31. October 2005 · 5 comments · Categories: Travel

I’m home! We flew home on Saturday afternoon and arrived on schedule. Glenda’s daughter Colleen picked us up. When I walked into the house, it smelled great and I knew Tami (my house-sitter) had cleaned that day. It was wonderful to come home to such a clean house. The dogs were really glad to see me, and there was a pile of mail on the counter that took me about an hour to go through.

Our final two days at WDW were fun and exhausting. We started day three at Disney/MGM and did all the fun stuff (except Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster). Being with another adult this time instead of kids allowed me to spend time on the Walt Disney exhibits, learning about his life and dreams, and coming to appreciate this brilliant and creative man even more.

We park-hopped over to Epcot that afternoon and rode Test Track, but couldn’t get on Soarin’ as the fast passes were gone and the stand-by line was 90 minutes. We spent the rest of the afternoon going through “Innoventions” and “Imaginarium” and the other exhibit attractions. We didn’t stay for “Illuminations” — we were pooped.

We got to Epcot 45 minutes before opening on Friday morning, and were about 10th and 11th in line for Soarin’. As soon as we got off, we grabbed Fast Passes for it (for 10:30), then headed over to Test Track and rode that again. At 10:30 we went back and rode Soarin’ again. It is definitely THE ride and we would have ridden it more if we’d had time. We spent the afternoon at Magic Kingdom catching all the rides we had skipped the first day we were there, plus rode a few again. At 5:30 we went back to MGM to experience “Fantasmic”. I had read in my guide book that it is the very best show at Disney, even surpassing “Illuminations” at Epcot, but the amphitheater would fill up about 90 minutes prior to showtime. We both had brought a book and went in and got seats in the front row. We weren’t sure if it was the best place to see it, but decided to risk it. Well, we found out it was NOT the best place on a cool fall evening with the wind blowing. The show consists of water fountains, laser lights, fireworks, dancers, characters, music … you name it. It truly is “fantasmic”. BUT the aforementioned water fountains spray a heavy mist on the front 4-6 rows throughout the show, and it was very uncomfortable. It would have felt great on a hot summer evening, but not that night. We were pretty disappointed that we had not enjoyed it as much as we would have back a little further, but we have a memory we can talk about for years to come.

And that about sums up our entire trip. We have memories we can bask in, talk about and remember for years to come. In spite of (or maybe BECAUSE of) our later start, the inclement weather, getting lost every day, being bone weary by trip’s end and a bit of worry over families back at home, we really had a fabulous time. We came home with a deep appreciation for our nation’s history and the great sacrifices made to bring about the freedom we have today. We saw God’s hand in the glorious beauty of New England and all the way down the east coast. We were reminded of how cozy, comfortable and convenient our homes, automobiles and communities are compared to the first settlers in this land. And we had a ton of fun each and every day. But the best thing that came from the trip was a closer relationship with Glenda and more gratefulness for her precious friendship.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m sure glad I have three more weeks before I have to go back to work. My first night home I dreamed I went back to work and worked all day before realizing I had mistakenly gone back early. What a nightmare that was! You can be assured I won’t make that mistake in real life! It will come all too soon.

I’ll post pictures in the next day or two.

We got to Orlando on Monday evening, and the storms had passed through and died down. The weather report was for nice weather on Tuesday so we decided to chance it and go Walt Disney World. It turned out to be a beautiful day, and the parks were very busy. All around us we have heard people talking about their homes in south Florida. It seems all the refugees decided to make a Disney vacation out of their evacuation! One family told us they had been in the Magic Kingdom on Monday and the park stayed open until midnight because they had opened late due to Hurricane Wilma. The news had said the parks were closed, but they forgot to inform Disney, and so Disney was open.

We went to Animal Kingdom on Tuesday morning, and then to Epcot in the afternoon. The newest WDW ride is called “Soarin’ ” and it is fantastic! It’s like being a bird. There are 8 chairs in each row suspended from above so your feet dangle. They lift you up into a 180 degree screen (sort of like the inside of a ball) and off you go “soarin’ ” over hills, mountains, rivers, oceans, cities and all sorts of other things. It is exhilirating and realistic — I even found myself lifting my feet when we got too close to trees. I have a fear of heights, but every so often I just looked behind me to the edge of the screen to get my perspective and I was fine. Glenda and I want to ride it again and again. We watched “Illuminations”, the fireworks show at Epcot, before leaving.

Today we went to the Magic Kingdom. It was nearly empty from 9-11, and we rode 6 rides in 2 hours. Then the floodgates opened and suddenly the park was packed. We pooped out around 4:00 after the afternoon parade and have come back to our hotel for a rest. We are planning to go back later because both Epcot and Magic Kingdom are open until 9. The weather today was beautiful again; 70 for a high. Tomorrow is supposed to be 75, and 77 on Friday. There’s not a cloud in the sky.

