Lake George… the final ten days

– 22 May –

So we have reached the last segment of our journey, but perhaps not the very last chapter of our blog… we shall have to see about that. It is certainly a chapter that has been very, very late in arriving, without a doubt!

We began these ten days of farewells and “hey, that-was-our-lasts” by parting with our home, Sundance, which was dropped off at an RV dealer on our way north to Lake George. There was a massive feeling of melancholy for all of us as we left the RV behind. Sundance had been our home for the past ten months and we had taken him around all four corners of the continental USA, travelling over 17,000 miles with him in tow. So naturally we had an affection for him that went beyond just the steel, fibreglass and wood that he was made out of. To us, that RV was also made of memories.

Good ol' Sundance

Good ol’ Sundance

Mixed with that melancholy was a real feeling of achievement. When our adventure began both Emma and I were honest enough with ourselves to admit that the trip wouldn’t be all open roads and happy times. We knew that there was every likelihood that at some point on our journey we would come unstuck. How? We couldn’t say but were able imagine many possible scenarios. We could crash on the highway, or back the rig into a tree. We could pull into a gas station and not be able to get out again. The RV could be broken into. Something could fail in some irreparable way, either through bad luck or our own error. We came very close to that one, actually, when the suspension spring broke and began rubbing on the propane line. All of these thoughts were very much on our mind as we drove those final 35 miles. In short, we felt a rather immodestly triumphant “We did it!” in our hearts…

Farewell Sundance, we shall miss you!

The next stop was at a Friendly’s restaurant – now Katie’s favourite place in the world to eat – to have a nice lunch with our friend Joan. As usual we stuffed ourselves silly but still had food to take home – and room for a giant sundae for dessert… somehow. Yet another goodbye, and we turned our well-packed truck northward through the rain.

A bit of a squeeze

A bit of a squeeze

And so we returned to the Red House at Lake George, and reacquainted ourselves with Dee, Jim and their cat Dickens. For all of us (maybe not the cat) it felt almost as though the preceding year had not happened, it had gone so fast. We certainly did have a lot more “stuff” with us this time around, however!

Back in the Red House

Back in the Red House

That week was spent doing the last things we had to do or wanted to do before leaving the country. Our remaining possessions were sold, passed on or thrown away, leaving us with only six full suitcases (half again what we started out with) and four heavily-laden carry-on bags. We continued to catch up with friends and family – calling in to visit with my father’s cousin Ted and his wife Carolyn, and returning to the Jewells’ house to meet Charlotte, the latest addition to their family. Pam’s a grandmother again!

Em likes it here

Em likes it here

There was also some unfinished business for us in the great outdoors of upstate New York. We enjoyed our time being back at the lake with walks in the woods, fireside chats with our hosts and the highlight: letting Jim take us out for a ride on his boat. Jim and Dee had even laid on another big pile of firewood for us to haul and stack! Heaven.

02c - The lake

Not a bad spot to sit and watch rugby - it's a pity that Saracens lost, though!

Not a bad spot to sit and watch rugby – it’s a pity that Saracens lost, though!

There were also mountains to climb. On Sunday Katie, Jess and I went for a hike up Buck Mountain, which overlooks Lake George. Buck is a 2,000ft mountain with a three-mile trail leading to the top, and the trailhead is only a mile or so from Jim and Dee’s house, so it was an ideal hike for us to take. We didn’t have time to do it last year so it has been at the top of my list of must-dos for our return. Unfortunately Em could not join us; her foot was suffering after all of the walking that we had done recently, which had aggravated an ongoing tendon problem. So it was just me and the girls.

A tricky crossing

A tricky crossing

Spring green

Spring green

A nice spot for lunch

A nice spot for lunch

At the top

At the top

It was a splendid day for it, and a splendid hike. I shall miss these forests and trails, deeply. I think (hope?) that the girls will too.

Lake George

Lake George

Hikers!

Hikers!

