Category Archives: Connecticut

Connecticut Part II: Clinton

We made one scheduled stop on our way from Rhode Island to Connecticut.  Our Cummins engine had informed Mike that it needed its hydraulic fluid and filter replaced. We had an appointment scheduled with a diesel engine repair shop near our Wawaloam Campground, so we got an ‘early’ start and pulled out of our spot around 10:00 on the morning of our travel day.  When we dropped the bus with the mechanic, I asked him where we should go in the vicinity to walk around and maybe grab a bite to eat while we waited. He suggested East Greenwich, so we piled the dogs in the Honda and made our way to the waterfront village.  The downtown area of East Greenwich was situated up on a hill and full of historic buildings. Down at the bottom of the hill was the waterfront with several marinas and restaurants. The community sits on a cove of Narragansett Bay, so the view actually looked more like a river with undeveloped land on the opposite banks.

We found a parking spot by the water and started our walk. The weather was beautiful that day with clear blue skies that made everything seem to sparkle. We passed the local yacht club and a few other marinas.  Gleaming sailboats and fishing boats of all sizes bobbed in the calm blue waters where they were moored. The color of the water matched the color of the sky. The forest of trees from Goddard Memorial State Park across the water seemed like the artistic backdrop of a stage. We could have situated ourselves on one of the quaint park benches placed along the water and absorbed the picturesque view for the entire afternoon, but I was starving and we were on a mission for food. Since the climate was so perfect, I was hoping we would find a waterfront restaurant with patio seating.  We passed several restaurants and bars, but nothing was open at 11:30. This seemed a bit odd.  As our path lead us away from the water, we started up the hill toward the center of town.

The Main Street of East Greenwich was lined with shops, businesses and dozens of restaurants. When we discovered that most of the restaurants in town were also closed, I remembered why. A mandate to boil water had been in effect for the county for several days. I had seen on the news that a storage tank was contaminated with E. coli bacteria. Our campground was located just outside the boundaries of the affected system, so we had not had to deal with the problem first-hand until now. We walked the length of the central business district and decided we would try a Chinese food restaurant in the center of town. They had a sign on the front door assuring customers that they were using bottled water for everything in their kitchen. There was no outside seating for the dogs to join us, so we walked back to the Honda and returned to the restaurant’s parking lot in our car. We found a shady spot and rolled down the windows so Piper and Cessna would not be too miserable while they waited for us to have some lunch. They were tired from the exploring, so they just slept in the back.

This turned out to be the cutest parking lot in which we had ever left our car. The owners of the restaurant had created a garden around the boundaries of their parking lot. They had built beds of soil in wooden boxes above the asphalt. Then they had erected an elaborate trellis (about 8-feet tall) above the planting area. A dense garden of vegetables acted as a barrier between neighboring buildings. We parked in front of a giant squash that dangled from the trellis. The water might not have been fresh inside, but the produce was most certainly local! After lunch we drove back to the engine repair shop in hopes that the mechanic had finished his job. We were pleased to learn that he had, so we attached the Honda to the tow bar and set out for Riverdale Farm Campground near the Connecticut shore.  Engine work is so much more enjoyable when it is not a surprise!

Our drive was only 70 miles to Clinton, so it was another easy travel route down I-95. Our new campground was a 100-acre family owned farm on the banks of the Hammonasset River. The park’s literature boasted spacious sites, which was a joke… there were maybe 10-feet between the edge of our bus and the hook-ups for the spot adjacent to us. Our fire pit was literally 2- feet from our front door. If they had eliminated every other camping spot, the sites would have possibly been spacious. However, the price was pretty good; we had 50 amps of power, free Wi-Fi, free cable, good water pressure, and a tennis court! Fortunately, we did not have neighbors on one side of us – so we used the neighboring fire pit and made ourselves at home while we enjoyed our first night martinis as the sun set.

