Wednesday, May 30, 2012

We Pulled a Mark

100_1656Back in Michigan, we have a friend named Mark who loves to go to Las Vegas.  He uses the majority of his vacation time each year there.  Mark is a thrifty guy who works all the angles to save a few bucks on his trips.  One of his favorite tricks is to go to a buffet at the very end of the lunch window and then he is just finishing up a salad when all the added items for the higher-priced dinner session are brought out.  Among his circle of friends, this has affectionately come to be know as “Pulling a Mark”.  One time we went to Las Vegas at the same time that Mark was there.  The picture shown is one of Gary “Pulling a Mark with Mark” at the Bellagio.  (That is Mark in the Mr. Weenie Time T-shirt that we bought for him and which quickly became his favorite.)

2012-05-28_15-15-55_845So, where is this blogpost going and what does it have to do with our full timing adventures?  Well, on our way from New York to Boston, we decided we would stop at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut, one of the largest casinos in the world.  They allow you to dry camp in one of their outlying parking lots and we spent one night there.  In our initial tour of the casino, we noticed that they had a buffet and that the buffet was a continuous one from lunch to dinner.  That was a big hmmm for two people of fixed income.  We were in line at 4:45 pm and paid up at the lunch price and sure enough at 5 pm they brought out the additional items they add for the dinner session.  Not only did we “Pull a Mark”, but that day also happened to be the over 60  two-for-one day and we combined the two (but I must note that Gary is the only one of the two of us who is over 60, but then I didn’t turn down the freebie).  What would have been a total of $50 for the two of us for dinner came to $21 for a “Pulling a Mark on a Twofer”.  Gary sent Mark a text message that, “he would be so proud of us”.  And indeed he was responding with an “amazing”.  And, by the way, Mark is on his way to Vegas now where we are sure he will recreate his own interpretation of “Pulling a Mark”.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New York City

Thirty six years ago, to be exact, Gary lived and worked in Manhattan for a year.  We have been there two or three times over the years.  Gary can navigate the city very readily on public transportation.  And that is just what we did this time too.  We used the rail station outside our campground and took the train in to Grand Central Station in the heart of the city.  From there we used the subway and bus systems as well as our legs to explore many parts of the city.

100_5337When we have gone to the city, we have enjoyed taking in a Broadway show.  Our first day in the city was Wednesday which is a matinee day for Broadway.  We first went to the half price booth in Times Square.  They had two tickets for Mamma Mia for a total of $170.  Half price?  We weren’t about to pay that much and for a show we weren’t super thrilled to see, so we walked on.  We passed by the theater which had our top choice for a show – Wicked.  A woman on the sidewalk asked us if we were looking for tickets. We nod and our negotiations begin.  We were not real thrilled buying theater tickets on a Broadway sidewalk, but the tickets had an authentic look with the right day and time.  We took the chance, held our breath a bit with the ticket taker, but wound up sitting in orchestra seats and got a really great price.  We hadn’t seen Wicked when it had passed through Detroit, and somehow it always seems better on Broadway anyway.  We really enjoyed the production.

100_5383We saw a number of things including Ground Zero, the new Yankee Stadium, the apartment building where Gary once lived, the Flatiron Building, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Bloomingdale’s, Central Park, the Plaza Hotel, Fifth Avenue Shops, Times Square,  the Trump Tower, and more.  We passed up the museums and galleries this time after all the ones we recently had seen.  We will be on our way to Boston soon and that will be our last major city for awhile thereafter and we now are looking for some easier going times.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

United States Military Academy–West Point

100_2601Our research of this area told us that Monday was the only day we could take a tour of West Point.  This weekend they will have their graduation ceremonies with VP Biden as their commencement speaker.  From Tuesday on they restrict the access to only the many family members of the cadets who will be there for graduation-related activities.  It was a very rainy day and the tour was by bus so at least we stayed dry. 

100_2593West Point is the oldest military installation in the United States in continuous use.  It was an important location in the Revolutionary War as it kept the British from sailing up the Hudson and dividing the northeast colonies from the rest of of the States.  Cadets began training at West Point in 1794 and Congress formally established the United States Military Academy in 1802.

100_2609We could not just wander the grounds as we had at Annapolis.  For one it is a much larger campus, but it also seems to have a lot more military operations and security.  For example, we were told that all of the documents from Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan were sent their for analysis.  The setting of the campus is beautiful in hills high above a huge “S” curve in the Hudson River.

