Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Beginning of a Long Term Bit

After our recent trip to New Mexico we began discussing all of the places that we've been and realized that the list was pretty short. We decided that it would be a good idea to make a list of all the states that only one of us or neither of us had been to and finding something that we'd like to do in those places. Places we'd driven through on the way to somewhere else or layovers at an airport didn't count. Some of the states don't have much that we're interested in and will be lumped with one or more nearby states to make a pleasant road trip (the midwest/rustbelt states were notorious for this), some states only had one thing that we wanted to see and will be seen on a nice long weekend, and then there are the places that there is so much to do that we will be in that one spot for a week or longer. My new job will give me several three day weekends a year, plus a spring break and most of the month of July off, so we've got our vacations planned for us for the next several years.
Now for the explanation:

States we don't have to go to:
Texas: We live here, we've seen most of it, and while there are parts of it that neither of us have seen we can save those for those three day weekends after we've done all the three day weekend trips to the other states.

New Mexico: I suppose you could call this the first of these trips. The idea was generated in Las Cruces after all.

Arkansas: My family went there on a few vacations when I was a child. When we got to Texarkana my brother, who had been asleep for most of the drive, was most upset because he thought that Arkansas was an Arby's and didn't understand why we had driven so far for roast beef. Chandler had been to Hot Springs as a youth as well.

Missouri: Chandler grew up there, we were married and went on our honeymoon there.

Virginia: We've both been to lots of colonial places there, Williamsburg, etc. No need to go there.

Maine: Went there this summer, it was lots of fun.

Three Day Weekends:
Oklahoma City: Looks like a nice little city and I've always heard that the memorial there is just amazing.

St. Paul, Minn: Haven't done too much investigation, but it just sounds pleasant.

San Francisco: Not the only place in California we're going to go, but warrants a few days on it's own I think.

New Orleans: Not much for hedonism, but jazz is a good thing, and I'm a history dork.

Chicago: Nothing else in Illinois was interesting at all, this one was so obvious.

Charleston, S.C: Chandler went here as a young'n and liked it quite a bit, and as I say, I'm a history dork.

New England: Spend a few days in each of these states except for Maine. We know we want to go to Boston and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The other three states, Vermont especially, are still a little fuzzy, but lots of things were decided in Maine the day before, so I'm cool with that.

New York City: Not sure if this should be a spring break or a July. I have no doubt that we'd never run out or stuff to do in either case. I think that this will be similar to when we went to London. There's no chance we'll see everything we want to see, we may just have to do like we did there, get a solid guide book, pick out one big thing a day and a few smaller things and just enjoy what we have the opportunity to enjoy and not worry about the endless list of things we won't get to. With perhaps a day trip to Cooperstown. . .

Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey: This is one of the random clumping of states that we put together. There's too much to do in a long weekend and not enough to do in a full vacation. Philadelphia has all the great history dork excitement, Lewes, Delaware has lots of birds to watch, and a ferry to Cape May, New Jersey.

Maryland and Washington, DC: Washington is one of those rare places that I'd love to see all the stuff that people normally go to see. It also has the advantage of being lumped with Maryland with its really cool aquarium.

Florida Keys: I've been to central Florida twice, in the same year oddly enough, and that's a stressful vacation. I don't think I can think of an opposite to the stressful vacation than the keys.

Georgia: I've only looked at this a little bit, but there are some islands on the coast that Chandler has always wanted to go to. You can ask her for more info now, or wait for a little while for me to learn more and you can ask either of us.

Memphis, Natchez, and Tuskegee: Old and New South fun.

Isle Royale: A pristine island in Lake Superior. Gets Michigan done for us to fulfill the bit. I've been interested in seeing it for years and there's absolutely nothing else in Michigan either of us have any interest in.

The Grand Rust Belt Road Trip: This may be clumped with Isle Royale some July. Iowa's Effigy Mounds, I know not what in Wisconsin (Madison or Milwaukee most likely), Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Each has enough to it to hold us for a few days and are close enough together that we can go from one to another.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton: You get out west and the trips become less urban and more national park heavy. My parents and little brother went to Yellowstone this summer and loved it. Sounds good to me.

Glacier N.P. in Montana and something in Idaho: Not sure what in Idaho, but I'm open to suggestions.

Southwest Adventures: Sedona Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, Lake Mead in Nevada, Joshua Tree, Japanese internment camps. Lots of stuff to do people!

Hawaii: Pearl Harbor and Hawaii Volcanos.

Still Not Sure What To Do:
North Carolina: Surely there's something interesting there, we just haven't found it yet.

