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COVID Diaries: Day 316

Another long long week…  Another weekend!  Except I have a meeting in the morning on my day off because I wasn’t quite able to get to everything I needed to get done.  Sigh…  Cora doesn’t mind; she just likes that I’m home.

The COVID cases here continue to be high, so unfortunately the lockdown continues, even as most other states are lifting theirs.  Our surge started after the new lockdown went into effect, so let’s just think on that for a moment…  I’m tired.  The vaccine rollout is a mess; our county has literally no vaccine at all.

We got about a flake and a half of snow this week before it petered out and the sun came out.  I think I would have preferred a foot of snow!  I mean I work from home anyway, so why not?

The weekend of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day my friend and I went on a little Sunday Funday jaunt nearby.  We found an old ship from 1917 that was scrapped and turned into a breakwater in the 1960s.  The trees growing out of it are pretty tall!  I’ve lived here all my life and had no idea this was close by until I was searching around for fun oddities to go see.

It was a gorgeous sunny day, and we had a great time!  It was so refreshing to have good weather in January! That made lunch outside tolerable, maybe even nice?  The fish and chips certainly lifted my spirits!

We also spent some time exploring a nearby state park that I’ve driven by a million times, but rarely stop at.  We walked the beach and hiked to a view of the Deception Pass Bridge.  What an incredible day!

I started a new puzzle, but haven’t made it very far.  The panorama format makes it look so small, even though it is 750 pieces!

I was thinking on life the other day and came up the idea to pass along some words of wisdom.  I mean, I’ve done a lot of living; it’s nice to think I might have learned something along the way.  Some will be mine, but I might share snippets from others too (attributed of course).  So here you go!

COVID Words of Wisdom:  If you are lucky enough to have a woman who tells you what she needs, make sure you listen and at least try to deliver. If you don’t, she won’t stop needing it, but she will stop needing it from you.

Circus Trip 2018: Birthday Lobster

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Beal’s Lobster Pier, SW Harbor, Maine

When you are alone, holidays can be hard…  So I wasn’t sure what to expect from my road trip birthday.  Did I want to mark it in any way, or just let it slide by unnoticed?

Being in Maine at my birthday was fortuitous.  I had always wanted to try whole lobster, and what better place to experience it for the first time than Maine, where I could have fresh whole Maine lobster right at the source!

I asked around that morning and learned that Beal’s Lobster Pier was recommended as the place to be for Maine lobster.  It was near Acadia National Park, so when I finished my days’ touristing, I headed over to check it out.  I arrived fairly early; if I remember correctly it was just before 5, and it wasn’t too busy yet.  I let the man at the counter know I had never had whole Maine lobster, and he set to work picking out a good one for me.  And the sides, you can’t forget the sides…  Coleslaw, corn on the cob, and cornbread…

After I paid, I wandered out to find a table with my glass of Vinho Verde, and had the most incredible view of the harbor from my seat.  It was a warm evening, and I felt so at peace on the water, seeing the occasional boat come in.

My lobster came with instructions on how to crack and eat it, and I was so grateful!  I made sure to take a photo so I could have it in case one day I needed them.

My meal was amazing!  So fresh, and so simple, and easily one of the best meals I have ever had.  It was delicious, and I felt like it was a birthday dinner done right!

Note: For those of you in the know, this was the day before my actual birthday.  It still counts!

Circus Trip 2018: Acadia NP, Day 1

Day 52, Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

I was so excited to have two days in the park!

I drove in that morning and stopped first at the Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land.  I watched the movie about the park, got some postcards and of course got my passport stamped!

I decided to spend the day checking out the Park Loop Road, which runs for 27 miles through the park.  I drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the east coast of North America.  It is also known as the place that is first in the United States to see the sunrise, although that is only true from October 7 to March 6 of each year.  That makes me feel better about the fact that I did not drag my butt up there in time for the sunrise, but I was there in early September!

