Side trip

Lots of insects in North Carolina.  This moth was a beautiful one.

Lots of insects in North Carolina. This moth was a beautiful one.

To top off a whirlwind month of family visits in New England, we took a quick round trip from Massachusetts to North Carolina to babysit the grandkids for a few days.  We chose the scenic route into western Virginia and across through Charlottesville, but it was so rainy and foggy that we mostly had to focus on the road stripes through manically thwacking windshield wipers.  The rain let up as we approached Interstate 95 in Richmond but, oh joy, the southbound lanes were closed—ENTIRELY CLOSED—due to a tanker truck rollover hours earlier and the alternate routes were jammed to the gills.  As we crept along between traffic lights on Route 301, there were thunderstorms on all sides, and then–buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz—a tornado warning came on the radio.  Fortunately, we were not in an at-risk county, because the traffic was so congested we could not have done anything to avoid an approaching funnel cloud.  Tornadoes seem to be everywhere–and in the oddest places–this summer (not Alaska yet, though).

When we were twenty miles from our daughter’s house—on an unfamiliar North Carolina back road—the weather hit with a vengeance.  It probably was the hardest rain either of us had ever driven in.  It really did come down in sheets and the road edges, especially around the bridges, were starting to flood.  Being rural North Carolina, there were no shoulders, or any places, to pull over.  After some exciting hydroplaning, we finally arrived.  It would have been really ugly with the trailer.

We had three days with the grandchildren, doing grandparenty things—swimming, cookie baking, ball playing, origami folding, book reading, and movie watching.

And then we turned around and headed back.  The large moth in the picture above was on the wall outside our daughter’s door as we left

We headed over to Edenton, a town full of old southern houses and history on the Albemarle Sound and an area new to us.  We lucked out in finding a wonderful dog-friendly inn.  This little side trip without the trailer was a real education in how difficult it can be to find dog-friendly hotels.  The choice seems to come down to cheap flea bag hotels, with Trip Advisor reviews such as, “Do not stay here. The room was filthy and smelly, with hairs in the bathtub, mold on the shower curtain, and stains on the chairs,” or nicer, pricier hotels that tack on $75 or $100 dollars in a non-refundable pet fee.  It takes a lot of research just to find a place to stay.

The Pack House Inn, where we stayed in Edenton, has several buildings, one of which is dog friendly.

The Pack House

The Pack House

Our suite was one half of a cottage built in the 1870s, with a sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, front porch with a swing, and fenced back yard.  I loved it.  Zoe really loved it.

The Tillie Bond Cottage, our dog friendly lodging.

The Tillie Bond Cottage, our dog friendly lodging.

The sitting room.

The sitting room. Notice Zoe’s reflection in the fireplace mirror.

The bedroom.

The bedroom.

Dinner, however, proved to be a problem.  We arrived at about 4 pm on Sunday afternoon and every restaurant and grocery store in town was closed.  A reminder that we were truly in the South. We drove back to highway, which offered a choice between Burger King, Dairy Queen, and Pizza Hut.  Pizza it was.

While searching for a place to eat, we came across this sign.

While searching for a place to eat, we came across this sign.

An after-Pizza walk down to the water gave me a taste of this little town.

Edenton's downtown

Edenton’s downtown ending at the water.

 

Downtown buildings.

Downtown buildings.

Downtown movie theater, open and active

Downtown movie theater, open and active

Waterfront homes

Waterfront homes

View from dock at end of main street

View from dock at end of main street

A painting in a downtown gallery window.  Odd, no?

IMG_2406This guy was enthusiastically surfing, sort of, on meager little swells that ended on a minuscule beach.  It’s not Hawaii.

IMG_2408When I returned to the Inn, I could hear someone singing the National Anthem at the Steamers (a summer collegiate league) baseball game a few blocks away.  I liked Edenton.

In the morning, we had a delicious breakfast (with Zoe) at the Inn’s outside patio, of fresh fruit, egg casserole, grits, bacon, and toast.  The Pack House Inn treated all of us well.

We had beautiful weather for crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  It is 21 miles of alternating bridge, tunnel, bridge, tunnel, and bridge again stretching across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  So strange to be driving across the water and then to go under it and pop up to cross it again, without hitting any land in between.

The very long bridge

The very long bridge

Looking toward one of the tunnel portions

Looking toward one of the tunnel portions.  The bridge is there, and then it isn’t.

