October 15, 2019 Tropea IT

I was worried about the day for some reason.  I was 90% sure that I had told Greta Garmin the right ferry terminal, but there are three in Messina, and I did not want to be playing Ferry Terminal roulette in an old Italian city.  It turns out I had nothing to worry about as I had put in the right terminal.  I think the other reason I was uncomfortable is I have a feeling we did not give Sicily all of the time it deserves.  We have not had a bad day on Sicily.    

They have an interesting system for selling tickets for the ferry, there is an island in the road with two ticket booths in the middle, but no designated parking,  everyone just drives up to the vicinity of the ticket booths, stops their car, and heads over to the ticket booth on foot, once they have their ticket they wind their way thru all of the other randomly “parked” cars, and head on down to the ferry.

It was a short ferry ride over to the boot of Italy.  We pulled off the ferry and on to a really nice freeway for the next 60km’s on our way to the resort town of Tropea.  We picked it as it seemed like a pretty easy drive if anything went wrong with the ferry.  We were also intrigued with some of the pictures of the town in one of our tour books.

Arrivederci Sicily.

The drive was going along pretty uneventfully until we dropped down into Tropea.  The road down from the mountains above town was pretty twisty, but we are getting used to that by now.  The real problem was once we entered town we were immediately in typical small city roads which are challenging in a RV, then the real problem started.  In Italy they have areas called limited traffic zones (ZTL) where cars are forbidden to enter without special passes.  The fine for violating these zones is around €100, and they are enforced by cameras.  The problem is if you accidentally blunder into one you may pass several cameras before you work your way out of the area, and you get fined each time.

The road we turned down to reach the campground, the sign on top means no campers or trucks.  I missed that sign as I was trying to work out how to get out of the center of town.

While I was trying to follow Greta and thread my way down the narrow streets I saw a Limited Traffic Zone sign in front of me.  I made a left turn to avoid entering the zone, and hoped it would trigger Greta to find another route that avoided the dreaded zone.  She led us out of town on even narrower roads to punish me for not following her original route.  We finally emerged on a nice wide highway and I thought problem solved, but suddenly she wanted me to make a right turn onto a road that was on her map.  The problem was the road was in a gorge about 50 feet below us, so now we were heading back into town, and sure enough there was another limited traffic zone sign, but I had a place to pull over and sort thru things.  As I was looking at the map, I happened to notice that the limited traffic sign had a green sign under it that was flashing a message in Italian, and then a miracle, in English the same sign said Free Access.  I took this to mean it was ok to enter the limited traffic zone and did.  We were not out of the woods as Greta then told us to turn down the narrowest road yet, a motorcycle behind me honked a warning and I knew that I might be heading into trouble.  The road was narrow and the switchbacks were hairpin.  Luckily François is short, and most importantly we did not meet anyone coming up.  So after quite an adventure we made it to our seaside campground.  So I guess my unease was right I just did not realize it would be on the end of the trip.

After I had a beer and did some research on how to avoid a ZTL we walked into Tropea and it is beautiful.  

Our campground is just to the left of this 6th century monastery.
Sunset from our campground.

October 4, 2019 Gron FR

Today we moved about 5km’s to our favorite aire at Gron.  Jet lag won the day and neither one of us were moving around until about 11:30 so we decided to take care of a couple of more things around our base in Sens before hitting the road tomorrow.

The biggest thing was to fill up the LP and top off the fuel in François.  It looks like we will have some cool nights so the heater is going to be running.  They have been having a drought around here so of course we show up and bring them three days of rain and cool weather.

One small adventure happened today.  E. Leclerc is one of our favorite grocery chains in France and the one in Sens has propane and relatively cheap fuel so we decided to head over there.  It is not pay at the pump so we had to circle thru the pay station twice to take care of our two different fuel needs.  

When we finished the fuel merry go round we headed over to the parking lot for the store, and they had installed height barriers restricting the parking lot to 2.3 meters (François is 2.9 meters).  We have shopped here on every trip so I thought they must have at least one part of their large parking lot open to Campers, and as we drove around the lot the last entrance had the height barriers open so we pulled in and parked.  After we finished our shopping we came out and while we were in the store they had closed the height barrier trapping us inside.  

An example of the height barrier used to keep RV’s like François out.

As I was trying to sort out how we were going to escape another Camper pulled up.  We had a short conversation in sign language and Franglish where he told me (and I am paraphrasing greatly) that his camper was 2.8m and he fit under the sign.  Meanwhile a couple of cars had pulled up behind us and were watching us figure this out, then a third car came up and began blowing his horn where upon we both gave him a big Gallic shrug, like what do you want.  The guy in the shorter camper went under the bar without hitting, and then got out to guide me thru.  Taking it slow we escaped under the barrier, and with a shake and a bon journey we were on our way to the aire to finish our day.

June 20, 2019 Alzingen LX

We have both wanted to visit Luxembourg on this trip.  We almost swung thru on our way out, but it did not work out.  So last night we decided to head over today.  We left with some light rain and for the last 50 km’s or so we had absolutely torrential rain.  We also ran into our first EU customs check, as Luxembourg was checking all trucks entering the country so the right lane of the freeway was closed so that the police could use it to check the trucks.  This caused a 2 or 3 mile backup as all of the non-commercial traffic squeezed in the left lane.

The Luxembourg flag from the church next to the campground.

When we got to the nice campground on the outskirts of Luxembourg City and checked in, we noticed the throw carpet we put on the floor of François was wet. This is the third time we have had this problem, and each time it has been after driving thru very heavy rain.  While Ton cleaned up, I tried to find a possible source of the water.  We are finding the water right in the center of the cabin, and there are no obvious places for it to come from.  So far no luck, the good news is that it only happens when it rains heavily, and it is not an enormous amount of water.  We will keep you posted.

