AND MILES TO GO BEFORE WE SLEEP

Road Tripping – ‘Tis the season for road trips — if time and money were out of the equation, what car-based adventure would you go on? (If you don’t or can’t drive, any land-based journey counts.)


We’re a road tripping sort of country. Our rail system is not nearly as good as Europe’s and we love our cars.

Personally, we’re less enamored of cars than we were. Maybe because we can’t afford luxury cars or because the price of gasoline is so high. Or the idea of spending all those endless hours in a car doesn’t sound like fun.

But wait! The WordPress folks are offering to cover all the expenses! So let’s get started. Stretch limo and driver. Get the road atlas. America, here we come.

Arrangements to be made. Someone has to be here to take care of the dogs. And we have to renew all our medications so we don’t run out. I hope the motels have decent beds. Better bring our own pillows.

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What else? These days, we take more gear than clothing!

  • Cameras
  • Computers
  • Cell phone
  • Kindles
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Chargers for everything
  • Extra batteries
  • Extension cords
  • Tripod

Clothing. Who knows what the weather is going to be? We’re covering a lot of territory, so we need to be ready for anything and everything. We’d better bring warm clothing for the mountains. Nights are likely to be chilly. And rain gear, comfortable shoes. Sandals, maybe boots too. Bathing suits? From desert to mountain, hot and humid coastline and everything in between.

Oh, you want to know where we’re going? To see America. Outbound via the northern route across the Rockies, while the weather holds. Down the west coast — Washington through Oregon to California. Long stay in San Francisco, then south through Carmel and Monterey to Hollywood. We have studios to see!

To the southwest, now. A good friend in Arizona beckons. At least a week there. Maybe all of us can take the limo to Monument Valley, see where John Ford shot all those westerns!

Superstition Mtns Arizona

Off to New Orleans. We were there before Katrina. I guess it’s not going to be quite the same city, but we aren’t the same people either. 1997 seems an eternity ago. Sexy, sinful New Orleans … great food, music and some say, vampires.

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We’re tired, but we have people to visit in Florida. Then we’ll head up the east coast stopping to see friends and family along the way. The final hop to home. Sleeping all the way from New York to our front door. Too weary to care about anything.

How long were we gone? Seems like forever … or no time at all. Oh, right. We haven’t left yet. Even in a the limo of our imagination, a lot of miles.

Maybe we’ll just take a little trip to Maine. The rest of America can wait.

SHARING MY WORLD, WEEK 29

Share Your World – 2014 Week 29

Have you ever been in a submarine? If you haven’t, would you want to?

About five years ago, Garry and I went on a Caribbean cruise. It was one of Royal Caribbean’s newer, bigger ships and it was a long cruise — almost two weeks. In the Cayman Islands, we took a trip on the Atlantis, a 60-passenger mini-submarine from which we could experience the coral reef.

atlantis submarine

The subs are tiny. Everyone sits on benches, pretty much body-to-body, but there are windows everywhere including the floor. Unless you are crippled by claustrophobia (in which case, why are you on a mini-sub?), it’s all about the windows. You can pretend you are a fish, swimming with those amazing, brilliantly colored citizens of the water world.

They drift by, sometimes in schools, in small groups. Now and then, a big grouper will come to check you out. It was a one-time experience — totally worth it!

Are you a listener or talker?

Mostly a talker, but I’m getting better at the listening thing.

Do you prefer crunchy peanut butter or smooth peanut butter? Anything with your peanut butter?

Neither, thanks. Not a peanut butter person. I like peanuts, though. With salt.

Have you ever been drunk?

I am such a cheap drunk. Give me half a glass of wine and I’m wasted. I got sloshed once in college. I would not want to do it again. I hated the way it made me feel. Fortunately, Garry doesn’t drink, so I don’t have to pretend to enjoy it.

THE CLOSEST CALL

Twenty-five years ago last October, moments before game three of the 1989 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics, fans were thrown from their seats at Candlestick Park as an earthquake shook the Bay Area. The earth trembled for 15 seconds and brought Alameda county to its knees.

The San Francisco–Oakland earthquake registered 6.9 on the Richter scale. It seriously damaged the roads in the Bay Area, causing the collapse of the Nimitz Freeway and a piece of the Bay Bridge. It cost more than sixty lives and injured thousands.

collapsed expwy SF 1989

I was working remotely from our apartment in Boston that year. I had a great contract. It paid enough money so I didn’t need to do any other work. Just as well because Garry and I were getting married and planning a wedding. Which really meant I was planning a wedding. Garry was planning to show up.

