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New York (Post #6)

October 18      The 9/11 Memorial and Museum

We got a fairly early start after a healthy breakfast. We bought a week-long city Metrocard so that we can ride the subway and buses without worrying about adding money to it. Then we headed downtown to the World Trade Center. It’s an amazing area, with the Memorial and the Museum as well as the rebuilt World Trade Center. We were in New York on 9/11/2001 and haven’t visited the area since then.

9/11 Memoral

Freedom Tower

We waited in line for tickets to the 9/11 Museum, then waited in line to get inside. The first thing you do is descend deeply into a darkened area. We spent some time in the first level down in the building. I was tired before we even walked into the 9/11 Historical Exhibition that follows chronologically the events of that day.

Fittingly, it’s a crowded, confusing space to navigate, with many videos from that day and exhibits of entire fire trucks, bits and pieces of buildings, people’s belongings – just all kinds of things. There was an alcove that showed still shots of people leaping to their deaths from the towers to avoid burning to death. I just couldn’t watch that – it’s horrifying. We were crowded together and I felt somewhat claustrophobic. By the time we exited the museum, we were both exhausted, physically and emotionally.

And hungry. We needed lunch. I suggested a place nearby called Eataly, not knowing exactly what it was. What it was, was a madhouse. A conglomeration of Italian groceries, take out kiosks and sit-down restaurants. We managed to nab a couple of seats at a bar and had an absolutely wonderful pizza with braciole (dried beef). Feeling refurbished, we got some coffee and walked along the river. We ran across the rather strange Irish Hunger Memorial. It informs people about the Irish Potato Famine that began in 1845 and lasted for 7 years. There was a re-created stone cottage and stones from all the counties in Ireland.

Returning to the hotel, we relaxed and nibbled dinner at the hotel lounge. Next up was a performance by David Byrne (former front man for the Talking Heads). The Hudson Theatre is fairly small and our balcony seat gave us a good view of the stage.

When the curtain opened, the scene seemed to be a re-creation of the 9/11 Memorial where David Byrne sat in what looked to be the bottom of a dark well with water sparkling on all four sides. Byrne performed barefoot in a gray suit. Soon a couple of dancers joined him, also barefoot in gray suits. Eventually, as his musical assemblage of percussionists, guitarists, and a pianist moved onto the stage, there were 12 people playing their instruments, all barefoot, in gray suits.

They moved constantly about the stage in various permutations with their pink, black and brown faces, feet and hands standing out against the gray suits. It was fabulous and the audience responded enthusiastically. One hundred minutes later, we reluctantly applauded them off the stage. What an uplifting performance.

We wanted to have a drink in a quiet place after the show and found a dark bar with shining blue specks in the top of the bar. We sipped our Manhattans and basked in the joy that the performance had generated. Later, when I looked for the ladies room, I realized we were imbibing in the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, a famous hangout for Dorothy Parker and her chums. It was a fitting end to the evening.

The Blue Bar in the Algonquin Hotel

October 19   The Met and Central Park

Saturday was a sparkling, sunny day. We exited the Hilton onto 6th Avenue and were totally surprised to see a street fair in front of us. The city had closed at least 6 or 7 blocks of the Avenue of the Americas. It was so strange trotting along the middle of such a busy street. Traffic was allowed across each bisecting street, but still, unusual.

As we went up 53rd Street, trying to find our Metro subway station to go uptown, we passed a very long line of well-dressed people. We asked what they were waiting for and it turned out that the Museum of Modern Art was reopening to members after a long extreme remodel.  We finally found our station and headed uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

We were going to meet Ted Gosciewski and Patti Buffolino, long-time friends from my U.S. Customs days. Ted was going to give us a personalized tour of the American section of the huge museum. But we got there around 10 a.m. to see some other areas. We headed straight for the galleries that contain works by the French Impressionists, then walked through the large areas containing Modern and Contemporary Art. Already tired, we found a café and sat down with a cup of coffee.

Our final morning stop was at a special exhibition, The Last Knight: The Art, Armor and Ambition of Maximilian I. Primarily, it was a large collection of armor for men and horses. Noting the weight of some of the pieces, such as 8 pounds for one armored glove, it’s hard to believe they could fight very long. But the artwork was just gorgeous. One full set of extravagant armor was made for Maximilian’s 12-year-old son. I wondered how long it fit him, as he got older. Could they make it larger? And how did they get horses to wear heavy armor?

At 1 p.m. we met Ted and Patti, and Ted gave us a tour of the American Wing. He paints and he is currently participating in a Met program where he creates sculptures based on objects in the Met under the guidance of expert artists.

