Airstream Time

Exploring North America in an Airstream

Posts from the ‘US’ category

On to Canada

Saturday, July 13, 2019

It cooled off in the night, so I got a good night’s sleep. Anxious to get on the road, I made coffee, ate some cereal, hooked up and set the GPS for Laurie Provincial Park near Halifax, a nine-hour drive. Well, it couldn’t find Laurie, so I set it for Halifax. I have three GPS units, the GMC one in the truck that is sometimes possessed, a Garmin I recently added and my phone and it’s Google Maps. 

I wasn’t going to use the possessed GMC, and I didn’t want to burn phone data for nine hours, so I set the Garmin. It said 11 hours, but it had me starting in the right direction. I could check it later. Two hours later I pulled over to find out why I wasn’t getting on I95N. Google Maps gave me a different route, and it was still nine hours to get there. #@*&#!

I traveled some back roads to get back on course. It was pretty, but I was in no mood to enjoy it. Finally I got back on I95 and relaxed a bit. When it said to turn in 100 miles, I turned it off, and then back on when I got close to that mark.

I was still four hours away when I exited onto 1A in a long line of traffic. Was I close to the border?? I got out of line and went the other direction to a Lowe’s parking lot, getting rid of fruits, vegetables and lunch meats. I neatly stacked firewood in the grass. Someone would surely pick it up. 

Getting back on course in the long line of traffic, Google tells me to turn left on some small road. Do I trust it? Shall I ignore it? I have found it best to make my travel plan on the computer, then send it to the phone. Then you are sure, and this is what I did. Was it changing because of all the traffic? A few turns later I got onto Rt. 9 that crosses Maine. It’s a beautiful road with little traffic. Several times I wanted to stop and take some pictures, especially when I got to Moosehorn National Wildlife Preserve, but there were miles to go and lots of work to do.

On my two dashboard GPS’s I saw I was paralleling the Canadian border. I prepared myself for the now-familiar questions: “Where are you going? How long are you staying? Where are you staying? Do you have any alcohol, fruits or vegetables? Any firearms, firewood? I think I’m ready, but it makes me nervous. 

I came to the border at Calais, Maine. This state likes to name places after other famous world places. It wasn’t busy at all. As I waited for one car ahead of me, two agents walked down the side of the truck and trailer, eyeing my toolbox. I had unlocked it and meant to open everything, but never had an opportunity. The officer in the booth motioned me forward and started all the questions. 

He asked, “Where are you from?” I said Keswick, Virginia. “But your license tag says Texas.” I smiled, saying I have been getting that question everywhere. The Virginia tag has a big TX on it, which I think means truck, xtra large. He sang, “That’s right I’m not from Texas.” Immediately I recognized the take-off from one of my favorite artists, Lyle Lovett. I smiled as he resumed the questions. “Any mace or spray?” “Shoot” I said, “I had some bear spray, but I’m pretty sure I took it out.” He motioned me on. At first I thought it might be to the search party ahead, but there was none. I crept forward until I was clear. Then I remembered the last time I came across. I had thrown out a bear spray, and the nice lady said, “Oh you can bring it as long as it is clearly labeled.”

Rt 1A, the Trans-Canada Highway, is a beautiful road here. There was so little traffic, I began wondering what the reasons might be. Was it the economy, the price of gas or that it was Saturday? I passed the turn to St. Andrews, where we had stayed at beautiful Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping, but it was too far out of the way.

I was running out of energy later and knew I would not make it to the Park. I found a reasonable place on the Garmin, but it was 10km away and would take an hour and 15 minutes to get there! I called the campground, but my phone didn’t work. I had been texting Martha. Why wasn’t the phone working?  It wasn’t until later I realized Canada does not have daylight savings time, so it was really an hour later, and I had to turn roaming on.

I finally found a KOA and pulled in. I got the special “walk up” fee, but didn’t complain. It was Saturday and the place was hopping. They had a drive-in movie theater feature that night and a dance. “Will you be joining us for the dance?” “No, I think I will be asleep then. I have been driving all day.”

I pulled up to my spot and backed in. It was just one of those days that it happened to work. A gentleman next door watched, then turned to his friend and said, “Now that’s the way it’s done.” I smiled and said, “SOMETIMES it works out.”

A giant bouncy thing was across the driveway. Kids of all ages were bouncing and yelling. Others were riding bikes around the campground roads. Stuff was going on everywhere. It’s hard to get upset about kids having fun. 

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Profile Stateline Superstore

Friday, July 12, 2019

I wasn’t sure when Tom and Dickey were going to be able to patch my Airstream. Could be today, tomorrow or next week. I didn’t know whether to rebook campgrounds or cancel more, and I didn’t know where to stay tonight. I just knew it wasn’t here.

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I was hungry and needed coffee. A google search took me to Little Miss Sophie’s in Rochester, NH. Like Magrilla’s, this is a happening. The parking lot was full, there are plenty of regulars who know everyone and the staff of ladies are classic waitresses, quick with the comments and very efficient. I sat at the bar and watched the ladies work. I had some excellent corned beef hash, eggs, grits and pancakes. I couldn’t eat it all. What a great place! I asked who Sophie is, and the lady pointed to the wall of pictures. I still don’t know.

