Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A walk down Memory Lane

Tom in front of the house he grew up in on Continental Lane in Titusville, NJ

We took a walk down Memory Lane on the way to my Uncle Don’s in Middletown, DE. Growing up in Titusville, Tom and I had both spent lots and lots of time in Washington Crossing State Park, both as young kids with our families, and as teenagers as we frequently had cross country practices in the park. We decided that the parking lot by the bridge was a good place to check and make sure our transmission fluid wasn’t black, so we parked and checked. The transmission fluid seemed to be fine, and the truck was running well, so we took the dogs on a hike down Continental Lane, the track that Washington’s troops followed on their December 26, 1776, march from the site of the Delaware River crossing to Trenton, for what some historians say was a turning point in the Revolutionary War. We left the park at the end of the Continental Lane trail, and took pictures of the house where Tom grew up which is also, not coincidentally, on Continental Lane. We hiked back to the truck with three tired dogs, and headed down Rt. 29 to pick up I-95 on our way to DE. We took a minor detour and stopped at a transmission shop for another well-child checkup of the transmission since we were worried about residual damage from the miserable drive the night before, but that tech also declared the transmission healthy, so we were free and clear for the rest of the way to Uncle Don’s.

View from the Rt. 29 pedestrian overpass - Delaware & Raritan canal in the foreground, our truck in the Washington Crossing Park parking lot, with the Delaware River and the Washington Crossing Bridge in the background

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Brants, Doylestown, PA

The beautiful & talented Brant girls, Susie and Katie

Our Tuesday drive from Plymouth to Doylestown, PA, to visit our friends the Brants made us rethink a few of our well-laid plans. We’d originally planned to “blue highway” much of the trip because we thought it would be easier on the truck’s transmission, but driving from Plymouth to Doylestown made us change our minds. It wasn’t too bad through MA, RI, and most of CT, but when we got to the Palisades area of downstate NY, we decided that interstates aren’t such a bad thing. By this point we’d been on the road for about seven hours, and we’d been through a lot of little New England towns – very quaint, but they do get a little repetitive after you’ve crawled through, say, ten or twelve of them. When we crossed into NY and crept and braked through an awful American shopping area which fried our brakes, and then climbed a long windy hill, which we then had to go down, we pulled over, opened the truck windows, and sniffed. We could smell burning brakes, and the heat gauge for the engine and transmission was up, so we sat for a while until things seemed to cool down. Who knew we even knew what burning brakes and transmissions smelled like? It may have been worth it if we could have seen the view from the top of the hill, but since it was dark at this point and we’d been driving all day, our appreciation of the blue highways had worn a little thin. We decided to go the rest of the way to Doylestown via the interstates.

Despite the mechanical difficulties, we made it to Brant’s by about 8:30 pm, and Sue had dinner ready and the wine bottle was opened. We had a great dinner, catching up and again being amazed by how quickly kids grow up as we talked to Susie and Katie, who are now both in high school and quite accomplished. Jim and the girls were off to school first thing in the morning, so we took the dogs for a walk with Sue and their dog Ruby before Sue left for work, and then again hit the road.

Vannozzi's in Plymouth, MA

We headed south from Gloucester to Plymouth, skirting Boston on the interstates. The interstates around Boston are not quite as kind and friendly as the rural New York interstates, and when we were a little south of Boston I decided that I needed a nap, which was a good excuse to close my eyes so I didn’t have to watch the idiotic Boston drivers trying to side swipe us at every entrance and exit ramp. I’m generally not a chicken, but people who are too stupid to either brake or accelerate to get out of our way when we have limited braking and acceleration with our elderly, heavily loaded truck and trailer, scare the snot right out of me.

Despite a few gasps and gray hairs, we made it to Plymouth and found Vannozzi’s “new” house. Parts of the gorgeous ocean-view house are about 250 years old, so it’s not new from that perspective, and Vannozzi’s have lived in it for about two years now, so it’s not new from that perspective either, but this is the first time in the past two years that Tom and I have been able to get to Plymouth to see it. I don’t think the house has changed too much in the two years since we’ve seen Vannozzis – who made the purchase offer on the house while they were visiting us in Canadice – but their three kids had certainly grown in the few years since we’ve seen them. Tony had to go off to work, Christopher made a delicious dinner, and Emily played cards with Sarah and me, beating both of us enough to let us know that we weren’t playing with a kid.

We got up the next morning and took another ocean-front stroll, and walked from Vannozzi’s house in the northern part of Plymouth into the historic section of town where the Mayflower replica is docked, to the famous Plymouth Rock. If you haven’t seen it, the rock is a bit of a letdown. We’d seen it before on our Vannozzi visits, and it hadn’t grown any since the last time we saw it, but at least we could say we saw it at the appropriate time of year.

We got back to Vannozzi’s, ate breakfast and showered, and used Tony’s photographic talents to get a picture of us in front of the truck prior to our departure.

Tony on the lens side of the camera

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lunch at LobstaLand, Gloucester, MA

Joy, Tom H., Tom G., Marge, and the pups

The next stop was a delightful lunch at Lobsta Land in Gloucester, MA, with newly acquired friends Tom & Joy Halsted. I had begun an email correspondence with Tom when he received (by a roundabout route too complicated to explain here) some of Matt’s weekly updates from Iraq, and had contacted me to request that he be added to the distribution list. Tom H. and Matt and I correspond fairly regularly, so it was great to meet Tom and Joy, and put faces and places to the names – and since we were heading from Plum Island to our friends Vannozzi’s in Plymouth, Gloucester was right on the way and the stop for lunch was perfect timing – an opportunity too good to pass up, and well worth the stop since we thoroughly enjoyed meeting Tom and Joy and getting to know them better.

