Saturday, November 29, 2014


We regret the silent blog since September 30, the day after we returned from three weeks in Turkey.  That superlative trip (via Road Scholar) will now only receive a passing wave. It is futile to even try creating any summary; further it would only deviate from the main purpose of this Esty cross-country odyssey blog. Yet Turkey, the vast and beautiful country and Istanbul, the magical city, do not easily leave the mind. We have heard of both as must-sees in recent years, and the spells they cast we now fully understand.

On October 1, we returned to our well-trod native soil, collected our boarded little travelling companion, Luke (the great) and our trusty RV and, after a final night with Jay and family in Newbury, MA, answered the call of the west and new home and commenced the final leg of our journey. But first in our usual desultory style, we went south along the MA and CT coasts and then inland to Princeton and Harrisburg before turning north toward Niagara Falls.

We spent two nights in beautiful Lyme, CT with a dear old friend Adlai Hardin. Ad and I both skied for the first time in 1955 as high school seniors during our spring break in Stowe, VT. While I dropped that sport 20 years ago, Ad is still an ardent skier at age 77. We then journeyed to New Canaan, CT for a wonderful lunch with my long ago work pal  Jeanne Swan Hart, in real estate including some land development in Vermont (I cringe about that now.) Jeannie at 85 has the looks and vitality of 50 years ago in the north woods, tramping hillsides, planning ski cabin designs and locations.

On we went to Henry and Meredith Von Kohorn in Princeton, old friends, and he my board chair at Greens Farms Academy (CT) in and around 2000. Retirement in Princeton seemed inevitable as Henry’s very bones carry an orange and black hue, and today his daily dog walks meander through the university’s pathways.

From there we drove to Harrisburg, PA for an overnight with oldest of friends, Margee Kooistra at Bethany Senior Community, joined by equally deep friend, Jo Walker.  We all worked, played, and lived in NYC in the early 1960s. The next day we left these friends and aimed north through western PA to Niagara Falls, travelling on a perfect day through some of the most magnificent autumn foliage we had ever seen. Until then we New Englanders thought we had the corner on the most brilliant colors. We were mistaken.

As we experienced Niagara Falls, we were once again moved by the power and majesty of that water extravaganza on both the American and Canadian sides. (pic.) We then crossed Ontario for about 175 miles before we re-entered the USA and confronted a manifestation of the decaying US infrastructure, so often referred to in recent years.  All road surfaces in Ontario were smoothly paved, well tended, well landscaped, and were a total pleasure to traverse. US bridges were now rusty as we have come to expect in most of our domestic travels.  Having viewed so many in these months, they became full realizations of this national disgrace.

Flint, MI was an overnight stepping stone before we went north (I-75) to Mackinaw City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a beautiful, unspoiled land neck where lakes Huron and Michigan meet under a grand bridge. On that day’s trip up the middle of the UP we felt as though we owned the road.  It presented us with quite unpaintable fall foliage, surpassing even that of western PA two days ago, yet here was a smaller, intense palate of every shimmering shade of gold imaginable…very few reds and oranges, but still some bright greens to provide contrast.  Words fail!

After a night near Mackinac Island State Park, we drove north and west up and over the top of Lake Michigan, circling down to the MI/WI border, following a 200-mile desolate shoreline, mostly viewing Lake Michigan to its far horizon, spending that night in Menominee, MI.

On we went through upper eastern WI toward Madison and the west to the tiny rural town of Lone Rock. Surrounded by lovely rolling countryside, we found our old friends from Deerfield faculty days, Mark and Peggy Timmerman in their glorious log cabin with two barns amidst 250 wooded hillside acres. Two days of wonderful meals, exploring, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Taliesin in the picturesque village of Spring Green.  A highlight of this Timmerman layover was a soothing afternoon canoe paddle down the Wisconsin River.  Onward, we headed north and west into Minnesota, saw Mark’s childhood home town Hibbing, where  Bob Dylan also grew up, and so too did Judy Garland nearby. BTW, as we headed through industrialized Duluth, MN, seeing sparkling Lake Superior through a forest of smoke stacks, we realized there was our sighting of the fourth of the five Great Lakes. We missed out on Erie.

We traveled on from Hibbing, through surprisingly flat land of northern MN but were struck by the appropriate “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” stamped on MN license plates. Those lakes dotted the otherwise listless, often- empty countryside. Signs promoting “pasties” were ubiquitous and of course we had to try this traditional and delicious concoction of warm donut-like pastries stuffed with chopped meat and vegetables, topped with meat gravy. They migrated here from northern European mining territories and were underground miner lunches made from last night’s leftovers. And so this mid-American iron mining territory carries on this rooted tradition.

