Saturday, October 3, 2009

On Lake Memphremagog

We are at the Prouty Beach Campground in the city of Newport, Vermont (map). We sprang the extra three bucks for a prime spot on the bluff overlooking the lake, and from our windows we have a panoramic view of fall color around the lake, as well as the city itself.

This campground is a public park operated by the city of Newport, and, at $31 for hookups, it's the most expensive municipal campground we've ever encountered. To be sure, it's a lovely place, and commercial parks in the area are probably a good deal more, but that's a lot to pay when all you need is a place to stop for the night.

As it happens, though, we are now in a part of the country where there are simply no other options. Frankly, parking difficulty is one of the reasons we spend so little time in the east. In this case, there are simply no Elks lodges, Wal-Marts, or even decent truck stops this far north, and the northeast states forbid overnight parking in rest areas and similar locations. Maine even moved earlier this year to ban overnight parking in all commercial parking lots, bowing to pressure from campground operators, but reconsidered after pressure and boycott threats from the RV community. And, of course, many parks, public and private, are already closed for the season here -- this one closes in less than two weeks.

Even though I had hoped to be into New Hampshire last night, the combination of a late start from Burlington, due to our afternoon romp in the city, followed by some very slow roads, meant we had to set our sights on a closer stop. Louise spent a good half hour or so with the directories trying to find even one viable option, let alone a backup, and when this came up, we quickly agreed on it.

Just getting here proved to be something of a challenge. We had mapped out a route across the state on VT-105, but a dozen miles west of here, in Newport Center, we encountered a sign diverting trucks off that highway and south to Coventry on VT-14. Signs throughout the state clearly prohibit any vehicle over 24,000 lbs (we weigh twice that) on anything other than a truck route, so we had no choice but to follow that sign. From Coventry we were directed north on US-5, which itself is diverted for trucks south of Newport onto a bypass road. At one point, we were concerned there might be no legal way at all for us to reach the campground.

Eventually we made it into town, and started seeing signs for Prouty Beach. The most direct route to the campground passes under a 9'11" railroad bridge, but the city has thoughtfully positioned the signs to direct traffic to the much longer route to the north, which bypasses the bridge. No doubt there had been some issues with folks following their GPS directions. By the time we were done with all the truck bypasses, it was past 6 and we were definitely done for the night, rendering the lofty camping fee moot.

We did pull the scooters out to ride back into town in the last of the daylight, and enjoyed riding around and seeing what we missed on the bypass. We rode all the way up the hill to the imposing St. Mary's Catholic Church, a century old, which appears to preside over the town from our vantage here across the bay. There were several dining options in town, but recommendations gleaned from the 'net suggested the East Side Restaurant and Pub, lakeside just a couple of blocks from the campground. The place was packed on a Friday night, with what felt like an all-local crowd.

Today we will continue east on 105, barring any further truck detours, and cross the Connecticut River into New Hampshire, where we will pick up US-3. I expect we will be faced with a similar paucity of overnight options again tonight. The scenery and fall color, however, is spectacular.

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