Cadillac Mountain was still amazing, even during mid-morning when I was there.  The views are incredible and you can see in so many directions!  The barrier islands are beautiful!  The day that I was there they were doing a raptor count, although the gentle breeze was going in the wrong direction so most of the birds weren’t flying.  It was still interesting to hear them talk about their migration patterns and other raptor statistics!  It was neat to see the Cadillac Mountain granite, formed approximately 420 million years ago.  These are some very old stones!

The Park Loop Road is definitely a must do drive in the park; it takes you through the woodlands, by ponds, wildlife and the coast!  I enjoyed driving the scenic drive and not rushing it.  I stopped at a pond alongside the route and found a cute frog among the lily pads!

 

I found Sand Beach, which is, you guessed it!, a Sand Beach!  Being from Washington, where most beaches are rocky, I can appreciate the novelty of a sand beach.  I spent some time exploring it and wandering by the water.  There were several interesting jellyfish washed up, and some beautiful views!

I also stopped by Thunder Hole, but it wasn’t thundering.  It is a hole in the coastline, where the surf rushes in and apparently provides quite a show as it sprays high in the air!  You have to see it at high tide though, and it wasn’t high tide when I was there.  I was entertained by the two young men at the gift shop making the predictable inappropriate comments about Thunder Hole, but you could tell the cashier was not amused!

There is a trail that goes along the coastline for a while, and I enjoyed checking out the views of the water along the trail.  Even with the crowds, there is something peaceful about being close to the water.

My last official stop was at the Jordan Pond and to see the Jordan Pond House and The Bubbles.  The Bubbles are hills that someone, sometime in history, obviously thought looked like bubbles.  I wasn’t convinced, but it is probably as good a name as any.  When I get back to Acadia I want to hike to the tops of The Bubbles, which have some gorgeous views. That’s the trouble with these beautiful parks; there just isn’t enough time to do everything!  The Jordan Pond House is a restaurant that is famed for its popovers, another spot I will have to check out on a future trip!

 

That evening I had my early birthday dinner – that deserves its own post!

 

Acadia National Park History

Acadia National Park might be called the park that doesn’t know its name.  It was originally designated as Sieur de Monts National Monument on July 8, 1916, then became Lafayette National Park on February 26, 1919 during President Woodrow Wilson’s term of office, and finally became Acadia National Park with a formal name change on January 19, 1929.  In 2019, Acadia had 3,437,286 visitors in its 49,075 acres.

This stunning park takes up about half of Mount Desert Island on the mid-Maine coast, south of the town of Bar Harbor Maine, as well as part of the peninsula and portions of several outlying islands.  Native Americans have lived in the area for at least 12,000 years, including tribes making up the Wabanaki Confederacy, also known as the “People of the Dawnland”; the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, Abenaki and Penobscot.  The tribes continue to play a significant role in the stewardship of the area today.

In 1613, French missionaries set up the first white colony on Mount Desert Island, but it was destroyed by an armed vessel from the Virginia Colony in what was probably the first act of aggression leading up to the French and Indian wars.  In the 1600s, a fur trading post was also set up, and French, English and Dutch traders all fought for control.  The French ultimately ceded Mount Desert Island to the English in 1713.

The result is a park with a diverse habitat including coastal regions as well as the tallest mountains on the Atlantic Coast (Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak there).  The diversity that exists there means that there is a wide variety of activities to do, including auto-touring, hiking, poking around in the tidepools, bicycling, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Cadillac Mountain rises 1,530 feet, and is considered the first place that the sunrise hits on the east coast of the United States.  There are a variety of animals that reside within the park, including black bear, moose, deer, porcupine, beaver, fishers, mink, turtles, otters, bats and many species of birds.

I had the opportunity to visit Acadia for two amazing days in September 2018, including my birthday.  I’ll tell you about my visit next!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Mount Washington Auto Road

Day 51, Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Pinkham Notch, New Hampshire

Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6288 feet.  It has hiking trails, back-country skiing, glider flying, and an annual bike race.

Mount Washington is also famous for its auto road, a 7.6 mile road to the top of the mountain.  Incredibly, it originally was built as a carriage road and opened in 1861.  The average grade of the road is 11.6%, so it is a steep climb! I can’t even imagine sitting in a carriage while horses and mules pulled me up the mountain.