08 - Signs

I shall miss these forests

I shall miss these forests

Two days later Katie and I squeezed in the last hike of the Big Adventure. We wanted it to be a special one, so I found a trail deep in the Adirondacks that would take us five miles up amongst the High Peaks to Avalanche Lake. The best part was the circuit of the lake, where the trail scrambles over boulders and fallen trees, and at times is even suspended out over the lake itself on wooden boards! I have harped on about hike after hike that we have taken over the past year, so I will spare you the details. Instead, here is the story in photographs…

Avalanche Lake, our destination, is at the foot of that mountain in the middle, to the right.

Avalanche Lake, our destination, is to the right of that big mountain in the middle.

On the bridge

13 - Ladder

A forest of green at all scales from large to small

A forest of green at all scales from large to small

That water is COLD

That water is COLD

Almost there...

Almost there…

Made it!

Made it!

This trail is FUN!

This trail is FUN!

....Ah.

….Ah. There’s probably a story behind that…

20 - Bridge

 The Trap Dike

The Trap Dike – that’s snow up there.

At the far end of the lake.  Time for lunch, and time to turn around and head home.

At the far end of the lake. Time for lunch, and time to turn around and head home.

Yes... It's all fun and games until you fall in, Keith...

Yes… It’s all fun and games until you fall in, Keith…

The Trap Dike again. All that debris will build up until one day it spits the lake in two.

The Trap Dike again. All that debris will build up until one day it spits the lake in two.

25 - Explorers

A typical section of trail. Yep, I said "trail", not "stream".

A typical section of trail. Yep, I said “trail”, not “stream”.

It rained.  We got wet.

It rained. We got wet.

This is what happens when you don't look where you are going.

This is what happens when you don’t look where you are going.

The gorgeous High Peaks

The gorgeous High Peaks

Wash your shoes before you set foot in my truck!

Wash your shoes before you set foot in my truck!

Nearly home... 11 miles later.

Nearly home… 11 miles later.

Thursday was a day that I had not been looking forward to… the day we had to give up Butch, my beloved Ford F-250 truck. He was returned to the place that we had bought him, where Austin the Fabulous Manager was going to sell him on our behalf. I can’t say enough good things about Austin and how well has has taken care of us at both ends of our journey. He handled of all the details of truck registration last year – not easy when you don’t live permanently in the country – and now he was going to sell the truck for us commission-free. He had even attempted to find a new home for Sundance, though to no avail.

His original recommendation that we buy an F-250 was perfect as well. Butch has been the ideal steed for us – he had the power to get Sundance up and down the Appalachians, Rockies and Sierras, there was lots of room inside – we had six of us in there, many times – and a gas engine that was both fuel-efficient (relatively speaking!) and quiet enough not to become annoying on all those long journeys. I will especially miss the driving position – I love towering several feet above most of the rest of the traffic! We found that driving a truck that big was useful when we were in national parks, as it gave us a great viewing platform for wildlife and to see all the splendour around us. Being big was also useful when you wanted to bully your way out of a tight corner. In short;

I love my truck!

Goodbye Butch

Goodbye Butch

So what else could we fit into that week? …how about another theme park? This time it was The Great Escape, just down the road from us in Lake George. We really couldn’t avoid going, because it was so close and because our Six Flags Annual Membership got us in there for free. Our day out therefore cost us nothing but the price of our lunch! Arriving midweek to avoid the crowds – apart from the many school-groups out for a fun field trip – let us ride pretty much everything we wanted to with no lines. Brave Jessica was able to use the opportunity to steel herself for her first ride on an upside-down roller-coaster* – and for her second, third and fourth in quick succession after that!

* Technically, her first was in Florida when she rode the Rock-n-Roller coaster, but apparently that didn’t count because it was in the dark so she couldn’t tell!

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

Jess can find My Little Ponies inside a store of any size in seconds flat!!!

Jess can find My Little Ponies inside a store of any size in seconds flat!!!