We were ready for lunch. Since it was such a beautiful day, we walked through Central Park to the Boathouse and sat out on a sunny patio. Afterwards,Ted showed us the boathouse where owners keep their striking model boats, each one about 4 feet long.

Later in the afternoon, we made our farewells and headed back to the Hilton. Michael D’Ambrosio had arrived late in the afternoon, so we caught up with him at the lounge. Michael suggested taking a walk to Grand Central Terminal for frozen yogurt at the Shake Shack there. Dave was really tired and stayed in while Michael and I walked the dark streets of Manhattan.

Reflection of the Chrysler Building

The Helmsley Building

October 20    The Guggenheim and 2 great restaurants

With another complete change in the weather, it was gray and drizzling on Sunday morning. Michael was attending a Carnegie Hall concert. Visiting Brooklyn didn’t sound like fun so we decided to visit the Guggenheim, the spectacular building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. We passed quite a Halloween decoration on way to the subway.

The Guggenheim was busy! We wanted to see a photographic exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work and started up the spiral walkway. The walls that keep you from falling into the lobby below are only about 3 feet high, so one little slip….

The place is a maze, with alcoves, large 2-story areas and teeny little rooms. A narrow passage will open up into a sizeable gallery. It’s really neat until you try to find a bathroom or café.

We did find one café but it had no seats available. So we exited the building into a light rain. We were looking for a cozy café and found one after walking a few blocks. Demarchelier looked like a Parisienne bistro, a small place with warm color and art on the walls and a small wood bar. We had very good omelets and relaxed in a vibrant but not chaotic atmosphere. We are both finding that the energy, motion and noise that is so predominant in Manhattan wearies us. Even Market Street in San Francisco has nowhere near the impact of most areas of Manhattan.

Refreshed, we went back out, into the light rain and headed home to relax before our dinner out with Michael. I really liked the menu of L’Express, a French Bistro in the Gramercy area of Manhattan. It was a small place and got quieter as the night wore on. Michael got to exercise his fluent French with the waiter and the food was great. Not very hungry, I had Onion Soup Gratinee and Escargots Bourguignonne (butter, garlic, parsley). It was all wonderful.

Afterwards, the three of us walked from 20th Street back to the Hilton near 54th Street. It was still a little rainy but the 2-mile walk was very pleasant.

October 21   The High Line

Monday was our last full day in New York. The weather turned again and it was warm and sunny. We hadn’t eaten in any diners on our trip, so Michael took us to breakfast at the Flame Diner. I immediately knew it was authentic when we walked in because they had a revolving cake display case by the door.

At the Flame Diner

Resisting the cake, we each had a big traditional breakfast while watching everyone rush to work outside. Sufficiently stuffed and caffeinated, we headed down to the south end of the High Line at Gansevoort Street. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line that is elevated above the street. It’s full of art, plantings and people. It now runs about 1.5 miles and it’s a big tourist draw.

We ambled along in the sunshine, appreciating the variety of architecture styles, standing side-by-side.

There was one building whose occupants didn’t care much for President Trump.

By the time we needed a bathroom, we were ready for coffee. Then more ambling until we reached the Hudson Yards, a very high-end shopping and dining destination. The two very high towers rest on a huge platform built over a large railroad yard for subway car storage. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in one of the cars under this platform.

Dave and I were fascinated by “Vessel” a structure built as part of the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. It rises 16 stories and has 154 flights of stairs, 2,500 steps and 80 landings at various altitudes. The copper just gleams. After looking at it for a while, we decided not to climb it.

The Vessel in front of the top of the Empire State Building

The other amazing structure in the area is The Shed. It is a 170,000-square-foot visual and performing arts center. It includes an expandable 16,000-square-foot shell that uses industrial crane technology to allow the space to expand and contract as needed. The 8 wheels that allow this to happened are each 6 feet in diameter.

The Shed

My neck ached from looking up when we exited the High Line. It was well past lunchtime and we decided to go back to Gansevoort Street to seek out a place to hang out. This area of the Meatpacking District is a fairly quiet plaza, with many brick buildings and old-fashioned Belgian blocks paving a small plaza.

We found Serafina and basked in partial sun on the small patio.  We had salads, all good, and relaxed in the relative peace and quiet. After that, it was back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes to Michael; he was staying for another day or two. Dave and I were departing early the next morning and had to pack everything back into our bags.

October 22   The long ride home

The Airlift shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 6:30 a.m. for our 11 a.m. flight out of JFK. Four and a half hours seemed a little early but we weren’t sure how long it took to get to Kennedy. Thank heavens we had packed the night before because the shuttle arrived 15 minutes early. The phone rang and we were told we had to come downstairs “immediately!”  We scraped everything together and found the driver tapping his foot, waiting for us.

