By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, June 01 2011 - 8:08 pm
June 30, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
My partner made an interesting point today.
Now that we are getting older, money and status are going to mean less.
Now health will be the important thing.
Money is nice. Security is good (although in my opinion, completely illusory.)
But none of that wonderful money can compensate for bad health.
I can't think of a better motivation for taking care of yourself, and I believe that, everything else being equal (like genetic luck) those who do their best do better for themselves than those who don't want to bother!
June 28, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
Whew! Two days of laundry and mowing the lawn yesterday, house cleaning and we are about caught up.
Putting out the recycling last night, I saw my first fireflies of the summer. These are little pieces of nature I wish all the states possessed!
And speaking of pieces of nature, I will from time to time be writing about things I forgot to include in my travelogue.
For instance, the infamous Peaks-Kenny mosquito hike to Brown's Point yielded a nice view of the beach from the other side of the lake. This is a beautiful northern lake which is a worthy destination for families. There were even little kids swimming in it, but I have to say our whole trip was cool enough I was never even tempted to don a swimsuit.
We were very close to the trail head at the end of our hike, when something exploded from the cover a few feet from my partner. He got a really good sight of it, but mostly what I saw was a brown and black mass zigzagging like a demented feather duster, small chicken-like head held low to the ground.
Seconds later, he heard a "peep peep" and saw, out of the corner of his eye, something scurry under a log.
He is sure of his identification: it was a spruce grouse. These are normally supposed to be pretty fearless around humans, so I'm sure all the histrionics were a diversionary technique to draw our attention away from the grouse's chicks. They certainly succeeded!
As for our mosquito-ridden hike, I remembered a few days later about a ranger's hint to turn a bracken fern upside down on your head like a cap to confuse mosquitos, because they start at the highest point of their prey's body and it takes a while for them to figure out that you can't get blood from brackens!
My only consolation is that that particular trail had no brackens growing along it. Probably it does, but just in case, grab your green hat from along the road on the way! (I know you are not supposed to disturb any wildlife, but a ranger told me about this trick. Besides, bracken ferns are a signal in this country of an area already disturbed. At least, that's what I learned in ecology class thirty years ago!)
June 26, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
Home again, but not without in-between peregrinations.
On June 22 we hiked up from our campsite to Thunder Hole, which gave a better performance than it had the day of our arrival. We went down beyond the barricade (oh, come on, the Grand Canyon isn't so well blocked off! (although we did hear in Freeport on the 23rd that someone died at Thunder Hole last year)) and it came a little closer to living up to its noisy reputation.
After Thunder Hole we kept walking up the shore to Sandy Beach, and from there on a trail onto the mountain. To the summit of Gorham Mountain, to be precise. Not very far above sea level, but hey! We really started at sea level.
The views are stunning, the day was sunny and perfect for hiking. There were quite a few people on the trail.
In the afternoon we explored the carriage trails a little. These make very easy walking for people who need to develop their muscles before braving the nature trails.
We could have happily spent a week at Acadia National Park, especially since the free buses to Bar Harbor commenced to run the day we left. Maybe we got lucky. The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were there.
June 23 we left the National Park and worked our way down the coast to Freeport. I thought it would be fun to visit the LL Bean outlet there.
It was okay, but I wouldn't recommend it for cheap prices. Anyone who has trouble staying focused among hordes of shoppers and a plethora of products is probably better off looking at a catalog - online or off! Yeah, yeah, I probably imagined it the way it was thirty years ago. Or sixty.
Freeport had outlets for many companies, but we spent more time over lunch. We ate upstairs at the Azure Restaurant and had some good seafood - mussels for my partner and seafood cakes for me. Not exactly an open air cafe with salt spray, but still very fresh.
We moved inland from the coast south of Portland, and wished we hadn't waited so long because the traffic got bad and the strips got ugly. We crossed over into New Hampshire and found the drive from Concord to Bennington Vermont really wonderful.