A picture from a memorial to three American soldiers who were killed when their tank fell thru the bridge in the village while they were liberating it.  

Since we started on a clean up, because of the mystery leak we decided to also take care of washing the sheets towels and everything we leave behind.  We were planning on doing it on Saturday, but since the campground had good German Washing Machines and Dryers and Ton was on a roll we decided to do it today.

The ruins of an old castle behind a church near the campground.

Since not much happened today I will share one weird story from the trip.  When we entered Germany way back on May 9 the campground we were staying at had one of those take one leave one libraries.  All but one of the books were in German, but the one book in English looked interesting to me so I took it.  It was Michael Palin’s diary from 1970-1979 of his years with Monty Python.  It was a pretty thick book and it became my night time reading.  I was reading the last twenty pages of it in early June when I noticed the  campground we were staying in in Lubeck also had a take one leave one library.  It was  the first one I had noticed since I had gotten the Palin diary, and I was shocked to see  the next volume of Michael Palin’s diary from 1980 to 1989 amongst all the German books there.  It seems I have been following a fellow Michael Palin fan around Germany and we read at about the same pace.  

The two volumes of Michael Palin diaries found in two campground take one leave one libraries over 400 miles apart in Germany.

June 2, 2019 Leipzig GE

Today was a day of rest mostly.  We woke up and decided to get some chores done, the biggest of which was laundry.  Leipzig was next on our list and I found a campground with washing machines so we were off to Leipzig.  After an uneventful 120km drive on the autobahn we arrived.

It’s about 90 degrees today so Ton and I are having dreams of beer.

It was around 10:30 when we arrived, I went in to check in, and was asked if I had a reservation, when I replied negatively she gave me a lecture about planning, making reservations and added that check in time was 2pm, after she got that off her chest she checked me in and we were off to our spot.  Having settled in we went to find the laundry room to scope out the equipment and the cost, but the laundry room was locked.  Back to the office to find out that you needed to check out a key and buy tokens for 30 minutes of electricity.  We were a little perplexed about the whole buying electricity thing but guessed we would figure it out.  After getting our laundry sorted I headed back to get the key and tokens, the office was jammed with people checking in so I waited patiently, and was amused to see another person with poor planning skills get the same lecture I had gotten about the importance of reservations, this time in German.  Then the next person in line bought a bunch of tokens and took a key, shucks!  Hoping there was more than one key I continued to wait only to be told as I expected, that there was only one key.  After 3 hours went back to check on the key, and the same lady a little shamefaced told me that the key was still not back, but gave me the space number of the person who had it, so off I went on my quest for the key.  They turned out to be a nice couple who said they would be done in 8 minutes (how precisely German of them), sold us their 4 extra tokens, agreed to give us possession of the key, and explained the purchasing of electricity with the tokens.

Some greatest hits photos from Ton.
Cool flowers.
Our favorite German coffee.

Tomorrow we are off to see Leipzig.

May 21, 2019 Garmisch GE

It did indeed rain 1 to 2 more inches overnight with strong wind.  We both woke up about 3 am with wind and extremely heavy rain hitting the window of the hotel room.  We rolled over and slept in to about 8:30 since our Bavarian Rail Pass does not allow us to use the transit system in Munich until 9am after rush hour.

Our plan was to take a train from Munich to Garmisch, and retrieve François from the US Army’s care.  When we got to the imposing Munich train station, I got into an information line to find the time for the next train to Garmisch as I was getting conflicting information on line.  When I got to the lady in the information booth and asked about a train to Garmisch she said we should not go to Garmisch today but wait until tomorrow. Not the answer I expected.  I asked her why and she repeated herself, wait until tomorrow.  While I appreciated her advice I needed to know why, I finally got her to tell me that there was flooding around Garmisch and the trains were not running to there.  While I was processing that confusing conversation Ton came by and told me there was a train to Garmisch in half an hour on track 29.  Now I was really perplexed. 

Munich station the beginning of our travel adventure today.

We decided to head on down to track 29 to see if there was a train.  Sure enough as we arrived there was a nice local train with Garmisch on the display board.  Still concerned about flooding in Garmisch we wandered back and fourth on the platform a few minutes before we spotted a conductor for the German Rail.  He told us that the tracks to Garmisch were indeed flooded, but they were running the train to Murnau, and then taking the passengers on to Garmisch by bus.  So after much confusion we now had the full picture and got on the train.  

Just before the train departed there was a long announcement in German, and a nice lady next to us translated it for us to confirm we were going by train to Murnau, and bus to Garmisch.  Arriving at Murnau, we got off the train with about 30 other customers, and there was no bus.  Ton and I just joined the end of the line and waited for the Germans to sort out what was next.  Eventually we all huddled in a bus shelter, there was a bus at the end of the lot but the driver sat there and ignored us.  After a couple of false alarms for local busses a bus pulled in and dropped off a bunch of passengers bound for Munich.  Just as everyone was about to board the bus the driver stepped off and said he was finished.  Germans usually are pretty stoic, but this group had enough and began to let the driver of the bus have it pretty loudly.  Just then the bus that had been sitting there since we arrived moved up to the bus stop opened his door and told us he was taking us to Garmisch.   Apparently he was not on duty for the 30 minutes he had been sitting there watching us all try to stay out of the rain and wind while he sat on a warm bus.