We crowded into the back of the van and off we went. We were dropped at the terminal around 7:30 so we had 3.5 hours to kill. Checking in was easy and we soon were munching a so-so breakfast. Then we just hung out at the gate.

The flight was okay. It was a 6-hour flight and even though we could get up quite a bit, that’s just too much sitting. But we made it home and friends Mary and Rick picked us up. That was nice because it was hot, in the eighties!  They had to wait quite a while for us because of several delays. Right before the plane arrived at an undisclosed location, we were told we would walk down a ramp and buses would take us to a terminal. They never said which terminal. We assumed it was the terminal listed on our ticket. It was not.

After waiting a long time for our checked bags, we got them and went outside. We were waiting at Gate 2. We texted Mary and Rick to pick us up there. They said there was no Gate 2 at Terminal 1. That’s when we found out we were at the International Terminal.

It all resolved itself, they found us and we finally reached our stuffy, hot home. The trip was over. We had a great time but were glad to be home.

 


October 14   Anywhere but the Kancamagus

We headed northeast on Monday, Columbus Day. All the roads were going to be crowded, but particularly the Kancamagus Highway, the gold standard of fall foliage. We had to stop to photograph the “Pumpkin People”. It’s an area thing: set up little scenarios with pumpkin figures.

We wound up at Crawford Notch SP. We went for a relatively short walk along the Saco River Trail.

 

 

Ripley Falls was our next walk. It was very pretty up there with lots of people enjoying the scenery.

We drove back to our motel and collected all our dirty clothes – it was laundry day. We read our books outside the laundry on a sunny fall afternoon. We celebrated the clean jeans with dinner at Deacon Street and called it a night.

October 15    The Kancamagus and problems

Having no more excuses, this was our day to travel the 30 miles of the Kancamagus Highway. But first, we stopped at the laundry to retrieve our laundry bags that I left there.

We got information on a few hikes we could do and began the drive down Highway 112. It runs along the Swift River and it has wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. Everyone visiting the area drives it. We figured it would be a lot less busy on a regular work day and it was, but that is not to say it wasn’t very busy. The capacious parking lots were almost full most of the time.

At one of the stops, Dave realized his credit card was missing and that he must have left it in the restaurant last night. He couldn’t call because there was no phone reception so that would wait until later.

At Lower Falls, I was rock hopping, photographing leaves in the dark pools of water. I was changing from my regular lens to my long lens when I dropped the lens cap into the water. I don’t know how I did it, but then I dropped my lens into the water. I stood there for a moment, horrified, and then scrambled down the rocks to retrieve them. The lens was full of water and is probably ruined. Depressing. The remainder of my photography will be done with a long lens or with Dave’s borrowed lens.

We reached Sabbaday Falls and hiked the quarter-mile up to the falls. A lot of the red maple leaves are now on the ground but all the yellows and golds were lovely. The falls runs through a narrow flume and is fun to play with photographically.

It was around 3 p.m. and I was ready for hot coffee and a cookie. We traveled into the pretty town of Lincoln, got a couple of cookies and sat by Pemigewasett River, enjoying the sunny afternoon. Dave called the restaurant and they did have his credit card so that was a relief. My chiropractor called and we discussed a bill which felt strange doing while on the other side of the country.

We started to head east on the Kancamagus. Dave remembered that we had camped at the Hancock Campground in 2008 and we drove in there to take a look at the river that runs next to it. The sun had just gone down behind the mountain but it was still beautiful.

We finally stopped at Lincoln Woods to walk along the Pemigewasett but there wasn’t much light left.

The drive home was lovely as the light got lower and the colors of the foliage softened. I was hankering for Italian food and we found a great little place in Conway with a slide show of Italy running on the walls.

We finally got back to the motel, gathered everything from the car, and got it all repacked into our suitcases. Tomorrow, we head back to Boston and Thursday we head for New York.

October 16-17   Traveling

We hit the road pretty early and sailed south on NH-16, stopping only to photograph Lake Chocorua. We eventually got back onto I-95, stopping for lunch at a Chili’s Restaurant. One remarkable thing is how friendly all the people are in New England, always taking time to talk. It’s a nice change from everywhere else, including our home town.

