Sunday, March 1, 2009


Our snowy return--thank you all for sharing our travels!

The Return

Today we returned to the island. We made a couple of side trips between Portland and Rockland, and so approached the snowy coast via Route 17. The skies grew heavier and heavier as we approached the ferry, and the snow started to fall just as we boarded. We arrived home in the midst of falling snow, and can now vouch for all the stories you've heard about the incredible layer of ice that blankets everything. I have a very strong urge to flee, back to warm dry Texas!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Covington Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati Ohio, has a beautiful river walk, including these swanky light posts.

The Quarry Chapel is just up the road from Annie and Jeff Robinson's home in Gambier Ohio.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yesterday we drove through the beautiful rolling fields and high mountain passes of Kentucky. We took a break from driving to visit Mammoth National Park, where we arrived just in time to join a group leaving to tour an area in the cave called Frozen Niagara. I didn't have time to return to the car for my camera, so you'll have to

wait for Phil's descriptions of rock formations and interesting underground creatures.
Soon after we entered Kentucky, a mysterious white substance appeared on the ground--a dim memory is trying to surface in my mind, but there seems to be some kind of block there. Later in the day, white things appeared in the air as well--still, my mind refuses to recognize them.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day 41

Bags of trail mix left 6

Gin Scrore Phil 2175 Elaine 2170

Heading North now, in Nashville visiting brother Dave and family. Some reflections on the south:

Trees: The most beautiful trees I've ever seen anywhere. Modest homes, antibellum mansions or grand estates, each shaded by Live Oakes whose prodigious green crowns draped in Spanish Moss suggest such gothic mystery that Stephen King might step from behind one at any moment, such timeless elegance that so might Vivian Leigh. It wasn't just the Live Oakes though. In Texas and in the plains of nearby states another oak, leafless this time of year (not all southern oakes lose foliage during the winter) extends one wildly expressive silouette after another heavenward. No two are the same and some, often those forced in some alternative direction by wind or obstacle, or forced to mutate by lightning or other circustance seem to have a great deal to say. It've often difficult to keep one's eyes on the road. Fortunately, there often being no one else on the road for as far as the eye can see, that's no big deal.

Good beer: non-existent

Roads: more often than not these beautifully maintained thorofares are so relentlessly straight for so long that the prospect of a curve reveals itself long minutes and longer miles in advance and is cause in itself to shake Elaine loose from her reverie at the prospect of excitement.

Good bread or in many cases any bread whatever: unavailable

Ribs: Tremendiously varied from region to region. The best was had at Fox Brothers in Atlanta.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

We spent a blissful last two days of camping in Arvie at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This is a sea turtle nesting beach, one of the last unlit beaches on the gulf coast.

We are in Atlanta as I write, visiting with Peter and Kelly Richards. Kelly and I toured the Terra Cotta Army exhibit at the High Museum yesterday, which was pretty amazing. Last evening, Atlanta was under a tornado watch, but this area was gifted with much needed rain as part of a dramatic thunderstorm.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The bridge across Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans was too intriguing to resist--twenty something miles of bridge, and finally the city appears, ghost-like on the far horizon. We managed to get lost in a maze of roadways through the city, saw a great deal of the devastation left behind by Katrina, and narrowly missed getting caught in an early Mardi Gras parade.

Last night brought us to Gulf Shores, Alabama, to an enormous state park with over 400 rv sites, and frequent signs that say "do not feed or aggravate the alligators." The beach across the street is spectacular!

We hiked a spectacular trail at Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The sign on the door of the ladies' room, prohibiting loaded firearms, was a first in my travels.....

The pace picked up this week, and I, the photographer, have fallen seriously behind. Apologies to our fans.