As we drove to Garmisch we saw why we were not taking the train.  In the low lying fields the Losaich River was way out of its’ banks and running hard.  So our 75 minute train ride took three hours, but we finally made it to Garmisch.  

A view of the Losaich as it runs into Garmisch.

After getting François back we took advantage of the big (and cheap) American washers and dryers at the hotel.  Did a quick shop at the PX to get some more electric adapters, and settled back into François to listen to the rain.

The river by the road into the campground, apparently it was up to the road in the morning.

May 10, 2019 Breighau GE

Today was supposed to be an easy day.  We only traveled 70km’s and the only chore for the day was to fill the LP gas.  That was where the easy day unraveled.  

We had our first experience of German Autobahns as we left Kehl we traveled for about 50km’s on the autobahns and for a 15km stretch there was no speed limit.  So we were puttering along in the right lane at about 90kph (roughly 55mph) while cars were blasting by in the left lane at least double that.  The roads are really good though and free.

About 20km from Freiberg we saw a sign advertising LP gas at the next exit so we whipped in for what I thought would be a quick fill.  Our LP gas system that we use for cooking, heating, and running the refrigerator when we are not plugged in is British, and a bit unusual for Europe.  Most RV’s carry cooking bottles and they exchange them when you run out.  Unfortunately the bottles and the regulators are not standardized in Europe.  To get around this problem we bought this British fixed bottle gas system, and you fill it from a pump like the US.  The pumps are pretty common at gas stations as a fair amount of the cars and vans here run on LP gas.  The only problem is the pumps are not standardized there are 4 different systems, one for France and Spain, one for Germany, and one for Britain, I am not sure where the fourth system is used.  The system came with 4 different adaptors so I could hook up to the pump depending on what country we were trying to fill up in  Now that you know way too much about LP gas in Europe here is the story.

We have filled up in France on multiple occasions so I thought no big deal as I pulled up to the pump.  When I opened the bag that I keep the adaptors in the German one was missing.  After digging around hoping it had come loose and was rolling around in the back I remembered that in Spain I was sorting thru them the first time I filled up there.  I am certain I forgot it in Spain.

We need gas so I said some bad words and got in the car, confessed my stupidity, and as I drove on to Freiburg Ton began researching propane stores.  We tried one RV dealer without success, and when we arrived at the campground I asked the receptionist if she could help.  She was kind enough to call around to ask.  After a couple of calls she told me there was a place that had it, so we were off.

When we arrived they realized we were talking about something different than they thought.  They took a look at our system and said the words I did not want to hear, we do not have these in Germany.  But the two of them had a further conversation and asked me to wait a minute.  A few minutes later one guy walked out and handed me a sticky note with the address of an Esso fuel station.  He said the owner had a box of adaptors people had forgotten in the past and I was welcome to go see if one that would work was in the box.  Well to make a long story short there was a well used one in there and it works.  Even better he would not take any money for it.  So we are not faced with calling England and arranging to have one shipped to us here in Germany!

The well used replacement adaptor.

To make penance for my stupidity I took Ton to two groceries store for some recreational shopping.  We always say we are traveling not vacationing, so today was a day for traveling not sight seeing.

January 17, 2019 Fallon NV

After getting up we both felt a little better so we decided to push on.  We planned an easy day down to Fallon, and Ron optimistically commented that if we got to Fallon too early we could go on to the next town so we would have a shorter drive into Las Vegas the next day.

The weather was supposed to be rain with a chance of mixed rain and snow at the passes.  They were mostly right, and the first 150 miles from Klamath to Alturas was just that.  The next leg was about 80 miles from Alturas  to Susanville California.  As we climbed up to the pass the rain turned to mixed rain, and then turned to just snow.  Before we new it we were on snow covered roads and in 4 wheel drive.  After about 5 miles the lane we were driving in was suddenly clear of snow though the other lane had about 8 or 10 inches covering it.  It turns out we were behind a snow plow.  We lucked out and followed him for about 20 miles until he turned off.  We covered the last 15 miles or so to Susanville in 4wd.  While it was slow we made the trip without any real drama, though we did see one accident.  Once we descended to Susanville we were back in the rain for the rest of the trip.  

The snow plow we followed for about 20 miles.  Thanks.

Because of the snow Ron’s optimistic hope of going past Fallon was dashed, and his back was pretty stiff from driving so we decided to spend one more night in a hotel.

August 10, 2018 San Jose CA

We had the alarm set for 6am, so we could meet our friends Pae and Supachai for happy hour.  The early drive was easy but like last year in British Columbia the smoke from the massive wild fires in California and Oregon reduced visibility to around a mile for the first 200 miles.  The fires in California this year are really bad, and the worst of the traditional fire season has not even begun.

We covered the first 340 miles in about 6 hours and we were looking forward to meeting our friends for a happy hour drink, but when we merged on to I-80 near Sacramento the freeway came to a complete halt and traffic was stopped as far as we could see.  Searching the radio we found out that there had been a serious accident about 3 hours prior and a California Highway Patrol Officer had been severely injured.  Only one lane of the freeway was open and the backup was 15 miles.  Not knowing how bad it would be we ended up gutting it out and it took 3 hours to cover the next 12 miles.  As we were driving it turns our the CHP officer and the person he had pulled over for a traffic violation were struck by another car at full speed and killed.  The snowball effect was now we were still about 70 miles from San Jose, but instead of being thru before rush hour we were in the middle of rush hour and those 70 miles took another 3 hours.  So the bottom line was today we covered 340 miles in 6 hours and 84 miles in 6 hours, for a total of an exhausting 12 hours.

We had a nice Japanese dinner that we just made with our friends and another couple, and Ron crashed into bed about 9pm.

