Saturday, October 13, 2007



OCTOBER 4, 2007

Having said goodbye to my new friends Laura, Mike and Michaela Kelly, I headed south down the Delmarva Peninsula (that’s short form for Delaware, Maryland and Virginia). I wanted to stay in a state park, and chose the campground at Delaware Seashore State Park to stay overnight. When I arrived at the registration desk, there was a backlog of people waiting to register. There always seems to be one impatient, rude person who doesn’t want to wait for his turn, and this was the case in this instance. He was shouting in my ear into the booth and I had to keep myself from shouting back at him.

Sometimes campgrounds sound better in the printed literature than they really area, and this was one such example. There was no shade and there wasn’t much to recommend about this campground. It is located on a small peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay side and the main interest of this destination seemed to be fishing. I asked one fisherman what he was trying to catch. He said “tautogs”, which I found out from another fisherman was another word for mullets and which are used as bait to catch the bigger fish like trout. It certainly smelled fishy there! Ripley and I wandered up the road, but soon came to a gated community of quite large houses on the end of the peninsula. So much for a state park!

I like to read local papers to see what is important in various communities. But from time to time I buy a USA Today, just to get an idea of what is happening across the country. In the sports section, there is much emphasis on baseball and football, followed by motor sports, basketball, soccer and coming up a poor last, hockey. That says it all.

OCTOBER 5, 2007

After this disappointing stop at Delaware Seashore State Park, I drove on (with the brake warning light on – very disconcerting even when I was assured that there is nothing wrong with the brakes). We passed through several towns with houses lining both sides of the narrow Delmarva Peninsula. Ocean City, Maryland was particularly garish with huge hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants lining the road.

When I was a child, I enjoyed reading “Misty of Chincoteague”, which is a story about the wild ponies that live on Assateague Island, off the Delmarva Peninsula in Virginia. Every year in July, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department (known locally as the saltwater cowboys) culls the herd and swims the ponies over to the adjacent island of Chincoteague, to be sold at auction. Assateague is a wildlife refuge operated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

It has been forty-odd years since I was last in Virginia; I have very unpleasant memories of that time, so it felt a little odd being back, but I am nowhere in the same region. I wanted to visit the area of the wild ponies.

I needed to stock up on groceries again and spent $80 (including Corona beer) before heading over to the island.

I chose Tom’s Cove Family Campground, a huge place (+600 sites), but on the water. I was offered a choice of sites and because of the heat (high 80’s) I decided to take one away from the water in the shade. The problem with choosing before seeing the site is that you don’t always get what you had hoped for. Yes, the site was shaded but it was also quite narrow and I had yet another opportunity to practice my non-existent skills at backing up. Fortunately, I didn’t hit any trees or a picnic bench! This is also the most expensive campground at which I have stayed so far -- $40.70, but it is the same price at all the campgrounds in the Chincoteague area, I am told. That’s the price you pay for staying in a tourist area. The day is overcast and spitting rain, but Ripley and I took a walk around anyway, passing several RV’s with Halloween decorations. The Americans really go all out for this holiday.

I broke open a frozen package of prepared beef and vegetables for supper, along with a beer. Ripley got gravy on her kibble. She has become a very picky eater and always waits to see if something better is going to come along.

At dusk Ripley and I went for another walk down to the pier at the campground. There was a lovely breeze and I found a bench to sit on to listen to some quacking ducks and the waves rippling on the shore, and to watch the light from the Assateague lighthouse as it rotated over the cove. It was very serene and I was glad that I had chosen this campground after all. However, it is a long way from the refuge where the wild ponies are. Also, the insert in the Virginia visitors guide listed this campground as having internet service. I should know by now that does not necessarily mean that such service exists.

I was told that there is an ice cream parlour in town called The Creamery that has free wi fi service, so I will visit there tomorrow. I am way behind on my blogs because the internet service is not as available as I had anticipated. Also, Laura Kelly has a MAC and my files were not compatible, so I need to catch up.

OCTOBER 6, 2007


Campers have this thing about sitting around a campfire in the evening. I’m sure it’s all very bonding and a lot of fun for those people involved as they chat about this and that; however, it is not so pleasant to have smoke coming into my RV stinging my eyes and causing me to have a migraine as I try to sleep. And to make matters worse, a nearby tenter decided to blast his car radio with the Beach Boys in the early morning, with augmented bass I suspect, as I was trying to cope with the migraine aftereffects. I probably sound like a real curmudgeon, but I do have trouble with being so close to so many strangers after having lived quietly on my farm in Pickering for 31 years. Camping in RV parks provides the amenities of hot showers, electricity, running water and sewage disposal, but it has its drawbacks as well.