These photos show a beautiful picnic stop in the Ozark Mountains in northwest Arkansas, and a view into the valley of Buffalo Creek, known as Arkansas's grand canyon. A wonderful steep and winding road for miles and miles, but whole mountainsides of broken trees from the ice storm. The road had been cleared, but crews were still working to restore power--and the forest will be a very long time recovering.
Gin score: Elaine 2000, Phil 1990

Bags of Trail Mix left 11

Best Billboard:

A huge one, 40' feet long, 25' high torso of a beautiful girl with a very tiresome expression extending one arm and an upraised finger in my direction. As I draw nearer, but only when I've drawn much nearer, can I see that it is her ring finger. The caption: 'Enough already!'

One more night and Carmila and Elaine and I take leave of Arvie who has done very well by us, having taken us 3500 miles or so. Tomorrow we head northward.

I have re-read my last post and realized I whined a bit. Another thing about the south I didn't mention and should have is that nearly everyone is singularly courteous and considerate. It's really a marked distinction from the north (not that I know any discourteous people personally).

Yesterday afternoon Elaine and I lay out on the pure white sandy beach in 'just tolerable' sun (about 65) for 30 minutes or so. It was the second time since we left the island that we actually laid out in the sun. Of course we've colored some but we're still quite recognizable.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Gin score: Phil 1710 Elaine 1635

Bags of trail mix left 12

Top three church enticements:

Partake of the bread of life or you are toast!
It's hard to stumble when you are on your knees*
Life has many choices. Eternity has two. Which have you chosen?

*but not impossible

The number one businesses throughout the south we've visited have been cattle and farming but close runners up include casinos, advertising and rip off cash providers. Thank goodness for the former. The ranches and farms, homes and animals grazing amidst live oak, water oak and pecan trees couldn't be more beautiful, around each corner, mile after mile of truly stunning beauty. But then, as soon as one pastoral scene disappears in the rear view mirror, the billboards for gambling pop up. Gambling is huge and the business of balancing the fortunes of a few on the backs of the many who can ill afford it but can't help themselves are apparent everywhere. In a transparent and laughingly ineffectual concession to legislators who, one imagines, fought the ineffectual fight against the unrestrained construction of casinos, each billboard is accompanied by an invitation to the addicted to call a hot line. From the few upscale clubs full of bling, big name entertainers and high rollers (where you might expect to find Phil n the Blanks) to the hideous little dumps passing themselves off as casinos but often nothing more than a temporary building nailed to a gas station, they're everywhere and the latter are full of desperate people clutching a handful of chips or coins, a last cigarette and a drink and hanging on a slot machine. I hope we continue to successfully oppose efforts to begin doing the same thing in Maine. The indian tribes deserve opportunity but this isn't it.

Billboards, the promotion of billboards, businesses whose business it is to promote the business of others, electronic billboards shared by several advertisers so as many as ten or twelve show up on one board within one minute, even billboards that advertise the capacity for a competing billboard company to do one better, are huge, not just just huge business but huge billboards. The range of business and service each offers is more often numbingly dull and tacky: casinos, auto dealers, opportunities for getting quick cash by selling personal belongings or by turning over titles to anything and the very tackiest: attorneys who specialize in litigating against nearly anyone on your behalf in all sorts of particular areas. These are almost always accompanied by an enormous photo of the lawyer, smiling and oozing assurance. The best of these was found yesterdy in Mississippi in the form of a forty foot long invitation to those who felt they'd been wronged. "INJURED?? BROKEN BONES?? TONY CAPELINO 800 GET BACK. The accompanying photo of Mr. Capelino might instead have carried the caption BROKEN BONES? NO? WANT SOME? He made Tony Soprano look like Mr. Rogers.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gin Rummy Score: Phil 1400, Elaine 1190

Bags of Trail Mix left: 16

We're moving much more slowly now, what with Elaine leading the way on horseback and Carmilla and me following behind in Arvie. Yesterday she led us to a nice campground east of Oklahoma City every now and then pulling in on the reins so I could come alongside and she could issue instructions. Things like "Follow me thisaway" and "up through the draw yonder" or "down through the gulch apiece; mind the snakes pardner (She calls me pardner now)" She can roll a smoke now with one hand as if she's been doing it all her life.