April 21, 2018 Orange FR

We had an adventure today that we did not at all anticipate.  Our plan was to shift about 40km’s from Pont du Gard to Orange to visit the Roman Theater in Orange.  Enroute we were going to stop at a Carrefour to get some gas.  Actually sounds like one of our easier days from a travel point of view.   

We were rolling along on nice wide roads when we came into a little village.  The roads were kind of narrow but we were used to the roads narrowing going into little villages. Then Ron missed a turn, the GPS reprogrammed and the roads were narrow but one way so Ron decided to follow the reprogram, and then we came to a point where the GPS wanted us to turn down a walkway…big problem.  Ron parked and since we had come down a series of one way roads we could just not turn around and go back the way we had come.  Ron on foot followed the one way road thru the village for 2 or 3 hundred yards and it looked doable, so back to François.  Ton backed Ron down the road for the 20 or so yards to the turn, and just as we were getting ready to head down the road a fellow jumped in front of us and in rapid fire French told us that the GPS was wrong and we could not go that way.  There was only one way out and he would show us, or words to that effect.  Just as he was turning us around in very tight quarters another car came up behind us, and we managed to let him squeeze past, but rather than carry on he got out and began to help us turn around and get pointed in the right direction also.  Ron was responding to commands of droit (right) and gauche(left), and a lot of vezzies (afterwards Ton and I decided it was the French version of come on, or keep going), we got turned around passing within inches of several parked cars, and liberally using the sidewalk (all two feet of it) when necessary.   We got pointed at an opening that was maybe four inches wider than Françoise with both mirrors folded in.  The two guys gave me a resounding Voila!, and a thumbs up.  We squeezed down the alley, and popped back out on our nice wide main road.  We shouted some Merci beaucoups (thanks much) at them as they were walking away, but without them our day may have been really a mess, so to the two anonymous French gentlemen, merci beaucoup.

This is about the width of the road we were squeezing François down.

We arrived at Orange 20 minutes later, and visited Carrefour which is turning into Ton’s favorite grocery in France.  Stocked up with food for a few days we were going to get fuel, but it looked like a tight fit and Ron was a little skittish so fuel is tomorrow.

We finally made it to the Roman theater in Orange and it was really interesting and beautiful. It was built in the 1st century AD, and is incredibly huge for that era.  The grounds will hold 10,000 people, and the theater wall behind behind the stage is over 100 feet tall.  The scale is hard to describe and Ton had a tough time capturing it on film.  We followed the audio guide throughout and it was fascinating.  The theater is still used today for concerts and performances.  The facade of the theater is also grandiose but it is undergoing renovation and we did not get a look at it.

The wall at the back of the stage of the Theater in Orange, it was one of the few walls that have survived from ancient Roman theaters.
The seating area of the theater.  It holds over 10,000.

After the theater we passed by the ancient Arc de Triumph of Orange.  This Arch was built by veterans of Cesar Augustus legions who settled in Orange after they completed their service.  It is to honor veterans of the Gallic Wars around 24 AD.  We had actually passed it as it is in a roundabout on the main road in town on the way to the campground.  But this time we were on foot and had time to take some pictures.

The Arc de Triomphe of Orange, built by the legionaries of Cesar Augustus.

April 6, 2018 St. Julien de Sault FR

Today was going to be one of the most stressful travel days for us as we had to make our way from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris and then on by train to a town called Sens where we would be picked up to go to the depot to pick up our RV.

After much consulting of web sites Ron decided the best way to accomplish the first leg of the trip CDG (Airport code) to Gare de Lyon station was by metro.  It looked pretty straight forward The B train from CDG to a stop in Paris and then transfer to the A train for one stop to Gare de Lyon.  Everything was going swimmingly until it came to the transfer.  The train was packed when it was time to get off and of course we had not just ourselves to get off but two very large bags.  We were definitely two salmon swimming up stream and it did not look like we were going to make it off the train, when suddenly two very large, young French gentlemen decided to take our side.  Whatever they shouted at the people around us and coming onto the train worked wonders and suddenly a clear lane to the door opened up and we popped out on to the platform.  We did not have a chance to thank them as the rush to board the train restarted as soon as we were off,  but they have some good karma coming.

The next stop was Gare de Lyon station where our first linguistic adventure began.  We had to get from the metro to the main train station and purchase tickets for the train.  We saw an information kiosk so I decided to ask how to get to the station and purchase a ticket to Sens.  Quickly I was presented with two tickets and asked for 14 Euro.  This didn’t seem right as I had read it would cost us 40 Euro to get to Sens but paid anyway.  I asked how to get to the platform and was given a map of Paris with a stop circled.  After some further discussion and the intervention of someone in line it became clear that the tickets were not what I needed,  we needed to move on to another part of the station and our money was refunded.  When we found ourselves in the right place Ron decided to not take a chance on any further linguistic issues and bought the tickets from a machine.

We arrived in Sens during lunch and decided on another kebab place.  We know we are in France but we both really like kebab, and it is the cheapest food being offered.  We were gathered up by Alice from the RV company along with a British group.  We were smoothly processed by Alice and her husband Mario who are Portuguese and world travelers themselves.  

Our first exposure to a small village in France.

After our first shopping in France at a very large and new Auchan (grocery chain)it was getting late so we headed over to the campground Ron had picked out. It was close and we thought we would indulge in electricity for the first night.  When we got there though we were met by a closed gate and the owner who explained to us they were closed though we did not quite understand the why.  So instead we ended up in the town aire which is free and looks pleasant.

Also, wanted to say Happy Birthday to Ton.

