Monday, 18 September 2017

Scaling New Heights

    Each day we headed out we were constantly in search of diversions from the road trip boredom for the kids. It didn’t take long to find another spot on the side of the road to stop and do some more rock climbing. Although it appeared that Gavin and Adam undertook this activity with total reckless abandon they had been warned numerous times to take care. Not that us telling them that had any bearing on their actions, both Karen and I were always nearby should our assistance be required, as sooner or later we knew it would be.

      Scaling the face quickly then scrambling up the ridge, our fears were set aside as Gavin reached the top and glanced down. If we had any concerns that he was not aware of his surroundings or the potential peril he could be in, the expression on his face told us he got the message. As he glanced straight down his eyes widened, his eyebrows shot up and his mouth dropped open - it was priceless.         

      Always wanting to emulate his brother, Adam gave no thought whatsoever to how he might get down, he just scrambled to the top and sat next to Gavin. Oh to have the innocence and fearlessness of youth. After all this display of agility, balance and speed Dad had to come to the rescue as on his way down Adam got stuck on a rock outcrop that was just a bit too far for him to jump across to safety so I stepped in to bridge the gap and lift him across.

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Monday, 11 September 2017

The Royal Gorge

    Royal Gorge is another gem we found; a deep canyon on the Arkansas River near Canon City, Colorado. At the bottom the gorge is very narrow at a width of about 50 feet but it is its 1250 foot height that makes it so memorable. As we approached we stopped the van on the side of the road and got out because we were rapidly being approached by a herd of wild yet somewhat contented looking mule deer. They were obviously quite used to human presence and it soon became evident the reason for this familiarity was that they were fed by our species. Not wanting to break with tradition we dug through our lunch and Gavin and Adam immediately chose to surrender their carrots.

      The deer approached cautiously at first but once they discovered we meant them no harm and food was involved they came right up to us. Adam was a little fearful at first but when he saw they were gentle and willing to eat right out of his hand he enjoyed it and even started petting them. It was a heartwarming scene for me to see the boys feeding and petting the deer and I asked myself, “Can you get this close to nature in a book, even if man did have something to do with it?”

      The flags of all the states, in the order they became states, adorned the rails of the 1260 foot long bridge traversing the canyon so it was an education just crossing to the other side. The deck of the bridge was approximately 1000 feet above the river below so I found it somewhat preposterous that there was a sign warning, “No Fishing from the bridge.” Exactly what kind of tackle would one need to make this work?

      Once across the bridge we found a rock ridge that Gavin and Adam insisted on climbing, exercising their new-found favourite activity. Hindsight being the wonderful thing that it is pointed out to us just how insanely dangerous the allowing of this activity had been. The back side of the ridge they were climbing leveled off slightly for several yards then dropped straight into the canyon – 1000 feet! Maybe as parents we should have exercised a bit of authority and found somewhere else for them to play. Oh well, wait for a couple years until we get to Delicate Arch!

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Monday, 4 September 2017

Pikes Peak

    Today we would be heading up Pikes Peak, yes that’s Pikes not Pike’s. In 1891 the newly formed US Board on Geographic Names recommended that apostrophes not be used in names. In 1978 the Colorado state legislature passed a law mandating it be called “Pikes Peak.”

      I expected the journey would bring us some trying moments, like the altitude, but we were ready to give it our best effort. It is 30-some miles west of Colorado Springs and as part of the Front Range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains it rises an impressive 14,115 feet. Starting just a few miles up Ute Pass at Cascade, the 19 mile Pikes Peak Highway climbs steadily to the summit, the last two thirds still being unpaved in 1990.

      The road had a series of treacherous switchbacks called the W’s because of their shape on the side of the mountain with a continuously steep climb out of the densely forested lower level to a barren, open expanse toward the top. The road was dirt for the highest parts and was an unnerving drive as there were no guardrails so you had to be comfortable with your driving skills. With great risk, however, came great reward.

      At the top I felt alone as I gazed across the peaks and valleys with the howling wind and surrounding snow providing an indescribable sense of isolation. The air at this altitude contains only 60% of the oxygen available at sea level. We had trouble breathing and felt nauseous but I managed to take a few pictures, had a quick look in the gift shop then suggested we head down immediately because that was the only way the nausea and light headedness was going to subside. The trip up Pikes Peak was a real eye opener as I discovered that one felt like absolute crap at 14,000 feet.

