COLORADO SPRINGS, CO

Continuing west from our last stop in Kansas, Colorado Springs would be our first foray into the beautiful state of Colorado. We were so excited to finally have a chance to visit this awesome state, neither Lindsey nor I have ever been to Colorado before and it has been calling our names for a while.

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Driving into town we found our camping spot for the next 2 nights, a little tiny RV park right on the edge of town. It didn’t provide much privacy or scenery, but the spots were very affordable, we had a place to plug in our power cord, and a nice bathhouse at our disposal. It was also very close to some of the places we wanted to visit while in town, so it worked out perfectly.

After getting settled into our spot we quickly unloaded our bicycles and set out on a fun little ride through town to Bristol Brewery. There was a nice set of bike trails that took us almost all the way there. We had read about Bristol on our drive through Kansas, and it sounded too interesting to pass up. The brewery has recently renovated an old elementary school building called Ivywild School to house its brewing operation and small pub. It also shares the space with a few other local artisans’ including a bakery and a meat company, which supply the pub with delicious fresh and local ingredients for their sandwiches and other options. This is a really interesting idea for a community space; it was very fun to visit. Lindsey and I enjoyed sampling a couple beers and having a delicious sandwich before heading off into the dusk to ride back to the bus.

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The next morning we were up early, excited for a day full of adventure. Our goal for the day was to make it to the top of Pikes Peak, one of the highest mountains you can drive up. We were determined to make it up on our little motorcycle, even though we were a little uneasy about how it would handle the thin air at high altitude. We loaded a backpack with camera gear, water, and some lunch and got ready for the ride. Since we were parked on the edge of town, we were only a few minutes away from the start of the Pikes Peak Highway, once we arrived we waited in line with quite a few other cars and motorcycles until we finally had our turn to pay our entrance fee and start the climb. It was so exhilarating to be riding a motorcycle up Pikes Peak! I have long been a fan of the International Hill Climb race that has taken place here annually since 1916, and to ride up the same road as the competitors do was a dream come true for me.

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With a starting elevation of 7,400 feet our little Yamaha was already starting to run out of breath, so by the time we got to the 14,115 foot summit it would barely run above a quarter throttle, although she never failed! Once we reached the summit it was such an incredible view, words can’t describe how amazing it was to be standing on the edge of the rocks and looking out for miles at mountains and forest. After spending a while looking out over the country below we got back on the bike and headed down to a big rock outcropping we had seen on the ride up, just below the summit. Parking in the turnout we climbed up into the rocks to be greeted by another spectacular view. We found a comfy spot to sit and broke out our picnic lunch. Nothing like a little scenery while you eat lunch! After relaxing for a while and taking pictures we started our descent. This time we stopped at several turnouts to take photos and look out over the mountains. It is a lot easier to stop on the way down, when you don’t have to worry about losing your momentum and getting started again. As we wound our way back down the mountain through the switchbacks I silently thanked Yamaha for putting a decent set of brakes on the little XT250. We eventually made it to the bottom and rejoiced, we had conquered a fourteener on our motorcycle! I am so thankful to have a brave and trusting girlfriend who doesn’t hesitate to hop on the bike and go on a ride, and I am so proud of our little motorcycle for carrying us safely to the top and back. Getting to the top of Piles Peak was definitely one of the main highlights of the trip for both of us. I have no doubt that I will be back to ride up it again in the future.

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Heading back toward Colorado Springs we rode out to the Garden Of The Gods Park, where we rode through the winding roads around some beautiful red rock formations. Stopping in a few places to walk out into the rocks and take photos, it was another amazing experience. The large, brightly colored formations used to be a popular meeting area for various Native American tribes, since they are such a remarkable landmark.

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To finish off our long day of exploring we headed over to Trinity Brewing, where we sampled a few of their amazing beers and had some great food. Trinity does a lot of Saison style beer, which is one of our favorites. Along with the large selection of Saisons, there were some rare beers including a sour, and they utilized many brewing techniques with different combinations of barrel aging and Belgian yeasts, as well as the typical house offerings. They are easily at the top of our favorite brewery list; we hope we can find some of their interesting bottled beers back home in Oregon.

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RANDALL, KS

Leaving Michigan was difficult, but we have a long ways to go until we are back in Oregon. After spending several days exploring the areas around Holland and Grand Rapids we have grown to love the state, it is full of delicious craft beer and beautiful scenery. Saying goodbye to Allison and her wonderful family we hit the road again, with Colorado in our sights.

This next leg of the trip was going to be interesting; we had a lot of prairie to cross and we didn’t know what to expect. When we would tell people of our plans, most everyone told us that the drive through the Midwest would be the most boring and desolate part of the trip. And while it is definitely a change from being in the mountains we found ourselves enjoying the drive, there is a lot of beauty in the patchwork of farmland that makes up the heartland of America. Leaving Holland on Friday morning we quickly found ourselves cruising through Indiana and Illinois, once we got out of the Chicago area we drove on through countless miles of corn and soybeans.

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Our stopping place for the night was another Wal-Mart parking lot, in Hannibal, Missouri. We discovered that Hannibal is where Mark Twain grew up; there were a lot of buildings and stores in the area with Tom Sawyer themed names. Unfortunately by the time we arrived there wasn’t much time left in the day to explore the area, so we contented ourselves by making some dinner and watching a movie on the computer. Parking overnight at Wal-Mart sure isn’t the most romantic place to camp, but they actually work out pretty well. We haven’t been bothered by anyone yet, and there’s always a quiet corner of the lot to park in.

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Getting back on the road in the morning we headed across Missouri, the big straight highways inspired Lindsey to take a turn at the wheel, the first time she has driven the bus so far. She did a great job, and drove for almost 2 hours while I got to lounge around and relax. It is an interesting experience to hangout in the bus while it is in motion, it was pretty fun to sit at the table and work on the computer while she drove. I was also able to pay more attention to the funny looks we get from other people on the road, it is interesting to see all the different expressions on peoples faces when they pass us.

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Crossing into Kansas we noticed more wheat fields along the road, and lots of interesting old farm buildings. We pulled off the highway onto a dusty county road in Randall and followed directions out into the prairie, where we found Roger and Jan’s house and shop, where we would be spending the night. Once we had the bus settled and plugged into the barn, we sat and talked with the couple for a while. They live in a buried concrete home they built themselves in the early 80’s, the entire roof, sides, and back side of the house are buried under a large dirt hill with grass growing and vent pipes sticking up. Their reasoning behind the interesting construction was to keep it extremely energy efficient, and to provide a safe shelter from the occasional tornado that comes through the area. The foot thick concrete walls and several feet or earth really make for a good insulator, we walked in from the oppressive summer heat to find the house cool and comfortable.

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Roger then took us out on a little tour of their farm, his family has been farming the same area since the late 1800’s, although now they have 2000 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat, and milo, instead of the ~160 they started with. We got to see the original homestead, with the home built in 1878 still in use by Roger’s son. Listening to Roger made us realize how adaptive you must be to stay in farming for so long. His family used to make their money hog farming, until Tyson came in and monopolized the industry. Changes like that, as well as massive changes in technology keep farmers on their toes. It’s a constantly evolving environment.

