We left our hotel at 9am this morning and immediately ran into bumper to bumper traffic. People were obviously on their way to the city for work. I think most of them were late. We drove through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. We got to the entrance of Shenandoah park at 5:30pm and started the long 105 mile drive. The drive was nice and very twisty turny the whole way. The weather was OK at first but then turned very wet at around mile 50. At mile marker 51, we actually got out of the car and took a 1.5 mile hike to a waterfall. It was downhill the whole way and very wet and slippery. It started to rain hard after we started walking, but we brought umbrellas with us. The waterfall was nice, but we could not get a very good view of it. However, there was also a rainbow at the waterfall!
After returning to the car we drove the rest of the way out of the park. In the park we saw a total of 25 (yes, we counted them) deer, 2 turkeys, 1 snail, 1 centipede, one unidentified thing that looked like a snake but only 2 inches long (!) and.... ONE BEAR!!!!! Yes, we saw a huge black bear cross the road right in front of us toward the end of the drive (it was dusk). That made us really happy.
We saw an extremely cute baby deer trying to cross the road. Luckily, the car in front of us stopped. We tried to get a good picture of it, but that same car honked its horn and the baby fawn jumped, struggled to get its legs, and ran off followed by its mother. We weren't quick enough to get a good picture, but if you look in the lower left corner you can just make out the little spotted baby (so tiny!) on the side of the road.
We stopped for the night in the town that is on the other end of the park. Honestly, I can't even say where that was. All I wanted was to sleep!
I did end up running this morning with Julie. It was awesome! I usually only run on pavement, but this was trail running. The trails winded through the forest with the trees arching overhead. It was a cool morning and the temperature was perfect. I was in my new running shoes, which I love (the colors aren't my favorite)! In Arizona you are likely to see a coyote or rabbit while running, but in Massachusetts, you will see turkeys! We saw lots of them.
Today our plan was to spend a few hours on the beach in Provincetown. The weather was supposed to be partly sunny with a high of 77, so we planned to spend the day on the beach watching for whales. Last year Wendy and I were walking along the beach and saw one just feet from the shore! However, the weather was nothing like that when we got to Provincetown. It was very overcast and windy. Although the skies in the distance looked promising, we decided not to wait around for it and so we started the drive back to Arizona.
With our extra day (we had not planned to leave until Wednesday, but we have nothing else to do!) we are going to drive through Shenandoah Park in Virginia. It is our new goal to see a black bear. The website says there are hundreds of black bears in the 105 mile stretch of road we will be driving, and sightings are common. Hopefully, we'll have better luck with this than the moose. However, we did see a black bear at the wildlife park in Maine, so it won't be a total bust if we don't see one in Virginia.
Driving out of the cape on memorial day was just horrible. It was smooth sailing until we got to East Sandwich, and then we joined the hundreds of cars trying to get home from vacation on the cape. It took us hours to get off the cape itself. After that it wasn't too bad till we got into Connecticut. We hit another hour or two of stop-and-go traffic near Lyme. Eventually we'd had enough and just decided to stay in Branford. Tomorrow we are planning to leave at 9am and get to the NYC area at 11am-ish when the traffic might not be so bad.
Joel forgot the most important thing that happened today. Chelsea and I have been listening to him whine about wanting a jelly doughnut every time we drive by a Dunkin (and in New England, that's about every four seconds - worse than Walgreens in the SW), but every time we stopped in he said he didn't want one. I finally told him he better either get one or shut up about it. He did shut up about it, but then this morning they had free coffee and doughnuts at the hotel, and lo and behold - they had a jelly! I asked Joel how it was, and if it was everything he had dreamed it would be. He responded, "And more!" I'm glad we finally got that over with!
Today was spent exploring the area of Hyannis on Cape Cod. Yesterday, we saw a yummy looking breakfast place called "Keltic Kitchen", so we decided to try it. We weren't the only ones there! Apparently this place is a huge hit with the locals because the place was packed and we had to wait half an hour to be seated. Luckily, they had a gift shop where you could look around while you waited. The gift shop had all sorts of Celtic gifts and foods. Finally, we were able to eat. It was very good and we want to go back before we leave, except next time we want to go earlier in the morning to try to avoid the 9am rush.
For the next hour or so we were at the local laundromat. Yay, this was our last laundromat visit! I can't wait to be back home with our own washer and dryer. The laundromat was not in a very good part of town, but it did make for some good people watching fun.
For the last part of the day, we went to visit Wendy's friend from high school. They lived in a *very* nice part of the cape with a huge house and beautiful views (if you find trees beautiful like I do). They cooked us dinner and we chatted for a long period of time. It was great to meet them all. The wife is runner and I've been invited to go on a run through the woods tomorrow morning. We'll see if I can get up that early!
