Dan, a Road Trip with Hannah, and Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters – A Book Endorsement

Are you a Harper Lee groupie like me?  If so, I have a book for you.  – Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters (2018) by Tom Santopietro.

TKAM tkam cover

First, let me begin by saying I never read To Kill a Mockingbird!  Fact is, I was never much of a reader through my public school and college years.  I read enough to answer the questions at the of the chapter, but I never learned to love reading.

TKAM peck

But…I did see the movie To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).  That must count for something!  I loved the film that was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture (but lost to Lawrence of Arabia).  Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch won the Oscar for best actor.  In fact, in the midst of writing this blog, Hannah and I watched the film one more time.  It stands up well as an inspirational tale of one man’s courage.

It was a little odd what got me interested in Why To Kill A Mockingbird Matters (2018) in the first place; it was a recent negative review in the New York Times Book Review section.  Click here for Roxane Gay’s unimpressed review.

So why would I read a book with a lousy review?  Because the reviewer let me know that the book is all about the backstory; of Harper Lee herself, the writing and publishing of the book, how the movie came to be, and what happened to the actors and Harper Lee herself since 1962.  I love me a good backstory.

Spencer Tracy was Harper Lee’s choice to play Atticus Finch in the film version of Mockingbird.  Unfortunately, he was filming at the time and couldn’t commit.  Fortunately, Gregory Peck was available.

TKAM atticus and scout

Atticus and Scout

Santopietero sums up why Gregory Peck had such appeal to many of us, … thanks to the role of Atticus Finch, in the public’s eye Peck had become not just a movie hero but also the personification of the quintessential American: the man his fellow citizens liked to think reflected not just their country but their own very best selves – a champion of the the underdog.

Well, I am happy to report that I righted the wrong in paragraph two and read To Kill A Mockingbird cover to cover a few weeks back.  By the way, the film is a quite faithful to Harper’s book.  Not getting enough, I read Critical Insights: To Kill a Mockingbird and watched both two documentaries: Hey Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird and Our Mockingbird .

TKAM map of monroeville

And the fruit of this infatuation is that Hannah and I on the road again, this time to southern Alabama!  Next month (October 2018), we fly into Atlanta and work our way to Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Harper Lee.  You see, Monroeville was the model for Maycomb, the setting of the novel.  The actual courthouse which holds a Mockingbird museum will be the centerpiece of our adventure.

Road trip!

TKAM critical insights


TKAM Hey Boo 2


TKAM Our Mockingbird


Dan Hikes Mount Major in New Hampshire with his Arizona State Bros 

ASU guys 2

Rich, Nobes, and Dan

Getting my boys (fellow 1969 Arizona State buddies, Rich and Nobes) up for a 6A departure to climb Mount Major proves to be easy peezy.  Willingly following my lead, we head north from the coast of Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Click here for the background blog on my ties to Rich and Nobes.

MM at Farmer's Kitchen

Photo by Tiphanie one summer Sunday morning in New Hampshire

What’s a hike without a good breakfast out?  Looking online and finding the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH on route 11, we hit gold.  Tantalizing blueberry pancakes this first Sunday in August set us up for our hike while owner/waitress Tiphanie brightens the morning with her engaging personality.

Driving a mere 20 minutes more to the trailhead of Mount Major, we find a spot in the parking lot, though 30 cars are already here at 8A.  It’s no surprise as Mount Major is indeed a family-friendly hike.  When Will was 6, Robyn 8 and Molly 10, our friend Steve Adler led us to this mountaintop on a late fall morning.

MM R and G on trail

Fearless hikers (Nobes and Rich) as the trail begins

As a member of the seventh grade team at Frisbee Middle School in Kittery, Maine, we teachers took 100 students here for this hike/climb.  My recollection is that every last kid made it to the top.

MM leisurely trail

Before the sharp left to the top, the trail is leisurely mellow

That said, this is no mere walk-in-the-park, but it gives the novice hiker the satisfaction of an Outward Bound, “damn-I-didn’t-know-I-could-do-it” challenge/experience.