We arrived at the Wakefield Lakeside Inn to find some cops in the lobby talking to a group of people. It didn’t seem tense or an emergency. The hotel is in the back of a business park . It is unprepossessing, to say the least. Actually it looked like a convalescent hospital. The lobby didn’t help much. The room was fine but our view of the lake was impeded by some type of smudge on the outside. It was pretty gray and cloudy by then.  Weather forecasters were predicting a “bomb cyclone” to hit the Noretheast, with extra heavy wind and rain. We were hitting the sweet spot, arriving in Wakefield before it hit and heading south as it was heading north.

View from Lakeside Inn

After dumping the baggage in the room, we returned the car to Boston Airport. That process went smoothly. Then we made our first call to Lyft to get a ride back to the hotel. It worked perfectly.

After a quiet night of watching the Trump Administration imploding, we slept well and arose early. Another Lyft ride to the Amtrak South Station in Boston took a while because of heavy traffic. The winds and rain had knocked out thousands of homes and businesses and many schools were closed. But we got to the station with plenty of time for coffee and croissants.

The 4 hour train ride was pretty comfy. We watched the wind blowing trees and lakes from the comfort of our seats. The weather was unpleasant when we disembarked at Penn Station in Manhattan. We got in line for one of the new (to us), clean little yellow taxi-vans and marveled at how much worse NYC traffic is compared to San Francisco.

We were welcomed to the Hilton (courtesy of our friend, Michael) and settled into a luxurious, roomy suite. After resting a while, we visited the lounge and dined on crudities, pita bread, guacamole, chicken wings with a few glasses of chardonnay. Bliss! And we didn’t need to leave the hotel.

 

October 12    Heavy traffic on Columbus Day Weekend

It was gray and a little drizzly on Saturday morning. We packed up once again and left our coffee, coffee filters, paper towels for the next occupants. We decided to take the fast route rather than the shorter route so drove 230 miles back towards New Hampshire. It drizzled all the way, but the tree colors were saturated and wonderful.

As we passed through the small villages, we noticed once again that practically every town has its Chinese restaurant. The best-named one was “Chow Maine”. The turnpike messages to drivers were also amusing. One warned “Peep the Leaves – not your phone”. On a particularly attractive area of the road, another sign said “Emergency stops only – no stopping for photos”.

We got hungry around 1 p.m. and looked for a place to eat. I wanted a diner but there were none around. We ended up at a tavern in Lewiston where we got a decent burger and burrito. Then, back on the road.

The traffic slowed down to a crawl a couple of miles before we reached North Conway. We edged along, stop and go, and missed our turn to the Eastern Inn & Suites. What was weird was that the address in the Garmin was correct but it registered that address about a quarter-mile further up the road. When we checked in, the lady at the counter said there was such a problem with addresses in the area that the post office did not recognize her home as a legitimate address. What????

We watched a little news about the current Trump travails and then were ready for dinner. We tried ordering something to be delivered but restaurants were too busy to do takeout. We decided to go out but traffic had not improved. We drove north and squeezed into the last parking space for a restaurant. There were many people waiting outside and inside. We were told the wait would be 1.5 hours or more. We decided to go to a grocery store and get something to take back to the motel. But Subway came first and we quickly had warm sandwiches to take back. The one-lane roads really hurt everything during the busy weekends and Columbus Day weekend during autumn foliage is about the worst.

October 13    Mount Washington Auto Road

The weather looked pretty good on Sunday and we got on the road fairly early. The foliage and views were wonderful and we stopped several times.

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When we reached the Mt. Washington Auto Road, the line of cars to drive 8 miles up to an altitude of 6,288 feet above sea level backed up onto the highway. But it moved quickly. We paid our $40 and headed up. It was warm and beautiful in the lower 2 miles or so. There were several pulloffs and we stopped a few times to photograph.

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I had been up to 14,000 feet going to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado, so I thought this road would be very tame. Wrong! The road eventually narrowed and then narrowed some more. Dave drove as I stared down a steep, deep valley. It was exacerbated by the number of cars traveling up and down the road.

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We reached the top where several attendants directed the cars into 3 parking lots. It was very chilly and windy at the top but the views were amazing. The miles and miles of yellow, orange, red and green trees were overwhelming.

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We had decided not to ride the cog railroad up the mountain because we couldn’t stop where we wanted. But a couple of the trains arrived when we did.

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We sipped on hot chocolates in a crowded snack shop, just looking out at the view. The sun had completely come out by the time we went back outside and everything had brightened considerably. We photographed some more and then watched the line of people waiting to be photographed by the high altitude sign. No thanks.

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The trip down went more quickly and soon we were back on Route 16, stopping to photograph some more.

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This guy was ziplining over the trees.