After the crossing, we had lunch at the Sting Ray, one of those local restaurants that foodies write about.  It was attached to an Exxon station and had an extensive menu.  We split a seafood platter with a crab cake, scallops, shrimp, sweet potato fries, and cole slaw that had bits of dill pickle in it.  We also splurged on two $1.49 ham, sweet potato biscuit sandwiches, an interesting and delicious contrast of sweet cinnamon-y biscuits and salty Virginia ham.

These first months of our trip have been fast paced so that we could get to the East Coast and spend time with family this summer.  We are looking forward to slowing down now and spending more time exploring the areas we travel through.  The Maine Coast is our next destination.

Zoe found her spot in the sun at the Pack House

Zoe found her spot in the sun at the Pack House

 

What the phone sees

We dropped off the trailer for service–our refrigerator is dead–and hit the road for North Carolina, feeling naked and incomplete without our little home following along behind.
We are taking a quick week-long trip to my daughter’s new home and then will return to Massachusetts to pick up the trailer and head up to Maine and the Canadian Maritimes in August.

While we were in Massachusetts, our cell phone contracts came to an end and we planned to switch from AT&T to Verizon for better coverage in the Lower 48. Unfortunately, we found that we cannot switch to Verizon and keep our phone numbers (or any Alaskan number) until Verizon starts service in Alaska, which may or may not happen within the next few months.  So, we will wait a bit.

The planned phone switch-over, however, prompted me to download all of the pictures I have taken over the past two years with my Samsung. Viewing the photos for the first time on the larger computer screen brought home two things: I live a very sweet and privileged life; and the camera takes surprisingly good photos.  They capture bits of life when I don’t expect to be taking any pictures.

Here’s a sample of my favorites:

Sunset in Haleiwa, walking home from Haleiwa Joe's

Sunset in Haleiwa, on a walk home from Haleiwa Joe’s.

Honolulu sunset on the same trip.

Honolulu sunset on the same trip.  I love Hawaii.

On a trip to Chicago, one of my favorite cities, the phone was my only camera.

The Bean

The Bean

Looking up into the Bean's reflections from below

Looking up into the Bean’s reflections from below.

Chicago at night

Nighttime walk in Chicago

I also had a September trip to San Francisco, probably the best time for warm and sunny weather.

Tugboat and Alcatraz

Tugboat and Alcatraz

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf

I combined a trip to Florida to see my Mom with a quick trip to Puerto Rico.

Venice, Florida pelican on the jetty

Pelican on the jetty in Venice, Florida

San Juan moonrise

San Juan moonrise

And I used my phone camera to take lots of pictures of the incomparable Alaskan sky.

Icicles

Icicles on our window

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From our window

From our window.  Crazy clouds.

Sunset over the Inlet

Sunset over the Inlet

My phone, I think I’ll keep it.  Oh, no actually, I’m going to trade it in for a newer model.

 

Visiting with the grands

Boston Minuteman Campground

Lovely Boston Minuteman Campground–our first stop in Massachusetts

Our daughter and grandbabies drove up from North Carolina and spent the week with us and a multitude of cousins, aunts, uncles, and other assorted relatives and friends.  We all stayed for several days at a lake house in Plymouth, Massachusetts, thanks to George’s sister, and his cousin, who kindly made the cottage available as a gathering place.

We did not do anything noteworthy to the outside world while we were there–we just visited. It’s exactly what we wanted to do.  We did a lot of sitting around and talking while the kids played in the lake. We played in the lake some, too.

We watched the super moon rise over the lake.

We watched the super moon rise over the lake.

Waiting for the kayak

Waiting for the kayak

We did take a quick visit to the Cape (Cod that is) for fried clams.  It was our first foray in our quest to find the best full-bellied fried claims in New England.  They were not bad, but not great.

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Getting acquainted with a gull

Getting acquainted with a gull

On our last morning, heading out of town, we had breakfast at a good old-fashioned diner.  The roof leaked over my seat, with large, slow drips of water hitting me in various places throughout the meal.  I finally had enough and changed seats when it dripped in my orange juice.  The meal was delicious, with real scrambled eggs, burnt home fries, buttery corn bread heated on the grill, and Mickey Mouse pancakes for the kids.

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We then brought the whole North Carolina contingent to Connecticut for more visits.  My brother and sister-in-law were nice enough to put us up even though they were in the midst of a move.  We were introduced to the horses at the farm …

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IMG_2352… and cooled off in the pool.

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And then they headed back to North Carolina.  It was week packed with playing, eating, swimming, talking, drinking, driving (not together), and hardly a second to even think about blogging.  The next week and a half will be much the same and then we will be slowing down again.

 

Nutmegging it

We have been in Connecticut visiting my family for the past week and only now am I finding time for the blog.  It was a bit of a culture shock to be in New England again.  We both grew up here, but have not lived here in a long time.