July 30, 2016 Joseph Stewart SP

We are starting the trip out by joining some friends of ours on a weekend outing to Southern Oregon.  The state park we are staying at is halfway between Medford OR and Crater Lake.  One of our good friends from Portland has never visited Crater Lake during their time in the US, as they are English.  They are going to use the  State Park as a base for a trip into the National Park. 

It was an uneventful drive until we got off of I-5 at Canyonville.  As we were heading east out of Canyonville we began to see smoke from a forest fire and quite a bit of fire fighting equipment.  We decided to press on using the logic that they would close the road if the fire was a threat.  After a few miles we could actually see the flames and several helicopters attacking the fire.  But as there was no one stopping us we pressed on.  The smoke was very thick at times reducing visibility to less than half a mile.  

Fire fighting helicopter attacking the fire near the road we were on.

Eventually we arrived at a smoky Stewart State Park.  Several people were leaving, but we all decided to stay and see how it went.

January 27, 2016 Hawthorne NV

Today was supposed to be an easy day.  We planned on a drive into Reno expecting to arrive there around 2pm, do some shopping and then stay in our normal Reno stopping point at the casino.

When we had arrived  back to the campground yesterday Ron took a close look at the tires as we had worked them hard the previous two days.  Our tires had about 30,000 miles on them and were starting to approach the end of their service life.  But despite the tough workout from Titus Canyon and the drive to the Race Track they looked ok, the air levels were good and there were no signs of cuts or punctures.

When we got up it had stopped raining, but the valley was fogged in.  It had rained steadily most of the night and it was amazing to see how quickly the plants around the camp ground were greening up.

From Death Valley to Reno the first 180 miles is thru the desert and there are only three towns with any services spread out about every 60 to 100 miles.  We had been cruising for about 130 miles averaging about 60 mph when as we were leaving Hawthorne Nevada the front right tire blew and proceeded to shred itself.  Ron wrestled the truck to a very narrow soft shoulder right at the edge of the town. 

While it was a problem to lose a tire like that it could have been much worst.  First we were actually in one of only three towns along the route.  Second we were only going about 40 mph when the tire blew, for long stretches we were traveling at 70 mph and it could have been much worst to lose the tire at that speed.  Ron got out to take a look at things, we were on a narrow shoulder on a fairly busy stretch of highway, while we were clear of the travel lane it was only by inches.  The shoulder was extremely soft and Ron was concerned about the stability of the jack in the soft sand.  At that point he decided that since we had AAA coverage he would call them to assist us. 

Going to need a new tire.

Ron had just pulled out the card and was in the process of calling AAA when a young man walked up from behind us.  He asked Ron if he was calling AAA and when Ron confirmed he was, he laughed and said he was AAA in Hawthorne.  How is that for service?  He said he heard the tire go and looked out of his window and saw us on the shoulder.  So our streak of extraordinary luck continued.  He had us on our way in less than a half hour.

So our easy travel day had a complication.  After calling around we found a set of tires we had been thinking about as an upgrade at Reno Vulcanizing Works (had to get that name into the story) which is the oldest Good Year Tire Dealer in the world.  And after a more exciting day than we had planned we were on our way to the casino for the night.

April 26, 2015 Kings Canyon NP

Today we woke up to quite a surprise.  There was over a foot of snow on the ground.  It was really beautiful, but the concern was whether we could get out of the campground as the road was invisible.  Ron did a little scouting and marked the path of the road, until it got to a part that had been plowed.  After some photos were taken, it was time to move, and no problem at all, Scout handled the foot of snow easily.  As we dropped down out of the mountains we were quickly out of the snow zone and on our way to visit some friends in Folsom.

A lot more snow than we expected when we went to bed.

Supachai, and Pae are old friends from Portland, and we try to swing by and see them whenever we are in Northern California.  As always their hospitality is great, and we enjoy catching up with them.  Tonight was a all you can eat Korean Barbecue, with Supachai challenging us to eat 20 plates of barbecue items.  I think we just missed, but everyone was very satisfied.

January 26, Red River TX. A difficult encounter with the Arkansas State Police.

Today we left Little Rock and began heading South West towards Big Bend National Park.  Our first stop was to visit Hot Springs National Park.  It is a different type of National Park as it is set around a bunch of 19th century bath houses.  Hot Springs Arkansas has over 40 natural hot springs.  In the 19th century the Hot Springs were developed as a place to take the waters, much like the famous Spas in Europe.  Over time the springs were recognized as a national asset and the government became involved.  This has led to claims that it is the first National Park, however it was not designated as a national park until much later and is in fact the 17th National Park.

One of the bath houses at Hot Springs NP.

