Dan and Hannah Hike the Bluff Trail at the University of California, Santa Barbara

go quality inn

This is Michael. Can I help you?

Michael, this is Dan in room 110There are loud noises coming from the room above us.  Can you do something about it?

I’ll check on it immediately.

My iPhone lights up at 1:44A on this Sunday morning, our first night in California with some serious jet lag.  The voices of partying young women coming through the ceiling have awakened me again.  And the women don’t sound like they are going to bed anytime soon.  Then, not a minute later, I hear a knock on a door above me.  And then it’s quiet.

Thank you Michael, I whisper.  Peace in the valley.

GO map

Usually our experiences in motels are positive.  We get free breakfasts and always have a queen bed or more.   I do travel with ear plugs for just such occasions, but they are no match for these exuberant weekend voices.   Hoping noisy people in the next room will just stop has never proved to be a winning strategy for me.

GO 1 Gold is new Green

Sleeping til 530A (it is 830A in Maine), Hannah and I walk before sunrise through the sleepy coastal enclave of Santa Barbara.  Despite this year’s El Nino, the lawns are still brown.  As far as lawns go, gold is the new green.

Jasmine Cottage in Summerland, CA

Jasmine Cottage VRBO in Summerland, CA

Coming to Santa Barbara to escape winter in Maine and hike the bluffs and mountains along the Pacific coast, we make connections this Sunday morning with locals at the Unity of Santa Barbara spiritual community.   Later we check out a VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) home in Summerland, just four miles south of Santa Barbara, to see about being snowbirds (i.e., renting a house for a month next winter in the area).

GO 2 H at GB sign

Despite the threatening skies and forecast of mid-afternoon rain, we are determined to hike a bluff trail just north of Goleta, near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Using the description for the four mile Goleta Beach hike in Day Hikes on the California Central Coast as our guide, we find the trail a simple ten minute drive from Santa Barbara down The 101 south to UCSB and Goleta Beach.

The bluff begins at Goleta Beach

The bluff trail begins at Goleta Beach

Though Albert Hammond of It Never Rains in Southern California fame is usually right on, that’s not the case today.  It’s mid-50s and light rain.  Surfers and paddle boarders take on the swells from El Nino.  Weather-wise, this year El Nino is win/win: rain in California in an effort to bust their five year drought and warmer winter temps and less snow in New England.

GO 2B D at Unstable cliff sign

Leaving from the far end of the Goleta Beach County Park-ing lot with UCSB beaming in the distance, we will walk above the beach on a bluff and then around a campus lagoon.

GO 2AAA vulnerable tree

Immediately we notice that every fifty feet there is another sign cautioning hikers to stay back because waves are undercutting the bluffs.  Looking left to the relentless ocean and then right to the UCSB campus just beyond the bluffs, we wonder what is going to happen to the university in the next generation or three?  Check out this tree that is about to be given its last rites on the very edge of the cliff.

GO 2C H at fence warning

The trail through the cliff edge of campus is easy to follow with a road to our right.  Noticing the non-native invasive ice plants dug into the cliff sides, we later learn that the second quarter at UCSB has just begun; the light rain seems to have kept the students inside and we have the trail to ourselves.

By USCB campus

By the USCB campus

Skirting the UCSB campus towards the Marine Laboratory building, we see the campus lagoon.  As we pass the lawns and interconnecting sidewalks of UCSB with its coeds and co-dudes, I realize a lifetime of wanting the college life no longer moves the needle for me.

GO 4A bluff trail far end

When I was floundering as a teacher in Phoenix, AZ in my early 30s, I quit to return to Arizona State University to earn a Master’s in Exercise Physiology.  I loved the easy going routine of taking a class or two a day, being a graduate assistant in the Human Performance Lab, and teaching intro tennis classes – all with time to train for the Fiesta Bowl Marathon.  After three semesters, I earned my degree and still needed a real job: I returned to the classroom to teach middle school.

When I faltered again as a middle school teacher in Kittery, Maine in my late 40s, I bailed and returned to the University of New Hampshire for a PhD program in Reading and Writing Instruction.  Breakfasts at Young’s Restaurant in Durham, NH, leading Exploring Teaching classes, supervising interns, all with time to complete my PhD without working a second job.  Only years later did I realize our future son-in-law, Tip Rawding, was a student of mine during that time.

GO 6 cliff edge with warning

Having the required ticket punched to teach at the university (a PhD), for the next 12 years I returned to the comfort of the campus to teach at Eastern Connecticut State University and University of New England in Maine.  All the while, my public school colleagues were on the front line and doing the heavy lifting.

