Category Archives: Summer 2012 – New England

Verbum ultimum

The last word on Odyssey 2012 is beautiful. I’ve said it a hundred times in the past: there are so many magnificent places in the US to see and experience, you’d need a lifetime to do it all. We need to be grateful to the many preservationists and environmentalists, from Teddy Roosevelt on down, who recognized the importance of safeguarding public spaces against encroaching construction/destruction. What a joy it was to see enormous expanses of land, untouched by urban sprawl and commercial greed.

Letchworth State Park in western New York is a perfect example of this freedom from rampant over-development. Situated on 14,000 acres on the Genesee River in the middle of miles of lush, rural farmland, it is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East.” We’d never heard of it. The Thriller stumbled on it a few weeks ago while searching for hotels for the trek home. Why did we not know about this?

It’s roughly a 5-hour drive from our home here in Ohio, with beautiful views of Lake Erie along the way (if you take Route 5 in places, instead of Interstate 90) — totally doable for a long weekend, area fiends. You won’t regret it, guaranteed.

With dozens of waterfalls, a huge river gorge, trees, wildlife, hiking and biking paths, horseback riding, camping and likely scads of other activities I don’t know about, it’s truly a place for everyone. It’s also the first of what I’ve seen of a “carry in, carry out” public park. There are no trash barrels anywhere; what you bring in, you cart out. And I never saw a single piece of trash in a picnic area or on a trail.

We hiked as far as our achy bods would take us, uphill and down, to get some good photographs of the gorge and the waterfalls. After that, we just didn’t have it in us to go down (and then back up — it’s the “back up” part that stunk) the 127 steps to the natural footbridge. We’ll get ‘er next time.

The absolute quiet grandeur of the place was overwhelming. Going on a Monday morning probably helped, too (after waiting for 20 minutes for a ranger to come to the fee station, we found out from some passerby locals that if you go before 9 a.m., admission is free), so the timing was perfect. We will definitely try to get back there again in the coming years.

And so it officially ends; Odyssey 2012 is in the books, and it’s good to be home. Odyssey 2013, you ask? Well now…we’re going to have some fun planning that one, now aren’t we?


NY and home

We saw some pretty sights in Vermont and northwestern New York yesterday. The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire gives way almost immediately to the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, so we’ve enjoyed nonstop greenery. I can only imagine what this looks like in the fall. It’s been a beautiful drive, and good thing, too, because yesterday was our longest trek: nine hours on the highways, and fortunately, only sometimes on the interstate.

These pastoral settings were everywhere. The Thriller stopped the car in the middle of a bridge so I could take a photo without the railings appearing to lean sideways (I wanted to get out, but there were cars coming). These vistas are everywhere, and we wondered if the residents didn’t come to take them for granted. I hope not.

Just across the New York border sits the town of Hoosick, home to PumpkinPalooza and this awesome place. Notice the ghostly presence of a familiar spectre, posing in between Jake and Elwood on the front porch. We checked it out inside as well, and bought the best oatmeal raisin cookie we’ve ever eaten.

So today, it’s on to Letchworth State Park, then five hours on the western road. We should reach the homestead around dinnertime tonight. We are both tired, but happy. It’s hard to not think about things waiting for us when we get back, like work.

And you will notice I have completely avoided even the slightest mention of Dinner Theatre this entire time. :-)

I am, however, back to knowing what day it is. Happy beginning of the work week! Some final reflections tomorrow morning, along with the customary dirt on Odyssey 2013.


New Hampshire

Hey there, sorry for the delay today. Even at the beautiful Woodward’s Resort, we had spotty connectivity, if at all. It confuses me, actually — all of these businesses run on the internet. From reservation systems to running their websites, it’s all online.

And yet “free high speed Internet,” while free, doesn’t approach anything resembling high speed. Unfortunately, the cell phone reception is equally bad (for Verizon slaves, anyway), so tethering didn’t work, either.

But!! Here we are on the interstate, so now I can talk to you. We’ve seen some gorgeous little towns in NH and VT today — it’s been a blast so far.

So the highlight of yesterday (besides Woodward’s) was the Café Lafayette Dinner Train. While it wasn’t the absolute be-all, end-all experience of our lives, we did enjoy it immensely.

The service and food were impeccable. No complaints at all there (but hyssop added to the butter, seriously? Not pretentious in the least). Rather, it was the actual train ride that kind of disappointed.

It was an up-and-back ride, which was fine. It definitely gave you the “dinner car” feel. The furniture was very comfortable, and the table settings were beyond classy. But the ride

We pulled out of the station slowly, and we thought here we go! Only there never was any real get up and go. We glided along at a top speed of about 15 MPH. It was more of a crawl than a glide. And the scenery, while likely fabulous during the autumn months, was less than awe-inspiring, in spite of what their website describes as “spectacular views of the Pemigewasset River.” What we did see was some dry creekbeds, parking lots and construction sites, advertisements posted on trees facing the train, and a lot of trees.