The motel we slept in at Brattleboro, VT, was not. We were getting tired and grabbed at a place on a hillside that housed a row of six or so rooms and another half-dozen independent cabins. There was a gap between the air conditioner and its surrounding window about two inches wide (no screen) and we found cigarette ashes and a little bone on the bathroom floor! Ick! The bed had clean sheets, anyway, and provided a little oasis from the rest of the room. The price was not low enough to compensate for the lowly accommodations.
The next morning we had a good breakfast at a Royal somethingorother diner (I obviously did not keep my resolution to write stuff down) and proceeded to discover as we continued west that we might have had another half dozen inns to choose from if we had been a little less anxious about obtaining a bed.
Oh, well, spontaneity is important to me on a vacation, and with the unexpected, you must take a risk! Even a planned vacation has risks, because the weather may not co-operate or reservations may not live up to expectations.
But trust me - leaving Brattleboro heading west you have choices unless everybody is booked up.
So the morning of the 24th found us well fed and determined to keep enjoying the slower, more interesting roads available all the way home. It is amazing how well it all went.
Well, sure, we got confused a couple of times. Yeah, there was a long detour or two, which really to be honest just took us through a little more interesting countryside. And, oh yes, I forgot to mention the rain. Both the 23rd and 24th we drove through alternating rain-and-not all day. Too wet to willingly camp.
Both days, though, we managed to reach the part of the country my partner was aiming for. The evening of the 24th we were in the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. Deciding to stay dry another night, we decided to spend it in Marienville and were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon another Microtel!
For a mere seven dollars more than we spent the night before at Brattleboro we got a really clean suite with a sofa and window seat as well as a bed. It was also one of the last two available rooms, and we were the last in line!
We bathed and slept well that night, but it might not be so easy to find resting places at the height of the season without reservations.
The 25th we crawled along increasingly flat landscape to reach Walkerton, IN. There we ran across the Bel Air Motel, very retro. Er, except it isn't really retro. It just still is what it was only older. Very quiet, pretty clean, and inexpensive. Very inexpensive.
Before we reached our place for the night, though, we stopped in Nappanee, IN. We were delighted to stop a moment and enjoy the sight of standardbred horses pulling sulkies, presumbably warming up (or showing off?) for a race that would be run a half hour later. What an unexpected event this would seem to be in Amish country! Was there gambling?
We couldn't watch, though - too hungry. We went to Amish Acres and ate a Threshers' Dinner (winter wheat time? or am I expecting the name to mean too much) which was comprised of way too much food! Thank God for big blessings.
In case you are interested in avoiding Interstates, we came across most of Ohio on U.S. 224, then moved up to U.S. Highway 6 across Indiana. Why anyone would choose to drive competitive, dangerous four-lane Highway 30 when they could be on peaceful Highway 6 is a mystery.
My partner enjoyed the fact that we were on U.S. Highway 6 in Pennsylvania also, where about twenty-five years ago he ran a twenty-six mile marathon, in mountainous country!
He marveled at how much easier those miles would have been running in the flatlands of Highway 6 in Indiana.
Came home at 9:00 this morning, in time to let our relief drive home in the daylight.
And that was one of the coolest things about vacationing at this time of year. Even long days on the road were driven in daylight. We really did see the country we passed through, and it was very green, lush, yet varied.
I bet we saved a lot of money on gas with our modest pace, but don't know our vacation expenditures yet.
In the past, though, I have noticed that gas prices are higher along the Interstates than along the smaller highways. And so are the stress levels.
Ay, yi, it's almost eleven. Bedtime.
June 21, 2011 Bar Harbor, ME
Well, here we are in Bah Hahbah, at the Public Library.
Just had a lobster (and fried oyster) lunch with french fried sweet potatoes for, with tip, $41.00. Yipes! That was lunch! Made up for by buying a sweatshirt and little top on sale for $10.50. Have been looking for underpants (preferably with "Bar Harbor" written on them, ha ha) but no luck yet.