The customers at Riverdale were about 2/3 seasonal campers and 1/3 travelers like us. The place got really busy and LOUD over the weekends. Everyone knew each other. They would cruise around the park on their golf carts and stop to visit anytime they saw neighbors sitting outside… catching up on the happenings of the week since they had seen each other last. I have yet to understand this golf-cart-thing. It seems standard in every campground. People drive around in them for hours. We have only stayed in one or two ENORMOUS parks. Everywhere else has been compact and navigable on foot. Why not walk and get some exercise? One loop around the campground and I would be bored to tears, but we saw the same couples pass by us 20-30 times in one day – every day. No kidding. I don’t get it.

We made our way to the tennis court the second day we were there. I was determined to hit the ball every chance we got. You may or may not know Mike and I met because of tennis. We were set up on a blind date to play mixed doubles in a tennis tournament. We made it to the finals, and played against our friends who set us up. They beat us. I thought Mike was such a gentleman because he gave me his 2nd place prize – a gift certificate to the pro shop. After 10 minutes of hitting the ball at Riverdale, he busted a string. I guess our equipment had become a bit brittle with irregular use!

In order to get the racket re-strung, we drove into New Haven. It was the next largest town with the standard collection of big box stores. We got dog food at Petsmart, picked up something at Home Depot, and then dropped his rackets at a Sports Authority. Since we love to tour any college campus, we drove toward Yale after our errands were complete. We parked the car at a meter on the street near the cemetery and walked the dogs all through the campus. The university is the third oldest institution of higher education in the United States.  The U.S. News & World Report ranked Yale third among U.S. national universities for 2014, as it has for each of the past seventeen years, in every case behind Princeton and Harvard. It was hard not to be inspired after touring the campus. The Gothic architecture was amazing. Stone sculptures are built into the exterior walls of the libraries and halls. Leaded glass windows made all the buildings look like castles. If we didn’t look at the people that we passed on the sidewalks, it would have seemed like we had stepped back into the 1700’s when the place was founded.  Stone archways and iron gates separated courtyards and plazas.  The campus covers 260 acres, so we did not see all of it. We happened to be there on a Friday afternoon. It was football season and the beginning of a home game weekend. There seemed to be an extra level of electricity in the air as parents and alumni were arriving to visit their children and cheer the team.

We stumbled upon the most interesting sight of the day as we were finding our way back to the car. Some English Literature students (no doubt) were staging a live 24/7 reading of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina on the lawn outside one of the libraries near the law school. It is a long book, so I guess they were dividing themselves into shifts so there would be no interruptions. Many consider this to be the best novel ever written, even though the piece of realist fiction was published back in the late 1800’s. Although the idea seemed very dramatic to me, the “stage” was slightly hum-drum. A handwritten sign explaining the endeavor was taped to a metal music stand. One student was doing his shift of reading aloud. One other student was seated on a folding chair, listening. Everyone else just walked by as if they were invisible. Although I did feel slightly smarter after our time in this magnificent academic environment, I still expressed to Mike that particularly intelligent people have a very interesting way of enjoying themselves! This is not an idea I would have come up with when evaluating options on how to spend an afternoon (or however long it was going to take those students to get through 864 pages of moralistic life lessons). If they had placed a tip jar anywhere, I would have thrown in a bill or two just to commend their undertaking. I hoped they were doing this for a grade, and I also hoped they all got A’s. Lastly, I hoped it didn’t rain before they finished.

The best thing about our time at Riverdale Campground was its proximity to Hammonasset State Park, located 3 miles to our south. We ended up spending a lot of time at this park since it was so close and had so much to offer – for FREE. It is Connecticut’s largest shoreline park with over 2-miles of sandy white beach looking out onto Long Island Sound. In addition to the beach, they had miles of walking trails, a jetty for fishing, and camping. The spot was also popular with birders, as lots of water fowl congregate in the marshlands between the beach and the mainland. We drove over several times to walk the dogs. Mike went a couple of times to fish on the jetties. One day the weather was warm and bright enough to put on our swimsuits and enjoy an actual day at the beach! If anyone had predicted we would be hanging out at the beach in Connecticut during October, I would have declared them crazy at the beginning of our trip. However, we were more than happy to take advantage of the oddity and soak up some sunshine.

