Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade – PART 2: Awesome Acadia

As I sit down to write the second installment of our Eastern Escapade, Pat and I are holed up in the RV at the Houlton / Canadian Border KOA in Houlton, ME. She’s engrossed in one of her consulting projects, while I’m just uselessly twiddling my thumbs (or at least I was before I started writing.) The weather outside is miserable, with a steady rain that has persisted for more than 24 hours with nary a break, punctuated by extended periods of drenching downpours – apparently due to the presence of Hurricane Larry in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Our journey has ground to a halt as we wait. What are we waiting for, and what have we been up to until now? Read on, and all will be revealed.

Sep 5-7 (Sunday-Tuesday): On Sunday we departed from the Forest Ridge Campground in Ellsworth, ME, for our much-anticipated visit to the Acadia National Park. Before describing Acadia, I need to clarify something I wrote in Part 1 of this narrative. When we started looking into possible dates for this trip back in July, we were thinking of going in late September or early October, but we quickly learned that the demand for RV camping spots at Acadia is very high. They take reservations up to 2 months in advance (not 6 months), but were nearly fully booked for that entire window. While a few sites were open for a day or two, we could find only one site available for as much as three days and decided to reserve that one before it, too, was gone. We would have loved to stay longer, but there was simply nothing available.

In short, Acadia is AWESOME. We had a fantastic RV site at the Schoodic Woods Campground, located in a newer portion of the Park on the Schoodic Peninsula, across Frenchmen Bay from the main part of the Park located on Mount Desert Island. Here’s a rather poor photo of the park map indicating the various roads and trails we drove, biked, and hiked on during our stay.

Map of Acadia national Park

The Schoodic Woods Campground is a recent addition to the Acadia National Park, opening in 2015. As such, it is the only campground in the park that offers electric sites for RVs. The main part of the park on Mount Desert Island was designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument in 1913 and was soon upgraded to a National Park in 1916. The contrast between the two parts could not have been more stark. While both offer stunning views and ample opportunities for hiking and biking, the main park was teeming with people; most parking lots were overflowing, and the hiking trails were jammed with park visitors. The nearby town of Bar Harbor has lots of hotels and motels for visitors who don’t want to camp. We made a brief pass through the town for a grocery stop and the traffic was unnerving. Over on Schoodic, on the other hand, we encountered very few people, and the RV sites were so widely spaced we were barely aware of any other campers, even though the campground was filled to capacity. Any readers care to guess which part Mr. Introverted Finnlander preferred?

Our RV site at Schoodic Woods Campground

Shortly after arriving on Sunday, we headed off on our bikes to Schoodic Point, the southernmost tip of the peninsula. There we found a fascinating rock outcropping that reminded us a great deal of our beloved Lake Superior North Shore, although the colors of the rocks were generally much lighter. The bike route was a combination of wide, gravel trails and the park road itself. The gravel trails were not very well packed and felt quite treacherous when winding down steep hills, but the two-lane, one-way road was excellent for biking since cars could easily pass in the left lane without bothering the bikers. The complete biking round-trip was just over 10 miles, and it felt good to be riding again after the long drive from Minnesota (although my knees didn’t feel so grateful that evening.)

Biking along the Schoodic Loop Road
Schoodic Point
Rock formations at Schoodic Point

On Monday, we drove from Schoodic Woods to the main park sector, where we had reserved a 10 AM time slot to drive up to Cadillac Mountain. Even though all we were doing was going from one part of the park to the other, the drive was 42 miles around the bays and took well over an hour. We had reserved this time way back in July, and the NPS does not allow one to make a second reservation on the same day, so there was no opportunity to change the time – we just had to go. The reason I’m lamenting this inflexibility is that Monday morning came with pea-soup fog and intermittent drizzle. As I drove the Tesla up the winding road to Cadillac Mountain, there were places I could not see ahead more than 100 feet. So, when we got to the top, the expected spectacular views of the ocean and surroundings were, well, not exactly spectacular. All we could do was adopt a Zen-like attitude and imagine what we were missing. At least there were some nice signs with pictures of what we could have seen on a clear day.

A brief break in the weather
What a view!!
Here’s what we might have seen …

Despite the weather, we did enjoy some nice hiking on the trails at the top of the mountain. The rock formations and vegetation were particularly interesting. Cadillac Mountain granite has a pinkish tint, and prolific lichen growth gives it a unique appearance. And, at the end of our visit, I did get a cool T-shirt at the gift shop.