Supermen with their SuperOmi

Supermen with their SuperOmi

But that college life train has left the station.  I no longer swoon to be a student or teach at the university or, in fact, have the “want to” any more.  As we navigate the bluff, the UCSB students I see today have my blessings, best wishes, and fond memories.

Of course, being a grandparent to Owen and Max and being able to travel in retirement has a lot to do with my letting go.  Au revoir mon ami, l’universite.

Dan and Hannah are Taking a Bite Out of Winter in California

Are you looking for the bathroom? the young flight attendant asks me.  It is just the kind of question that I could expect on any airline, but I quickly gather her subtext.

FD VA plane

Let me back up.  For a third January in a row, Hannah and I are taking to the airways for California to escape Maine’s single digit morning lows, the dark that comes with 415P sunsets, and the snow without end Amen.

Flying from Logan Airport in Boston, we have a six hour non-stop flight to LAX (Los Angeles) for our nearly two weeks in the Golden State.  Packed into a tight space on our Virgin America flight, we are in the air for about the time it will take to play today’s two NFL wild card games.

FD inflight bathroom

Before we take off, the head flight attendant informs us that the front bathroom is for first class (two rows with eight people total) and the two back bathrooms are for those in coach (eighteen rows x six across equaling 108 people).  A crimson velvet theater rope protects first class passengers from the unwashed behind them.

From seat 18C

From seat 18C

Some people wear compression stockings to improve their circulation when flying cross-country.  Others pay the $100 extra for seats with more leg room.  Hannah and I always get aisle seats across from each other so we can stretch out our legs.  Another cost saving, leg saving measure is that I walk the aisles of the plane each hour.  Hence it is during one such walk heading towards first class that the flight attendant discreetly and sweetly asks her question.

Oh no, I’m just walking the aisle, I say as a relieved expression comes to her face.  Whoa.  I just think how important it is to maintain the sanctity of first class on Richard Branson’s Virgin America Airlines. That said, they are paying $610 per flight more than we are!



When we fly cross country from East to West we like to leave early in the morning so we land before noon Pacific Time and have the afternoon in the Golden State’s sunshine.  That way, non-larcenously, we steal an afternoon of vacation on this travel day.  To do all this, we awoke at 230A for our 720A flight from Boston, a 62 mile drive to our south.  My friend Bill emails that that “sounds awful.”   Maybe so, but what sounds awful to us is driving 3000 miles in winter to get to California from the East Coast.

Hannah's loft sign in snow

On this still very dark Saturday, light snow falls as we head out Chases Pond Road.

Arriving at Park, Ride, and Fly in Revere, MA, three miles from the airport we park my Hyundai Elantra and wait, and then wait some more for their shuttle to the airport.  One couple grows restless as 5A turns into 525A and no shuttle appears for their 615A flight to the Caribbean.  Hannah and I still have two hours to our Virgin America flight but do wonder where the shuttle is.

FD park ride and fly

Among the ten of us waiting, a thirty-something professional woman says, I’m getting a Uber ride if anyone wants to join me.  I jump at the chance and think I’ve got to get with it and get my Uber on.  While we wait for her Uber the eleven person shuttle arrives with its driver, a wise-cracking combination Matt Damon/Ben Affleck (think Good Will Hunting) Southie driver.  He takes nothing personally about the delays, encourages us all, and good-naturedly jokes.  Though we had to wait, I tip him enthusiastically in my little effort to support the joyful among us.

FD D and H with DD

With two hours til flight time, Hannah and I celebrate in the predawn Terminal B thanks to Molly and Tip and our friend Mandy.  You see Molly and Tip bought us a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card while Mandy dropped off morning glory muffins from Beach Pea in Kittery, Maine.  In the predawn dark we munch and sip regally.

FD VA tv

Once seated in row 18, I have a first world problem.  No ESPN on the seat back TV.  A true soldier of the sky, I somehow survive.  We love us our non-stop flights.   In the past, we have “saved” money flying flights with connections and ended up in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for hours!  Though drinks are all they offer for free, my orange juice goes well with my homemade peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches.

I settle into flipping between MSNBC, CNN, and TBS with Seinfeld reruns.  Two hours into our flight I check the video map of the flight.  We are flying at 450 mph over Michigan at 36,000’ at -78 degrees.  Thanks to the prevailing Westerlies, we will fly 582 mph when coming from West to East at the end of our trip.

Heading to southern California, we will have 50 more minutes of daylight than we do on a comparable winter day in Maine.