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There is a great carwash close to Profile, so I washed the truck. Then I looked to see if it was big enough to wash the trailer, but it wasn’t.

I talked to Martha, and she had found several acceptable hotels in the area. I drove over to Stateline and peeked in the workshop door. Someone had bashed the back window of their Airstream, and probably felt as bad as I did. They were just pulling it into the shop. It’s the busy season. Lots of people are on the road, and stuff happens. We all want to get back on the road. After staying a night in that miserable cabin, I really wanted to sleep in the Airstream tonight.

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I went in and took a propane tank to be refilled, trying not to bother them. There wasn’t much else I could do, so I went into the showroom and went through all the new Airstreams. They had some pretty decent prices, and I think there was room for negotiating. I got some ideas for ours – little things like a little white board and a unique storage hammock that I couldn’t find the name for.

Then I walked around the parts department. I needed to replace an awning hook, but they didn’t have one. There were no white boards or storage hammocks. I’m sure there will be something I need later, but I couldn’t think of it. I went in the back door of the shop and fixed a sandwich. Tom walked by so I asked if I could fix him one. “No”, he said, “but we’re getting ready to start working on yours next.” I quickly finished up and got out of the way. 

I snuck in an hour or so later. Tom was working on the roof while Dickey was working inside. These are all good people at Profile. A couple of hours later I peeked in again. Tom said they were finishing up. I climbed a ladder next to the trailer and took a look. “Wonderful”, I said. Very few shops want you in there. There are also regulations and insurance issues, so I felt very fortunate to be able to come and go. Besides, it is so much fun to see how skilled people work. 

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I went into Paul’s office to pay the bill, but he hadn’t gotten all the details. I offered to get out of the way, as I saw how busy he had been all day, but he said, “No, no. You can stay.” Then he told me they were trying to finish up by 3:00 today. One of their technicians of 17 years had died at 59 years old. The funeral was today. GEEZ! Suddenly it put things in perspective. I had a damaged Airstream while they had lost a valuable colleague. 

I happily paid the bill, as I didn’t want to charge the insurance for this. I wanted to get on the road, but it was a long-day’s drive to Halifax. Maybe I could get in a couple of hours, but Paul recommended I stay here and get a good night’s sleep. They could put the trailer next to the shop where I could plug in and run the fans. He was right, so I took him up on the offer. Again, these are just really good people! I thanked them profusely.

Sitting next to the shop in the sun, it was hot. I took all the clean laundry out of the truck and put it away. I put the clean sheets on the beds, and sorted out things in the truck. It was hot, very hot, and the sun was pouring in through the skylight. After the accident, I had taken the shade off to push the plastic skylight back up, and put it in the truck. Now I needed it, so I retrieved it and tried it in, but it didn’t fit any more. 

For an hour I sliced it, cut it and finally was able to refit it into its distorted space. Finally pulling it closed, the solar heater was damped. I took a cold shower in the trailer, fixed a vodka and orange juice, had dinner and went to my comfortable, clean bed. 

Then the thunderstorm came. All this heat and humidity had to produce a storm. I guess it made a good leak test, so I kept looking for one. Wonderful, there was no leak. Tom said he was 95% sure it would be leak-free. In the middle of the night I heard a small stream of water fall onto the floor. I quickly got up to sop it up in a towel. There was a low area beside the skylight that apparently collected a pool of water. After sitting there for a couple of hours, it found a way through all the caulk. I would have to see to that at some point. 

A Day in Lebanon

Friday, July 11, 2019

We got an early start for Boston, leaving a little before 6:00. An hour and a half trip without traffic, we made it in a little over two after stopping at McDonald’s for breakfast. Boston is a busy, hectic city. Kelly jumped out of the truck in front of the train station, grabbing his bags. We said a quick goodbye in heavy traffic. Yesterday Melanie Brittingham shared this video on Facebook, and it is just the way I felt driving in and out of Boston……well, except for the food court. In the video people were driving 115 miles an hour, and she is a country girl, who had never driven the New Jersey Turnpike. This may not play on the blog.

Thankfully, I didn’t miss any turns getting out of the city, and then traffic settled down. I began sorting out things I needed to do. I had left a note on the door of the Airstream saying I was worried about rain this afternoon, and could they cover it in some way? I told them I would be back about noon.

Now the whole Newfoundland trip for two months is dramatically changed. We would have to stay in B&B’s and eat every meal out. I’m sure Martha would like this, but it will make it tremendously more expensive. How would I get all these clothes in the truck? What would I do with the food in the referigerator? I needed a better cooler. The ice in my current one lasts about a day. At Walmart I bought several tote bags to put clothes in, as I don’t have a suitcase. I didn’t find a decent cooler, so I went to a marine supply and bought a soft one that you put ice substitute in. That may work out better, since I can put the ice substitutes in the freezer every night. I canceled the first two campgrounds.