Jess gazing upon the site of her earlier triumph

Jess gazing upon the site of her earlier triumph

In amongst all of those fun activities we did of course manage to get our possessions sorted, packed and weighed, ready for the trip back to Britain. Then, the first day of June arrived all too soon. We loaded the rental car with our bags that morning, bid a fond, fond farewell to our indescribably welcoming hosts Dee and Jim, and set off for New York City, JFK Airport, and home……..

– Keith

Packed, in more ways than one.

Packed, in more ways than one.

Words cannot express how much I shall miss this country.

Words cannot express how much I shall miss this country.

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We’ve come full circle…

– 16 May –

Our final stop of the trip with Sundance and Butch was right back where we started – in Scotia, NY. This blog post has been a long time coming because it makes us all feel so sad to think of the culmination of such an amazing year. We’ve also been a bit busy since we got back to England!

Full circle

Full circle

We booked ourselves into a riverside marina and RV park on the banks of the Mohawk, just two miles from the wonderful people we have come to love and think of as our American family.

The Mohawk River - thank you for not flooding!

The Mohawk River – thank you for not flooding!

The last campsite

The last campsite

The wonderful Jewell family have been so very welcoming and have opened up their homes and their lives to us all. We spent time with Jen and Keith at their daughter Cadie’s birthday party – Happy Birthday sweetie! It was lovely of them to invite our girls along for the fun.  And we were eagerly anticipating the imminent arrival of Laura and John’s third child, hoping that she would arrive in time for us to see her before we flew back to the U.K.  And would they choose to use the name their three year old had picked out – “Mr. Sprinkles”? We couldn’t wait to find out!

The birthday girl

The birthday girl

Katie at the partyCadie and Jess

There was still time for Keith and the girls to complete a project that they had begun back in December but had never got around to finishing; that was writing and shooting the indoor sequences for the second part of the “Tour of Sundance movie.  It took almost two whole days to get it all done… hopefully the final result was worthwhile.  If you want to see the finished article, just take a look at the blog post before this one.

Strawberry shortcake, anyone?

Strawberry shortcake, anyone?

Finally, on the day before we said goodbye to Sundance for the last time, Keith and the girls spent another day with Great Aunt Anne, while I cleaned and packed the last few bits.  Not quite sure how we came to that arrangement – it was hard work!

At Aunt Anne's home

At Aunt Anne’s home

We also took a huge pile of our unwanted and unsold items round to the Jewells’ and let them pick and choose what they could make use of.  That seemed to be only fair, because the Jewells had generously donated many items for us to use one year ago.  It was nice to see our massive collection of Mardi Gras beads find a good home!

First come, first served!

First come, first served!

And with that we were ready for the final stage of our adventure…

– Em x

Tour of Sundance – Part 2

Back by popular demand, Katie and Jessica return to present to you the second part of our cinematic tour of Sundance!

We shot these scenes not long after we published the first part of the tour, when we were staying at our last campsite in Scotia, New York. Putting the final film together has had to wait a while, unfortunately… since the movie was “in the can” we’ve been too busy getting ready to travel home, unpacking and restoring our lives to some semblance of normality.

So as I said in my previous post… we do hope it was worth the wait.

Enjoy!

Oh, and just like at the cinema, make sure that you watch until the very end of the credits… you never know what you might see.

– Keith

Our Yard Sale!

– 10 May –

Welcome back! When last we left you, our travels had returned us to our starting state, New York, and we had begun the wind-down of our adventure in earnest. There was a lot to do…

So how do you sell off a well-used but lovingly cared-for Ford F-250 truck and Sundance fifth wheel trailer? There were a few options open to us – private sale, sell to a dealer, or sell them on consignment through a dealer. We might get more money with a private sale but the logistics could be challenging – where do we park the (empty) RV while it is on sale? And where would we sleep? Furthermore, the days left to us in America were running out… would there even be enough time to find a buyer?

