about the Adirondack mountains and here we were, driving through them. I do miss my Adirondack chairs!! Just outside of the town of Ghent was a AAA office so we stocked up on maps and guidebooks and proceeded to our first farm parking lot stay in the US. We stayed at a Harvest Host location called Love Apple Farm. This was our first HH in the USA and they were overly welcoming. Members of Harvest Host have an online access to thousands of listings of free overnight places to stay. We looked at our route, checked to see what HH listings were near the route and chose this farm because they had a farm store where we could provision the trailer since we had nothing to cross the border. We have found that the hosts are more than happy for you to choose their location as it is, more often than not, off the beaten path and travelers don’t generally find them save for these listings.  Along with some apples, we bought their home-grown vegetables, local sausages, milk, eggs and fresh sour cherry pie made from the fruit they had harvested earlier in the summer. We didn’t book any RV campgrounds until we got to Virginia just outside of Washington DC so Harvest Host onenight stays were the best choice without having to go into a truckstop, Walmart or similar, or a noisy highway rest stop. While we were having our dinner, a hot air balloon flew by. So cool. 

Earlier we found a website with top 10 mountain biking areas on the Eastern seaboard. Albert found a few places to go in Virginia for later when I was to return home to BC for the week after DC. While passing through the Catskills Albert remembered there was good biking nearby so I loaded it on the Google maps and off we went. The trail systems that Albert had read about in the Catskills were in an area known as Round Top. We made a little detour up into the mountains and turned left on Hearts Content Road (what a road name!!) and found a place to unhook the trailer and get the bikes out.

This end of the road location had a chalet shaped summer resort with pool, waterslides, tennis, mini golf, and access to these wonderful trails. We had a great hour or so on a bunch of trails with some amazing lookouts and the gorgeous fall colours. We packed up, the rains came, and we were off.

Our next Harvest Host was another orchard called Wrights Farm in a place called Modena. My second trip to Modena in 2019 (first one was Modena, Italy in March!!). We wished it wasn’t dumping rain so hard. We would have wandered in the orchards. Getting wet isn’t the issue; getting dry is. In a small environment of the trailer, moisture is not welcome. The farm had a full field set up for Harvest host and boondock camping. On the weekends they had a craft brewery open with food, music and their farm store had tons of apples, preserves, squashes and the best “Cider doughnut” we had ever tasted. We were glad we only bought one… each.  Imagine a cinnamon cake doughnut that uses fresh apple juice to moisten the flour. OMG! We spoke to the host/farmer and she said her daughter was a skier and had spent time in Whistler training with her team. 

The next day the rain held off and we had booked a Harvest Host in Kutztowne, Pennsylvania. When we stopped at the Pennsylvania information centre the staffer told us about the Yeungling brewery in Pottsville. It was the oldest brewery in the USA having survived prohibition by trading booze production for ice cream production until more clear headed souls rescinded the draconian practice of prohibition. It was a bit of a detour and we missed the brewery tour but the town was in itself a museum. The family tree shows the last 4 in the family line. All women! Each successive generation is not just given the reigns and the responsibility. They have to buy in. The old man put this in the rules of ownership.

The stately heritage homes from a prosperous coal mining era had seen some better days, the town seemed to be disintegrating, and the roads and sidewalks were dangerously uneven…not accessible…but the brewery was pristine. Pottsville is near a town called Hershey.  Yeungling made a Hershey Chocolate porter, on tap that was like dipping a chocolate bar into a Guinness. It was surprisingly quite good although not bottled or canned, so we couldn’t bring any home to share at Christmas!!

We finished up and headed to the Saucony Brewpub – Gastropub that was our Harvest Host stay for the night. We decided on dining in their in their restaurant. Patronizing these businesses is important to us and sometimes it is a bit more expensive than we hoped. This was the case here. Add 30% to the bill plus a tip and it is definitely more than a campsite. The food was ok, and the beer was ok, but didn’t scream have another, so we finished up and went home; a few steps away. Apparently “Gastro” Pub is an ambiguous restaurant niche.

Next day we were headed for Washington DC and as we were coming to Gettysburg, we realized this was a place we had to stop. This is where the famous Lincoln speech, the Gettysburg Address, was delivered. Dim and hazy memory knew this but what I had certainly not retained was that Gettysburg is where the civil war battle of Gettysburg turned the fate of the war from separating (Confederate – South) to staying in the Union. An overly simplified history lesson once again.

The town of Gettysburg is truly a monument to the civil war, Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, and all the stories that came with these leaders. The lands surrounding the town have been preserved as a military park with tours, interpretive driving route and a modern museum with a theatre, displays and the cyclorama. The cyclorama, a massive 360° circular oil on canvas painting that depicted the battle. It was researched and painted by French artist Paul Philippoteaux and his team in 1883. It traveled throughout the area on display for years, then in disrepair it was stored. The restoration effort seemed to be the catalyst that built the museum to house it properly. It came alive with narration, music, lights focussing on individual battles around the screen, plus a 3-dimensional foreground with narration on the points in the screen.

It was very impressive and well worth the stop, and the museum staff were very knowledgeable letting us know there were many Canadians who fought in the American Civil war. Apparently, Lincoln offered $300 to sign up with the Union army. 

It is impossible to take a photo of this so imagine being surrounded with the pained scenes of the American civil war while it has theatrical lighting and sound to drop you into the battle of Gettysburg.

Overwhelmed, we got in the truck, and headed to our campsite at Fairfax Lake Campground just outside of Washington DC, the Smithsonian, Julia Child’s kitchen and my old friend Rajeev, and only another hour to go.

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