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.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On this, the sixth day, we're paying our own way for the first time, no one to mooch from, a sober development in what has been, till tonight, a rolling free lunch.
Another wrinkle has emerged in the person of Carmilla, a very seductive English lady who speaks to us from our new GPS (a gift from Sarah & Chad). When we first activated it, approaching NYC, the instrument took the voice of a very clinical, kind of no nonsense, American woman, not at all companionable. I looked for other options and wound up turning on Carmilla, an unfortunate choice of words admittedly and one not lost on Elaine. More to the point, however, it wasn't lost on Carmilla who has taken an undisguised interest in me and appears intent on reciprocating. The consequence, I'm afraid, has been a chilly co-existence here in the cockpit as Carmilla has taken to giving her travelling instructions to me personally, often calling me by name, not speaking to Elaine at all and, for that matter, hardly letting her get a word in edgewise. Elaine,in turn, has taken an uncharacteristically aggressive attitude toward Carmilla, threatening to pull her plug and, tonight, making her sleep in the car.
On day 4 we were graciously received at Pete & Sue's in New Jersey. On those few occasions when I've been a leasurely presence in New Jersey I've been reminded of what an extraordinarily beautiful place it is. This visit has certainly been no exception. Among the highlights has been the Princeton campus. It was a priviledge to simply be there. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a student. The area where Washington crossed the Delaware was its equal and being in the company of an historian like Pete made it easier to understand what those men went through to secure the blessings of liberty and put me in the right frame of mind for this week's extraordinary inauguration.

Many of you don't know that for as long as Elaine and I have been together the only way to get her up in the morning is to cook bacon in close proximity to wherever it is she is composed in sleep. I've worried about how to accomplish that on this trip because to try and wake her up in any other fashion is always iffy and I wasn't sure each host along the way would be willing. I needn't have concerned myself here in New Jersey. The requisite aroma, thanks to Pete, is wafting through this room and up the stairs to my beloved as I write and he, Sue and I are all down here waiting expectantly. Ah - there she is. The day can begin. Having spent two nights here we are off to, well we're not sure - toward Virginia.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Day 4, New Jersey

And a fine time was had by all....out for dinner with Pete and Sue (photo courtesy of Sue)
We spend our second night at Elaine's sister's place in Thetford, Vt and my second early morning walk took place in three degrees with the wind blowing, bracing. About a mile out a dog in a decidedly proprietary frame of mind came out to his road to let me know where my boundaries were. We had a little chat and although I think we both knew I was presenting the more reasonable argument, he managed to carry the day and sent me on my way without doing any damage although his saliva was frozen on both pant cuffs when I got back.

Later that day we headed for New York City. Our first clue that red suspenders were not the unifrom of the day came when the nice Jamaican lady at the Henry Hudson toll booth glanced in at me and queried rhetorically, "You ain't from around here are ya?", in a pretty convincing Maine accent, better than Brother John's.

Mia, hosting us in her lovely 18th floor apartment on Riverside Drive, assured me that red suspenders were all the range among Manhattan professionals and that I shouldn't concern myself with the ticket taker's assessment and so off we went to a nice Trukish restaurant with no change in attire. The Maitre'd did observe that I had two women in tow and politely asked if it was the suspenders that made that possible but aside from being offered a bib I could not see that I was treated any differently from the other diners.