West Point also has an extensive military museum that features a lot of history of military weapons.  The picture above is one of the same type of canister as the “fat boy” bomb which was the dropped on Hiroshima, Japan by the Enola Gay, the plane we saw in the Aerospace Museum in Washington DC.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Holy Highway Robbery, Batman


100_2565On Sunday, we broke camp and rolled on to New York City.  It is not without some apprehension that one sets sail for NYC in a 40 foot motor home towing a car behind it.  We are not actually in the city but are well within the metropolitan area.  We are camped at Croton Point Park, a Westchester County Park on the banks of the Hudson River, north of New York City and not too far from West Point.  Right outside the park is a train station that we will use for touring into the City.  Again, we traveled on a Sunday morning to try to avoid as much traffic as possible.  We also went through Pennsylvania in part to avoid all the tolls of I95 in New Jersey.  We hadn’t paid a single toll on this leg of our adventure until we got to the Hudson River.  We 100_2568knew there would be a toll there at the Tappan Zee Bridge but we hadn’t investigated how much it would be.  I asked Gary to pass me the bundle of one dollar bills he carries in his pants pocket.  He passed me them AND the wallet.  As we were finishing the crossing and approaching the toll booth, there were signs – Cars $5.  Whew, big sigh of relief, it wasn’t going to be that bad.  We pulled up to the toll both.  The attendant counts the axles, one, two, three, four, five.  He then starts apologizing and we know we are in trouble.  He tells us he is going to have to charge us as if we were a commercial vehicle.  Remember that $32 we saved on admission fees back at the museum in Philadelphia, well it wasn’t quite enough.  The toll was $32.75.  There was a little consolation.  Later we checked and if we had rolled across the George Washington Bridge, the toll would have been $60.  Also, there is no toll going back west that bridge.  But there is just one problem with that, We will be driving on north and on up into Canada and re-entering in upstate NY and will never collect on the free trip going the other way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


2012-05-18_12-31-40_641Our last day trip from Lancaster was over to Philadelphia.  Our first stop on the way in was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Yes, this is the one featured in the Rocky movies and that has the statue of Rocky on the grounds. After a few photos with Rocky we climbed the stairs to the museum entrance.  But even after striking the pose with Rocky, I couldn’t get Gary to run the steps and shadow box.  The view of downtown Philly from the top of the stairs really is fantastic.  We entered the museum and there was a board above the counter showing all of the admission price alternatives.  After all of the free admissions in DC, we were somewhat taken aback to see that the entry fee for us would be $16 each.  We were discussing it between us and were about to leave as we already had recently seen so many museums and galleries when a young man at the counter called out to us with “it’s free today”. Huh?  We walked to the counter and were told that is was International Museum Day and therefore the 2012-05-18_11-31-00_835museum was free for this one day.  Now that was some good luck!  We enjoyed the museum and it featured several furniture displays, something we had not seen a lot of in DC.  Pennsylvania was a furniture making center at one time and among its styles was Shaker design which we always liked and had some in our “sticks and bricks”.

100_2481We traveled on in to the center of the city and Independence National Historic Park.  The line for the Liberty Bell was way too long, but we were able to see it from an exterior window and snap a picture.  All the  complimentary tickets for Independence Hall had already been given out, but we were told we could go through the Congressional Wing (where the US House and Senate used to meet in Philadelphia) without a ticket.  As we were leaving that area a group was entering Independence Hall right in front of us.  We just blended in a bit and lo and behold we got the tour without the tickets.  We saw where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted, the same documents we had seen a week earlier in the Archives in DC.  We walked through the rest of Independence Park 100_2479seeing among other things the first central bank building of the United States created by Alexander Hamilton and the City Tavern established in 1773 which was a favorite meeting place of the founding fathers and the First Continental Congress.



100_2535Our final spot in Philadelphia was by far our most anticipated one.  We ventured to South Philly for our own episode of “cheesesteak wars”.  Pat’s and Geno’s are right there together but in the daytime we didn’t get to see them in all their neon glory but we could imagine it.  Out first stop was at Geno’s, clearly the biggest promoter of the two with all their huge orange signs.  I wanted one with provolone but Gary overruled me as our taste war needed to be based on the original and same cheese at each one – Cheese Whiz.  We bought one “wit” (with onions) and whiz at Geno’s and split it between us.  We then walked straight over to Pat’s  They have an historical marker in front of their store as the true home and origin of the cheesesteak sandwich.  We order up another “wit and whiz” and split that 100_2539one between us as well.  And the winner?  For us, it was the original and historic Pat’s shown at the right.  We felt the meat was seasoned a bit more.  There was more whiz.  And the outside of the hoagie roll seemed just a bit crunchier.