Another State Park, Rocky Neck, was located about 30 minutes north of us – also along Long Island Sound. My friend Janet used to camp there with her family when she was a kid and living in The Constitution State. One of our servers from our day in Boston had parents who had a shore house near there. Everyone we talked to (that knew anything about Connecticut) told us to go to Rocky Neck. So we did. We picked another beautiful warm day and made the short drive back up I-95 with the dogs in the back of the Honda. We lucked out when we got there because dogs are not allowed on the beach until after October 1st. We were clear by about 36 hours! The sand was softer and more pure here than at Hammonasset. Although the beach was not as long, the scene was still beautiful. This beach was set on more of a cove with a tidal river on one side and a salt marsh on the other. The water was calmer and more shallow here since its horse-shoe shape provided a small barrier on both sides. The most interesting thing about this beach was that there was a train track between the parking lot and the beach. Every quarter hour, or so, an Amtrak passenger train in transit between New York and Boston would whizz past us. I must say this was the first time I had been to a beach beside an Amtrak line. We could have gone on a wonderful hike while we were there. Mike could have fished here too, but we got lazy with all the sunshine. We ended up hanging out on our beach blanket from the time we arrived until it was time to go. The salt air and warm sun seemed to mesmerize us into a trance, so we spent our afternoon at Rocky Neck absorbing as much Vitamin D as possible… and doing little else besides some championship people-watching.

When our time had come to drive back to New Haven and pick up the tennis rackets we plotted a new route for the drive. The show Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives had done a segment on a diner called O’Rourke’s in Middletown. We planned to drive in a big circle while executing our list of errands.  We drove west to New Haven to pick up the rackets, go back to Home Depot, and make another stop at Petsmart. After we completed those tasks we drove north on I-91 until Hwy 66 took us into downtown Middletown. It was an easy 30-minute detour in the name of LUNCH. Middletown is located in the central part of the state along the Connecticut River. The community was once a busy sailing port and then an industrial center. Now it is primarily a residential community with Wesleyan University situated near the downtown core. The thick inventory of historic buildings along the Main Street is evidence that it was once the largest and most prosperous settlement in Connecticut. Not anymore. We parked our car at the first meter we found and decided to walk the dogs around town and find O’Rourke’s on foot. We must have passed 50 homeless people on the sidewalks. Many of them were lingering around a plasma center waiting for it to open so they could make a donation and receive a small amount of cash. We found O’Rourke’s at the end of the main corridor. There was one outside table where Piper and Cessna could have joined us – but we were at the edge of a busy intersection and we didn’t think we could enjoy our steamed burgers while inhaling exhaust from the traffic. We walked back through the homeless population and moved our car to a side-street near the diner and in the shade of a building. The dogs waited in the car again while we went in to eat. It was yummy. Mike had one of the famous steamed burgers; I had roasted butternut squash soup and a Rueben. We also ordered a steak sandwich to go. We were pigs.

After two weeks at Riverdale it was time to leave Connecticut and add New Jersey to our list of states on the Lower 48 Tour. We generally plan to travel early in the week. It seems like driving is less stressful on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Between Thursday and Sunday traffic becomes more frenzied as motorists get on the roads for weekend get-a-ways. Traffic seems to slow down and become less congested once the work week starts and everyone gets back to their regular routine. It was a Monday and the alarm was set to wake us up so we could start the usual travel preparation routine. It usually takes us a few hours to secure everything, and without any rushing we seem to always pull out around 11am.  Today was no different. We went through our standard routine. I got the inside ready, Mike got the outside ready. We were almost set when I told Mike I wanted to run down the street in the Honda and take a few more pictures of some beautiful fall leaves I had seen on a back road.

I was only gone about 10 minutes… long enough for Mike to check the weather radar. When I got back he had an unexpected proposition. It seems that a strong thunderstorm was gaining strength between us and our eventual destination in northern New Jersey. If we started driving, we would be heading toward dangerous winds and tornado warnings. A scenario neither of us was excited to experience. If we waited it out at Riverdale, the weather would pass over us later in the day. The following day was forecast to be dry and clear.  We decided it would be best to postpone our trip if possible. First we went to the office to make sure we could have our same spot for one more night. Next we called the park in New Jersey to see if we could postpone our week-long reservation by one day. After everyone said yes, we stopped packing up and took a nap. Later that afternoon, I went to the store for some groceries so we could cook a nice dinner. We roasted a pork tenderloin and paired it with some tortellini in pumpkin sauce. After enjoying a couple of martinis and a delicious meal, we called it a night. The plan was to repeat our actions from the morning on Tuesday instead. By the time the storm passed over Clinton, it had weakened significantly.  Our decision to post-pone travel was a smart one and made the day much less stressful than it could have been. Mike was worried I would be frustrated because we didn’t stick to the original plan, but it turned out I was very proud of our spontaneous weather avoidance. Better safe than sorry, that is for sure!