What a fantastic visit with Rob, Julie, their four kids and two dogs! Rob and I were friends in high school and walked together at graduation. I hadn't seen him in probably 20 years and had never met his wife. They were incredibly gracious and made a fantastic dinner for us. The kids were so confident and outgoing! I loved that. The dogs were gorgeous and though you can't tell from the photo I posted, Duke is more the size of a great Dane than a doberman. He's all legs, and still growing! These are my kind of people and I'm so glad I reached out and asked to visit. :-)
Sadly, we departed Maine, but happily, we were headed to Massachusetts! Our first stop was Salem. In case you didn't know, Salem is where the witch trials of 1692 took place. The town was pretty dead when we arrived, even though it was noon and just gorgeous out! We looked at all the witchy shops (I was reminded of being an altar boy at high mass because the incense was so strong in the shops), and visited the graveyard. Near the graveyard they had built a memorial for the men and women who were hung (or pressed to death in one case) during the trials. The graveyard was very interesting. They had people stationed throughout the yard to answer people's questions. We overheard that each gravestone had approximately eight bodies buried under it. The only person to actually get a gravestone was the head of the family. Apparently, they kept digging up the spot and adding bodies as necessary.
In Salem they've painted a red line throughout the town so tourists know where all the important stuff is. We followed it for a while and it took us to some pretty neat places. For example, we followed it all the way to the water, where we found the dock where ships would have been. They had a ship there that people could walk through, so we did. It was very cool, but a tall person would have a hard time walking around the bottom of the ship because the ceiling was so low.
During this entire trip I've been fascinated by all of the church architecture. Salem was no exception, and this was especially cool - we stumbled on the first church in Salem, and the first congregational church in the country, established in 1629!
As we walked back into the main part of town, we could see that a lot more people had started to show up. We looked at a few more places before heading back to the car. Chelsea had been to Salem twice before, both during the Halloween season. She says that the place is crazy that time of year with tons of vendors lining the streets.
We drove south for a few more hours before arriving in Cape Cod. We hadn't booked a hotel before we left Brunswick, which was really dumb seeing as it is memorial day weekend. Luckily, we found the perfect hotel in Hyannis that just happened to have a cancellation, so we all did a happy dance and checked in.
Immediately after loading our stuff into the room, we left again. We wanted to make it to the tip of the cape. On the way to the cape we stopped at Arnold's, which is a big seafood place. Yum. Finally, we arrived in Provincetown. Even though Ptown is only 33 miles from our hotel, it took us a while to get there because it's only one lane traffic going up and down the cape. If you don't know what Ptown is, look up the Castro district in San Francisco. Ptown is essentially the east coast version of that. Sometimes I wonder why parents bring their kids here. They must just think "Oh let's drive to the tip of the cape just for fun! There's probably a cute New England town up there!". Yes, it's cute for sure, but might be quite a shock for you and your kids if you aren't ready for it, LOL. We plan to go back on Monday to lounge on the beach and watch for whales.
Today was our last day in Brunswick :( We drove to Portland in the morning so I could buy some running shoes (I finally decided which ones I wanted). Of course, none of them have my size, which is apparently a 9 for my left foot and a 7.5 for my right foot. After making several calls, I found a store that had them in my size and they are holding them for me. We'll pick them up on our way out of Maine tomorrow.
We decided that it was just unacceptable to not see a moose in Maine, so we cheated. We went to the Maine Wildlife Park and saw three moose! 2 females and 1 male. Also in the park were bears, deer, coyotes, peacocks, turkeys, eagles, hawks, raptors (birds, not dinosaurs like I had hoped), turtles, snakes, and more. It was misting outside so we basically had the whole place to ourselves... Well, except for a small family with very loud children. Speaking of which, Honey boo-boo and family just checked into the hotel we are staying at, and they are LOUD. Good thing we are checking out tomorrow! :-)
"Many of the animals at the Maine Wildlife Park were brought here because they were injured or orphaned, or because they were human dependent - raised, sometimes illegally, in captivity. The Park serves as a permanent home for wildlife that cannot survive in the Wild. All kinds of animals are here for their protection and healing. And they're here for you to enjoy and learn more about."
The bears were pretty funny. The brown one was pacing when we arrived so we threw down some of the food you could buy for them. He gobbled it up and looked at us for more. In the face close up, he looks just like my dog! The black bear was having his afternoon siesta when we arrived. Clearly bears wake up as slowly as teenagers. He ambled over, sat down, yawned, layed down, then got up to much a few goodies.
We ate dinner in Brunswick and then went one last time to the gelato shop with Mark, Rob, and Di. I'm so glad we got to hang out with them so much this trip. They are always so fun to be around!
This family made me insane! From the moment they arrived the kids were running around the parking lot yelling and screaming - all day. The parents hung out in their rooms with the doors wide open and were loud as well. I never figured out how many of them there actually were, but it looked like 20 and sounded like 50.
