As I write this we are camped at Andrews Air Force Base, now known as Joint Base Andrews just outside Washington, DC to the Southeast. We are here so I can complete my training for the Marine Corps Marathon. We chose Andrews for a variety of reasons. Some of the more important ones include:
1. A location that offers long runs without being either really creative or having to do out and backs. Andrews offers a circular route that is just over nine miles long. Therefore, I can get nearly any distance in without looking at the same things more than a few times.
2. A safe place to run with respect to traffic.
3. A place to run without the mountainous terrain I was faced with all summer.
4. A climate that will morph itself into the climate that will exist on race day. In fact, it is doing just that.
5. The ability to learn the routes and not have to relearn them every few days as we will be here for the duration of my training.
So, now that you know where we are and why we are here, you may be wondering what happened to us between my last post and now. When I last left you we were on our way to Lake Placid, New York from the St. Lawrence waterway. That last article was posted on July 26th. I will start my recounting of the remainder of our travels with what will certainly sound like a lame excuse for my lack of posting for all these weeks. I think the primary reason for the lapse has to be attributed to my mental exhaustion from training, writing, sightseeing and driving. Once I got several days behind, there was the additional stress of “how do I get caught up?” now that I am so far behind. Before long many stops were rather dim memories and it was just that much harder to catch up.
When I first started this travel blog one of the reasons I had in mind was to hopefully discipline myself to write something each and every day in the hopes that someday I might have the necessary discipline to actually write a book. As I have demonstrated over the last four plus years, I have yet to develop that discipline. I thought I had made some headway earlier this year as I was finding it a little easier to sit down in front of the computer each day and write something for several days in a row. I didn’t necessarily post every day that I wrote, but I did contribute to those articles that I did post nearly every day. As the summer played out I became more and more weary due in part to trying to do too much. As well as my running and our traveling with the sightseeing and visiting of friends both new and old, I was also trying to learn a second language which required much more time than I was able to give. I finally put the second language on the back burner with the promise to myself that once the training is over I will pick it up and make great strides with it. I was also trying to read a book a week while also keeping up with all the periodicals we get via our occasional mail drops. The book reading has also moved off the front burner and I have developed a healthier approach to my magazine reading.
So, to summarize, I got myself in over my head and somewhere around Lake Placid the blog wheels fell off.
So, what is different now? Well, as mentioned I am reading less, we are at a location where we will do very little in the way of sightseeing between now and the end of this month for sure, my training plan is sort of in auto in that I don’t have to search for routes and figure out distances, and I have managed to get some real mental relaxation in over the past few weeks such that I can look back at the last several weeks with a fresher set of eyes. Once I get caught up the blog will take an honest back burner position as there will be little to write about until we again start our next adventure. So, I feel somewhat energized by the knowledge that I will get myself to an earned breakpoint with the end of this composition. Lastly, I have a few days on my hands with very little else to do as Connie is visiting friends in Pinehurst, North Carolina. It gets very lonely around here without her, so I can fill that lonely space with keystrokes and get caught up.
So, there you have it, my lame excuse for the long silence. Now to get back on the road, or revisit where the road took us.
From the Thousand Islands area we traveled the relatively short distance to Adirondack Park and more specifically the Lake Placid area of northern New York. As it turned out we wound up staying in two different RV Parks while in the area due to not being able to get a continuous reservation in the first park chosen due to the Lake Placid Iron Man contest to be competed the day after we were to leave. We likely could have stayed in the second place for the entire time of our stay in the area, but Connie wisely booked what was available at the first place in fear that we would have no place to stay if she were to shop around. Bird in hand and all that good stuff. Both of these RV Parks were north of the village of Lake Placid in the town of Wilmington, New York. As we drove through Lake Placid we could tell the village was really hopping as it prepared for the iron man competition. Many of the in-town Olympic venues were to be used for the iron man. It was great to see so many people walking around town and going in and out of the ample shops the village has to offer. I am sure that this annual event adds a tremendous amount to the local businesses’ annual incomes.
Although the running was sort of tough for me while we were in the area I did get a bit of a boost from all the iron man participants who were on the roads practicing for their big day. I found it interesting that most of the people I saw were practicing the bicycle ride portion of the event. At least on the open highways where I did my running that was what I saw. Later in the week we saw tens of people running through Lake Placid and out into the surrounding area. So, maybe they were practicing the different events in different areas.
We were not in the area to watch the triathlon. Although had we known it was going to be going on far enough in advance I would have put in a bid to arrive later and leave later so that I could watch parts of it. That would have required knowledge that the event is held there each year at the same time and more advance research into reservations. As it was I made myself satisfied watching the training people were doing.