      On the drive down the switchbacks came at us fast and furious and all of a sudden the fact that there were no guardrails seemed to be of greater concern. On top of that was the worry that my brakes would melt as I was pretty much riding them the whole drive down, to the point we felt it best to stop a number of times just to let them cool down. Somewhere on the trip down the mountain the nausea disappeared as we descended in altitude. There was so much to pay attention to that I didn’t even realize I felt better until down to the highway but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat and wouldn’t change a thing – well, maybe I wouldn’t bother to go into the gift shop.

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Monday, 28 August 2017

Message In A Bottle

    After two visits in the past three years an immediate return to Florida may seem incongruous to many but the boys were both eager to visit the newly opened (June 7, 1990) Universal Studios in Orlando. Stopping for the night on any vacation journey was always fun for Gavin and Adam because they were finally able to get out of the van and stay out. They were only there for a short time but it was going to be a good time as pizza, jumping on the beds and watching TV assured it was their vacation too! They probably had to do some homework but for a few wonderful moments they were free – at least until the next day’s drive.

      We awoke to rain and fog, left the motel and headed out of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee where we quite literally turned right instead of left and were officially on our way to Colorado. Severe weather altered our plans in the blink of an eye. Talk about playing the cards we had been dealt; we had no reservations, no route planned and we honestly had no idea where we were going so no matter what kind of spin you put on it, this was a first for us and it was exciting.

      Through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the road follows a river where we stopped for a picnic lunch as we headed toward the park exit. After enjoying the lunch I sat back and watched as the boys threw stones into the fast moving water thinking that there were not a lot of obstructions like rocks and trees which slowly developed into an idea that I thought Gavin and Adam would like. We took one of their empty juice bottles, rinsed it out, peeled the label off, shook out any excess water and dried out the inside of the bottle as best we could. Gavin and Adam then wrote a note on an empty page from my journal to send down the river in the bottle asking the finder to please send a postcard to their home address which they included in the note.

      What a great little adventure for them as they hoped the bottle would somehow journey down the river in Tennessee to the ocean and across. In spite of the grandiose, hopeful dreams of a child, as it turned out it did not get quite that far. Gavin and Adam received a post card a couple of months later from a man who saw the bottle while fishing in the river and noticed the note. Although their bottle had only travelled a few miles downstream the boys were thrilled to receive the card proving their experiment had worked and giving them and me renewed hope in the goodness of people. We went out immediately and bought a postcard of the Holland Marsh in nearby Bradford with a picture of open flat farm fields stretching as far as the eye could see, a complete contrast to the fisherman’s card of the Tennessee mountains, thereby completing the circle of life of the message in the bottle.

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Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Baseball Forever

    The long haul through Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and into Iowa was a snorefest. Generally speaking the boys had always tolerated the changing scenery as a necessary evil but this was a new challenge for them; luckily I had a surprise planned for them for tomorrow.

       “Field of Dreams” is a movie about an Iowa farmer who plows his cornfield under to build a baseball diamond hoping that the spirit of Shoeless Joe Jackson will return. We didn’t have to drive through the area but it was a very short detour to Dyersville, Iowa, where the movie set had been built and was still maintained.

      “If you build it, he will come,” is the underlying theme of the movie, so as we stood in the surrounding cornfield, Adam whispered those words to my video camera. The old house, the bleachers, the ball diamond, the corn, they all made the movie come to life as Gavin and Adam walked through them. Two days from home, this was the perfect stop to make the end of the trip as good as the beginning, another baseball connection on a Whitehead family vacation.

      On the following day amidst fire trucks and other emergency vehicles tending to a blazing car at the side of the interstate we arrived in Chicago late in the afternoon. Karen and I both love this city from past visits so we decided to stay overnight so the boys could see it. Coincidentally, or perhaps fatefully, our first stop was the relatively newly built Comiskey Park. The old stadium was torn down in 1990 to make way for this newer model. Home plate and the batters boxes from the original stadium had been inset in the parking lot so we parked the van in the empty lot about where the left field fence would have been. The boys had a very special moment as they “ran the bases” on their imaginary home run in the big leagues. 

      There was just enough time remaining for a brief interlude at Chicago’s other baseball shrine Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Built in 1916, its ivy-covered walls are unique to baseball and are recognized the world over. It was closed but we spent a moment reflecting on all the great players and the great games that had taken place at this hallowed location.

      If there was one thing that emerged from all our years of travel with the boys it was being able to reinforce a love for the game of baseball for them – something that had been done for me by my father many years ago. Someday I hope they’ll be able to do the same for their children.

