Go Home
From Maine to Charleston
Sept. 29 -
Oct. 23, 2001
These are journal entries written about my first leaf peeping experience, visits to Boston, America's Castles, Longwood Gardens, Gettysburg, Colonial Williamsburg, and Myrtle Beach along the way on this part of the journey.

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Florida Tour
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Maine Pages

Maine Home

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in Portland

Misc. Pictures

Leaf Peeping 1

Leaf Peeping 2



September 29, 2001

We toured the Kancamagus Highway through New Hampshire today. While all of the trees aren't yet brilliantly colored, there were pockets of color and the drive was still breath-takingly beautiful. As we drove through a canopy of especially thick color, Don waxed poetic, remarking that it felt like the trees were hugging us. I thought, boy howdy, I'll get this boy talking to rocks yet!

It hit me again today how happy I am to have found this lifestyle - it's totally great to be able to make up your mind to stay or go as you please, and no matter what, your home is always right there with you.

As anxious as I've been to hit the road, it took me by surprise when I realized I was really going to miss Maine and sorry that it will be a long time before my travels will take me here again. Not only is the area one of the country's finest jewels, the people here have to be some of the country's prime models of hospitality and friendliness. On Friday, five of the ladies I work closest with at Pierce Atwood took me out to lunch as a going away present. I've never heard of a temp being taken out like that and it really touched my heart. Brenda said she would really miss me because "I was a bright light on the 8th floor." Since this is the first job I've taken on the road, they have set a tough standard - I will be hard pressed to find another group of women that I enjoy working with more. I know that the greatest blessing of my travels has been and will be to meet and experience such angels along the way.

I used to wonder why in the world people would live up north where it was so cold in the winter time. Snow to me seemed an evil thing that stops life as we know it and presents the danger of death in its cold grip. I am so lucky to have experienced the natural and human beauty of this area so that question will be asked no longer.

After leaf peeping in New Hampshire, we headed into Massachusetts and visited Plymouth Plantation, an authentic recreation of the settlement as it existed in 1627. They have set it up as a working village, where crops are grown as they were then, the houses furnished and barns placed as maps showed them to be and people playing the parts of the real people known to have lived there at the time and their histories. They take this role-playing very seriously in an attempt to truly transport you back into that time period and give you a glimpse of what their lives were like. You visit them inside their houses and out in the fields and they will answer questions about their lives before and after their arrival in Plymouth. They speak in the dialect of the times and it's as close as I've ever come to having my wish come true where I am transported back in time and can truly see what life was like at different times in history.

When we later took the tour of the recreation of the Mayflower ship at the harbor, I found out it was true when the brochure said they will not speak to you of what they do not know - they will look at you very puzzled if you ask about something past the year 1627 which is what they are recreating. Once I saw what the accommodations were like on the ship that was just 90' long and 25' wide and that carried 102 total passengers (and a crew of 25), I remarked to one of the acting female passengers that 32 "kids" was a lot to handle for 67 days that way. She looked at my strangely and said the baby goats were kept penned with the other animals. I laughed when I realized the term "kids" for children was not in the vernacular of the period.

We also got to learn a little of the Wampanoag tribe who were here and how they helped and then later fought the settlers. However, the Indians are not portrayed in the first person the way the settlers were. It was explained that is because there are written journals of the actual settlers and historical data about them. However, the Indians' traditions were all handed down orally and not nearly as much are known about them, at least not from their own perspective of the times.

It was especially telling when we heard one of the settlers make the remark that they thought it good of God to have placed the Indians here for their benefit - like that was their only purpose for being here. No doubt the settlers would have starved that first winter if not for the help of the Indians, but those same settlers still believed that when the diseases they brought that wiped out more than half of the natives, that was Divine Providence - God's way of clearing the land for them - giving them uncontested title in that way. Pretty crude idea of Christianity, huh?

You never could have convinced me that history was so interesting when I sat at my desk in school fighting to stay awake through class trying to memorize dates and names of people whom I found boring and irrelevant.

We then drove out to Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod, but I must confess that has been my least favorite trip so far. It was pretty much a long, uninteresting drive to a destination that paled in comparison to what I'd seen along the Maine coastline. To be fair, maybe it was also because I was pretty tired at that point, but it certainly would not make my list of recommended travel itineraries.