 

One of the beautifully intricate buildings on the Yale campus.

One of the beautifully intricate buildings on the Yale campus.

The Hammonasset River beside Riverdale Farm Campground.

The Hammonasset River beside Riverdale Farm Campground.

The owners of the campground had several beautiful horses too. These are the fields where they grazed during the daytime.

The owners of the campground had several beautiful horses too. These are the fields where they grazed during the daytime.

The jetties where Mike fished at Hammonasset State Park.

The jetties where Mike fished at Hammonasset State Park.

Hammonasset Beach

Hammonasset Beach

We weren't the only ones that took advantage of beach weather in early October!

We weren’t the only ones that took advantage of beach weather in early October!

Just another day at the beach.

Just another day at the beach.

Marshlands at Hammonasset State Park

Marshlands at Hammonasset State Park

Cheers!

Cheers!

Rocky Neck State Park shoreline

Rocky Neck State Park shoreline

A trail to Hammonasset Beach

A trail to Hammonasset Beach

Connecticut Part I: Voluntown

We left Massachusetts the Thursday before Labor Day… or the beginning of Labor Day Weekend, however you want to look at it. Labor Day is a big deal in New England. In fact, I’m learning every milestone on the calendar associated with summer and warm weather is a big deal here. Since Mike and I don’t have a “traditional” schedule anymore, we tend to forget about upcoming holidays until the occasion presents an obstacle to us. The obstacle with this Labor Day holiday was finding a reservation at our next spot. Our plan was to go to Rhode Island after Massachusetts, but there were no campgrounds in the Ocean State that could accommodate us and had availability. Everything was booked in anticipation of the end-of-summer extended weekend.

Since Rhode Island is so small, we always intended to combine that State with Connecticut for the month of September. Our next logical option was to find somewhere in The Constitution State (hopefully), and then reverse our track slightly to turn back East after Labor Day was over.  We were hoping we could find a suitable spot in a Rhode Island campground after the summer season ended. That is how we ended up at Countryside Campground, 90 miles away, in Voluntown, Connecticut. This location was just past the Connecticut – Rhode Island border, and we wouldn’t be too far out of our way when our stay concluded.

The family-owned park was very nice and quiet. When I checked us in at the office I saw a big sign over the desk that said “This is not a hobby, we operate this campground to make a profit”. Well, okay then. I was a little scared to finish the check-in process, but it turned out that the owners were very friendly and helpful. Countryside Campground was a medium-sized RV park set on a hilly piece of land under a thin canopy of native trees. The grounds throughout the park were well manicured and very clean.  It wasn’t too big, but there were enough roads through the place to make a decent walk for the dogs. There were two small ponds, one for fishing and one for swimming. Our spot was nice and roomy with a blanket of thick green grass. I ended up barefoot almost all week.  This was the second week of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, so we were very excited that our DirecTV signal worked. We could watch tennis! I had looked at the map and deduced that we were in a slightly remote location. If we weren’t going to be out-and-about on tons of daytrips, then we were lucky we had a nice yard where we could relax and enjoy ourselves.

When Saturday arrived, it was game day…kind of like Christmas for college-football-loving-fans such as my husband. Mike was getting geared up for all the fun as we had morning coffee. On game day in Texas we would usually make plans to watch our Longhorns at a sports bar, unless we were lucky enough to have actual tickets in Austin. A couple of years ago, the University of Texas came up with a brilliant idea called LHN (or Longhorn Network) on cable. Most all of the UT games would be seen exclusively on LHN. This was a great plan until only a limited number of obscure cable companies agreed to carry LHN. Now it seems it is impossible to find a broadcast of any Texas Longhorns’ sports on any cable channel anywhere. Back at home, the Montgomery Texas Exes Chapter was feeling lucky when they learned two places in the entire region were showing the game. They had a choice of watching locations! We had some recon to do if we were going to get to see the game way up here in the northeast.