MM rocky trail d n r

The trail turns rock-kay

The trail begins to climb immediately from the trailhead along a 12’ wide eroded path of stones and roots.  Stepping carefully, we have a warm-up for our climb to the summit.  Soon we are on a stroll-in-the-woods trail through the forest that is easy going and conversation inducing.

At the eight tenths of a mile mark of this 1.5 mile trail to the summit, we turn left, and the work begins.  Starting to bite into the 1100’ of elevation gain, we step carefully on a trail with boulders and roots.

MM Lake Winnepausakee

Lake Winnipesaukee from the summit

In time, the stone face of the trail emerges.  Watching the blue blazes (rectangular trail markers painted on trees and the stone itself), at times we use our hands to climb the steep stone faces leading to the top.  Other times, hikers step into the side woods to more easily make the climb.  It’s challenging, but that’s why it’s so rewarding.

MM D and R on top

Rich and Dan above Lake Winepausakee

Taking breaks to enjoy the scenery and views out to Lake Winnipesaukee, we take to the final stone face to the summit.  At the top there must be fifty others, but it never feels Disney World-esque.

Click here for more detailed information on the trail to the top of Mount Major.









MM G and D on top

Nobes and Dan atop Mount Major

I’m proud of my boys!

Dan and His Arizona State Turning Point 

ASU symbol

Before transferring to Arizona State for my senior year in 1969, I was at loose ends.  The War in Viet Nam loomed over my conscientious objector soul.  Not coloring outside the lines was just leading me down a fear-based path.  After the time-of-my-life sophomore year dating Hannah Kraai at the College of Wooster in Ohio, she and I lost our way; needing a big time change, I picked up and headed west to the Valley of the Sun.

Fortunately in Arizona, I found a group of guys to see me through.

ASU Rich and D

Rich and Dan, original Jersey Boys, for the mini-ASU reunion in August 2018

Three of us were from Jersey, Art, a marine from Bergenfield with a perpetual smirk, that endearingly made me feel like I was in on the joke; Rich, a 17 year old just good dude from Hawthorne coming West to be a pilot; and me looking to be So Far Away (thank you, Carole King).

ASU G and D

Rocking the sandals, Dan and Gale (Nobes is his last name) crush their cornhole opponents

There was Nobes, an art major from Michigan with a killer sense of humor and the smile that nothing was going to get him down.  Fifth was Big Steve from Virginia, who in the vernacular of the time, was the what’s-happening member of our quintet.

Why did we bond and remain friends for almost forty-nine years?  To start, when our Irish Hall dorm cleared out  for the weekend of all the Arizona kids, we had ourselves and not much more.  Using our cafeteria meal money at the Dash Inn, we dined on two beef burritos and ice tea for less than a dollar.  We spent 110F September Saturdays floating in tire tubes down the Salt River with a few brews.

ASU guys with Amelia

Dan, Rich, Amelia (Big Steve’s widow who coincidentally happened to be passing through during the mini-reunion) and Nobes

Only Art (Triumph sports car) and Steve (Ford Falcon) had cars, but each willingly lent theirs whenever asked.  Back in the day, a Coors or two together on Camelback Mountain in the late Phoenix evening made us bolder, the stories bigger, and the friendship stronger.

But really, you are still going strong 49 years?  For me, I felt accepted without having to prove myself.  Twenty-five hundred miles from home I was really on my own, beginning to find out what I believed and ready for the journey to find my way.

ASU guys 2

Summer of 2018 mini-reunion in York, Maine (Rich, Nobes, and Dan)

In this summer of 2018, 49 years later, Nobes, Rich, and I meet in Maine to toast our fallen compadres – Art to cancer from Agent Orange from his time in Viet Nam and Big Steve to a family history of heart attacks.

The me you see now has its roots in the connection to these guys.

