Destinations with Daughters – Waning West – Day 1

Day one of a road trip is always special!  We got off to a strange start with our Google Maps doing weird things – but we got it figured out and named the Google Maps voice “Eliza”, basically so we have something to say, “be quiet” to!

The weather was cold to start – 29 degrees at home when we left at 5:20am (goal departure time was 5am).  We ran into some fog in Vermont and some rain in New York, but overall the traffic was light and the roads were good!  We took the scenic route through New Hampshire and Vermont instead of only highway – this added about 40 minutes but gave us something to look at. 

We listened to lots of music (thank you Spotify), sang, ate and did three Mad Libs Travelers Edition!

View of Vermont’s hills from Hogback Mountain overlook.

We made our first goal of Niagara Falls at 2:50pm and the last elevator ride down to the Cave of the Winds was at 3pm.  We Made It!!

Then we hightailed it to the Observation Deck to see what we could see!  It was rainy and a bit windy – I think more from the falls than anything else – but it was stunning!!!!

On our way to our hotel – a Holiday Inn Suites in Hamburg, NY, we drove by Lake Erie and Char wondered how we got to the ocean!  Of course, she knows her geography, but she was confused by the lake’s size.  We stopped for the last rays of sunset at a small state park near Buffalo and ran on the beach as the sun went down.  It was cool!

Today we laughed, Char slept, I sang, and we enjoyed our time together a lot.  Tomorrow is our longest day on the road – 950+ miles ahead of us and I hope to be on the road before 5am.  Here’s to a good night’s rest and a thankful heart for a safe and healthy Day 1.

Total Miles = 531

States = Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York

Hours on the road = 10 (including sight-seeing and stops)

Average Temperature = 39.5 degrees

Coffees = 2

Playlist = Hamilton the Musical (twice), The Best of; Billy Joel, Elton John, Maroon 5, and the Beatles

Major Landmarks = Erie Canal, Niagara Falls, Lake Erie, Buffalo, NY

Speed Traps passed = 5 (all in New York)

People not wearing masks in public places = 2

Gas bought = $44.32

Extras = $34.64 (coffee and food)

Hotel = $145.00 – Holiday Inn and Suites in Hamburg, NY – The hotel was good. The staff was very friendly and the room was very nice and clean with a modern design. We used the pool (You had to sign up for a time so you were the only ones in the area for social distancing) and the beds were comfortable! It was conveniently located right off the highway and we would stay there again.

Carpe Diem – Destinations with Daughters

While 2020 has certainly been a year for the record books, all the heartbreaks and disappointments have lead to some very important lessons to be learned. For me, those lessons have included; learning to let go of my Type A – “everything has to happen as I schedule it” – attitude. Another lesson I have learned is to be more flexible and adaptable. But the biggest lesson I have learned is carpe diem – seize the day – and that is exactly what Char and I are going to do!

I am a “live and let live” kind of girl and I tend to be pretty even keeled. But my next trip might not be for everyone, and that is ok…it IS for me and my daughter.

Char and I have been to Paris together and also Hawaii. I really cherish those memories!!!!

Ya know, there is something magical about the opportunity for a mother and daughter to travel together. I tried to pull off a short Disney cruise with my mom this past September but COVID. lol

BUT, because of COVID, my daughter and I are going on an adventure of a lifetime and it is being made more possible by the remote school schedule. We are doing something that couldn’t be more physically distant if we tried!

We are doing a Great American Road Trip and hitting as many of the National Parks as we can!

Our road trip will begin soon and I am bringing you along with me! I can’t wait to take this adventure!!! I mean, how many moms get an opportunity to spend so much time with their 14 year old daughters? ME! I am really going to treasure these precious days!!!!

Stay tuned and check out winter across America – socially distant style!

Time Travel with Teens

When your first child turns 18, you start to believe in time travel.

When your kids are young, babies even, you wonder if you will ever be yourself again. As much as you love this little human you created, you reminisce about days sleeping in, eating your dinner while it’s still warm, and doing life on your own schedule and not someone else’s. When they are toddlers, you wonder if their speech is emerging at the “right” pace, if they are potty training “on time”, and if they are good sharers.

In school, you want them to be good students, helpful and kind, but more importantly, you want them to have friends. As teens, you pray that they start putting together all the lessons you have tried to teach them. You hope they are responsible, giving, and thoughtful young people. You worry for every heartbreak (when a relationship ends or a close friend’s parent passes away) and feel all their hurts along with them, whether they believe that or not. You know all their schemes and bad choices before they do because you were a teen once upon a time!