In any event, I decided to move to the Maddox Family Campground which is very close to the bridge to Assateague Island and also close to The Creamery. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the Oyster Festival going on at this campground until I arrived, and there was only one campsite left in the 550-site park. It was shady, so I took it – again costing me $40.70. There were hundreds of pedestrians enjoying the Festival and the concert there, so it seemed like a good idea to leave the park for the time being.

I had intended to visit the wildlife refuge on Assateague Island, only to find out that no pets are allowed, not even in vehicles. So, I’ll leave that visit for tomorrow and use my bike then.

Instead, I found a shady spot on a side street to park Philippa and to leave Ripley, and headed to The Creamery with my laptop for a wonderful home-made pistachio ice cream cone, with home-made waffle cone, and I worked on my email and blog. As I’ve mentioned previously, it takes quite a while to get the photos inserted properly and even though I was there for 2 ½ hours I only got one entry in. With the reward of another delicious ice cream cone, I will certainly return!


In the meantime, I went back to Maddox Family Campground at dusk and drove into my designated spot, between the hazards of children riding bikes, trailers sticking out into the path and the oncoming darkness. I was too far away to hook up the 30 amp electricity but I decided not to chance backing up in the dark to get closer, so I made do with my extension cord, which is only 15 amps. That meant not being able to use the air conditioner or the microwave, but I planned to make do for the night . It was still very hot, so I opened the windows and had to listen to a cacophony of several different styles of music -- country and rock mostly, played at fairly high volume. Family campgrounds have rules about quiet time from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. This one was no exception, with a list of printed rules distributed at registration time, but when midnight came and went with no decrease in the noise, I decided to take a walk down to the gate with Ripley and ask the attendant to do something about telling the various campers to be quiet. At first, he responded that he couldn’t hear anything. I suggested that if he got off his chair and took a walk around the park that he would have a hell of a lot better chance to hear the noise. He waffled until I stated that the management might be interested in hearing my complaint in the morning. He was off his chair in no time, asking me to show him where the noise was. Although there were several patches of noisy campers, I took him to the people opposite me who were still playing their CD’s and talking loudly around their campfire. He did speak to them, and then walked away. I waited. No reduction in volume of the music, but some of the people sitting around the fire drifted off to their campers. Finally, around 12:45 the music went off.

I did watch a DVD to tune out the exterior noise – “As Good as It Gets” with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt. I just don’t see Jack Nicholson playing in a love story.

OCTOBER 7, 2007

I was up early and moved the RV over so that I could hook up to the 30 amp service and to the wastewater disposal system. Now I could run the air conditioner and microwave! And it was turning into a hot day, so I cranked up the AC. Naturally, the noisy neighbours slept in!


Before leaving on this trip, my brother had given me a mountain bike that had been in his garage for some time. He had oiled it as best he could at the time, but it has been hooked on to the rack on the back of my RV for the past 6,000 + kms in all kinds of weather. Because it has something like 13 gears, has the man’s crossbar and has a very high seat, quite frankly I’ve been scared to use it. Anyway, today was the day that I was going to try it out for better or worse. Just in case, I wore long pants and it’s just as well because I no sooner started off than the bike wouldn’t brake and I went for a fall, bruising my leg on the crossbar. It bled for awhile. As I was picking myself up, an adjacent camper asked me if I was alright. I mentioned that the bike did not respond when I tried to brake and as it happens, he knew quite a bit about bikes. He is a retired military man and he and his wife are traveling around. The front wheel was out of alignment, the reason for my fall, so he adjusted it, adjusted the rear brake, oiled the bar under the seat and tried to lower the seat without success. He also determined that my tires needed air, went to another camper and asked if he had a pump. Luckily he did, and between them they filled the tires up and tried once again to lower the seat so that my feet could touch the ground when stopped. He took the bike for a spin and worked on the gears, leaving them in a mid-range position for me.

With all this commotion, it was getting later and the day was getting hotter, but I went on my way, still worried about falling again. Nevertheless, I pedaled over the bridge to Assateague, and on to the Visitor Center where I stopped to look at the various displays relating to the wildlife habitats found there, endangered species, migratory routes, etc. There was a good deal of variety in the way things were presented, making it quite interesting and educational to visitors.

