2 Old Hippies


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So far, so good

Noah from the beloved VW repair shop just called, and the auxiliary battery checks out, so we should be able to keep the christmas lights lit at night, (We use them to read by, and generally to create nice atmosphere.)

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I was worried we’d have another trip interruption, like last year’s failed “All the way West on US Rt 2” plans.  But, the Westy checks out. For now.

And props and a shout out to Noah, our youngish hippie mechanic  – here’s a link to a story about his band, Waylon Speed. We’re afraid he’s going to get really famous and quit working on VWs…. (Noah is the guy with major beard happening)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRRHG1J54v4

Preparation is well underway, as Craig gathers the gear together. Here’s what the staging area (formerly the living room of our house) looks like today. That giant yellow blob is the tempurpedic foam topper we unroll every night for the bed..I sewed up a big case for it, using two really cheap bed sheets from Sears. Unroll, throw on the pillows and blanket and voila, bedtime. Yeah, this is not going to be like the camping trip 30 years ago, not at all!)

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Honeymoon Reboot

Next Monday we’ll leave for two weeks to celebrate our thirtieth wedding anniversary. We’re returning to the Gaspe Peninsula, the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence River, where it widens to become the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I’m calling the trip the Honeymoon Reboot. But that time, we camped out of a small station wagon, canoe on top, with dome tent and air mattresses. We took a shortwave radio with us and listened to Radio Moscow. This time, we have the Westfalia, and the provincial park campgrounds all have WIFI. Times certainly have changed.

One of our fondest memories from that trip is the morning fog pouring over the cliffs at Forillon. Hope the weather is this good when we get there.


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Top this, you other Old Hippies

As I rummaged in the linen closest for towels for recent guests, I came across one of the better examples of the frugality of 2oldhippies: a bath towel from a set given to us as a wedding gift by Craig’s sister 30 (yes, thirty) years ago this August.

20150307_120952Coincidentally, another long-serving wedding gift is a pair of colanders from my own sister. One has lost its base, but still drains four servings of boiled pasta with ease.

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Less successfully surviving married bliss is a lovely bowl that some Montpelier friends picked out for us at Artisan’s Hand, most likely. It can no longer serve pasta from the colander, but it’s great for popcorn.

20150307_120749“C’mon, guys,” you might say. “Enough is enough! Why not just get fully functional replacements?”

To which I’ll just reply that these items are one year younger than our 1985 Westy camper. Well, at least we’re consistent.


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Those Damn Socialists

Some of us living in Vermont feel really comfortable when we’re visiting Canada, more comfortable than we do visiting, say, the Midwest of the USA. Actually, some of us toy with the idea of Vermont (yes, by seceding) joining the Maritimes and Quebec and forming a more perfect union. (Is is a coincidence that the only two states that were independent nations prior to US statehood – Vermont and Texas – are the states where  current citizens talk openly about secession?)

Just a few things about the national and provincial parks in Canada that have us shaking our heads and saying “Oh, those damn socialists!”  (Quick: what’s the emoticon that means “sarcasm!”)

  • Free hot showers! Yes, in the campground there’s no assumption you’ll be in a gigantic Mobile Home, complete with hot running water and shower stall. No assumption you’ll carry a roll of quarters to feed the hot water tank.
  • At Fundy, at Anchorage Provincial Park on Grand Manan Island, and at Forrilon National Park of Canada (where we spent our honeymoon 29 years ago) we found communal “kitchen buildings” for indoor cooking in inclement weather, and big sinks with hot water for washing dishes.
  • Don’t have a big enough tent for your family reunion at Fundy National Park? Well, how about this one, available for rent, fully furnished and with a great view of Owls Head?
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    Or try one of Parks Canada’s yurts?20140914_185217And the best views in the park? They belong to the people who have tents, not motor homes:
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Our own spot includes water and electricity, the kitchen sinks, showers and free WIFI, for $25/night.
20140913_160640 Not that Canada is heaven on earth, but when the motto of the purpose of government is “Peace, Order and Good Government,” it does produce different outcomes. For one thing, a basic acceptance that government has a role, and a job to do for its citizens. Here in the USA, we have citizens (certain lawmakers and the people who vote for them) who think their job is to stop government from doing anything constructive at all.