We're on our way to Bella Vista Arkansas to pay a short visit to Tom and Mary Monie. Tom is the last of Dad's WWII Army buddies, easily his closest comrade in arms. It seemed increasingly important to me as we've moved on that we go out of our way a little to make this stop. Certainly my dad would have been happy with it and I know Tom is particularly appreciative of keeping our two families in touch with one another.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yes, that's me with the wind blown hair--does the wind ever stop in Texas?--and my new University of Texas longhorn t-shirt and the all-important boots. That's the LLano River in the background.

The second photo is of Arvie, tucked into his thus far favorite campsite at a state park in Texas called King Possum Lake. It rained like mad in the night, and the wind rocked Arvie every which way--not much sleeping got done, but we woke this morning to a gorgeous blue sky and a bit less wind.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Current Gin Rummy Score: Phil 870, Elaine 795

Bags of Trail Mix left: 17

Things I've had to explain to Elaine:

"Careful where you step; that's not just a log with a grin on its face."

"Patting you on the butt is just their way of saying Howdy. Don't
make a scene."

Bob & Jake Tuminski came to Austin trying to get away from Vinalhaven
for a few days. They didn't get far enough away. We found them at a
shopping center here in the company of Eric and Rhoda Silverberg and
made them have lunch with us

Elaine has become kind of distant. After agonizing hours of indecision at one boot and paraphernalia shop after another, each full of equally deliberative and, of course, hot and dusty Texas cowboys and cowgirls, Elaine has finally settled on a pair of suitable boots. She also has a University of Texas T shirt with the likeness of a bull on the front, is acquiring similar regalia with singular determination and is settling into the landscape with frightening speed and determination. She now rides shotgun with one boot propped up on the dashboard, has become dry and laconic, and seems to be chewing something, the residue of which she now and then spits into an empty coffee container. Yesterday we were in a rib joint and when I came out of the rest room she was at a stand up bar with one foot up on the brass rail, drinking a Bud Lite and asking a weatherbeaten companion "Where'd y'all shop for chaps?" I joined them, plaintively striking a similar pose, doing what I could given the sandals and my Defenders of Wildlife T Shirt with a picture of Sarah Palin with a big red line through it but was apparently unconvincing. "Who's the dude", he asked? I couldn't make out what she said. She talks funny now.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We Love Texas!

Texas is a country unto itself. From the giant silver star at the visitor's center at the eastern border, we have thus far traveled through oil country (flat and unappealing), past Houston, through ranch country, and are now camping just west of Austin in a sweet little low-key campground in hill country. We had a wonderful day in Austin with Steve Barrett introducing us to his home city, and we had lunch with Eric and Rhoda Silverberg and Jake and Bob Tuminski--a little gathering of islanders in this faraway place.

The photos here are of the star, our camper tucked in among the live oaks, Lake Travis, a view out over Flatonia Texas, and a lightning strike in Pace Bend Park, just down the road from our campground.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Alabama and Mississippi

The photographer of this duo is a bit behind. Here are a morning shot as we left Mobile Bay on Sunday, our first daffodil, seen just this side of Bogalusa, Louisiana (a little blurry, but Phil was napping so I shot it through the window) and the bridge crossing the Mississippi River.

East Texas was an uninspiring place, in many ways--poverty on an enormous scale, both rural and urban. It may be cold and icy in the northeast, but there is a pervasive hopelessness here. I've never seen so much roadside litter.

Today we are in a small campground just west of Austin, Texas, so I'll be posting more photos soon. We are just at the beginning of the hill country of central Texas, and it is already gorgeous!

'When He was on the cross, you were on his mind.' Another of the countless, some imaginative, appeals to join the faithful, particularly across coastal Mississippi, a very depressed area where eventual salvation seems to be the only hope. That's a hasty judgment to be sure; we're only driving through after all but it looks pretty grim. In Louisiana there was no less poverty but much less religious fervor. Likewise here in Texas. Hardly anywhere in the south, however, is there a break in the endless enormous billboards calling our attention to all manner of services nearly unseen in the north.