We were in the area to sightsee and explore. We did plenty of both as we drove around and across the great expanse of land known as Adirondack Park. I need to step back for just a few words here to discuss the park’s history a little. Unlike a National Park or the traditional state park, Adirondack Park was established by the New York State Legislature in 1971 to control the development and protect the natural resources of the area. The park is huge, with an area of approximately 6 million acres. This makes it the largest single area of protected land in the lower 48. However, that does not mean that it is all undeveloped land. In fact easily half of the six million acres have been developed and are privately owned. However the governing agency, Adirondack Park Agency has a very tight lock on just what sort of development may occur and they do a darned good job of enforcement. As a result, there is what appears to be great harmony between the various industries including mining, timber, tourism and farming that share in the utilization of this vast territory.
During our stay we drove to the top of Whiteface Mountain. While this drive is not quite as tough as our climb up Pikes Peak in Colorado last year, it was certainly just as scenic while offering some rather hairy turns. We went up on the best weather day we would have while in the area and it wasn’t great. Having said that, I did get some pretty good images along the way which are posted on my web album for this article.
|Whiteface Mountain, NY|
We also walked the streets of Lake Placid. This was a lot of fun. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for this tiny village to host the Winter Olympics, not once but two times in the modern era in 1928 and again in 1980. These people are really brave. As it is the Olympic venues are still in use as training grounds for current and future Olympians. To host the world in this small yet very scenic location must have been a huge challenge. I suspect the current challenge with all the added security and media covering the games would likely make Lake Placid less attractive as a host “city” in the future.
We scoured the map of Adirondack Park looking for the most logical place to find some of the local birds that we might not have on our life lists and decided on a location that was really about half way around the park from where we were camped. We actually got a fairly early start and made the drive which was absolutely beautiful itself to get to the Tahawres Highway in the eastern part of the park. We picked a location off this highway to start a hike that we hoped would lead us to some pretty good birding. We found the parking area at the trailhead with very little trouble, but as we arrived so did the rain. So, we ate our lunch while waiting for the rain to pass and then started down the trail. At the trail head the trail was about as wide as a two lane road. It stayed fairly wide for a good long time, but the surface condition of the trail gradually degraded to the point that we were hopping from rock to rock to avoid ankle deep mud. After just a few miles and not too many birds we made the decision to turn back.
As we continued our drive around the park we eventually found a visitor center which offered miles of well maintained trails and what looked to be some pretty good birding. Unfortunately we got there late enough in the day that we would likely have insufficient light long enough to make it worth the effort to try our luck on the trails. Had we only known!
The day we moved from one campground to the other gave us an opportunity to take another hike. This time we would walk from our campsite up the slope in the general direction of Whiteface Mountain. I won’t bore you with all the details, but we got lost. Connie was leading as went out and I thought she was doing a great job. We eventually decided we needed to turn back as we were concerned that we would be losing daylight before returning to the campground if we continued outbound any longer. As we made our way back down the trail we somehow got off the trail we had gone up and ended up at a road we did not recognize. After backtracking to try to pick up the original trail again, we again wound up in the same wrong place. Eventually we followed the road out and ended up about a mile north of our campground. We had been headed west when we left the campground! Needless to say we survived. And in fact our walk took us past a chocolate store where we were able to “reward” ourselves for finding our way out with a chocolate chip cookie.
On our last day in the Adirondacks we took another driving tour. This time we found Ticonderoga. Fort Ticonderoga was the site for two major battles; one where the French successfully defended the fort from the British in the French and Indian War only have the British recapture it later. The second was during the American Revolution when the colonists defeated the British for control of the fort also marking the first major victory for the colonists. The area around the fort has long produced timber that is processed in the valley into paper products. The Ticonderoga Pencil Company also got its start in the area. The pencil company was actually a spin off operation from the Dixon Crucible Company, a company that utilized the naturally occurring graphite from the area in the manufacture of crucibles. It is interesting how one industry spawns a seemingly unrelated industry, a phenomenon that has gone on for centuries.
The Adirondack Park and specifically the Lake Placid area should be a must see for anyone traveling into Upper New York State. I honestly believe there is enough to do to occupy an entire season in this rather large portion of New York. However, our time was limited and after some six nights in the area we were off to Vermont to see what that great state had to offer.
On July 24th we drove from Wilmington, New York 197 miles to St. Johnsbury, Vermont. St Johnsbury is a small town in northeast Vermont about where Interstate highways 91 and 93 meet. We stayed at a really nice small privately owned campground that offered a ton of activities for its size. Unfortunately due to its location along the Moose River deep down in the valley it did not enjoy that modern convenience of cell phone reception. I will forever use that as my excuse for not getting the Lake Placid adventure out on my blog in a timely fashion (of course that would be stretching the truth a lot). Having no cell phone coverage in this day and age is a real nuisance. However, in this case it was worse than a simple nuisance because we were planning to meet with another of that great group of internet talkers, The Loons and Larks. We had never met this couple and the plan all along had been for us to call them when we got settled and they would come to the park to meet us and see our home and we would all go to dinner from there. So, after getting settled and making the coach presentable to strangers we drove back into town to find a signal. Connie made the arrangements for Priscilla and Russ to meet us at the park with the caveat that should they get lost, don’t call because we won’t get it. What a way to meet new people. Well, they didn’t get lost and we were very happy to add two more people to our growing list of Loons and Larks we have made actual contact with during our travels around the country. We spent a delightful evening getting to know these folks much better than you can via discussions about pets, birds, politics etc. via an internet discussion group. For Russ and me it was even more revealing as we are the spouses of the Loons and Larks and as such we don’t read all that is posted to the group. Sometimes I think that were I not so busy I would start a discussion group of the spouses/significant others of the Loons and Larks. We could talk about those things that the Loons leave out. What fun that would be.