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Also on their property are several abandoned buildings and homesteads, the most interesting one is an old school house, built in the late 1800’s and used into the 1950’s. It is still standing, although very run down. Roger’s mother actually used to teach there, and he himself had some schooling in it. He said that back in the day, all the kids lived within 2.5 miles and would walk or ride their horses to school. Grades 1 through 8 were taught at the same time, with about 20 students total. It was an amazing time capsule to walk through, making sure to avoid the rotten floorboards and rusty metal. This building would make such an interesting bar or restaurant, our minds were full of ideas.

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To cap off the day, Lindsey and I climbed up to the top of the 120ft tall grain leg, a giant grain-sorting tower. It provided some spectacular views, it was a clear day and the land is so flat that you could see for miles. It was a great place to take photos from while the wind pushed us around. We enjoyed a peaceful night sleeping next to the wheat fields, after a quick breakfast we were back on the road, headed for Colorado.

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HOLLAND, MI

We stayed 8 days Michigan, and when we weren’t exploring the UP, we had the pleasure of camping out at our friend Allison’s house on the edge of town. Our stay with Allison and her family was a great time that felt like a vacation from our vacation. It was a lot more than just a place to park; they really took care of us and made us feel at home. It was great to catch up with a good friend, and her parents, Keith and Pat, went out of their way to make our stay comfortable. Our time in Holland and the surrounding area also involved much fine food and drink, as you might expect!

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But first, a little bit about the town of Holland. Holland is in the southwest region of the state, and sits along Lake Michigan. As the name suggests, it’s a Dutch town and proud of it. Windmills are prevalent, as are tulips when the season is right. Unfortunately we missed Tulip Time, which is a celebration of Dutch culture that takes place every May. If you are looking for skyscrapers, you’ll have to drive 20 minutes east to Grand Rapids. But there is a nice view from the 6th floor of the Seminary Library, where Allison works, as it’s the highest point in town. The dunes on the lakeshore can be seen out to the west. The surrounding area is mostly farmland and small towns.

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We visited two breweries with Allison downtown, the most popular being New Holland Brewing, which is very big and has a full restaurant. The other, Our Brewery, is still new but seems to do well for itself. A third brewing company, Big Lake Brewing, is in a different part of town that isn’t as quaint but their beer holds its own. Our Brewery caught my attention with their unusual selection. Our flight consisted of a Burnt Caramel Quad, Ginger Beard (perfect for Steven!), Careless Whisper IPA, Chocolate Vienna Lager, Vanilla Milk Stout, and a Curry(!) Cider. While slightly skeptical (there were a lot of creative options to choose from), we were very pleasantly surprised. Especially by the Chocolate Lager, which had the depth of a stout.

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Our taster was followed up with dinner down the street at New Holland Brewing. They make excellent beer and food and have something for everyone. They have a selection of beers called the Hatter Series, which includes many beer styles, all with a different mad hatter on the bottle. Steven is partial to the White Hatter, the white Belgian style wit bier. Besides the hatters are many other fine options, as well as their own distilled spirits, but it’s hard to leave room for that when there are such nice beers to be had. We made good use of the patio seating while we were there.

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One day while Allison and Keith were at work, Pat took Steven and I on a little field trip. She took us in her car to see the Saugatuck Dunes on Lake Michigan. You have to walk a little ways through the forest to get to the beach, so we had a nice mini hike out there. Afterwards we got a driving tour of a couple little tourist towns and a stop for lunch at Saugatuck Brewing. What makes Saugatuck really unique is that they offer brewing workshops where you can come and learn to make your own batch of beer, leave it there for a week or so to ferment, and come back when it’s time to be bottled and taken home.

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We drove through some scenic country until we came to Virtue Cider in Fennville. They are a relatively new company brewing many kinds of craft cider with almost all local apples. The owner is the former owner of Goose Island Beer Company in Chicago, so he brings quite a bit of brewing experience to the cidery. We got a chance to taste everything they have bottled currently, and our favorite was The Mitten, a bourbon barrel aged cider. It has sparked some inspiration in us for future homebrew ambitions. One of the guys there saw Steven taking photos of the place and offered to show us the “cellar” where they hold all the fermenting tanks. It was pretty cool to see! The building is mostly underground to keep everything at an optimal temperature.

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We washed that all down with some good old-fashioned fresh pressed apple juice at Crane’s Pie Pantry on the way home. Pat took us the back way on the return trip so we got to do some more sightseeing. I loved seeing all the old farmhouses and little cottages, to the point of Steven’s chagrin I think. It sure felt special to be chauffeured around for a day.

Tuesday found us relaxing at the house and working on the blog until evening came around and we all went out to Big Lake Brewing. We sampled some beers there and ordered a pizza from next door. They had a lot of darker beers, which was a change of pace from all the summer beers we’ve been drinking. After dinner, we headed down to the Holland State Park on Lake Michigan to catch the sunset. There’s a beach there, with a lighthouse and a pier. We had a funny experience as we walked out onto the concrete pier and found ourselves in the midst of a surprise proposal. The term “surprise” is relative I guess because it was pretty obvious what was going on. It was a very young couple and it was pretty cheesy, but it was fun to see her family trying to hide out of sight while she walked past us and of course said yes with a million eyes burning into the back of her head. Awkward! Even though it was a cloudy sky, the sunset cast a beautiful pastel light on everything and once again, Michigan proved to us how wonderful it’s summers are.

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On Wednesday, Steven, Keith, Pat and I took a trip to the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners. It was a huge place with several large barns full of classic cars, motorcycles, and even some campers! We also found a double decker bus, and immediately saw the possibilities for a conversion. That would be a fun project for a little house. There were so many cars and things to see, it was an impressive collection. I think Steven and Keith each took hundreds of pictures. Allison had to work, but she didn’t mind missing the museum so much. She was more interested in our next stop, Bell’s Brewing in Kalamazoo.

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Steven and I were introduced to Bell’s when we moved to Florida, as we learned about all kinds of craft beer west of the Mississippi that doesn’t make it out to the Northwest. We were looking forward to trying some more of their beer with lunch, and were really blown away. We had a flight of six samples, and loved each of them. They have a really wide range of offerings, everything from their flagship summer wheat beer to a couple Belgian styles, a sour, darker high gravity beers, and IPA’s, to name just a few. When we finished lunch we stopped in at their store for some goodies. It’s pretty neat that they sell home brewing equipment there too.