Well, today was mostly a good day. I was feeling better, but still did not have much of an appetite. We got up early today to go to Bar Harbor (or, you know.... Bah Habah). Bar Harbor is about 3 hours northeast of Brunswick. I have never been more north in Maine than Augusta, so it was nice to see Bangor along the way. What wasn't nice was me getting slapped with a $137.00 speeding ticket! Gah. I even had cruise control set! Obviously, it was too much. I hear about women being given warnings all the time, but men don't get let off so easy. I bought the shirt below to commemorate the sucky experience.
Anyway, after my visit with the police, we arrived in Bangor and ate at a place that not only claimed to have "The Best Lobster Roll" (they all say that), but also the biggest. I didn't get one because my stomach was saying no, but Chelsea and Wendy did. They were pretty big, but I think Red's still takes the prize. Then, Chelsea and Wendy wanted to be creepy stalkers, so we drove up the road to Stephen King's house so they could take pictures. I waited in the car :-) I mean, if it was Tom Brady, sure, I could go into stalker mode. Stephen King is an author who was born in Maine and Wendy absolutely *loves* his writing. I haven't read any of his books, but they do sound very good from what Wendy has told me.
Ok, so stalking is done (for the moment... I made a note to look up where Tom Brady lives in Boston), and we headed to Fort Knox. This fort was huge compared to the last one we went to. And to get to the fort we had to drive across a very interesting bridge. It was kinda freaky, but I do OK with bridges. People say this fort is haunted. Apparently, people have seen ghost like figures of soldiers from the civil war and have heard footsteps when they were alone. One of the ghost hunting TV shows even did an episode on the place. I dunno... I didn't experience any thrill like that, but maybe I'll have to go back at night.
Note the creepy suspension bridge is only connected to the road down the middle. I felt like either side could just fall off! (Can you tell I have a bit of a bridge phobia?) Those windows at the very top of the tower were an actual thing you could go to, but Chelsea said no thank you. She has a bridge phobia as well as a heights phobia. :-)
I stole one of these from the internet because we didn't want to spend the time or money on the biplane tours (yes, they had them) to get the aerial shot. Pretty impressive structure, though.
Our next destination was Bar Harbor. Before getting to the harbor, we took a drive around Acacia National Park. Oh my goodness, that place is beautiful. I can't even imagine what it looks like in the fall! We drove to the top of the mountain in the park and the views were spectacular. The top of the mountain is also the first place in the United States to see the sunrise! I'm not that ambitious....
The little one above was kind enough to stand very still by the side of the road while I took pictures as we drove through Acadia. Below on the left I took a picture of Joel as we walked out to where that person in the distance is standing, then another once we got there. The ocean was very blue this day, and it was just gorgeous weather!
I wish it was possible to capture in pictures how quiet, beautiful, and breathtaking it was on top of Cadillac Mountain. These will have to do.
Finally, we got to Bar Harbor. It is very similar to Boothbay, but it was more bustling. This was in part because of the beautiful day we had today. There was a cruise ship just off the shore and everyone from the ship had come into the town and was doing some shopping. We did lots of shopping ourselves (this is where I bought the "life is crap" shirt).
Well, today was the last day we could have seen a moose. Again, the signs on the side of the road said "DANGER!!! MOOSE CROSSING!!!". But again, they lied. We never saw a moose. Not on the way there, not on the way back.
We did, however see this. And that's something you don't see every day in Tucson.
Our day today didn't start until late in the afternoon. I was out for most of the morning because I was feeling sick and had a huge headache. Chelsea has been sick for the last couple days, so I'm pretty sure I got it from her. Luckily, I got over it in less than a day and was shoe shopping by 5pm! Woohoo! I suddenly had an urge to go buy new running shoes (this was probably brought on by signing up for the Labor Day 8 mile run at Saguaro National Park). I found some I *loved* thanks to the recommendation of my sister, who is also a runner.... but I didn't buy them yet. We are planning to go to Portland in a few days to look at other options. You can't just buy the first thing you see, you know?
After shopping, we went with Mark and Rob to a local Mexican restaurant. They don't have many of those restaurants here. Seafood is their thing, I guess. I still wasn't feeling 100%, so I took it easy and got a salad (laaame, I know).
After dinner, we explored a foot bridge that crosses the Androscoggin River. It was very wobbly and Chelsea didn't like it at all. On the other side of the river was a beautiful walking path that we walked for about a mile or so. We also found a hidden beach with some beer cans neatly collected and put into a paper bag. At least the teenagers around here pick up after themselves? Sure, let's go with that.
Yes, this is me as a clam. Wendy had to beg for the picture, but I'm a nice guy so I obliged.
Wendy's note: Yeah, he obliged after I said please about 472 times. Such a nice guy!