Anyway, we had a wonderful time with Priscilla and Russ and we hope to spend more time with them in the future.
Our campsite backed up to the Moose River thereby providing us with a great place to park our camp chairs and enjoy the peacefulness of the river flowing by while enjoying a soda or a beer in the late afternoons before dinner. I really felt that those twenty to thirty minutes most evenings while we were there recharged my batteries more than the sleep I also enjoyed.
Our days were filled with great drives to even greater destinations. One day we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream plant and after taking what was a great tour we sampled the product at their patio sampling station. I got a two scoop cone and was feeling pretty full of myself until I got back to the table with it and met Connie’s newest friends, a foursome of twenty-somethings who had asked to share the table with us while they waited for their order to be delivered. There is a photo of their order below. Now that is a lot of ice cream. We didn’t stay to see if they ate the whole thing or not. Wow!!!
|Ben and Jerrys|
The next day we went to The Rock of Ages quarry. I don’t know what either of us was thinking, with a name like Rock of Ages we should have been thinking monuments/headstones, but we weren’t. It didn’t much matter what the product was that the company was selling; the fact that they have a great working quarry is what we wanted to see. We took the tour and we were not disappointed. We learned a good bit about how granite is quarried and I can tell you it isn’t an easy process. There are some photos from the tour included in the web album linked to below.
We were also able to fit in a tour of the Cabot Creamery where those great Cabot cheeses are produced. Having thought we knew a lot about cheese making, we were both surprised to learn more about the process than we had known. We also learned that Cabot, as well as other cheese and cheese product creameries, also make and package cheese and cheese products for others, such as major grocery chains. The tour guide asked that we not divulge for whom they manufacture products, but there is a simple way to learn who made your favorite product by simply going to whereismymilkfrom.com and typing the product code printed somewhere on the package and you will learn who made it and at which facility.
Another way to tell by which company something was made is to know the packaging of the various manufacturers. When you see something in a Cabot look-a-like package with some store brand on it you can pretty well assume Cabot made it. The trick is to know who the chicken is and who the egg is.
It goes without saying that I have been running at each of our stopping places. Most places netted me with multiple runs. I was able to squeeze in two eleven mile runs while in St. Johnsbury.
Next stop was East Thetford, Vermont all of 50 miles south of St. Johnsbury. However, moving that fifty miles set us up for an easier drive to take in some other drives we were interested in and to visit another of the Loons and Larks. We camped at another privately owned and very well maintained campground called Rest ‘n Nest Campground. The owners are wonderful people and really know how to make you feel at home. By now we were in the relaxation mode and were keen on taking life a little easier. We did some preliminary exploring the afternoon of our arrival looking for groceries and a safe route for me to run. Our first full day found us doing laundry rather than sightseeing. On Saturday we took a drive to the White Mountains of New Hampshire and drove up Mount Washington. Yet another take-your- breath- away drive and we have the sticker to prove it. We both got some great photos from this trip and the best of them are in the web album that follows, eventually.
On Saturday we went our friend Marilyn’s house near Lebanon, New Hampshire. Marilyn is another of the Loons and Larks. Following a tour of her new home and a catch up on what has been going on in life chat we headed out to Quechee for lunch at the Simon Prince glass factory. The restaurant at the glass factory offers a rather unique dining experience. Everything is fresh made and I think they use local products as much as possible. We certainly all had wonderful dishes and we were not under any pressure to vacate the table even though the restaurant was quite busy. That was nice as we had not seen Marilyn in a long time and therefore had a lot to talk about. Following lunch we took a short drive to a nearby nature preserve and bird rehabilitation facility where we were treated to a birds of prey exhibition and flight show as well as a walking tour where we were able to visit the birds that have been saved by the facility following near fatal encounters with automobiles and other man made obstacles to free flight. It was a wonderful day spent with an enormously wonderful person.
The next day we drove the length of the Green Mountain Range. We were in and out of stormy weather and therefore were not able to capture the beauty of this region in pixels.
Marilyn had told us about a great little restaurant in the very small town of Walpole, New Hampshire. She described it as another very unique place to get an out of the ordinary lunch. We decided to give it a shot and on our last day in the area we took a drive to Walpole. Arriving well ahead of lunch time we studied the menu and took a look around in the chocolate store that is operated by the same owner.