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Traffic in our lane slowed down 5 miles before we got back to the motel. We decided to catch an early dinner at a pub in Glen, NH. We happily sipped on Maple – Bacon Manhattans and enjoyed our dinner in the busy tavern. The traffic was still heavy, but we eventually got back. I downloaded 195 images from my camera. Lots of editing awaits.

 






October 10   Jordan Pond and Cadillac Mountain

The sky showed a little blue so we pulled it together and headed for Jordan Pond in Acadia NP. We got a good parking space because it was early and started the 3 mile hike. It was very windy so there were no reflections in the lake to be had. Dave re- photographed the tree that he first pictured many years ago that hangs in our bedroom. The blue sky gradually clouded over and the light was less interesting. But we persevered to the end of the pond and then returned the same way we came.

At one point, I fell behind Dave while trying to take a movie. I then rushed to catch up with him but never did.

I was soon back at the head of the trail but no Dave. I went to the car to leave him a note and suddenly there he was. It turned out he saw me go by him but I never saw him. He tried to catch up with me but I was walking too fast.

We sipped some coffee on the windy veranda outside the gift shop and looked down at the pond, after which we headed back to the car. We were both tired but drove up Cadillac Mountain, the high point in Acadia. As was everywhere else, it was very windy up there, but there were nice views of the Atlantic Ocean.

One more stop was the Tarn, a small body of water with a lot of lily pads and grasses. We decided to return to it the next day.

We got back to the cottage, rested, and cleaned up to go into town for our lobster dinner. We decided that Cherrystone’s was the location of the Parkside Restaurant we went to in 2008 for Dave’s birthday. We got the lazy lobster dinner so we didn’t even have to crack the lobster. It was wonderful!

What was better than lobster was that two Ukrainian bad guys were indicted and removed from their one-way flight out of the U.S. They are connected with Giuliani and the Trump re-election campaign. Maybe one step closer to impeachment?

October 11    Tarn Lake and the Atlantic Coast

It was cloudy when we rose for the day. We lollygagged a little and then drove up to Tarn Lake to check out the lily pads and grasses. We saw people walking along the opposite side and decided to take a walk over there.

I selected a route that totaled 3 miles but when told it included an 800-foot rise in elevation, we changed our mind and just walked along the edge of the tarn. Boulders were placed so that we could walk and hop along.

The tree colors were spectacular. The local rock is pink with green and gray lichen on it. Wonderful!

We met this guy on the trail and talked to him about 20 minutes, discussing visiting Mt. Washington NH, San Francisco, Montana, Yellowstone, etc. We ate lunch (peanut butter again!) and the sun came out as we headed back up the trail. The light was nicer now.

After we got back to the car, we had our cookies and coffee in a sunny garden and then we drove along the coast. The pink rocks edge the rocky coastline and the waves were pounding in the bracing air. We spent a short time out there and drove back to the cottage.

After relaxing a while, I heated a scintillating dinner of chicken pockets and buttered corn. We were in for the night.

October 7    Around Lake Winnepesaukee

It was cloudy when we woke up Monday morning. We chomped down some oatmeal and yoghurt and packed up to do a circuitous circuit around Lake Winnepesaukee. Mount Major was supposed to have great views from its peak and we reached there fairly quickly. It was starting to drizzle. The trail info let us know that the rocks were slippery towards the top of the steep 1100+ foot climb. We decided we weren’t going to the top.

It was pretty dim under the trees, with a slight but steady uphill drift, but it was a  pleasant walk. We reached a junction after a mile or so and decided to turn back. It began to rain just as we reached the car. We munched our sandwiches while watching it drip. I was very glad we weren’t hiking in it.

We continued around the lake, looking for spots where we could pull over and look around. There were none. Every street that ran lakeside was all private property overlooking the lake. That is one of the main differences between the East and West Coast. And when there were no houses between us and the lake, there was nowhere to pull over. There is very little public land at scenic spots.

Thank heavens for our Garmin. Lake Winnepesaukee has a lot of little peninsulas and we went the wrong way a few times before getting back on track. We took our coffee break in a small park in Meredith. The rain had downgraded to sprinkles.

We returned to our cottage, relaxed a bit and went to Nolan’s Tavern for dinner. It was the best fish and chips I’ve ever had.

October 8   Into Maine

We actually had to clean house a little before we departed. It took a while to collect everything that was spread out in three rooms. It was a fairly sunny day that was a pleasant change from the past two days.

I routed us in the general direction we were going so that we’d hit smaller roads next to lakes or rivers. The town of Freedom, NH was next to the Ossipee River and the trees had nice color.

I had to laugh I had forgotten that whenever someone stops by the side of the road to photograph, a lot of other leaf-peepers stop to see what looks so good. Of course, we do the same thing.