Back at Profile, they had moved the Airstream inside their huge shop. I went in to see what was going on. Paul said to come in and sit down. Oh dear! He had a new estimate of the cost of repair. The entire roof would need to be replaced, as it is all one piece. In order to replace three ribs, all the cabinets would have to come out of the inside. I was devastated when he told me the price, which was almost what I paid for the trailer. That sick feeling came back. Dickey had come in to listen, and Lisa stood at the door. They all looked very concerned. All I could say was to submit the claim and see what happens.

I went to a laundry and did several loads of wash. I’ve done my share of laundromats, but I couldn’t figure out why my credit card didn’t work. I tried a second, turned it around all possible ways, but didn’t work. I asked a gentleman on my left, and he took me over to the pay machine where you put your credit card in and get a laundry credit card. Sheez! Now I have to guess how much I will spend. I had to get a second one for the dryer, but didn’t use all the money, so I gave it to a couple who were just starting.

I needed a place to stay. I have been in so many campgrounds with cute, little cabins, I thought I would try one. The first campground was full, as it is the peak of camping season. I went to a KOA, which was also very busy, but they had one. Whew, at least I could take a shower and sit and think. 

I was very disappointed when I opened the door to the cabin. It wasn’t clean, no sheets on the bed, two bunk beds with nothing but pads on them. There were no pots, pans or utensils. Luckily, I had all the wash in the truck, which included sheets, and I had a stainless steel drinking bottle I could drink out of. How would I do coffee in the morning? Fortunately there was instant hot water that was hot enough for coffee, and I had one Starbucks straw left. I want my Airstream back!

I was hungry and Googled restaurants. I opted for Magrilla’s in Rochester, NH, which was rated well. Then I got a call from Paul. He said Tom and Dickey had seen how devastated I was, and wondered if I would just like to patch it up to get me back on the road? They could put a piece of aluminum over the hole, push the roof up as much as possible and seal everything. “What? Say that again. Yes, yes I would LOVE that. Thank you soooo much!” I texted Martha.

I found Magrilla’s and went in. Pat greeted me like I was an old friend, handed me a menu and asked if I would like a drink. “Yes I would!” I asked for his recommendation for dinner. Taking his advice, I ordered mushroom ravioli with grilled chicken. It was great and the wine helped. It was like I was in Cheers. Some regulars sat around a rectangular bar. The young lady bartender knew them all, and so did Pat. A group of runners came in one by one until there were 12 of them. Pat joined the group, talking in a circle by the front door. He came by my table and said they come every Thursday, go for a run and then have dinner. 

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There was a family of four by the front window, also regulars, probably grandparents taking the kids out for the evening. The two little girls, maybe 9 and 11, kneeled in their chairs to play some game between them. With good news Paul, I enjoyed the spirit of this place and the friendly atmosphere.

I was very tired when I got back to the cabin, so I had no trouble going to sleep at 8:00, but I woke up at 3:00. In the dark, I slowly made my way to the showers. Thankfully, they were nice. I fixed my one cup of coffee and tried to wrap my head around another change. “The cheese moves. Move with the cheese.” I have to read that book.

A Mess in New Hampshire

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

I didn’t sleep well and got up at 3:30 after being awake for a half hour. My head was spinning with the events. I tried not to let my mind go back to the accident. It was just too painful. I read an email from my friend, Ed, that helped put it in perspective, but it was still difficult. I tried to focus on what to do next. “The cheese had moved. Move with the cheese.”

We were staying at Lake Francis State Park in New Hampshire, right on the Canadian border. My phone said I was in Canada and charging me accordingly. I would later learn that’s where the nearest tower is. I went down to the very nice bath house and showered. As daylight came, I walked around to help clear my mind. It’s a gorgeous spot where the Connecticut River runs into Lake Francis. We were here to fish the river. All the write-ups described miles of river to fish, most of which are tailwaters from three lakes that keep the water cool. The people population isn’t so great, and it feels more like Canada.

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The campground is very pretty and well-maintained. Several guys in their 20’s came down with rods in hand, two spinning and one fly rod. They had been catching fish, mostly Brook Trout 10-12 inches and one 16″ Rainbow. The guy with the fly rod had caught the most fish. I asked what fly he was using, and he said, “A brown wet fly with white wings.” Had I felt better, I might have smiled. I wished them luck.

At the top of the hill, a young man was rigging up his fly rod. His 5-year old girl asked, “Daddy can you….”, but he said, “Wait a minute dear. Daddy has to get his fishing rod ready.” His cute wife had just come back from a one-hour bike ride at 7:00. 

I spent the morning talking and emailing Chris Burch, Airstream service advisor at Jackson Center in Ohio. I sent him all the pictures, including ones after Kelly and I had cleaned everything up. It took a long time because we are surely not the only ones that needed help. I have had service there before with our 2005 30’ Classic, and they did a great job. I think he would also go and talk with his service people and managers and ask what would need to be done. 