After the visit to the Hot Springs we decided to head towards Texarkana Texas.  We decided to take the back roads as we really want to see the US from the smaller roads, we want to experience the small towns of our states and try to get to see the country on a more intimate scale.  Today we came up behind an Arkansas State Trooper near Camden Arkansas.  He was following another vehicle who was running below the speed limit.  He pulled over to the shoulder and allowed us to pass.  He then pulled up behind us with his lights on and stopped us.  I was not completely surprised, the Tiger is a unique vehicle, and our South Carolina Temporary plates are worst for the wear as a result of the two monsoons we went thru earlier.  Initially I produced my license and proof of insurance as well as the temporary registration South Carolina provides.  He asked me to step back to his car with him so I could answer any questions he might have.  Back there initially the questioning was standard, where were we going, where did we come from he wanted a great deal of detail on our itinerary.  Then the weird questions started, did we have any drugs, guns or large sum of money.  At first I thought he was kind of joking around, but when I realized he was serious my tone changed.  At that point he said that from his training  my answers indicated I was being untruthful.  This he said was a Red Flag, he also said that a RV like ours traveling on the backroads was a Red Flag.  At that point he said to wait there and he went and questioned Ton.  Later I learned he put her through the same questions.  He then returned to me and said that Tons itinerary did not agree with mine and he believed we were concealing something in the Tiger.  At this point I could see where this was going so I offered to have him search the vehicle.  At this point he frisked me and moved me to the front of the Tiger and moved Ton to the rear near the patrol car and told her to stand in front of the camera in front of his patrol unit.  At this point he searched the vehicle concentrating on the front of the truck and the engine compartment.  After spending about 45 minutes going through the vehicle and looking over the outside, he came to the cabin door which was locked.  I told him the key was on the key ring in the ignition.  At that point he came to me and said that he was going to let us go, even though he had not finished searching the truck.  At this point while unsettling I was only mildly annoyed and chalked up the encounter  to a young State Trooper on a slow Sunday afternoon in rural Arkansas.  But then the guy really frosted me when he ended the encounter by saying that though he did not find anything he was still convinced that we were carrying contraband and were being untruthful with him.  I offered to let him continue to search the vehicle until he was content, but he declined.

When we were thinking about buying the Tiger we read many blogs about encounters with the police some unpleasant and most routine.  So despite driving a brand new RV, and despite the record check on both of us coming up clean we were subjected to a full search of our vehicle, and left with the final comment from the only representative of Arkansas we ever came across that he expected we were running drugs despite his inability to find any after a thorough search of our RV.   I never expected to have it happen here in the US.  The funny thing is just a few minutes before the stop we were talking about how Arkansas had been a pleasant surprise and that we may need to return to explore the Ozarks in detail.  Now we will never return.  

The moral of the story is if you are driving a RV in Arkansas, do not leave the interstate as it is a Red Flag to the State Police, insure that you and your spouse can recite your previous 20 days destinations in detail both as to location and chronology or it will be a Red Flag to State Police, and make sure that when encountering the Arkansas State Police that you answer all questions promptly and with the same tone of voice or that may be a Red Flag.

Let me end today with a picture of the beautiful sunset we enjoyed in Texas.

August 9, 2015 Yellowstone NP

Our day started by joining our son Dylan for breakfast at the Youth Conservation Corp camp just outside Mammoth.  Dylan has been a Ranger at Yellowstone for 4 years.  This year he is working with the YCC which brings in about 80 high school aged kids for the summer.  The kids get to experience Yellowstone and also help out with projects such as trail maintenance and putting in Bear boxes.

At breakfast we were able to meet some of the students and some of Dylans fellow rangers.  At breakfast Dylan told us he had to do some last minute work for 3 or 4 hours and he would join us for lunch.

We decided to head out to Lamar Valley again while we waited for Dylan to join us.  We stopped and took a short hike out into a field to get a look at a herd of Bison.  We were following all of the rules staying the proper distance from the herd, but someone forgot to tell a bull Bison the rules.  On our way back to scout we came around a curve with a steep hill to our left and a creek with a 5 or 6 foot drop on the right and ran into a bull Bison about 20 yards in front of us well inside the 100 yard minimum the Park Service recommends for safety.  Ron decided to retreat towards the creek figuring we could jump down in the creek bed if the Bison took offense.  As we moved down toward the creek Ton grabbed Ron just before he stepped on a snake.  At this point the bull pointedly ignoring our little show sauntered on past and went on his way down the trail.

Bison grazing in Lamar Valley taken from a safe distance.

Deciding we needed Park Service supervision we headed back to Mammoth and picked up Dylan.  We went to lunch in Gardiner just outside the park entrance, and then headed over to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  

Dylan opted for home Thai cooking for dinner and invited one of his co-workers to join us.  Ton made some of her famous Larb, and we enjoyed a nice dinner while hearing about Rangering with teenagers.

October 18, 2019 Amalfi Coast IT

Yesterday was a bucket list item for me, and today was a bucket list item for Ton.  Before every trip Ton gives me some places we must see, and we took care of one of them today, visiting the Amalfi Coast.  

One of the many stunning views on the Amalfi coast.

The Amalfi Coast is a spectacular 40km stretch of road strung along a peninsula.  The road is carved in cliff side, and the views are spectacular.  Part of the fun is watching the drivers deal with the hundreds of switchbacks on what is effectively 1 and 3/4 American lanes.  RV’s are forbidden which allowed me to enjoy the views and the chaos on the road as a spectator.  It was worth every dollar we paid to not be driving.  

A relatively straight section of the road, of course we are on the same road looking across at that stretch.

To give an example of Italian driving from today.  Our driver did not speak English.  At one point we were crossing a bridge and I saw a little village and harbor tucked under the bridge and pointed to get Ton’s attention.  Next thing I know the driver pulled over into the on coming lane (there were cars coming), threw the van in reverse, and backed to the middle of the bridge where he parked, turned around and looked at the 5 of us in the back seat and said “Picture”?  The five of us looked at each other and said why not? So we got out of the car while cars going in both directions dodged around us and the van.  The funny thing is this did not seem to faze any of the Italians in the other cars, vans and busses in the least, they all just shrugged and maneuvered around us like it was perfectly reasonable to stop in the wrong lane of a narrow two lane bridge to snap a few pictures.

The view from the bridge.

Our tour included  three towns and a tourist attraction.  The first town we saw was Positano which is the jewel of the Amalfi.  Steinbeck wrote a short story about it, and it has been featured in several movies.  It is a beautiful sea front with the town flowing up the cliffs.  Tourism is the main, (possibly only) industry in the town now, but the setting makes it worth dealing with all of the people.