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Monday, 14 August 2017

This Is Legal Is It

    Moab is a city of about 4,000 people in eastern Utah and is the closest city to Arches National Park which is why we were there. The park boasts the greatest density of natural arches in the world while spires, pinnacles and impossibly balanced rocks vie with the arches as scenic spectacles.

      The Devil’s Garden Trail was a leisurely stroll revealing to us many arches and columns scattered along a ridge but the five kilometre hike to Delicate Arch following was the show piece of the day for sure. A more harrowing or dangerous hike I do not expect to ever undertake. It wasn’t so much the hike itself as the circumstances and terrain we were faced with once we reached the Arch that would haunt me for all of eternity.

      Delicate Arch is an isolated remnant of a bygone rock fin that stands on the brink of a canyon overlooking the dramatic backdrop of the La Sal Mountains and is beauty personified. It rests on smooth, rounded, barren rock with one side exposed to a sheer thousand foot drop and no guard rails or restraints of any type and no warning of difficulty or danger. I could not believe that people were allowed to roam freely up here amidst such impending disaster. We did venture out to climb around the arch (probably the most foolish thing we have ever done) and it instilled terror in our hearts as we gingerly made our way along an almost non-existent footpath with nothing but empty space and rock below. There was one point when Karen and I had to pass Adam between us, as his legs were too short to reach the next foothold, and all we thought about was “what if we fall?” Not for the faint of heart and, as I alluded to earlier, not for anyone with any common sense or good judgment. I hope if we return in years to come, there will be some regulation on how close one can get to Delicate Arch.

      Nevertheless, it was one of those moments in life we could look back on and proclaim, “We survived despite our reckless abandon and outright stupidity,” a moment that would be a cornerstone as we built our lives’ amazing moments.

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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Canyonlands of Utah - A Geologist's Dream Come True

    We were excited as we left for Bryce Canyon knowing that the drive would bring us more of the awesome Utah canyon lands along the way. It did not take long for us to find a suitable spot to stop along the roadside to partake in yet another rock climb at a spot where the rocks laid in folded stacks as if a row of books had been knocked over. The boys and I ascended the stack to the top while Karen stayed at the bottom filming for prosperity on the video camera. Finally, just before entering Bryce Canyon National Park, we detoured through a blind box canyon right out of Butch Cassidy’s days.
    The closest lodging to the canyon is Ruby’s Inn, opened in 1916. It is all the wonderful things they say it is and more but the real attraction is obviously the giant natural amphitheater known as Bryce Canyon. Wind, rain and ice erosion has created thousands of multi-coloured Gothic spires thousands of feet tall in this area unlike any other on earth.
    It was a highlight of the trip as we hiked the Navajo Trail from the top to the bottom of the canyon providing us with some truly breathtaking views as we travelled deeper and deeper into the abyss. However, I strongly recommend you not attempt a journey such as this in cowboy boots. I believe they were made for riding because these boots weren’t made for walking.
    Surrounded by rock formations like castles and gigantic hoodoos we felt a mere speck in the universe as we wound our way around switchback curves to the canyon floor. The canyon floor was riddled with small caves, fallen trees and rock arches with huge rock formations lined up like sentinels on the hillside. The hike back up took us to the Natural Bridge lookout where we gazed across the canyon, engulfed by fir forests, and felt somewhat blessed that we had chosen to come to Bryce Canyon. As the sun began to set we gazed from the top of the lookout and felt a real sense of accomplishment knowing that we had ventured all the way to the bottom and returned unscathed to enjoy our final look at this most spectacular vista.

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Monday, 31 July 2017

Viva Las Vegas

    In 1971 I visited Las Vegas on a road trip with a friend. It was an oasis in a massive desert then, not nearly as flamboyant and ostentatious as it is today or even in 1992 when we first visited with our kids. Cruising into Las Vegas is always an experience that’s bound to leave some sort of an impression. We waited until dark then got into the van and took a drive down the famous Las Vegas Strip because, undeniably, this town is absolutely breathtaking at night. As the Elvis song proclaims, “Viva Las Vegas turnin’ day into nighttime, turnin’ night into daytime, if you see it once you’ll never be the same again.”          

      As amazing as the neon lights of the Strip were, the area on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas known as Glitter Gulch in 1992 was the vision that most people have of this sparkling city in the desert. Every building, hotel, casino, even a McDonald’s, for a five block stretch is glowing neon. Fremont has now been isolated and enclosed so never again will we see an incredible car chase like the one in the 1971 James Bond movie “Diamonds Are Forever”.