With our taste buds entranced we decided to drive further down the road to Keene, New Hampshire to kill some time before lunch. Keene is a college town and as such offered a Starbucks to satisfy that need as we drove back to lunch in Walpole. The rumor that preceded our stop was accurate and we had another absolutely wonderful lunch. We did learn that eating early would have been a good idea as the place was absolutely packed during the conventional lunch hour. That said, we were not disappointed in the service. We stopped back at the chocolate store on our way out and we could not resist buying a bag of cocoa beans that had been dipped in cocoa powder making them doubly delicious. I nearly forgot about the small grocery store on the corner of the same block and owned by the same owner as the restaurant and chocolate store. This place seemed to be the other place in town where everyone goes. The clerks new all the customers with the exception of us and the variety of gourmet foods they offer is just amazing. We somehow got out of there with only one small purchase, but it was really hard.
From East Thetford we traveled another long distance, 109 miles, to Brownfield, Maine. We needed to drive through Maine in order to get to put the Maine decal on our US Map that adorns the outside of our slide out wall on the motorhome. Maine is a pretty big state as East Coast states go, so it seemed logical that we should try to spend a few days exploring areas we missed when we lived there and when we toured the state in that first month of retirement while in our former motorhome. However, we picked a town right on the New Hampshire/Maine border that as it turned out did not offer us much in the way of great touring of Maine. We did attempt to visit a nearby lake that looks really nice and accessible on the map, but as we drove around the lake we learned that unless you own waterfront property or have a boat you don’t get to see much of the lake at all. That said, the drive was nice.
We decided to spend the rest of our day back in New Hampshire at the outlet mall in North Conway, so not all was lost. In fact we bought what I am sure will be my marathon uniform at the Nike Factory Store, a bright yellow (as in gold) sleeveless T-shirt (the modern substitute for a race singlet) and navy blue shorts with five inch inseam. Therefore, I will be dressed in Navy colors head to toe, well head to shorts anyway as my shoes are white.
On another day we drove back to New Hampshire to visit Lake Winnipesauke which was a lot more fruitful a drive. Most of our sightseeing during this leg of our journey was via automobile.
From Maine we took the motorhome back into New Hampshire this time driving south to Dover, New Hampshire and the Old Stage Campground. Those of you who have been with me since the beginning of this journey and who have better than excellent memories will recognize this campground as we stayed there in 2006. It is the closest and most affordable campground to Kittery, Maine and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It is also very close to the home of Pat and Marty who you may also remember from several posts on this blog. Pat and I worked together at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard during my last tour on active duty in the Navy. She and her husband Marty have remained very close friends of ours since. We once rendezvoused in south Florida just before the Super Bowl for a few days of partying and reconnecting. Marty is known for his lack of adventure when it comes to dining, so we always try to put him in shock by introducing him to food he would never eat on his own. I have to say that over the years he has improved his pallet. We have a long way to go though.
Our purpose in returning to the Kittery/Portsmouth area was to visit with some of the wonderful people I was fortunate to work alongside during those last months of my active duty service. We were not disappointed. As well as spending some great quality time with Pat and Marty, we were able to take the remaining office staff from my former office to an extended lunch where we all caught up on what the others were up to. That group included Robin, the lady who I described in my retirement speech as the person who has no real job description because her area of responsibilities bridges far too many categories. We were also fortunate to have Jessica come along. Jessica has a new title and I have forgotten what it is, but she is the one who made sure I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there. That was a true challenge indeed. Of course Pat came along to make sure I got the others back at a reasonable time. It was a great get-together although way too short for my liking. We made the best of the time we had though. While at the office we also got to see the former Command Master Chief turned Public Affairs Assistant and sometimes spokesperson for the Shipyard, Gary. It was great seeing him and doing the Reader’s Digest catch up on what has been going on in his life and that of his family. We were disappointed to not be able to see the Shipyard Commander who was not there while I was, but was the Repair Officer at Trident Refit Facility Kings Bay, GA while I was the Executive Officer of that command. Bryant is an outstanding naval officer and I am a better person for having had the opportunity to work with him. We were also delighted to have lunch with the former director of the Fleet and Family Service Center at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Janie. Janie has moved on to become the counselor assigned to the Naval Medical Branch at the shipyard. She was a rather new government employee when I arrived at the shipyard. She loved her job as a counselor, but was not overjoyed being the director. I tried to make her job more enjoyable by lobbying hard for an increase in staffing so that the small office was not so overwhelmed. My strategy backfired somewhat in that the office now has the proper number of billets to handle the workload, but in doing so the director’s position moved further and further towards management and away from counseling. Janie made the right move for her in transitioning to the medical facility. She is missed by the shipyard folks as much as she is happy in her new position. Connie, Janie and I had a great lunchtime chat and we think we got pretty well caught up to date with her. We missed seeing Janie’s husband, George as his schedule just could not flex enough to match our rather fluid one.