And on our way back to Lancaster, we had to detour just a bit for a quick stop in Delaware.  Why?  Well, it was the only state so far up the east coast that we hadn’t yet been in and if didn’t get there this trip, it was unlikely that we would hit it again in our full-time travels.  But this is one state Alley cat won’t get too as she was “back at the ranch” in Lancaster.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Lancaster was our base for exploring Southeastern Pennsylvania.  Our campground backed up to a couple of farms and the aroma reminded us a bit of our campground in Myrtle Beach when all the horses for the beach ride showed up.  The road in front of our campground was a major thoroughfare for horse and buggy rigs.  Some of the horses were majestic.  We toured the countryside and passed through the towns of Intercourse and Bird In Hand.  Intercourse claims that its city’s signs are the most stolen of anywhere in the country.  We saw Amish and Mennonites working their fields with horse teams.

One afternoon we went out for a tour of covered bridges.  Lancaster County claims to have the second most number of covered bridges of any county in the country.  And the highest is not Madison County of Iowa, but Parke County of Indiana.



We went to a Dutch buffet one night and had our first ever tastes of shoofly pie and oatmeal pie.  The main ingredient of the filling  for shoofly pie is molasses and at least from what we read it gets its name from people having to shoo away flies from the sweetness of the molasses.  But we gave the nod to the oatmeal pie and might actually try making that one sometime.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


100_2407We day tripped to Gettysburg and toured the National Military Park.  There is a very good road that passes through all the battlefield area.  It is a very somber place, especially when you think that nearly 50,000 people were killed, wounded, or MIA after the three-day battle.  We had not known how many memorial markers there would be.  It seems every possible unit of the war has had some form of marker placed on the grounds in their honor and memory.  There are stones and statues everywhere along the drive.  We also walked through the cemetery grounds where Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Sweetest Place On Earth


Well, at least as the town of Hershey, PA bills itself on the billboard at the edge of town. It was raining our first day here in the Lancaster area so we headed out for what we thought would be a tour of a Hershey Chocolate Company factory.  At the Hershey Chocolate World, there is a tour, but the tour is of a simulated factory, not a real factory.  Now what they really have is a ton of Hershey’s chocolate for sale at the end of the tour.  And we now are in possession of our fair share of it.

100_2378The town of Hershey is cool.  Not only do they have their billboards at the edges of the town, they have a street called Chocolate Avenue, and their street lights are in the shape of Hershey’s Kisses.

And we did happen so see a sign for a casino a few miles away, and as it was still raining, we went and had a little luck too

Our pictures of Hershey are at:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our Last Blog on Washington DC

100_2184We have already moved on from Washington up to Southeastern Pennsylvania so it is time we finished up with blogs about DC.  What have seen that we haven’t already reported on?   Oh, just the following and probably a few more:  Pentagon Memorial,  Iwo Jima Monument, FDR Memorial, MLK Memorial, WW II Memorial, Viet Nam “Wall”, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Watergate, National Cathedral, VP Residence, Freer Gallery, Sackler Gallery, African Art Museum, Renwick Gallery, National Archives and the Hirshorn Gallery.



100_2148We covered so much ground but that was why we came here and why we spent two weeks.  We could have easily spent two months instead of two week here, but I don’t know that we could have worn ourselves out anymore than we did.  We won’t miss all the traffic around DC – it was horrendous.  We are already looking for routes to avoid more of I95 as we move north.

You can see all of our Washington pictures at but be warned that there are 23 albums with over 600 pictures.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

US Capitol and White House

100_1962At Ford, I used to contact frequently people in Ford’s Office in Washington DC.  As we were heading toward DC, I asked people I knew there if they could assist us in getting approved for tours of the Capitol and the White House.  Even with their contacts, we were scheduled at the very end of our two-week stay.  But good things come to those who wait.  Both tours were personally guided ones for Gary and I.  For the US Capitol, our tour was led by an intern (no, not Monica) 100_1969from Representative John Dingell’s office. The intern is a recent college grad in Political Science who is hoping to catch on in some sort of policy position in DC. We met him at Representative Dingell’s office in the Rayburn House Office Building (picture).  We first toured the Rotunda and then went to the House side of the Capitol.  He had gallery passes and we were incredibly lucky that at the very time we entered the gallery, the House was ending debate before a vote that brought all of the members of the House to the chamber. 

