Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Maine Event

Max and I have been discussing a car trip across the northern states to Seattle, down the coast through Oregon and back through northern California to eventually cross the plains and arrive back home.  This has been a proposed plan beginning with our 5th wedding anniversary.  At first it was a train trip, but with the desire to ramble and explore, it was obvious this needed to be done by car.  We think it will take about 3 weeks, so our current estimate is maybe in 3 years when I might not be working.  Some of our children believe this will never happen, but we have faith that it will.  While discussing this long trip we also began discussing the possibility of a shorter one week trip, just by ourselves to the coast of Maine.  We could certainly do that and suggested maybe 2016 would work.  But given that we will begin our 68th year on this rock in February, we also thought, why not now?  And so we did what some think is unthinkable, a road trip to Maine the first week in November.

Max went online and found an AirBnB near Danbury in Connecticut, a state which Max had not visited, and which would be our first destination and after a  long leg of 750 miles crossing Ohio, Pennsylvania and southern New York.  It was an amazing place with a delightful host.  The house was off the road almost a quarter of a mile in a wooded area near a small lake.

 We had a very private room and bath with a library that took up most of one side of the house.  Our host also indicated we were free to fix breakfast in her kitchen while she ran some morning errands and provided fresh eggs from the hens in her back yard.

The next morning we headed east to I-95 and then north across Massachusetts and the southeast edge of New Hampshire and then into Maine.  New Hampshire provided some interest in that the only rest stop on the turnpike is a New Hampshire State Liquor store which is well advertised.  We didn't stop.

One of the aspects of our trip that we had not considered is that when you are this far north and east in November, the sun sets at about 4:15.  Consequently, we found our way to our rental house at night and parked in the driveway.

The house was in Thomaston, MA on Spruce Head Island, an actual island, but only a short bridge away from the mainland.  One thing I have to say about Maine is that it is very rocky.  What looks like our driveway in the picture above is really just rock that is the surface of the island.  In fact the "patio" in the back is also made of granite.

This all became very much apparent when I tried to back out of our "driveway" the next morning and found that the street was actually about 15 inches below our "driveway".  I was lucky to be able to get our new all wheel drive car off the rock and into the street with a little help from a neighbor.  The actual driveway I realized was off to the side.

Our first day was a bit windy, but temps were nicely in the 50's, so we decided to explore our island.  Here is the view from the front of our house.

These pictures were taken down by the water where the lobster boats were moored.

We next drove south to the Pamaquid Point lighthouse which was about an hours drive away.  Once again the rocky terrain of Maine was very visible with these alternating layers of sedimentary and igneous rock that has been turned on its side over the eons of time and then eroded by the sea.

 The picture below offers more perspective given that you can see Max at the bottom of the picture.  The tides along this coast are between 9 and 11 feet and these pictures were taken a low tide.

Next we drove north to the village of Camden where we had a dinner of seafood chowder.  On the drive home as we crossed the bridge to our island, the tide was low and the sun was sitting, producing another photo op.

The next two days were forecast to be sunny, low winds and temps in the 50's so we headed north to Acadia National Park.  One nice aspect of being at Acadia in November is that the park is almost empty of humans.  I understand that in July and August, the park is packed with people.  We wanted to do some hiking and found the Gohram Mountain trail that was listed as moderate and about 3.5 miles round trip.  I think I mentioned that Maine is rocky, and Acadia emphasized that fact.  The trail up the mountain rose just over 500 feet in 1.8 miles, but the trail was essentially made of rock.

We did make it to the top and found a few more rocks to sit on.

We finished the day driving the road around the rest of the island and checking out hikes for the next day.  We made plans for another hike and then a gentle walk.

The next day's hike took us around and over a small peninsula called Guest Head, another 3.5 hike, but a climb of only 350 feet.  From the top of the hill we had spectacular views of the coast and some of the islands further out in the Atlantic.  It was another rocky climb but the views were worth it.  The sun was so bright that my pictures got rather washed out.  I think I'll ask Santa for a polarizing lens for my camera this year.

 The picture below is Gorham Mountain that we hiked up the day before.

One of the surprises about Maine is the prolific Winter Berry bushes that grow wild all along the roads.  I planted three of these bushes in my back yard last year and I hope they provide our yard with some winter color.

Our next hike was the gentile walk around Jordan Pond which is a 3.3 mile hike. This pond is 145 feet deep with crystal clear water and the reflections were beautiful.  This valley and the spaces between the mountains were carved out by the glaciers that covered this area 13,000 years ago

We started out counter clockwise and thus didn't see the sign that indicated the trail was under construction.  After some difficult rocky sections we finished the last 3/4 mile on planks that were raised above the soft shoreline.

Finally after our walk around the Pond, it was getting close to 4:00 so we decided to head to the top of Cadillac Mount which has a real road instead of a trail made of rocks.  We made it to the top just as the sun was setting and got amazing views of the coast of Maine as the sun set.

Wednesday was forecast to be a rainy day, so we decided to search out two more lighthouses that were nearby.  The first one was Marshall Point lighthouse which achieved some fame as being the lighthouse to which Forrest Gump ran to reach the Atlantic coast.

We also decided we needed to experience one other Maine event during this trip, lobster.  We bought a live one and followed the instruction for fixing it.

I have to say it was not a fun experience and one we will not do again.  Putting a live animal into boiling water just isn't something we enjoyed regardless of the claims that lobsters do not feel pain.

On our last day we went north again to  Camden Hills State Park and hiked up Bald Rock Mountain.  It was another 3.6 mile hike, but the elevation was 1100 feet.  Once again we climbed up rock steps or over or around rocks to get up the mountain.   The trail climbed through a mixed hardwood forest that eventually got us to the top of the mountain.