Some of us in the USA are dumbfounded by this dumbing down of citizenship, by the voters who are voting to re-elect the do-nothingest Congress in our history, specifically because they are doing nothing. Meanwhile, here’s what Canada is doing: http://www.infrastructure.gc.ca/index-eng.html.  Yes, Canada has a federal agency called “Infrastructure Canada,” whose charge is instigating, partnering for, and funding projects to make Canada a world-class nation. Can you even imagine this happening in the USA ever again? The agency’s current program, The New Building Canada Fund, is based on this philosophy:

“World-class infrastructure is the backbone of our country’s economic productivity. Our Government is committed to investing in Canada’s infrastructure to reduce commuting times for families, enhance economic competitiveness, encourage job creation and strengthen trade corridors. We understand the vital importance of infrastructure to help get goods to market, to connect people and businesses with the world, and to reduce gridlock on our roads and highways. The New Building Canada Plan will continue to support infrastructure projects that foster economic growth, job creation and long-term prosperity.”

And you can see the difference this makes, even in a national or provincial campground.


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Saint John, New Brunswick

We are here after tourist season has ended, and the guided walking tours of the city and the amazing geological settings are no more, so the 2oldhippies take the self-guided tour books in hand and explore downtown Saint John and the harbor front. There is a lovely little city market, one of the oldest in continuous operation in Canada, just off Kings Square in downtown. City Market is one terminus of an indoor network of walkways (much like “underground Montreal”) that lead from the center of downtown to the harborfront hotels, the New Brunwick Museum and the Saint John Public Library, which are the anchors in a shopping/commerce/office complex overlooking the river. (Note the books lined up on the second floor “shelf” under the windows.)

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We ask if it really does get that cold here in winter and are told that yes, it does snow here. Somehow, the idea of “snow” and the ocean doesn’t compute for us landlocked northern tier people.

Throughout the city are informational billboards describing the history, architecture and geological features of the city, all of which are legion. Saint John was once the third biggest producer of sailing ships, was where almost all of the lumber from New Brunwick was put on ships for Old and New England. Three-quarters of the city burned in 1877 (the photos look like San Francisco after the earthquake), and for the rebuilding the city imposed strict codes and requirements to assure harmonious, efficient and safe development. (Oh, Canada!) The result is a harmonious efficient and safe little city by the Bay of Fundy. The major commercial buildings took advantage of the remarkable variety of stone available for facades, columns, porticos and other lovely details.

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Geologically — I send you to www.stonehammergeoparc.com, the website that drew me to this location to begin with. While Fundy is famous for the highest tides in the world, tides so high that the waterfalls in Saint John reverse and go upstream twice a day, it’s also now celebrated as a unique geological site on Earth. Solid evidence here (pun intended) displays the very origins of our continents and seas, and the forces of plate techtonics “from the origins of seaflow spreading, to the colliding of continents, and the subduction of plates.” And if that description doesn’t excite you, how about this? The Stonehammer Geopark encompasses sites dominated by rocks dating from the Pre-Cambrian right up to the Quaternary, and stone formations that link these sitea to places in South America and Africa. It’s a techtonic wonderland. We attend a reception at the New Brunwick Museum for the world Geoparc Conference kicking off this week, bringing over 400 geologists, anthropologists, rock heads and rock hounds from dozens of countries to this site, with their little stone hammers. I can’t stop taking photos of the geomarvels that abound. Formations from a mere 100 million years ago, shoved up against, or thrust above, or driven below formations from 700 millions ago.

Simply put, we find rocks side by side that have no business being together on the same beach.

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We find edges of sedimentary layers fragmenting as they are exposed to the elements — 90 degrees off kilter, pointing straight up instead of laying sideways.

20140914_160653I supposed you don’t have to love rocks to enjoy coastal New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, but apparently, 2oldhippies aren’t alone in our fascination.

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2oldhippies: The FAQ (#1)

With postings come questions. 2oldhippies will do our best to answer.

  1. (As to our infrequent postings) “Don’t you have 2Gb of data? Unless you are watching movies or streaming music, that should last a long time.”Answer: We are in Canada, which means we are roaming. Our 2 Gb home plan doesn’t work here, and neither do we. Chill!  (Although we do appreciate we are missed, and wanted….)
  2. “What kind of music do 2oldhippies listen to on the road?Answer: We are eclectic if not ecumenical in our tastes, and it really depends on the time of day and the activity at hand. Generally, we love singer-songwriters, poet/lyricists, and not surprisingly of the old rocker, hippy, folkie persuasion. Yesterday we listened to a lot of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield, Stevie Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Louden Wainwright III, Devil Makes Three, and Dixie Chicks. We had a fight about Van Morrison (I argue that there’s nothing coherent about dropping all the tea in china in the ocean while praising her for being as sweet as Tupelo Honey and what the hell do the knights bent on chivalry have to do with any of it? I think he needs a good editor.)