Working remotely left me free to get the rest of my life sorted out and our apartment was big, enough room for me to have a spacious office. I loved working remotely and never was happy working a regular office job again. But I digress.

Bay-bridge-damage

Before I could get started on the project, I had to go to Berkeley and interview the people who used the software for which I was writing the manuals. They were paying for the trip and I’d only been to California once before, to interview for the contract. I was glad to go.

nimitz_Cypress_structure

Everything went smoothly until I came down with the flu. In just a few hours, I went from feeling fine to having a heavy cough, high fever, and being utterly miserable. I cancelled the remainder of the trip — three days — and flew back to Boston.

The earthquake occurred the following day. If I had stayed on my original schedule, traveling back and forth on the expressway from Berkeley to Oakland, I’d have been one of the people trapped by the collapsing expressway.

It was a most fortuitous case of the flu. It probably saved my life.

OUR FINAL DESINATION

Wrong Turns – When was the last time you got lost? Was it an enjoyable experience, or a stressful one? Tell us all about it.


It was late in the day when we rolled into Gettysburg. Tired, ready for a shower and a meal, we asked Richard our faithful GPS to take us to the nearest motel. We followed his directions carefully.

main street Gettysburg

It was our first visit to the area. Road-weary, we were too exhausted to deal with getting lost and we were (are) often lost. Diligently, we followed Richard’s directions.

After a few turns and one long straightaway, Richard announced in his loud, clear voice: “You have reached your destination!” Indeed we had, though it was not the one we had it mind.

As far as we could see lay miles of tombstones. Richard had brought us to our ultimate destination, what must have been Gettysburg’s largest modern cemetery. It stretched for miles.

Who knew our GPS had a sense of humor? We didn’t stop laughing until we finally found the EconoLodge.

ELEMENTAL BOUNDARIES

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Americans travel a lot and we don’t give it much thought. We take our car and go. To work, shopping, visiting or just tooling around. Despite the high cost of gasoline, we are addicted to our personal vehicles. Addicted to having them constantly available. To having good roads, even in the most rural areas.

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With all the traveling we do, when does it feel as if we have gone “someplace else?” We don’t feel that way even when we commute 100 miles to work. I used to commute as much as 125 miles each way and there was no sense of taking a journey — except for being tired all the time. It was just going to work, then home. Our nearest mall is a 25 mile drive, but it’s not “somewhere else” either.

Flying anywhere, even a short distance, is genuine travel. A boat trip turns a short trip into a journey.

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Passage through another element — air or water — signals the crossing of some kind of mental boundary. Maybe a bridge is enough. Going to New York from Boston is marked by passing over bridges. Going to Cape Cod becomes a journey as you cross the Bourne or Sagamore Bridge to the Cape. Going to Martha’s Vineyard includes a 40 minute ferry ride that feels like a voyage. It was always on the ferry that I could finally relax.

Little Colorado Bridge -1

Passage over water. Passage by air. Engaging another element — an element other than earth — automatically changes a drive into a journey. Elemental boundaries.

HOME IS AS CLOSE AS WIFI AND THE NEAREST CELL TOWER

An Ounce of Home – You’re embarking on a yearlong round-the-world adventure, and can take only one small object with you to remind you of home. What do you bring along for the trip?


This reminds me of when I emigrated to Israel at the end of 1978. I brought as close as I could to an entire world in three trunks. Real trunks. You know, the big hard-sided ones that were, at one time, standard luggage for trains and aboard ship.

I quickly discovered you can’t bring home with you, even if you bring a lot of stuff from it. Because home isn’t your stuff. It isn’t your house. Not even your loved ones. It’s all of that and something more, something indefinable that makes you know you are in that safe harbor called “Home.”

Irish Signs

These days, since I won’t go anywhere without at least one laptop and all my cameras, there’s not much need for a specific memento. I have thousands of photographs of home, friends, the region in all seasons on every computer and I could just as easily access this blog and find anything else I might miss. Short of actually being home, with WiFi and computers … we are never far from home. Any of us.

Grand Canyon

It is probably the single most significant social change technology has wrought over the past 20 years. I don’t always like it. I don’t always want to be connected or safe. A little whiff of potential danger is like spice in your food. It’s a big part of the fun of traveling. Getting away from everything and anyone. Being on your own. Taking a break from friends and family used to give me a chance to miss them and therefore, appreciate them.