Midway across North Dakota we began to see evidence of oil being extracted…those familiar bobbing seabird-like metal pumps rising and falling against the horizon bringing up the crude. You have likely heard of the recent transformation of the ND flat land becoming virtual mine fields. Be it usual oil, shale fracking, or natural gas, miles and miles of human activity invades the silent underground, serving our country’s hungry consumption. Un-pretty lands to start with, they are now dotted with machinery, tanks, truck and rail traffic, and thousands of pre-fab single serving boxes or newly higher rise apartment buildings or hotels.  Politics at play, sad yet understandable human need and greed, and since the recent recession, the magnetism of good money jobs, it must be a repeat view of past gold rushes. It leaves a tawdry scene over much of the western ND landscape, touching us passionate naturalist-optimists who are dreamily drawn to the old west pictures of Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Remington or Ansel Adams. Most garbage dumps we see today are inspiring by comparison.

The great North Dakota reprieve is the state’s southwest quadrant. There sprawls the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, encompassing 110 square miles known as the Bad Lands, the Golden Valley and the Little Missouri Grasslands. What an uplifting and awe-inspiring credit to Teddy who found solace out there at times of personal tragedy and distress in his remarkable life. And who, at the turn of the 19th - 20th century there conceived the idea of American national parks and began that string of jewels we so appreciate today. The terrain is amazingly different here – carved, crossed by rivers, partly arid, partly verdant, riddled moon-like rock formations and grasslands that are home to roaming wild animals. We saw (pix) at close range on a crystal clear October morning, a small herd of bison meandering toward a nearby spring, countless prairie dogs guarding their underground home entries, wild horses, deer and soaring raptors.

Then into Montana, the southeastern corner somewhat benign (especially after leaving Teddy R. National Park!) but after leaving Billings we headed down toward Yellowstone and just after Bozeman repeated a 1992 drive along the Gallatin River, twisting among the cliffs it had produced over millions of years. It is naturally breathtaking, but on our perfect day, oh my! We retraced our steps to Bozeman and headed north through gorgeous Butte. On the way to Missoula, we took a fantastic detour through mountains, stopping at a magical old frontier town – Phillipsburg – now restored. Prime among its attractions is a huge candy shop, largest and oldest (1880) in Montana, and overflowing with every kind of candy imaginable in old time glass cases. Some women were beating fudge and machines pulled salt-water taffy, while other workers were dipping chocolate as we watched. Memorable and delicious!

As we made our way through the mountains snow started to fall (our first since Santa Fe last February) slowing us down, but we still managed to move on into eastern Washington and pulled into a KOA
RV site in Spokane. Now, back in familiar territory, we experienced the reality that home was not far away. We had breakfast with Michael and Sally Poutiatine, brother and sister-in-law of our daughter Leila and her husband Peter.

Then off across the quite dry but agricultural (mostly wheat) land of eastern WA past Grand Coulee Dam, we could see the vast mountain range looming in the mist. The soil began to produce all kinds of apples for the world. Orchards surrounded us in every direction, while the Columbia and Wenatchee Rivers sliced the terrain. Then we were in the midst of glorious North Cascades National Park, still displaying vivid fall colors, and ancient, precarious roadway passes reaching up to 10,000 foot peaks. We spent a night with our vivacious niece Lisa Esty Northey and her husband Scott plus their two delectable children Nicola and Ben (8 and 6), living a remote and woodsy life in Mazama that would cause many to turn green with envy.  

As we began connecting the dots on the trail back to the San Francisco Bay Area, old friends and relatives began to embellish the dots. First was Lisa, then Sue Badger (Happy’s great pal in high school, college and the years since) and husband David for a couple of wonderful days in La Conner, WA near the San Juan Islands and Sound; their rural surroundings also include the vast autumn bare, but soon productive, tulip growing fields and bulb exporting industry of Mt. Vernon. Many open fields were filled with flocks of snow geese and trumpeter swans.

Next were a few wonderful days with our son Tuck in Seattle. In our RV, we cozied up on the same dock to his grand, newly acquired 55 foot 1960 ketch he recently bought and sailed up the west coast from San Diego. As he begins to fix up and sell his other two vessels, this Orient Star has become his full-time home and likely his work place: he hopes to conduct charter cruises among the San Juan Islands, not far north of Seattle.  The old wood deluxe interior feels like you are on The Orient Express.  It is totally updated, and has “state room” capacity for five passengers in addition to Captain Himself and a cook.  For now, a happy Tuck will keep at his several other jobs of woodworking, boat restoration, ski instructing, and Duck Boat tour guiding while the new charter dream evolves. One evening we and Tuck spent a spirited evening with our other northwest niece, Ginger Esty, and her two brothers Phil and David, his wife Eva and two young sons Rhys and Cameron.