Squeezing in one more campfire...

Squeezing in one more campfire…note the “For Sale” sign!

We had always had a good plan in mind for the truck. The terrific manager at Vittengl Ford, where we had originally bought Butch, had said then and there that he would be happy to help us to sell it again at the end of our journey. When we got back in touch with him, he couldn’t have made it easier for us; we could drop the truck off with him in our last week and he would take it from there. Once sold, a cheque would come our way in the mail. Easy!

In the end we elected to sell the RV on consignment through a dealer called Alpin Haus – the same place that had repaired our broken awning way back in June when we first picked up Sundance. The price wasn’t amazing, and we wouldn’t see any money until a buyer came forward, but at least we knew when and where we would finally part company with our beloved home of the past eleven months.

Not wanting to abandon all hope of a private sale, we did try a couple of other things. For the last month of our travels we stuck a bright orange “For Sale” sign on the RV, in the hopes of striking it lucky by coming across a buyer en route. A couple of people came for a look around, but we suspect that they were just being nosy! And I also stuck an advertisement up on Craigslist. All to no avail, but at least we tried.

Want to buy a printer?  Only one year old!

Want to buy a printer? Only one year old!

Next we had to empty the contents of the RV… not so easy when it had to remain our home for the following weeks! We identified all of the non-essential items that we could spare, especially anything that might still have a bit of value, and posted a series of Craigslist adverts and eBay sales. There was a steady trickle of sales over the next four weeks… and each one was both a triumph and a cause for sadness. It was hard not to feel a hint of melancholy when one of our possessions was passed along to its new owner… each had been a small part of the overall adventure, in its own way.

We stayed in the Saratoga area quite a while, for us – eleven nights – so by the end we began to feel like part of the community. Perhaps this would give us the opportunity to pass along some more of our no-longer-needed items? This calls for a yard sale!

Welcome to our yard sale.  Everything MUST go!

Welcome to our yard sale. Everything MUST go!

Our timing couldn’t have been better – on Sunday morning the campground owners organised a group breakfast for all of the residents, we therefore set out our yard sale first thing in the morning. Our site was nicely placed on the road leading up from the main building, so everyone had to drive past and could see our signs and little stall. It was very successful – we sold most of the items that would be useful to our fellow RVers, things like the camp chairs, rope light, groundsheet, outdoor table and chairs, and Jessie’s bike. I was especially sad to see that last item go because she’d got so much fun from it – that really felt like the beginning of the end!

The sign says it all!

The sign says it all!

We also began to catch up with family and friends back in my old home town of Scotia, and places nearby. We reunited with my cousin, Chuck, and his wife Nancy – it had been several decades since I had last seen them, so our reunion was rather special. We caught up with their daughters, Stephanie and Michelle, with whom we had spent Christmas back in California, and their son C.J. It was terrific to be with them on a warm early summer Saturday evening; eating barbecue, drinking, chatting and enjoying Chuck’s handy in-table fire-pit. Now there’s an idea…

Family reunion

Family reunion

The following day we caught up with them again, this time for a visit to the annual Albany Tulip Festival in Washington Park. It was the first really hot day of the year, and I think most of the city had turned out to enjoy the sunny festival! It was probably too crowded to properly enjoy all that was on offer but the flowers were nice, the stalls were interesting and the gyros were tasty!

04 - Tulips

We've come all this way...and we find English Morris Dancing.  Unexpected.

We’ve come all this way…and we find English Morris Dancing. Unexpected.

Busy day.

Busy day.

From Saratoga it was also an easy drive back into Massachusetts where my Great Aunt Anne lives. We had seen her last year and she couldn’t wait to hear from the girls all about our adventures around the country. We spent two lovely days with her and with her amazingly friendly and helpful neighbours, Sandra and Joe. Anne is a wonderful and special lady and I miss her a lot when we are in the U.K. – I really wish that we could see her more often than we do. Hopefully we can now that we are more acquainted with her friends, who can help her with modern things like Facetime and email!