We left our camp around mid-day and drove to the nearest “largish” town of Norwich. We were hoping we could find a sports bar there with some sort of cable package that carried UT vs. New Mexico State. We drove through town and it turned out to be sort of sad. The town that is referred to as the “Rose of New England” was obviously once a vibrant industrial-era community – set along the Yantic River and with direct access to railroad commerce. The downtown buildings all dated back to the late 1600’s with some markers dating as recently as the 1800’s. There were many churches, all ornately and majestically constructed along Church Street – go figure.  We drove along the railroad tracks for a little way, but that section of town was completely deserted. We were wandering alongside empty warehouses and multi-family housing…in need of paint and weeding. We headed back to the center of town and drove by City Hall and the Post Office. There were a couple of restaurants, a boxing gym, surrounded by lots more empty commercial space. The only people on the sidewalks appeared to be homeless. It was depressing to see a community with such dense history floundering with stagnation and neglect. We were also sad because we did not locate a sports bar from which to watch the game.

We stopped for a few errands on an alternate route back to the bus; and then continued our search for a place where we could possibly find LHN later in the evening. Our neighbors happened to be from the area, so they were great tour guides. They had children nearby, so they were in town for a few more weeks until they made their way to their usual spot in Florida for winter. They suggested we go to one of the two casinos about 10 miles away. The best chance of finding LHN in Connecticut would be to go to the sports book. If one could bet on the game, maybe they would let one watch it too!

After a quick walk for the dogs, we locked them in the bathroom and drove to Foxwoods. Foxwoods Resort Casino is a hotel casino in Ledyard, CT on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation. A complex of six casinos, the resort covers an area of 4,700,000 sq ft.  I didn’t know what to expect so I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. It was a huge place. We walked through a gigantic floor of gaming tables toward the poker room to find the sports book. The front section was for horse racing, and the bar area had dozens of televisions showing sports games including football, baseball, golf and tennis. We sat at the bar and played video poker. Drinks were complimentary if we were playing the machines.

Our bartender was extremely gracious and we had a good time even though we still never found LHN. Mike watched a couple of other games and looked for Texas score updates on those broadcasts. I quizzed the bartender and the fun lady sitting next to me about what we should do during our time in Connecticut. They gave me tons of ideas on things for us to do and places for us to see in the area. We won enough money on our video poker machines to leave the bartender a decent tip, then stopped at Hard Rock Café for a late dinner on the way to the parking garage. We smelled terribly of smoke and never got to watch the Longhorns, but the evening had been lots of fun regardless of the drawbacks.

Another fun suggestion from our neighbor was to eat at a place called Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock in nearby New London. He said just follow the Thames to the marinas in New London and it would be good food. After a couple of days of rainy yucky weather, the sky cleared and it seemed like a good time for a seafood lunch in the sun. We loaded the dogs into the Honda and took the scenic route to historic New London.  Just as we were approaching the outskirts of town we passed the beautiful campus of the United States Coast Guard Academy. Wait!  That is where the oldest son of our former neighbor-family attends school right now! We lived next door to Mike and Bernadette, and their four WONDERFUL children, for the last 10 years we lived in The Woodlands. The kiddos were young when we moved there, and now three were in college, and the oldest was even engaged. My Mike sent a text to Big Mike to get Little Mike’s phone number. We wanted to tell him hello since we were so accidentally close. I had always known where Little Mike went to school – but I never really registered about its exact location. I just thought it was “somewhere up North”. Now that we were “somewhere up North”, we accidentally drove right past it!

The food at Captain Scott’s was great! Mike had a swordfish sandwich. I ordered lobster bisque and steamed clams. We ate outside in the bright warm sun, soaking in the smells and sights of a typical day in a local marina. The dogs drooled over the idea of catching one of the seagulls that played in the tide on the other side of the patio enclosure. After lunch we walked around town and got a little depressed again. Another historic town with a great inventory of wonderful architecture, sidewalks busy with homeless people and litter. We have seen so much wealth and prosperity in the resort towns where we have visited. It is only fair that we also get an authentic look at another reality of our nation’s economy.