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But the fun didn’t stop in Kalamazoo! Keith had something planned for us that evening, a little thing he likes to call a Bike and Brew. We went back to the house to pick up Allison and load up our bikes, and we set off for Grand Rapids. Our destinations were Founders Brewing and Hopcat. There was a nice paved bike path from a park into the city, so the 8 miles in didn’t feel bad. Founders is becoming an expansive brewery, I’ll be curious to see if we find it back home. They are known for their extremely drinkable All Day IPA and the Breakfast Stout. After a quick taste there we continued on a couple blocks to Hopcat. Hopcat is a cool hangout with lots of taps and a couple of their own brews. We all had burgers and the aptly named and very addictive “crack fries”. As we finished up, we couldn’t help but notice the sun dipping lower and lower, and we still had another 8 miles to get back to the car. So with no excuses to lag behind, we kept up the pace on the way back. I may have taken the liberty of exercising my vocal cords as well as my legs, just to keep myself going. Sorry, guys… We had a great time, and Steven and I have decided to try to make biking to breweries a habit. It feels good to work for your beer a little bit.

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We enjoyed one more day at the house on Thursday getting the bus cleaned and reorganized, ready to get back on the road. Allison took us downtown one more time that evening, and then we had a delicious meal of homemade pizza. Michigan was such a great time, and we are so grateful for everything the Van Liere’s provided. It feels like I gained an extra set of parents over the week. I’d love to go back and experience another summer camping trip on those incredible lakes. We were sad to leave it behind us, but it was time to trade out sand dunes for mountains out West. Michigan, we’ll miss you! Until next time.

UPPER PENINSULA, MI

Ever since we heard about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula some years ago, we’ve been eager to see it. It was first described to us as “basically Canada”. The Upper Peninsula (the UP) is the northern section of the state that in the past has frequently been forgotten on maps and verbal discussions of the more widely recognized lower half (the Mitten). We had planned a long weekend camping trip with Allison to see what it was all about.

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After arriving in Holland and spending some much needed time tidying up the bus and getting batteries all charged back up, it was time to leave on our big camping trip. This is the trip we have been planning for a while, and the reason we didn’t spend as much time in some of the other states. Allison had taken Friday off, so we were all set to depart Thursday evening when she got home from work. The bus was loaded with food and gear for our UP adventure! And we couldn’t forget to bring along some Bell’s Oberon, the official summer beer of Michigan. Setting off from Holland around 5 PM, we headed north toward Mackinaw City, our stopping point for the night. As we were driving, Allison and I had been looking up places to park overnight, and hadn’t turned up much of anything. We figured it would be another Wal-Mart night for us, until we decided to try a place called French Farm Lake, which supposedly had free camping. It didn’t look like much on the map, but we had to go check it out. Arriving in Mackinaw City we got a great view of the Mackinac (still pronounced “Mackinaw”) bridge as the sun went down, we turned off the highway and found the road leading to French Farm Lake. This road was a decent gravel road, although a little narrow for the bus, so we pushed on farther into the woods. Soon the road turned to sandy dirt and got even narrower. We threaded the bus through the trees looking for a spot big enough to pull off and set up camp. It was quickly getting dark and hard to see in the forest along the lake. We found a spot that looked like it would work, but we needed to turn around to get a better approach angle, so we continued down the road in search of a wide enough area to turn around. A little farther down the road ended at a small turn around where several grizzled locals were pulling small fishing boats out of the water for the night, they all stared with amusement as they watched us come cruising up in the giant bus, and turn around in the small sandy area. At last we were pointing the other direction down the narrow dirt lane, and drove back up to the spot we had seen. Fortunately Allison and I were able to use flashlights and help watch all the corners as Steven made a strange 3 point turn and squeezed up into the trees, we had made it to our camping spot for the night! So much better than another parking lot stop. We set about making a small campfire and putting together some hot sandwiches and soup for dinner. Relaxing around a fire with a cold can of beer was a great way to end the night and start our camping adventure. While we sat quietly and enjoyed the evening sounds we heard a loon singing his mournful call out on the lake. It was then that I realized we had arrived. This was the place to be.

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Waking up the next morning to a view of the sun on the little lake was great, it’s nice to have a bedroom with so many windows! After cooking some delicious eggs in the cast iron skillet we set about cleaning up camp, preparing to continue our trek into the UP. After taking photos and climbing the small dune next to our campsite we fired up the bus and began the process of extracting ourselves from the trees. Again it was very nice to have 2 extra sets of eyes to help maneuver through the trees and back out onto the road. From there it was a piece of cake to find our way back out to Mackinaw City and head for the bridge to the UP.

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Ask anyone familiar with Michigan about the UP and they will tell you it’s one of the greatest summer destinations in the country. Ask someone in the UP about it, and they will tell you it is the best place on Earth, period. Residents of the UP, or Yoopers, are very enthusiastic about their stomping grounds. And they have many reasons to be proud! Entering the UP is like entering another country, and it all starts with the Mackinac Bridge. It’s a long suspension bridge that provides a beautiful view of the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet. When you get to the other side, you’ve made it to the Upper Peninsula. We stopped at a bridge overlook to snap some photos.

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Our next stop was Tahquamenon Falls State Park (rhymes with phenomenon). It didn’t take long to get there, maybe an hour and a half. So we had plenty of time to get settled at our campsite and go exploring. We loved all the hilarious looks we got from our fellow campers with their tents or fancy RVs. Our neighbors next to us had a nice rig, complete with two scooters and two folding bicycles, and they made sure not to engage with us. Their loss! But other campers around the park were more interested, and told us they thought the bus was awesome. We beamed with pride.

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The Upper Falls viewing area was four miles away from the campsite, and it was a bit late in the day to start an 8 mile trek, so Steven took turns giving Allison and I rides on the motorcycle like a true ladies man. There was a large shopping area and brew pub at the Upper Falls parking area, all very commercialized and busy. We avoided it and continued down the path see the water fall, and understood why it is sometimes called the root beer falls. There are tannins that leach out of the trees into the river, giving the falls a reddish brown hue that tumbles 50 feet into the foamy water below.

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When we returned to camp, we took a walk around to see the smaller Lower Falls, got slightly lost in the woods, then got back just in time to purchase some firewood from a local vendor that drives around the camp in the evenings. Michigan has had a problem with the Emerald Ash Bore, which if you listen to Science Friday on NPR, you might have heard of it! It’s an invasive bug that destroys trees and is easily transported via firewood. Therefore, you are not allowed to bring your own firewood to camp and must purchase it on site. (That was something we were asked about at each border crossing, too).

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Finally it was time for pizza! After successfully baking a cobbler some days ago in the tiny camp oven, I was fairly positive we could make some tiny pizzas too. They turned out beautifully; talk about luxurious camping. It rained a little bit while we made dinner, but luckily it dissipated and did not ruin our s’more ambitions. However, there was a wild critter that was determined to take advantage of the situation. There we were, full of pizza and wiping the melty chocolate from our chins, when there was a faint rustling sound behind us. No matter, we were parked up against the woods and there were leaves all over the ground, and lots of chipmunks. Pretty soon there were more rustling sounds. This still did not alarm us. After a few moments the rustling came once more, this time louder than before. I stood out of my chair, “OKAY GUYS. What is going on?!”

The sounds got more frantic as I walked the short couple of feet back to the picnic table where our bag of sweets was sitting. I couldn’t see anything in the darkness, but Steven came running with a flashlight and we followed the scrambling sounds. Peering down the slope into the trees, we saw a pair of eyes twinkling in the beam of the flashlight, and a pair of tiny black hands gripping an ENTIRE BAG of marshmallows! We all came to one conclusion: there’s going to be a very sick raccoon in the woods tomorrow morning. Sure enough, we recovered the empty bag the next day, and laughed again at the creature’s boldness.