We have two more days and then home. I’m so glad I still have 3 weeks off before I have to go back to work. I am definitely NOT in a working mood after this trip!

24. October 2005 · 5 comments · Categories: Travel

We are slowing down our trek south due to Hurricane Wilma. Instead of arriving in Orlando today (Monday), we are going to wait until tomorrow. We will lose one day at Walt Disney World, but the weather should be okay by then. I know everyone has been worried about us getting too far south with Wilma coming, but we have been watching the reports very closely. We are in Waltersboro, South Carolina (it’s raining this morning) and will head to Savannah today and maybe down toward Jacksonville for the night. We’re going to look up Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah. (She’s the hostess of “Paula’s Home Cooking” on the Food Network.)

On Saturday, we left Washington and went to Colonial Williamsburg. We spent a good part of the day there and then found a motel in Lynchburg. We visited Appomatox Courthouse yesterday morning, and then drove south. It was a beautiful day, with blue skies and moderate temps. After so many days on country roads through small towns, we had almost forgotten how fast the interstates are. It was really smooth driving yesterday.

We have listened to two more books on tape; it’s sure a great way to pass the miles away. My thumb is feeling okay if I’m careful with it. Glenda is almost ready for some breakfast, so I better get dressed.

20. October 2005 · 2 comments · Categories: Travel

Drat that big heavy door into the National Archives! I caught my thumb in it yesterday and broke it. Both Glenda and I heard it crack and I knew immediately what had happened. It was actually numb for a couple of minutes, and then the throbbing started and I got light-headed. I had to sit with my head between my legs for about 20 minutes, but then we continued on through the museum to see the original Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I even managed to get a few pictures. But as soon as we were done with that, we headed back to the car for ice from the ice chest and a pain pill. Luckily I had taken my narcotic pain meds with me in case I got another back ache. I sure needed it for this. Since it broke between the knuckle and the tip, it doesn’t appear to need setting. I think it’s just going to be like a broken toe that will have to heal by itself while I favor it for a few weeks. It could have been worse. At least it wasn’t my ankle so I can still walk. At least it was my left one so I can still type. And it wasn’t in a place that required a trip to the emergency room and a cast. So I feel quite lucky!

But let me catch up on our travels. Since my last entry, Glenda and I have been to New York City and Washington D.C. We stayed in Trenton, NJ the night after we saw Philly and took the train back up to NYC. There we did the double decker bus tour I mentioned in the last blog. It was great, and NYC has definitely changed since I was there last in 1991. The tour guide told us that in 1993 Rudy Gulianni cleaned up the city. You can really tell. It was a different place, and I was so glad we went and we saw so much. I posted pictures the other night, so check the gallery if you haven’t already.

Yesterday we drove down to D.C. and saw the monuments and memorials on the Mall, the White House, the Capital, and the National Archives (with that heavy door), plus the Presidential motorcade whizzed past when we were least expecting it. As soon as we figured out what it was, we grabbed our cameras and snapped a few pictures, but you will have to be told what you are looking at or you couldn’t tell.

This morning we went to Arlington Cemetery. What a beautiful place. We got some great pictures there. This afternoon Glenda and I split up to go to the Smithsonian. Glenda wanted to see the Art Museum and I preferred the Natural History and Aerospace Museums. When we reconnected, we had exciting recaps to give each other. Tomorrow we’re going to spend the day in the Museum of American History. That’s the biggest and best, and definitely the one where you need a full day.

Our plight of getting lost several times a day has continued. But now we have figured out that it’s best if Glenda drives and I navigate. She reads the road signs better and I read the map better. It only took us 8 days to figure it out, so from here south we should have it made in the shade.

Last night we were in a roach infested EconoLodge, so tonight we treated ourselves to our most expensive hotel yet. We are feeling pampered in our room tonight, and ready to hit the sack.

We are in a Red Roof Inn just south of Trenton, NJ tonight. We did not have good internet access the last two nights so I couldn’t send email or write a blog. I could read email and the internet, but just couldn’t upload. Thanks for all your comments on the last post.

On Saturday we visited the Canterbury Shaker Village. In case you don’t know, the most unique thing about the Shakers is their belief in celibacy. They replenish their ranks by way of converts and adopting orphans. Not surprisingly, there are very few left in the United States today. But it was interesting to see this village that once was home to 300 Shakers. There are none left there now.

The rest of the day, we just drove. We went all the way across New Hampshire and Vermont and turned south back toward Massachussetts. We spent the night just outside Stockbridge where Norman Rockwell lived much of his life. On Sunday morning, we visited the museum there, and had lunch in the village just off Main Street which is depicted in his famous painting “Christmas in a Small Town”. It was a most enjoyable morning before we drove on into Connecticut. We made a quick stop at a beautiful covered bridge in Connecticut to take some pictures and drive across. We only stopped in Rhode Island long enough to step out and take a couple of photos, but at least we can say were were there. It was a wet and windy evening when we drove through.