There were some really pretty sights, though. Overall, it was a beautiful experience, and I’d recommend it to anyone (although fall might be a better time to go).

If you left hungry, it was your own fault. Great evening. The Thriller and I were discussing the last time we’d each been on a train. For me, it was 1976 (Swiss Alps), and he rode with his aunt on a train to Chicago in 1958! So it had been awhile for both of us.

Today is a long drive day. As I write this, we’re in a traffic jam outside of Albany, NY. We’re en route to Perry, NY to stay at the rustic Park Lake Motel and visit Letchworth State Park, home of the “Grand Canyon of the East.” I had never heard of it until recently. What the world??

And then, fiends, it’s over. Odyssey 2012 comes to a close. We might take advantage of the Thiller’s offer for a free overnight stay in Cleveland, and we might not. But after tonight, we’re done.

It’s been like wow — and I’m delighted you shared it with us!

Bar Harbor

Yikes, what a day yesterday. We’re both stiff as old ironing boards, but it was great fun. A view from 1500 feet up, blue skies, manageable temperatures (high 70s), excellent shopping…a good day.

Friday was a Bar Harbor sandwich; we started by walking the town, then went into Acadia National Park and took the Park Loop Road tour, which requires you to park, get out, walk, climb, photograph amazing natural wonders, get back into the car, repeat.

Just when you think you’ve seen the most beautiful vista, you drive up on another one. Of all the National Parks we’ve toured in the past few years, this one ranks in the top three for beauty.

So after hiking around the entire top of Cadillac Mountain, we came back to Bar Harbor and fed my shopping monster. Loved it.

By dinner time, we were both wrung out again. So we decided to take a leisurely drive back to the hotel, stopping along the way at whatever place grabbed our fancy. We hit lots of independent gift shops and mom-and-pop shops along the 40-some miles of  Highway 1 between Bar Harbor and Bangor.

Some delicious strawberries from a roadside stand — right from the field, sprayed with nothing except sunshine and rain — served as a fine dessert after a chicken dinner (it was, after all, National Fried Chicken Day yesterday).

So today, we begin the trek westward, and we’re both starting to think about home. After coffee, it’s the scenic routes all the way to Mount Washington. Yay, more climbing! :P

I think it’s Saturday, yes? Have a great weekend, fiends. I’ll check in with you tomorrow.



OK, so Bangor has about a dozen museums, and we didn’t go into any of them. Does that make us bad people? I guess I just had no interest in discoveries in Maine and transportation relics. Maybe on another day, but yesterday wasn’t it.

So instead, we went by Stephen King’s house (of course), played at the Hollywood Casino awhile (nice place), treated ourselves to Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner, came back to the hotel, did laundry, watched an HBO special on Jim McKay, and called it a night. Relaxing day, and we liked it.

Oh, and we got a shot of Paul Bunyan from the parking garage downtown. There’s a bunch of construction going on around and behind him, so direct access was difficult, but at least I got a Muffler Man sighting in.

Yesterday’s real treat happened before we got to Bangor. On a whim, we said, “Hey, let’s take the Kennebunkport exit,” and oh my, are we glad we went for it.

Regardless of how one feels about George Bush I, you have to give huge props to his family on their taste in summer home locations. Not only is Kennebunkport beautiful and quaint and everything “New England,” it’s home to some of the most breathtaking beach mansions imaginable.

Ocean Avenue takes you on a lazy, winding tour of the extreme southern Maine shoreline. When you get to the western end of a peninsula, all traffic stops. They’ve even put in a “pulloff” place so folks can park (for 15 minutes only), look across the patch of land, and take photos of the Bushs’ home away from home.

Of course, it’s heavily guarded — a reminder that the Secret Service stay with a former president the rest of his life. One look at the guard house at the end of the long driveway and it’s clear that none shall pass.

But what a location: right on the peninsula, with nothing on the other side except the wide ocean. Nice, eh? And nicer that the Thriller retrieved the telephoto lens from the car and got a much better shot of the home. You go, Nikon.

It made me feel a bit voyeuristic, but oh well. At least it was a slow day, and there weren’t many people there.

After the Ocean Avenue tour, we went into Kennebunkport proper to walk the town and have brunch. We stopped at a very small shop (can’t remember the name), and the Thriller ordered a bacon/egg sandwich, while I had an awesome raisin bran muffin, which the server pulled right out of the still-warm muffin pan.

As with many old New England towns, frontage is pretty much non-existent. The shops are right at curb level, and one has to wonder about the history of each building. Beautiful, quaint, friendly — it was a real jewel hiding on the shore.

Today, it’s on to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park for some wandering around, eating, shopping, photography and eating. It’s supposed to be partly cloudy and 79; makes me feel bad for my family and fiends back in Ohio — to you I say, “Stay cool!”