October 11, 2001 - Boston

What a great day we had in Boston today! The weather was absolutely perfect - sunny and T-shirt-wearing-warm -- hard to believe we were in snow just 3 days ago. We rode the "Red Line T" (the subway) into downtown and walked through Boston Commons, which is the oldest public park in America, then through the Public Gardens, which was populated with big black geese and huge white swans. These were incredibly beautiful places right in the midst of downtown - a real treat for people to wander around during their lunch hour. And even the buildings all around were amazing to me - in one direction were the old brownstones with their cute little gardens carefully tended between the stoops. In another direction the big commercial buildings, a mixture of my favorite - the corner built ones - and the more modern structures; all co-existing beautifully and the seemingly inharmonious mixture melds into one another seamlessly and is totally pleasing to the eye.

We walked down the Freedom Trail, which is a route filled with historical buildings and incredible statues and memorials to our forefathers. We ate lunch at Cheers and then strolled past the oldest graveyard in Boston where Paul Revere is buried.

October 12, 2001 - Newport, RI

Last night was the first time we've stayed at a real campground since we left Portland. Thank God for WalMart. It just makes no sense to spend $25 or more per night just to park the RV. We're out all day exploring, anyway, and by the time we get home it's dark and all we want to do is crash. And my home is as comfortable inside when it's parked at a WalMart or in a campground. Although I'm still learning how to conserve power so that I don't run out of house battery juice during the night and won't have to run the generator, this is still a very economical benefit of owning an RV. I can usually go at least 5 days before I have to dump my black and gray water tanks, so this timetable worked out really well. Since this lifestyle is still new, I'm a little uneasy being unemployed while I'm traveling between destinations, so I'm trying to conserve finances as much as possible. It turned out to be pretty easy getting a job in Portland, and I only hope the same will be true in Charleston. I have a harder time believing I'll be working with as great a group of people than I left at Pierce Atwood. I think I've identified what one of the hardest things will be about this traveling lifestyle - leaving the people that I come to know and love along the way.

Well, we had another "adventure" getting to the campsite in Newport. One wrong turn led to us getting off the main road (and even main roads are small in Newport) and onto a tiny residential street. It was at this point with darkness setting in that Don's lights and trailer brakes went out. I was on the phone with the lady at the campsite trying to tell her where we were when we didn't know this information ourselves. I flagged a woman in a car coming toward us and asked how to get to the street the camper lady said we should be on. She said she knew where a big campground was and offered to show us, but the lady on the phone said it wasn't that one. By this time, cars were backing up behind us, so I just asked if we could get back on the main road without turning around since that's such a major operation, especially for Don. She said go to the end of the street, turn left and come back up the parallel street. By the time we got to the end it was really dark and the camper lady asked the name of the street we were on, and of course, we still didn't know. It seems that New England believes in conserving street signs and don't actually mark anything but the cross streets. All we knew is that we were on the water's edge and thankfully had found that out without actually hitting it.

Luckily (or so I thought) I saw a man jogging by and stopped alongside him and said we were obviously lost and trying to get to the main road. He did not stop, but just waved in the general direction to the left and when I tried to ask what road we were on, he just kept going. He obviously did not want to break his stride on his nightly jog.

By this time I was beyond aggravated. We were headed back in the right direction to get to the main road (or so we hoped) but the camper lady still was not recognizing any of the names of the streets I was calling out as we passed. So I was pissed that she didn't know where we were, that we didn't know where we were, that that jerk man wouldn't stop his run to tell us where we were, and that to top it all off, there were idiots behind Don now honking their horns because they couldn't get by him.

When I finally made it to a street the camper lady recognized, she told me where to turn and as I did, there was the first lady we met in the car waving me down. She said she had found the right campground and would lead us there. Since Don was still behind me trying to make the turn from the street (without taillights or blinkers), I could not stop, but just yelled out the window that I knew where I was going now and thanked her as best I could. I hope she heard the thank you, because the more I thought of the kindness of that one lady, the more I could forget everything else bad that happened.

That woman was probably getting off of work when I stopped her in her path. She knew I was on the phone with someone who could ultimately get me there, and it would have been easy for her to go on down the road - it was not her problem. But she went out of her way to find the campground we were looking for, and then came back to find us to lead us there.

I've always been easiest moved to tears when hearing of these kinds of selfless acts - these seemingly small testimonies to the human spirit that show us who we really are in our heart of hearts. These are the people who make up for the man who could not be bothered to stop for even 2 seconds. These are the people who teach us that despite the indifference and even downright evil of some - that truly there is more good than bad in the world. They show by shining example that like the smallest candle brightens the darkest room, that light is always more powerful than darkness. I could not stop to thank that angel properly - I don't know her name and I will probably never see her again, but I will never forget her. I wonder how many other times people have touched our lives that never know of the impact they have and the difference they can make with a simple gesture.