The Mount Washington Auto Road is a toll road; you can drive yourself up the road for $35 (it was $31 when I went); passengers are extra.  Your tour includes a CD that you can keep (I wonder if they have now made it digital) and a bumper sticker declaring that your vehicle climbed the Mount Washington Auto Road.  You can also go on a guided tour.

I picked the drive-yourself option and enjoyed listening to the CD; it explained the history of the road and features along the way.  There are pullouts where you can stop along the way for the beautiful views and to see how the forest makes way to a more alpine landscape.

At the top, there is a weather observatory.  It is fitting because Mount Washington is known for its very erratic weather.  On April 12, 1934, Mount Washington set the record for the highest wind speed in the world, at 231 miles per hour.  The record stood until 1996, and is still the highest wind speed recorded outside of a tornado or a tropical cyclone.

In the early 1900s, there was also a hotel at the summit, and the building is still here to wander through.  It was more like a hostel with several beds in a common bedroom and a communal dining room.  We must have been so much more social back then!

I had my photo taken with the summit altitude sign and checked out the view in various directions.  Even though 6288 feet isn’t that high compared to our west coast mountains, there were still some beautiful views!

While I was up at the top, I even met a pig who was sightseeing with his owners.  His name was Tugboat and he was so cute!

The auto road was certainly a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.  When I’m next there I will be sure to do some hiking!

Circus Trip 2018: Woodstock, VT

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, Vermont is a small town that I want to visit again.  It was beautiful!  There are so many nice historic homes, and a little stream that runs through town.  It has the cutest quaint downtown shopping district, and loads of charm.

I poked around in the shops, getting some gifts for friends and family and a few postcards for myself.

I stopped in at Bentley’s restaurant, sat at the bar, and had a Citizen Cider and the most incredible burger made with locally raised beef.  It was so good, and I was so hungry!  I would absolutely go have that burger again!

Also near Woodstock is the Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth, Vermont, about 20 minutes away.  This is certainly on my list of places to visit once I’m back in the area!  I just ran out of time on that trip.

And look at this covered bridge!  The Taftsville covered bridge was originally built in 1836!  It was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irene 2011; repairs took two years and it reopened in 2013.

These photos are making me nostalgic and eager to get back on the road!

Circus Trip 2018: Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP

Day 50, Monday, September 3, 2018
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock, Vermont

Besides a section of the Appalachian Trail, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is the only national park unit within the state of Vermont.  So it makes sense that it would be an interesting one!

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is named for the three families that owned this property, and each impacted the farm and the nearby community of Woodstock, Vermont in important ways. 

The son of the first family who lived at the farm on Mount Tom, George Perkins Marsh, grew up seeing the environmental destruction that had been caused by deforestation in Vermont, both for sheep grazing and for industry, as wood was still a primary means of making the fires that were used to process glass, soap, and wool.  It was estimated that by the time Marsh was born in 1801, over 95% of Vermont’s forestland had been logged.  He saw the erosion and loss of fish habitat that occurred on his own property and began to understand the future impacts if people didn’t change their ways.

Frederick Billings grew up reading George Marsh’s writings, including his book, Man and Nature, and was impacted by the call to action of saving America’s forestland.  He became an attorney and purchased the farm in 1869, planted trees and set about creating a sustainable dairy farm, along with carriage paths throughout the property with scenic vistas through the forest.

One of Frederick Billings’ granddaughters married a Rockefeller, and inherited the farm in the 1950s, thus giving Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park its third name.  The Rockefeller family had long had a tradition of conservation and contributing to the idea of setting aside public land that would not be developed.  Laurance and Mary Rockefeller continued that tradition on the Billings farm.  They set about to remodel and modernize the mansion and farm, and opened the Billings Farm to the public in 1983.

The Rockefellers donated their residential property to the National Park Service in 1992, a donation that included this fabulous Victorian mansion with all its incredible furnishings, as well as 555 acres of forested land on Mount Tom, where the mansion is located.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is now a unit dedicated to conservation and operated closely with a private foundation that operates the Billings dairy farm next door.