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It was about 11:00 when Chris said it would be a lot of work. The roof would have to be replaced, so everything on the roof has to come off. Then three of the ribs need to be replaced, which means they have to take the inside shell off and take the cabinets out. It would be expensive, but they couldn’t do it until the fall. 

I was about to throw up when Sue(?) came up in her golf cart. She is the campground supervisor and had seen the air conditioner sitting by the dumpster. “Have you reported this to the police?” We thought a guy behind us had done that, but she gave me the number of the Pittsburg police chief. I called him while she watched. John, the chief, said he would go and look, then come and talk with us.

It was a long morning of waiting. Kelly was beginning to think how he might get back home, if he could cancel his flight out of Bangor, Maine and what towns or cities we might be passing. There was no sense in driving all the way to Jackson Center, so I called Paul at Profile State Line Superstore in Lebanon, Maine. He was very nice, and said they were happy to help get us back on the road. They couldn’t do the work for three weeks though. They were four hours away, so it just made more sense to go there, and leave it to be repaired. Martha and I would have to go to Newfoundland and stay in B&B’s or something.

Where was that sheriff? We hooked up the trailer and got ready to travel. Finally John came. Big and strong, in his 30’s, John introduced himself. I told him the story as he checked my driver’s license and registrations. He took some pictures and I gave him mine. I was liable for the bridge damage. Apparently that liability falls on the truck insurance while the trailer damage is covered by a different company, but that’s another story.

Then John said I needed to pay for hauling the air conditioner away and should go down to the office and settle with Sue. Sheez! I went down and told Sue (?) we were leaving, hoping to get two nights refund to pay for removing the air conditioner, but she said she didn’t know if it could be refunded on such short notice. I was about to lose it as John left. She said I needed to contact a recommended service to pick it up. “OK, can I use your phone to call them?” “No, you have to send them a letter.” Are you kidding me? John had suggested $40 to remove it, so I put it on the counter and left. I had really liked this campground, but now I was ready to get the hell out of there.

We set the truck GPS for Lebanon, Maine and started out. It told us to turn left on a gravel road and we did. In a short distance we saw it was not a good idea. It took 15 minutes to turn the trailer around. I tried to keep calming myself, afraid I might make another mistake and damage something else. Finally back on the road, we stopped at a Y. The GPS told us to go left, but that is where the covered bridge is. There was one in front of us, but it was just a decoration now. I began thinking about suing the state for keeping these cute, but outdated bridges.

An attractive lady drove up in a golf cart pulling a lawn tractor behind. She stopped and asked if we were lost. I told her we didn’t like where the GPS was sending us. “Oh, GPS doesn’t work up here. Go straight down this road and you will get to route 3. Thanking her, we drove down the gravel road to Rt 3, turned left and saw a gas station where we refueled yesterday. Are you kidding me?! All we had to do yesterday was drive a half mile from the station, turn right on a good gravel road and go 3/4 mile to the park. The GPS couldn’t have taken us on a more convoluted route! Now I wanted to sue the GPS. I understand phones not working, and I understand GPS not working, but this was crazy, like some demonic spirit in control just to have a little fun!

Driving New Hampshire roads while pulling a trailer is not fun. Someone told us Newfoundland roads are terrible. They can’t be worse than New Hampshire roads. The countryside is gorgeous though, and driving through the White Mountains is very pretty. The adrenaline was fading now, and I was getting tired, so I asked Kelly to drive. There are few people I would let drive and he is one of them. Still, it makes me nervous.

We arrived at Profile Stateline Superstore at 4:15. Tom came out to greet us. He is the technician and pulled out a ladder, climbing up to assess the damage. I waited for the “Oh my God” to come out, or the head shaking, but neither happened. He just looked, pointed and calculated. Then he went inside. Again, no muttering or comments, just calculating. Then we went inside to see Paul. They did some talking and quick calculations, and Paul thought it might cost $10,000. The parts are expensive. Shipping from Jackson Center is expensive. Big sheets and panels, packed and shipped carefully would surely be costly. “OK, go ahead” I said.

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Kelly was eying this little 14.5′ Airstream for Rhonda

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Kelly packing up

We had no place to stay and we hadn’t had lunch today. They said we could park beside the service building. There is even a power hookup there. Well, I wasn’t going to run the air conditioner. We stayed there. It was just easier. It was hot sitting in the sun, but we opened all the windows and turned the fans on high, and soon it cooled down. Kelly searched ways to get home by plane or train. We had just bought all this food. What were we going to do with it? How would I put all this stuff in the truck? There were things I didn’t need, and thought about renting a little storage unit. We cooked a steak in the frying pan, corn on the cob and some mixed vegetables.

Kelly finally found a train to Richmond leaving from Back Bay in Boston, an hour and a half away. I didn’t like it, but the plan was now to leave the trailer here, go to Newfoundland and come back to pick up the Airstream after the trip. We probably wouldn’t stay as long, as it would be a lot more expensive, staying in hotels and eating all our meals out, but that was it. It had been a very long day and we were tired. Martha was coming to Halifax, Nova Scotia Tuesday night. I made a list of things I needed to do.