    We frequently drink deeply from the infinite well of wisdom provided by Leonard Cohen. We have fastened onto Chris Smither lately – he’s definitely an old hippie, we’ve seen him play a couple times back in Vermont, and his lyrics really ring true for us. Lord Huron is great for a drive through primeval forests (thanks, Rachel, for that tip), as are Zoe Keating and Luce Trio. If it’s sunny and hot and the windows are down, we might play Buena Vista Social Club, Willie Colon or Ricky Martin. At night, when we’ve buttoned up the camper and we’re reading in bed, we like the old jazzers: Stan Getz, Toots Thielman, and more recently, and Fred Hersch (whom we saw play at Jazz Alley in Seattle with my brother and sister in law last April).
    It we had brought classical, it would have been Mozart.

  3. Our musical set-up is a loaded smart phone and several MP3 players, and a rechargeable mini-Bose speaker.
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    The downside is that 2oldhippies have to set up a charging station as soon as we get our campground electrical hookup plugged in.
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The US 2 East Adventure Part 1: BTV to Palmyra, Maine

US 2 East, Burlington, Vermont to Palmyra Maine.

Before peak foliage, there is peak green.

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US 2 east took us from Burlington along the Winooski River through Montpelier, Plainfield and Marshfield, where we parted ways with the river, and continued east to Danville, St Johnsbury and across the Connecticut River. Stopping for the first view of the Presidential Range outside of Danville took almost as long as driving across the narrow neck of New Hampshire.

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“This car did not climb Mt Washington,” but I did take a selfie as we flew past. (I will spare you my photo of Santa’s Village.)

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Our first night was in Palmyra, Maine. My paternal great-grandfather, George Millett, was born here in the mid-19th century, and there are still some Milletts living here, and plenty more resting here in the bosom of Abraham. George’s daughter Maude, my grandmother, was born in Wisconsin as George followed the timber harvesting business across the continent. They ended up in Libby Montana where Maude and Frederick Keller brought forth my father, Millett Frederick Keller. Who grew up on US 2, which runs through Libby. Really, it does.

So, back to Palmyra. I visited the newer  Millett place, which sits right on US 2. I took this photo at 6AM as we left town, and no one was up yet. We’ll visit on the flip side of the trip. I visited Palmyra back in the early 1980s, and the building on the left was the General Store, Millett’s by name, and the proprietor, one George Millett, took me to visit the cemetery. I figured him to be a second or third cousin, and e didn’t know he was named after his great (perhaps two greats?) uncle. The store is now closed, and last week I saw his obit in an online local newspaper as I was planning this trip.

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There are more Milletts resting a couple miles off US 2. Herewith, for the genealogists in my family, are some photos.

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Thomas, on the left, is my great-grandfather George’s father, who moved to Palmyra from Leeds, MA. His father Thomas was the reason Maude (and me and my sisters and nieces and great-nieces for that matter) are eligible for the Daughters of the American Revolution. (I toyed in the 1990s with the idea of taking over the local chapter and making it truly revolutionary again. May revisit that idea…)

If my father knew that his great-uncle Francis brought a Japanese bride back from WWII, he sure didn’t tell us about it….

A lovely supper at our camping spot at the Palmyra Golf Resort and Campground. End of Day one.

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Change of Plans and Direction Reversal

Anyone with experience with old VWs knows that even when operating in top condition, the defroster and heater were notoriously bad. 20140826_144559So when the blower motor blew out last week, leaving us with no defroster, heater or ventilation, we had to seek immediate mechanical attention.

It being the week before Labor Day, our trusted mechanics were all jammed up, and the new blower motor had to be ordered from the West Coast anyway. With an estimated potential departure almost six days later, our entire itinerary  —- keyed to arriving in West Glacier, MT in time for a September 12 wedding, was also blown out. Wahhh.  The point was not to drive 10 hours a day in a marathon sprint across the US, so on Friday we called off the trip.

But, that’s only the western section of US 2, so we turn our eyes to the East, and now have plans to leave September 5 and drive to the eastern terminus of US 2, which is the US-Canada border crossing at Houlton, ME.  We’ll then continue on for a few days visiting the geological wonders of Saint John and the Bay of Fundy (22 foot tides, for a start), toddle on south and catch US 1, hole up at Acadia National Park/Mt Desert Island for a week of hiking and biking and lobstah rolls.

Not a bad Plan B…  And that gives us an extra week right now to do some more garden work, and a week at the end of September to wrap up more harvesting. Posts to follow.


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Screen Room test report

This nice little screen room addition to the Westy tested beautifully on a camping trip to the Catskills in early August 2014. It breaks down conveniently into a bag about the size of a down sleeping bag’s stuff bag, but that means all the poles are broken down and must be assembled; figuring out which is inserted there was a small challenge, but now we know what’s what and where it goes. As my dear Dad would have said, “Now THAT’s a good looking rig!”

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