      Las Vegas in the daytime is less spectacular visually but the individual hotels and casinos have a history all their own and are worthy of some exploration. In late 1945, mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and his organized crime associates came to Las Vegas to purchase the El Cortez on Fremont Street. Shortly thereafter Siegel used profits from the sale of the El Cortez to finance a two thirds share in a new venture. The project was plagued with rising construction and design costs from the start and doomed to fail. Only after an expenditure of 6 million dollars (an absolute king’s ransom in those days) did the Pink Flamingo Hotel and Casino flourish. Opened on December 26, 1946, it was billed as the world’s most luxurious hotel, the first luxury hotel on The Strip.

      My favourite spot on the Strip in 1992 was still the Sands Hotel. Once owned by reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes in the mid-1960s, its most famous claim to fame was a three week period in 1960 when, during the filming of “Ocean's Eleven,” they organized an event in the Copa Room called the "Summit at the Sands", where for the first time Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford performed on stage together. They would forever be known after that as the Rat Pack. They were responsible for the definition of “cool” at the time and it is that kind of history that intrigues me the most.

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Friday, 21 July 2017

I Feel Like I'm In A Real Western Movie

    You cannot visit the true west and not take a horseback ride, so a 7AM sunrise found us at the Desert High Country Stables in Tucson eagerly awaiting our first ever trail ride with the boys. We could not have dreamt a better start as the sun rose and turned the desert sky from red to orange. There was just the four of us on this ride; that in itself was rather nice so with “A Horse With No Name” playing in my mind we headed out to explore the desert flora and fauna on horseback. It was a perfect start to another picture perfect desert day.
      Because we had to return to the stables before the heat became a danger to the horses and us, we had a full day ahead of us and chose to spend it at the Old Tucson Movie Studios just west of the city. I had always been a big movie fan and particularly interested in film techniques and behind-the-scenes information so this was going to be a big deal for me. Old Tucson Studios was originally built in 1938 as a replica of 1860s Tucson for the filming of the movie “Arizona.” In 1960 the Studios were opened to the public and they grew as various production companies left something from their set on site as each film was completed. 
      As the day wore on it got hotter and hotter and by the time the first stunt show ended in the early afternoon it was a real scorcher. Many people were uncomfortable but it hit Adam very hard and he alarmingly collapsed from heat exhaustion necessitating us to rush him to the infirmary. Staffed by medics in cavalry uniforms, Matt introduced himself to Adam as he took his blood pressure. After a drink of Mountain Dew, a cold compress on the back of his neck and a bit of rest Adam recovered and we were on our way.
      Gavin was a little jealous of all the attention given Adam but I think it was mainly the fact that Adam got a sweet drink and he didn’t. Being a little nervous we spent a bit of time just relaxing in the shade and enjoying the people walking by and the various activities that unfolded around us. Old Tucson Movie Studios had a cornucopia of authentic Western dirt roads, boardwalks, rain barrels and saloons with swinging doors so this little break gave Adam a chance to stabilize.
      It was more than an enjoyable visit, it was a chance to get a feel for the culture of the Old West in an authentic (looking) setting.

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Monday, 17 July 2017

Expect the Unexpected

    I don’t know if it was the clear New Mexican skies, the fresh mountain air or some strange concoction of both but there seemed to be an inordinate number of low flying birds around. There were not flocks of them just lots of single birds flying dangerously low to the ground and totally at random so much so that in the course of about 100 miles we hit at least three of them. We heard a dull thud somewhere at the front of the van then I looked in the rear view mirror as the unfortunate flight came to an end with the avian careening off the road behind. Young Adam was laughing as he thought it rather funny each time we hit one. At first I wondered what he thought was so funny then he innocently asked, “They’re okay aren’t they Dad?” That’s when I knew I was a parent as I had to smile through my outright lying lips and say, “Yeah, they’re fine.”

      As we entered Arizona we were all feeling a bit hungry so decided to munch on some muffins that Karen had made a few days ago. It was unbearably hot in the van as we had no air conditioning and we had no water or anything else to drink and let me tell you, there is nothing like a bone dry muffin on an empty road in the desert heat. As we all struggled to swallow a mouthful of muffin that might as well have been a mouthful of sawdust I was the first one to “voice” what everyone was thinking. Turning my head to the open window on my left I took a deep breath and spit a huge spray of muffin dust out into the arid air. Laughing uproariously, the boys did the same sacrificing our great snack.