I routed us to quite large Sebago Lake, hoping there might be color in the trees around it, but no such luck. Instead, we ate lunch at the little private beach that belonged to town residents. No one rousted us at noon on a breezy Tuesday.

We crossed the state line into Maine and our first sight was a huge lobster attacking our American flag.

Surviving the encounter, we found our way to Boothbay Harbor, where we will reside at Cap’n Fish for the evening. After we settled into our harborfront motel, we went out to photograph in the soft light.

We ate dinner at the Tugboat Inn. We shared a very rich crab dip with fresh-baked bread with a bottle of wine. The moon was very hazy behind the clouds.

October 9   North to Acadia National Park

The next morning, we woke up very early and went out in search of a place to photograph sunrise on the East Coast. Initially, we couldn’t find a spot near the water. We eventually found Barrett’s Park and trotted around there for a while.

We were both tired when we got back to the room, but packed up and headed north to Acadia National Park. The foliage got progressively better as we along Highway 1 on the East Coast. We could see the Atlantic here and there from the road.

120 miles later, we were just outside of Bar Harbor when we ran into a bunch of cars pulled over by a river. An ambulance was pulled over also with its lights blinking. Not sure if there was an accident and/or a photographic opportunity, we pulled over also. It was an ideal view so we joined everyone else in photographing it. It’s so much easier for us because we don’t try to pose for selfies.

We soon reached our cabin at Otter Creek, within Acadia NP, about 5 miles south of busy Bar Harbor. It is a small cabin that is missing some basic amenities, like no soap dish or shelf in the small shower. And a sink with room for our toothbrush and toothpaste but nothing else near it put stuff except the toilet top. There is no dish towel in the kitchen. There is a coffee pot but no filters or coffee. On the bright side, we inherited some frozen fruit bars that were left in the freezer.

We were both very tired but went into Bar Harbor for dinner. Even on a Wednesday night, the small town was very crowded and it was difficult to find a parking space. Neither of us liked the dinners we ordered at a brewery. It’s hard to get a salad wrong but there was way too much vinegar in the dressing.

Finally, home, where we crashed for a while before climbing gingerly into a bed that I guess was a full size. We certainly filled it up and had to turn gingerly so we didn’t push the other person out of bed.

October 4-5

Traveling to Boston on JetBlue was just about effortless. Supershuttle arrived promptly at 5:30 a.m. and we chatted with our fellow travelers. The Harvey Milk Terminal at SFO is unfinished with its remodeling but we cleared security quickly and got our coffee and croissant at an Illy Café. Sunrise occurred while we sipped coffee at a comfortable table near the gate. Boarding was quick and easy. We got our bags into an adjacent luggage hold and settled into seats with a surprising amount of leg space.

I was center and my neighbor was a slender woman who was pleasant but didn’t want to talk. All right! The sound of a crying baby could be heard in the front of the plane, but nowhere near us. It was a sunny morning and before long we were watching Mono Lake going by many miles below.

After an easy descent into Logan Airport in Boston, our luggage showed up quickly and we boarded the bus to go to the car rental building. The line moved quickly and soon we were trying to find our way onto US-93 in a Toyota Camry. Being Friday evening, traffic was heavy, but nothing we’re not used to. We arrived at a Marriott Courtyard in Woburn, located in the middle of a leafy business park. The rest of the evening was spent lounging about in a very nice room and supping in the hotel lounge. All in all, a perfect travel day. We’re on vacation! (from being retired at home)

After a comfortable night in the Marriott, we found a Walmart to stock up on food. We’re staying in a cottage with a kitchen for 3 days, so we picked up some breakfast and lunch makings so we’re not going out for every meal. The problem in Walmart? It’s so big that Dave and I lost each other. So he called me when I was in the Ladies Room. We rendezvoused by the pharmacy and finished our shopping.

The ride up to Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, was very pleasant. We took mostly small roads and though the fall color change is barely started in this area, it is very leafy and beautiful. After we had traveled about 70 miles north, I looked for my phone in my purse. It wasn’t there. I used Dave’s phone to call it. No ringing in the car. I soon realized that I had left my phone in the Walmart bathroom. When we got to the cottage, I called Walmart and luckily, the phone was turned in. So we get to go back to Walmart and pick it up tomorrow. Whew!

The cottage is funky but works for us. A tiny kitchen, a large bed that’s comfortable to lounge on and a serviceable bathroom. The ceiling is high and peaked. There is a loft but no ladder to go up there. We also have our own little outdoor patio but it’s a little chilly to swing on our swinging chair. So we distributed a large portion of our suitcases around our suite and went for a walk.