The harbor is really charming and the touristy stuff is fun, too.
This morning we walked out of the campsite fully intending to hike up to Cadillac Mountain summit but we ended up looking at the gorgeous coast and ocean from Eagle Crag, which was no minor hike itself.
You know those woodcuts that look art noveau with all the tangled roots on them. And/or boulders? That is the path all the way to Eagle Crag, and presumably all the way up to the mountain top. It is hard to see the landscape because you really must watch your feet the whole time.
However, it was still wonderful. The hot showers we bought outside the campground (eight minutes cost me $4.00) felt wonderful, too.
The campground itself has flush toilets in tiled bathrooms and an easy walk to the ocean. The sites are quite nice, but don't bother to try to check in before noon.
We arrived yesterday and to kill time before we could set up our new luxury six-man tent and cots we drove to Thunder Hole. This was not a thing to come here for. We are told at high tide or when the waves are kicking up it is impressive. We'll try again, but when you are camping it is very hard to wish for nasty weather just to hear a big bang!
Last night I woke up and heard what sounded like someone chopping wood in the middle of the night. Maybe that was Thunder Hole!
What is very impressive here are the wild roses along the coast - huge very fragrant single blossoms in pink or white - smashing!
New England's lupines are spires of mostly dark purple blue and they are more abundant than petunias in the Midwest. Some patches of them take up an area that could handle a cottage or two. We were also surprised to see that lilac and mock orange season (that is, Spring) is still in its height up in Vermont and Maine.
Day before yesterday (June 19) we were at Peaks-Kenny State Park in our far northern point of our trip. The lake and surrounding mountains are lovely, but if you visit there and decide to take the hike to Brown's Point (another rocky rooty hike) wear insect repellent. It was two miles each way, of which fully half the time was hellish. I found a white pine branch by the path, so I played horse and swished it around for virtually the whole walk. Never saw so many moss-covered rocks and trees fascinatingly twisted by the very strong prevailing winds.
A couple of trees looked as if they were laying very big eggs!
Our final experience of Peaks-Kenny (barring mosquitoes) was seeing not one, but two luna moths. I never thought I would see one of those in my lifetime, and there they were hanging out by the bathrooms!
The night of June 18 we were at Mount Blue, where we stayed dry during a thunderstorm. Yay, little yellow backpacking tent!
The most notable thing about Mount Blue was the incredible concert of bird calls in the morning. For the first time I thought people deciding to play musical instruments in an intertwining way might have been inspired by birds. Actually, counterpoint does precede harmony in the history of music.
We rode all the way around Webb Lake unnecessarily to get to the campground because of misleading signs. If you drive North from highway 6/16 on highway 142, keep left and drive up the west side of the lake for the quickest access to the campground.
That's all I have time to write now! I'm sure I've gone over the thirty minutes allotted. The computer use rules here are very relaxed, but if the library is closed there is an Internet Cafe in town.
June 17, 2011 Stowe, VT
Days without the Internet! It was just fine.
So let me see if I can recall the highlights, because I haven't had much time to write, either.
June 14, 2011
After spending the night in Pittsburgh we took off for Sinnemahoning State Park campground where we had reservations for the night. We got there in the mid-afternoon, in time to take a long walk around the park.
Our hike took us by a little milkweed meadow (go, monarchs!) through areas characterized by trail names such as "Fifty maples" and Red Spruce. We walked to a picnic area, and upon turning around noticed some hairy scat that looked as if it were produced by a constipated cougar! Scary! After that we talked louder and looked around more.
Back at the campground, we got to talking to a camper who said there are black bears around. Someone had seen a black bear walking straight through the camp a few days before.
So that night, in our little teeny yellow backbacking tent, I am imagining the worst.