Anyway, it's nice to have full hookups again so I can wash clothes and watch TV without worrying about draining the batteries. And, wow - Newport, Rhode Island is quite a beautiful little town - another place I'm so glad to have visited and never would have thought of except it was generally on the way south and features some of the homes I've seen on the TV show "America's Castles." I've always thought it would be neat to see them, but never imagined I'd ever get to.

And I am still absolutely awestruck at the sight of the homes we toured today. Two of them were Vanderbilt homes (actually their summer "cottages"). The Marble House used a half million cubic feet of different kinds and colors of marble. It was truly one of the most amazing homes I've ever seen. The Breakers is so named because of its expansive and breathtaking view of the ocean. The Elms had awesome grounds with statues and fountains that I could have just looked at all day. I can't imagine European castles being any grander than these mansions - and to think they were only utilized by these people for 7-8 weeks during the summer and that their main homes were larger and more grand struck me as a little outrageous. It took us all day to tour 3 houses - there was that much to see and gawk at. Anyway, they're the first homes I've seen that I'd consider trading mine for.

October 13, 2001 - Onward through the fog

When we left Newport, it was very foggy, but you could still see the changing leaves of the trees. I was disappointed at first at not having a clearer view, but begun to appreciate the specialness of the mist. The road we were on at that point was a small scenic one where you had to go slow and the fog lent a mystical, dreamlike quality to the trees.

I believe that God communicates with us in a variety of means that we usually don't recognize consciously, music being one of the most pleasant ways. Listening to the sounds of Sarah McLaughlin sing "In the Arms of the Angel" at that moment made me truly feel like I was being held in God's arms and that we were simply singing love songs to each other.

October 16, 2001 - Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens was so beautiful and there was so much there to marvel at that we didn't make it to our destination of Gettysburg that same day, so wound up spending last night at Wal Mart in York, Pennsylvania, only 33 miles away. The ride through Pennsylvania has been lovely: rolling hills, multi-colored leaves still cling to the trees and orange pumpkins are in the fields waiting to be carved for Halloween.

We visited Gettysburg National Cemetery and the National Civil War Museum today. Again, actually being at the site of the battle and where Lincoln stood and spoke afterwards gave a totally different perspective to the history lessons I yawned through in school. And as usual, the weather was appropriate if not traditionally great as we were leaving - a front passed through bringing dark gray skies, angry winds, driving rain and a cold chill to the air. Now the streets are covered by a solid carpet of colored leaves and where I was tempted to turn on the air conditioner last night, I now have the heater on.

I love the campground where we are now - probably because it's one of the more expensive ones where we've stayed. Wal Mart really serves a good purpose a lot of times, but it's a whole different world when you are surrounded by huge trees instead of huge trucks - when it's totally quiet except for the sound of rain hitting the RV roof instead of shopping carts skipping across the parking lot - and the only light through the windows is from the moon, not the glare of a million watt street lamp. I shouldn't complain about Sam's free hospitality, but I am much more grateful when I can afford the finer things in life...

OK, God, I'll just leave it at being grateful period...

October 17, 2001 - Gettysburg, PA

We intended to leave Gettysburg today, but it was too windy with gusts of 40 mpg - not good travel weather in such a top heavy vehicle such as mine.

But I'm glad we got the chance to take a more extended tour of the Gettysburg battleground. I had not known how beautiful the countryside is where the battle took place. We bought a cassette and map for use as we drove through a self guided tour of the different landmarks and battle sites. It even had sound effects of the cannons booming through the peaceful landscape and gave me a perspective of the reality of the conflict I had never had before. I had never understood the scope of this war or the amount of casualties by each side.

The more than 1,300 monuments and statues throughout the battlefield make the tour worthwhile. With symbolism and artistry, they memorialize each parties' loss in this important battle. They seek to interpret and reconcile the incomprehensible - how brother fought brother in a war in which the enemy was not the feared stranger as in most combats. Before this political clash, we stood side by side against the British so that we could become a united nation. No lofty idealism here - the north may not have been so adamant against it if slavery was as advantageous economically to their industrial culture as it was to the south's agricultural one. And how ironic that the south was fighting for the freedom to enable them to enslave another culture.

October 19-20, 2001 - Colonial Williamsburg

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Colonial Williamsburg and was glad I didn't yield to the temptation to skip it once I saw how expensive the campgrounds were in the area. I figured $40 a night was too much when it was clear we'd need at least 2 full days to properly see all that it offered - as well as an admission fee of $38. We asked if we could park overnight in the lot there, but they said the campgrounds would have a fit if they allowed that. There is no WalMart in Williamsburg, but there is a Super K-Mart. When I called the manager, I explained I'd like to see Colonial Williamsburg, but that the prices at the campgrounds were outrageous. She agreed and allowed us to park free in the lot. It wasn't even on a major highway, so it was relatively quiet, as well as really close to where we wanted to go. We were so exhausted by the time we got home after all day touring, anyway, that a truck could have driven right through our front door and we wouldn't have noticed, anyway. What a deal!