Plum Island, MA visit with Mark

Tom & Mark

Plum Island is a beautiful island on the very north east coast of MA. Half the island is a nature preserve, and the other half is residential, with a wide variety of beachy residences – everything from multi-million dollar mansions to condemned trailers. Whatever their worth, they all share the beauty of the island, the dunes, the salt marsh, and the ocean, as well as the risk of being washed into the sea with the next big storm. After dinner with Mark on Sunday night, we managed to be up in time to catch the sunrise over the Atlantic, with time to let the dogs have a romp on the beach and a good long walk before we loaded up and headed for the next stop.

Our parking spot for the night.


Marge, Mellow, Louie, & Nock

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Hollis, NH with Retters

We headed out of Vermont on I-89 towards Hollis, NH, on the morning of November 26 where we had lunch with carriage driving friends Kris and Al Retter. The three dogs, who had for the most part been quite well behaved with Matt & Nicole’s Australian Cattle dog Lupine, weren’t quite so gracious at Kris & Al’s. We let them run in Retter’s fenced backyard, and Nock immediately found a hole in the fence so she could get out and attack Retter’s slightly handicapped miniature poodle Cookie, but Tom managed to break up the fight and Nock was put on a leash, and Cookie was confined in an upstairs bathroom until the end of our visit.
We got back on the road after a great lunch – great food and great conversation as we caught up on the past few months and shared trailering horror stories – and again successfully braved the interstates as we headed for Tom’s brother Mark on Plum Island, MA.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Over the Green Mtns of VT to Matt's

Nicole, Matt, and Faye

We made a stop in Rutland for fuel and to pick up Chinese takeout to take to Matt, and then headed over the Sherburn pass from Rutland to Killington, listening to every tick and burp in the truck, hoping that the first of the Green Mountains wouldn’t be too much for it. The truck performed admirably, and we made it to my brother Matt’s place in Barnard in plenty of time for our takeout dinner with Matt, his wife Nicole, and 3-year-old Faye.

We spent the entire Thanksgiving weekend eating, drinking, and working on Matt & Nicole’s kitchen, a project begun in August on the truck and camper’s first ill-fated venture out of the state, when the truck ended up spending the week in Utica having its transmission rebuilt, while Matt drove to Utica with his truck to retrieve Tom, me, the dogs, and the camper for our August week in Vermont. My cousin Biz, her husband Matt, and their children Ellie and Will live not too far from Matt and Nicole, and my Aunt Dot and UBill were at their Vermont house not too far beyond that, so we were well fed, watered, and entertained for the weekend. Tom and Matt managed to get all of the cabinets into Matt’s kitchen without too much dismantling of door frames and walls, and by the time we left on Sunday, all but one of the cabinets were installed.

(Through the eyes of 3 year old Faye)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Schuylerville, NY to visit brother Jim

We were up bright and early in the Walmart parking lot on November 21, and headed east on Rt. 5. We made a short stop at the transmission place in Utica which had rebuilt the truck transmission in August. One of their techs took the fully loaded truck towing the fully loaded trailer for a test drive, and declared the transmission fully operable. So, we decided to risk the Thruway and headed towards Schuylerville (just east of Saratoga Springs), where Tom’s brother Jim lives. We had a great but too short visit with Jim, went to lunch at the local diner, and got back on the road to Vermont around 3:30 when Jim had to leave for work in Saratoga.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Closing Day

This is the beginning of Phase II, we think. We’ll lump everything up to now, from our first visit to Belize in January 2005 to the sale of our house on November 20, 2006, into Phase I, although that 22-month period could easily be multiple phases in a book of its own.

The house was the last big thing to be sold in the grand selling off of almost all of our possessions. Although we’d been impatiently waiting for the house to sell for ten days short of a year, we have to admit that it’s probably a good thing it took that long since we obviously needed every second of that time to get down to the point where we could fit everything we own into our 1991 Ford F250 diesel pickup and our 1976 17-foot Coachmen Cadet travel trailer, with enough room left over for us and the three dogs to ride in the truck and live in the unpacked portion of the trailer.

The house closing was scheduled for 10:00 on the morning of November 20, and we had planned to be out of the house and on the road by noon. However, even with a year to get ready, we didn’t get the last bits stowed in the rig or dumped in the dumpster until almost 5:00 that evening. Fortunately the house buyer was very understanding and wasn’t waiting at the bottom of the driveway with a moving van, and didn’t mind the pile of boxes in the garage or the pile of stuff to be picked up by friends in the lower barn, so it ultimately didn’t matter, but there was no way we were going to make it to Schuylerville to visit Tom’s brother Jim that evening. So, we waved goodbye to PPP and Tuck, set the trip meter on the snow-covered truck, and headed for Honeoye where we made a few quick stops and headed out of town.

We filled up at Toomey’s corner, had a celebratory dinner at Koozina’s in Canandaigua, and spent our first night on the road in the parking lot of the Auburn Walmart. What better way to spend the first day of being homeless and unemployed?