The Bridge Falls Walking Trail was only a couple of blocks away. It runs 12 or so miles along disused train tracks and runs past a couple of lakes. It was warm and sunny and there were lots of people, dogs and bikes using the path. We went a half-mile or so, turned around and walked back to downtown Wolfeboro.

After selecting where we wanted to eat dinner in town, we returned to the cottage, cleaned up and sipped our drinks in a restaurant, watching the sun set over Lake Winnepesaukee.

October 6  

It was sunny when we woke up but was solid clouds when we took off. We were going northwest around Lake W and then had to drive back south to Saugus, MA to retrieve my phone. So it was going to be a 200+ mile driving day. The foliage was beginning to turn red but wasn’t explosively colorful yet. The road we were on didn’t run right by the lake, so we stopped where we usually stop: cemeteries, churches and viewpoints.

We stopped at another small cemetery with an ornate fence. As we wandered all over, a man came towards us from the nearby house. Expecting him to yell at us for intruding, he welcomed us and said it was his wife’s family graveyard for the nearby homes.

My pre-trip planning led us to Castle in the Clouds, a mansion with a spectacular view from its hill. We paid $10 just to drive in and wound our way up the hill, stopping to trek uphill to some nice little waterfalls.

Lake Winnipesaukee

When we got to the parking area further up the hill, I saw a small, stone dwelling perched on the side of the hill. “Is that the mansion?” No, it was the carriage house, where the trolley picked you up to take you to the mansion after you paid $15 each. We decided we didn’t care that much about the mansion, ate lunch in the car, overlooking a lovely valley, and continued on our way.

Many years ago, we had camped at Loon Lake in Maine and heard the lonesome sounds of the loons calling in the evening. I was hoping that we could hear them again at the Loon Preservation Center. We were told that the loons have already raised their chicks and are migrating out to the Atlantic for the winter. We went for a short hike there and took off for the long trip south.

On the Loon Preserve Trail

The great thing about New Hampshire is that most of the roads are two-lane, windy roads that go through small towns and villages every few miles. The bad thing about New Hampshire is that it takes a while to reach the few interstate highways. So we threaded our way along the 15 miles to reach I-93 and then drove about 80 miles southeast. Getting off, we threaded our way along 8 miles to reach the Walmart where my phone was waiting for me. And then – 90 miles northwest to get home. The Camry is very comfortable, but that’s a long drive. We were very tired when we got back, so we picked up a pizza and a bottle of wine and returned to our cottage for dinner.

May 20- 24       Going home

Monday was takeoff day. It was going to be a marathon driving schedule for us: around 200 miles per day for 4 days. We woke up to a sky with clouds but also with lots of blue spots. Looked pretty good. The route was to catch I-70 west for a short distance and then go northwest on US-6 towards Provo and Salt Lake City.

We could see showers occurring all around us and we were making guesses as to how many miles it would take before we got rained on. We kept avoiding showers until we reached Soldier Pass. Then we got rain that turned to sleet that turned to a little bit of snow. We just kept rolling.

After Soldier Pass, the weather cleared up but a cloud that looked like a nuclear explosion was settled over Salt Lake City.

I selected an RV park in Draper, Utah. I figured Draper was 15 miles south of Salt Lake City and we would avoid heavy traffic and busy streets. Wrong! Draper was a built-up, crowded suburb of Salt Lake City. On I-15 at 2 p.m., traffic wasn’t bad in our direction but was stop-and-go heading south. The Mountain Shadows RV park was right next to I-15 and okay. It’s WiFi was inadequate, as usual.

I was trying to avoid downtown SLC. We just wanted to get to I-80 west with as little effort as possible. But we needed gas so I routed us to a Maverik station on the west end of SLC. I thought it wouldn’t be crowded. Wrong! Dave maneuvered across, around and everything but over a load of cars and another motorhome. When he finally got to some pumps, they were both out of service. Winding his way out of there was as stressful as winding his way in. We finally got gas at another station far from the highway.

We got on I-80 near the west end of the Great Salt Lake. The light on the lake was weird and wonderful but there was nowhere to pull over. The Lake looked full to me. We’ve seen it very low in past years, but not now. There were 2 lanes of I-80 going west and there was water in differing shades of green on both sides. The same was true of the 2 lanes going east. Levees had been built every so often for vehicles that had to get from eastbound to westbound lanes. It was eerie and somewhat frightening to have water on both sides and only about 3 feet below the roadbed. I’m sure it was only a foot or so deep but it was still unsettling. The wind didn’t help. Dave was driving and struggling to keep the motorhome and toad in one lane.