Positano as we are dropping in on the road.
The harbor in Positano with ferries and tour boats coming and going.

The next stop was at a tourist attraction called The Grotto.  There were six of us on the tour, two other Americans, and a French couple.  None of us were quite sure what we were getting into, but it turned out to be a short tour of a pretty underwater cave.  

The light for the Grotto comes from an underwater entrance to the cave.  It is natural.

We next stopped at the largest city and the namesake of the Amalfi Coast, Amalfi.  In many ways it felt a lot like Positano.  A small harbor leading to another town carved from cliffs.  Amalfi did have a really beautiful cathedral though we decided to pass on the interior as we are getting a little jaded about cathedrals.

The exterior of the cathedral in Amalfi is really spectacular.

The final town for the day was Ravello which was up in the mountains of the Amalfi away from the sea. It was clearly the most prosperous of the towns, and looked like it dealt with a higher end clientele than the other two towns.  

Ravello way up in the mountains of the Amalfi coast.

We enjoyed poking around in a ceramic store with the French couple.  At the beginning of the day they were pretty quiet as neither one speaks English.  But by the end of the day we had a fun time communicating with them using broken English, broken French, broken Italian, sign language and smiles and laughter.  They have been traveling extensively and it is a shame we cannot communicate better as Ton and I would love to talk to them about their travels in Morocco and Greece.

This is the high end ceramic shop in Ravello, some of it’s clients include Mark Rufallo (the Hulk), Steven Tyler (from Aerosmith), Mariano Rivera (NY Yankees), and Rod Stewart (the singer). 

June 1, 2019 Dresden GE

We made the short hop up the Elbe River to Dresden this morning.  Had a bit of an adventure checking out of our aire in Meissen.  As I said when we checked in it is quirky.  The first thing is they hand you a key and insist you lock the gate every time you enter or exit.  Each day there were 10 to 15 campers there and we each had a key to the gate and everyone did their duty to insure each others security.  To get the key you have to leave a €20 deposit at the municipal swimming pool which looms over the aire.  There is a nice clean bathroom on site but again the instructions are clear, lock the door every time you use it.  One morning I was in doing my thing when one of the maintenance guys came by and locked the door while I was in there, fortunately I had my key.  The parking is a free for all and there is only two electrical posts so everyone is running a 100 foot electrical cord from their vans to the power post.  This became a problem when the maintenance crew showed up to mow the grass, but we all pitched in and shifted cords around to clear paths for the mowers.  Finally, in the middle of the aire is an immense abandoned pool from the communist era that has trees and bushes growing from it, everyone seemed to need to hop the fence to get a closer look at it like an archeologist.  All of the eccentricities made it kind of charming and a memorable place to stay.  So as we were leaving I needed to return my key and retrieve my €20, when I walked in there were 50 people in line to check in for the pool, with 2 people at the desk to handle them all, so half an hour later I got rid of the key and we were on our way to Dresden.

The aire in Dresden lacks the quirks of Meissen and is quite packed, (apparently due to an American Football game that is being played tomorrow between two German professional teams) but it is an easy walk to the center of town.  After settling in we headed to town.  As we neared the city center we discovered that today was gay pride festival weekend in Dresden (actually it is a 4 day event)and we had found the staging ground for the parade. We hung around to see the beginning of the parade and it was quite entertaining.  Dresden has a large and proud gay community.  

One of the 20 mobile sound systems and improvised dance halls that made up part of the parade.

Next we walked thru town to look at all of the sites.  They are nearly all rebuilt following a controversial fire bombing of Dresden by the RAF during WWII which caused a fire storm in the city killing around 20,000 people and destroying the old town.  

The old town of Dresden fronting the Elbe River. A lot of construction and maintenance work being done.

The buildings are impressive, particularly the old palace of the Elector of Saxony.  The Cathedral was rebuilt but they had a hard time finding matching stones for the walls that collapsed so you can clearly see the old and new stones.  Most of the buildings in Dresden are quite black, I am not sure this is by design, but am guessing it is a result of pollution, as a few of the buildings look like they have been recently cleaned and are not black.

The grounds of the Elector of Saxony’s Palace.  The buildings and grounds are quite impressive, you can see the contrast in the color between the building on the far left corner of the picture and the main hall showing the effects of the pollution.
This is part of a block long mural showing all of the Electors of Saxony including Augustus the Strong in the center who funded the Meissen Porcelain Factory.

We wandered around the old town for a few hours before crossing the bridge to the new town for a beer and curry wurst.  After our beer as we were crossing back over the Elbe the gay pride parade came down the riverfront and since they seemed to be taking the same path we were taking to François we walked along with them for a while before stopping for one more beer as it was hot.

The Christopher Street Day Parade passing along the waterfront downtown in Dresden.

May 16, 2019 Garmisch- Partenkirchen

The day began with indecision.  Thomas’ offer to attend his brewery event on Saturday was very tempting, so we began the day by looking at options to do around Reichnau until Saturday.  The other issue is the weather.  Today and tomorrow are the only two good days forecast in the next 12 days.  After today and tomorrow the Weather Channel App shows 10 consecutive days of miserable weather for Southern Germany, actually for most of Germany.  Ton even researched weather in other parts of Europe to escape the cold and rain.  Right now Oslo has the best weather, but it is a bit far away.  The interesting thing is that the temperatures are going to be warmer in the North of Germany than in the South, also the forecast showed slightly less rain in the North.