But we are so connected these days. No matter where we go, we are never completely “away.” In fact, we are no farther than the nearest cell phone tower or WiFi connection. How can you miss someone who texts or calls you 25 times a day? Why would you miss a home you have photographed top to bottom and carry with you everywhere?

It takes much of the adventure out of travel, don’t you think?

ARE WE LIVING IN THE SAME WORLD?

Terminal Time

You’re at the airport, your flight is delayed for six more hours, and none of your electronic devices is working. How do you pass the time?


netflix for books

I don’t believe it. You genuinely don’t know what to do without electronic gadgets? You are lost without your cell phone or tablet? Really? You’re not kidding me?

If you don’t have an instant answer to this, perhaps we come from different planets. Because me, I would simply reach into my carry-on and pick out a book. If none of the books I’ve packed appealed to me, I’d take a walk to the nearest shop (airports are full of them, in case you haven’t noticed) and buy something to read. A newspaper (yes, they still print them). Maybe a couple of magazines. Or — a book!

If all else fails, I might consider chatting with other passengers who are waiting with me. I have had some of the most interesting conversations of my life in terminals, waiting for planes, trains or buses. Although I know you usually text, the organ into which you insert food has a dual purpose and can be used for conversation.

Despite rumors to the contrary, direct communication between living people can prove a pleasant — even enlightening — way of passing the hours. If you’ve never tried it, this would be an opportunity to expand your world! I strongly recommend you give it a try.

You really need to think about this? Seriously?

FOOTNOTE: I’d probably be taking a few dozen pictures too. Airports and the people in them make great subjects. I don’t take pictures using a phone. In fact, I don’t carry a cell phone (what? say that again? You heard me … I don’t carry a cell phone). I use a camera, a device dedicated to taking photographs. And I carry enough spare batteries to get me through two weeks without electricity, so I don’t care what anyone says. My camera WILL work, no matter where I am!

 

TIMING OUT TO ELSEWHEN

Now that home time machines are readily available, we can all start our days with a trip to another time and place, known to many of us as ELSEWHEN. It’s better than a second cup of coffee! Today started out a day like any other. Coffee. Make sure dogs get biscuits. Wash a few dishes in the sink. Just as I’m finishing up, my new machine blinks on and a vortex (also know as a wormhole) appears in the window. Time to travel!

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Setting up the machine is simple because it knows. All I have to do is focus on when, where and how long I want to be elsewhen and the machine does the rest. Radio Shack has come a long way. On the down side, if it glitches, I won’t be able to cash in on my warranty. It gives me pause.

Be aware: it’s dangerous traveling in time with a chemically muddled brain. You can wind up some weird places that are definitely not for tourists.

For those of us who are not particularly agile, you needn’t jump or climb into a vortex. Just stand close to it, then reach out mentally. Cool, huh?

If you are time traveling for the first time, here’s are some tips:

  • Don’t drink, smoke dope (even if you have a prescription!), or take any mind-altering substance before you travel elsewhen.
  • Skip the 14th century. The plague is depressing and you need vaccinations.
  • Wear appropriate clothing. A piece of hand luggage in a natural fiber (like canvas) is a sound investment.
  • Take a camera, extra memory chips and backup batteries.
  • Leave the cell phone home. A ringing cell can have unpleasant consequences.
  • Tell your family and/or friends where (and when) you are going to be away and when you will be back. If you need to be retrieved, it’s important to have backup.
  • Take a friend with you if your machine supports multiple travelers.
  •  Make sure to land on the ground in an open area. Google Earth and history books can be helpful in giving you good visualization capabilities. You don’t want to start your excursion with a broken hip or ankle.
  • Make your first trips close to now until you feel comfortable with the technology.
  • DON’T TRY TO FIX THE PAST. Very bad idea. Really terrible idea.
  • The future is scary. I avoid it and you should too. Whatever happened in the past, stays in the past (unless something went terribly awry). This is not true of the future.

Take lots of notes, pictures and have a blast. Talk to people Don’t worry about language barriers. The machine won’t send you anywhere without giving you appropriate language skills. You won’t remember them when you get home, but they will always be there when you need them.

Time machines don’t last forever, even the most expensive ones. They all have much the same life span as a cell phone … a year or two, max. Make the most of it while you can. Enjoy your travels and welcome to TIMING OUT of life!