100_2310We were able to pick out the following members of the House: Eric Cantor, Hansen Clarke (who was our Congressman when we lived in Michigan), John Conyers, John Dingell, Steny Hoyer, John Lewis, Candice Miller, Nancy Pelosi, Mike Pence, Charles Rangel, Paul Ryan, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Henry Waxman and Allen West (who was in the Speaker’s chair).

On the Senate side, we also sat in the Gallery for a bit, but there were only two senators on the floor, one apparently making a speech for the benefit of the constituents back home and another one in the presiding chair working on something else beyond the speech going on.

100_2355For the White House tour, we were met in the lobby of a hotel by a member of the General Services Administration (GSA).  We resisted the temptation to mention exorbitant taxpayer-funded junkets to Las Vegas.  You only get to see a small section of the White House and can’t take any pictures inside, but it is an impressive tour just the same.  As we walked around the fence to the back side, we were able to see Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden.  We had to wonder how many government workers it takes to maintain it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Side Trip to Annapolis and Baltimore


100_2010.2We used DC as a base to explore some of the surrounding area as well.  One day we made Maryland our destination.  We took in Annapolis, the State Capital of Maryland and the home of the United States Naval Academy.  One of our highlights was snapping this picture of John Paul Jones, the first major figure in US Naval operations.  We toured the campus and visited their museum.  The museum houses some of the finest ship models in the world.  We also drove by the state Capitol Building.  It is the oldest continuously used  state capitol building in the States.  It has a large wooden dome on the top of the building which is held together with pegs and metal straps – and no nails.


100_2079From Annapolis, we drove on, in the rain, to Baltimore.  We stopped for a look at Fort McHenry whose repulsion of a siege by the British Fleet in the War of 1812 was the inspiration for the Star Spangled Banner.  We had already seen the flag that flew over the Fort in a museum in DC.  We saw Baltimore’s football and baseball stadiums. We were a little too late to go into the Railroad Museum, but did see many of their engines and cars in the yard surrounding the building.  We also saw the house where Edgar Allen Poe lived when in Baltimore.  On the way back, we stopped in College Park and met up with another full timing couple who had also spent the Winter in the same RV park in Florida.  They are following almost the same route we are up the east coast and into Canada and we hope to catch up with them again along the way.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sooooo Much Smithsonian

We have been so busy seeing so many things that there just has not been enough hours in the day for blogging.  Over the course of last Friday, Saturday and Sunday we estimate that we walked at least 25 miles.  We took in the American History Museum, the Natural History Museum, the American Art Museum, the Air and Space Museum at the Mall, the National Portrait Gallery, the Postal Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the American Indian Museum.  Along the way we also walked by Union Station, the Capitol, the House and Senate Office Buildings, the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress and many of edifices.  Whew.

100_1776It will take awhile before we can post all of our DC photos.  We got a real kick out of one exhibit at the American History Museum.  There was a display of an RV (travel trailer) that had this sign next to it.  We guess some things never change.



100_1808We always enjoy the mineral exhibit at the Natural History Museum.  The star attraction is the Hope Diamond, but we pay particular attention to all the stones from Brazil.  We lived there for three years and acquired our own small collection of geodes, rocks, and a few semi precious stones.  But take a look at these Brazilian topazes.  The blue one in the upper left is 7,033 carats and the light brown one in the lower left is 7,725 carats.  The small one in the upper right – just a mere 571 carats.



100_1944The Portrait Gallery featured an Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe.  The various galleries house paintings and sculptures from virtually all of the European masters and famous artists of the United States.






100_2281Another facility which has opened since the last time we explored DC is the Museum of the American Indian.  It is one of the most dramatic structures in Washington.  Gary’s father used to find many arrowheads in the fields of his farm.  We really enjoyed all the Indian artifacts at this museum.  It not only tells the history of the American Indians but also relates the current conditions and issues of many of the tribes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

First Day in DC

After two days of exploring in northern Virginia we made our first trip into DC.   We went on a walking tour that included the Washington Post, The National Geographic Society,  Embassy Row, and the White House.