New England’s towns are old and densely populated, as are those in other parts of the country.  But New England seems to be slower to change than other areas—which is both good and bad.  It has retained regional accents and words (subs are grinders, liquor is bought at a package store, aka a “packy”), and it has its own grocery chains, restaurants, and products.

Grinders

Grinders

On the other hand, it has resisted development more than many other areas and, as a result, does not have a good variety of groceries, restaurants, and retail stores.  And it has crazy-ass drivers on a confusing rural road system that evolved from cow paths.  It’s a unique corner of the country, with a very distinctive look and feel.

We stayed in northeastern Connecticut, which is now called “The Quiet Corner” in tourist descriptions—an uninspiring but apt name.  There isn’t much excitement there–something that has not changed from my childhood.

Very quiet, lots of trees

Very quiet, lots of trees

Connecticut itself is referred to as the “Nutmeg State” because its Yankee peddlers had a reputation for selling phony nutmegs made out of wood.  Apparently the name is a tribute to the peddlers’ “ingenuity” and “thriftiness.”  As someone born and raised in Connecticut, I have always been at a loss to explain how cheating customers was something of which to be proud.  I’ve read another explanation that addresses that concern, which contends that the nutmegs were real but the Southerners who bought them were too ignorant to realize what a nutmeg looked like and thought they were made of wood.  I don’t buy that version. In any case, it strikes me that even for reticent and understated Yankees, no one could think that calling an area the Quiet Corner of the Nutmeg State is going to attract visitors.  Probably just the way they like it.

In many ways, the area looks bizarrely the same as it did fifty years ago.  Some streets have not changed a bit, but have the same houses, painted the same colors (!), and the same small businesses, wearing the same family names out front.  Very déjà vu.  But some things have changed.  There are more people.  And the land has become reforested.

When I was growing up, Connecticut was a schizophrenic mix of aging mill towns—remnants of the industrial revolution’s heyday—and bucolic towns, with white-steepled Congregational churches and town greens, surrounded by rural farmland.  A lot of the farmland had already returned to forest, but there was still a significant amount of open land.  Now the forest has taken over.  Areas that were fields when I was young are unrecognizable–completely covered with mature trees.  Meadowood Road now is meadow-less.  I feel like a geezer–“these woods used to be an open field with bayberries and sweet fern when I was a youngun.”  It is such in-your-face evidence of my age to see that a mature forest has grown up since I left.  Old dog indeed.

Our drive to Connecticut from upstate New York was uneventful.  Once again, we were outrunning storms and it was overcast and windy, but we had some glimpses of the Erie Canal and Hudson River.

Passing over the Hudson with a train going the other way

Passing over the Hudson with a train going in the other direction

We arrived on July 3 and woke up to rain on the Fourth.  Despite the rain, we went to a neighboring town, Willimantic, to see the annual Fourth of July boombox parade, a tradition dating from 1986 when the town couldn’t find a marching band for the parade and they cranked up the boomboxes with band music instead.

It was an entertaining small-town parade, with kids, floats, and fire engines.

A good crowd for the parade even though the rain was coming down

A good crowd for the parade even though the rain was coming down

"Save our wild fish" could be a float from Alaska, although we have more wild fish left to save

It says “Save our wild fish,” which could be a float from Alaska, although we have more wild fish left to save

After the parade, we dried off and enjoyed independence by eating lots of lobsters.

Aaah New England, not wild fish exactly, but worth saving.

Not wild fish exactly, but worth saving and eating.

In the week after the Fourth, we celebrated my mother’s ninety-first birthday and took several day trips.  One day, after giving my mother a tour of our trailer, we headed out for a walk along the Natchaug River and came upon two beautiful restored cars–a 1912 Buick and a rare 1929 LaSalle. The owners had driven them from Manchester, about 20 miles away, at a maximum speed of thirty miles an hour, to enjoy a streamside picnic.  They had restored the cars with great care and attention to detail.  It was a real treat to see and hear about them.

Mom was six years old when this car was built

Mom was six years old when this car was built

Exquisite flying lady hood ornament

Exquisite hood ornament and headlights

I have never been able to come close to my mother’s superhuman energy level. Now that she is ninety-one, we are finally about even.  I am not kidding.  She was gung ho to tackle Gillette Castle on a hot, humid day mid-week.  The “castle” is a retirement estate built by William Gillette (no razor connection) in the early 1900’s.  He was an eccentric actor most well-known for portraying Sherlock Holmes on stage.  His castle vision was weirdly entertaining and had a beautiful view of the wide Connecticut River.  My mother pointed out to the tour guide that the plants in the conservatory were greatly in need of watering.  She was right, and they were soon watered.