At the local Summerland, CA gas station

At the local Summerland, CA gas station

Our plan once we arrive at LAX near 11A PT is to get our Fox Rent-A-Car and drive 100 miles north on the coast on the 101 to our first night’s lodging at the Quality Inn in Santa Barbara.  Immediately we notice the difference in gas prices from the East Coast.  This morning in Maine gas cost $1.97/gallon.  With gas prices often a dollar more in California we learn that the refinery in California that produces the less polluting gas California requires is working at less than full capacity.  Hence the higher prices.  You go California!

Jasmine Cottage 200 yards above the Pacific Ocean

The VRBO Jasmine Cottage 200 yards above the Pacific Ocean in Summerland, CA

But there is more than bluff hiking and winter escaping on our minds.  We are looking to see if renting a house through VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) in nearby Summerland, CA (four miles south of Santa Barbara) for the month of February in 2017 is in the cards.  Our plan is to rent a home so family and friends can visit for a long weekend or a school vacation week.

After two previous January trips to California, we are hooked on its bluff trails, its mountains, and its sunshine as we start a fortnight of California Dreamin’.

Dan Hikes St. Sauveur Mountain with a Wildcat in Acadia National Park

It’s late September and I’ve come 200+ miles north from our home in York, Maine to hike the trails and bike the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park with my University of New Hampshire amigo, Bill Buggie from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Sauv Best Western

Arriving around noon this fall Friday, we find a jewel of a seasonal motel, Best Western Acadia Park Inn, some three miles south of Bar Harbor.  We arrive to temperatures in the 60s for our afternoon bike ride on the Carriage Roads.  (Click on the Maine category to the left of the blog to read this Carriage Road biking blog.)

Today (Saturday) we look to hike on the west side of Mount Desert Island here in Acadia National Park.  In preparation for our summiting, the Acadia Park Inn provides the most satisfying fuel.  Get this!  At 630A I can get a cup of coffee and a bran muffin to take back to my room as I watch Sports Center while Bill saws logs in his room.  And then I can do it again before we breakfast.   Mounds of home fries with egg patties drenched in salsa without end Amen deliver the goods and has me in breakfast nirvana a la salsa.  I am a simple man with simple needs.

Sauv SS Map

Over our $4.95 map of the hiking trails of Acadia National Park (an indispensable purchase for hikers that you can get at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center), we plan for our hike up St. Sauveur Mountain on the west side of Mount Desert Island.  We opt for a less frequented part of the park since today is National Hiking Day.  On this day (Sept 26, 2015), the Park Service closes the Loop Road to all vehicles from midnight til noon, other than the LL Bean Park Buses.

Bill ready to rock the mountain

Bill ready to rock the mountain

Today we start without a cloud in the sky from the St. Sauveur trailhead, across the highway from a parking area for 15 cars with a serviceable rest room.  At the end of our hike around noon, we will see cars lined up and down Route 102 for this popular trail.

Sauv 1A sign to SS Mt

Climbing on steps into the forest, we climb over a gently upward sloping rock face to the St. Sauveur Trail.   We soon turn right onto the summit trail for our first mile of hiking.  Climbing steadily on rocky trails at a leisurely pace, I soon remove my sweatshirt for my Ithaca College tee shirt as the 50s become 60s.  The trail is what I would call easy peezy, though it gives us a modest workout.

Sauv1A D on trai

This Ithaca Bomber loves him some mountains along the Atlantic

Then calamity strikes.  My picture-taking iPhone6 freezes up.  I am at a loss, searching for answers and even briefly wondering about the meaning of life.   I press the buttons and then press them harder.  (Always a winning strategy akin to speaking louder to someone whose first language is not English.)  I can’t swipe and turn off my phone.  I am disconsolate.  I try it again.  Fortunately Bill has his smart phone and steps into the breech taking the rest of the pictures for the blog.  A little iPhone tip that I learned later that day at the Verizon Store.  If your phone freezes up, just reboot it by pressing the upper right side button and the lower center button until the Apple symbol appears.  Ta da!

Somes Sound out to the Atlantic Ocean

Somes Sound out to the Atlantic Ocean

The St. Sauveur mountain top is a disappointing mini-bald with minimal views to the Atlantic Ocean and Somes Sound.  But we are dismayed and press on for soon we’ll be hiking along the coastline and get all the water views we want.  This trail is the gateway to better things to come. (That’s known in the writing game as a literate tease.

Dan styling with his LL Bean zip off pants

Dan styling with his LL Bean zip-off pants

Through the forest, it’s another four- tenths of a mile to Valley Peak, with its equally modest views to the water below.  Modest or not, Bill and I are no whiners and indeed two fortunate dudes to be hiking on a mountain in Maine as fall begins.  Descending carefully but not perilously down to the Valley Cove Road (a gravelly fire road), we see other hikers on this Saturday morning.