The hardest part of being a parent of an emerging adult is that you see all their life’s possibilities on display before them – an infinite chasm of choices, actions, reactions, and consequences (good and bad). And yet, they see only tomorrow. This is time travel with teens and it lasts forever and passes in the blink of an eye, all at the same time.

My first born, my son, my precious boy turns 18 today and it is bitter sweet. I am not a sentimental mom, but this is a milestone in anyone’s life and I celebrate it with joy, love, and anticipation. Kelton came into the world as a 4 month old! Weighing in at 10lbs, 12oz, he has always been larger than life! He has always been a pensive fellow; aware of other people’s feelings. He is smart, adventurous, and a tinkerer – and can learn how to do and fix anything! He is a Scout Master’s conference away from his Eagle Scout achievement and excels at anything he puts his mind to.

He is a joy and we have so much hope for his future! Whatever path he chooses, we will be there with him!

Kelton, we are so proud of you. Here are some photos that I cherish among all things!

If there was ever a picture that personified Kelton, his sense of humor, and his fun outlook on life, this senior picture takes the cake!!

Travel Ornaments; A Year in Review….

People collect mementos of their travels, and one thing I collect is ornaments. Every year when we put up our tree, the ornaments from vacations past come out of the box and the trip is relived with joy, stories and laughter. It is EXACTLY why I travel and bring something home with me.

This year was a bit different. While we did still get in a couple of trips pre-COVID (Amsterdam and a girl’s trip to Punta Cana – and somehow I cannot find my ornament from that trip…), and still went to Disney and road tripped to South Carolina, we did miss out on a Disney cruise, a river cruise on the Rhine and my hubby missed a boy’s cruise to Mexico. There’s always next year!!!

Here are some memories and our ornaments…I know I will treasure them for many years to come. What do you bring home from your adventures?

Amsterdam – January 2020 – We LOVED this trip with friends – we can’t wait to go back!

Disney – August 2020

Southern Road Trip – Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC – November 2020

The Evolution of Travel in the COVID Age; A Trip Inside a Travel Agent’s Own Adventures.

I have been saying for a while that folks CAN travel during COVID, but two key words right now are Flexibility and Adaptability

I am living proof.  Here is a glimpse into the mind of someone who NEEDS to travel to survive.  I know that sounds dramatic, but I am a nomad in a first world country.  I need to move.  I need to explore.  I need to be challenged. COVID has presented a particular type of struggle for people like me.  But I persevere…..and here is what it looks like.

Plan A – An AMA Waterways river cruise on the mighty Rhine

Early this year, my hubby and I booked a FAM trip (this is travel agent speak for a FAMiliarlization trip – it is an opportunity to scope out a particular travel vendor, sometimes at a discount) with AMA Waterways – a luxury river cruising company that I have wanted to patronize for a while.  I love their itineraries and commitment to clients!  I was super excited about this opportunity. 

Our river cruise departed from Basel and ended in Amsterdam.  Since we are particularly adventurous, we booked flights to Paris three days ahead of our cruise departure, giving us a chance to hang out in Paris, go to Disneyland Paris, then drive to Basel, Switzerland to meet our cruise.

We held out hope….then on September 15th, we received confirmation that our river cruise was cancelled.  We waited another couple days then figured Europe probably would still be closed off, so we scrapped Plan A.

Plan B – Costa Rica

In September, Costa Rica opened it’s borders to select US states, and Maine was one of them, with restrictions (negative COVID test and the purchase of additional medical insurance in case of contracting COVID while in Costa Rica resulting in a prolonged stay).  We were cool with this opportunity – I mean, my brother in law and his lovely wife had agreed to come stay at our house during our absence to be with the kids and pets and hang out, so we really wanted to take this time as a couple.

I found FABULOUS airline tickets on JetBlue with direct service to Costa Rica and the plans were made.  We were going to stay in an all inclusive and I made sure I purchased the Travel Insurance PLUS option which allowed me to cancel for any reason for a full refund in the original form of payment.  I purchased our additional medical insurance and we were ready.

Just this week, I was dotting the I’s and crossing t’s (like every good travel professional should be doing) and saw on my JetBlue account that our flights had been cancelled – no communication – no nothing from JetBlue (and I am surprised about this as I really like JetBlue and expected more from them. I later found out that somehow the email linked to these particular tickets was different than the email attached to my TrueBlue account….so that explains it!).