What comforted me somewhat, believe it or not, was an song I learned in Girl Scout Camp at the Tippecanoe River State Park in Indiana:
I wanna wake up in the morning
Where the Tippecanoe flows,
Where the sun comes peeping in where I've been sleeping
And the songbirds say hello!
I wanna paddle up the river
Just a million miles or so
And then come drifting back to Tepicon,
It's the sweetest place I know.
Well, at Tepicon we at least were in a cabin, but when I remembered hearing about bears breaking into cabins and cars I realized that safety from bears in the kind of structures you find in campgrounds is illusory anyway, I calmed down a bit.
I even got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (a looong way from our campsite) when death by bearswipe seemed preferable to death by burst bladder!
June 15, 2011
Slept late and left in okay time for Bowman Lake State Park in New York.
There were banks of crown vetch and bunchy bush white roses (meadow-sweet, I read they are called) along the two lane highways we are using as often as possible.
Again we dawdled along until about the middle of the afternoon when we reached the park.
June 16, 2011 This park is not nearly so wild, although the first morning we awoke to incredibly noisy geese. I ran out to see them and couldn't, because it wasn't very light and steam was rising from the lake. Later we saw them. The ranger was setting off noisy fireworks (or something) to scare them off so they wouldn't poop on the beach (!?!) At one point the twenty-odd geese were flying straight towards us like a bombing formation and we were amazed to hear the pulsation of their wings beating in unison!
I had never noticed that about geese before, but this rhythmic accord did not seem to hold up once they spread out.
We went on a wonderful long walk on a trail not so well marked that we didn't get lost. We were pooped (er, not by geese!) so we relaxed (I in sleep) on the beach for the afternoon.
Bowman State Park, while pleasant, did not have the biting feel of the wild that Sinnemahoning did.
Our second night it rained. We lay in our brand-new larger tent we brought for stays over one night and luxuriated in the fact that it stayed perfectly dry.
June 17 Today we got lucky and took advantage of a lull in the rain to pack up and get away! But not very far. We did not want to eat in the rain so we ate in Oxford, at the Hoplet Cafe. There we had good coffee and I had a veggie omelet, which was also good and well presented.
We drove through the Adirondacks (beautiful green mountains) on highway 8 and took a ferry across Lake Champlain at Ticonderoga to Vermont. We drove up while the ferry was allowing the car or two it was carrying to get off, just in time to get on! Such a short ride, (only about three minutes, I think!)and very pleasant.
I was sorry we didn't have time to see the Fort but we wanted to walk a little in Burlington. We went down the city mall scene on Church Street. On different blocks a guitarist was playing and a young man was singing. There were a full range of street people around to gawk at, some of whom gawked at us! There were coffee shops, books stores, street vendors with fancy scarves, gem shops, restaurants of half-a-dozen appealing cuisines. And more. Stopped at City Hall to use the bathrooms, after being told at Borders we could get a token to use the restroom from the person at the cash register after making our purchase!
We had to see the waterfront and walk the boardwalk. Hurry, hurry, we were getting our aerobic exercise. I did have time to notice the plantings at the park, which were quite varied compared to what we usually see.
Alas, the only one who got any of our money in Burlington was the parking meter! Better luck next time, folks!
We arrived in Stowe, Vermont in the late afternoon after a bill-board-less stint on I 89, and are now just home from a wonderful dinner at the Red Basil Thai restaurant. From the first sip of water (lightly flavored with fragrant lemon grass) this was an exceptional and memorable meal. The owner, who visited with us, is a personality plus, too! Next year the restaurant will have a new name, Thai Spice. I'm sure it will be just as good. I wish it were in Valparaiso!
One disadvantage of traveling two-lane highways is that they are slow. What we see of the country side and what we don't see of the back-sides of trucks often makes up for our lack of town-time, though.
This morning, for instance, we braked for a doe crossing the highway and got to see her little spotted fawn doing its best to keep up with Mom. This is something I have never seen on the Interstate.
Yours in stressless Blue Highways,
Esther the Queen of Introspection.