It’s the best ride you’ll ever take.


PICK YOUR GADGET

LIVING IN GRIDLOCK

Most of us don’t think about traffic. We just deal with it. It’s part of life. Whether it’s trying to find a parking space or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a holiday weekend, traffic is everywhere. 75-GameDay-Fenway_03 I don’t usually think about traffic because we don’t have much of it here. This is the country. A traffic jam is a tractor and two cars waiting at an intersection. Maybe road repairs. Or an annoying slow driver. Sometimes, a bridge washes out.

Until we moved here, though, traffic was the biggest issue in our lives. Road work in Boston made it impossible to get from one side of the city to another. Gridlock during holidays could close the city. One Friday in December, I tried to pick Garry up at work. 96-Watercolor-Pops2013_084 I left the parking lot, drove a block, and had to stop. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I was in the same place. I made a u-turn and went home. This was before cell phones, so I had to call the guard at the front desk at Channel 7 and ask him to go outside and tell Garry I couldn’t get there.

The next day it was in the papers and on TV — Boston was gridlocked. It was the Friday before Christmas. Everyone had decided to go shopping simultaneously, so no one went anywhere.

A year later, we moved to Roxbury, 4 miles outside the city center. It was less congested. You could park for free on the street. Then came the Big Dig. The Central Artery-Tunnel Project, aka the Big Dig, was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning virtually every road in, out, around, and through Boston. There were no areas unaffected though it was worse some places than others.  It turned the main artery (Route 93) —  an ugly stretch of permanently clogged elevated highway — into a permanently clogged, long tunnel. 96-RedLight-38 It didn’t solve the traffic problems, but made traffic invisible, leaving everyone to sit in their overheating cars hoping they will live to see the other side of the city. It straightened some of the worst intersections and made getting to and from the airport easier. Made the city prettier.

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. Plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses of ceilings, design flaws, poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for some offenders (but not enough) and 4 deaths, the project was scheduled for completion in 1998 and was supposed to cost $2.8 billion. It was officially finished in December 2007 and cost $14.6 billion.

The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest, fines, and lawsuits, the project will cost more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until 2038. Maybe not even then. The Big Dig drove us out of Boston. One day, I had to go shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me 2 hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.

“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!” And we did. 75-CrossingNK-14 We fled. Traffic was controlling our lives. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to work. People trying to visit us couldn’t find our condo because the exit to our neighborhood was often closed. Out-of-town visitors roamed helplessly through the streets of Dorchester looking in vain for a street sign or marker. Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home either.

I spent years of my life in traffic. Add time spent in the office and 2 to 4 hours of commuting, life was dominated by traffic. By the time we slouched into retirement, we were wrecks. Also poor, but it was better than commuting. Do I have a solution? No. But traffic wore us out. One day something snapped. We couldn’t do it anymore.

MY TWO CITIES ARE WAITING AND I’M GOING IN STYLE!

A Tale of Two Cities

If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?


Easy choices! I’ll take Jerusalem, Israel and New York, New York.

I’m (of course) assuming you will be supplying attractive housing and unlimited plane fares. Furnishings and appropriate wardrobes, and of course, a generous stipend.

Jerusalem_old_city_panorama_5

That would work for me and my husband. You are paying his way too, right? And all my best friends and close family as well?

Naturally, suitable transportation will be provided at each location. You know … cars, taxis, limos as needed? And support personnel? Cleaning staff, cooks, personal assistants? Dog walkers?

This is going to be our reward for a long life of hard work and challenges no one should have to face, so I’m expecting great things.

new-york-city-housing

Thanks for your kind offer. I’m not even going to pack my bags since I’m sure your people will be in touch and make all the necessary arrangements. Have a good day and thanks again.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

OLD BARN – Marilyn Armstrong

Built in the 1700s. It’s just down the road. When you get to the intersection, make a left, drive about half a mile. It’s on the right. Look for the porch with the line of red rocking chairs.

Portal – Marilyn Armstrong

Entry hall to the college … the portals of academia.

Bright sunlight through the arched glass doorways of the school turn the entry hall luminescent. It’s the way schools ought to look … the way such places always look in your memories.

Getting There Is Not Always Enough … Marilyn Armstrong

We didn’t get to ride this one.

