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. 

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Dan and the Adirondack Bear Alert

bear map of adirondacks

Hannah and I have come to the Adirondack Mountains in northeastern New York for her Moss Lake Reunion.  Back in the day (i.e. the early 1960s) Hannah was first a camper at the Moss Lake Camp for Girls for eight weeks in the summer, then later a counselor and a water skiing instructor.

bear hannah at moss lake

Hannah at Moss Lake, August 2018

Arriving at our overnight motel two days ago, the Adirondack Lodge Old Forge, I present my driver’s license and credit card to the clerk.  At that point, she says, Please sign this bear release form.  Bears can get into cars, but they can’t get out.

Really!  Yes, really.

bear release form

The highlight detail is that we are not to leave any food in our car.  Quoting from the release form, The bears are very smart, and they do know how to open doors!!

I am not one of those hikers who just can’t wait to see a bear on the trail.  We hiked in bear country in the Shenandoah National Park and never saw a bear.  Thank you, Jesus.

bear in ferns

Once when Hannah and I were hiking at Rendezvous Mountain just outside Grand Teton National Park in early July 1992, we came across a three foot stump shredded on all sides by a black bear looking for insects.  I couldn’t believe we were that close to bears!  Tepidly, we hiked a half mile more into the mountains and then turned around when our common sense finally kicked in, not wanting to be an afternoon snack for some Rocky Mountain version of Smoky.

bear in tree

Three years later in Denali National Park, we saw a sign at the trailhead, Moose calving, Bear alert.  Seemed like the standard, run-of-the-mill warning.  Not to worry.  Within ten minutes this first week of July, a nearly seven foot moose blocked our path.  A bambino moose can’t be far away!  We knew all the warnings that moose will kill you if you get between a moose and its young.  Again, we pretended that we weren’t bothered by seeing mama moose, but the joy and excitement of hiking in this Alaska Wonderland was gone.  We again turned around within minutes and beat a hasty retreat back to our campsite.

So, when we see the bear release form suggesting, bears are in the neighborhood, I want no part of these ursine creatures.  We clean out the car thoroughly.

Mama didn’t raise no fool!

Dan and Hannah Hike Chittenango Falls in central New York State

Following a recent trip to Virginia where our daughter Molly and son Will now live, this week we are off to central New York to support our daughter Robyn as she makes her push to rejoin the US Army.  Previously, for four years, including 15 months in Afghanistan, she served as an American soldier.  She’d like to take a crack at it again.

Cazenovia is to the southeast of Syracuse

Cazenovia is to the southeast of Syracuse

Central New York is in fact Hannah’s childhood home; she grew up in the Erie Canal town of Fairport, near Rochester, NY, some 100 miles to the west of Robyn’s place in Cazenovia (“Caz” to the locals and now Caz to us).

Fairport is a suburb of Rochester, NY

Fairport is a suburb of Rochester, NY

Finding the Trip Advisor ratings abysmal for the Cazenovia Motel, Hannah and I think B and B.  Mary’s Meadow’s Trip Advisor ratings (click on this hyperlink to read some of the reviews) catch our attention with its eye popping 25 of 25 excellent reviews.  Really?  25 of 25.  We haven’t seen such scores since the Mount St. Helen’s B and B.  We roll the dice that are loaded in our favor.

MM house

Prior to our leaving for New York and wanting to treat Robyn to a B and B breakfast, we email Ginny, the Innkeeper at Mary’s Meadow, if we can pay for Robyn to join us for breakfast.  Ginny’s reply.

Of course your daughter can come and eat breakfast with you.  Why don’t we plan on Wednesday morning?   There is no charge for an additional breakfast…we are honored to be able to thank Robyn for her service to our country.

Whoa!  Got to love New Yorkers!

In the very dark predawn (sunrise is nearly two hours away) of Columbus Day morning, we drive south on I-95 to I-495 through eastern Massachusetts and eventually to the Mass Pike (I-90) heading west to Caz.  To pass the time, while Hannah drives I read aloud from my iPhone the descriptive paragraphs of the key points to Margie Warrell’s column about Keeping Love Alive over the Long Haul.