We also spent an evening with our good friends and boss, Charly and Walt. Charly is the manager at the on base RV Park at Kings Bay. She and Walt took the summer off to avoid the high heat and humidity of the southeast and took jobs at a commercial RV Park on the Maine Coast. Of the millions of decisions they have made in the lives this one will likely fall into the “ oops” department. First of all the weather in New England was nearly as inhospitable as that of the southeast’s. Second, the park they worked in was not the friendly place to work it was when they last worked there. We suspect that some of the problem with the work environment stems from the recession while a good part of it stems from new management who doesn’t really have the big mosaic when it comes to campgrounds or personnel management. Charly and Walt were counting the days before getting on the road headed for Kings Bay and at least one more winter of fun with the Madias. As I write this Charly should be whipping Kings Bay back into shape so that when Connie and I get there in a few weeks it will be like coming home.
Finally, we were able to visit with the staff and management of our favorite restaurant in New England, Anneke Jans, located adjacent to the shipyard in historic downtown Kittery, Maine. There have been some changes in the restaurant since we left, but not many. We were able to chat with Charlie, the chef who has become quite famous in the area for his scrumptious creations. We were surprised to see that Anne who was once part of the wait staff is now tending bar and doing a darned good job of it. She seemed as happy to see us as we her. Anthony took over as manager just as we were leaving and he continues to do an exceptional job in that position and we were very happy to have been able to spend a few minutes with him. We missed seeing the owners by one night and we also missed seeing the former bar manager who is now working as a wine distributor but still helping in the bar from time to time. It would have been great to see all of them, but given the shortness of our visit we did quite well.
We spent five nights in the area and as well as seeing all these people we ate at four of the finest restaurants in the area, spent most of one day doing the Kittery Outlet Malls, I ran several miles and we even moved campsites in the middle of it all. By the way during that move I managed to find a tree with the awning. The tree was bent towards the roadway and there was a pothole that I steered to the right to avoid. Should have steered left. Enough said. No serious damage.
Our next move was to Hanscom Air Force Base outside Boston, Massachusetts. This is another campground we have stayed at before. We came back here so we would be close to more of our Loons and Larks friends, Katherine and Marvin. We would also meet up with our good friends Chuck and Diane here. Chuck and Diane are nurses who live in New York. There will be a lot more about that later. They work at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. There schedule goes something like this: One day of travel from home to Hanscom. That evening is the only evening they are available to socialize. Sleep as late as possible the next day and go to work in the evening. Repeat that step five more times with a drive back home at the end of the rotation. They spend a like number of days at home then start the cycle all over. They work 12 hour shifts in the neonatal intensive care nursery, so their work is important and it is challenging to say the least. They have been doing this for a number of years and really enjoy it. I suspect there are thousands of parents out there who really are thankful that people like Chuck and Diane are there when they are needed.
Anyway, we were to spend their first night back at Hanscom catching up and making sure we understood the directions to their home in New York as that would be our next stop. That was really the last time we saw them except maybe to see the car drive off in the evening as they left for work.
On Friday we went to Katherine and Marvin’s where we got to tour the addition they put on their home since we were last there. What a gorgeous and spacious improvement they made. Yet another Loon or Lark, Jess, came in from New York for the weekend. Jess and I met for the first time while Connie and I were in New York following our stint as volunteers at a Delaware State Park. We share a passion for photography, so it is always fun to talk to her and find out what she is up to.
After the tour we went to a nearby Indian restaurant and had a great evening of catching up. The next night Katherine and Marvin hosted a great dinner party including us, Emily and Ken from the famed Loons and Larks, Michael and Daphne who have been close friends of Katherine and Marvin for decades and, of course, Jess. It was a good party with wonderful food and great conversation that covered quite a spectrum of subjects.
On Monday, Connie and Katherine traveled to another Loon’s home. Unfortunately, Dixie is now deceased and the purpose of the visit was to continue the process of dealing with her belongings, a task no one cherishes. Katherine is Dixie’s excutrix and therefore the responsibility lies with her. I am certain that having Connie along made the journey a little less daunting. Dixie was a good friend. She and I shared many a private e-mail over the years concerning things she didn’t necessarily want to discuss with the Loons and Larks. She was a great supporter of mine and I really do miss her and her outrageous comments.
We had one more evening out with Katherine and Marvin before we headed to Foster, Rhode Island where we would visit friends in Connecticut. That night would be at their favorite Japanese restaurant. As usual the food was great, but then good food always tastes better when shared with such wonderful friends.