While we were eating lunch in Stockbridge, we sat next to a couple from New Jersey. When they discovered our plans for NYC, they had some great suggestions for us about getting into and around the city. We took their advice and drove down to Philadelphia today where we visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, and then found a motel back up near the state line. Tomorrow we will take the Amtrak train into Penn Station and purchase a ticket for the double decker bus that goes around lower Manhattan. We can “hop on – hop off” at various points of interest along the way, and then take the train back down to Trenton in the evening. We’ll spend the night here again and be ready to head toward Washington on Wednesday morning.

Glenda and I are getting along fabulously (who wouldn’t love traveling with my sweet friend?) and we have even managed to listen to one book on tape that was 11 hours long. All those miles of country roads in the rain made a great backdrop to the story about cheesemakers in Ireland. We have an early morning, so we better get some rest.

14. October 2005 · 8 comments · Categories: Travel

SOME THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED

    Richard is Right!

The drivers in Massachusetts are the worst in the world! We had several close calls as the obliviots went screeching by us or around us. We have kept safe, but the speed limits on the roads mean nothing to them, and yielding to oncoming traffic when making a left turn is not required. In fact, red lights seem to only mean stop until there is a mini-opening and squeeze across the intersection. I swear we saw all these things happen in one day! We were glad to cross the state line into New Hampshire this afternoon.

    It’s easy to get lost in Boston!

Had we not taken several wrong turns and passed our exit from I-93, we would never have seen Tufts University or the Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge. Nor would we have seen as much of Quincy as we did if we had been able to see the sun and could tell east from west and north from south (or north from west, etc.). We finally stopped at Walmart and bought a compas last night, but even it doesn’t work any better than the Massachusetts drivers and didn’t help us out much. (Seriously, the magnet seems to be off and it points southeast most of the time.)

    Lobster has a season!

After driving 16 miles out of our way for some special lobster rolls, we found out that lobster is out of season. It must be on the tail end because another restaurant was still serving them, but just not the famous one listed in our Frommer’s Guide. We had them anyway, and were glad we experienced them, but probably won’t order them again.

    The main source of income in New England

From our observations, we have deduced that most of the money comes into the area by way of Dunkin’ Donuts. A secondary source may be Curves (a women’s fitness chain). Either that, or the people who are eating all the donuts are working them off there. It’s apparent that Krispy Kreme has not made it to the northeast, but Dunkin’ Donuts shops are as plentiful as Walgreens in Arizona.

But seriously folks,

    “Greetings from New England!”

The scenery couldn’t be more spectacular, and the weather couldn’t be more miserable. There is not a speck of blue sky, and Glenda already bought a new umbrella because the wind tore her other one apart. We have worn our coats with the hoods up and our hands in our pockets whenever we are outside. (I’m really glad I got that little camera that fits in my pocket. Now if it would just take pictures through the fabric! ;) )

We arrived on Wednesday evening, and went straight to our hotel. On Thursday morning, we did the Freedom Trail, a 3 mile walking tour of historical Boston. It winds around downtown taking you to Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church, Fanueil Hall, an old cemetery and the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides). We were done by early afternoon, so we decided to drive down to Plymouth. By the time we got there (see “It’s easy to get lost in Boston…” above), it was nearly 5:00, so we only saw Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower II (a replica of the original), and headed back to the hotel, driving past Tufts on our way (see “It’s easy to get lost in Boston…” above).

This morning we got up early and headed north. We went to Salem to visit the Witch Museum. It was interesting, but by the time we got out of there, we realized witchcraft is alive and well in Salem. The tour guides were promoting “tolerance”, condemning Christian persecution of witches, and describing modern day worship celebrations from personal points of view.

We continued on north to Portland, Maine where we drove over to the coast to see the Portland Head Lighthouse, which Frommer’s described as “one of the most picturesque lighthouses in the country”. We were not disappointed. It was more than worth the trip. On up to Freeport for the almost famous lobster rolls (see “Lobster has a season” above.)

Next we headed inland toward New Hampshire. We got off the interstate and took a smaller highway which wound through farmland, villages, and miles and miles of radiant beauty. Even without a sunshiny sky, the trees are spectacular and the views are breathtaking. We stopped at a motel in Moultonborough which is on the north shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, and checked in amidst a drenching downpour. We are snuggled into our room tonight eating a supper of snacks we are carrying in a little styrofoam ice chest, and checking email and weather forecast. By the way, it’s raining in New England! (That sounds vaguely familiar. Didn’t I just get back from rainy Alaska?)

I posted a few pictures on the gallery.

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