Monday, 26 June 2017

The Baseball Connection

    I had heard that parking can be a bit of a challenge at Fenway Park so I decided we better get moving at about two o’clock if we were to stand any chance at all of getting a spot. Good decision because I was totally unprepared for not being able to get there from here. Boston‘s road system is not a grid like many familiar cities but rather is set up in circles encompassing Beacon Hill and intersected by streets like spokes on a wheel. This is very European and very picturesque but is a nightmare when it comes to locating and getting to unfamiliar places. Such was the case as we drove in continuous circles able to plainly see Fenway Park but unable to figure out how to get to it. It was very frustrating but ultimately we did fluke it and arrived at the curbside of one of the streets bordering the park.

      It was about three o’clock by now and the game didn’t start until seven so we were able to find a perfect parking spot and were determined to keep it no matter how much money we had to feed the parking meter between now and 6 PM. We were just about to leave for a walk through the Fenway neighbourhood when a man and his weenie wagon appeared and asked if we would kindly move our vehicle so he could have this fine parking spot. I was just about to tell him what he could do with his wagon and all his weenies when he suggested that we simply move ahead one spot and he would pay the parking meter for us. Well, not even I was about to argue with sound logic and good ideas like that so I happily moved forward and we were off without having to worry about running back to feed the meter.

      Fenway Park had been home to the Boston Red Sox since it opened in 1912, and was the oldest major league baseball stadium still in use today. The ballpark had several quirky little areas unique to Fenway, not the least of which was the famous Green Monster, the nickname given to the 37 foot 2 inch high left field wall that serves as a popular target for right-handed hitters. Our visit tonight was made even more meaningful as the Red Sox opponents would be our very own Toronto Blue Jays.

      Trying not to be too obvious about which team we were cheering for was a perfect way to spend an autumn evening. It was part of a Whitehead vacation in its best form – two teams chasing the elusive American League Pennant, ballpark franks and a couple of spellbound kids watching America’s game.


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Monday, 19 June 2017

Ducklings Lead the Way

    We had tickets to the Red Sox baseball game that night so decided to spend a leisurely day in Boston. As we walked the perimeter of the Boston Public Gardens adjacent to Boston Common along Beacon Street we came upon the bar from the television series “Cheers”. I was going to look for it anyway, it just made it much easier when it presented itself so readily. I probably would not have found it if I had gone in search of it. The bar, which was founded in 1969 as the Bull and Finch Pub, was used for exterior shots only in the show and does not resemble the bar in the television series at all on the inside. However in 2002 the owners gave up and officially renamed the bar Cheers.

      The Public Gardens were beautiful in the morning light as we walked somewhat aimlessly about to a second coincidental stumbling on our part  (remember I mentioned if you look, something will always come up to entertain your children and save the day). Ours was the discovery of the bronze statues commemorating Robert McCloskey’s children’s story “Make Way For Ducklings.” It is located near the central pond not far from the Bull and Finch Pub. The book was so popular the statues were created and placed in the public park. It was pretty exciting, to Gavin in particular, as he had just finished reading the book in school so this discovery was a gold mine for him. Sitting on the large mama duck’s back, Gavin proceeded to tell us the story of the two mallard ducks who decided to raise their family on an island in the pond in Boston’s Public Garden.

      Neither of these things were typical tourist things to do in Boston. The bar has become one but at the time of our visit the series was just getting under way. They just happened and it’s important you be prepared to embrace these types of opportunities when they occur. It adds a wonderful dimension to your travel plans and in all honesty works best when you have not tried to plan it at all.


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Monday, 12 June 2017

Plimoth Rocks

    To be able to learn History by viewing it firsthand would be best but also impossible so the next best thing is to be able to learn history by seeing its remains firsthand. That is exactly what the boys were able to do as we arrived at Plimoth Plantation near the town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

      It is a reconstruction of the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established by English colonists, later referred to as Pilgrims, in the 17th century. As we entered this living museum we passed through the fort at the gates equipped with cannons to protect the village. We spent a wonderful day wandering around the sand and dirt roads and pathways flanked by split rail and twig fences. Wooden houses with thatched roofs were bordered by corrals for the livestock, chickens and goats.