The Covered Bridge

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Driving north for 4.5 hours put us in Pittsburg, New Hampshire. We drove through gorgeous country all day, but the more north we drove, the more remote it became. It started to look like Canada, and in fact, we ended up right on the border. 

We drove some back roads looking for the only fly shop in the area. It was a shack in the front of a house. No one was there. Now entering our destination, Lake Francis State Park, took us up rough, gravel roads. The GPS didn’t know we were pulling a trailer. We came to a covered bridge with a 3-ton limit. I stupidly drove across. The bridge took out my air conditioner and damaged the roof.

After checking into the campground, it took us two hours of cutting wires and sawing screws to get the busted unit off the Airstream. I was sick at my stomach for what I had done. Then we cleaned up the mess, cut out a piece of plastic from the top of the air conditioner and attached it over the hole with duct tape. The plastic skylight was also badly damaged, so we pushed it out the best we could and taped it.

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I called National General Insurance, talking to a very nice lady in North Carolina, who took all the information. She told me Jaime would be calling me to get the details. My head was spinning, readjusting to the conditions. Curtis Jansen had a quote on his mirror at his house in California. It was from a book by Spencer Johnson about adapting to changing events in life. “You have to move with the cheese. The cheese moves.” It helped me in this terrible time. If I let myself focus on my stupidity and what happened to my beautiful Airstream, I just wanted to scream and throw up. I had to move with the cheese.

The closest Airstream dealer was in Lebanon, Maine, about four hours away. Kelly called Paul at Profile State Line Superstore. He was helpful and very nice, but said it would be three weeks before they could get to it. Head still spinning, I thought of Martha coming in less than a week for two months in Newfoundland. I just couldn’t compute. One step at a time. Fix the Airstream takes first priority. 

I called Martha and told her the story. She took it pretty well, but I knew she was sick too. We finally fixed a drink and tried to sort out what to do next. Move with the cheese.

Moving to Camping on The Battenkill

Sunday, July 6, 2019

While we were breaking camp, John Donovan came up to say goodbye. His group across the road had fished last night in the rain, but had little luck. They have a very nice group that rents a cabin here every year. John said he envied us – being able to travel and fish on a trip like this. We said you have to be old like us, but we do feel very fortunate.

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It was a pretty, 3-hour drive north, past Tolland State Forrest, up I90 and Rt.7. Arriving at the campground early, we dropped the trailer at a nearby park and ran errands. We drove 12 miles south to the Bennington Walmart. It is a well-organized store, so we were pretty efficient getting what we needed. We filled up with gas, got a milkshake and went to the liquor store. By the time we had lunch and hooked up the trailer, it was time to check in. 

We found our site, set up and drove north to check out the Orvis store and Outlet. This is the Orvis home, where it all got started. They have the corporate offices, their biggest store, a fly fishing school, complete with stocked ponds, and an outlet for older items. These are all beautiful buildings in the also beautiful town of Manchester, VT. Mostly they come for the cool summer air and the Battenkill River.

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We entered the store with our mouths agape. It’s huge with hunting and fishing gear on the ground floor and home and pets on the second floor. We love Orvis stuff, all of it! There is a department for shotguns – beautiful shotguns. 

Despite the distractions, we headed for the fishing department and met Sooner. No, he is not from Oklahoma. He gave us some great tips on fishing the Battenkill. He showed us places to go on Google Maps on his computer. Then he showed us what he likes to use and how he fishes them. Apparently, the average fisherman catches two trout a day on the Battenkill. The fish see a lot of fishermen. It is not stocked in Vermont, so they are wild and they are finicky. Of course we bought more flies, and I bought a braided leader. As we were heading out, Sarah also gave us some tips and a printed map. She suggested fishing Roaring Branch where native Brookies live. Maybe we would fish the Battenkill this evening in camp. Tomorrow we would fish it on the New York side, since they stock it. In the afternoon, we might try Roaring Branch. One day is not enough time!

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We headed over to check out the outlet store. There were two floors of marked down items – rods, flies, clothes, home and pets. Tempting, very tempting, especially pants for $29 and half-priced fly rods. I could spend a half day here……and a lot of money.

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Late in the afternoon, we went behind the trailer to the beautiful stream and fished for an hour. It was the end of 4th of July week. Between canoes, inner tubes and fishermen, these fish are laying low. 

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Fishing The Farmington River

Saturday, July 6, 2019

We had one day to fish the Farmington River. After cruising the road along the river, we found a spot where there weren’t other fishermen. There is an island with a couple of small runs and the main branch. I fished the first small run for 30 minutes, changing flies a couple of times, but no luck. It’s a beautiful run though. Crossing an island, I fished the second small run that looked like a good-sized trout stream with a great run and pool. No luck. 