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Saturday found us on the road again, driving towards Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We decided to brave an unpaved back road that went along Lake Superior. It turned out to be a good decision, as the road was wide and had an excellent spot to pull over and check out the rocky beach. The water was cold and the rocks were beautiful, we put a few in our pockets to take home with us.

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We bumped along until we came back out to paved roads and into Pictured Rocks. The National Lakeshore runs for 42 miles along Lake Superior and is home to waterfalls, sand dunes, and beautiful cliff formations. We packed some sandwiches into our backpacks and hiked to the Au Sable dunes, first down to the beach, then up into the sand for a picnic lunch. We really enjoyed sitting up there in the extra fine sand, looking out over the water. We watched fog roll in, slow at first then seemed to speed up as it reached the shore, obscuring the water completely and washing through the tree tops over us. The temperature instantly dropped as the cloud enveloped us. It was a really cool feeling.

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After lunch, we kept on moving, stopping to see the log slide overlook down the road. The log slide is on the side of an extremely steep dune where loggers used to slide trees down to the lake. The fog created a ghostly feel as we stood on the edge an saw nothing but white before us, water droplets forming in our hair. We moved on from there to the western edge of the park at Miners Castle. Miners Castle is the name for the cliff formations that have been eroded over the years by the lake, leaving behind strange indents and caves. Of course we couldn’t see a thing with the fog, but we were able to hike the half mile to Miners Falls, which was neat. I hadn’t expected to see so many spectacular water falls on this trip!

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Our stop for the night was at a boondocker’s house, right on the edge of Lake Superior. I think it’s hard to find a place in the UP that doesn’t have amazing scenery. Jean and Wes were happy to let us park in their driveway for the night, and we were grateful. We had a relaxing evening in the bus full of tacos, beer, and Allison’s beautiful banjo playing. The next morning we were delighted to see that the fog had burned off, and we stood at the edge of the yard, taking in the view.

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Seeing that the fog was gone, we planned on going back to Miners Castle before heading home. But there was one other thing we had to do first: get pasties for breakfast. Pasties are a UP tradition, and are popular in England as well. It’s a round pastry stuffed with meat and root vegetables and seasonings. We went to a shop down the road called Muldoon’s, where they made the pasties fresh (and had vegetarian ones!). We each scarfed one down on the way to Miners Castle, and put some extras in the fridge for later. When we got to the lookout, it was clear as ever and we were blown away by the stunning beauty of it all.

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UPSTATE NEW YORK

From Vermont our next destination was Holland, Michigan; where we would meet our friend Allison and spend several days exploring the area with her. To get from Burlington to Holland we had to decide which route to take, the long way around through Ohio, or straight across through Ontario? After our recent border issues we were skeptical about doing another one, but decided we wanted to give it a try. We wanted to see if we would have trouble again, or breeze right through like many other travelers we have talked to.

After we spent the first part of the day exploring Burlington, we loaded up and headed across the bridge into New York. Our goal for the evening was Saranac Lake, where we planned to meet another couple with a bus project and park at their place for the night. Driving through the Adirondack Mountains was an amazing experience, even though it can be a chore to weave the bus through some of the small towns and winding mountain roads. There were so many beautiful rivers and overlooks, it would have been fun to spend an entire week camping and exploring the area. On the way to our destination, we passed through Lake Placid and got some views of the old winter Olympics structures. The Olympic training center is still used today, and tourists are welcome at some of the points of interest, such as the towering ski jumps. As scary as those things look on TV, they are even more intimidating in real life! The Lake Placid high school even makes use of the speed skating rink, which serves as their track. Arriving in Saranac Lake we found Shelby and Dave’s apartment and got the bus situated for the night. We met them through Instagram after they started commenting on our pictures, and when they learned of our route they offered up a place to park and a tour of their own bus project. We couldn’t say no! It was a lot of fun to compare buses, theirs is still in the middle of the construction phase but it is coming along nicely. It is going to be a more complete home than ours is, which will be a lot of fun for them. Next on the agenda for the evening was a drive over to Lake Placid, where we were going to have dinner and beers at Lake Placid Craft Brewing, home of the famous “Ubu Ale”, a strong, dark English style ale. We really enjoyed the food and beers, as well as having some fun people to hang out with. We stayed out late into the night telling travel stories and playing the beanbag toss game in the brewery yard.

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The next morning we relaxed in the bus while we tried to figure out which direction to head and where to stop for the night. After studying maps for a couple hours and looking up various camping options we just couldn’t find anything that fit our plans, so we waved goodbye to Dave and decided to head towards Niagara Falls, to see how far we could get before we called it a night. Our camping spot ended up being a Wal-Mart parking lot in Albion, NY. This was the first time we had parked at a Wal-Mart (wallydocking) and we weren’t too thrilled, but it was a free place to stay for the night and we could get a few groceries inside. It turned out to be better than expected, we had a quiet corner of the lot and no one bothered us. We even met another traveler parked there in his converted van, it was interesting to share stories with him and learn about his recent trips around New England. Lindsey made us an amazing dinner, homemade potato chowder and even a strawberry rhubarb cobbler, baked in the tiny oven. This was the first real use of the oven, and we weren’t sure how well it would work, but it did great! We sat at the table looking out the window at the beautiful sunset, happy to be out exploring the world even if we were in a parking lot.

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After cooking some breakfast the next morning we got everything put away and ready to get back out on the road, this was the big day! The Canadian border was only an hour away and we were ready for it. As we waited in line to go through the checkpoint we relaxed and prepared ourselves for another invasive search. Finally our turn came at the window where the officer checked over our passports, asked a few questions, and waved us on our way. This was impossible. How could it be so easy? We rejoiced as we paid our toll and headed toward Niagara Falls. Circling the area for half an hour we finally found a place to park the bus so we could visit the falls. It was a rainy cloudy day, so the view wasn’t as clear as it could have been but it was a powerful experience to stand out on the point only a few feet from where the river plunged down over the edge. It was more impressive than I ever imagined it would be, I am very thankful we decided to stop there along the way. Lindsey and I watched the waterfall for a while before we walked back to our bus just in time to miss the heavy downpour that started.