Dan Updates and Thanks his Jimmy Fund Donors

Jimmy 30 with four

With Hannah, Max, and Owen, Dan rocks his 30th Anniversary of the Jimmy Fund dryfit shirt that goes to all Pacesetters (those who raise at least $1500)

My Jimmy Fund Walk for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute is a mere 13 days away on Sunday, September 23.  I have been preparing for this walk over the last 10K of the actual Boston Marathon course by playing lots of pickleball, working out at the gym, and hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  Many evenings I do walk the roads around our Chases Pond Road home with Hannah.

Jimmy 30 shirt with O, O, and M

Max (4), Omi, and Owen (6)

To date, thanks to you all, I have raised FIVE THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED SIXTY-ONE DOLLARS ($5761) for cancer research and the care of cancer patients.  Quite obviously, I couldn’t have done without you.  Thank you mucho.

Dan, the Oh So Bold  

With Hannah out for Labor Day morning breakfast in Massachusetts with our daughter Molly, I think this is the perfect morning to invite myself for coffee after working out at our Kittery (Maine) gym.

bold mug of coffee

I text our friends who live near the gym, Is this a good morning to invite myself for a 20 minute cup of coffee after working out at the gym?  Hannah is off with Molly for breakfast.

How bold!  I know.  I’m impressed, too.

While working out on the recumbent bike at the gym, I get a text that they’d love to, but they are running a 5K race at Pease (a Portsmouth, NH redeveloped air force base).  Oops, I forgot that this is an annual tradition of theirs to support a group home in nearby Rochester, New Hampshire.

bold road race

I text back, Enjoy your run.  It seems you’ll beat the intense heat of the day (86F hot and humid is the forecast).

But there are five side benefits to my boldness:

One, I can rightfully say I am at least a modest  risk taker.  If I want to think of myself as bold, I must act boldly.

Two, our friends know that someone would choose to hang out with them on this holiday morning.

Three, it could have worked out.  Never know until I try.

Four, perhaps, they’ll be equally emboldened to invite themselves to our place when the spirit moves them.

Five, my blog readers will know a little more about my love of morning coffee with friends.

Dan and Hannah Climb Bald Mountain in the Adirondacks of New York

Bald Old Forge map

Hannah and I have come to Old Forge, New York for a mini-reunion of her Moss Lake Camp for Girls, where she was first a camper, then a counselor and water skiing instructor in the early 1960s.

Bald Brooks


Arriving after an overnight in Ithaca, NY to see our new grandson Brooks and then breakfasting with our daughter Robyn in Syracuse, we arrive early in the afternoon in Old Forge, a summer tourist destination.

Bald Robyn

Dan, Robyn, and Hannah at Tony’s Diner in Syracuse, NY

With time before our dinner rendez-vous with Karen, Hannah’s former camper and long time friend, we have set our sights on Bald Mountain before the forecasted rain arrives.

Bald map of fulton chain of lakes

Bald Mountain lies above the Fulton Chain of Lakes in the central Adirondack Mountains.  Driving a mere four miles north of Old Forge, we turn left on Rondaxe Road for the trailhead parking.

Bald 2 H on trail

Rooted and shaded at the start of this one mile hike/climb, the trail will rise 500’ in elevation to a summit of 2350’.  The shining jewel of this hike is the Rondaxe Fire Tower for viewing the Fulton Chain of Lakes.

When you next visit the Adirondacks consider quelling your fire tower fever by taking the ADK Fire Tower Challenge by climbing to one of the 23 fire towers in the area.  Click here for more information.

Bald 3A H on stones to top

Through the forest, the trail is well-marked with blue blazes (e.g. painted blue vertical rectangles on trees) just when we need them.  Soon we are atop the boulders with Third Lake to our left.  On our early August Wednesday afternoon, there are mostly families and thirty-something couples.

The boulders themselves require some balancing and interestingly have a weathered rusted strip from the years of hikers climbing to the top.  Rarely, do you ever take what looks like a trail into the nearby forest.  The blue blazes lead you along the boulders.