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I walked around the end of the island and saw Kelly sitting on a rock changing flies. A fast rapid separated us, so I couldn’t hear what he was saying. He pointed behind him and yelled, “Ducks”. What? I fished the fast water for a few minutes, then walked up the side and crossed at the top of the rapid to see what he was talking about. He was now back up and casting to a shady side of the river. A hen mallard was busily feeding on moss covering rocks under water. Five of her young ones were huddled on a rock right behind where Kelly was sitting. I took pictures as I slowly approached. The mother didn’t care, and the young ones didn’t seem to either. I walked right up to the rock. They were so cute all huddled up together on a warm, sun-drenched rock in the middle of the river. 

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The water was cool, maybe 55 degrees. We chose to fish without waders. It’s July, and it was going to be hot today. Maybe these little ducks didn’t have all their down yet. 

We had this nice section to ourselves. Nice houses lined the other side of the river. There was shade from trees along the bank. The current ran down that side, and it was about waist-high. I know because I had to go retrieve a fly stuck on a branch. 

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Changing flies a number of times, we fished our way up to another rapid. It was pretty, with beautiful water. On a hot summer day, it’s a nice way to spend the morning. You would think some stupid, little trout would take a fly, but there was never an approach to a fly. We did see a couple rise and then disappear. 

By mid-day we were tired and hungry, so we went back to camp. We walked across the campground road to see if we could get to the river. Two guys were getting settled at a cabin, one of which had waders on. We asked how they did, and it was similar to our morning. They are from Connecticut and knew the river well, saying the time to fish is from 6:00 to 8:30, and there is always a hatch. “What do you use?” we asked. “Whatever is hatching.” he said. “Caddis, BWO’s, sulphurs, ISO’s”. 

We went over to explore the river. There is a huge pool, appropriately called The Campground Pool. A path as big as a road goes up and down the river. With renewed enthusiasm, we returned to camp and resorted flies, put boxes in our vests and adjusted our leaders. The weather report called for a thunderstorm at 4:00, but clear at 6:00, which would be perfect. It was hot and muggy without a breath of air moving, a perfect recipe for a storm. Sitting under the awning, I leaned my head back against the trailer and took a nap.

A black cloud approached with thunder in the distance. We scrambled around, putting fishing gear in the truck and the rest under the awning. Then with lightening and thunder, it started pouring rain. The wind and cooling temperatures were welcome. This could be the perfect conditions for good fishing later, but it didn’t happen. The rain continued until dark.

After a dinner of pork chops, potatoes and a salad, we cleaned up and I went to bed. I was asleep in three minutes. Kelly went over to talk with the fishermen across the street.

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Moving to The Farmington River

Friday, July 5, 2019

It was only a 40 minute drive to the American Legion Campground on the Farmington River in Barkhamsted, CT, so we had a relaxing start to the day. We fixed a big breakfast of eggs, sausage and blueberry pancakes. As we left the campground, dumpsters were overflowing from the 4th of July crowds. It takes about an hour to get everything ready for travel, but we still arrived at the campground at 10:15 and check-in wasn’t until 1:00. 

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On the advice of the campground staff, we drove into New Hartford looking for UpCountry Sportfishing “in a big, red building. There were several big, red buildings, so we parked the truck and trailer in a construction site. Walking up the street, we couldn’t find it, so we went into the very nice Rock Shop. The nice lady/owner said she knew the fly shop well. It was a mile away. She said her husband was a famous author of trout fishing. There was a copy of his book on the table. I was flipping through it when Paul Rossman walked in. His book is Creative Salmon Fly Art. We looked around the shop as we talked. Thanking this interesting couple, we drove a mile to UpCountry Sportfishing.

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Taken from their website

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Is that Woodstock above the Snoopy sign??

It’s a great shop. The white board listed flies for the river as well as other rivers. We had some of these flies, but we picked out some more, along with a small fly box. I labeled it as I put flies in. A nice young man, Brayson, helped me choose some leaders. The braided leaders were all gone. He gave me some tips on where to go and what to use. It was obvious he was a fisherman and knew what he was talking about. It was July 4th weekend and the shop was busy. Serious fishermen were buying with a purpose, wanting to get on the river as soon as possible.

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With flies, fly boxes and leaders in hand, Torrey came up and answered a few questions. He then proceeded to give us a ton of information about the river, how to fish it, water temperatures in different sections and what times of day to fish with different flies. Closer to the dam, the waters will be colder, which is great for fishing this time of year. Water temperature is about 50 degrees in the “kill and grill section”, he said. In the middle section it is about 60. This is all catch and release. Their website is excellent, and gives conditions and temperatures: http://www.farmingtonriver.com/river-report/. With renewed enthusiasm, we talked about where we had been. Both Brayson and Torrey said we would have done better on the Deerfield River than the Westfield. 

We ate lunch in a pretty, little park across the street and discussed the strategy. It was still not time to check-in, so after some searching, we found the unmarked dump station that also served as a fishing parking spot. We parked the trailer at our site, but my solar system software has an irritating glitch. It keeps thinking we are fully-charged when it is not, and moves to “float” mode. #@%&#. I moved the trailer into the sun and reset the breaker.