At this point I need to cut away for a little technical discussion. For weeks if not months we had been noticing a worsening problem with the balance of our front wheels on the motorhome. You may recall that while in Alaska last summer we had them rebalanced. Well it seems they were never quite right after that and as the miles have added up the condition of the tires has degraded. While at Hanscom we looked for and found a place that would rebalance them for us. We scheduled an appointment for the day we were leaving for Rhode Island. This place we found, Creonte Tire and Auto Repair, is a great family owned business The fellow who started the business did so following his wartime service in the Navy. Connie immediately noticed the huge battle group photo hanging in the front of the business and after I had made the arrangements for the work she asked the guy I had been talking to who was the navy person in the family. Well, that got this guy talking a thousand words a minute about how much his father, Mr. Creonte thought of his time in the navy and the many reunions he has attended since being away. He told us he would introduce us but “Dad is in Florida”. We assumed the elder statesman of the establishment had retired to Florida, because no one goes there in the summer if they don’t live there. Anyway, the next day we were at the Base Exchange at Hanscom and there was a concessionaire selling ball caps representing all services. He had several that said Navy Veteran on them. Connie suggested I buy one to pass along to old salt. I did and the guy who sold it to me told me I wasn’t old enough to be a vet. What a laugh we all got out of that.
On our way out of the area we stop in to get the wheels balanced and who is there but the patriarch of the business himself. My contact, Mr. Creonte’s son, went out to the shop where his dad was working, yes, I mean working with tires and wheels, and told him there was a couple he wanted him to meet. Well, the old boy was just elated to have the new hat and immediately took it into his office so no one would walk off with it. Then every time he walked by he would tell us another sea story. It was great.
Meanwhile the crew is working on our balance problem. Finally I get called to the shop and shown just how badly cupped the right front tire has become from being out of balance for so long. Even though they had installed this powdery substance they told me I was likely going to have to replace the tires to get relief. It didn’t take us long to realize they were right. If anything the ride was made worse by the magic powder as it searched in vain for a balance point. Did I happen to mention that the vibrations are worst at 55 MPH, my favorite speed for safety and fuel economy? I tried really hard to drive above or below 55 MPH all the way to Foster.
Our chosen campground in Foster was another place we had stayed before in the old motorhome while making our way slowly out of New England in 2006. Ginny B’s is another family owned and operated campground catering to the summer crowd who is escaping from the realities of life. As such, there is no cell service, no wifi, no antenna TV reception and no satellite reception. Although those latter two are somewhat dependant on site location, our site was free of anything modern with the exception of water, electricity and sewer connections.
The last time we stayed at Ginny B’s we were there to attend the wedding of our good friend Laura. This time we were there to see Laura and her husband of four years, Scott. The plan was for us to call them when we got settled and they would come to us as they wanted to see our motorhome and Scott wanted to see a bridge on the property that he designed. Great plan, tough execution as we had to drive several miles to get a strong enough signal to sustain a telephone conversation. We made the contact and since they knew the way to the campground we didn’t need to worry about missing a “we are lost call”.
We spent three nights at Ginny B’s. The first night we went out to dinner with Scott and Laura at a more or less local restaurant. I say more or less, because in this part of rural Rhode Island nothing is really close. The next day Connie and I went to Groton, Connecticut where we had once been stationed. Our purpose was to do some shopping at the commissary and exchange. We drove around a bit to see how much the base and area has changed. We were not really all that impressed. Late that afternoon we went to Central Village, Connecticut, to Laura and Scott’s home where we got the grand tour of the house and fabulous gardens and we were treated to a marvelous dinner that was made entirely from products of those gardens with two exceptions and I have forgotten what they were although I did give Laura some grief for them at the time. Laura is a wonderfully creative cook. She has never met a recipe that she cannot improve. Her culinary skills are matched by her gardening skills. Although she doesn’t grow her own wheat, she still bakes a mean loaf of bread. We had a great time sharing dinner with another couple who have added to the joy of traveling the country visiting our friends.
Sunday was an on-again-off-again rainy day. By the way, the entire time we were at Laura’s she complained about the lack of rain the area had gotten all summer. Well, let me tell you they did a great job of trying to catch up starting about the time Connie and I went to bed Saturday night. By the time the weekend was over I was wondering if we were going to be able to drive off our grassy campsite without getting bogged down. I digress. On that rainy Sunday we drove to Newport, Rhode Island to visit the naval base and more importantly to see the mansions that line the streets and the waterfront. We had as good a time as we could have given the rain. The rain let up enough for us to park the car in the historic district and walk the streets and explore some of the shops for a while before heading back to Foster. All in all our three days in Foster were pretty good and we didn’t really miss all the tech stuff we didn’t have because we were rarely at the campground while awake.
Next stop, Hurley, New York and a repeat visit with Chuck and Diane. This time we would be parked in their driveway. There driveway is about an eighth of a mile long and is S shaped for added privacy. At the bottom of the driveway there is an oversized paved parking area providing plenty of level space for our motorhome, our car and their two cars. To get down the driveway we had to back the motorhome because Chuck felt it was too tight to turn it around at the bottom. I think there was room for the turn, but I also think the hard turning of the wheels could have damaged the blacktop especially on a warm day. Anyway, with my expert director, Connie, I was able to back down the driveway without breaking a sweat or rubbing any of the hundreds of trees I passed along the way. Connie and Chuck positioned me between the house and the garage. I was watching Connie very closely as she directed me from the left side. I could see how close I was to the garage and it made me a little nervous. Once we were on the spot and I had secured the motorhome I got out to start hooking up services and noticed how close they had put me to the house. Less than three inches separated the motorhome from the rain gutter on the front of their house. Now that is some good directing. I suppose it helped that I was moving really slowly too, but still, I was impressed at how great a job Connie had done.