      Caution must be taken as you walk amongst the cacti for cactus needles attack relentlessly and many come equipped with a barb on the end which makes their extraction painful at best. No amount of tough denim or even thick-soled boots can escape their wrath so tread lightly my friend, as if you were walking on eggs.

      As we continued on we wound along the road passing between massive hills of cacti on either side of us and I could not help but think I was living in an old western movie. We stopped at the roadside to explore and in a barbed wire enclosed area were amazed to find that it was more than the desert cactus we had to worry about. Here, for some unexplained reason, a sign indicated caution because an unexploded mine field lay ahead. I knew we were close to the Mexican border but this was a tad extreme don’t you think?

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Go West Young Man

    When it comes to road trips, the longer the better; that’s my preference but I will concede it may not be everyone’s – you’re certainly not going to get kids attuned to that philosophy. It was October 1992 and although we had nearly three weeks allotted to this vacation we had a gargantuan distance to cover as we would be driving to Las Vegas, through the American southwest and back. If we were going to cover a lot of ground we had to get a tremendously early start so we discovered hey, there really is a 3 o’clock in the morning. Of course it was dark then, which helped because the kids were able to sleep until daylight and we were in the United States by then. We had usually headed in a southerly direction on previous trips so this was dramatically different and at about 6PM we passed the Gateway to the West, the St. Louis arch!  That was about 1000 miles from our home in Gilford and a monstrous drive for one day so we stopped just outside St. Louis.

      Although we had been to Colorado in 1990 this was our real introduction to the Wild West, the one that Gavin and Adam were familiar with thanks to Hollywood folklore. The next day after what could politely be referred to as a tediously boring drive devoid of anything remotely interesting, we reached Dodge City, Kansas, where we would begin our true quest for the West.

      Best known as the setting for the long running television series “Gunsmoke”, Dodge City lies in the southwestern quadrant of Kansas and is a testament to the Wild West. It has maintained part of its primitive downtown area as a tourist attraction. One street, a rustic wooden walkway, preserves the old west with saloons and stores surrounded by a wooden picket fence highlighted by an old steam locomotive and a wonderful old windmill. Looking through the fence was like looking through a window in time.

      As we drove away from Dodge City early the next morning we realized that it was the radio not the television that provided the best entertainment in these parts. Scattered amongst the numerous reports on the hog futures and corn prices of the day was the local news of barn dances and prison breaks. Prison breaks were hardly ever in the news at home, see, we just don’t get out enough - we need to travel more.

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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Lake Placid in the Fall

    Upper New York State is beautiful in autumn as the sunshine turns on nature’s neon with a vibrant display of fall colour. We had been there three times before; once on our honeymoon in 1977, once with friends in 1983 and once with the boys in 1985.

      We selected a small motel on Mirror Lake, often mistaken for Lake Placid, to stay for a couple of days. There was nothing unusual about the motel but it was right on the lake and as guests we had full access to their canoes and paddleboats. This was going to result in hours of fun for us, immersed in the resplendent chromaticity.

      I was no stranger to canoeing having taken many trips in the past, but it was a new experience for Gavin and Adam. They loved the water and were thrilled to be able to paddle, although it was a bit of a stretch for Adam to reach the water from high above it sitting in the bow with me in the stern. Mirror Lake is aptly named. Its surface was like glass and the clear blue sky and brilliant autumn colours were reflected endlessly on the water. The icing on the cake was the silence broken only by our paddles slicing into the calm waters and the occasional exclamation of delight from the boys.                                              

      It is true that all good things must come to an end and when it happened to our vacations it left in its wake something very close to depression. I grovelled in it for a while then had to force myself back to reality and the knowledge that there would be other vacations and they would probably be even better as Gavin and Adam grew up and were able to do more things with us. So waffling between depression and elation (there’s a psychological disorder there isn’t there?) we left Lake Placid with a scenic drive along Highway 3. We descended out of the mountains and followed the winding road through picturesque forests and Norman Rockwell-type villages. It was about a three hour drive but it was so pretty we wished it had been longer.

      In a last ditch effort to make our time together as long and as meaningful as possible we stopped at the roadside for a picnic lunch. There were no sand dunes so the boys had to be content with climbing the rocks and jumping to the soft grass below - how fitting that this vacation should end with the boys doing what they learned to love in Cape Cod.

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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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