I continued on the Beach Road Trail, turning off on to the Woodland Trail, the site of the wild pony overlook. I did see the ponies, but they were far in the distance. I’m sure the photos I took will turn out to be tiny spots, but in any event I did see the ponies!

On my return trip, I watched a great egret fly along the river adjacent to the bike path and land. I keep my trusty digital camera handy for just such moments.

By this time I was wet with perspiration, but thankfully I had had the foresight to bring a bottle of water with me. As I had planned to check out of the campground before the 2:00 deadline, I had to hurry back along the Black Duck Trail (no black ducks spotted), but would have liked to have continued on to the Snow Goose pool, where I understand masses of snow geese congregate. Instead, I headed back, stopping at a bicycle rental place to enquire about used bikes for sale. The mountain bike is uncomfortable to ride because you have to lean forward, putting a lot of weight on your hands. Also the seat is really uncomfortable after awhile. The manager showed me a simple lady’s bike which is two years old and for sale for $60. I didn’t try it out as I was in a hurry to get back to the campground and get on my way, but I said that I would be back the next day.

When I got back to the campground and after meeting Ripley’s enthusiastic greeting, I realized that the noisy neighbours had gone home! And so, rather than uprooting and going somewhere else, I stayed where I was and paid for another night. I enjoyed the cool interior, since I had left the A/C running for Ripley’s sake while I was gone.

Ripley has not eaten today, so I am getting concerned. I even poured canned chicken gravy over the kibble and she didn’t touch it.

I picked up two of the local papers to read, finding out that there is a wastewater problem on Chincoteague that the local council is tackling. They have hired a consultant who has given them a couple of alternatives. At the moment the water in the bay is testing out with E coli bacteria and other nasty stuff, so they definitely have to do something. They are on septic systems here on the island.

After a rest, I walked Ripley over to the bike rental place and asked to take one for a test ride, with Ripley trotting along beside me. It certainly felt comfortable, but I’m not sure whether $60 is a fair price for a used bike. I said I would think about it and come back tomorrow.

Supper was shrimp tempura, rice and steamed vegetables. No beer because I am working on this blog and don’t want to get sleepy.

Tonight’s DVD was Bordertown – starring Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas. Terrible script for a very important topic – the true story of the disappearance and murders of hundreds of women from the Mexican bordertown of Juarez.

When Ripley saw that nothing was forthcoming, she ate her kibble.


No turkey for me today, but I hope that all my Canadian friends and family enjoyed theirs.

I took Ripley to the back of the campground this morning, and she managed to get pretty filthy in the mud. It’s the first time that I’ve used the outside hose, but it was very handy to give her a bath without making a mess inside the RV.

The bike lady yesterday told me about a nature trail on the north side of the island named after Hallie Whealton Smith, a local philanthropist who provided quite a bit of money for the nearby school.
The nature trail is used for educational purposes and for the general public (only residents seem to know about this place),and has been asphalted with a meandering trail through the tall trees, mainly pines and evergreens. There are three ponds for waterfowl and Ripley enjoyed being able to go off-leash here. It is a relatively cool place (considering that the temperature is around 88 degrees F). Like most places, it is unseasonably hot here and there has been quite a drought. In fact, according to the local newspaper The Eastern Shore Neighbor, “several Virginia counties have been given agricultural disaster status by the federal government, making growers there eligible for low-interest loans”. Of course, the lack of crops will increase the price of many products in the coming months.

There is a lack of internet service in this area, so the most logical thing seemed to be to return to The Creamery and use their free wi fi service again. And of course, I had to buy a creamy butterscotch milk shake this time. Ripley was not allowed inside, so we sat on the deck in the shade, and I updated the blog.

Like literally thousands of others, I have been following the adventures of a meerkat family on the Animal Planet channel called Meerkat Manor. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the show, Cambridge U. in England has been recording the daily lives of a group of meerkats in the Kalahari Desert called the Whiskers Group. It has been likened to a soap opera with animals, as each of the individuals is highlighted and their activities filmed, both above and below ground in their burrows. The leader of the group for several years has beeb a wise female named Flower (it is a matriarchal society). I have been unable to watch much of Season 3, but on going online today, I learned that Flower has died. This is indeed a sad event for the Whiskers Group, and I wonder who will take over as leader, and what will happen now to Zaphod, Flower’s mate.

I decided to return to the bike rental shop and buy the bike that I had looked at previously. It is much more comfortable than the mountain bike, and I am sure that it will get many hours of use in the future.