Our last stopovers with friends was in Portland: a quick cider stop with Joyce and John Evans, newly retired school administrative folks from San Francisco and NYC, and a night with Susan Reid – old NYC just out of college friend, then Marin County and San Francisco pal who has also traveled with us in India and, recently, Turkey. Susie has rented a cottage in Portland, for a couple of years to be near her daughter, Peggy, and two youngest grandchildren.

This marks the end of our travels after nine months and 22,000 miles.
It was certainly the “trip of a lifetime” but the circle was complete. Our newly constructed Spring Lake Village apartment beckoned and awaited us. We spent our first night here on November 5 and are still sorting and finding nooks for all we have been storing.

It has been a quick adjustment to such a different way of living, yet we are conscious that our nine-month RV “interlude” was a critical factor in mitigating our sense of loss at the sale of our Sausalito house.  Then the enriching series of adventures was a potent prologue to the concept of “repotting.” We love our apartment and the natural beauty and architecture of this setting in addition to the human warmth of the community.

Thank you for your continuing interest in this blog and special thanks to all of you who reached out to us along the way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NEWBURY AND WAREHAM, MA: Monday, September 8, 2014

Excuse another blog hiatus.  (Excuse an even longer one due to blogmaster dropping the ball while H and P were in Turkey... Apologies.  JE)  We have been traveling and stopping around our familiar growing-up territories of the northeast before we moved to San Francisco in 1989. So many byways, mountains, valleys, small towns, lake regions, coastal villages, old friends, new friends, relatives and hideaways have drawn us and filled our days and weeks since we rolled in here.  After the February California coastline, the March enchanting southwest, and sultry deep south, the busy developed coasts of Florida, the alluring eastern mountains and history, we returned to our familiar home grounds.  Metro New York was the gateway to our old comfort zones: New England and adjoining upstate New York. We have been captured in their embrace for nearly five months.

Bridging from our last blog entry, the sparkling Cousins Week here at the Wareham homestead, we journeyed back to Maine’s refreshing lakes region.  Following a couple of nights with John and Karen O’Brien of Waterford, we headed to the coastal Pemaquid peninsula, the charming town of Round Pond, and home of Anne and Chris Frost. Both the O.Bs and Frosts had joined with us in the faculty community of Deerfield Academy years ago. Maine retirement now enriches them beautifully. Another Deerfield pal met us for breakfast on our way to Maine. Rick Melvoin, youngster, is still unretired as head of Belmont Hill School near Boston.

Just before our arrival at the Frosts we had a grand lobster roll lunch with Mary Anne and George Betke in beautiful Damariscotta. A day or so later, Chris Frost motored us in his boat across the spreading fingers of Maine’s mid-coast to yet another charming fishing and sailing port, Friendship, home to the builders of the unique Friendship sloop.  Here we had a marvelous al fresco breakfast at Nina and Jim Scott’s rustic cottage as waves lapped nearby. We had recently seen Betkes and Scotts at our Amherst 55th reunion.

You are now witnessing the obvious value and pleasure we take in many old friendships; we have treasured these over our 51 years of marriage and the many places in which we have worked and lived. After leaving Round Pond we headed southwest to the beautiful hills, open country and mountains of lower “upstate” New York leading to the magical serenity of The Catskills. First came a weekend with dear friends Bodie Brizendine and Bill Bullard at their wonderful country farm- house escape from their non-stop lives as leaders of NYC independent schools, Spence and Collegiate. We three had worked together at San Francisco University High School in the 1990s and we never stop re-stoking the friendship when we can. From there we went further back on Memory Lane with a marvelous lunch with Carole and George Silver in Bovina Center, NY en route to two nights with Gina and Frank Bookhout in Margaretville. Both Carole and Frank had added profoundly to my wonderful years as head of Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn in the 1980s. Carole was the mesmerizing Lower School Librarian whose love of books and children was contagious. Frank was as steadfast and wise a Business Manager as any school head could dream of. The Catskills and their beauty came alive under the Silver and Bookhout tutorials.

Then Maine called us back for another week on Monhegan Island (see earlier blog June 23.)  Happy’s sister Betsy Abbott and husband Don were in the “lower house,” while we occupied the “upper house,” both with views out over the vast Penobscot Bay toward other islands and a grand stretch of distant mainland shoreline, perhaps 100 miles of it. We experienced multiple days of perfect clear weather, the nearly constant calls of perching or swooping gulls, frequent sightings of a resident Bald Eagle, and nights alive with a billion stars, including the Milky Way, all but invisible in today’s inhabited world…  The earlier mentioned Frosts, O’Briens and Gundersheimers joined us for 3 days of glorious deep woods and coastline walks, endless conversations and sumptuous food provided by all. Find most of us in the nearby pictures, including one lovely sunset and two great, small dogs. We all agreed we created a world class house party, and to think that most of us are in our 70s. How lucky are we?