Some are clear albeit clearly speaking to badly depressed conditions. These are the thousands of businesses whose sole enterprise is either 1) to advance money on expected paychecks, on auto titles or on deeds or any other instrument of value, 2) to pawn valuables or 3) bail bond services. In some cases about half the entire commercial activity of a small village are these three businesses. 'Eliminate/Delete Bad Credit ($99 down). Satisfaction guaranteed!' is another sad example. It's easy to imagine, looking around, the number of folks whose circumstances are only made worse by these enticements.

Others hawk legal services and these are quite specific and always accompanied by a huge photo of the lawyer whose services are featured: '18 Wheeler Injury' or 'Specializing in Offshore or Explosive Injury and Wrongful Death' or 'Fast resolution of Hurricane Ike Claims'

Others are less clear. One huge billboard, perhaps forty feet long and a hundred feet in the air queries 'BAD GIRLFRIEND? TIRED OF YOUR LIFE?' and then a 800 number. Elaine is still companionable so I haven't called yet. 'Can't lose it all? Do What You Can; We'll Do the Rest. Drive in Drive out lipo suction' was tempting.

I've had several e mails from some of you back on Vinalhaven complaining about the weather. When did you all become such whiners? Is it simply because you are there and we are here? We are not without our trials I can assure you. Early yesterday, hours before the temperature here in Austin climbed to 72 degrees, a fellow whose house was in a little dip, had some frost on his windshield. You could hardly see his gun rack. Everyone was trying to help but it was I who saved the day, being from Maine and what not. No one else knew what frost was and I'd brought my big two foot ice scraper with me. As I approached, everyone looked approvingly at me because while they didn't know what I had in my hand they were quite sure it was a weapon and that's good enough down in these parts.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

We've been tucked in comfortably in Mobile Bay, Alabama for a couple of days. Wayne's nephew Mike gave us his shorefront cottage for as long as we liked. We stayed the weekend, two days, long enough to experience the somewhat watered down Dauphin Island version of Mardi Gras and then headed out this morning for points west. Presently we are hunkered down on the other side of the Mississippi in Morganza, Louisiana, having opted out of New Orleans this time around. We next to a railroad track. In the last two hours two trains haave gone by, leaning on the whistle and each hauling over a hundred cars. We love it.

These relatives of Wayne Cooper's couldn't be nicer but they are not as conveniently located as they might be or as we'd prefer. Two, after all, Mike and his aunt Sue, were right there in Alabama withing thirty miles of one another. Frankly, we don't need two in such proximity. If we are to drive all around the county for free it would be handier if they were spread out a little more. Sue, for instance, used to live in Savannah and it would have been bettter for us if she'd stayed there. As it was we had to pay our own way in Savannah simply because there was no one there we could sponge from. Now we discover, and it's no surprise to us; there are more of Wayne's relatives further west which, as it happens, is the direction we've chosen. But, again, this next relative is far away, in Alburqueque. There are none in between or at least none willing to be identified, which is where we need them. Where, for goodness sake, is the Texas connection?

Elaine was a major hit at the Mardi Gras parade in Dauphin Island. Imagine this if you can. Baubles, bangles and beads are the end all of everything that goes on at the Mardi Gras festivities. Every personage on every float flings bead necklaces left and right without ceasing; vendors sell the same thing plus outrageous feather boas and huge fur and feather hats. In spite of this having been going on for who knows how many years, Elaine was apparently the first person to concieve of tying her ten foot purple feather boa around her head so that, for all appearances, it was her hair. She was a big hit. Everyone, locals all, were crazy over her hair. On the road she is a different person, hamming it up, the center of attention. I am nothing, a wall flower.