      Museum interpreters populate the 1627 English village and speak, act and dress as they did in 1627. A little disconcerting at first in a “What the hell did he just say to me?” kind of way, they interacted with their “strange visitors”, us, in the first person, answering questions, discussing their lives and viewpoints and going about their daily activities of cooking, carpentry, blacksmithing and gardening/farming. It was indeed interesting to watch a couple of matronly women pluck a goose to cook in a pot of boiling water over an open fire. One young lady was asked what she did. “What do I do? I do my labours,” was her surprised, almost indignant response.

      In the town of Plymouth near the legendary Plymouth Rock rests the Mayflower II, a replica of the 17th century ship celebrated for transporting the Pilgrims to the New World. The ship is under the care of Plimoth Plantation and like the museum is inhabited by colonial first person interpreters representing the sailors, officers and workers on the 1620’s ship. The actors in character added to the enjoyment and understanding of the era. How anyone ever survived the long ocean voyage on a vessel like this is beyond me.

      Once again, an unscheduled diversion took us into a world we didn’t know existed, a world we uncover by spontaneity on the Holiday Road.

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Monday, 5 June 2017

The End of Cape Cod

      The area of National Seashore near Nauset Light Beach in Eastham was the picture of Cape Cod I had in my mind before arriving there. The sand dunes capped with weather beaten wooden homes really made me feel like I had finally found the real Cape Cod – yes it was just as Patti Page crooned, “You’re sure to fall in love with Old Cape Cod.”


      The beach itself, flanked by large sand dunes and the ocean water was quite breathtaking. Although we did not have time on our drive through, Nauset Light Beach is reputed to be a great place for swimming, surfing and boogie boarding. The boys were a little young yet but in subsequent vacations to Florida and North Carolina boogie boarding would rule for them.


      Just south of the northern tip of Cape Cod the old town cemetery in Truro beckoned us to stop. This was the site of four grisly murders in 1969 but that was not what attracted us to the cemetery. Karen has always enjoyed reading the headstones and often learned a lot about a place by doing so even with Adam riding along merrily on her back. Today Truro is an exclusive town on the Cape, marked by affluent residences and rolling hills and dunes along the coast.


      Our final destination on Cape Cod was Provincetown, located on the extreme tip of the Cape, which is reason enough on its own to go there. Referred to locally as P-town, it is known for its beaches, harbour, artists and reputation as a gay community. With a year-round population near 3,000 that balloons in the summer months to 60,000 – thankfully we missed that pleasure. The town is surrounded by water and strewn with boats, working vessels and partially sunken wrecks, a living personification of almost any Jimmy Buffett song, it was the perfect spot to terminate our exploration of Cape Cod.

National Seashore



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Monday, 29 May 2017

Old Cape Cod

    Cape Cod is a peninsula in the easternmost portion of Massachusetts. Its small-town character and expansive beaches attract a massive number of tourists during the summer months so hopefully we will miss all that. We buzzed through the upper cape, the part closest to the mainland, pretty quickly. Continuing on up the south coast we arrived in Chatham, a quaint town despite the growth of population on the Cape in general. Home to the Chatham lighthouse established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808 the town also maintains the fishing village appearance so evident all over Cape Cod. The harbour is surrounded by large wooden houses looking down on the town from the dunes above.

      As we passed through the town of Eastham we stopped at what appeared to be an abandoned home. Edward Penniman, a whaling captain, built this French Second Empire-style house on a knoll overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in 1868. Entrance to the grounds was through an enormous archway of whale jawbones at the gate. Humming the theme from the Munsters TV show I circled the mansion photographing and videotaping as I was fascinated with this bit of whaling history. A turret and a widow’s walk topped the building and made me wish we could have gone inside to explore but at this particular moment it was not open to the public.

      Known for its abundant oyster beds, Wellfleet is located half way between the tip and the elbow of Cape Cod and was where we chose to spend the night. A fishing village like so many we had seen all day, nearly half of its land area is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  A slightly different view greeted us as we arrived late in the day when the tide was out; kind of funny if not a little bit eerie to see all the boats sitting on the sand as if thrown there after some violent storm.