Happy’s wonderful first cousin-in-law, Sandy Barker Davis, provided her usual (pre and post Monhegan Island visit) hospitality by feeding us and bedding us down the night before our morning boat departure, and allowing us to park our RV in her driveway. She spends six months annually in Tenants Harbor, close to the Port Clyde dock for the Monhegan Boat line. Sandy is our “Pearl Mesta” of Maine’s mid-coast, greeting, feeding and serving scores of friends and relatives and relatives, all connected to her beloved Monhegan.

After leaving The Island and our friends, we headed once again to our center court, son Jay and his family in Newbury, MA, to gather ourselves; some accompanying photos show Jay and his daughter, Athalia, leading us in kayaking forays through the marshes of Essex County nearby their home. 

Two Athalia Barker Estys!

Egret aloft

Grand-Dude stares down a jet-skier...

Our days there have allowed us to slow down and prepare for our rapidly approaching Road Scholar trip to Turkey September 10-29. We will likely not write up anything about that adventure, but will resume the blog as we head west in October on the final leg of this amazing journey, criss-crossing the northern tier of the USA where we have only a few friends, yet our days will be filled with the countless natural glories of those parts of our country.
Ciao….  P & H

Sunday, August 10, 2014

AUGUST 10, 2014, NEWBURY, MA, home of our son, Jay, and his family

We are still roaming around New England, mostly staying with friends and relatives, except for two long RV park stays painted shortly in this narrative.

After our customary catch-up and organizing "lay-by" at son Jay's in early July, we headed north (or Downeast as the natives say) to Mount Desert Island, Maine, Bar Harbor, or Acadia National Park, all rolled into one glorious stopover, crowned by Cadillac Mountain, highest point on the American east coast. We stayed there four days, soaking up one beautiful village, or country road, or harbor, or woodland/lakeside walk after another. All four days exemplified perfect Maine summer weather.

Our KOA Oceanside RV Park was exceptional, indeed on an ocean bay (see pictures.) A surprise feature was Clayton, an old time lobsterman who comes to the site nightly, steams fresh caught lobster and, for $18 you get a complete lobster dinner with cole slaw, corn on the cob and homemade blueberry pie. My earlier blog entry that described RV parks never anticipated such an unusual and delicious bonus. Pictures will show the peak of Cadillac Mountain, views of Jordan Pond, around which we hiked, other mountains called the Bubbles, Peter gorging, bay views including other RVs, and our little RV steed at rest.

Coming off of that island and glorious parkland, we first spent a night with grand Deerfield friend, Nancy Hodermarsky, age 89, actively retired on Deer Isle/Stonington, ME, who seems a central figure in that charming community. Her late husband, Dan, essentially created Deerfield's visual art department in the 1970s; he had the allure and stature of a king who attracted nearly every student and teacher into his world of art.

Next up was a night on Peaks Island, Casco Bay, off Portland's waterfront under Pauline and Woody Halsey's summer roof. Though now residents of Avignon, Woody was the leader of the School Year Abroad program for 25 years under whose auspices I taught a year in France in 1976-77, ran both their Italy and Vietnam schools for two different years in retirement. And we sent our son Jay for a high school SYA year in Barcelona.

On we moved to outer Cape Cod for the next 4 nights in yet another glorious part of the U.S., and stayed at Sweetwater Forest RV Park in Brewster. Though we have always gone toward "the Cape" over the years we forever park ourselves in Wareham, known as "Gateway to Cape Cod," since that is Happy's family's longtime summer home. (See earlier blog.)

This time we were treated to slow, off-the-beaten-track, explorations of legendary towns like Chatham, Eastham, Orleans, Harwich, Wellfleet and Truro; each captivating with charming old homes, large trees, winding roads, stone walls, small boats bobbing at anchor, and while near the ocean or bay, a seductive weatherbeaten aspect to everything. All the while we kept hearing or humming Patty Page's long ago hit, "Old Cape Cod" and so it is. (Can you see the 8 wild turkeys in the two pictures of roadside woods? Good luck.)

The culmination of our successful attempts to stay away from summer crowds, was the early morning we left our park site for usually-packed Provincetown, parked easily in the central pier lot, seemed to have the fishing boats and village streets to ourselves, and then cruised the lovely residential lanes. We left town by 10am for the hour-plus drive back to Brewster before Provincetown girded for its daily crush of global summer tourists.  We had had time and space to understand why Provincetown is so alluring and so often on calendars. Smug we were!

Before leaving Cape Cod, we had some superb lunches and catch-up time with old friends, Lee and Betsy Lindeman, Amherst classmate not seen since graduation 55 years ago, Danny (also Amherst classmate) and Ann Bernstein whom we see more often, joined at their Falmouth home by  another Amherst classmate, Tom Benjamin and wife Mary Jo.  Another non-stop talking  lunch was with Happy's Smith classmate, Lyn McNaught (who also founded the remarkable Horizons program) and husband, Michael; and a whole day with relatively new friends, Judy and Ron Ablow whom we met in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in 2010, and who live nearly on the Nauset Beach in Eastham.