So, to rebook on another airline would have been crazy town expensive, so I called our resort vendor and cancelled for a full refund.  I was also granted a refund for our additional medical insurance.  On to to Plan C.

Plan C – the Great American Road Trip

OK – I didn’t have to think about this Plan long…..I am in love with Charleston, South Carolina.  I have been since I taught middle school there right after I graduated college (winter of 1997).  I have only been back once in 2000 and I have been telling my hubby ever since how much I love this city and want to bring him there.  Enter Plan C!!!!!

Our plan is to road trip to Asheville, North Carolina via an overnight stop in Winchester, VA, and see American’s largest private residence, Biltmore.  We will stay there two days so I can get my “castle/mansion” fix, then we will spend four nights in Charleston at a fabulous B&B.  We have plans to visit friends and family a couple nights, do a ghost/pub crawl in Charleston, tour Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place Rice Plantation and also drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I cannot wait!!!!  Oh, we will also have fun listening to Harry Potter books on Audible as we drive (this was a wee bit of a concession on my part since our road trip is very history heavy – my love, not as much Kelly’s, although he has grown in his appreciation of all things old as of late).

So, there you have it.  Adaptability and flexibility.  If you want to get out there….go!  Sure, some things will be different but get out there and explore!  Use this time to do things you haven’t done before.  And follow our adventure right here!!!  Don’t miss out!

Sweating out the Crazy

Last weekend, one of my BFFs from High School and I decided to go on a backpacking adventure. We headed up to Mt Chocoura, NH for two nights of solace and time together. We got that and so much more!

My friend, Sherry, has never been backpacking. I have been a couple times but I am by no means an expert…but since I have an almost Eagle Scout, I had all the gear we needed for our trip.

We packed two very heavy frame packs to include a tent, 2.5 gallons of water (no water up there), food for 48 hours, Sterno in case the fire went south, fire starting material, warm clothes, poles, sleeping bags and mats, books, chargers (because we couldn’t totally unplug), phones and some nips. We had everything we needed but didn’t feel like we over packed.

Setting off from the car at 4pm.

My pack was about 60lbs and Sherry’s was around 50lbs.

We almost died.

Chocoura isn’t a big mountain but we aren’t in the BEST of shape, hauling 50+ pounds of gear and finishing our hike in the dark Thursday night to a full moon…..we made it but were a bit anxious by the time we found the shelter on the dark, not marked trail.

It rained most of the day Friday but we had gotten up early to collect downed firewood in the area for a collection for the afternoon, evening and our last morning….Friday night and Saturday were COLD and the fire was a blessing.

We talked, told stories, laughed A LOT, did Mad Libs, didn’t read as much as we wanted to but learned a lot about Mt Chocoura and it’s history. Our intent was to complete our hike to the summit on Friday but the rain gave us an excuse to not do it. We Googled it.

We didn’t find the outhouse until the second day…..it’s so cute, isn’t it?

This time away with my friend was priceless. I almost feel overwhelmed with the nothingness that is going on. Time to think. Time to push myself beyond a physical limit. Time to be scared. Time to project some hope.

Sherry and I will plan another escape this winter – but we are thinking a nice cabin in the woods with hot water and fire wood we don’t have to hunt for!

Sangria by the Lake

While camping this year at Long Lake, I decided to make a “sangria a day” for tasting.

You see, I really do not like wine – GOSH – I TRY so hard to like wine, but I just don’t.  So I thought I would try many different “mixers” with wine to see if it helped.  Not only that, but I have had some lovely sangrias in Spain and wanted to try my hand at it.

I have enjoyed a fall themed sangria in the past (think caramel apple), but looked to Facebook to find some tried and true summer time refreshers for this little experiment.

Here is my picture diary, the recipe link and my assessment for each sangria I made!

Red, White and Blueberry Sangria

Red, White and Blueberry Sangria Recipe

I served this our first night along with a Maine feast of lobster rolls, corn on the cob, clam chowder and salad. This sangria was one of my favorites – it was light and I might have a little less Prosecco in mine, but overall it was light, bubbly and refreshing.

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Red, White and Blueberry Sangria

 

Sparkling Rose Sangria

Sparkling Rosé Sangria

This sangria was again, very refreshing and had a little kick to it with the addition of vodka.  I served this for our anti pasta night (even though I made a putenesca) – meat, cheese, bread and yumminess!  This pared well with dinner and was fabulous after a long, hot day on the lake!