As we come down the mountain, we chat up two athletic female hikers.  They seem surprised that we are going to take the Valley Cove Trail with its rock slides along the ledges of Somes Sound.  Cautioning us, they add doubt to our decision to take this trail for they say we will be literally at the cliff’s edge high above the water.

Out to the Atlantic from Valley Peak

Out to the Atlantic from Valley Peak

The Valley Cove Fire Road is a fine four tenths of a mile level passageway to the coastline that allows us to catch a hiking rhythm of conversation.  Bearing left along the rocky coast, we soon see the rock slides that require us to do some scrambling.

Down from the Ledges at Somes Sound

Down from the Ledges at Somes Sound

Never does it seem perilous or risky; it is a challenging and satisfying half mile up and down the rocky slopes of Acadia with the water never so threatening that our heart rates spike.  This section of the trail takes the St. Sauveur Loop Trail from “oh, it’s fine” to “very cool, my man.”   On this blue sky day we have views north and south up and down the Somes Sound.

Once completing the half mile of hiking on the ledges, we take another half mile trail through the forest with modest up and downs in elevation.  Then it’s onto the Man O’ War Brook Fire Road where we are freewheeling side by side in conversation back to the trailhead a mile away.

Two Wildcats make it to the trail's end

Two Wildcats make it to the trail’s end

In less than three hours we hiked five miles of satisfying Acadia trails and will recommend it to our friends (which means you!).

Dan Bikes the Carriage Roads of Acadia National Park with his UNH Amigo

Nothing like being in the right place at the right time.  For me it was 1983 and it changed my teaching life forever.  Having taught 4th through 7th grade in public schools of California, Arizona, and New Hampshire since 1970, I had many students who seemed to enjoy coming to class; I did like being in charge and running the Show.  But I hid the obvious:  I really didn’t know what the hell I was doing.

Oh, I used the textbooks as guides, added my creative touch, and hoped my endless well of enthusiasm would carry the day.  But what were they learning?  Was it real and worth their time?  Thirty plus students to a class made me more a manager than a teacher.  The kids may have liked it, but I just didn’t know if I was doing anything more than making it fun.  I was floundering.


Having moved the year before (1982) from Arizona to Maine with Hannah (34), Molly (2), and Robyn (4 months), I enrolled in the three-week New Hampshire Summer Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire in Durham twenty miles from home.  There I learned to teach writing that was real and meaningful to kids.  I learned how to run a writing workshop built on individual attention to their specific needs.  I had kids experience what writing could do for them – tell their story and see that they had value.

CR NB mapThat summer I hung out with Bill Buggie, who had come down from New Brunswick, Canada to take the same course.  We stayed in touch over the years, visited each other’s home towns, and found we had similar values, online Lexulous (Scrabble-type game) and loved being active.  Now living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, today Bill drives some four hours to Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine, which happens to be a similar distance for me from York, Maine.

Eagle Lake at Acadia National Park

Eagle Lake at Acadia National Park

Arriving a little after noon this last Friday of September, we head to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center to prepare for an afternoon of biking on some of the 45 miles of Carriage Roads that John D. Rockefeller had built from 1913 to 1940.  Thinking that late September will mean that we will avoid the crowds, we are mistaken.   We discover that the season for visiting Acadia lasts well into October.

CR CR map of roads

At the Visitor Center, the ranger gives us a map with distances to the tenth of a mile noting that there is a connecting half mile bike trail hill to the Carriage Road system itself. He cautions to us watch out for bikers careening down the hill at high speeds as we pedal up, for this is the steepest climb we will encounter all day.

CR 1A CR sign

Right he was, as we steadily pedal on a gravelly trail at a speed where a plodding runner passes me by.  It’s true.  I am what I am – a 67 year old bike rider.

Carriage Road on east side of Jordan Pond

Carriage Road

Once at the southern part of Carriage Road system, we pedal onto hard-packed gravel with gentle grades as you might expect necessary to handle the horse and carriages of the last century.  The road is never mushy and we ride side by side talking easily, catching up after our morning drives to the park.

Witch Pond

Witch Pond

Passing Witch Pond to our left on this 60 degree afternoon, we appreciate our sweatshirts that ward off the wind chill of riding 8 to 10 miles per hour and 15+ mph on the downhills.

Bill on the Carriage Road with the irregular coping stones for a guardrail

Bill on the Carriage Road with the irregular coping stones for a guardrail

Large blocks of granite, called coping stones and endearingly nicknamed “Rockefeller’s teeth,” line the motor-free roads as guardrails.  Numbered rustic wooden signposts keyed to the map that the ranger gave us make the roads easy to explore.