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Heading back out onto the highway we slogged west though the rainstorm hoping to reach Holland before midnight. Somewhere along the way I noticed a strange squeaking sound coming from the front of the engine, I just chalked it up to a belt making noise from being wet and didn’t think much of it. The rest of the drive through Ontario was uneventful; we were noticing how much the terrain was changing, long gone were the mountains of New York. We finally reached the Michigan border, where we got our first glimpse of the great lakes. The highway leading to the US border went up over a beautiful bridge where we could see Lake Huron off to the right side, never before had we seen such a vast expanse of water that wasn’t an ocean. We were so excited to be here. The real fun started when we pulled up to the US Customs window, where the officer asked me to shut down the bus so we could talk without yelling. I of course said sure thing and reached for the key, as I was about to turn it a little voice in the back of the mind said “don’t do it” but I shrugged it off thinking it was silly, the bus hasn’t had any issues so far, why should it start now. After completing the passport check and declaration paperwork he motioned us over to a side area to wait for our “random” inspection (yea right) but as I turned the key and hit the start button all I got in return was a loud click. I tried again with no luck. Great, now we are stuck in the lane at the US Customs with a dead battery. That’s when I realized that the strange squealing I had heard earlier in the day was the alternator in its death throes, possibly killed by the heavy rainstorm. I had been driving along all day with all the headlights and running lights on, as well as the fan so the starting batteries were too weak to crank the giant diesel engine. There we were in our crazy old bus, broken down in the middle of the border crossing with a line of people behind us. This is one of those moments where you just laugh and can’t believe it is happening. I explain to the border officer what the problem is and he radios for the Michigan DOT to send a truck over, so a few minutes later a pickup pulls up to the bus, we hook up some jump leads, let it sit for a couple minutes and then she fired right up. Fortunately these old diesel’s don’t require any electricity to run, so as long as we could leave it running and not shut it off we would be ok to make it to our stop for the night. After going through some of the typical US bureaucratic nonsense we were finally free to continue into Michigan. We still had a few hours to go until we reached Holland, and we weren’t sure if we were going to make it.

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As we rumbled along watching the sun go down I was a little nervous, as our headlights would barely turn on without our batteries charged up. By the time nine o’clock rolled around we were running down the highway without any lights, and still had a couple hours to go. The setting sun was still lighting up the horizon so we pushed on, but kept an eye out for a place to park. After another 45 minutes on the road it was too dark to be on the roads with our dim candles for headlights, so we pulled off into a rest stop to wait until daylight so we could see. I parked the bus in a spot and shut it off, praying that I would be able to get it going again in the morning. Luckily I was able to hook up our little generator to my battery charger and jump-start it again in the morning. Driving along in the bright morning sun we were just happy to be so close to a friends house, where we would be parking for the next several days. I could figure out what to do with the alternator while we relaxed with Allison and her family. We pulled into their house and got the bus situated on the driveway before shutting it down one last time. After saying hello to Allison’s parents we set off into Holland on the motorcycle, ready to see all that Michigan has to offer.

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BURLINGTON, VT

We spent the night in Bangor camped in the parking lot of a Restaurant called Season’s; Lindsey and I had met the owner of the place while we were visiting Allagash Brewery back in Portland. He invited us to park there for the night, and we didn’t turn him down. After watching the great fireworks show on the river we ran through the rain back to the bus, where we listened to the rain come down on the metal roof all night.

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The morning light woke us up early, and we drove on through the rain with our sights on Burlington. Crossing in New Hampshire again we were really enjoying the beautiful scenery and winding roads. It didn’t take long to cross the narrow part of New Hampshire and enter Vermont. Driving toward Burlington we saw signs for Cabot Creamery, we couldn’t pass that up! Cabot makes some of the best Cheddar, besides Tillamook of course. We had a nice time looking around their factory and sampling many different cheeses. We couldn’t leave without buying a little block of some delicious aged Alpine Cheddar. We also tried to visit a maple sugarhouse, but they were not open for business that day.

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Continuing on we drove through many small farm towns, each with their own interesting buildings and character.We finally reached our destination, Sam Mazza’s Farm Market, just outside Burlington. The staff pointed out an area around back by the cornfield and apple orchard for us to park and we set up camp for the night. Sam Mazza’s was an awesome market, full of fresh produce, jam, honey, and fresh baked bread. After getting setup for the night and having a quick dinner we jumped on the motorcycle and headed down the road into downtown. Since it was Saturday evening there was a lot going on, live music at several places, and lots of people out enjoying the night. We wandered up and down Church Street looking at all the nice restaurants, and listening to some music. Eventually we found our way to the Vermont Pub and Brewery, which we had heard was excellent. The place was packed full of loud college kids, we waited around for a while at couple different areas but didn’t have luck getting the attention of the staff, so we decided to head down the street to another brewery that sounded more promising. We found Zero Gravity Brewing inside a restaurant called Flatbread, and immediately had a seat at the bar. Their beer selection was great, and we enjoyed sampling a few different offerings. We even tried a Gruit there, which is an interesting medieval style ale brewed without hops. My favorite was the Conehead Wheat IPA, a delicious hazy golden IPA with a great balance of hops and citrus flavors. Not the typical mega-hop NW style IPA!

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Zak, the Scottish Highlander

Zak, the Scottish Highlander

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Heading back out to the bus we enjoyed a peaceful night, as only being parked on a farm can bring. The next morning Lindsey really wanted some fresh berries so we walked across the road to the U-Pick area and got a nice big quart of juicy strawberries. After we picked up a couple more items from the farm store we set off on the bike again. Back in Burlington we enjoyed exploring the city in the daytime, but were sad that quite a few places seemed to be closed on Sunday. Walking down to the ferry dock we were greeted with an amazing view out across Lake Champlain. It was such a beautiful sight, and a perfect sunny morning to be out. We sat on a bench in the park and basked in the sun while we watched sailboats cruise in and out of the harbor. After a while we walked back up the hill into town and found Citizen Cider, a craft cider house serving up some great flavor combinations we had never tried before. We enjoyed a sample flight there in the fun tasting room. By then it was well past lunchtime for us, and our stomachs rumbled. We headed back out to the farm and loaded up the motorcycle. Sitting in the grass next to the bus enjoying a sandwich in the sun was a great way to end our Vermont visit.

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On our way out of town we stopped by Magic Hat Brewing, one of the biggest names in Vermont. We learned about Magic Hat while living in Florida, and wanted to see it in person. We parked the bus in the back and walked into the “Artifactory” where we entered a bizarre carnival-like zone of merchandise. As we looked around at all the cheesy branded items we were disappointed. This was a far cry from the craft breweries we were used to, where there is a lot more emphasis on the beer and brewing process. It was nice of them to offer free samples to guests, but after having so many outstanding beers in the last few weeks we were a little jaded. At least we can say we have seen it in person!

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Lindsey and I were sad that we didn’t have a few more days to spend camping and exploring Vermont, since there is so much to see and do there. Every bend in the road reveals a new hiking trail or campsite by a gorgeous river. Our goodbye was bittersweet; sad to leave but excited to keep working our way toward Michigan, where our good friend Allison and her family awaited us. As we cruised across the bridge into New York state Lindsey and I vowed to each other to return to the NE sometime soon and spend some more time exploring this beautiful part of our country.

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA

After Campobello Island, we had to reenter the US and drive an hour north to the next border crossing to enter the New Brunswick mainland. Coming back into the US was easy enough, just a twenty minute wait or so while they checked out our bus, and when we were ready to go, everything was back in its place. Unfortunately, our cross back into Canada at the much larger station in Saint Stephen was another story.