Thyroughout the south today, Sunday, we are taking note of the church marquis'. In Mississippi there was, in some cases, literally, a church every few feet. Oddly there were very few in Louisanna. The marquis' though were compelling. One of the best was 'Life is full of choices; Eternity has only two. What have you chosen?' I naturally assumed the inquiry had to do with menu choices, perhaps broad categories of food and so settled on a category I created myself: 'Things With Gravy or Sauce' and hoped that would suffice. I've run it by KK for his approval.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mobil Bay Alabama

A few interesting pics of this beautiful part of the country--Phil hard at work; dock removal, courtesy of Katrina; oil production offshore (and some folks think offshore windmills are a visual problem????); the glorious beach on Dauphin Island.

Friday, January 30, 2009

I am ripped about reports that execs have given away 18 billion of our tax dollars to themselves and even more pissed because Obama couldn't bring himself to say anything more forceful than they should be ashamed of themselves and that he planned on having them in for a talk. All the news shows talked about how he, normally cool and collected, showed a barely controlled anger at his press conference. I wrote him if he couldn't get any angrier than that he ought to be ashamed of HIMself. TAKE THE MONEY BACK FOR CHRISSAKE, YOU'RE THE PRESIDENT.

There! Phew.

We've had a very stressful day here what with my reaction to the above but not nearly as stressful as the goat trying to give birth here. Yesterday morning an infant goat put in an appearance at the opening in the rear of its mother, only the head mind you. The mother seemed quite matter of fact about it, grazing on the morning's offering of hay and grain. Soon the owners came out to the field and let me know they were aware of the distressed condition of the infant. They are a middle aged woman and her barely mobile husband, confined to a golf cart kind of contraption. The baby's head had been hanging out of the rear end for an hour or more. I was quite sure it was dead by now, having struggled for some time to emerge with no progress whatsoever and now quite still. The woman approached the goat several times but the animal was having none of it and it was clear she'd never be able to get near it. I asked if I could help but they said they'd called the vet and although there was no answer they'd left a message. I couldn't imagine leaving the goat in this condition and went back to the computer to learn what I could. What I did learn was that goats are born feet first and if they emerge in some other way like breach or head first assistance is required to save the lives of both. Well then, I concluded, I better get my ass out there in the field and do what I do best, reach up the big hole and turn the thing around. Fortunately for me and very likely for mom and the kid, the vets (2 of them) did arrive at just that moment and it took them both, the aforementioned woman, and fifteen minutes or so of intense corralling to corner the animal in a place where it could be helped. One held the animal by the horns and the other two did what I was quite prepared to do as anyone could tell by looking at me standing on my side of the fence with my playtex gloves on. They did a remarkable job. That may nor may not have had anything to do with my offering advice and encouragement. To my astonishment they brought out the infant, alternately rubbing it down vigorously with a towel then standing it on its feet, gave the mother a couple of shots then got her to her feet and put them both in a pen by themselves where they seem happy and content nursing.

Today we strike out for Mobile Bay to visit Wayne's nephew (after having coffee with his sister this morning). We expect it to be less stressful but I am prepared.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Day 18