Billy Boy at Eagle Lake

Billy Boy at Eagle Lake

As we approach Eagle Lake, we see many retirees as well as families with school age kids (got to love home schoolers who have come to Acadia on a school day for some excellent beyond the “classroom’s four walls” education).

Ithaca Bomber at Bubble Pond

Ithaca Bomber at Bubble Pond

Passing Eagle Lake with the mountains between us and the Bar Harbor coastline, we leisurely bike on to Jordan Pond.  Stopping and taking pictures as I establish that the transition is complete from my VCU loyalty to the Bombers of Ithaca College, where our son works in the athletic department.  The Carriage Roads are happily busy on this Friday in late September.

Clouds dominate the sky and by 330P temperatures are dropping on a day when by next morning they will be in the low 40s.  With wine and crackers & cheese back at the Best Western awaiting, we pedal on the Carriage Road to the east side of Jordan Pond, which is much less traveled.  This video that I take while I bike will give you an idea of the Carriage Road at this point.

Bubble Pond

Bubble Pond

Approaching 4P, my fingers are chilled to the point that the warmth of the Best Western Acadia Park Inn looks pretty sweet.  Passing cormorants at the Bubble Pond, we pause just briefly for pictures with our 18 miles of leisurely biking in the books.

Bill after an afternoon biking the Carriage Roads of Acadia

Bill after an afternoon biking the Carriage Roads of Acadia

Welcome to the best set of relaxed, conversation-inducing, motor-free byways in America.  Add the Carriage Roads of Acadia to your bucket list.



Dan, Hannah, and Nostradamus

Nostradamus 2

Are you a fan of the 1500s Michel de Nostredame?  Our buddy Nostradamus was a French prognosticator who made over 6000 prophecies.  He has been credited with predicting the rise of Napoleon and Adolf Hitler as well the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.  The bearded one gets a lot of notoriety, but, please, if you make thousands of predictions, a few are going to cross the finish line.

But let’s not quibble, we are still talking about him 500 years later.  Any chance you yourself will be searched in the 2616 edition of Wikipedia?   I’m not ruling it out.  Here’s a way to test your predicative powers and possibly your place in history that is both fun and lucrative.  Did I say lucrative?  Indeed I did.

Han and Nan 2015

Hannah and Nan at the Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine

As Hannah’s mentor during her Health Education Masters Days at Arizona State University, Nan Inskeep has returned to our lives with a flourish.  Her visit last June was one of the highlights of our summer.  She is just so damn interesting and interested in us to boot.  When Nan was here, she wanted to do all the things we do so she could live our lives for a few days.  Eat what we eat, go where go.  How cool is that!  To my everlasting gratitude, she got me to increase the number of scoops of coffee I use when a brew a pot of joe.

New Year

Just a few weeks back, she filled us in on what she and some friends do around the New Year.  And immediately we knew this had Dan and Hannah written all over it.

Here’s the scene.  Nan and a few friends get together over lunch and then go to the movies.   After, they get their Full Nostradamus on and write down five predictions for the coming year.  With their predictions, they each include $10 in an envelope and seal it for 365 days.  The following year when they get together, they read all the predictions and whoever has the most correct predictions wins the money in the envelope.

M and T at VCU

Molly and Tip at Will and Laurel’s pre-wedding dinner at VCU.

We offer this idea to Molly and Tip and they are all in.  We come up with nine categories from which to make our five predictions.  Writing these nine on the top right of our prediction paper, we all agree that we can have more than one prediction in any category to reach a total of five.

Our categories are: (1) self, (2) spouse/partner, (3) immediate family, (4) close friends, (5) work or volunteering, (6) sports or athletic endeavors, (7) events in your town and state, (8) national events, and (9) international events.  There could be more categories and we are open to learn what you might include.

Scoring?  Hannah and I want to reward those betting on a long shot.  So this is our plan for the opening of the envelope in December of 2016.  The first person, say Dan, will read the first of his five predictions.  If it is correct, the other three (Hannah, Molly, and Tip) will agree on how many points from 1 to 10 the prediction warrants.

For example, if I said that I will be hiking in the Northwest this year, which is not much of a leap, I hardly deserve more than a point.  Now if I said, Trump will run, but not win, as an independent and choose a Democrat, say Bernie Sanders, as his running mate, I hope the other three will reward me with a full ten points.

If there is a tie, we have two tie-breaker questions.

Super Bowl 50

The first is the teams in Super Bowl 50 and the score.  The second is predicting the Presidential Race for 2016.


I should say so!

Let us know of how you unleash your inner Nostradamus.