The last chapter of this blog installment will be quick, although the event is incredibly powerful and almost impossible to describe.  In the Barker family (Happy's) it is called Cousins Week and it now occurs annually in August. There in Wareham at the family summer home, 50 people (and growing) of the three generations following Happy's legendary parents, gather for endless intergenerational fun, chatter, games, distance runs, singing, beaching, cooking, and property maintenance. The Big House and Little House can sleep over half of the crowd, while many tents out toward the bluff, plus us in our RV comprised the scene.

We have just come off that stage, and tomorrow begins our last loop back to Maine, the Adirondack foothills, returning to Maine, and on to Turkey....and then Westward Ho to the new home, almost completed, awaiting us.  Are we having any fun yet?  You betcha!   

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Small Point, Maine. June 23, 2014

As we said a few weeks back, we had by then spent perhaps one half of our nights on the road in RV parks and one half in homes of friends or relatives.  Now, two months later and 12,000 miles of travel, nights in homes of friends/relatives has become about 2/3 and in our rolling home, 1/3. Much of this is due to being in New England where friends and relatives abound. (More on RV parks later on.)

(Now turn back your focus to early June.)  After two splendid weekends of college 55th reunions, Happy at Smith and we both at Amherst, we motored for three days through upstate New York's glorious Adirondack park, staying at lovely forested RV parks in Austerlitz, Indian Lake, and Tupper Lake. Destination was Ontario, Canada, and more specifically the 50-mile-long and thin Loughbourough Lake.  We set out into the lake from the main dock in the tiny town of Battersea, not far from and northeast of Kingston. Our aim was Hull Island, a blissful, small, wooded island, the retreat of Roger Hull's family since 1950. Amherst classmate and California friend, he and his wife, Judy, welcomed us for a few days, and we were joined by Paul Dodyk (also Amherst '59) and his wife Delight, a Smith classmate of Happy's. (Imagine, Happy and Delight on the same small was hard not to call Judy “Joyful”...)

After a Barker (Happy's) family wedding in Wareham, MA, we and our son, Jay, and his family spent the next week on Monhegan Island, 12 miles off the downeast coast of Maine.  It’s another beautiful, small island with 50 winter residents that grows to maybe 300 in summer.  Still small, Monhegan is larger than Hull Island yet equal in rusticity, being without electricity and cars. The center is thick, lush woods; huge rocky headlands face the Atlantic, and a small village collects the human inhabitants.  The main dock is the center of island life. Sadly we never took any pictures on Hull Island, but those adorning these pages are all Monhegan.

Now I write this from Maine's mainland, where we were first visiting our dear old friend, Shirlee Mitchell who spends summers here, seeming to run a boarding house for her vast family and their friends.....Another wonderfully rustic, sprawling retreat in the woods, very near the gorgeous rocky Maine coastline. Shirlee and her then-husband might have been the first people Happy and I told we were engaged in winter 1963; they had sniffed something in the air and put a bottle of champagne in their home's fridge an hour or two before we were due. They could finally raise a glass to us, having hoped for this a long time!

And now our next Maine stopover with friends Louise and Loring Conant in coastal Georgetown.  They basically live in Cambridge, MA but have created this marvelous summer home, and then there is their California house in Greenbrae to which they travel a few times a year to be with their son and family in San Anselmo and near our former home in Sausalito. We enjoy them a lot when they are there...and now here!

(New date: July 1).   Since the above section, from Maine, we headed to Lake Sunapee NH to other old friends, David and Anna Clark; and as with several others on this voyage, not seen for perhaps 30 years.  David was a friend and classmate of mine at Deerfield, last seen at our 25th reunion there. Two more classmates, Mike Mayor and Eric Esselstyn and their wives, joined us for a meal with nonstop unfolding of our past lives .  The reunion was wonderful, as was the beauty of the embracing lake and mountains.

The next coach stop was the western-Mass hilltop home of dear friends, Karen and Werner Gundersheimer.  They look west to the Berkshires and east to Mount Greylock, highest point in Mass.  Spreading at their feet is Williams College. We took all this in with a trip to the top of Greylock, saw our first movie in a year (Ida, a superb Polish film), a day of "vegging" and catching up on paperwork, and reading the WHOLE NYTimes on Sunday....first time holding one in about 6 months! And finally a visit to the just reopened (after a three year renovation) Sterling and Francine Clark Museum of Art that is one of the more stunning museums in our country.