Bag # 11 of Carol's treats

Running Rummy score: Phil 400, Elaine 170

We just can't seem to get away from people with whom we have something in common or who have been forewarned of our arrival and advised to treat us well or to whom we are related or who, upon learning earlier of our plans, have invited us to stop or who are just terrific people. Here in Alabama we found a wonderfully funky campground surrounded by goats, a donkey and folks who have long ago made this place their permanent home or at least their permanent summer home. There are folks here (this is a campground mind you) who have settled in so well that trees have grown up that would obstruct their passage should they try to leave. They have kids in school; the bus stops here. The owners remind us of ourselves and this place, to an extent, of the Tidewater. When we told the owners we might leave so we can drive into town she gave us her car. This after having taken our car in for a windshield replacement (it had cracked during the drive up from Fla.) whereupon we asked whether we might leave our van with them till we came back to return our rental RV in 3 weeks and, while there was no space available at the shop, one of the employees called her parents and arranged to have us leave it at their house, which we did. This campground is in Fairhope, Alabama and since we enjoyed it so we stayed two days. That gave me a few hours to catch up with correspondence and to review our collection of invitations to visit folks here and there. When I opened up the file, there was Wayne and Carol's suggestion that we visit Wayne's sister. And where might we find her? Just down the road apiece right here in Fairhope. I'd had no idea. We arrived here completely by chance. Tomorrow we will visit Wayne's nephew in Mobile Bay (another arrangement courtesy of Wayne and Carol), stay at his place for a night or two and then head further west, perhaps to absorb Mardi Gras, perhaps to avoid it. And then we have no contacts (we know of) till Austin.

Home on the Road

Here are a few shots of our home on the road--very compact, but quite comfy.

Goat Day, Fairhope Alabama

Ahhhh....a day off from the road. I slept in, had coffee in bed (which adjoins the kitchen--how convenient!), used the shower in the camper for the first time (tiny but functional), and have just had a conversation with our campground host, in which she offered us her car to use for the day. I feel right at home.

And the neighborhood--the most delightful goats are our nearest neighbors, and very chatty this morning. One only has to approach their pen, and they all come running--looking for treats of course, but friendly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Moving On, Catching Up

We have been without internet for a few days, so here are a few photos, and Phil's story below. More soon!

Pelicans fishing the Apalachicola River

Phil and his Dad's first cousin Bill, who has a ranch in north central Florida (it's easy to see that they are related, yes?)

The road to Cousin Bill's house, High Springs, Florida
Ever since exiting a particularly posh restaurant in (I didn't eat there, just walked around dodging repeated inquiries from the staff, each regarding whether I'd like to be seated) I've been trying to find the courage to make an entry here regarding the price of lobster, Maine Lobster to be precise. The Azia Japanese restaurant advertised a 1 3/4# Maine Lobster dinner for $65. Admittedly the dinner included a lovely corn salad. Still, if I could convince the Azia to give me $50 apiece (they'd still have a 30% mark up) I could pay for a comfortable four day drive down to Miami, meals, lodging, gas and so forth with only 20 lobsters (boat price).

Advertising is much more 'in your face' down here. Billboards much larger and way higher than anything we have anywhere in Maine, lean into view, one on top of the other, for miles and miles and announce goods, services, entertainment and salvation, the latter two pretty much hand in hand as in a 'Gentleman's Club' next to a church encouraging remorse or another whose marquis asks passersby where they might find solace followed by a Hooters sign suggesting we might find it within. Beyond these we are offered new dentures for $250, legal representation, particularly for personal injury, at every juncture, bail bond services in such profusion it seems impossible everyone is not a criminal, vasectomies, various enhancements, waxings of one thing or another, check cashing services, on and on. The level of development along the shore is astonishing and sad. We escaped from the shore this afternoon and found a great little campground in Fairhope Alabama. We are in the midst of a herd of goats and a donkee, each of whom looks more at home than any of those skyscraping hotels and condos teetering elbow to elbow in the sand.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A kind of symbiosis is evolving in our relationship with one another. We have all this food with us, Carol's bottomless bag of trail mix, dried fruit we picked up at Good Tern before we left, other stuff we get along the way and citrus we've just begun accumulating and are trying to consume while it's still fresh. Customarily I prop a bag or container of one thing or another in my lap as I drive and graze continually while Elaine hovers in the passenger seat alert for moments when she might snag a scrap of something without getting hurt. The symbiosis exists in that, while the risks posed by her surreptitious feeding are undeniable, I do get some benefit in return. My driving arm is massaged now and then for example and sometimes she, finding an opportune moment and finding it when my mouth is open but when I am not saying something important, will deposit a goodie, a slice of orange, a dried fig, in the the void, withdrawing her fingers quickly to avoid injury. Sometimes she does this even when I AM saying something important, being instructive, for example and that makes it difficult to continue elucidating, but not impossible.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Moving On...Day 14

We said good-bye to Hollywood Beach this morning, after a really relaxing four days. We had a great dinner with Judy and Alain last night (thank you Alain!) and hope we have convinced them to visit us in Vinalhaven next summer.