I have been craving a salad for a few days, and decided to have my Thanksgiving dinner at Salads and More where you can get “all you can eat” for $5.99. I added some chicken nuggets to the order for Ripley; after all, it is a holiday!

The Hallie Whealton Smith nature trail has a parking lot with no signs preventing overnight camping, so I had it in mind to go back and spend the night there. But the heat and humidity is oppressive, and I had some diahrrea (I think it is the vegetable oil I’m using for cooking), so I decided to go to the nearby Pine Grove Campground and Waterfowl Park. Whereas the other two campgrounds on Chincoteague cost me $40, I paid only $31 here; the grounds were virtually deserted, now that everyone has gone back to work and school, and the trees were tall and cool. Ripley and I wandered around in the early evening and encountered four emus, two llamas and five miniature horses behind a large fenced-in area with ponds. Four little green herons flew in while I was standing there, and a great egret was fishing in another nearby pond. Peafowl wandered loose around the park. I wish I had gone to this campground first! And a shower and air conditioning made life much better.


I had planned to leave this morning, but the temperature is even more oppressive today – 90 degrees and humid, so why not stay another day in this quiet place?

Ripley and I wandered over to the ponds again and encountered a sandhill
crane. The owner of the campground is absent, so I couldn’t ask whether the crane was a resident or a wild one, but I didn’t see it again after this encounter. It would be nice to think that it was a wild one that just landed there for awhile, as do other birds such as the many sandpipers and plovers.

In our world, we are governed by schedules and a sense of urgency to be doing something. I haven’t yet overcome these inclinations and still feel sort of guilty if I am just sitting. Perhaps eventually I will get over this; after all, I am not really on any schedule (other than arriving at friends’ places on time) and if I feel like staying an extra day, why not? I spent the day in the air conditioned comfort indoors, repairing rips in the two front seats, doing some crosswords and cryptograms, and reading ¾ of Pawn in Frankincense (book 4 of the Lymond Chronicles).

I am coming to appreciate the value of having a vehicle to drive after I have parked the RV and hooked up. I have to admit that I do not get out to all the attractions that I might do, if I did have a car to get there. Once I am settled for a month or so later on in the winter, I will consider renting a car to get around. I have booked space in New Mexico for half of December and all of January, and there are many places nearby (and even further away in Colorado and Arizona) that I want to visit. The monthly rental there is only $166, so this should allow me some room to rent a car.

In the late afternoon, after the temperature had cooled down somewhat, I took my bike out with Ripley trotting along beside, back to the Hallie Whealton Smith Nature Trail. We both had a good workout, and on returning to the campground, I sneaked Ripley into the shower with me. There are only two other occupied sites here, so it wasn’t difficult.

I’m afraid that I’ve spoiled Ripley with extra goodies and now she won’t touch her own chow until she is absolutely sure that nothing else is forthcoming.

There was a storm overnight, with thunder and lightning, making Ripley quiver and hide under the blankets.

OCTOBER 10, 2007

First thing in the early morning, I let Ripley out for a pee, and she scared away a herd of deer that had been grazing just outside the RV. Today it is raining and considerably cooler, so it is a good day for traveling – after a stop at The Creamery for another milk shake.

There were literally hundreds of great egrets in the marshes between Chincoteague and the Delmarva Peninsula. Too bad I couldn’t stop on the causeway to take a photo.

I had intended to visit the nearby NASA Visitor Center on my way out, but unfortunately, they were closed today. I suppose I’ll have another opportunity at Cape Kennedy.

For some reason, Maude took me on the scenic route to get back to the main Highway 13, so I got to see more of Chicoteague than I had intended. At one point, the road dead-ended at a NASA site, so I had to turn around and wind my way through the countryside.

Eventually we made it to the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, a 17.2 mile long modern wonder that spans the Delmarva Peninsula with the mainland. It cost $17 in tolls, but certainly allowed me to continue instead of backtracking many, many miles. Nevertheless, I was sweating when I started over the first bridge (although it was not as high as the Confederation Bridge in New Brunswick), then down into a tunnel underneath the water (this allows ships to pass over above you), then up on another bridge, down into yet another tunnel, and then up on another bridge. I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally got to Virginia Beach.