The problem so ironically evolved from us trying to be totally prepared to enter Canada without issue, and what resulted was the opposite. What happened is, we knew that we couldn’t carry firearms over the border, so Steven bought a gun case to ship his guns home. When he took his guns to the Mount Dora, FL gun shop to have them shipped, the shop owner insisted he could get us a better shipping rate by packing the guns in some makeshift boxes instead of using the plastic case. So we ended up not needing the case, but thought we would just take it back home and use it later. If we had known what trouble this would cause us, we would have gotten rid of that thing much sooner.

When the Canadian border officials searched our bus, they found the empty gun case and went into panic mode. After waiting a very long time for them to let us go, we were beckoned outside to the bus. What we found was all our belongings that were stored in the outside compartments dumped all over the parking lot. This didn’t bode well. Immediately, Steven was questioned about his firearms and while we explained how the guns were back in Oregon, they did not believe us. We were ushered inside the bus and discovered that they had turned the place upside down, having torn into every compartment and every box and they left everything laying in heaps on the floor. Our home was trashed.

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Needless to say, tempers were high, and we did not appreciate the attitude we got from the border officials as we did our best to comply with the rules. I was very scared as they threatened to send Steven off to jail, and threatened us with dogs, and we had done nothing wrong. I know they were just doing their job, but we expected a little more courtesy, and not to be treated like criminals. Steven was asked repeatedly to just tell them where the guns were hidden, as if we are some kind of smugglers. When they finally confirmed that we had no weapons, they continued to berate us with accusations and threatening messages. After they confiscated my tiny pepper spray (I didn’t realize it was illegal), I asked how women were expected to protect themselves. I got a very sarcastic reply from the male border official, who stated,  “With their fists”. Wow. He proceeded to make fun of American gun laws and to complain about how hot it was inside the bus as he had to dig around every single box we have in there. Like I’m supposed to feel sympathy for the guy.

Now, believe me, we by no means wish to speak illy of the country of Canada. We just happened to have a terrible experience trying to vacation there. We are aware that our bus is unusual and draws extra attention where ever we go. We expected to be searched. We just didn’t expect to be treated so poorly. It is a sad truth that there are people who try to sneak weapons and other things into other countries. But we would never try to pull anything like that over anyone. We were intensely disappointed how the whole thing was handled. If any of you have had good experiences with Canada, please share your experience. We had heard such good things about entering Canada, and actually heard bad things about the US customs. Coincidentally, the US was nothing but quick and courteous each time we crossed over.

After re-packing the whole bus and cleaning up from that disaster, we continued east. The view was gorgeous! Dense forest on either side of the highway, with an occasional peak out onto a river or brook. The fog rolled in and created a very interesting effect on the landscape. We took note of the fence line along the road, which we heard is to keep wandering moose out of the way. After some time we finally came upon our stop for the night and into the company of some fellow boondockers. We stayed the night at Bill and Janet’s place near Petitcodiac, and they welcomed us with a cooler full of beer on their huge and wonderful farmhouse porch. We really have had the best luck with meeting such gracious hosts on this trip.

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We were ready to head up to Nova Scotia the next morning, but we decided to take pause and reevaluate our situation. First, there is a large storm approaching Canada (thanks to hurricane Arthur from Florida). Secondly, buying diesel (or much of anything) in Nova Scotia is extremely expensive. And thirdly, we are looking forward to visiting our friend in Michigan next weekend and have already planned a camping trip there. With such little time before we need to reach Michigan, and the other factors against us, we eventually decided that our energy would be better spent heading back into the US and making our way over to the Great Lakes. It would be fun to see Nova Scotia, and/or Prince Edward Island, but to really appreciate it and take it all in, you need several days there. To spend one rushed weekend driving back and forth would have been a waste. On a trip like ours, with a limited budget and a pressed timeline, you have to cut your losses and decide what is more worth your effort. We rather enjoy our time spent in a few places, than run all over the Earth without taking the time to appreciate every stop.

Therefore, we find ourselves back in the States for the fourth of July, taking in the fireworks and some good American brew in Bangor, Maine. Cheers!

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CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, NEW BRUNSWICK

Waving goodbye to Clem and the winery, Lindsey and I continued North on the narrow secondary highways through Maine.  Our next destination was Lubec, the easternmost town in the US. From there we would take the bridge over to Campobello Island, part of New Brunswick. This was going to be our fist border crossing in the bus, and we were nervous.

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Enjoying the beautiful Maine scenery along the back roads

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Our route sent us down into Bucksport, where we crossed the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The Narrows Bridge was so fun to drive across in the bus! We have such a great view out the giant windshield, and through all the side windows.  Just over the other side of the bridge we found Carrier’s Mainely Lobster, a little roadside restaurant we had read about. We stopped to grab some lunch and a milkshake. Eating our burgers and fries from a little roadside take out stand felt so American, it was the perfect summertime lunch. The food was delicious, and cheap too! I didn’t get lobster there; I was waiting until we got out onto the island.

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As we drove farther and farther up the coast, the air got cooler and the towns got smaller.  We finally drove past the sign for Lubec, and soon after we were at the base of the bridge that lead to Canada. Driving up the bridge we were shocked to find the whole island shrouded in thick fog, from the top of the bridge you couldn’t even see the shoreline. It was such an eerie experience; it felt like we were driving over the bridge to another world. As we came down the far side the rocky coast came into view, and we stopped at the Canadian customs checkpoint. This is the part we were nervous about. What would they think of our weird old bus full of household items? We stopped at the booth and got out to talk to the officer in the window. He looked at our passports, asked a few questions about our visit, smirked at our bus, and let us on our way. No search, no interrogation. This was too easy! We rejoiced as we drove onto the island. Little did we know what we had in store for us the next time we tried to cross a Canadian border.

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Bridge to nowhere

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Campobello Island is a tiny little place, roughly nine miles long and three miles across at its widest point. Driving up the main road crossing the island we were so excited to be there, and were anxious to meet our host. As we rounded a bend we were greeted by lines of people on either side of the road, and a long line of traffic. We soon realized that the long line of traffic was actually a parade, and we were right at the tail end. People were cheering and waving at us, and we could hear them talking about the bus, everyone seemed to love it! Or they thought we were crazy. As we slowly idled along I opened the entrance door and started talking with an older guy who was waving at us. He hopped up on the front steps and poked his head in, marveling at our interesting interior. We quizzed him and found out that it was Canada Day! And we were just in time for the parade.  It was a very exciting entrance to the island, how lucky of us to come in at just the right time. Before too long the procession turned right and we turned left, heading over to Welschpool, where we found our home for the next couple of nights.

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Following the parade

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Parked at Bea’s house

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Bea and Molly

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Bea was a fellow boondocker and traveler, we met her through the boondockers welcome website. Her and her husband Peter have a beautiful old home on the island, where they spend the summers while escaping to the warmth of California during the winter. Unfortunately Peter was away on a business trip so we didn’t get to meet him, but we had a great time with Bea. She welcomed us into her home, where we enjoyed spending an evening chatting and sharing stories in the sitting room, while listening to the French radio station and enjoying a bottle of wine. The next morning she took us out on a tour of the island, it was very lucky for us as they used to run a little tour business there, so Bea knew a lot about the local wildlife, the island history, and the interesting landmarks. It was so much fun to drive around with her and listen to the stories about the place. Check out her own website here.