These were taken at "Shaw's Fish and Lobster Wharf", which is a really good seafood restaurant in Bristol. We came here last year and it made it on the list of places we wanted to go back to. It was not totally warm, but we decided to tough it out on the dock anyway.
We also drove by Bath Iron Works and saw inside the huge building where they build ships. There were signs that you couldn't take pictures, but it was pretty interesting to see.
Tonight we attended our third and final open mic night at Ebenezer's. We had the largest group of people yet - Chip, John, Dee, Di, Mark, Rob, Rob's niece, me, Chelsea and Joel. Chip and John took the night off from singing but there was still plenty of good talent, and it gave them a chance to relax and have a few drinks without worrying about how it would affect their performance. In fact, Chip and John and I had a B-52 toast to the class of '85! The three of us were the ones from '85 in our group, then there were Mark and Allison from the class of '83. There were others over the years but the five of us were especially tight when Allison and I first moved to Mt. Ararat high school. It was one of the prominent periods in my youth, and having four out of five of us there these past few weeks was very special for me., in fact it was one of the highlights of the trip.
Since the guys didn't perform this week and I didn't post any video from last week, I will include a couple of my favorite songs from last week here.
We left Meriden this morning and headed back to Brunswick. A lot of my blog posts are titled "Brunswick" because we've made that our home base here in Maine. We actually do a lot of things outside of Brunswick. For example, today we went back to Old Orchard Beach. We decided to go back because a) Chelsea wasn't with us the first time and b) Nothing was open when we went before. Well, nothing was really open this time either. And it was windy/a bit chilly. Still, we had amazing food and were able to peek into a few shops. I found an awesome Patriots towel to add to my collection. I now have 2 L.L. Bean towels, and 3 Patriots towels. I'll never need to use anything else! I also found the most wonderful, fruity smelling candle made by Village Candle. It was strawberry flavored and it filled the entire shop. I didn't buy it, but decided I'd look for it at Fry's when we get back to Tucson.
We have a little over a week left of our vacation before we drive back. I'm still enjoying every bit of rain, mist, sunshine, green, and overall cool weather here in the northeast, but will be happy to return to Arizona and be back with the good folks at Valley Presbyterian. I'll also be very happy to go back to Zona Fitness (I have so, so, so much work to do! haha), the best gym ever! I haven't been able to touch a piano in 3 weeks, so it will be especially nice to play again after all this time! There is still so much to see here in New England though. Future plans are to go to Bar Harbor, Salem (MA), and Cape Cod.
He proceeds to have a few more bites of soup but then I tease him about the pepper and how it can't possibly be adding much to the soup at this point, so he scoops the pepper up and eats it, seeds and all. Crunch, crunch, crunch - and then suddenly his face goes still and he says, "Oh!" and grabs his glass of water as beads of sweat break out on his forehead. At this point Chelsea and I are nearly peeing ourselves from laughing so hard. We told him the seeds were going to make that one hot bite of pepper! Anyway, Joel spits the pepper out, guzzles his water - and mine - then demands I go grab the water pitcher from a table nearby and refill his (which I did), and then gobbles several bites of my fried rice in an attempt to stop the incessant burning in his mouth - none of which put out the fire. This continued for several more minutes, by which time my abs were sore from laughing. He wouldn't allow me to take any photos or videos of this whole process so I had to settle on the picture of the offending pepper. I even offered him $100 to eat another one and let me film it, but he wisely said no, haha.
On a completely different note, just in case anyone was wondering, this is what Chelsea looks like every night before we turn out the lights. She's reading on her Kindle.
Yay, the day is here! We got up early and helped Chelsea pack up the rest of her things from her apartment in New Haven. We decided to have lunch in Meriden so we would be close to the graduation. We got to the restaurant only to find out that they didn't open for another half our. Instead of waiting for it to open, we went in search of another place to eat. Well, it turns out Meriden doesn't really have a nice downtown area. In fact, it was downright scary in broad daylight, so.... we ended up back at the original restaurant just in time for them to open.
After eating, it was time to go watch Chelsea graduate. Her ceremony was actually shorter than mine, so I'm grateful for that. It was very exciting to see her graduate! Unfortunately, a lot of the ceremony was only just OK. The jazz band was iffy, the singer totally changed the mode of the national anthem, and the keynote speaker.... Oh lord. It was the president of the biggest community college in Connecticut. Essentially, the entire speech was about her, and since her circumstances were somewhat specific, most people there would not be able to relate. Just terrible. OK. Rant over.
Joel covered it today with the exception of leaving out one of the coolest features of Chelsea's graduation - the pipes and drums! They played the processional while everyone came in and I DIG pipes and drums. Photo below shows them on the left side.
Spending two nights using Jake's hotel points has spoiled us. We weren't particularly bothered by the cheap hotels we've been staying in up to now, but I'll admit I'm a little sad to go back to that after enjoying a super clean room with plenty of amenities.