One man's vision of retirement

One man’s vision of retirement

As you may suspect from Gillette Castle, stones are one of Connecticut’s most abundant resources.  Fields seem to grow them (one of the reasons the farmers left).  Nutmeggers, being the ingenious and thrifty people that they are, used the stones to build lots of walls and buildings.  The stone walls in the woods are lasting reminders of the fields that used to be there.

Rounded stones in the town hall for the small town of Ashford

Rounded stones in the town hall for the small town of Ashford

One of the Willimantic thread mills--all stone

One of the Willimantic thread mills–all stone

Willimantic has restored the old thread mills for new businesses and brought out the beauty of the stone buildings, which formerly were full of broken windows and always made me think of the miserable working conditions that they likely housed.  In seeking to revitalize the town, Willimantic also brought in an architect for a new bridge in 2000, who designed this thread and frog motif.

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The frogs are a stretch but I like the whimsy

While in Connecticut, we moved from strawberry season to blueberries.  We intend to pick our way through every fruit harvest and did a good job at a pick-your-own farm session with my mother.  It was the first time in very many years that we have not had to keep an eye out for bears while blueberry picking.

A lapful of blueberries

A lapful of blueberries

It continues to be very hot and muggy and there are lots of bugs here—whizzing, attacking, attaching, and crawling varieties.  Zoe took her first swim in a swimming pool, but was a little confused about the steps.

Zoe's cousin dogs are introducing her to new things, including chickens

Zoe’s cousin dogs are introducing her to new things, including chickens

 

 

 

 

Dog days

Zoe experienced two firsts in one day–90 degrees and 100 degrees.  Tough temperatures for our Alaskan girl.  As we left Pennsylvania for upstate New York, the thermometer and the humidity kept climbing.  Sweaty for us, panting-inducing for Zoe.  A fan and wet paper towels on Zoe’s head helped keep her heat level down.  It’s time for Zoe to shed some of her beautiful coat to adapt to this sauna weather.

Trying to chill

Trying to chill.

We stayed for two nights at Keuka Lake State Park on one of the Finger Lakes.  The campsites were huge and very pretty, but there weren’t any good sticks for Zoe’s ritual exploratory strut, so she had to make do with a chunk of firewood.  We did a little exploring of the region, which has beautiful old houses, some nice farmland, and huge lakes.  But it was really crowded.

We also were looking forward to trying some Finger Lake wines.  The ones we sampled were . . . how do I put this?  Notes of turpentine?  Aroma of dirt?  One was described as a “bold, brooding” red.  I don’t know what a brooding wine is, but I would have described it as “feels like it will take the enamel off of your teeth.”  We must have missed the good ones.

We now are in the no-eye-contact zone of New York and New England.  In contrast with most of the country, where people greet you, smile, and chat when you walk around a campground, most people here pretend that they don’t see you, doing anything to avoid possible eye contact or acknowledgement of your existence. We grew up in New England and understand that it’s just the regional culture, but it still feels weird and unfriendly. Zoe expects everyone to respond to her, so doesn’t understand these Easterners at all.

After two nights in Keuka, we moved down the road a bit to an RV park at a casino complex.  It was a meticulously groomed, spacious park that was eerily empty of people, because they were all in the casino.  We aren’t big gamblers, so we enjoyed our privacy at the park while everyone else was losing their money.

Enjoying the grill and watching the weather.

Grilling dinner and watching the weather–all by ourselves.

Gone gambling.

Many in the casino crowd were noticeably unhealthy-looking.  Maybe that’s why they were gambling.  It didn’t look like much fun, though, based on their grim expressions hunched over the slots.  On the other hand, they were cool in the air conditioning, while we were sweltering outside.  A thunderstorm cooled things off, but not for long.

Zoe smells rain.

Zoe smells rain.

Thunderstorm through the bedroom window.

Thunderstorm through the trailer bedroom window.

Zoe was not too impressed with the casino campground.  It was far too carefully landscaped to have good sticks lying around for play and it was too hot for more than short walks.  Most egregious was the lake.  An inviting expanse of water in which she could not swim—no dogs allowed.  Stupid rules.  To cool Zoe off in 96 degree heat, I gave her a solar shower.  Better than nothing.

The shower water got too hot in the sun.

The shower water got too hot in the sun.

About to park in the shade with Zoe after her shower.

About to park in the shade with Zoe after her shower.

Connecticut Ho!  Happy Independence Day.

This one's for you, Aileen.

This one’s for you, Aileen.