The flat glassiness of the water and mud and the reflections were beautiful but we couldn’t stop. After 40 miles or so, we reached a rest stop at the Bonneville Flats. We hopped out, anxious to make some wonderful images and it just didn’t work very well.

We continued on. It had been years since we were last heading west on I-80 from Utah and we couldn’t remember how many mountain passes there were. There were quite a few. We got back into some snow but the wind wasn’t too bad.

We finally reached our destination, the Iron Horse RV Park in Elko, Nevada. Elko was another surprise. It’s grown a lot and now has 3 major supermarkets. With a 20% discount for a nearby Hilton Hotel, we braved more rain and had a nice dinner there. The couple next to us started a conversation and it turned out that they were full-timers but had only been doing that for 18 months or so. They were enjoying the lifestyle quite a bit.

Wednesday was another long driving day. It was pretty boring. It never stopped sprinkling-raining for 175 miles. Because there is nothing else within 50 miles east or west, we stopped at Rye Patch State Park. It’s right next to the Rye Patch dam. I couldn’t find the last time we were here, but it was a while ago. I wasn’t expecting much at all. I was quite surprised.

There is so much water in the reservoir that the spillway was going. We camped by the river and saw a lot of wildlife in and around the water. Namely, turkeys (8), Grebes (4), Coots (2), 2 large Herons, several Terns, and lots of smaller birds flitting around. Then Dave pointed out a deer grazing in our campsite. What a plethora of fauna! (Are birds fauna?) We also got a few hours of non-rainy weather and pulled out the binoculars to watch the wildlife. What an unexpected pleasure! Camping at its best for $15.

Why did the turkey cross the road?


A Heron and a Grebe

Thursday morning, two huge birds flew in – Pelicans. The turkeys were being stalked by a photographer. It was serene and lovely. I wish we could have stayed another day.

We were back on the road by ten. It was the most boring morning of driving on the entire trip, I think. Flat light, no interesting landscape, and drizzle all day long. We stopped for lunch near Reno. We watched a truck towing a fifth wheel spin into the rest stop. The side door on the fifth wheel flew open before he was fully stopped and I waited for someone to emerge. Nobody did. The driver popped the hood of the truck and looked intently inside. He never looked around to see that the door on the fifth wheel was open. Before I could get up and go outside to tell him, he closed the hood, jumped back in the truck and took off down I-80 with the door flapping. I hope everything worked out okay for him. As Dave does, it is wise to walk around your rig every time you stop.

The surroundings got more interesting as we rose into the mountains and entered California. There was quite a bit of snow on the mountains that was nice to see at the end of May. We arrived at our usual RV park at 2 p.m. or so and began some of the cleanup.

Things get dirty after two months of use and some of them are not convenient to clean at home. I pulled out the kitchen blinds, laid them out on the picnic table and scrubbed each slat individually on both sides. The amount of grease on them is horrifying. Half the slats are all bent out of shape. I should try to replace them but I don’t think that will be easy. Anyway, we spent the remainder of the afternoon cleaning for a while, then reading or computing for a while, then cleaning for a while. Boring, but necessary.

The drive home on Friday  was only notable by the fact that there was no slowdown getting to the Bay Bridge. On Memorial Day weekend? Wow! We got home around 1:30 or 2, managed to park right in front of the house and began the unload.

Lessons learned

Be adaptable– The beginning of the trip changed everything. We couldn’t visit Daffodil Hill in the Sierra Foothills. Had we gone there, we would have headed east on I-80 and missed all the flowers in Southern California.

Many BLM campgrounds are quite nice– As the price of RV parks rises, BLM campsites are a great alternative. Additionally, as we don’t like to make advance reservations, we can’t even get into many popular campgrounds.

Spend more time at each location– As we get older, it takes too much energy to keep changing camps every two days. And many of the campgrounds we stay at are good places to hang out.

Keep finding new places to visit– The first inclination is to revisit the places we enjoyed on earlier trips. But we found some new locations that were great, such as the Neon Museum in Reno, the Mansard Trail in Kanab and the White Rim Overlook Trail on Island in the Sky.

Go early or go late– As more people visit all the locations we love, we have learned that arriving early in the morning or in late afternoon reduces the wait time and the crowds. Plus, the light is usually better in the morning or late afternoon.

Be aware of your surroundings– As photographers, we always do this visually. But a keynote we will remember about this trip was the scent of the Cliff Rose bushes that pervaded the desert landscape.

And last but not least:

Love gets better– We celebrated 30 years of marriage and 40 years of being together on this trip. I love and appreciate Dave more than ever after all this time.