Heading back to the home of our son, Jay, and family in Newbury, MA, we stopped for lunch at the incredible lodge-y lakeside summer home of friends Paul and Delight Dodyk, Monterey, MA.  Though but ten years old, it emanates a perfect feel of the 19thC. Adirondack architecture style in structure, furniture, beams, hardware, all blended with many kinds of wood, new and old. It was difficult to leave this work of art (and also its creators.)

Now, before I close off,  I want to turn to a Herman Melville technique of "side trips" within yet apart from the narrative that amplify readers' knowledge of context history or nomenclature (see Moby Dick) My digression is about RV parks.

I distinguish these from campsites, the ones that accommodate mostly tenting campers; these would be for backpacking hikers or bikers who carry all their food and equipment on their backs. Others are "car-campers,” perhaps less sturdy and challenged who carry all that equipment in their autos.  As a family, we have been car-campers for the 50 years we've been at it. Later our kids did a good bit of backpacking.

RV parks we have visited this trip present predictable amenities like water, electricity, and cable TV lines, or what is called "full hookup" that includes black and gray water "septic drop." There are usually a picnic table, an outdoor cooker, and a firepit.  They all have a restroom building or buildings that, at least for the ones we have encountered, provide toilets, wash basins, and showers, sometimes laundry machines.  Some newer ones are immaculate, up-to-date, even offering complete private bathrooms with all of the above utilities offered in each one.  They are heated, and lights are on all night.  

Some large RV parks present up to 400 separate sites, many with trees and bushes separating you from your neighbor.  Most are smaller. Many have fenced playgrounds for children, others for dogs.  Many have pools.  Many have 7-11-sized mini grocery/supply stores, usually built into the registration area. Naturally, the smaller the park, the fewer are these extras. We like small!

It is critical that the surface for settling your RV is absolutely flat.  We have, as I assume all RVs have, two level gauges inside, one for side-to-side, other for front to back. Particularly if one's site is grass, it often takes a lot of backing and forthing to establish the perfect flat. All that because if not flat, the fridge will not operate. BTW, when we are driving, the fridge is on DC and cooled by the RVs engine; when settled in an RV park, the power is AC coming from the land-line hook-up; and if we are without a landline, deep in the woods for instance, the fridge can be powered by propane.   Thus, there are three sources for fridge power.  Not bad!

When we have stayed at RV parks for one or three nights, we always have breakfast in our cozy space: juice, cereal, and delicious coffee perked in our reliable built-in percolator. Lunches may be constructed by us, picnic style, in or out of the RV.  Mostly all evening meals are at nearby restaurants.

We have searched and found most of the parks themselves by easy googling, or out of the KOA (Kampgrounds of America) directory for the country. We pick a territory, search, go to and explore usually excellent websites, much like we all do with hotels, motels, B&Bs, etc. All but once have we made reservations ahead and all have ranged from satisfactory to excellent. Of course we have, until now, been traveling in low season, but now in the high family travel season, reservations are critical.  We got the last available site at a Bar Harbor park in March for a four-night stay coming up late in July. KOA sites are usually excellent as they establish and keep high standards.  All overnight prices have ranged from $15 to $40, higher priced ones usually have good privacy, and water or mountain views. Surprisingly, we have yet to stay at a state or national park (except at the Grand Canyon where we stayed in a cabin for a couple of nights) mostly because these parks and their amenities and on winter months close-down. And worth noting is that all the RV parks we have frequented have been at most 1/4 full, so we are spoiled with unusual service, very clean bathrooms, no waits, top picks for attractive sites, and no end of helping hands for any question or need. We had been told ahead of the middle-American warmth and outreach of everyone connected with the RV world. True it is.

We are usually the smallest RV around;  we are 20' long. That size and the fact that our basic chassis is a Ford Econoline truck with our living cabin on top (assembled by "Pleasure Way"  in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) designates us as "group B." Some of the behemoths you see on American highways might take up 50 or 60 linear feet. We got to see one's interior, boasting 2 carpeted staterooms, each with full bath, LR, DR, kitchen, and (outrageously) 4 flat-screen TVs. Their costs are upwards of 400-500,000 dollars.  Such owners have usually sold their terra firma homes, chosen to be mobile, often parking for warm months at a scenic southern US park, and heading north for the cooler latitudes in summer months. I don't know the financial arrangements, but some have guaranteed themselves reserved spaces, so they can leave their picket fences and perennial planting, garden sculpture, and sign reading "Hi There...we are Sylvia and Fred Johnson from Wichitaw Falls. Come on in!" in place until they return at the next season change.