Bald 4 H at fire tower

It’s a simple and sweet thirty minutes to the top with expansive views from the Rondaxe Fire Tower to the Fulton Chain of lakes.  Check out highlight pictures of our hike below.







Bald 4B lakes from fire tower

Fulton Chain from Bald Mountain


Bald 5 brown trail on rocks

Notice the faded rust color on the rounded top of the boulders that we used as a trail guide 


Bald 5A D and H above lakes


Bald 1A info on fire tower


Bald 2A D red blaze

In addition to blue blazes to guide us, we also red trail markers to keep on track


By the way, a little further north on route 28, we learn of two additional modest hikes.  Click here for Rocky Mountain six miles from Bald Mountain.   Click here for Black Bear Mountain three miles beyond that.

Dan, the Showoff at Moss Lake in the Adirondacks of New York

Moss lake trail itself

Moss Lake Trail, some 50 miles north of Utica, New York

This early August Hannah and I have come to the Adirondacks of New York for a mini-reunion of the Moss Lake Camp for Girls.  Some thirty-five of us, former campers and counselors, husbands, family members, and visitors to the area, assemble at the trailhead off Big Moose Road in Eagle Bay.  Click here for the previous blog describing Hannah as a camper and enjoy pictures of this legendary camp.

Geof Longstaff, son of the camp founder, will lead us around Moss Lake ( the trail is 2.5 miles) stopping at key spots to charm us with stories from the nearly fifty year history (1935 to 1972) of the girls’ camp.  In the early 1960s, Hannah was first a camper, then later a counselor and a water skiing instructor.

Moss trail H at lake

Hannah returns to Moss Lake, 51 years after she was a counselor/water skiing instructor there

On a hike that will take three hours, the pace is leisurely and the socializing and chatting up new acquaintances occurs seamlessly.  As one who is naturally curious to learn more about Hannah as a teenager and other people’s lives, I seek out and chat up different hikers along the trail.

Throughout the morning, I talk with Karen, Hannah’s dear friend and a camper when Hannah was a counselor.  I introduce myself to Tom, whose wife Margie went to camp a few years after Hannah.  Susie and her husband are a delightful couple, both interesting and interested in my story.  Geof’s sister fills me in on camp life with a father who was bigger than life.

Moss trail outlet better

Geof speaking while Hannah chills at the bridge at the outlet to Moss Lake

After Geof’s commentary at the bridge over the outlet stream of Moss Lake, Hannah stays to skip stones with the millennials (twenty-two Longstaffs of all ages of are here for a family reunion) while I go ahead.  I see Bo, a Longstaff by marriage, one hundred feet ahead and figure I’ll strike up a conversation.

I step around three hikers and then pass two women.  As I pass the women, one says, Show-off.

I am immediately put off.  Who wants to be labeled a show off?  It feels like an indictment.  I don’t know what to say, and just continue on, without looking back.

I’m just thinking, Really?  It seems that saying something encouraging might have built a momentary bridge between us.  Like, Looking good  or Way to go.  Either comment would have made me smile.  Show off does not make me smile.

I get that yelling out show off is all about her not me.  I don’t take it personally; I’m just surprised.  Is it a joke?  It certainly isn’t a friendly joke.  As Ellen DeGeneres says, If it were a joke, we both would be laughing.

Readers, What am I missing? 

Dan and Hannah Hike the Moss Lake Trail in the Adirondacks of New York

Moss trail around the lake

Looking for a delightful family hike in the Adirondack Mountains?  Hannah and I have the 2.5 miles Moss Lake Trail for you.  To get to the trailhead, go north from the New York Thruway at Utica, head a simple 47 miles to touristy Old Forge.  Continue on route 28 for nine miles to the well-marked left turn onto Big Moose Road where two plus miles later you will find the Moss Lake trailhead on your left.