I'll report again when I can!
June 13, 2011 Pittsburgh, PA
Yesterday we left Valpo in the late afternoon. The road we hit was East U.S. 30, which, in spite of its having the reputation for being the most dangerous stretch of road in the state, was much a better experience than the Interstate.
We stopped at the King's Buffet in Plymouth and were surprised to see fewer vegetables than any other Chinese restaurant I have ever patronized. Broccoli saved the day!
I had frog's leg for the first time and was surprised at feeling a little guilt. I don't feel much guilt for chickens - why frogs?
I decided that chickens have sharp beaks and beady little eyes and are always looking for something.
Frogs may always be looking for something, but somehow seem more benign and incapable of harming me.
Now I know why princesses have to kiss frogs and not cocks! (Heh, heh.)
Onward and eastword we saw some rich coppery deer in the lowering sun.
We found shelter at a Microtel in Delphos, Ohio, "The Friendliest Town in America" (story about that later).
It was pretty cool - small room and price, lights in the bathroom with separate switches from the fan. The neighboring corn fields come right up to the parking lot.
P.S. Today we kept on driving slow and leisurely - gas prices dipped to as low as $3.49 per gallon in eastern Ohio. Dang! We missed our chance and spent about $3.80 per.
Stopped in Lisbon for lunch at the Steel Trolley, and were impressed by the veggie-burger options on the menu. Halfway through the meal, though, the cooler kicked in and made the place smell swampy. Time to gobble up and go!
We hoped to visit the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool and it was easy to find, but it was closed. Ditto a place off the road called The Pines Restaurant where we tried to dine much earlier. All we brought away from there was a good red-tailed hawk sighting.
This evening in Pittsburgh a large group of us ate at yet another Chinese Buffet, the Dynasty Buffet, where I got to know my partner's family a little better. For one thing, they really seem to like crabs' legs!
P.P.S. Oh, yes, I promised to tell you more about Delphos. Turns out the town was forced (by whom?) to take down their "friendly" sign decades ago because of anti-black ordinances. Hell, those became not only decidedly unfriendly but positively illegal. Once the town changed their laws, the sign went back up. We did find the people very friendly.
June 11, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
We have been working hard to get ready for a camping trip.
After my last reporting jobs on our trips to upper Michigan and New Mexico, I am realizing that remembering detail and interesting places and anecdotes (or, as doctors would probably say, anecdon'ts!) from one communion with the internet to the next can be tricky.
I am therefore writing longhand when a computer connection is not possible, and hoping to provide more detail than in other recent trips.
Our destination? Ultimately, Acadia National Park, the only national park in the Northeast.
Whenever I have mentioned it to someone who has been there, they light up and start raving. In a good way!
We do not have much random movement planned, unfortunately, because of the necessity of getting reservations in advance for most of these parks. But we will pack in the whimsy where it will fit!
I may not make an entry into these pages every day, but I will try to write about something noteworthy daily and enter it when I can.
Tomorrow we hit the road!
June 9, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
You know, virtual ain't actual.
Even in real life, virtual might mean 90% true or so, as in "It was cloudy virtually all day." Maybe there was a sun-break for an hour. Still - real clouds, real day.
"Virtual reality" as on the Internet is more the other way around - maybe 10% real. Like, I can give you a virtual kiss - smack!
Oops, was that a kiss or a hit?
C'mon, a virtual kiss is not even 10% real.
It is 100% fantasy - even if you multiply it by two because two people are playing the game. Zero times two is still zero.
An addiction to virtual reality can be real.
Conversations about sex via email or the Internet might be offensive. They are real communications that could lead to something else that is real.
But they aren't sex.
They are only flirtations.
June 8, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
The other day we saw a chipping sparrow hopping around busily grabbing food (including a small moth on the fly) for two big hulking "babies" following it around.
They were immature cowbirds whose mom had parasitized the chipping sparrow's nest.