We drove north through central Florida today--an astonishing landscape of sugar cane fields and some kind of surface mining (phospates?) that went on for many miles. We visited with cousins Lindy and Larry and Steve and Cindy at River Ranch at mid-day, and then continued on to Cleremont. Tomorrow we will visit cousin Bill and Coletta in High Springs, then head west for our camper pick-up. It was a bright and clear 75 degrees today--so hard to remember that it's January!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hollywood Beach

We are truly, and gratefully, in the lap of luxury. Thank you Judy! Today was warm, the sun shone, the water was that indescribable southern ocean color. I (Elaine) treated myself to a manicure in the hotel's spa today, and am now sporting "Dancing in the Isles" bright pink nails. They would look really silly in Vinalhaven in January, but are just right in this gorgeous climate. My poor manicurist had to take my ailing cracked winter nails right down to zero before she could work on them, so Phil will have to wait a day or two to have his back scratched.

I waved toward the north today, looking up the intracoastal waterway, thinking of all of our friends there--and then waved to Phil across the street, as you can just barely see in the second photo.
Yesterday we woke in Daytona to 30 degrees, not what Elaine had in mind when we headed in this direction. We took a walk on the beach nonetheless, had the place pretty much to ourselves as one might expect in those circumstances. Carmella had been in the room with us (we had two beds) and so was in good spirits when we headed south again, determined, as was Elaine to hold our course till satisfactory conditions were found.

To a degree (but not that degree) they have certainly been found now. Last night on day ten we checked in to the Westin Diplomat here in Hollywood. My former sister in law Judy has worked here since it was built and secured for us a room on the 27th floor overlooking pretty much everthing. We have a corner room with a wrap around deck right on the beach with the ocean on one side and the inland waterway on the other. A plate of huge chocolate covered strawberries, each berry dressed in black and white chocolate to resemble a man in a tux, and a bottle of Champaigne had been delivered to our room last night while we were enjoying dinner at Judy and Alain's with our nephew Aaron.

It's nearly reached 60 late yesterday but this morning is back to 40 something. We do expect it to get warmer tomorrow and so Elaine has consented to stay here a few more days, provided there is no interruption in the chocolate covered strawberries or champaigne.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Daytona Beach

As you may have heard, exceptionally cold temps have much of Florida in their grip. Undaunted, Elaine was determined to spend the morning sunbathing by the pool.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We only have 87 bags of trail mix (provided to us by Carol & Skip) left and so are consuming prudently.

We experienced two real extremes on this memorable day, each in Georgia, extremes of disinterest in one instance but extremes of acceptance and good humor too. The latter was in splendid evidence at the The Breakfast Club in Tybee Island, a kind of red neck establishment which had created an entire menu around the President Elect and his family, all very respectful, very good and very funny; my Obamalette (black beans and sour cream) and Elaine's Mock Hawaiian were both delicious. The place was full of locals, many of whom, though appearing unlikely supporteres, had Obama T shirts and hats, and also visitors and was as smoothly run, as welcoming and as attentive as any eating establishment I've even seen (even the Gawker).