My third morning walk resulted again in encounters with dogs but the similarity between these and the Vermont or Vinalhaven canines with which I was familiar did not extend beyond four legs and a tail. Every species of dog known to man, I'm quite sure, has a relative on West End Avenue between 85th Street and the area around Columbia University and they all have the most becoming outfits. Nearly all had sweaters, many with matching hats, some had booties and at least one had Yak Trax. It was around twenty degrees and snowing lightly, very slippery walking. Nonetheless, dogs have to go in the morning and there is a big distinction between what happens on an island in Penobscot Bay when someone like Gigi asks, "Reuben, do you have to go out?", and when the same query is delivered on this island in the East River. The more fortunate of these NY dogs were being led about by a comfortably attired professional dog walker, usually in the company of others of its species so it got a little social interaction, and taken for a meaningful jaunt, several blocks. The only stops were for the walker to pick up droppings and for the dogs to pee, one after another, on the wheels of selected parked vehicles or, with particular interest, on the discarded Christmas trees waiting to be picked up later that day and which would, we discovered, return as urine infused mulch in the spring. A fully engaged professional dog walker is a remarkable thing to behold. With as many as six dogs of all sizes, each on a separate leash, all held in one hand, and a big plastic bag full of poop in the other, she, most were women, manages to keep them all companionable and out of the way of pedestrians and other dogs while stopping as required to pick up droppings of every size and consistency, this while her other dogs and the dogs of other walkers are easily as interested in the deposits as she is.

The less fortunate are in the company of inadequately dressed owners, who can't afford a walker, who have lost interest in their pets, who only want to get back inside, who are dragged about by their dogs, dogs which, while not in nice outfits, still have better traction than their humans who are often still in slippers and even pajamas in spite of the slippery conditions
and who only grow more impatient as their charges take too long to do what needs to be done.

In nearly every case though, the dogs seemed to take a fancy to my own outfit; my red suspenders met with universal approval.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Day 3

Mt Ascutney, which lives always in my visual memory, makes its first appearance this morning as we roll down the snowy highway in Vermont.

Thanks to Anne and George for hosting a fine gathering of Austin siblings!

And tonight, the endlessly fascinating views from Mia's apartment in NYC.
I was charged, when we left home, with making regular entries to this instrument but have only now, three days later and two bags into Carol Thompson's gift cache of a hundred bags of trail mix, figured out how to log on, sign in and boot up without assistance. The first effort followed my pre-dawn walk around the city, having spent a luxurious night at our favorite Portland lodging, the Inn at St. John. I sat down at the computer in the lobby to see if I could access my e mail. I could not. Elaine was still alseep so could offer no help. I tried to get on my blog and pecked out the first few letters: 'pande'. The screen expolded suddenly in scarlet and a sultry voice, Wendy it was revealed, invited me to call her as big pink letters in an interesting font moved across the screen spelling out 'pandeRING PARTNERS OF PORTLAND'. I confess I'd not have been as eager to exit but gathering numbers of the hotel staff and guests were responding to Wendy's broadcast invitation and my desperate banging on the ESC key only resulted in layered photos of the 'PORTLAND PARTNERS' in one stage or another of undress and enticement multiplying on the screen. Kind of frantic, I stood up and stumbled off stage mumbling' "It's my blog", to the disapproving gathering. That unpleasantness aside, we had a great time. We visited with Katie and outfitted her for her internship, visited with neiceAngie and Jason and their 2 and 1/9 children and had an incomparable pizza at Flatbreads down on the waterfront and struck out on Tuesday morning for Vermont.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Great Adventure begins...

Our early morning departure from Vinalhaven was spectacular!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Countdown, Day 1!!!!!!

Packing the car in a mini blizzard is SOooooo much fun....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Phil contemplates the menu for a family gathering, in anticipation of our departure.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Countdown, Day 5

Nature is providing a little extra incentive to go south this morning.

Anyone who is counting will realize that my math skills are somewhat "abstract" and that I began the countdown with the wrong number. Today's number, I think, is correct.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Emily has her bags all packed, and is relaxing in front of the fire awaiting her own great adventure....moving in with Stephanie and Matthew and Corey while we are traveling. She has been on a tour of her new accommodations, and is thrilled with the number of treats offered.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Elaine is working on taxes. Her desk does not look as hopeful as Phil's.

Countdown, Day 6

Phil's desk looks pretty clean (thanks Carol!!!)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The countdown--day 7

The chariot awaits the great departure....