Chuck had 50 amp shore power for us. He had it installed the week before we got there, so we were the first to use it. Made us feel really special. He also had a freshwater connection for us and a way to dump our gray water tank. What a great place to camp.
We got to spend the remainder of that day and the next with Chuck and Diane before they had to return to Hanscom and work. We made the best of our time together by having a great dinner at their house the first night and then spending part of the next morning looking for a tire dealer who carries our tires. We found one, but he didn’t have any in stock and didn’t know when he would. More vibration driving would be in our future. After striking out with tires at the second location, reached by telephone, we headed for the site of the famous Woodstock Festival of 1969. I say site because Woodstock was not held in the town of Woodstock. It was really held outside Bethel, New York which is about 95 miles southeast of Woodstock. The festival location was changed twice between the time it was planned and finally executed. It is sort of amazing that, in an era when there was not the rapid communications systems that exist today, all those thousands of people got the word that the site had been changed in time to alter plans. Our trip to Bethel was fun for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is we were with great friends who were making their first visit to the festival site as well. There is a great museum near the location where the festival was held. You can walk from the museum to a vantage point where you can see where the stage had been built and imagine all the people who were in attendance. The creators of the museum have done a wonderful job of capturing historic documents and artifacts from the festival and displaying them in a way that makes you think you were there. I was never much of a rock and roll fan and I certainly did not attend Woodstock, but I have to admit that I was impressed with how this point in history has been preserved.
Later in our stay Connie and I went to the town of Woodstock where people are still making money selling Woodstock 1969 T shirts as though the party was really held in their backyard. Ironically, this summer a movie about Woodstock was filmed. Guess where most of the filming took place. You guessed it, Woodstock. So much for historical accuracy. I guess I should withhold judgment until I learn how the film maker credits Bethel and the brave people who worked so hard to get the festival moved there when Woodstock caved on the promoters.
After Chuck and Diane left to go back to work Connie and I spent a few more days exploring the area and then we left for a weekend at the home of another couple of Loons and Larks, Kathy and George who live in Southport, Connecticut. Kathy and George have been friends of ours for a very long time now, as we once shared a one room cabin with them in Montana and they slept in our living room in our 29 foot motorhome while we were in Maine in the 2006. In a way it seemed strange to be sharing their huge home with them for a few nights. Kathy is another wonderful gardener and she prepared several meals for us from that garden while we were there. If there is one thing that Loons and Larks do well it is party. Kathy arranged for Jess to come over from New York City, Katherine and Marvin came down from Boston, Lois and Bill came from Long Island and Mary and Brad came from Brewster, New York. We had a great afternoon party where we shared stories and food that had been contributed by all in attendance. It was a great get together and Connie and I got to see two more couples from the Loons and Larks. In my case it was a first time meeting either couple. Connie had met Lois and Bill while on a trip to Maine. What a great time we all had.
While we were in Southport we got to visit one of the many sites operated by the local Audubon group of which Kathy is a board member. I was able to explore the immediate area via a good early morning run. Then there is the house. Kathy and George have invested an incredible amount of sweat equity into modernizing their eighteenth century home while preserving the historic value of the structure. It is an amazing work in progress and one I am sure they are proud of and will continue to be as the restoration/improvements continue to completion. It was an honor to see this great structure, much less be able to spend a few nights in it.
When we got back to Hurley we had two more days before Chuck and Diane came home. I went on a long run on the first day back. My course was a mistake. I had a very long downhill run with a turnaround and return up the same long hill. The downhill absolutely trashed my legs. I walked most of the way back. Not a smart move at all. We spent the afternoon walking around Rhinebeck where there remained indicators that the former First Family had been in the area for Chelsea’s wedding.
The next day we drove to a place called Olana. Olana is the name that Frederic Church gave to his estate property overlooking the Hudson River near Catskill, New York. Frederic Church was an important American artist in the Hudson school of the nineteenth century. He designed and oversaw the construction of the family mansion and decorated it in Middle Eastern motif. We were not allowed to take photos from within, but I was able to capture the outside to give an idea of his design. Connie and I found the house to be different from any of the other nineteenth century mansions we have visited in the past. I am not certain either of us could have appreciated the style. But then that is why we are so fascinated by touring these old mansions. Each has a very unique fingerprint of the original owner. Church’s paintings could not be more in contrast with his home, except that his home had windows onto the great scenes that Church painted.
When Chuck and Diane returned from a week of work we had dinner nearly prepared for them including my now near famous homemade hummus as an appetizer. Of course dinner was served in their dining room as ours has space issues. We had one last great time with friends who go so far as to have 50 amp shore power installed at their driveway so you will come to visit (actually they have several friends who travel like we do and their other home is a fifth wheel trailer). What could be better?