Cadillac Mountain Granite
Memento of Cadillac Mountain

After Cadillac Mountain, we drove around the perimeter road, stopping occasionally to admire the coastal views, and eventually made our way to a beautiful inland lake called Jordan Pond. We had another nice hike there, followed by a late outdoor lunch at a very good restaurant where we enjoyed enormous popovers, seafood chowder, and lobster stew.

Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park
Jordan Pond outflow
Jordan Pond trail
Outdoor Seating at the restaurant

As the afternoon wore on, and especially as we drove back toward our camp site, it was only to be expected that the sky cleared, leaving us sadly wishing we had scheduled Cadillac Mountain for the afternoon instead of the morning. C’est la vie!

On Tuesday morning, I took a quick bike ride to Frazer Point and back and then stowed the bikes on the RV’s bike rack once again. I then drove to the nearby town of Winter Harbor for an excellent takeout lunch from a place called Chase’s Restaurant (lobster roll for Pat, and something called a lobster BLT for me). Once properly fueled, we took a hike along the Lower Harbor Trail, just across the main access road from the campground. This was a great trail that passed through the woods and alongside the waters of Winter Harbor to the east of Schoodic Peninsula. However, in contrast to the easy, open trails we took at the Jordan Pond on Monday, this one was rough and rugged, with lots of small hills and many sections that were strewn with roots and rocks. The return leg of the hike followed the wide, gravel paths I mentioned above, but my knees were not in any way happy when we got back. While it was only a little over 5 miles, it felt like 25 to me. It’s no fun getting old, dear readers.

View from Frazer Point
Lower Harbor Trail at Acadia National Park Schoodic District
View from Lower Harbor Trail
Now that’s a trail!!

Once we had recovered from the hike, we took to the car again and drove to Schoodic point, where we enjoyed a lovely sunset, our last memory of a wonderful stay at Acadia.

Sunset at Schoodic Point

Sep 8-10 (Wednesday-Friday): On Wednesday morning, we sadly departed Acadia, wishing we could have stayed several more days. Oh, well, we’ll just have to come back again someday. We proceeded to a KOA located in Houlton, ME, where we had scheduled Covid-19 tests at the local Walgreen’s for Thursday morning. Why do we need Covid tests, you may ask? Because we would like to go to Canada next, and in order to do so we need to show proof of vaccinations as well as a recent negative test. The test must be a molecular test (PCR or NAT or similar), not a rapid test such as one typically gets at Walgreen’s or CVS, and it must be done no more than 72 hours before crossing the border. Since it takes 48 or more of those hours to get the results, this poses a bit of a logistics problem. We spent a fair amount of time back at Acadia trying to find a test site and eventually determined that the regional hospital in Houlton would do the tests for us. But by the time I called them on Saturday, no one was available to schedule anything and I was told to call back Tuesday (after the Labor Day holiday). And then when I called on Tuesday, I was told we needed a referral from a doctor to get the test. So, no joy there. By then, we had booked the site at the Houlton KOA, so we were in a real dilemma. Pat eventually discovered that Walgreen’s now offers PCR tests as well as the rapid tests, so we were able to schedule those for Thursday morning. Thus feeling guardedly optimistic, we drove to Houlton.

Our RV Site at Houlton / Canadian Border KOA

During the night, it began to rain. In fact, it poured buckets before easing at dawn. But, as we drove to Walgreen’s Thursday morning, it began to rain again. The testing was quick and easy, only taking 10 minutes for both of us, after which we returned through the rain to the KOA, where we still sit this Friday morning, patiently waiting for our test results. Wait a minute, is that the sun I see? We seem to have a respite from the rain. How long will it last? And will we get our test results in time to enter Canada? I’ll let you know in the next installment.

One final note: Several readers have expressed dismay about the fact that I haven’t done any golfing. (Apparently my links exploits in past blog posts have been appreciated more than I would have thought.) Just to put your minds at ease, I wanted to mention that I did go golfing last Monday. I played 18 holes on a nice course with lush, green fairways and a spirited creek running through it. I had a good round, with 3 birdies, 7 pars, 6 bogeys, and 2 lousy double bogeys for an overall, fairly impressive, 7 over par. And Pat played well, too, with 14 over. Wait … what? Pat played golf, you gasp! Why yes, I had 42 and she had 49. Oh, did I mention that it was a pretty short course?

Brandishing my golf club
Strolling down the lush, green fairway
Consorting with the course proprietor

But seriously, though my clubs are back in the garage at the Cabin, I’m doing fine with no golf on this trip, so don’t look for any golf stories going forward. That’s our story of the Escapade so far. Here’s a map of the trip to this point:

All is well. Stay tuned as the Eastern Escapade continues.

Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade – PART 1

Dear readers: It’s time for another in our series of travel blogs. As some may remember, I’ve documented two winter trips to the southwestern US through multiple blog posts, each covering roughly a two-week period. The blog posts were great fun for me and also provided records of the trips for posterity. As with most things Saari, having done this a couple of times means that it now must be done every time we go travelling. Doing something twice makes it an absolute requirement for all future Saari activities of a similar nature.

This time, we will be travelling to the Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine, which is something we had wanted to do back in 2019 but put off due to an annoying medical issue. When we started looking into possible dates for the trip back in July, we were thinking of going in late September or early October. We quickly learned that the demand for RV camping spots at Acadia is very high. They take reservations up to 6 months in advance, but were nearly fully booked for that entire window. We did find one site available from September 5th through 8th and decided to reserve it before it, too, was gone.

So here we go with our next big RV trip: Pat and Dave’s Eastern Escapade!

August 25 (Wednesday): I played the last match of the 2021 Senior Golf League at Gunflint Hills in Grand Marais on Tuesday and then immediately took off to join Pat at our condo in Minneapolis (she had already gone down a few days earlier). We spent an hour on Wednesday morning loading up the Tesla with stuff for the trip, which wouldn’t have been that big a deal except that the elevator in the condo had died, thus requiring half a dozen trips up and down the five flights of stairs between the condo and the parking garage. Totally soaked with sweat and feeling very much like a rickety 71-year-old, I was almost ready to cancel the trip before we even started. But I couldn’t bear to disappoint my lovely bride, so I screwed up my courage and soldiered on. I did make her drive the Tesla, which was overflowing with stuff and carrying our bikes on the bike rack, to Lakeville, where we grabbed the RV from the Airlake Self Storage facility and headed to Whitewater State Park in Altura, MN, for our first night’s stay. The park was not very full, and we did some exploring on our bikes before transferring the rack to the RV and stowing away the stuff we had brought along for the trip. We charged up the Tesla overnight at our campsite (the RV uses a 30 amp outlet, leaving the 50 amp outlet available for charging at those campsites that include one) so we were ready to head off again in the morning.

Our Site at Whitewater State Park
RV and Tesla connections
Whitewater River (seems pretty low due to lack of rain)

Aug 26 (Thursday): On Thursday morning, we took off for the Mill Bluff State Park in Wisconsin. As always, I drove the RV and Pat drove the Tesla. The park was sparsely occupied, with no other campers in our vicinity, perhaps because it’s a no-frills campground, with pit toilets and no showers, and only 30 amp and 15 amp outlets. The 15 amp outlet can only charge the Tesla at a rate of 5 miles per hour of charging, so we plugged it in right away and left it on all afternoon and all night to add enough miles for the next day’s travel.

Our site at Mill Bluff State Park
The beach at Mill Bluff State Park

Aug 27 (Friday): On Friday morning, we left Mill Bluff and headed for the SS Badger Ferry terminal in Manitowoc, WI. It had been sprinkling on and off since Thursday afternoon, and the rain intensified to a steady drizzle as we drove eastward. Before boarding the ferry, we stopped at a small lakeside park in Manitowoc for lunch in the RV, at which time a downpour ensued. It continued to rain as we drove to the terminal and left the RV and the Tesla in designated parking spots for the crew to load on the ferry. By the time we had boarded, we were quite wet, and the rain persisted (though more lightly) for almost the entire 4-hour trip across Lake Michigan. Thankfully, it stopped before we arrived at the Ludington terminal in Michigan and held off as we drove 6 miles to the Ludington State Park. We managed to find our campsite and get settled in, though it was dark by the time I had plugged in the RV and the Tesla (again only a 15 amp outlet was available). We could tell that our site was quite nice, though it was hard to fully appreciate it in the dark. And then it began to pour again, coming down in buckets for several hours, during which time the 15 amp circuit breaker tripped. As a result, we only managed to add 20 miles to the Tesla, clearly not enough to get to our next stop. This was the first time we had any problem charging the car at a campsite, but it proved to be only a minor glitch in our plans.

The Tesla being unloaded from the SS Badger
Our site at Ludington State Park

Aug 28 (Saturday): In the morning, we drove to a Tesla Supercharger located about 10 miles from the Ludington State Park, charging up the Tesla at a high-speed, high-voltage DC charger in about a half hour before heading off for the Groveland Oaks County Park in Holly, MI. We encountered only intermittent sprinkles along the way, but the park roads had some very large puddles from the previous night’s downpour. The park was very spacious, with large sites, and our neighbors were having a family outing with about five tentfuls of exuberant campers. It was so hot that we ran the RV air conditioner for the first time in ages, and that drowned out the noise. Meanwhile, the Tesla was happily charging at 30 miles per hour from the 50 amp circuit, and we were ready to go again in the morning.

