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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Monday 8 May 2017

Spontaneity Jump Starts A Great Road Trip

    Craters of the Moon National Monument is perhaps the most aptly named place I have ever been. We stopped strictly because we saw the name on the map on the way to Idaho Falls, our stop for the night. Craters of the Moon is located on the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. It is at a moderate altitude of close to 6,000 feet and is extremely volcanic in nature. The monument encompasses several hundred square miles of lava fields interrupted by numerous, large cinder crags and monstrous, magnificent cinder cones.

      I have not been to the moon but I have been to Sudbury, Ontario. Often described as being between a rock and a hard place, the geographic basin surrounding the city was formed by a major meteorite impact about 1.8 billion years ago and it doesn’t look a whole lot different today. Let me tell you, Craters of the Moon made Sudbury look overgrown.

      It was July and it was hot so what better place to be than on a totally black, porous surface for hundreds of yards in all directions. Naturally something strenuous and exerting was in order. A long, slow climb up one of the behemoth cinder cones set before us a view of a landscape that really could not be described as anything other than lunar. There was very little plant life and no sign whatsoever of any wildlife, nothing but a black, open desert. As strange as it may seem I found it fascinating and enjoyed it immensely.

      Spontaneity  is one of the key ingredients of a successful road trip. Your ability to forget your schedule and seize what pops up out of nowhere is what assures excitement and often wonder in even a mundane vacation.

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Monday 1 May 2017

Here Comes That Queasy Feeling Again

    Few things can ruin a good road trip faster than car sickness. Specifically the result of riding in cars it is generally referred to as kinetosis or motion sickness. Characterized by dizziness, fatigue and nausea ultimately leading to vomiting, the condition is the result of the disagreement that exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system’s sense of movement. The vestibular system is the sensory system that contributes to our perception of a sense of balance and spatial orientation. All very scientific and mysterious, put simply it means if you ride in a car for too long (sometimes an alarmingly short period of time) you’ll puke.

      Younger son Adam suffered from car sickness frequently so between stopping for him and stopping for me to take photographs it’s a wonder we ever got anywhere on our trips. By the time our first trip to Florida came to an end Adam had thrown up in 12 states – quite an achievement I’d say. Short of trying to drive steadily and stopping for air on a regular basis there wasn’t a lot I could do to help so I always felt bad for Adam.

      You’d think most people would be compassionate about this unfortunate propensity especially where a child is involved but sadly that’s not always the case. In the relative cool of the early morning we were crossing a bridge on our way out of Idaho Falls when Adam gave the word to stop. I managed to get off the bridge and pull over on the side of the road. Adam did not throw up this time but still felt very queasy so he and Karen went for a little stroll on the bridge while Gavin and I hung out near the van. A local sheriff pulled up and asked if there was a problem so I explained that Adam wasn’t well and needed some air. By this time he and Karen had returned to the van and the sheriff looked at Adam and commented that he looked fine and we would have to move on. Whatever happened to the friendly service provider’s compassion for children in distress? If only Adam could have puked on the sheriff right then and there – how sweet would that have been?

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