Today we saw a chipping sparrow in the same general area, with one big baby around.
But the big baby cowbird seemed to be confused. It was following a robin around some of the time!
In fact, the sparrow flew off and the cowbird stayed following the robin.
Seems to be a great year for the local cowbird population!
So, what was going on?
Is that a different baby with a robin mom, or does he just hang around and get in on any goodies left around when a robin tugs a worm out of the ground?
Is he confused, or are we?
June 6, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
We watched from our second-story window as a squirrel stop-started along the sidewalk down to the corner, turned there (90 degrees) walked down the ramp, crossed the street (after checking to make sure it was safe) and continued on down the sidewalk past our neighbor's house.
Why are people surprised that other people anthropomorphize animals?
It seems to me that animals anthropomorphize themselves!
Heh, kind of reminds me of us trying to be God-like.
What would we call that? Godmorphizing? Deimorphication?
"Hey, stop deimorphizing yourself!"
Heh, heh. I like it!
Oops! Just found out there is such a word - theomorphizing!
"Hey, stop theomorphizing yourself!"
I love it.
June 5, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
Ha! It being Sunday, I feel like giving a sermon.
But first I started wondering about the word itself. Where did it come from?
Interestingly enough, it comes from Latin and only means speech, conversation, discourse.
Then it belonged to Old French and Middle English, and somewhere along the line became, for the most part, a more formal, longer address in a religious setting.
Luther evidently hesitated to publish his sermons because he thought they were meant to be spoken to a group of people present.
So, gee, in a sense I can't give a sermon! Not only are my comments not in person, but they tend to be short!
While I was looking up "sermon" I saw the word "sermonette" and thought maybe that is what I do.
So I looked it up. Turns out sermonettes originated in radio, so someone is talking, and the live audience is out there somewhere listening in real time. And sermonettes are short.
But still, I guess I have to stick with the word article, or essay, or articlette or essayette for what I do.
Well, hell, I didn't really have anything to preach about, anyway.
The mock orange outside our window is in full bloom, though.
June 4, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
Jung postulated independent parts of the psyche - a male (animus) in a woman and a female (anima) in a man.
These parts of the psyche deal with the parts of life that the outer man or woman doesn't deal with.
But what I'm wondering now, is are these parts always there, or do they depend on modeling from parents?
What if a child is brought up by one parent who doesn't talk much to others in front of the child?
I guess I'm thinking about this because Jung's animus concept was really helpful to me (in spite of the fact that it sounds negative - like animus as in hostility) but I'm wondering how universal it really is in humans to have this separate inner being.
June 3, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
For me my thirty-first birthday was the roughest.
When I had my first baby in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at 27 I was already the second-oldest mom in the maternity ward.
Year thirty-one marked the end of denial. I was a mother of two and giving birth to a child really puts you emotionally to feeling on the road towards serious age.
Nothing has more plunged me into the realization that I was now part of "the older generation" than the birthday 31.
(It has just occurred to me that the birthday also put me into the decades Abbie Hoffman labeled untrustable. Maybe that was part of my angst.)
Anyway, no birthday has matched it since. Forty? A breeze!
Sixty? Hey, I was living with my eighty-eight-year-old mom. Sixty was nothing!
Er, well, not quite nothing. My mom is failing and so, inevitably, will I. I can't really honestly say I am looking forward to my birthdays these days. I know I have less time left than I already had.
But for sheer power of depression-inducing identity crises?
I give the award to birthday thirty-one.
June 1, 2011 Valparaiso, IN
If a woman is divorced is she remiss?
Are pet peeves confined to home, or are they allowed to roam?
Is choco-late a good excuse?
How is a peony like a dog? (Hint - only if you're unlucky!)
Is a floozy boozy woozy? Is she a doozy? Can she be choosy?
Can a stout trout scout about? Flout, shout or pout!
Finally! It's June!
I'll change my tune, and try to be merry 'til February.
(Of June resolutions - be wary!)
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