Finally a word-glimpse of some of our favorite sites so far.  MARINA DUNES, California, is just north of Monterey:  terraced sites, made private by additional shrubbery, all full hook-ups, beautifully maintained, small, shielded from blowing sands by flexible snow fences, but for proper open trails going through the dunes to the waiting beach. (We shall return once we have resettled back in CA.).   ANZA BORREGA STATE PARK, southern CA desert.  Flat, desert-arid, desert plants, cactuses, attractive, at base of high mountains with hiking trails, nearby village of Borrega Springs with several good Mexican restaurants, authentically inspired from nearby border.  SANTA FE SKIES RV PARK, New Mexico.  Beautifully laid out on hilltop overlooking the city of Santa Fe with surrounding desert communities and distant mountain ranges on virtually all horizons; amazing clear skies day and night when we saw more stars than ever in our lives; over-the-top amenities including an outdoor museum of old farm machinery, some manual some early mechanized, all is remarkable condition. The morning we departed, a light night snow had carpeted the world and we happily drove off with flakes still dropping.....but soon making the roads easily passable as we steered toward the Grand Canyon. ASHEVILLE/SWANNANOA KOA PARK, North Carolina.   Well-treed site; bubbling river running though it;  lots of green grass on which many ducks waddled when not in the river;  many fishermen, -women, -children catching many fish along the river; Smokey Mountain foothills in distance.  STAUNTON, VIRGINIA KOA PARK, along the beautiful route where the Blue Ridge Highway meets the Skyline Drive.  Midsize park in rolling valley with stream and two lakes; we were one of maybe 10 active RVs there;  beautiful sunset and then sunrise with countless ducks and geese silently cruising the lake surfaces but honking at the beautiful evening or morning sun drama.  INDIAN LAKE CAMPGROUND, Adirondacks, NY:  all the beauty we expected with the real distinction of our being the only RV and no accompanying people there. Imagine the attention we received from the owner.  Far from any other civilization and accoutrements, so we opened a can of corned beef hash for dinner, with only birds for company.  THOUSAND ISLANDS KOA PARK, Henderson Park, NY is a large island near the shore of Lake Ontario, once the executive retreat center for General Electric, now a large RV park. A vivid beginning as we were barely on the causeway approach included a great flurry of wings in front of us when a huge male bald eagle rose from the brush, perhaps 10' in front of us, carrying a large fish in his mouth.  He stared down at us with eyes showing fury at being disturbed! The vast lake was broken by a few islands, the sunset was beautiful, yet the campsite's grounds were dotted with the usual droppings that signal the hundreds of snow geese with whom we shared space.  We walked carefully, reluctantly tearing our eyes from the beautiful views!

And so, as with Moby Dick, we will get back to the center lane of the storied trip soon again, maybe in three weeks.  We are in and around the northeast for July and August, off to Turkey for September, and then in early October, we slowly begin our westward trek.  We are told our new home at Spring Lake Village, CA will be ready for our occupancy November 10.   Thanks for reading.  P&H

Son Jay, our blog technician, with his and Susan's two daughters, Athalia (fishing) and Char

Friday, May 16, 2014

New England Catch-up Time --- May 12, 2014

Dear Friends:  Sorry we have a case of Blog Neglect, but we are still up and about.  It is just that our cups runneth over here in the northeast where we lived for 52 years of our lives and still a bit off and on since we moved to San Francisco 25 years ago. Too many old friends, old haunts, and old pathways!

Aside from the surprise inserts from our kids, who have free access to this blog, you have our Easter 2014 message from Wareham that reflects on what this adventure means to us, but the last actual log of our travels and people and sightseeing  stopovers was back in Asheville, NC on April 16.

We did then head up a good part of the Blue Ridge Highway, beginning in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Knoxville, up through Asheville on a good part of the 450 mile, two-lane, 45 mph highway through mountains of NC, VA and almost to the outskirts of DC. Our weather was beautiful and views magnificent. There was an irony: the mostly deciduous trees were leafless so we could easily savor the mountains and valleys either side of the ridge top; yet the massive rhododendrons under them most of the way were a few weeks away from blooming. We could only imagine their splendor, but at that time, the trees would be fully leafed out so the expansive distant views might be largely blocked!

The Blue Ridge Parkway joins the Skyline Drive that marks the spine of the Shenandoah Valley in western Virginia. That, too, is breathtaking. It pained us to pass near numerous historic sights, mostly Civil War battlefields, but our timing had become restrictive…(we must watch that!)  Soon we were skirting Washington on our way to Chestertown to spend several days in the bucolic countryside of Maryland’s Eastern Shore bordering the Chesapeake Bay and distinguished by its vast low rolling countryside, farms, streams, forests and calm villages.  Central for us in that land was the home of Happy’s sister Peggy and her husband John – relatives yes, but also old and dear friends and frequent traveling companions.

The peaceful respite there was welcome not only for us but also for the delight of our 4-legged Luke, who could romp freely across their fields and woods with their two dogs. Luke had by then become a magnificent traveler, adjusting to being in his RV crate day and night pleased by frequent stops for walks, and happy as long as he could see or sense one of us or both at all times…and, given our tight quarters, that was usually the set-up day and night.