Did you ever see the movie Mystic Pizza? It is a ‘coming of age’ movie that came out in 1988 when I was in college. Julia Roberts and Matt Damon were in it before they were famous. The story is set around a Pizza place in Mystic Connecticut. Everyone told us to go visit Mystic – but skip the Pizza place. I remember the scenery in the movie was pretty to me, so we decided to drive over one afternoon and take a look around. When we first arrived to town we stopped at Olde Mistick Village. We wandered around the shopping mall disguised as an early American village. This stop was one of the suggestions from our bartender at Foxwoods. She told me that a candy store there had great fudge, and I was on a mission to see if she was right. There are 60 shops in total. We meandered past most of them until I found Franklin’s General Store. They touted that they made their fudge fresh each morning, so I was guessing this was the place she was telling me about. Bingo. The double chocolate and rocky road varieties we selected were like eating pure chocolate air. She was right, best fudge ever.

Back in the car, we made our way just down the road to Mystic Seaport. We thought this was the actual town, but in reality it is a Museum of America and the Sea. It is a 17 –acre living history museum. The 19th-century village offers demonstrations, performances, exhibits, gardens, vessels and much more all set on the banks of the Mystic River. It was late in the day, and it didn’t make sense to purchase admission tickets as they were preparing to close their doors. It seemed like a place where we could spend an entire day or even longer. We walked along the fence of the village and found a nice restaurant with outdoor patio seating. Since they said Piper and Cessna were welcome, we had an afternoon cocktail. While we were resting for a bit, I did some research on my phone to find other restaurants that might be located nearby. We also grilled our waitress to find out exactly where town was. We learned we were one stop sign away and there were several restaurants in the heart of town that would also allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas. Back in the car, we drove toward the drawbridge.

The little town of Mystic is as charming as I remember in the movie. The River runs through the center of the community, and Main Street ascends up a shallow hill to meet a classic white church steeple rising out of the trees at the top of town. Chic boutiques and classy art galleries fill the storefronts along both sides of the street. Restaurants and Coffee Houses offer tantalizing aromas to the mix. The sidewalks were crowded with tourists taking it all in. We found a great place to enjoy drinks and dinner on Water Street. Oyster Club is a casual fine dining restaurant and raw bar specializing in the richness of the New England coast and countryside. The menu, which is written daily, showcases food that travels the shortest distance from ‘farm & sea to table,’ with seasonality and location determining the day’s delicacies. Oyster Club had a “tree house” built on a rocky bluff above the restaurant building. It was a wonderful outdoor patio perched high up into the trees. The menu was more casual, but no less delicious. The dogs were welcome, so it turned out to be the perfect spot to enjoy a dinner and sunset. Mike had a sausage burger and I had smoked chicken. We shared the most delicious square of cornbread and butter that either of us has ever had.

Our time at Countryside Campground was winding down, and it was time to visit the other casino in the area. Our neighbors had told us that they were both completely different, and we should see each of them. Mohegan Sun, located in Uncasville, Connecticut, is one of the largest casinos in the United States with 364,000 square feet of gaming space. It is located on 240 acres along the banks of the Thames River. If Disney could build an American Indian theme-park for adults only, this is what they would have come up with. We had done some online research and learned that Jimmy Buffet had a Margaritaville Café in the Casino. We love Jimmy Buffet, and Margaritaville has a drink on its menu called the Ragtop Day. I am extremely partial to this concoction of cucumber vodka, watermelon vodka, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and club soda.