09 - Aunt Anne and Sandra

10 - Joe

Ladies in the sun

Ladies in the sun

Looking a tiny portion of the many photos that we have taken this year.

Looking a tiny portion of the many photos that we have taken this year.

By the time we finally moved on, we had stayed in Saratoga long enough for the seasons to change!  Here was the view out of our living-room window when we arrived…

Before...

And the same view at the end of our stay…

14 - After

And with that, we were at last setting out on the last leg of our journey… next stop, Scotia, where it all began!

– Keith

Our Journey Across America…

I bet you thought that we were all done with this blog… after all, it has been twenty days since our last post!  Well, the Big Adventure isn’t quite over – and if I am being philosophical I might suggest that it never will be – so we’re not quite finished with the blog, either.

There are a few posts in development that will cover the final few stops of our trip, and the second instalment of our “Tour of Sundance” movie, but in the meantime I have a bit of fun to share with you.  I have adapted our Route Map into a short animated movie.  Not only does the path follow our winding route around North America, but it does so in real time!

…OK, not really; I’ve sped it up by a factor of 288,000 so that every day of our journey lasts just three tenths of a second.  And don’t forget to turn your speakers on, so that you can hear the music.

Enjoy!

– Keith

Journey in Numbers – 5 (The Final Tally)

Distance 5

 

It’s all over… our year-long journey through America has come to an end. We fly out of New York’s JFK airport in the evening on Sunday, bound for Heathrow, Flitwick and home. It is time, therefore, for the last “Journey in Numbers” post.

Regular readers of our blog will already know what comes next – data! This time, it is the statistical perspective on our entire trip.

For this last reckoning, I have taken data up to the point yesterday where we handed over our truck, Butch, for sale.

1. Total number of days in America = 362 days
2. Total duration of our trip = 325 days, or 10 months, 21 days (since we left Scotia for New Hampshire last July)
3. Number of states visited = 34
4. Number of RV journeys / campsites stayed in = 84 (see Route Map page for details)
5. Total distance travelled = 33,775 mi.

As always, hardcore stats fans can check out a day-by-day breakdown graph of our journeys – scroll to the top of the post!

6. Towing distance = 17,059 mi.; this does not include 272 miles spent towing the RV from Vermont to New York and around NY state during pre-departure prep.
7. Non-towing distance (i.e. driving the truck only) = 16,540 mi.
8. Rental car (boo!) distance = 176 mi.
9. Final reading on the odometer in the truck = 35,033 mi. (It read 363 mi. when we picked him up.)
10. Average towing mileage = 8.92 mpg (miles per gallon, weighted according to the distance travelled)
11. Average non-towing mileage = 14.16 mpg
12. Photographs taken = (about) 18,144; 11,889 taken by me, 5,875 by Emma, and 380 by Katie.
13. Souvenir fridge magnets purchased = 51
14. Number of hikes we’ve taken = 52; including a solo one by me, a climb up Buck Mountain that Emma skipped, and a big hike up to Avalanche Lake by Katie and me.
15. Total hiking mileage = 150 miles, total hiking duration = 95 hrs 26 min
16. National Park Service units visited = 63

  • 24 National Parks
  • 16 National Monuments
  • 12 National Historic Sites/Parks
  • 4 National Memorials
  • 2 National Seashores
  • 2 National Military Parks
  • 1 National Recreation Area
  • 1 National Forest Park
  • 1 National Preserve

17. Major cities visited = 12
18. Overall worth of the Big Adventure = PRICELESS

– Keith

Food! Glorious Food!

Let me be honest with you. The kitchen in the RV is tiny!

I don’t claim to be a gourmet chef but I do enjoy cooking. At home in England we have a big range oven, so learning to cook in such a confined space has been a challenge!