In this time of our country's renewed sense of patriotism, it was especially timely to be in Colonial Williamsburg, the capitol of Virginia when patriotism was first conceived. There are acres of original and recreated buildings set up like the town of that period - the gardens, the alleyways, the shops. You get to visit people in their homes and places of business - watch them make the clothing of the period, how the furniture and other things were made using the tools and techniques of the times. You stroll down streets visiting with people in period costumes, wave to those riding in horse drawn carriages (no cars allowed, of course). Actors play the parts of the local dignitaries of the day - we got to see them before they were famous! When we were there, they were portraying the summer of 1774. We stood under a huge oak tree listening to George Washington tell us of the proposal to boycott imports from England in response to their closing the harbor as punishment for Boston's little tea party. Patrick Henry, one of the first rebel rousers, was not nearly as moderate in his stand, and it was a kick listening to him and his contemporaries in response to his revolutionary ideas. The fear of war and what it would mean to them economically as well as the cost in lives was heavy on their minds and the source of great dissension - that was a little too contemporary for me.

We spent two entire days and still did not see it all - it's an amazing and huge area and with a little imagination, more than ever I felt immersed in the past - watching couples stroll down the canal at the side of the Governor's Palace - the ladies in their long gowns and fashionable hats with their arm in the elbow of the long coated gentlemen wearing those cute little tights - what a trip!

We participated in a trial of the Virginia Witch - an actual trial that was conducted in that era with testimony from the hysterical townspeople who were sure she had cursed their fields, caused their pigs to go wild and induced a woman's miscarriage - I couldn't tell which upset them more.

October 21, 2001 - Southern Hospitality

Even without signposts, there was no doubt we were back in the south as we were driving through North Carolina. It was 83 degrees by the time we got here, and I turned on the air conditioner for the first time in months. Another clue was the cotton fields - I would have thought it would all have been harvested by now, but it is in full bloom. And talk about southern hospitality - when walking into Kmart, the first man we saw had a cap on that read "Don't Ask Me Shit!" I couldn't help but think I'd seen nothing like that in Maine.

Speaking of Maine, if I hadn't witnessed the glory of New England's show of colorful leaves, I would have been perfectly satisfied with the peep show that these states' trees have provided. Like demure Southern Belles, they were not flashy or dramatic, but provided subtle waves of color all along the way and once again, I was grateful for the expansive view my windshield provides.

October 23, 2001 - Myrtle Beach, SC

We made it into Myrtle Beach State Park in time and with perfect weather to walk the beach before sunset last night. Although I really enjoyed the wildness of Maine's coastline and those wonderful huge quartz boulders, I enjoy walking in the cleaner sand here without the smells of the rotting seaweed that was a feature there.

Speaking of Maine again, when I parked in my slot, who did I find was my next door neighbor? A man from Maine! He was from York and was recently laid off from a software firm there. I felt a little sorry for him - he was pretty worried about money and said he'd probably enjoy traveling more if he wasn't so lonely. He had 2 dogs for company in a pretty small trailer, but sometimes man's best friend just isn't enough, I guess.

This morning we took our coffee and mats to the beach and watched the pelicans skimming the calm surface of the water looking for breakfast. The seagulls approached us looking for a handout, but I hadn't thought to bring anything to eat. I threw a seashell in front of me and that brought one particular young gull scurrying to check it out. When he saw it was not food, he scolded me so much for fooling him that I trudged back home to get bread. This brought a crowd of gulls and sandpipers who enjoyed the morning feast. Although the gulls were much bigger, the sandpipers were braver, getting much closer to us to get the crumbs the gulls chased them away from when thrown further out.

This is a great state park right on the ocean, heavily wooded and really quiet - the loudest sounds are the falling acorns on the roof and the birds chirping. Especially since we're only 100 miles from Charleston, it's nice not to be rushed to leave. Checkout time here is 2:00 and I've wondered why some places insist on a 11:00 checkout. It's not like a hotel where they have to make the beds or clean the bathroom. I'm sure they don't come behind us and fluff the leaves when we leave and most campers don't arrive for the night before 2:00 anyway.

Well, in any case, it's time to hit the road now. I intend to fully enjoy the day's travel since I'll be staying put for a while once I hit Charleston.

Next Journal entry: Charming Charleston
Copyright by Malia Lane - all rights reserved