But once again the view was spectacular.

With my telephoto lens we could see Acadia National Park which was about 40 miles away

And the coast line with the islands were spread out in front of us.

We even found a natural tripod to use to do a selfie with my camera.

And to end this, here is the final sunset we saw from our bridge to the mainland on our last drive to our home for the week.

We enjoyed the trip so much that Max has already made reservations for week long trips next June and October (both with out-of-season cheap rates).  All I have to say is that Maine Rocks.

Monday, January 19, 2015

December 2014

I must say it took a bit of time to recover from our very busy November, but our lives calmed significantly for the first two weeks of December.  Our only event during that time was Anthony's 7th birthday.  Fine dining for Anthony almost always means a cheese burger with fries, so we moved upscale from McDonalds and took him, Sarah and Deseree to BJ's where he got his burger with a slightly better than usual ambiance.  We did return to our house for the birthday cake and candles.  Fortunately Max had her phone handy, as I realized too late that my camera batteries were dead.

Having a birthday just before Christmas provides a double gifting season, but this year the young man seriously need some new snow boots, warm sweaters and a few other essential items that don't really deserve a photo shoot.

We did celebrate Christmas this year, although it did take us about 16 days to get through it all.  We started in Michigan with the Broadbents.  Mikayla's dance school was doing their own performance of The Nutcracker and Mikayla had two roles, bubblegum and peeps,  in this unique adaptation of the Christmas favorite.  We arrived on the 18th, attended the dress rehearsal on the 19th (the only performance in which photography was allowed) and I stayed home with Elise while the rest of the family attended the actual performance on the 20th.

Posing before the show started
In her role as bubblegum
Two Peeps in a box
Dancing Peeps

And then on Sunday, Max, Mikayla and Brandy went into Detroit to see the Moscow Ballet perform the traditional Nutcracker.  As you can see, it was a dress-up affair for the three generations of Nutcracker attendees.

Will, Elise and I were left at home, since I think one Nutcracker a year is enough for either Will or me.  Elise got some good daddy time as well as some time playing with Mikayla's stuff while she was away.

She does do some jumping on the trampoline, and will get good at it if she keeps watching her big sister.

Our Christmas did arrive in Michigan before we left and the girls opened their gifts from us.  Mikayla is into hair bands and got a "design your own" hairband which she quickly put to use.  Elise is still working on this unwrapping custom but nonetheless enjoyed her new toys too.

Our Christmas with the Broadbents was a huge success for this the first of our four Christmas Celebrations. We finished the celebration with a night out on the town of Rochester Hills.  We started by going to the Royal Park Hotel where they constructed a giant gingerbread house.

Brandy and Elise in front of the gingerbread house.
 And if you want to make  one of these yourself, they even provided the recipe.

And after dinner we did a walking tour of downtown Rochester Hills where they light up the streets every Christmas.

We did get back home to Cincinnati before the official Christmas Day and spent two quiet days enjoying our Christmas tree, music and good food.  Our Christmas tree is really two different trees in one.  We put it in our sun room and during the day it displays our collection of ornaments that we have been gathering over the past 21 years.

But at night it becomes a different tree with the LED strings of lights that project circles of light out from the bulbs to the walls and floor of the room.

This second Christmas Celebration was quiet, very quiet.

Matthew arrived in Cincinnati on the 26th for a short stay that began our third Christmas Celebration. Sarah (Matthew's Sarah) was in Lebanon for the holidays and Matthew stopped by Cincinnati on his way to Nashville to visit friends.  So on the 27th we celebrated our third Christmas with Matthew, Michael and Liz, as well as Sarah, Deseree and Anthony.  It was of course another day of cooking, this time a brisket with roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes.

I  use a recipe from our dear friend Kathy Milby who lives in Norman, Oklahoma and it is a favorite menu item for our festive meals.  Without a doubt it is our most popular request. And now that we have our new kitchen for this Christmas, everyone gathers around for the dinner preparation.

Deseree enjoying some appetizers before dinner

Sarah just enjoying our kitchen with the group

Matthew and Michael

Liz enjoying a glass of wine.
the group photo

Our fourth Christmas Celebration took place in Chicago with Amber, Evan and Marshall and as an extra bonus, it was also New Years, a double celebration for sure. That we ever celebrate New Years is a bit out of the ordinary for us.

 Marshall is growing fast and seems to be the smiliest baby we have ever been around.  You might think we only take pictures when he is smiling, but it's hard to find a time when he isn't giving you a big grin.

Practicing his backward scooting

Working on standing up

And giving Bo some love
And as you might be aware, Chicago can get cold in the winter, but Marshall is outfitted well with winter gear so that he bearly notices the weather.

And this being his first Christmas, he really wasn't sure what all the pretty boxes were doing in his living room.

But he caught on fairly quickly and what can be more fun than some rattling red paper?

It may take him a day or so to understand that the paper wasn't the real fun about this process, but what the paper covered up.  So now Marshall will begin his musical career from home, maybe.  But where did the pretty paper go?

And I do understand that I am not an easy person to shop for since I really don't need anything.  But Amber and Evan did find something that I didn't have and  really do like.  Some of you may need to review algebra to appreciate this, but Max is the one that needs to get to work so this plate can be valid.

Marshall did get his first bath in the big tub while we were there.  Yes that is actually a jacuzzi style tub, but I think Marshall was safe with all of the life guards we had stationed near by.

And finally we celebrated New Years with a dinner of beef short ribs, and we toasted out the old and in the new with a wonderful bottle of champagne that Michael and Liz brought us for Christmas.

Now we have what we expect will be two months without any travel and some time at home back in our "normal" routine.