St. George Church, our last stop on Reichenau Island.

We still really wanted to take Thomas up on his offer so we talked about options including Switzerland (really expensive), just settling in Reichenau but we needed supplies mostly LP gas.  With the cold weather every night we are using a tank of LP every 4 or 5 days ( for comparison we used two tanks in 6 weeks on our trip to Spain).  After looking at options around the region we finally decided we needed to get going North towards the less lousy weather, so today we are in the Alps near the Austrian border.

Mountain valleys with many small farms, and villages.  The population is much denser in Germany than in Spain or France.

When we punched Garmisch into Greta Garmin she told us it was about 3 hours to drive the 250km’s, we add 30 minutes to all of her estimates as we are usually under the speed limit.  It still sounded like a pretty reasonable day.  The first problem is around Freidrichshaven we ran into really heavy traffic, so the first 100 kilometers of the trip took 2 hours, after we broke out of Freidrichshaven traffic thinned out, and then we found ourselves on the autobahn so all looked good.  With about 80km’s to go I noticed a sign that said we had just entered Austria, did not know that was going to happen, after a few minutes I remembered that Austria requires a vignette to drive on their roads.  A vignette is a sticker you buy in place of paying tolls, many countries require these ( one of the reasons we did not go to Switzerland is that they require an annual one that costs 40 Swiss francs).  So now we were outlaws as not expecting to enter Austria I did not research how to get a vignette or how much it would cost.  I decided to press on as our final destination is in Germany so I figured we must just be cutting thru a corner of Austria.

The dandelions were out in force as we drove thru Austria.

All was looking good as we had spent the last hour in Austria driving thru magnificent mountains and gorgeous valleys carpeted with flowers.  We passed back into Germany without getting fined, when we were 8km’s from the campsite for the night we came to a barrier across the road.  This was in a narrow mountain pass, so there was no local by pass.  Much cursing because when we turned down this road about 30 minutes earlier there was no indication that it was closed.

Typical of the roads in Austria, the mountains were spectacular.

So I told Greta to find us another route to Garmisch, her alternative was 80 km’s!  Lots of cursing now, as we are literally 10 minutes from our destination, and the detour is going to take nearly 2 hours.  So back up the road illegally into Austria again.  The next detour routed us thru a national park with narrow steep roads with views of  glaciers and glacier fed lakes, not a fast route but really gorgeous and nearly worth the trouble. 

The large glacier fed lake in Brentanwag National Park on the road we took on our detour caused by construction.
Another view from our unexpected detour.  

After 6 hours of hard mountain driving we arrived in Garmisch, and just before the turn into our campground we saw signs for a US Military compound.  After settling in we took a walk down there to see what they had.  It turns out it is a recreation center complete with hotel, 3 restaurants, and big American washing machines.  We had a beer and nachos while watching American sports. We are planning to return tomorrow with a load of washing.   A nice end to a hectic day.

Another view of the mountains around us tonight.

October 9 2019 Toulon FR

There really is not much to talk about today.  We needed to be in Toulon at 3:30 pm to catch our ferry to Sicily, so there was no time for exploring.  We spent the morning poking around the campground taking care of cleaning, dumping tanks, and filling tanks.  At 11:30 we took off for Toulon looking to fill François up, and maybe do a quick shop for some of our favorite French things before we depart for Italy.

Everything was going to plan until it was time to get fuel.  Periodically our American credit cards are refused at French fuel dispensers.  There is no rhyme or reason about when it will happen, but it happened today.  In the past we were able to overcome this by using a debit card we travel with for emergencies, but today they even refused that. So we were stuck on a tour of fuel stations of Toulon until we found one with a human being who could process our credit cards.  Five stations later we finally found a station with an attendant and filled up François.

François and Ron waiting to board the ferry to Sicily.

Fuel taken care of we headed over to the ferry.  It is the largest ferry we have been on and is almost like a mini-cruise ship, complete with bars and multiple restaurants.  So after settling in we went up top to watch our departure from Toulon on the way to Trapani Italy.

October 7, 2019 Port Grimaud

Another day of big driving, and me being clueless.  We wanted to get down somewhere near Toulon as our ferry to Sicily leaves from there on October 9.  Ton thought hanging around near the rich at Saint Tropez would be fun.  Port Grimaud is only about 10 km’s from Saint Tropez and would let people of our economic stature hang around; so that was the target.

Before the trip I thought we needed an oil change as my research indicated that the oil was due to be changed at 45,000 km’s.  I had planned to have the oil changed when we got the new tires for François but I had a conversation with someone who managed a fleet of vehicles like François who said that oil change was 50.000 km’s so I decided to hold off until we returned from Italy.  It turns out my research was right and about halfway to Port Grimaud we got a flashing red oil can on the dash of François.  In my experience anything on the dash that is red and related to oil needs immediate attention.  We pulled into the first rest area on the autoroute  and I checked the oil.  It was low, but not out so I added a couple of liters and expected the light to go out.  It did not so as I drove south Ton began looking for a Fiat dealer or mechanic and she came up with one.  Well after about a 40 minute detour we came to the location of the Fiat mechanic according to Google, and it was a brand new KFC.  Since all of the dealers who could deal with François were on lunch break anyway I took the time to do some more research and it turns out that the flashing red oil can indicates the need to change the oil and not a problem with the oil, so we decided to carry on with our trip and find a place to change the oil when we get to Italy.

Sunset at the beach for our campground.  Saint Tropez is across the bay.

So after a little drama, we are now in a very large campground next to the Mediterranean Sea, and looking forward to heading into Saint Tropez tomorrow to see how the 1% live.