Moss trail Geo on trail

Geof Longstaff, tour guide, on the Moss Lake Trail

Assembling with three dozen others for a guided tour by Geof Longstaff, the son of the founder of the Moss Lake Camp for Girls, we have come this first week of August to where Hannah spent six summers as a teenager, first as a camper, and later as counselor/water skiing instructor.

If you come in early August, you too can take this three hour, mellow hike/tour.  Contact the Town of Webb Historical Association.  Click here for their website.  Geof was at the top of his game.

Moss trail H and Karen P

Hannah with Karen, the reason Hannah came to this reunion.  Karen was a camper when Hannah was a counselor at the Moss Lake Camp for Girls

Other campers from the 1960s have joined us including Karen, a dear friend to this day.  Check out this roster of activities at this camp: classes in horseback riding, tennis, swimming, water skiing, fencing, canoeing, ballet, sailing, archery, and riflery (pictures from back in the day below).  Girls were divided into two teams, the Blue team competing against the Gray team.

Hannah was regularly the captain of the Gray team and Suzie the captain of the Blue.  Suzie would beat Hannah in the tennis finals while Hannah would outswim Suzie.  They each were Honor Girls for being ones whom the other campers looked up to.

Moss trail H and Suzie

Hannah with Suzie with Moss Lake in the background

Well, it turns out Suzie is here today, the niece of Dr. George Longstaff, the founder.  In his introduction, Geof introduces Suzie as the top athlete years ago at camp.  And then Suzie, does a a Suzie thing, which indeed, is a Hannah thing.

Suzie speaks up for all to hear and says very humbly that Hannah was right there with her athletically.  I am so pleased for Hannah to get the brief recognition that often gets left unspoken.

Moss trail H at lake

Moss Lake Hannah

You see, those six summers at Moss Lake were when Hannah learned she was really good at sports, people genuinely liked her, and she had something unique to offer the world (i.e. herself!).  She was acknowledged and celebrated for who she was and who she could become.  In her own words, I didn’t know then, but now I realize that I discovered parts of myself at Moss Lake that might have remained undiscovered for years.

Moss trail by outlet

Moss Lake from the outlet stream bridge

And now back to the Moss Lake Trail which is almost entirely shaded, basically level with a hillock or two.  Enjoy the pictures of the Moss Lake Trail and then the historical pictures from the past of this girls’ camp, home to Hannah’s Coming of Age.

(Consider commenting on this blog so I know you are out there.)




Moss trail outlet better

Geof speaking to the assembled hikers at the bridge over the outlet to Moss Lake

Moss trail group picture

Moss Lake campers, family, and counselors

Moss Lake photographs from back in the day (1935-1972)

Moss archery better


Moss horses even more


Moss tennis


Moss fencing


Moss canoes


Moss main house

Hannah’s Sandal Tells Her Side of the Story 

Three days ago, I posted a blog on the miraculous recovery of Hannah’s sandal from the side of the New York Thruway.  Click here for that blog.  Teacher/blogger/former UNE student of mine Molly Hogan suggested I write from the sandals point of view.  Challenge accepted.

sandals right one

Really!  You are just leaving me here.  It’s damp, gravelly, and my goodness the cars and trucks are roaring by.  I can hardly hear myself think.  As I was minding my own business on the floor beneath Hannah’s feet as she drove, their car slows, and all of sudden I’m dumped by the side of road.  And then she and her loser hubby (really that’s too harsh, just unobservant) drive off in their fancy, shmacy Prius.

And all the while, these two clueless ones have no idea that I am back by the side of the road.  Oh, she’ll find out soon enough and wonder how he could have been so careless.  There’ll be smoke coming out of her ears, I predict, when she learns of my predicament. 