Once we decided on a route to get us to Andrews without going down Interstate 95, I started looking for tire dealers along that route that carried our tires. I found one at about the halfway point in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I called the dealership and learned that they had none in stock, but another of their stores showed two as being available. I told the guy when we would arrive and he told me that the tires should arrive the day before that. As it turned out we got in really early in the afternoon the day before we were to have the tires installed so as we approached Allentown I called the tire dealer to make sure the tires had arrived. After bouncing from one person to another the guy in the stockroom was going to check to see if the tires were around and call me back. We arrived at the store before getting a call back. There were no tires. Apparently the order wasn’t placed until the first of the month which was a day or two after I had called. While trying to order the tires the dealer learned that only one tire was in the inventory. So, he didn’t order any. Nor did he call me to let me know. We showed up and there were no tires and no need to get too upset, because I knew that some poor soul had had a blowout and replaced only one tire to get him to wherever he was going. I just wish we had gotten a call so we could have continued our search.
The drive from Allentown to Andrews Air Force Base was at times peaceful and at times dicey. I found that if I drove at say 65 MPH I could reduce the vibration to nearly nothing. 65 MPH also pretty well kept pace with traffic. While the traffic was light, this method was acceptable to the co-pilot. As traffic intensified so did the scowl coming from the seat to my right. If I slowed to 60 or even 55 at a very slow rate of change then the vibrations sometimes stayed at bay. Other times we would just bounce all over the place. I have no idea what it looked like from outside the motorhome, but from within I had concerns for the television and my teeth. My arms were getting quite the workout just trying to steer the beast. Slowing below 55 MPH was really more dangerous than the vibrations as we just infuriated all those around us who were driving well beyond ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit. It was quite the drive. Needless to say we arrived safely and there seems to have been no permanent damage to the motorhome or its contents.
The really good news is that I located a tire dealer just up the road from here. We visited him and he ordered two tires which arrived last Thursday. On Friday we had to move campsites so I took that opportunity to get the tires changed. There was just enough freeway driving between the tire shop and here to test the new rubber and it doesn’t shake. I am one happy camper.
So, we arrived here at Joint Base Andrews (I am really having trouble remembering that is the correct name now) on September 3rd. Once we got situated in the campground we took a tour of the base and charted my running path for the next several weeks. It is really a pretty simple route. Leave the campground, follow the road between two golf holes, meet up with the perimeter road, turn right and continue counterclockwise around the inside perimeter of the base. Repeat as necessary to get the required miles. Each loop is just over nine miles long. To run shorter than that, turnaround at the desired halfway point. While not completely flat, the route is flat enough to call flat. The two hills that do exist break up the monotony of the route. The campground is sandwiched between two golf holes making it a rather shady place. So after the run I have a nice cool place to stretch and do my strength training. There are two tracks on the base so I have a good place to go to work on interval training in these final weeks of training. The base fitness center sponsors a monthly 5K race. I was able to participate in the September edition of the race and I intend to participate in the October race as well.
On our first Saturday here we drove out to Chestertown, Maryland to visit our good friend Pat. Pat sold his home in West Springfield earlier this summer and was spending his first week in his second home in Chestertown. His girlfriend, Marie, came up from Charleston, South Carolina, to make sure he was really working on box emptying duties. So, we made it a party. We had a late lunch or early appetizers at Pat’s house and then took a walking tour of the town and the waterfront ending up in a waterfront restaurant for dinner. We spent the night in one of Pat’s spare bedrooms and then following a casual breakfast at a local coffee shop Connie and I headed back to Andrews.
I am now focused on my training and for the most part it is going well. I was able to complete a twenty mile run last weekend with Connie riding her bicycle and carrying my fluids. That was a great relief for me as I had been training all spring and summer with a Camelbak along for the ride on my runs longer than ten miles. I found the Camelbak to really slow me down and wear me out prematurely. That feeling was confirmed between the twenty miles I did last weekend and the eighteen miles I did this weekend without Connie at my side. The shorter run was much tougher and I would have only done two more miles if someone held a gun to my head. Of course that gun holder may have also had a bottle of Gatorade with him. I am now convinced I can do the distance. Now I am working on the quality of that distance. Don’t confuse quality with speed. I want more than anything else to be able to enjoy the course. I don’t want to be hanging on for dear life at the end. So, now I am concentrating my efforts to make the last 10K of the marathon seem as much like the first 10K as I possibly can.
With that I will leave you for now. You likely will not hear from me again until after the Marine Corps Marathon on October 31.
Enjoy those photos that are linked below. And for the record I completed this novel in fewer than 10,000 words (9,927) and it has taken me only about eight hours to compose. I took some time off for dinner and admittedly I had to look at a map now and then to remember why we had been in certain places. I hope you have enjoyed our travels as much as we have. I also will admit that I have enjoyed this afternoon and evening of remembering the past nine weeks.
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