Later though, we entered a kind of Netherland in Southern Georgia. I promised 'She Who Must be Obeyed' that we would find a place to watch the inauguration live and dutifully pulled off at 11:30am when I saw a sign for a Day's Inn and a couple of other motels where, I felt sure, we could just stop in and watch the inauguration in the lobby or breakfast room. Anywhere but here it seems. The Day's Inn could only be accessed through a ticket taker's cubicle (all three of its doors were locked) in which sat a very suspicioius Indian woman who directed me to a side door she then buzzed open. Inside was a big comfortable lobby with a large screen TV turned off. I asked if I might come in and watch the inauguration. "No, I'm sorry. The TV is not on." I could see that of course but it did have a big On/Off button. Nonetheless I resisted making a scene and went across the street to a slightly more upscale motel, not a chain. I got out of the car and, as I approached, saw an Indian man watching mee cautiously from within. When I got to the door he unlocked it and let me in to an even larger and more comfortable lobby with several nice chairs and a large screen TV. The TV was on; the inauguration was being broadcast and there was no one there but him. But no, I was told, "You must rent a room here if you want to watch the inauguration." I explained that this was an historic moment and my wife and I only wanted to watch the Oath of Office and speech. No, not possible. I left in the wrong frame of mind for this special day and although I did get to watch him take the oath in a Comfort Inn where the resident Indian couple was a little more accommodating (although they did keep the rap radio behindthe counter turned up), it wasn't till we had listened to much of Obama's speech on the car radio that I able to get myself in the frame of mind the President wished we could all find ourselves. Now tucked in on the beach in Daytona and having watched him and the very appealing first family settle in Washington I am again nearly of one mind with him and am full of optimism about our country's future.

The dark days are behind us, sort of.

The temperature back in Virginia reached 59 and has dropped little by little ever since. Here in Daytona its 53. Tomorrow we'll be in Hollywood visiting sister in law Judy and anticipate warmer temperatures although 53 feels pretty good to me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On day seven we stopped to visit our niece Breezy and her family. Jordan is stationed at Camp Le Jeune. They and their two kids, Valerie and Colby are doing well. It took me nearly an hour to get the kids and the dog all worked up but I was eventually sucessful whereupon we left. I'm sure they got them all settled down again; they're a young couple.

Coming down Rte 17 was a little depressing. They are a lot more serious about billboards and signage than up north and one after another offering the services of a bail bondsman, $250 dentures, gun sales, Going Out of Business sales or calling our attention to attend church services or drop in at a 'Gentleman's Club' was a little overwhelming.

Heading south we thought we'd surely encounter 60 degrees; it was 53 when we left Norfolk this morning but it only got to 59 before dropping several degrees. Tonight Elaine and I walked for a couple of miles on a deserted beach that went on forever here on Tybee Island. I'm not a beach fan myself but between the vast salt marshes we passed on the way to the island, and which we'll visit again tomorrow, and this beach in front of our motel, Elaine is very happy. It couldn't have been more timely either. She was getting a little difficult.

There was a time (actually there was never a time when it was otherwise) when her reminders that I was driving too fast were incessant. They were nearly always lovingly given but incessant is incessant regardless of how often I'm called Sweetie Pie. This trip was different though. I decided before leaving that I would pursue a leisurely course and discovered, to my astonishment, before even leaving Maine, that she thought I was driving too slow. "Not in a hurry are we?" she asked rhetorically. And driving down to NYC from Vermont, "Remember we have to be back by March 1." That sort of thing. When I finally gave in and picked up the pace a little I was Sweetie Pie again and getting reined in. As we travelled further south the acceptable window narrowed from several miles per hour over or under the limit to nothing either side of exactly what was what was posted. By the time we got here I was walking a thin line. Now though, with sand in sight on one side and salt marshes on the other she is a changed woman. I can do no wrong. I expect things will go very smoothly from here on out with sand and sun on the horizon.

Carmilla is sleeping in the room with us again although she continues to grow more familiar with me and, in that sense, is on thin ice.

Day 8

A full day today, along the coast of S.Carolina, arriving this evening on Tybee Island, Georgia.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Day 7

An early stop this morning in northern North Carolina--the Dismal Swamp Canal. Phil, as you can see, was inspired to perform a quick version of "Riverdance."
A beautiful day of driving, cold but clear. The other-worldy image of steam rising from this Philly industrial scene captivated us as we drove by.