I know their itinerary is traveling to Ithaca, Syracuse, and Old Forge, New York, and then returning home by this very thruway in two days.  Lying four feet off the shoulder in these nasty small stones, I’m starting to itch and damn if those aren’t storm clouds above.   

sandals hannah sans right one

You know, I had it pretty sweet, nestled on the top bookshelf in their bedroom.  It’s warm there, and she takes me out when she wants to kick back, be uber comfortable.  I am her go-to shoe.  She gently caresses me with her foot as she slides in.  She’s light, delicate and gives me just the right Reiki massage on a daily basis.

She found me at Marshall’s after months of looking for just my style.  She loves me.  She said so.  As dark approaches, car after truck ignores me, and for that I am thankful.  I am waiting for my deliverance back to Maine.        

Two days later – I am certain that she hasn’t slept well thinking of me lost and alone.  He has his doubts, but damn, he’ll support her come hell or high water.  She is the girl of his dreams going on 51 years.  She’s the faith; he’s the what-the-hell, let’s-give-it-a-shot guy.

By later afternoon Thursday, I still don’t see their Silver Prius with Maine plates.  And now it’s time for me to have faith in the Sandal God.  I close my straps and pray for the return of her loving foot embrace. 

Prius 2

A little before 5P, for the fifteenth time a car pulls over, the last time to change a tire, but this time it’s his yuppie Prius.  OMG.  She’s driving, he jumps out with the cars racing by, cradles me, and returns me to the most appreciative sandal wearer in the Known World.  Clearly, the Sandal God answers prayers. 

Dan and Hannah and the New York Thruway Sandal 

Hannah and I pull into the Dunkin’ Donuts near Central Bridge, NY (between Albany and Binghamton) on I-88 for a pit stop at noon on an early August Tuesday.  As I sprint to the men’s room (AM coffee on a travel day is a bad mix for me), Hannah looks for her other sandal.  It’s nowhere to be found.

sandal map of central bridge

Sturbridge is to the east of Springfield.  Ithaca is to the southwest of Syracuse

Upon my return from the men’s room, Hannah looks daggers at me when I say I have no idea where her sandal is; she feels I should have seen it when she and I changed drivers.  I have no defense but wisely remain silent.  Let me back up to set the scene.

On our way to see our new grandson Brooks in Ithaca, NY from our home in York, Maine (390 miles), we switch drivers after 110 miles at the Sturbridge, MA rest area; then later we switch again at a wide gravelly spot off the New York Thruway near Albany.

During Hannah’s drive, she removes her sandals and places them on the floor by her feet.  Since cars are flying by at 70 mph, we switch quickly.  But…it seems in my haste to get in the driver’s side, her right sandal fell to the ground.

sandals hannah sans right one

Only 40 miles later at the Dunkin’ Donuts does she realize the sandal is gone.  Non-verbally, Hannah wonders how I could be so unobservant not to notice the sandal falling out of the car.  I’ve learned in 46 years of marriage, Hannah does not want solutions or explanations at such times; she just wants to vent.  Mama didn’t raise no fool and I keep quiet.

Later that Tuesday afternoon we arrive in Ithaca for the overnight with Will and Laurel.  Wednesday, we drive to Syracuse for breakfast with our daughter Robyn, then on to Old Forge, NY for a reunion of the Moss Lake Camp for Girls.  Thursday, after a hike around Moss Lake with other campers, we head for home.  In her heart, Hannah still believes we will find her sandal.  We don’t know exactly know where near Albany it is, but we both think we’ll remember the gravelly pullout when we see it.

Heading south on I-87 near exits 24 and 23, we see across six lanes of highway where we both think the gravelly pull out is.  Exiting immediately, we turn around after the toll booths and head north a half mile to the pullout.

sandals right one

Only the replaceable rivet on the ankle strap was lost over 48+ hours alone by the side of the NY Thruway

Hannah pulls over and unbelievably, the right sandal is there after two days of rain and a million cars passing by.

All is right in the Valley of Hannah.

PS (from a chagrined/embarrassed Hannah) – Dan offered to order me new sandals that very night…I preferred holding on to the hope of a lucky retrieval.