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Gearing up, a fisherman walked by. We asked him if he had any luck. “No”, he said. “It’s too hot. I think I’ll wait until later.” He is from Connecticut and knows the river well. He talked about what he uses, where we had been and where he likes to fish. He is an electrician, so we talked about that a bit. Kelly’s son, Hunter, is an electrician. We invited him for cocktails later, but he was staying somewhere else. 

We joined four other fishermen on a stretch in the campground. A party of people were sitting on the edge of the river in the shade, enjoying the scenery. We took our spot and began fishing. Nothing was rising. There was no hatch. Two fish were caught downstream and one upstream. Changing flies five times, we had no luck. Several beer cans floated by, them the tubers began floating by, apologizing as they passed. It’s a gorgeous river, but this is not my cup of tea. I went back to the trailer, moved it to a level spot, built a fire and tried to find out where the glitch in the solar software. I changed a setting from battery protect to always on, but I have no idea what I am doing. I called AM Solar, but it’s July 4th weekend. They were closed.

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The Westfield River

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The East Branch of the Westfield River was too warm for fishing yesterday, so our plan was to fish the tailwaters of the Westfield River. It was July 4th, a terrible time for trout fishing, but a tailwater stream comes out of the bottom of a dam, so the water is cold. 

Driving out of Tolland State Park, there was a line of waiting cars. People were walking and talking around the cars. Slowly driving around the corner, the line continued for half a mile and judging from the animated conversations going on around us, most were Spanish speaking. The park is on a large lake, with a beach and a campground. For $5 a day, you can spend the day at the beach. A campsite is $27 a night, and they are large sites. A young man walked up the line of cars, handing out registrations. A truck came down our side of the road and seemed unwilling to back up. There was a space between cars in the long line, so I backed up so he could get in it. He was a park ranger. People came up to his truck to ask questions. We were amazed at the line as we drove out. 

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Driving up the Westfield main branch, we passed a park on the river. It was packed. People were parking across the street. We turned to Wrightsville dam, but two police cars blocked the road. The officer said they couldn’t allow anyone else in, as it was full. “Are they fishing?” we asked. “No, no one is fishing.” he said with a grin. He suggested fishing below Littleville Lake nearby.

We found the very pretty lake with a small stream flowing out below. We found a parking spot on the main branch behind an old sedan. A family was cooling off in the river. The young father came up to check on his car. We told him we were going to fish upstream of them. He could see we were old, decked out in fishing gear and harmless, so he nodded with a small smile.

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As we started up the small branch of the Westfield, Kelly fished ahead. I walked around the shallow side of a small island. I have never seen so many crayfish in my life, and there were some big ones. Crayfish, crawfish, crawdads or mountain lobsters are common in many streams, but this is a crayfish farm! Why on earth would a trout take any fly in my box when it could dine regularly on lobster? This pretty, little stream was warm – too warm, and slippery. We fished it up to the bridge and never saw a fish. 

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We got out in someone’s yard to walk up to the road. I saw a lady on the porch and asked if we could walk across. She yelled for her husband. John came to greet us, saying it was fine. “Did you catch anything?” he asked. He said the water gets to warm to even swim in the summer. He had build a small dam to make a little swimming hole, but he said the water comes off the top of the lake. Sheez, the top of the lake! So this is not a tailwater stream – only the one below Wrightsville Dam. He smiled and told us about all the work he had done on this pretty house that was built in the 1800’s. We thanked him and began our long walk in the hot sun back to the car. There was a lot of traffic on this little country road. A car with a Spanish-speaking family stopped to ask directions to a park. 

As we crossed a bridge over the main Westfield, two police cars blocked the road. Traffic was backed up as far as we could see. A nice police officer told us it would be about five minutes while a worker cut a downed power line. So many people were trying to find a place to cool off. Like us, they thought they were getting away in the countryside. God knows what it was like at the ocean beaches. 

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We were concerned we might not be able to get back to our campsite, but that was fine. As we drove into the park, this end of the lake was filled with boats gathered to party. We thought it would be terribly hot in the trailer, but it wasn’t. Our big, shady site was very comfortable. We showered and watched Enemy at The Gates, an excellent, riveting WWII movie. It was nice to relax a bit. After cocktails, we fixed a nice dinner of trout, new potatoes and sautéed spinach. Across the street was a big gathering of Latinos. Different people stood in the middle telling stories. Why couldn’t I make myself learn Spanish? I’m guessing the stories would have been fascinating. 

Fishing The East Branch of The Westfield River

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

It was and hour drive over to the East Branch, plus a stop for ice and a breakfast sandwich at a gas station. We took a quick look at Chesterfield Gorge, a pretty spot on the river, but we were excited to get fishing. It was already 9:30 and warming up. 

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We drove down the bumpy, dirt road, passing a couple of cars a photography team and some dog-walkers. It would be a great place to walk or ride a bike. We drove down a mile or so and parked. Kelly is always geared up first and had to wait for me. I followed, waiting to put a fly on until I got a look at the river. He was fishing on top, so I put on a nymph. I hate fishing nymphs, but it was probably our best chance of catching fish. The river is gorgeous, with huge boulders, swift runs and big pools. It’s easy casting with little in the way. Big rocks make great platforms to stand on and cast. 