Our first stop in the morning was the Harbor Head Light Station, an old decommissioned lighthouse that has been lovingly restored and maintained by a group of retired folks who come up every summer and do maintenance and repair damage done by the winter storms. It is in a beautiful location, at the eastern tip of the island. You can only access it by foot for 3-4 hours a day, when the tide is at its lowest point. It is a fairly treacherous hike down through the rocks and along the sandbar to get there, but well worth the trip. While we were over walking around the buildings we met Lou, one of the volunteers who keeps the property functioning. Lou was hard at work up on a ladder scrapping mold and old paint, getting ready for a fresh coat. With a historic landmark like this being out in the ocean weather all year round it needs constant attention. Visiting the lighthouse was one of the highlights of the trip, it is so nice to see it brought back to its former glory.

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Next on the tour we visited the Roosevelt cottage, it was US President Franklin Roosevelt’s summer getaway home on the island. Campobello was a favorite spot of the Roosevelt’s, there is a lot of history there involving Franklin and Eleanor. We got to go for a free walk through the cottage; it was very simplistic even for the era. Talking with the park rangers we learned that the Roosevelt’s preferred to lead a simpler life while they were vacationing on the island, away from the busy cities. I completely understand! Being out on Campobello felt so wild and remote, even thought the coast of Maine was in sight on a clear afternoon.

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Bea brought us back to her place, where we unloaded our motorcycle and set off in search of lunch and to explore the rest of the island. Since July 1st is my birthday, I promised myself I would find a lobster roll as a birthday treat. I had never had lobster before, and what better time than now to try it. We stopped at a popular roadside stand that serves fresh caught lobster and I finally had my roll. It was quite good, but I don’t think I need to have any more in the near future. After our lunch stop we rode down to Herring Cove, a dark crescent shaped beach, which has been shaped by cross tides pushing the sand at and angle down the shore. The think afternoon fog was rolling in once again so we hurried down the beach and into Roosevelt International Park. The park is full of twisting gravel roads, which are a blast to ride on our little dual sport. We found the other end of Herring Cove, where the beach is made up of millions of small round rocks, polished away by years of wind and sea. Then we rode deeper into the woods until we came out at Liberty Point, the opposite end of the island from the Harbor Head Light House. Looking out into the Bay of Fundy was awe inspiring, even as the grey fog rolled in. Motoring back out to the main road the cold heavy air fogged up my helmet’s face shield and made me miss being back home in the North West.

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Herring Cove

Herring Cove

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The last stop for the evening was out at Friar’s Head, where there is a large rock formation shaped like a hooded monk. Unfortunately we were there during high tide, so we couldn’t see the Friar, but we had a nice time hiking down to the rocky coastline and looking out across the bay to Deer Island.

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Visiting Campobello Island was one of the highlights of the trip, I am so glad we took the time to go visit, and getting to know Bea and her cute dog Molly just made it all the better.

PORTLAND, ME

We made it to the other Portland! Long we have talked about how fun it would be to visit the far away Portland, and we finally had our chance. We were not disappointed.

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After having a great time in Portsmouth, we loaded up and headed north along the coast to Portland. It was a beautiful Maine summer day to be on the ocean, and the views out the window were spectacular. We would our way through many small towns and villages, all of them boasting the best lobster and seafood. These small towns were quite the challenge in our large bus, I did have one minor incident that left some glass on the sidewalk. We were coming through a narrow intersection, and while concentrating closely to avoid the car in the left turn lane I got too close to the sidewalk and clipped a telephone pole with one of the giant mirrors. It shattered with a loud pop, startling both of us. Fortunately there were no pedestrians in the area and no physical damage done to the phone pole. I just left broken mirror pieces and my crumbled ego on the ground. At least it was the less important mirror out of the group, and it being missing doesn’t hinder driving at all.

We soon reached the outskirts of Portland and found the large Cabela’s store to park at. They also offer unofficial overnight parking for campers, and since we hadn’t found a better option we decided to settle down for the night. After putting together a quick meal we jumped on the little motorcycle and headed into downtown. Just a short 10 minute ride and we were at the Portland waterfront. It was a perfect evening to be out walking, and all the restaurants and bars were packed. We had a lot of fun exploring along all of the old  wharfs, watching the beautiful boats come in and out of the harbor.

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While we walked along the old streets looking at all the interesting buildings I got a text from my older sister Heidie, she had seen our pictures on Facebook and was surprised to learn that we were all the way up in Portland. Heidie told me that she had a good friend who lived there and would be happy to have us over for the evening. She put me in touch with Tom, and he invited us to bring the bus over to his place just a few minutes from the Old Port area. We were so excited to have a great place to park in the city! Tom and his family live in a beautiful old home, with a nice big curbside to park along. We even got to plug in our power cord to the outlet in the garage. So much better than staying out at the Cabela’s! Tom and Amy were great hosts, opening their home to us and giving us advice on what to see in town. It was so nice to meet them, thanks again guys! After we got settled Lindsey and I decided to walk a couple blocks down the road and check out an interesting bar we had seen called the Great Lost Bear. GLB was a great little divey bar, with a huge selection of local draft beer. The decor was fun and the bartender was very friendly. We had a nice time enjoying some Allagash White and chatting with a few locals. Everyone can tell we aren’t from this area and are always fascinated to hear about our trip so far. It is fun to share stories with others who are interested.

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Tom an Amy’s beautiful 100 year old home

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Great Lost Bear

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The next morning we unloaded our bicycles and aired up the tires to head back down to the Old Port. Lindsey and I aren’t very experienced cyclists, but we enjoy getting out and riding when we can. We try to make ourselves use them frequently to get some much needed exercise, but when we have a motorcycle at our disposal the bicycles stay dormant far too long. We did have a great time riding along the Back Cove Trail and through the city. We found our way back to the waterfront and spent some more time walking through the streets looking in the window’s of all the stores. When we found The Holy Donut we couldn’t resist going in to get some breakfast sweets. They make their doughnuts using mashed potatoes in the dough, it makes for dense and moist doughnuts, which are very delicious.

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Once we had seen as much as we could in one morning we pedaled back to the bus, said goodbye to Tom, and drove up the road a couple miles to the Allagash Brewery. Allagash is a belgian style brewery. They are unusual because they use wild yeasts and old barrel aging techniques to add character to their delicious beers. My favorite is the Belgian White, a zesty wheat ale with a perfect amount of coriander and orange peel added. We took the tour of their great new facility, it is so nice to see a company start small and grow in popularity. The tour ended in the barrel room where our guide shared several samples with us. It was a great time, it took a lot of willpower for me to leave without buying a case of the Witbier. Easily one of the best I have had on this trip so far.