Kentucky and West Virginia: Seem like they go together somehow. Harper's Ferry in WV might have something.

Kansas-Nebraska: Corn?

Dakotas: Not quite as bad as Kansas-Nebraska, but close.

Utah and Colorado: Utah has lots and lots of national parks. There's also the appeal of putting a couch on the Great Salt Lake to see if it'll float. Denver may be the thing to do in Colorado, but further investigation may be required.

Oregon and Washington: No idea.

Alaska: So big it's intimidating.

Possibly Puerto Rico: Not a state, but by the time we're done it might have become one.

If you have advice on that last group of states it might be appreciated, but I make no promises. Also, if you do give advice, remember that it may be ten years before we get to it all, we live in a pretty big country after all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maine, Part 2: Flora & Fauna

Did you know that the Maine State Parks are a major source of revenue for the state? Boy, that sets them apart from Texas then. Anyway, that's an indication of the tremendous natural beauty of Maine. Let's have a look-see, shall we?

Camden Falls in Camden, ME:

Here's an interesting zoological fact: Two out of three ducks in Maine have no head.

An unusually sized picture, but I wanted to get all the different kinds of waterfowl in here. The one with its wings spread out on the rock is a cormorant. Know the phrase "water off a duck's back"? They don't have that magical power, so they have to dry themselves out in the sun.

Here are some shots of Acadia National Park from our nature boat cruise (way more fun than the puffin trip from three years ago).

Still on the boat tour--an island covered in harbor seals. Turns out only walruses can walk on their tails, so apparently they look like slugs flopping on the rocks when they're out of the water.

Sea birds flocking to the most unusual lighthouse in Maine.

Very hard to see--that bird in the top left corner is a bald eagle. We spotted quite a few!

The boat tour was another good example of how spastic Maine weather can be. Suddenly, the sun's back out and the water is beautiful! Love that color.

A lobster trap buoy. Did you know that lobsters slip the traps 95% of the time? As our guide said, we eat the stupid and/or lazy ones. Natural selection in action.

A natural bridge most likely formed by a waterfall.

Look closely into the open tree up top--that's a bald eagle's nest with several baby eagles in it. Apparently they're getting to the point where they'll learn to fly soon!

I love this seagull. He sat outside the restaurant waiting patiently for someone to come out and feed him. Chris went out to take his picture and inadvertently attracted another seagull, which this big guy ran off.

I'll do Maine towns next!

Maine, Part 1: Maine the Mercurial

By coming to Maine in July, we bypassed an apparently miserable June that featured constant rain and highs in the 50s. Chris said that sounded like his idea of a good time, but the notion of being trapped in a hotel because it's too awful to go out doesn't really appeal to me. Nonetheless, the weather was absolute perfection some of the time and held off the rest of the time. We were also blessed to have a room with a view, so the view of Lincolnville Beach from our rental across the street is a good jumping-off point to show you how wacky the weather could be.

The bay could be beautiful and sunny ...

... or slightly cloudy ...

... or quite cloudy ...

... or kinda scary ...

... or you could've sworn there was a beach there yesterday ...

... but it was never not beautiful.

Need further proof it was beautiful? Chris and I spent an evening walking along the beach after the crowds had departed.

And here's a shot of the Lobster Pound (which has some killer lobster stew--lobster, milk, and nothing more) during a rainstorm at night.

More later!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Trent in pictures

Boy, this is a tough one. Trent didn't die during the night (he had zero interest in dying), so we made the tough choice yesterday to take him to the vet and have him put down. So we're minus one cat now, and he was definitely the hardest cat to lose. We've been everything from alright to beside ourselves. The last week we had him was great: He was full of love and purrs for us, and I know we both value that time. Owl, who was with him after he first got sick, spent awhile being antisocial with us--Trent was his best friend and he taught Owl to be a cat, so it's no surprise that he wanted to just be alone. Estelle was the real surprise: She went in and out of the room all night checking on Trent, even getting over her fear of humans enough to sit close to Chris while he was by Trent. She's already taken over the job of alpha cat (as we suspected she would) and is comforting Owl and making sure he eats. Estelle may hate humans, but that doesn't mean she's a bad cat. Finally, of course, Miss Lemon couldn't give a rip about the absence of a cat in the house (since she lives alone because of her aggression towards them), but she knows we're sad and has been taking care of us. Really, everything's going as well as can be expected.

It seems right to me to honor our old friend by showing some good pictures of a good cat. He will be missed.