The author

The author

Sitting side by side as we drive in the midmorning on the New York Thruway, we back and forth it on how we are doing with her seven points about keeping marriages successful…

  1. Invest time creating a vision that inspires you both.
  2. Respect your partner for who they are…and who they aren’t.
  3. Be brave in what you say…but kind too.
  4. Build on trust.  Work your ass off to keep it strong
  5. Support each other but always stand on your own two feet.
  6. Work on the “baggage” that can weigh you and your marriage down.
  7. Make time for talking.  The busier you are, the more important it is.

…and the time flies from Maine to central New York State.

Chittenango Creek above the Falls

Chittenango Creek above the Falls

Exiting the New York Thruway at Canastota, soon we are driving down the Gorge Road (Route 13) where we are surprised by these amazing waterfalls that we glimpse through the nearly barren trees of fall.

Chittenango Falls

Chittenango Falls

The Chittenango State Park is no longer charging admission at this time of year, so the gates are open for us to park just above the falls.

For even the most casual of hikers, this stone trail is a mere five minutes to the base of the 167 foot falls.  By comparison New York’s Niagara Falls is 173 feet.

Looking downstream

Looking downstream

Even on an overcast, misty afternoon, others have made their way to see these dramatic falls from the wooden bridge that spans the meandering Chittenango Creek.

The trail then rises above the Chittenango Creek and we hike alone.

Ch side view

It’s only twenty minutes of hiking but stunning nonetheless.

Fromm the top of the falls down Chittenango Creek

From the top of the falls down Chittenango Creek

After hiking on this sprinkling afternoon, we end up at Mary’s Meadow B & B on the West Lake Road out in the country, just five minutes from downtown Caz.  Having seen us drive in, the Innkeepers Ginny and Howard come out to the driveway to greet us and carry our suitcases in.   For $125+tax we are in the Taylor Room with its king size room, private shower, and sitting room off our bedroom.  But that’s only the beginning.

Slumberland at Mary's Meadow  in the Taylor Room

Slumberland at Mary’s Meadow in the Taylor Room

At Mary’s Meadow, the breakfast menu is placed on our bed to fill out before we go out for the evening.  I’ll try the Hearty Breakfast with the Hash Brown Casserole while Hannah has the Omelet Breakfast with every vegetable and cheese listed on the menu!

Nightlife with Dan and Hannah and Robyn

Nightlife with Dan and Hannah and Robyn

As we are known to do, Hannah and I small time it for dinner; tonight we opt for the local Owahgena Pizzeria recommended by our hosts.  Loving our mushroom pizza at the front room table of this take-out establishment, we relax with Robyn and are reminded how proud we are of her.

Hannah and Robyn with our deluxe mushroom pizza

Hannah and Robyn with our deluxe mushroom pizza

At this retirement stage of our lives when we can travel, we love to play the role our own parents played, and that is to treat our kids to dinner.  Generous to the core, Robyn leaves the tip.

She to her apartment and we to Mary’s Meadow, we linger as we hug.

Come Wednesday morning, Robyn joins us for a Mary Meadow’s breakfast extravaganza.

MM H at bfast

Attentive to the max, Howard serves our juices, then a basket of pumpkin bread while Ginny cooks our breakfasts; she could have her own cooking show on cable TV.  Living in Maine we are reassured that Robyn has a lighthouse with our B and B hosts.

We learn of another program Ginny and Howard support – David’s Refuge: Caring for the Caregiver.  David’s Refuge is a non-profit retreat offered free of charge to parents and guardians who care for children with special or life threatening medical conditions.  On average, four times per month they provide a B and B experience free of charge for these families.

At Mary’s Meadow, Ginny and Howard have created a “home” for travelers with their attention to detail and their scrumptious breakfast.  But that’s not why they are a five star B and B.

It’s Ginny and Howard themselves.

We feel like family, cared for and loved.  Their interest is genuine and they have taken us “away” for these few days in spectacular fashion.

Mary Meadow's Innkeepers Ginny and Howard with Robyn

Mary Meadow’s Innkeepers Ginny and Howard with Robyn

And even once Robyn successfully returns to the US Army and leaves Caz, we will be back to Mary Meadow’s again and again.  And again.