We drove over late one afternoon to have drinks and nachos with Jimmy before hitting the casino tables. We parked the Honda in a garage and walked to the other end of the entire casino – literally. Wow. The ceiling in the hotel lobby was made of woven birch strips. There are moving stuffed wolves on large boulders throughout the casino floor. Waterfalls, giant cartoon-sized tee pees, intricate wood carvings… the place is amazing and ENORMOUS. We passed through the retail section of the establishment and passed by places like Bobby Flay’s Bar American and Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse on the way to Margaritaville. We ordered Volcano Nachos at the restaurant, and we had enough leftovers to feed six more people. After dinner we decided to walk back to the car before going to the gaming tables. We wanted to get rid of the nachos and grab our sweaters. We got lost trying to find the parking garage. Not the car, but the whole garage! After many miles of walking, we discovered we were passing the same landmark another time. After we finally realized that we were lost in this Native American Wonderland, we appropriately asked the attendant at the Lost and Found Booth to direct us to the Summer Garage. Whew, that was scary. What if I had had two Ragtop Days? We would have been in a real bind.

Nachos ditched and sweaters donned, we made our way back to the casino floor. This time we decided to stay in one small section where we could always see the hallway to the Summer Garage. Mike gave me a hundred dollars to play Pai Gao Poker. Once I found a table with a low enough minimum and an available seat, he left me with the oriental crowd and went off in search of the craps tables. He came back over a few times because there wasn’t enough action to join in on the dice game. The Romantics, a band from our youth, was playing in a bar near the pai gao section. He ended up playing slots and listening to them until it was time for us to drive back home. I ended up losing $20, but he won $30 – so we were successful for the evening.

The last Saturday we were at Countryside was another game day.  Luckily, this time the TX vs. BYU game was scheduled to be broadcast on a major network. We would be able to watch it from any sports bar with a television and regular cable. A place called Happy Jack’s was about 11 miles down the road from us on the other side of Jewett City. A second local joint we wanted to try was called Surrell’s, and it was even closer than Happy Jack’s. We took off for the farthest location first. Our idea was to watch the first half at Happy Jacks, and then drive closer to home and watch the second half at Surrell’s.  We got to Happy Jack’s a little early and had a great time visiting with the bartender/owner and a couple that had stopped in for dinner after a weekend Harley ride to the coast. Our game was delayed 2 hours due to heavy rains in Utah. We decided the game would be over too late to last until the end, so it was time to move to Surrell’s if we were going to make a second stop. Our neighbors had told us they had wicked good prime rib on Saturday nights, so we were saving ourselves to eat dinner at the next place.

When we got to Surrell’s it was exactly what I expected. A small town restaurant bar where the staff knows every patron by name. It was small, but cozy. We sat at the bar and ordered dinner. There were two TV’s for us to watch football on. Mike had the prime rib, I had baked stuffed fish. We had fried calamari for appetizers. Our meal also came with salad, French fries, cole slaw, and twice baked potatoes. It looked like we were having Sunday brunch for our Saturday night dinner. Everything was delicious and made from scratch. The longhorns lost the game, but our meal was a winner. Once again, we took home leftovers for 6 more people.

We spent the last day of “Connecticut Part I” doing chores and watching football. I went to get a manicure and pedicure during the afternoon, and we had one last campfire that evening. Despite the trouble it had taken Mike to get us a reservation somewhere, I was glad we had landed in this pleasant spot. We had taken more daytrips, visited more casinos, and eaten better meals out than I had imagined we would enjoy during this stop on the Lower 48 in 48 Tour.

Some fun at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville before hitting the gaming tables.

Some fun at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville before hitting the gaming tables.

The Marina in New London.

The Marina in New London.

Spot #66.

Spot #66.

Boats heading for the drawbridge in Mystic.

Boats heading for the drawbridge in Mystic.

A beautiful church in New London.

A beautiful church in New London.

Coastguard Sailboat.

Coastguard Sailboat.

Countryside Campground

Countryside Campground

Fall is coming!

Fall is coming!

Mystic, CT.

Mystic, CT.

Loved that movie!

Loved that movie!

While we enjoyed our yummy lunch at Captain Scott's Lobster Dock, Piper was dreaming of eating the seagull who was taunting him on the other side of the railing.

While we enjoyed our yummy lunch at Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock, Piper was dreaming of eating the seagull who was taunting him on the other side of the railing.

A very dramatic sky and sunset from the Oyster Club Treehouse.

A very dramatic sky and sunset from the Oyster Club Treehouse.

A whale sculpture in front of the New London Maritime Museum.

A whale sculpture in front of the New London Maritime Museum.