Yesterday, we went to Busch Gardens. We did nothing, got wet, walked too much, came back exhausted, soggy and poorer. We seem to have absolutely impeccable timing for getting places at exactly the wrong time!

We didn’t get to ride this either.

We planned carefully and sensibly. We figured that if we went late in the day, it would be cooler and probably less crowded too. Logical right? I mean, the park‘s open until 10 at night, so getting there at 3:30 should leave us more than ample time to whatever we wanted and ride whatever we wanted.

After we finally got through the long walk to the park from the very closest parking lot, we decided to take the train ride that loops around the park. It would give us something of an orientation, an overview.

After that we were nearly slavering with anticipation, we headed down the long road to Apollo’s Chariot, the first of the 6 big, bigger and biggest, baddest roller coasters we intended to ride.

We were at the front of the line on the platform, ready to board the ride. Which is when the announcement came that the ride was closing due to weather issues.

Not this one either.

Weather. Mainly, lightning. Not to mention wind and rain. So we stood around a bit, milled around in confusion, then eventually headed back the long road to the rest of the park.

With great anticipation, we waited for a weather update. We were in a code orange, which is bad, but the next announcement was “Code Red,” which was much worse and actually closed everything, except shops.

Shortly thereafter, the sky opened up and a sheet of water fell out. We stood under an awning speculating — along with everyone else — whether or not there was any chance the park would reopen.

Also, didn’t ride this one.

It did not reopen.

We hauled ass back to Guest Relations, where they were very gracious about the whole thing and seemed genuinely sorry that we come from so far away, didn’t get to do anything except eat a pretzel and get soaked. They refunded half the money because our friends had to leave today and we took rain checks and will make another stab at it tomorrow. We would have gone today, but the weather report doesn’t look promising and I couldn’t deal with the same scenario two days running.

The best experience of the day? The electric scooter that you can rent and drive around the park. I loved it! It was way zippier than I thought it would be and fun, too. Unfortunately, by the time I got it, I was already over-tired and when we finally got back to the hotel, having stopped at the grocery store in between and then cooking dinner … we had barely enough strength to climb into bed and pass out.

Today, the humidity is 99% and thunder storms are likely in the afternoon, so we  are going to go tomorrow morning when hopefully, it won’t be raining because that really IS our last chance.

Talk about disappointing! Nice that Garry and I get another shot at it, but I so wanted to go with my friend too … but … well … it didn’t happen and if there’s one thing you cannot count on, it’s usually the weather.

They’ve left now and it’s very quiet and feels kind of empty. I’m trying not to be a bit down-hearted, but it’s difficult.

Tomorrow is another day, I hope.

Let the Fun Begin: Williamsburg, Virginia – Marilyn Armstrong

Friends are here and today we shall emerge and go forth to enjoy! It turns out that Colonial Williamsburg doesn’t exactly have an entrance fee. There are things in there that if you want to see them, have entry fees, but it’s free to go to the town and just enjoy it. Which hopefully is what we’ll do today.

Adding Yorktown and Jamestown costs very little. For the historical stuff, time is more the issue than is money. We have to pace ourselves, see as much as we can without getting exhausted. Young at heart? Yes, absolutely. But our bones know the truth and we can’t ignore them.

Tomorrow will be some combination of fun activities … and I’m betting it will be Busch Gardens.

Pricey, but  they have all those roller coasters and I am simply NOT going to pass up the opportunity. I’m not going to miss it.

I didn’t drive all these miles to say “Oops, can’t afford it.” That’s stupid. So I’m doing it, and that it. Even if I have to pay more than I imagined in my nightmares I would need to pay!

The hotel which isn’t a hotel, but a condo time share, is MUCH nicer than I expected.

Living room and dining area lead to a balcony facing the woods.

Aside from our quarters being huge and very nicely appointed, there are many more activities and I expected and just overall, a really lovely place.

The kitchen. There’s a huge amount of storage space … much more than I have at home and there’s also a compact washer and dryer in a closet across from the fridge.

The balcony off the living room has a peaceful view of the woods and trails. Which is what we see out our windows at home, but it’s a big improvement from the many views of parking lots I’ve had over the years from where I was staying!

View from the balcony.

If only it weren’t so godawful far away from home!

We’re pretty much recovered from the drive and now, I WANT TO HAVE SOME FUN!!!

Tune in for updates!

Editor’s Note:  The above was originally posted August 5, 2012.  In the next two days you will get more from this trip.