All posts by Dorsey

On The Road Again with Bambi

We weren’t going to do it. We had a big year last year, were away for roughly six months total, and figured we had a lot to accomplish at home. But then the Great Deep Freeze happened over the holidays and that was that. Let’s go find someplace warm.

We targeted January 29 – 30 for our departure, but Mother Nature struck again. Looking at the developing weather patterns, it became clear that if we didn’t get out by the 28th we weren’t going to get out until spring. So we had a mad panic of packing and organizing, hit the road early in the morning on the 28th, and enjoyed a warm, damp, trouble-free ride out of New England, across New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, then down I-81 along the Blue Ridge Mountains, just ahead of a dandy winter storm.

Our first destination was the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern Tennessee. Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Knoxville and the Smoky Mountains National Park are excellent fun and we always enjoy our little Campground, Riveredge, right on the Little Pigeon River at the base of the Parkway.

For those who have never been to Pigeon Forge, it can be a jaw-dropping experience. The first time we went there we were expecting a small Tennessee town at the base of a National Park, which to us meant a certain amount of civilization associated with the natural beauty of the nearby mountain wilderness.

IMG_6675How wrong we were. Pigeon Forge, it seems, is a whole-hearted rejection of all things remote, rugged and natural, driven by the desperation of parents with kids starved by their woodland adventures in the National Park for modern conveniences and crazy diversions.  img_6679-1There were buildings built to resemble mansions tipped upside down. A full-sized Titanic plowed into a fake iceberg along the side of an eight-lane traffic nightmare. IMG_6680King Kong swinging from a skyscraper. And that was just the start. Dollyville, of course. And endless blocks of mini-golf, amusement rides, shopping strip malls, every chain food restaurant imagineable, and 6000-room resorts all built to look like log cabins. Oh my.

Our little campground was an oasis in the midst of all this, and thanks to the time of year, we were one of just three campers there overnight. It was very pleasant and the pups enjoyed sniffing about among the empty campsites.

IMG_6711One of our objectives each visit to the area is to join the Thursday Lunch Barhounds at Calhouns on the River in Knoxville.
On our first trip through Tennessee we ended up there by accident, looking for some good BBQ, and stumbled on this very friendly bunch of natives and their trusty bartender Jennifer.  IMG_6714Unfortunately the weather derailed our schedule this year so we showed up on a Tuesday, but we were not to be disappointed.  IMG_6715Mike was there waiting for us even on the wrong day!  New friend Jim and pals joined the crowd (by next year Bruce will have mastered the cork finger puzzle), and bartender Derek, who was in for the flu-struck Jennifer, took excellent care of us all.  We had such fun we’re going to try to do it again on the way home.

The rest of our visit included poking around Gatlinburg, a small mountain town at the entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park which probably started out as the last town park visitors stocked up in before hiking up into the wilderness, but is now a crazy destination of its own, a cross between alpine village, Pigeon Forge, Vegas and Tennessee Moonshine.  Almost as head-turning as Pigeon Forge.  We like walking the streets and have found a few decent restaurants among the chain-restaurants and ubiquitous pancake houses.  I guess if you visit the mountains in Tennessee, you have to eat stacks of pancakes every day, all three meals.  Who knew?

img_6727Normally we like to end our visit by driving straight across the Smoky Mountains via Newfound Gap Road.  Sometimes during the winter the road is closed due to snow and ice, and alas, so it was this year.  img_6734-1We decided to go west-around the mountains via the Foothills Parkway road, which was actually quite lovely and I don’t think we saw more than three other vehicles the entire time.  It was a delightful ride.

Next stop: Florida.

Maine Cruise – Days 13-14 – Merchant Row & Isle Au Haut

Our visit to Wooden Boat ended in a very special way.  We had a morning visit from the crew of the American Tug Ancient Mariners, which had also spent the evening at Wooden Boat.  Always interested in something new and different, they came by in the morning to see our Tug. Continue reading Maine Cruise – Days 13-14 – Merchant Row & Isle Au Haut

Maine Cruise – Days 10-12 – Belfast & Wooden Boat

After three nights in Camden we were ready to shove off and explore.  The weather was not playing our game.  As we returned to the boat from walking the dogs in the morning, still tossing about different destination options, the fog settled in as thick as ever.  Our last choice was to stay one more day to wait out the weather, but several phone calls later we knew that was not an option: Camden was booked solid.  We had to go. Fog or not.  Continue reading Maine Cruise – Days 10-12 – Belfast & Wooden Boat

Maine Cruise – Days 6-8 – Camden

Gorgeous start in Boothbay…with fog lurking.

After a pleasant evening in Boothbay we dropped the mooring pennant at about 10:00 am and headed out of the bay in the warm, sparkling sunshine.  For about 20 minutes.  Then the fog descended.  We had about one boat length of visibility for about 42 of the 45-ish mile trip to Camden.  Thank goodness for excellent electronics.  And for Rody’s diligent watchstanding and x-ray vision goggles.

Continue reading Maine Cruise – Days 6-8 – Camden

Maine Cruise – Days 4-5 – Annisquam River, Isles of Shoals, Boothbay Harbor

Boston skyline.

After two days in Boston, we were ready to roll.  Monday dawned clear, dry, sunny and calm.  We were at the Mystic Marine fuel dock, right next to the Charlestown Marina, at 7:30 am, easy and fast in-out, less expensive than Harbor Fuels, and a 10-cent discount for Sea Tow members (which we are not 🙁). We were on our way by 8:00, and took a gander over to the Boston downtown waterfront with the city as a backdrop. Continue reading Maine Cruise – Days 4-5 – Annisquam River, Isles of Shoals, Boothbay Harbor

Maine Cruise – Days 2-3 – Boston

Otherwise known as The Gale That Didn’t Happen.

Actually, it did blow out of the north and east pretty hard, especially on the Rhode Island south coast where Block Island saw sustained winds of 40 knots for much of the afternoon on Saturday.  Here in the Boston area it was gusting towards 30, and it appeared to be slightly less than that in Provincetown.  We probably would have been fine in Provincetown, but no matter: we had a great time in Boston and are very glad the weather pushed us this way. Continue reading Maine Cruise – Days 2-3 – Boston