My next destination was to the Chesapeake Campground, across the road from The Great Dismal Swamp. The name itself evokes mystery! The Swamp is comprised of 111,000 acres spanning the border between Virginia and North Carolina. The lady in the campground directed me to a back entrance to the Swamp (it is actually a blocked-off area of the old highway) where you can park and hike, bike or horseback ride on the trail. Off came my bike and Ripley and I entered the Swamp trail. Tall trees grew on either side of the trail, with the Great Dismal Swamp Canal on one side meandering through. This is part of the Intracoastal Waterway and on weekends it is possible to rent a canoe or kayak to travel on it. However, at the moment there is a hunting cull going on, so only the trail is open today. According to the sign there, hunters must purchase a licence and are restricted in what they can kill. It didn’t say what animals are involved, but I suspect that the prey would be deer and bear (bears are moving out of their traditional areas and into the residential areas as their habitat becomes less and less).

Ripley and I traveled about 3 miles and she seems to enjoy trotting and running alongside, as she keeps a steady pace, with no pulling or stopping.

Back at the campground, we found our shady spot and hooked up just at dusk. The owner boards horses here and teaches riding in the indoor arena; there is also a golf driving range, a tennis court, a petting zoo, exercise room, chapel, a pig house and a chicken house (you can buy fresh eggs in the store).
Halloween Decoration near
Great Dismal Swamp

OCTOBER 11, 2007

Behind the campground there is quite a bit of cropland with soybeans that died in the drought. Ripley and I enjoyed a walk back there (off leash) before we went on our way.

Before leaving, I wanted to visit the Great Dismal Swamp again, and Ripley and I traveled for 4 miles this time in the relative cool of the early morning. We met an older couple on their bikes, but other than that and meeting a ranger, we had the trail to ourselves.

Since I haven’t been able to find a campground with internet service for awhile, I used Back-up Number 2 – find a local hotel with internet service and ask if I can buy some time on their computer, or use my laptop. So far, when I have asked, the people at the registration desks have allowed me to have this service for free, and the Hampton Court Hotel was no exception. I also managed to have a free coffee and newspaper too! I really should try this method more often!

In order to economize, I have decided to camp at the Wal Mart, but I didn’t realize that the address that I plugged in was on the opposite side of Chesapeake. I had to follow Maude’s instructions through rush-hour traffic and even had to drive down into a tunnel again (this area is a naval shipyard area, with a lot of marine traffic).

We finally found the Wal Mart in Portsmouth, despite Maude turning us into the wrong shopping mall (the Wal Mart was across the street) and I did some shopping. I want to add more fruits and vegetables to my diet, and this was an opportunity to do so.

Terry Christiansen had sent me an email suggesting that I purchase a travel cooler until I decide what to do about my fridge. You can plug this cooler into your cigarette lighter and keep things cool as you drive. Wal Mart didn’t have one in stock, but I’ll go to the Target store across the road tomorrow and see if they have one. Thanks for the suggestion, Terry and Rob!

There is a field beside the Wal Mart, and Ripley enjoyed running off-leash. However, she is scratching quite a bit, so I suspect there were fleas or ticks in the grass. Luckily I have some flea powder and doused her down, and also sprayed the carpeting. I guess down here this is going to be an ongoing problem, despite the fact that I treat her with Revolution monthly.

OCTOBER 12, 2007

It was a quiet night in the parking lot, and after a breakfast of a banana, peach and tapioca pudding and decaf coffee, I went across to the Target store. Yes, they had the travel cooler, so I now have a more efficient method of keeping food cool. The problem with the regular cooler is that the ice melts and you end up with a pool of water in the bottom. The travel cooler fits on the floor of the front seat, so it is out of the way.


For the past couple of days, there has been a rubbing sound on the RV, and I have decided not to ignore it any longer. The Chesapeake Campground guide advertised Camp-A-Rama as doing RV service. Maude had a bit of trouble figuring out where to go (maybe it’s because she has to share the power with the travel cooler now), but eventually she guided me to Camp-A-Rama. The people there were very friendly, and all the men wanted to say hi to Ripley. She is very shy of men, just wagging her tail a bit and then walking away. Her reaction to women is much more effusive. Whether this reaction is because she has been owned exclusively by women or because she was abused by a man, I couldn’t say.

They felt that the problem was with my wheel bearings and they don’t work on those at their shop. But they sent me to the people who do the work for them, and that is where I am at the moment. West Service Center was only a few miles down the road from Camp-A-Rama. At first, they said that they couldn’t help me until Monday, but they are very kindly working on the RV now. The price quoted is $317.21. I had anticipated the price to be higher, so it’s not too bad.

As it will be late before I leave here, I will stay at the nearby Chesapeake Campground tonight again.

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