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Sparkling Rose Sangria

 

Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

This twist on two fab drinks really rocked!!!  I served this with a traditional summer meal – hamburgers, hot dogs and pasta salad.  My kids were feeling totally left out of this whole sangria experiment so they did get to enjoy the sweet tea before infusing it with the wine!

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Blackberry Sweet Tea Sangria

 

Mystery Sangria – contributed by Jennifer Smith (a dear friend from HS who warned me not to drink this too fast – maybe it should be named Knock You On Your Can Sangria

Approximately 1/2 gallon of red wine

1 to 1 1/2 cup apricot brandy

1/2 cup to 1 cup triple sec

1 cup orange juice

1 cup apricot nectar

1/2 cup to 1 cup Sprite or equivalent

Half an apple, chopped

Half and orange, chopped

Cinnamon

Combine the liquid ingredients in a large pitcher, chop the fruit into bite size pieces and add to pitcher.  Sprinkle cinnamon over the top.  Chill

My sister cooked this night and we had a Greek chicken and salad meal.  This sanrgia would kick you in the pants if you drank too much of it!  It was a bit too alcoholy for me, but others enjoyed it and luckily, I only made one batch!

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Knock You On Can Sangria

 

Pink Sangria – contributed by my girl Cheriene who loves this recipe as her go to for summer sangrias!

1 Bottle dry white wine

1/2 cup pink moscato (sparkling)

1/2 cup peach liqueur

1 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

1 large peach wedge

1/2 an orange, sliced

1/2 a lemon, sliced

Combine all ingredients, allow time for the flavors to mix and serve chilled.

We had this sangria pared with skewered Italian Meatballs and pasta!  It really hit the spot!

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Pink Sangria – I know mine doesn’t look very pick, but it must have been the lighting!

 

Cider Beer Sangria

https://www.howsweeteats.com/2016/09/cider-beer-sangria/

One wouldn’t think that beer and sangria would go hand in hand, but this one was delightful!  We had pizza this night for dinner and a Cider Sangria fit the bill!  It was a little fall tasting, but we did’t let that stop us!

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Cider Beer Sangria

 

I do so love our time at the lake every year!  The sangrias added a fun touch and I have to admit, with a background like that, how could you go wrong?

Social Distancing -Day 1- A Diary

This BLOG is about adventure.  Life right now totally qualifies!

To say these are tough times is an understatement – and a week after I thought the Draconian measures of isolation were a bit much, I humbly accept my social distancing and hope others will too in an effort to slow down the inevitable …we will all be touched with COVID-19 in some way – here’s what it looks like at my house.

Yesterday was Day 1.  I can honestly say that having my kids at home is not hard for me and neither is monitoring their school work (whenever that comes out – this is new for our teachers and so they need time to prepare meaningful instruction – until then, the kids worked on previously assigned work and my son, who is knee deep in vocational training for precision machining, started his OSHA training).  For years I homeschooled my kids for blocks of time while we traveled – and thankfully they are both really good at getting done what they need to – sometimes with a little encouragement!

March in Maine can be crazy – yesterday was beautiful and sunny – today it is snowing.  Yesterday Charlotte hung out on our porch in a tent and did schoolwork with Cooper while I did some early spring yard work – trimming some branches and picking up old and forgotten doggie presents.

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Cooper had a playdate with the neighbor dog, and I fetched a lost baseball out of a fenced in area for some other neighbor kids.  No one got closer than 10 feet – kinda normal for New Englanders – hahahaha

Charlotte and I went to the barn and discussed with her trainer (via text) our desire to find times during the week where we would be the only ones there to ride and help with chores (the family is going over tomorrow to help with stalls – winter is a hard time to find stable help as it is – if only we could teach the horses to poop in one spot!!!).  This will all work out and getting some stable and horse (and barn cat) therapy will help us all through this.

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Char and Syllabus after some exercise.

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“Blacky” wanted a little warm up in the car while we waited for Char to groom her horse.

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“Big Tiger” getting some sunshine warmed snuggles as I watch Char ride.

My hubby, Kelly, is a pastor.  He did go to work yesterday for one last meeting of the minds before imposing social distancing for his office.  This is a trying time for those who are active in the community helping others.  We want to still serve those in need and those particularly affected by this situation but have to balance safety and service.  When people need something, they just need to reach out and ask – we will make it happen.

Day To Day….