When I visited, I did the tour of the mansion, which was truly one of the most spectacular historic mansions I’ve seen so far.  I was fascinated.  The fact that the Rockefellers donated all their furnishings made it a place that could be enjoyed for its ornate architectural beauty, its incredible artwork collected by the family, and the remaining evidence of the family’s life there.  So often we see mansions that are decorated with period pieces and we aren’t able to see that people – families – actually lived here.  They lived here with their hobbies, and collections and favorite books.  And they lived here with their letters to friends, family snapshots, their favorite comfy chair, and the hideous plaid carpet.  You can see the life lived in this mansion, and honestly, beyond the expensive art collections, it isn’t that much different than yours and mine.

I definitely want to return, and see more of the mansion and the property surrounding it.  It has several miles of hiking trails and carriage paths, and it would look spectacular during the fall colors!  Of course, I also wanted to see the village of Woodstock, Vermont, so I went there next!

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 231

Fall is certainly here in full force, and I’ve been in a pensive mood.  Day 231 of the lock down – I never would have thought…  So I thought I would bring to you another round of COVID observations.

  1. Cheetos and pineapple hard cider aren’t the best food and booze pairing I’ve ever had.  But it’s not the worst either.
  2. There is something inherently depressing about the first day after the time change when the sunset occurs before you are off work.  It’s worse when you haven’t even put on shoes that day…
  3. There is something quite odd about realizing that you are very drawn to a man’s face in the grocery store… And then you realize it is because he doesn’t have a mask on. 
  4. We are all unintentionally jerks sometimes.  That’s just human nature.  You are going to screw up and all you can do is apologize and hope they forgive you.  But when you are a jerk intentionally, then it’s time to look very deeply into your own heart and reevaluate your values…  Because something ain’t lining up.  There seems to be a lot of this going around lately…
  5. I saw a wine advent calendar at the grocery store tonight.  If I place it in a prominent location at home, does that count as decorating for Christmas?  Asking for a friend…
  6. I think the black squirrels in my yard gained a competitive advantage over the gray squirrels this year.  Maybe it has something to do with the bunnies.
  7. Raking and mowing the lawn in fall is the equivalent of bringing on the rain by washing your car.  Except with wind.
  8. At some point I reached the point where my heart has been so scarred that I wonder if I will ever trust anyone ever again.  I’m still trying…
  9. The fate of the world may one day come down to a battle between the people who put two spaces after a period and those who only put one.  I’m a two spacer…
  10. Overall, 2020 still blows… 

The red rocks of the southwest are sounding pretty good right now.  I hope you are all hanging in there! 

Me at Valley of Fire State Park…

 

Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

Travel Bucket List

COVID has given me a far amount of time to fantasize about retirement and the things I want to do once I get there. And mind you, I’m not planning to wait until I’m 65! I’ve been coming up with my bucket list… Some of these might not have to wait until I’m retired, but some are harder to do in a standard two week vacation slot, especially if you want to take the time.  Here are some of mine (in no particular order)!

  1. Drive US Highway 20 from coast to coast
  2. Drive Route 66 from start to end
  3. Take a river cruise through the wine country of Europe
  4. Visit the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island
  5. Take an Antarctic cruise
  6. See the Grizzly bears at Katmai National Park
  7. See the Northern lights in Europe (or maybe Alaska)
  8. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru
  9. See the Great Wall of China
  10. Visit Petra in Jordan
  11. See the Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia
  12. See the Egyptian Pyramids
  13. Visit Cappadocia in Turkey and take a balloon ride
  14. Visit Auschwitz in Poland
  15. Go backpacking
  16. Do a multi-day trip on the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park
  17. See the night skies at Chaco Culture National Historic Park
  18. Do an African photo safari
  19. Hike in New Zealand
  20. Camp and snorkel at Dry Tortugas National Park
Treasury petra crop.jpeg

The Treasury Building at Petra (photo from Wikipedia)

What’s on your bucket list?  Have you been fantasizing about travel during COVID-times?