The small but perfectly formed kitchen

The small but perfectly formed kitchen

Sundance has a hob with three gas rings, squeezed tightly together so that all three cannot be used at once, and a small gas oven with a tiny space for food. It is basically the size of a letterbox. The sink has a cover which doubles up as a counter for preparing food, so we have to try to keep it tidy!

Sink-counter combination being used expertly by Katie!

Sink-counter combination being used expertly by Katie!

I have therefore become an expert at one-pan stovetop dinners! Here is how I make a few of our staples and favourites to get your mouth watering! I measure very little and the oven temperature isn’t terribly reliable, so just make it up as you go along.

Shrimp Risotto

Shrimp Risotto

Shrimp Risotto

Soften half an onion and some crushed garlic in a pan, add the risotto rice and fry until it’s starting to turn translucent. add some white wine, and gradually add stock a little at a time white stirring. Put in a handful of cooked shrimp and a handful of frozen peas, stir and cook while adding more stock until the rice is firm but soft and the shrimp cooked through.

Vegetable Lasagne

Veggie Lasagne

Veggie Lasagne

Finely dice onions, garlic, carrots, courgettes (zucchini), summer squash, celery, red peppers, mushrooms and any other veg you can find. Soften them all in a pan before adding a can of diced tomatoes and some tomato paste or tomato sauce. Red wine is good too! Flavour comes from mixed italian herbs, a splash of Worcestershire Sauce, salt, pepper and a stock cube if there’s one handy. Cook through until thickened up then layer with lasagne sheets and a white sauce (I like to use a jar of alfredo sauce, which is lazy but very tasty). Top with cheese and bake in the oven for about half an hour. As with a lot of dishes, this is better left overnight and eaten re-heated the following day!

Cajun-ish Chicken

Cajun-ish Chicken

Cajun-ish Chicken

(The picture above is of it raw. It smelled too good once cooked to faff about taking more pictures – sorry!)

Chop a red onion, a butternut squash, a courgette (zucchini) and a red pepper. Toss the veg in oil and a big spoonful of cajun spices so that it is all covered. Put these in an oven proof dish and top with chicken legs rolled in the spices. Bung in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes. You can serve with potato wedges if you have an oven big enough to cook them in or if you have a teeny tiny space like me then crusty bread works well too!

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the Hole

A taste of home! Lightly fry or grill some sausages to seal them (I like ones with chilli in but any will do). Put them in a (preferably metal) oven dish and pour in Yorkshire pudding batter. I don’t have scales in the RV so kind of guessed the quantities… going by volume you need about 1 1/2 cups of flour, a teaspoon of baking powder, three eggs and about a cup of milk. Maybe more milk – it needs to be the consistency of a thick emulsion paint. Cook the batter and sausages in the oven for about 25-30 mins. If it’s brown and fluffy throughout, it’s cooked. If it’s black, it’s burned! Serve with gravy and peas.

Chilli (Probably)

Chilli. Probably.

Chilli. Probably.

I say probably because all minced-beef based dishes I cook start out the same way, and I can’t remember for sure which one this was a picture of! Start with onions, veg, meat, then add tomatoes. To make a bolognese; add lots of tomatoes, tomato sauce, herbs and garlic. To make chilli; add tomatoes, chilli powder, jalapeño peppers and kidney beans. We have our chilli with tacos or fajitas as I don’t have to use a second pan to cook rice!

Omelette

Omlette

Omelette

You get the before picture of this one because in all honesty, the after did not look at all appetising, but it tasted GREAT! Peppers, onions, courgette, mushrooms, cooked then eggs poured on top and cooked through, topped with cheese and (absolutely necessary in my opinion) served with ketchup!

Bacon Risotto

More Risotto

More Risotto

We eat a lot of risotto. It’s easy, cheap and quick and a great way of using up leftovers. This one is bacon, sweetcorn and spinach. Any combination works, really!

That has been a peek into my kitchen – what’s your favourite dish to cook?

– Em X