Vagabond in America 2016 travel blog

At the casino

Potomac River

Cross-Country Trail

National Historic Park

Tow Path and Restored Section of the Canal

More of the Tow Path Trail

Aquaduct Carrying Canal OVER a Brook

Paved Rail Trail

Having spent four months in New England, it’s time to head out on new explorations of our glorious country.

My first year as a full-time tourist was basically random with extremely little advance planning. I had a rough plan of making a long counter-clockwise loop from New England to South Dakota, Texas, Florida and back to New England. And, that’s exactly what I did. Along the way, I would find and visit whatever was fascinating locally. Even though I’ve traveled extensively for my entire life, I was still amazed that there was always something unique to see or experience. No matter how small a town was, it, or a neighboring town, had its own significant landmark, museum, or other attraction.

This second year’s plan also started out extremely vague. My idea is to make another grand loop. This time clockwise from New England to Arizona, then Alaska, and return to New England. During the last year, I’ve gradually been refining my plans adding very specific stopping points along the way.

The good news is that I’ve lined up an impressive selection of events and places to experience. You’ll have to wait to learn where I’m planning to go until I’ve written about each adventure.

The bad news is that, in order to make this itinerary work, I’ve got to reach Colorado by September. That’s over 2,000 miles. I’ll need to average 500 miles per week. For most RV travelers, that wouldn’t be hard. But, for my laid-back, retirement lifestyle, that’s fast travel. In the last year, I’ve averaged under 200 miles per week. I’ll have to make more than double my normal mileage for the next five weeks.

You may recall that I’ve tried what other full-timers call 2-2 travel, which stands for “drive less than 2 hundred miles and stay at least 2 nights”. I’ve found that I prefer what I call 3-3 travel, which means “drive less than 3 hundred miles and stay at least 3 nights”. A third approach that I’ve tried is to sprinkle in a few 3-1 overnights, such as staying in the parking lot of a casino or a Walmart.

On the first leg of my “sprint” to Colorado, I drove an easy 3-3 (205 miles) to Schenectady, New York. Since I’d just been dry camping at Escapade, I had a huge pile of dirty laundry. Although I can run my washing machine without a campground hookup, it uses a considerable amount of water. I can’t run it and also take lots of showers. For the sake of my fellow Escapees, I opted for more showers and left my laundry for later. Now, I had to remedy that situation. I didn’t leave the campground except for a run to the local grocery store and a diesel fill-up. I spent my entire time catching up on housekeeping.

My next jump was an overnight to a casino in Pennsylvania. This casino consists of one large round room surrounded by restaurants. The complex also has a hotel with a convention area, a comedy club, and a horse track with large indoor viewing section. The casino betting floor was divided in half: one half for smoking and the other for non-smoking. I’ve never seen such a large non-smoking section in a casino before. The patrons here seemed happier than most of the casino visitors that I’ve seen. Perhaps many of them, like me, were here for non-gambling reasons. Or, perhaps the non-smoking feature attracts crowds without the same addictions. I’ll never know; that's the downside of being a people watcher with no clue what I’m actually watching.

My third stop was in Maryland close to the Potomac River, which forms the boundary between Maryland and West Virginia. In the mid-nineteenth century, they built a canal along the Potomac with the intention of eventually connecting to the Great Lakes. After only a few decades of rich commerce, the importance of the canal was superseded by a railroad line, which, in turn was superseded by trucking. To my delightful surprise, both the tow-path for the canal and the right-of-way for the rail line have now been converted to hiking/biking trails, making this area into a bicycling paradise. On my arrival day, I rode my bike on the narrow mountain trails near my campground. On the second day, I rode on the unpaved C&O Canal Trail, which is part of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. The full trail goes all the way from Cumberland, Maryland, to Washington DC, over 100 miles! There are primitive camp sites approximately every 5 miles, designed for backpacking and bikepacking. I meet several bicyclists who were in the process of completing the entire 200 mile loop. I'd like to try bikepacking but not right now. On my last day here, I rode on the paved West Maryland Rail Trail. I’d extend my stay and explore these trails more but I have to keep moving west.

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