And after three straight days of walking, we took a bit of a day off and went to a baseball game of the the Potomac Nationals, a Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.  They won and in well less than three hours!  We also played 9 holes of golf at a local Par 3 course.  How can every hole run uphill?  The climbs on this course made for quite a workout on our day off.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

National Air and Space Museum

100_1679We are trying to take in things in DC that we have not seen before.  On Tuesday we drove out to the National Air and Space Museum’s hangar at Dulles Airport.  We had been to the Air and Space Museum down on the mall, but the hangar at Dulles has come on line since we last were really exploring DC.  It is a much larger facility than at the mall and, therefore, can display many more aircraft and the Smithsonian has a huge inventory.

Among the many planes are the Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, a supersonic Concorde,  a Blackbird spy plane and the Virgin Atlantic Global flyer, the first plane to make a solo nonstop and nonrefueled circumnavigation of Earth.



100_1695But the real star of the show there is the recently arrived Space Shuttle Discovery.  The museum already had the Shuttle Enterprise, which only flew sub orbital test missions, but that Shuttle was moved on to New York.  Los Angeles and the Kennedy Space Center will be the homes for the other two retired shuttles.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Two Weeks In Washington, DC

100_1643Sunday we rolled out of North Carolina and into Virginia near Washington, DC.  We are excited about spending an extended amount of time in DC.  We each have been here a few times, but there never seems to be enough time to explore the many things this area has to offer.   There aren’t many campgrounds in the DC area.  The best one runs around $60 to $70 a night and we were about to bite the bullet and stay there, but a last search turned up another one we thought we would be ok with at half the price.   They warned us that we would likely have to park the motor home corner to corner on the pad to fit and that was true.  The first space they put us on was not level enough for us to be able to level the coach.  We tried three different times and were becoming more than a bit frustrated.  We scouted out the other available spaces and found another more level but shorter one to try.  We are in there at about a 45 degree angle but at least we were able to make it fit and were able to level as well.

2012-04-30_14-27-10_90Our first day we stayed local in northern Virginia and went to the relatively new Marine Corp Museum.  It is a very impressive building and the displays do a great job of telling the chronological story of the Marines.  We were able to get a shot of one of those human fighting machines.  Doesn’t she look ferocious?





0430121626We also took in the historic town of Fredericksburg, Virgina.  Two civil war battles were fought in the area and they have a well preserved downtown historic district with may structures from the 1800s.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lost in the Research Triangle

No, the Research Triangle does not gobble up RVs the way the Bermuda Triangle does ships, but then it could make for a scary legend.  What is the Research Triangle?  Well the corners of the triangle are three major and prestigious universities in North Carolina – Duke University in Durham, the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where we have been staying.  All three are only about 20 miles at most from each other.  I can’t readily think of another area where there are three major universities like these in such close proximity.   A lot of research institutes and business have opened in the triangle because of the access to these three nearby universities.

We explored each of the three campuses.  Not only are they great academic institutions, but each one of them has one at least one NCAA basketball championship and they have at least 10 titles among them.  The area is also known as Tobacco Road because of its heritage as the center of North Carolina’s tobacco growing region.




100_1596One thing we particularly enjoyed near the Duke Campus was the Sarah Duke Gardens.  Being the Spring and being in the south where they can grow some species we couldn’t in Michigan has made for a very interesting tour.



100_1634As long as we were in Durham, we had to take in a baseball game of the Durham Bulls.  They have a newer ballpark than the one from the movie and with all of their notoriety they have moved up from Class A ball to Class AAA.  We think we like the feel of the team and park from the movie better.  And once again we were treated to an over three hour game.  This time we gave up after the seventh inning stretch as the game was already 3 hours and 10 minutes old and the Bulls were behind 13 to 2.

We found a par 3 golf course and pulled out the clubs for the first time since Florida.  It seems that for Gary those lessons in Florida may finally be paying some dividends.  In my case, I am blaming it on the one private lesson he took without me.

0423121441aWe camped at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.  A lot of fairgrounds have camping facilities in support of those who travel in for the fairs and then they rent them out the rest of the year for people who come in for special events or like us who are just passing through.  These campgrounds are generally not as beautiful as public parks or RV parks, but they can be a very good way to explore cities and are usually a bit cheaper than other parks.  One side benefit of this one was that the entrance road was lined with lush rose bushes in full bloom.  I availed myself of a few the day we arrived and when we left as well.