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YEAR #3 - STOP #30

Once again our expensive Garmin RV770 GPS got us into trouble. It is specifically designed for RVs. You enter your rig's height, weight and length of your truck and trailer combo into the GPS so that it won't route you into situations where you shouldn't be, like low clearance bridges, bridges with low weight limits and hairpin turns you wouldn't be able to navigate through.

It even has custom avoidance features like toll roads, u-turns, unpaved roads, carpool lanes and ferries. We had all those items selected to avoid when creating our route for today.

I should have known it was going to be a bad day when we encountered a road closed sign and a DOT employee blocking the road we were supposed to go down. They were doing a scheduled inspection to a bridge and offered no detour route other than to make a u-turn and go back to Vermont Highway 108. Luckily there was an industrial park entrance at the intersection where the barricade was set up and we were able to make a very tight u-turn inside their fenced in private property.

After making our u-turn and arriving back at Vermont Highway 108 the Garmin GPS rerouted us and we were once again confidently heading down the road. With about 20 miles left to go to our destination the route took us off Vermont Highway 108 and within in a few hundred yards we were traveling on an unpaved, rutted dirt road, though ranch lands.

Five miles later be were back on the same Vermont Highway 108 that we had just turned off of. That dirt road basically just cut the corner off the nice paved Vermont Highway 108 route and saved us about a mile of travel distance, gee thanks Garmin! Just a short distance later once again the route has us leaving Vermont Highway 108 and this time, no kidding, it basically took us through a parking lot. I didn't fall for that little trick!

Then where the parking lot reentered the highway it had us going once again off onto a side street. This time I did fall for the trick and found ourselves on another residential unpaved dirt road which quickly began to deteriorate into a gravel road with low hanging tree limbs. It eventually narrowed to basically a one lane road and a very steep incline. This is the point we met an oncoming SUV who had to back up about 50 yards to a point were we could pass each other.

After carefully maneuvering around the SUV we came to a stop sign. And yes, once again found ourselves back on the same Vermont Highway 108 that we left just a mile back down the road. We were now just 7 miles from our destination and we saw a sign that read, NO SEMI TRACTOR TRUCKS ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT. Great, now what! I read the sign, but after traveling a few hundred feet we had seen nowhere that we would have been able to turn around in.

My thoughts were, we're not a semi tractor truck, I guess it will be OK to proceed. After all I didn't really have a choice. The road immediately began to climb upward and we began seeing cars parallel parked on both sides of the roadway and our guess was their occupants were out hiking.

Up, up, up we climbed and soon the painted line down the middle of the road disappeared and the road began to narrow. We started seeing more and more cars on both sides of the road and people walking up and down the roadway with backpacks and hiking sticks. Soon I noticed people pointing and spinning around to look at us as we passed.

Then it happened! No more cars, just people walking and the road came to a blind turn with a tight zig-zag on a 16% downward slope where huge boulders lined both sides of the road. The asphalt roadway went right up to the base of the rocks. With no other choice than to go forward, I carefully maneuvered between the two boulders and proceeded down the mountain.

That's when I realized something, we just drove ROVER, our 18 foot long truck while towing THE POD, our 28 foot long Airstream, up and through Smugglers Notch in northwest Vermont. While it was thrilling, it's not something I ever want to try and do again!

A short distance later our trusty GPS informed us we were finally at our destination. We quickly realized there was nothing here! No turn offs, no driveway, no sign saying welcome to Smugglers Notch State Park campground, nothing, just trees and rocks.

I turned off the GPS and Tricia got out her cell phone and searched for the campground. It is located three additional miles down the road so I guess the GPS was right, we were technically in Smugglers Notch State Park, just not at the campground entrance like we expected. When we finally turned into the campground entrance I began to relax, we were here, safe and pretty much sound.

Tricia got out of the truck to go up to the office window to check us in. She came back to the truck, knocked on the driver side window and told me the ranger didn't think we would be able to fit THE POD into our campsite. My immediate thought was, he would probably think the same thing about us fitting ROVER and THE POD through Smugglers Notch!

With no where else to go for the week I asked if I could just try and make it work. After some back and forth he agreed to let us into the campground and sure enough we managed to shoe horn THE POD into a very tight and narrow Campsite #4 here at Smugglers Notch State Park.

Campsite #4 has a very long and very narrow driveway to back into.

But once you are completely at the back of the site it's nice and spacious.

I guess all's well that ends well!

SATURDAY - Shortly after arriving here I made a call to Freedom RV Service, a mobile RV repair company in this area. For the last couple of weeks our water heater hasn't been working while we're on propane, it works just fine on electric. After taking a look and checking fuses, wiring and propane connections, and anything else I could think of, I was convinced there was something wrong that we weren't going to be able to fix by ourselves.

Fortunately the repair company would be able to get someone out today, Saturday none the less, and take a look at it. After the technician arrived and spent just a few minutes troubleshooting the situation he determined that the electronic ignition board has gone bad. The board went in with just a couple of screws and was pretty much just plug and play. Ten minutes later we were back up and running on propane, just as good as new.

While the service call wasn't cheap our extended warranty policy should reimburse us completely, minus the $100 deductible of course. I wouldn't hesitate calling Gus again if I needed service while in northwestern Vermont.

MONDAY - Also shortly after arriving here I called for a service appointment at the Ford dealership for ROVER. It's nearly time for another oil change, his fourth, and I wanted the brakes and transmission checked out. It's been 25,000 miles since we had the brakes replaced after just 14,000 miles and the transmission was running very hot while we were squeezing through The Notch on Thursday and I wanted to make sure we didn't do any harm.

We got the oil changed and both the brakes and transmission checked out just fine so we're safe to proceed along with our travels.

WEDNESDAY - Tonight is our last night here at Smugglers Notch State Park in Stowe, Vermont and we really didn't get a chance to sightsee very much. Tricia had a deadline to meet for work and with the less than favorable weather we've had this week it just didn't work out. We could have done a $30 per person gondola ride to the top of Mount Mansfield and had a great picnic lunch, but there wouldn't have been any grand vistas to behold, not with this weather.

Stowe Resort gondola ride could have been fun but we decided to save our money for something else.

The campground host site is directly across the street from us and they certainly do have my kind of sense of humor.

They have quite a few outdoor lights and several signs posted around their site, but the one pictured here is my favorite and shares some very good advice.

The retired couple are in their 16th season of camp-hosting here at Smugglers Notch State Park and they take great care of maintaining this campground. There are flowers and solar lights near the end of most campsite driveways and all around the bathrooms and dumpsters. It really makes the campground feel very festive and homelike, we appreciated all their efforts.

I learned all this when I approached them to ask a very important favor.

It seems that we have managed to acquire an unwanted guest in THE POD while we have been visiting here. I asked if they happened to have an extra mouse trap I could borrow for the night. Our guest has been gnawing on our precious toilet paper and paper towel rolls in the middle of the night. They also have helped themselves to a sleeve of saltine crackers that didn't fit into our plastic containers.

The host told me this season hasn't been to bad, but in the past they have trapped as many as 200 mice in and around their trailer and campsite in one six month season. I think we have only one, but that's one too many!

If our trap is not successful tonight I guess we'll then have our first official hitchhiker when we leave tomorrow for another Vermont State Park campground just 65 miles west of here.

UPDATE: As of 8:47PM last night we have evicted our unwanted guest and we are sure he won't be returning. Now let's just hope he was alone!

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