We are not going to the gym – I am hoping we find the dedication to do our workouts in the basement – this has yet to be seen.

I had a peanut butter and fluff sandwich (on WHITE bread) and cheese squares for lunch yesterday for the first time in I don’t know how long.  And I am wondering if I can wear sweatpants for the next 8 weeks and no one will care!

Our day yesterday was the start of what could be something amazing.  This social distancing will be bringing US together.   We are looking forward to playing more games together, watching evening movies together and finding different ways to stay connected to our friends and loved ones (the letter writing has already begun).  We have plans of doing some home improvement projects, some area beautification and continuing to help those in need in meaningful and appropriate ways. I am going to treasure this time with my kids – my son is 17 and will begin his senior year next year (I hope).  This time with him is precious and we will make memories that otherwise would not be afforded to us.  My almost 14-year-old daughter is learning about resilience and adaptation.  I have a couple new books to read (one is called The Power of a Praying Wife  – another example of great timing) and I will be keep up with my travel studies and courses to keep me current with my vendors and trends.  We will come out of this stronger than before.

Day 1 and counting!

Athens or Bust…BUSTED

Well – you know what they say?  The best laid plans….or something like that!

My travel buddy and I were at our gate last night awaiting our 9:25 boarding time when all the craziness began.  My phone started blowing up with calls, messages, texts.  I had just been watching the President’s address and knew what was happening.

Immediately we went to the airline desk and these poor folks at KLM Air were gob smacked.  They had no idea what was happening!  With no time to think about anything other than the prospect of being “stuck” in Europe for 30 days or more, we acted quickly and with the only reasonable and responsible decision we could make.  We asked to have our luggage pulled from the plane.  As we are at the desk, they start boarding the plane.

A half an hour later “clarification” comes out that of course, US citizens would not be barred entry back on to US soil – but I know this game.  Disney plays it.  They don’t “close” the Magic Kingdom when it reaches capacity on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, they just make it impossible for people to get there by stopping or diverting transportation.  I already have notification that my flight returning from Athens on Monday has been cancelled.  So while I may not have been BARRED from returning to the US, I still may not have made it back without considerable time, anxiety, and expense.  And while a month in Europe sounds romantic – and I want to do it someday with my hubby – now is not the time for a forced extended vacation.

One of my colleagues, Kerry Michel, wrote this not an hour ago and I couldn’t agree more….”Just some clarification, this ban does not apply to legal US residents (last line of the first paragraph) and does not apply to all European countries. I am in no way advocating travel to Europe for anyone, just providing accurate information, as that is key to making sure we understand the parameters of the Proclamation. Additionally, for those who do travel to said countries on the list, returns will be limited to certain airports with the appropriate screening tools before reentry is allowed. Those airports have not yet been identified; a list is forthcoming. So, flight changes may become necessary for some. Can you still be quarantined? Yes, absolutely, so make appropriate arrangements should you choose to travel to any of the Countries on the list. As I have been telling all of my Clients, this is a fluid situation and is literally changing every single day. Staying informed is the most important first step.”

And, informing my clients and attempting to stay on top of this living beast that is ever changing right in front of my eyes is my top priority.

So, while I sit here on hold (as I am sure I will be ALL DAY LONG taking care of clients who trust me and I will not let them down) I will get to Athens someday – and I feel for all those people abroad whose livelihood is being severely disrupted, but there is a time for stubbornness and a time for responsibility.  Last night I had to draw the line.

Corona-What????

Do you have those places that are your unicorn destinations?  I have a few….and mine are all based on history – if you have read any of my posts before, you know I am a history buff!!!!  My tippy-top unicorn destinations are Rome (check), London (check), Greece and Egypt.  And this week, I am going to Greece!!!

Last year, a friend and I took advantage of a great deal to Athens – 4 nights there, hotel, breakfast, flights – and springtime temps in the upper 60s!  We can’t wait!  But recently, there have been some hurdles – and you all know about COVID-19 or coronavirus.

My travel buddy and I decided (along with many of my clients traveling to Europe this spring) that we were not going to let this media frenzy hold us back.  Now, there is a lot to consider, including one’s health and work situation (some jobs are telling people that if they visit Europe they will be forced out of work for 2 weeks post return) and of course, fear plays a factor for some.  But not for us!!!  And certainly, I would not advise clients to do anything that was counter intuitive for them, but my travel buddy and I are biting our thumb at coronavirus and going to Athens.

Stay tuned for some cool pictures, stories and tips!