From Chestertown we moved on to Philadelphia where we spent a night with long-time (NYC just after college) friends Jo Walker and Margee Kooistra. And now begins again a listing of the many upcoming friends with whom we had overnights or meals. These connections were, of course, highlights of our travel, likely known to some or many of you. In Swarthmore, PA our cousins Penny and Phil Weinstein, the latter retiring after 40 years teaching there, our nephew Jed Esty ad wife Andrea, both professors at Penn; then (without further bios!) in Princeton, NJ, Meredith and Henry Von Kohorn, Fred and Betty Morefield and Steve & Angela Bileca in Tarrytown, NY.  A return to our old stomping ground, Westport CT, where we lived for 5 years, began with lunch with our former landlords & friends, Debby and Tony Angotti. We stayed with Giselle Wagner & Paul Myerson and were feted by former Greens Farms Academy colleagues, Robbi Hartt and Lynne Laukhuf and a gathering of my past faculty and staff, including Happy’s long time friend and colleague Elizabeth Cleary, and current Head, Janet Hartwell, who guided us through a largely reconfigured and expanded school from my time there in 1998-2003.  We made a poignant stop in New Canaan, CT to see Happy’s 98-year old aunt Lib Ogden. Then it was up to Newbury, MA to stay a few days with our son Jay, his wife Susan and daughters Charlotte and Athalia. Had lunch in Gloucester with David Foster and another in Newburyport with Terry and Wanda Blanchard.

Craving a city fix, in late April we left RV and Luke with Jay & Co. in Newbury and spent three glorious days in Boston, using the exquisite apartment of old friends and Amherst college roommate Jim and Hanna Bartlett, who were in France. The fix was recuperative in many ways. Again we could spread out, catch up with computer and paper work, plan coming weeks of travel, walk, read, eat and go to the extraordinary Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. The greatest of the cultural exposures was the Boston Symphony Orchestra Friday concert, conducted by Charles Dutoit who brought magic to and a 5-minute standing ovation for the brilliant Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique. Yet forever memorable, we were mesmerized by the 24- year old Uzbek pianist, Behzod Abduraimov, who performed Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. The rapt audience was on its feet for easily 10 minutes, demanding as many curtain calls. This was truly again one of those sensations of speechlessness over beauty and awe (albeit human art here) such as we experienced looking at the Big Sur coast, The Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns.

 You will find a few pictures of Boston, one day rainy, one day bright, all cell phone photos, all weak and hardly representative of that great city. There is the Mary Baker Eddy mother Church of Christian Scientists, some Commonwealth Avenue street scenes, The Boston Common and Gardens and, we think, a fa├žade of Symphony Hall. As contrast to the Boston Common, but right nearby, our friends Jim Canales and Jim McCann, freshly moved from San Francisco, gave us a fine dinner in their new apartment overlooking dramatic city towers and down on bustling theater and restaurant life.

Onward… From our Boston binge Happy rejoined the Jay Esty family for some Granny duty while Peter took a train to NYC for a two-day board meeting of Global Citizen Year. Always exciting is New York in spring and, as I was staying with Bill Bullard and Bodie Brizendine on Park Avenue, I could repeatedly view the masses of tulips along its center gardens running at least from 96th to 42nd street.  I also had time to have dinner with educator colleague Peter Herzberg, and lunch with Deerfield classmate Adlai Hardin.  Meanwhile, Happy was able to connect by phone with 8 members of our co-ed Sausalito book group who were meeting to discuss two Steinbeck novels. We look forward to rejoining the group when we return to CA.

And, finally, we returned to cool yet budding Massachusetts in the last two weeks. Most time has been spent at Happy’s long-time family place in Wareham, MA on the coast of Buzzards Bay. Here, we have again had time to relax, collect ourselves, do serious planning for the summer weeks soon to begin, and also to do some spring house cleaning, inside and out, to ready this big old house and adjacent cottage for the summer parade of family visitors and renters. A welcome dividend is catching up with Happy’s brother and wife, sisters and brother-in-laws, nieces & nephews as well as other drop-ins. It all spells FAMILY, and it is one of the best and warmest.  Some pictures of this place are scattered here…  We managed a break away last week to spend two nights with Julie & Ridley Rhind, old friends of post college NYC, then east coast, then west coast, partners in global trips over time and now retirees in nearby South Dartmouth, MA. Our old and now nearby friends, Frank & Laura Perrine, joined us for dinner one night while there.

We both have 55th college reunions at Smith and Amherst in the next two weeks, and then our summer loops begin, taking us twice to the Adirondacks, Ontario, Canada, and all New England states a few different times.  Our clock is ticking rapidly!

Love to you all,    Happy & Peter