Finally, this one was taken on his last night with us. He couldn't move, but his personality was 100% intact and he was as sweet as ever.

Like I said, this is a tough cat to lose. Still, it'll be okay.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Very sad news.

Trent is not just dehydrated--he's got a heart problem. There's nothing the vet can do about it. He got better but suddenly took a nasty turn, and the vet wanted him to go to the emergency vet to be watched overnight. Now that we know his case is terminal, Chris is bringing him home so he can be with us (and Owl and Estelle) when he dies. I'm glad he'll get to come home--I need these last moments with this cat.

What happened this morning seems sudden, but looking back on it I see that he'd been going downhill over a long while. Shortly after he turned 12 he started looking old. Lately he had been eating but not throwing up, and while that sounds more healthy I realize now that he probably hadn't been eating as much. He came back from the vet this week looking really bad and really old. I thought he just needed brushed and loved on. But nothing really ever seemed wrong until this morning.

I'm glad I get to say goodbye.

Think a good thought for an old cat

I usually enjoy a lengthy snooze after Chris gets up, but he came back in after feeding the herd and said, "Something's wrong with Trent." Apparently he didn't get up to go get breakfast (highly unusual, as persistently hungry as he is), so Chris picked him up and set him by his food, where he immediately fell over. (To give credit where credit is due, sweet little Owl stayed by him the whole time.)

Trent's walking with almost no control over his back legs. While he doesn't seem to be in pain, he is noticeably weaker. He's been whisked off to the vet with an unusually low amount of resistance and protestation on his part, and Chris has instructions to call me when he knows more.

UPDATE: Trent appears to be dehydrated. The vet's working to pump him full of fluids, and they'll keep him there for the rest of the day to observe him. It looks, however, that things are going to be just fine. I can't wait for him to come home so we can love him to death.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

5th Anniversary, Part 7: Fort Davis National Historic Site

Daughter of a history professor, wife of a history major--if I wanted to steer clear of historical sites on vacation then I ought to have had another life. Still, I chose the hotel that's on the register of National Historic Places, so I can't lay the blame at other people's feet when I choose not to vacation on sun-drenched beaches. But Fort Davis was a very cool place--good job on the part of the Department of the Interior. Chris could tell you better than I could its historical significance (he's wired that way more than I am), but I can tell you that they picked a magnificent spot for a fort!

Kudos to Chris for incorporating the sign, the flag, the redonk agave, the barracks, and the mountain into one shot.

Pretend its an eagle. It's probably a vulture or a hawk, but this picture is way cooler if you pretend it's an eagle. Because eagles instinctively know to fly over important sites in American history.

Pay attention to these next two shots:

That's a gatling gun (top) and a Howitzer (bottom). All the stuff on display was from the mid-1800's. They were still using those weapons in WWI. Yikes.

I believe that's Sleeping Lion Mountain, but my husband can correct me if I'm wrong.

After Fort Davis ceased to have a military function, it went into private hands. The family in charge of it actually did an excellent job of upkeep--take a gander at the first photo to see what I mean. Many similar forts look more like the following photos. A lot of the buildings in Fort Davis are in great condition, but I like ruins and that's what you get to see.

Finally, a lousy shot from the car of the road connecting San Antonio to El Paso--Fort Davis was the midpoint.

That's all I have for you. West Texas is a trip I recommend highly. Hope you like the pictures.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

5th Anniversary, Part 6: Davis Mountains and Indian Lodge

Davis Mountains State Park was the only place we did any hiking. We rose early in the morning to take advantage of the cool weather (and low UV rays) and hiked what we thought would be relatively flat but turned out to be up a cliff. Those foothills are daunting buggers.

Going up the hill. We ended up atop the cliff on the left.

Love those blue skies.

The first view of Indian Lodge from above. Indian Lodge was built by my favorite Depression-era works program, the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Kinda cool: Ferns growing in the rocks on top of the cliff.

More views from atop the cliff. Hard to want to come down the hill.

A good shot of part of Indian Lodge. There's something about white adobe and the desert landscape that look like they belong together. And take a good gander at that giant agave. They're all that huge out there.

From the first scenic overlook on the Skyline Drive that went up a foothill. Pretty stuff out there.

This picture cracks me up. We turned to go back to the car and realized, "Our car looks like part of a Hyundai ad." So expect to see this on a full-page spread in a magazine some day.

I don't much know what to say for the next three, so I'll just let them stand on their own. :)

I like the perspective Indian Lodge adds to this shot.

Up next, the final set of photos: Fort Davis National Historic Site.