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The water was warm – no cooler than a good smallmouth stream. This is not a good thing for trout. The river is a bit treacherous to walk in with silt covering the rocks, making it very slippery. We changed flies a lot and fished hard for two hours. No hits, no runs, no errors, so we decided to go downstream a ways. 

A nice fisherman was driving back up and stopped to chat. He hadn’t done anything either, starting where a gate blocks the road. He was going to try going upstream, so we went down. After parking, we walked down a half mile and started fishing. Nothing. I mean it’s July, and that’s not good for trout fishing. We were sitting on a big rock when I noticed a bike-rider with his shirt unzipped climbing down the bank toward us. We said hello as George approached us. “Did you lose a fishing rod? A walker found one in the road.” Kelly said it could be his. Did he set it on top of the truck toolbox and leave it there? “What color was it?” George asked. “What color line did it have on it?” Amazing how you can fish a rod for 30 years and not know what color it is. It was his father’s Orvis rod. We had noticed a group or groups of walkers along the road above us. George said the walker might leave it with the park attendant, but there was none today.

I scrambled up the bank as they were talking and walked quickly back to the truck to see if his rod was in the back. It wasn’t. By then Kelly was walking up. We got in the truck, hoping to catch this walker before he left the area. Backing up 300 yards, we found a place to turn around. A Jeep was coming down the road and had to back up to a spot we could pass each other. We passed several groups of walkers, but no fishing rod. Then a biker with two dogs stopped us. It was a bit hard to tell what he was talking about. As a dentist, I was focusing on the missing teeth. He was a fit-looking older guy with no shirt on. Apparently there was a car with a dead battery. We had only passed one parked car, a Jeep. “Was that it”, Kelly asked. “No, it’s up a side road. I remembered a road turning up the mountain. “We’ll come back, but first we need to look for a lost fishing rod.” we said. He was still talking as we hurried off. Hurried is a stretch. This road is rough, and 10mph is top speed with a lot of bouncing. We’ll probably break something in the back, we said.

One more group – no rod, but in the next group, a bearded man about our age had the rod. Kelly thanked him profusely. “Thank God”. We turned around and drove back down the road to find the car with a dead battery. Catching up to the bike-rider with two dogs. It was his truck, a new Toyota. He must have left something on, maybe a light or something. He said he would lead the way to where he was camped for several days. Shades of Deliverance went through our minds. The two of us could take him, but suppose he had a friend up there with a gun. He could ride the bike faster than we could drive the truck, but we followed him to the  turnoff. He said it got a bit narrow at one point. Looking back, he said, “Boy, that’s a big truck!” We have driven much tougher roads, but a log narrowed it at one point. It was a bit of a struggle getting by, and his directions weren’t great.

Finally we saw the new, red Toyota truck. Of course it was pointed away from us. We quickly surveyed the area for others. Dogs are usually good indicators, and these were two very nice dogs. If they were pit bulls, as so many people seem to have, we wouldn’t have followed him. 

We had to clear all his camping gear, coolers, stoves and bags out of the way. Then we pushed his truck backward so I could get my truck around a fire pit to his hood. “You want a beer?” he asked. He was constant chatter, and I wasn’t here for chatter. Steve was his name. He said, “Oh you don’t drink?” “No, we drink – just not beer”. The cute, little puppy kept jumping up my leg, looking for attention. 

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Fortunately I have long jumper cables, but they’re not so easy to clamp on my battery. First try, no effect. There was just clicking. May be the starter, I suggested. “No” Steve said “They really service this truck well. I’m sure it’s the battery. It has so many electrical gadgets and technology, I’m sure it was my mistake leaving something on.” Tightening the clamps, we tried again with no effect. “Let it run a while to charge it”, he said, and the chatter kept flowing. Noticing a hanging trash bag, I asked about bears. That led to a couple of bear stories. Steve likes to camp in remote places, not that this is really remote, but if you like to bike and walk, this is a good place. “Try it again”, I said while he was still talking. Still clicking. The starter, I thought.

I checked the connections and found the one on my battery had come loose. “Try it again” I said. He said, “Leave it a few minutes and let it charge some more. Are you guys in a hurry?” He was drinking a beer, and still talking. Thankfully, on the next try, his truck started. He thanked us profusely as we wrapped up the cables and put them back in the truck. It was a bit tricky turning around, but we finally made it. Heading down the mountain, he was still talking, thanking us. Now safe, we realized not many were going to come up this road to help Steve, and we were glad we did. Not many people were going to come down to the river and ask if we had lost a fishing rod either, so we had paid if forward. The fishing wasn’t much, but it was an adventure.

We started to drive to a fly shop in Deerfield, but the bridge was out. It was 45 minutes north and we were an hour from camp. That’s enough for one day, so we turned around and headed home. Charlie had called as we left the Beaverkill. What a nice guy! He said the Deerfield was great, and gave us the name of a great guide. Looks like we aren’t going to make that one this trip. 

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