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Lindsey and I agreed that this city is quite similar to Portland, Oregon. The craft beer scene is huge, the restaurant and food selection is vast, and the neighborhoods full of old homes are so great to walk through. We couldn’t decide if our favorite thing about it is the number of breweries or the number of handmade ice cream shops! This could easily be home for us, although I am not sure how many winters we would want to endure. It would definitely be worth a trip back to spend more time enjoying the local food and surrounding area.

Saying goodbye to Allagash and Portland we continued up the road, heading to our next overnight stop at a winery in Unity, Maine. We were just turning onto the interstate when we noticed a young guy hitchhiking on the ramp, he looked like a nice guy and we decided it was time to return some of the kindness we have been experiencing so we stopped and he jumped aboard. Connor was impressed with the bus and thought it was fun to ride in. He was a really nice younger guy, he spends the summers working on various farms around Maine and was on his way back to the one he currently works at. Unfortunately it is too loud up front by the engine to talk much while we are underway, but Lindsey and Connor had a nice time chatting while sitting at the dinette. It was fun to have another passenger for a little while, and it was nice to help out another traveler.

We slowly worked our way up the state, twisting through countless narrow farm roads, attracting stares and waves in every little town we passed through. In the late afternoon we arrived at our stop for the night in Unity, at the Younity Winery, where we met our host Clem. Clem is an eccentric guy who loves making wine, and it was a pleasure to spend a couple hours talking with him about the process and walking through his grapes and small winery. He was happy to share tastes of all his unique wines with us, including some very interesting fruit wines. He describes his wine not as a product, but as an experience. It really is, and every bottle has a story behind it. Some of his batches include cranberries, rhubarb, and one especially intriguing one: pumpkin. We enjoyed listening to Clem’s colorful stories and also learning a little about the history of the area. Also interesting is that he is a fellow North Westerner who fell in love with Maine some years ago. Clem provided us with a beautiful parking space for the night, on a hill overlooking the surrounding farms and old houses.

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Maine is a beautiful state, and it has been a pleasure to drive through. We are on our way into Canada now, but will be coming back through Maine in a few days to spend more time.

PORTSMOUTH, NH

Our New Hampshire adventure continued as we headed out of the mountains and over towards the coastline. Since the first days of planning this trip we have been talking about visiting Portsmouth, and I am so glad we did. It is a beautiful city on the seacoast, full of historic buildings, great food, craft beer, and a lively nightlife. We parked outside of town, just over the Maine border in Kittery, in the big parking lot behind the Trading Post store (giant outdoor store). As we pulled around the back of the building to find a parking spot we cruised by a couple other RV’s parked along the far end of the lot. Being the curious and friendly travelers we are, after parking the bus we moseyed over to say hello. We met two of the nicest retired couples, they loved the bus and had lots of questions and suggestions for the rest of our New England travels. They were all from Vermont and upstate New York, so they had plenty of advice for the rest of our time here. We chatted with them for a while and of course we ended up with a bottle of fresh Vermont maple syrup from their family sugar house. Meeting wonderful people like them is a big part of what makes this trip so much fun.

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Starting off the day with some farm fresh eggs

Earlier in the day, before we reached our parking space for the night, we wanted to stop at the Smuttynose Brewery and check it out. Smuttynose is just outside Portsmouth, on an old farm they recently bought. The brewing facility is brand new, and is so beautiful. The entire building is an amazing mixture of classic New England farm style and modern sustainable technology. Lindsey and I rolled into the parking lot in the bus and had the attention of everyone in sight. It’s not everyday you see a big ass antique Blue Bird bus come gliding into the lot and park in the back. We had just set the brakes and were putting together a quick lunch before going into the brewery when we noticed one of the employees walking toward us across the tarmac. We were worried that he was going to ask us to move or leave,  but we were pleasantly surprised when he popped his head in the front door and told us how much he loved the bus. Of course we invited him in, and showed him around our little space. Ben introduced himself as the head tour host at Smuttynose, and shared stories with us about his own experience traveling the country in an RV with his wife. He was so accommodating, when he found out we were going to make lunch before heading inside he offered us some beer, and of course we didn’t turn him down. He disappeared into the building and returned a minute later with two big cups full of their latest specialty beer, a Farmhouse Ale, that they were just releasing that afternoon. It was the nicest way to be greeted! After we had a quick lunch we headed into the building and were waiting in the store for the next tour to start when Ben found us again. He had us follow him out into the brewery, and gave us our own personal tour of the facility. We spent at at least an hour getting the full rundown of their brewing and packaging process. We even got to climb up into the walkways looking into the giant vessels where the brewing takes place. We felt so important as we hiked around the tall catwalk, way above the rest of the crowd down below. At the end of our tour Ben set us up with their other hosts at the tasting counter, and had them take extra special care of us. Lindsey and I had a great time visiting with them and trying all of their outstanding brews. The staff was so friendly and excited to hear about our traveling adventures, it was an amazing experience. When we finally pulled ourselves away from the tasting counter we were in the store picking out a couple souvenirs to take with us when Ben found us once more, this time offering up a big bottle of the Farmhouse Ale on the house, saying it was a gift for our trip. I can’t express how great our experience was there, the staff was so nice and all the special treatment really made for an amazing time. Smuttynose isn’t very easy to find out west, but the beer is incredible and well worth the search.

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Getting the rundown on the brewing process at Smutty

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Peeking into the giant brewing vessels

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Enjoying the tasting counter and the awesome Smuttynose employees

 

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Showing off my awesome Smutty shirt

 

After our time at Smutty we headed out to find our parking space for the night. Since Kittery is just over the border from New Hampshire it was a great chance to take the motorcycle into Portsmouth for the evening to check it out. We never realized that it was such a lively city, as we rode down the main drag there were a ton of people out and about dressed for a night out on the town. Eventually we found ourselves at the Portsmouth Brewery, the sister company to Smuttynose. It was a busy restaurant, but we managed to find a space in the back where we could setup our computers and do some blogging and research for the next leg of our trip. When we were at Smutty earlier in the day they gave us some free beer voucher cards to use at Portsmouth Brewery, so we definitely used those to our advantage. We had a great time at the brewery and seeing the city at night was very interesting. Heading back over the border into Maine for the night was so pretty, with all the lights on in Portsmouth and the bridge all lit up. We made it back to our bus and had a great nights sleep.

The next morning we packed up the bus and drove back into Portsmouth, we had found a large church parking lot just outside the downtown area to park in for part of the day. We left the bus along the back edge of the lot and hiked into town. The first place we stopped once we got into town was Don Gorvett’s art studio where he makes amazing wood block relief prints. Lindsey and I were so in love with the artwork, if we had a bigger budget for the trip we definitely would have ended up with a couple large prints to take home. Since our budget is very small, we settled for a couple of postcards to remember the place by. We spent the rest of the morning enjoying the sights and sounds of the city, walking along the bay, and loving the historic buildings and architecture. Of course we stopped in at the Portsmouth Brewery again to use up some more of the free drink cards we had. Portsmouth was such an enjoyable little city, it would be a great place to visit again in the future. Maybe one day we will be lucky enough to come back through and experience it again.

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Don’s studio

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Portsmouth Brewing

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