      We finished the day with another session of dune jumping, one that I joined in as it rapidly escalated to a family competition with Karen filming on the video camera. The sheer joy in Gavin and Adam’s faces said it all – when we look back we will realize, these were the times of our lives.

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Monday, 22 May 2017

Martha's Vineyard

    They say getting there is half the fun, so we were going to make sure that was the case and at times we wondered if the destination had anything to do with the vacation process at all. Always take advantage of opportunities when they arise – you will rarely, if ever, be disappointed. So as we were about to enter Cape Cod we realized we were very close to Martha’s Vineyard off shore and decided it might be nice to see it on a day trip. I don’t know if it was the mystique of the Kennedy connection or what it was but something told me we had to go there.

      We boarded the ferry at Woods Hole somewhat apprehensively wondering how Adam might react to the voyage. Fortunately, for all concerned, it was a relatively short hop so he was fine; as a matter of fact, we could not have ordered a better day as we landed at Oak Bluffs on the island to a perfect, bright, sunny day. It’s not a particularly huge island but we definitely needed a vehicle to see it so, with our van parked safely on Cape Cod, we rented a Jeep convertible for the day. 

      Well, we were driving through the woods on a sand, yes sand, road and came across a pretty cool little fishing village. Menemsha, on the northwest side of the island, near Gay Head, was easily recognized as a fishing village by the boats and docks and small shanties. However, if by some wild stretch of the imagination that got by you, the absolute gagging smell of fish made for a positive i.d. Beyond stench, the smell was almost nuclear in its explosive pungency.

      In an old shack a rustic, almost caustic message spray painted on the side of a fridge in a very child-like hand caught my eye and I laughed as it spoke volumes to me about the people who lived there. “Don’t smoke and don’t be neat,” a clearer request could not likely be made anywhere. I’m not sure about the smoking part but the resident of this humble abode certainly upheld the cautionary neat request.

      As we approached the docks to head back to Cape Cod near the end of the day Gavin and Adam discovered something that would prove to be their number one activity on this trip. The beach had a very wide expanse of sand bordered by grass topped sand dunes. It didn’t take them long to discover that jumping from the top of the dune to the soft beach sand below was a lot of fun. It was wonderful for Karen and me to watch them as we realized that along with the enjoyment they derived from jumping they were also getting good exercise and lots of fresh ocean air – all because of a spontaneous side trip.

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Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Interesting Activities - One of the Keys to a Successful Road Trip

    Teenagers are probably the most difficult people to keep interested especially when it comes to family vacations. Road trips can be a lot of fun but there’s probably not anything more boring for the teens than riding around in a car for days on end. Therefore, interesting diversions are a necessity. Maybe an unusual attraction or an intriguing destination will work. We always found an activity of some sort (the less common the better) worked out well.

      Jackson Hole is a valley lying between the Teton and the Gros Ventre mountain ranges in Wyoming. The name was given by trappers who entered the valley from the north and the east, descending along steep slopes, giving the sensation of entering a hole. The long shadows cast by the late afternoon sun fell across the dusty meadows as we saddled up our horses for a trail ride. Well, we didn’t saddle them the wranglers did and Adam was about to find out that they did a less than sterling job. 

      It started out innocently enough – a line of a dozen or so riders enjoying the setting sun on a summer evening. As we wound our way up the dusty trail into the mountains I could see all the riders in front of me from my vantage point at the end of the line. I noticed Adam seemed to be leaning a little to his left side but I didn’t really worry about it I just hoped he was comfortable. As we proceeded, one dusty curve after another, Adam became even more off centre. The situation got worse and worse until finally he fell right off the horse - actually he didn’t fall off the horse at all, the saddle did – he just happened to be in the saddle. Our group was going slowly at the time so both horse and rider were fine but I suspect the cowboys were a little embarrassed as they made sure the saddle was cinched up tightly before Adam got back up on his horse.

      Even with that little calamity Adam enjoyed the ride, as did we. It was born from spontaneity here but became something we would enjoy as our Holiday Road continued in subsequent years, culminating in a three day adventure in the Canadian Rocky Mountains almost ten years later. Like beauty, interesting is in the eye of the beholder and you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t until you try and when you do find something it can add a fulfilling element to any road trip.

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