Our site at Groveland Oaks County Park

Aug 29 (Sunday): We took off in the morning for the Geneva State Park in Geneva, OH. Though the Tesla had enough charge to get there, we stopped along the way at another Supercharger in Sheffield, OH, to top up because our site at Geneva again only offered a 15 amp circuit for the car. The Geneva park was located next to Lake Erie, and I took a nice walk to a place on the shore where a funky looking creek entered the big lake. We got a good night’s sleep while charging the car with the slow circuit and were once again ready to go in the morning.

Our Site at Geneva State Park
Lake Erie beach at Geneva State Park

Aug 30 (Monday): We left in the morning for the Darien Lakes State Park in Darien Center, NY. This was an out-of-the-way park established on former dairy farm back in the 1960s. We again had only a 15 amp circuit available, but I was rather annoyed when I realized that the campsite right next to ours had a 50 amp circuit – I had not understood the legend of the on-line map when I made the reservation for this site. At any rate, we charged the car with the slow outlet and were ready to go in the morning.

Our site at Darien Lakes State Park

Aug 31 (Tuesday): On Tuesday morning we departed for the Villages RV Park at Turning Stone in Verona, NY. Due to my faulty reservation skills at Darien Lakes, we once again stopped at a Supercharger, this time in Victor, NY, to make sure we had enough juice. (Hopefully, this is the last time we’ll need to do that at least until we leave Acadia.) The RV Park is operated by a local casino and was quite nice, with a scenic pond winding among the RV sites. It also had the best showers we’ve seen so far on the trip. Our site even had cable TV so Pat could watch the US Open Tennis. We handily charged up the Tesla with the 50 amp outlet and once again were ready to go in the morning.

Our site at Villages RV Park at Turning Stone
Villages RV Park at Turning Stone

Sep 1 (Wednesday): On Wednesday morning, we drove to the Kampfires RV Campground in Dummerston, VT. This turned out to be a relatively small campground nestled among towering pine trees, but it had a nice laundry which we (the Royal we, that is) used to wash a week’s worth of stinky clothes. It also had cable for Pat’s tennis and a 50 amp circuit for car charging. Big surprise, we got more rain, and in the morning the vehicles were covered in pine needles, necessitating a bit of cleanup.

Our site at Kampfires Campground

Sep 2 (Thursday): Next, we drove to the Wassamki Springs Campground in Scarborough, ME. This turned out to be an enormous place with hundreds of RV sites located around a man-made lake. It was a bit incongruous, in that the roads were very crummy – rutted and dotted with puddles – yet there were dozens of very fancy, permanent RV sites with all sorts of decorations and attached buildings. More cable TV for Pat, a 50 amp circuit for the Tesla, and even a store for me to buy some unneeded but delicious chips. Pretty nice!

Our site at Wassamki Springs RV Park
Wassamki Springs RV Park

Sep 3 (Thursday): Next up was the Pumpkin Patch RV Resort in Hermon, ME. We had originally planned to spend two nights there, since it is close to Acadia and we thought it would be good to rest up a bit after our mad dash across half the country. However, they were so busy with the Labor Day weekend coming that they could only offer us one night. Oh well, what’s one more one-night stand at this point? Our site was in a grassy area at the very back of the property, probably used for short term reservations. But that left us very close to the restroom, so we had no complaints. No cable here, and the wi-fi was off more than it was on, but all in all it was OK. Since it was such a short drive from Wassamki Springs, we didn’t need to do any car charging.

Our site at Pumpkin Patch RV Resort

Sep 4 (Friday): On Friday morning, we drove to the Forest Ridge Campground in Ellsworth, ME, for our final night prior to reaching Acadia. Again, no cable TV, but the wi-fi is excellent, which prompted me to write up this blog post. We also got to listen to a nice concert by a local pop/rock band that played 60s and 70s hits. We went into the town of Ellsworth to have an excellent dinner at the Union River Lobster Pot – Pat had lobster pie and I had clam chowder and crab cakes, both accompanied by a Maine wine called Buoy. Now we’re back at the campground. A bit of a top-up for the Tesla and we’ll be ready to go in the morning.

Our site at Forest Ridge Campground
Waiting for a table at Union River Lobster Pot

So that’s the story so far. Here’s a map of the Escapade to this point:

All is well. Stay tuned as the Eastern Escapade continues.