Dan and Hannah Hike the Rocky, Rocky Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania

Climbing the Appalachian Trail to Hahn's Lookout

The Appalachian Trail near Wind Gap, PA

Among Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, Pennsylvania has the reputation of being a trail with punishing, boot-shredding rocks. Hannah and I have no reason to doubt that reputation, but we’ve hiked in Pennsylvania before, once near the Delaware Water Gap in the east and again near Gettysburg to the south at Boiling Springs, and found no such mean-spirited rocks.

Marathon Molly in 2007

Marathon Molly in 2007

It’s a nasty Patriots Day on a mid-April Monday in New England as we travel by way of Pennsylvania to Virginia for Will and Laurel’s wedding.  In Boston, the steady rain is pelting the marathon runners similar to what our daughter Molly experienced running into 20 to 30 mph headwinds from Hopkinton to Boston in 2007.   Today we hope the drenching rain abates and our ponchos will deflect the light rain.

Mom and Dad 1

Mom and Dad

Crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York State and heading to Jersey on I-287, we pass the senior living complex where my Mom and Dad lived after moving from their home of more than fifty years in Radburn, NJ. Dad died three years ago while Mom passed on last year; they each lived rich lives into their 90s. As I get nostalgic, I do think how much they enjoyed hearing about the lives of their grandchildren. I miss not being able to call up and talk about Robyn’s recent college degree, Will’s new job, and Molly’s new house. But damn, I had so many good years of calls and visits; we all had a great run together.

Climbing the Appalachian Trail to Hahn's Lookout

Climbing the Appalachian Trail to Hahn’s Lookout

As we cross into Pennsylvania, we learn that this area is called the Slate Belt. That is an ominous sign for today’s hike. Thanks to my Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Companion, we find the trailhead at the far end of the little town of Wind Gap. With the rain now just mist, we pack our ponchos in Hannah’s backpack as I big-heartedly carry our water bottles.

Ridgeline hiking on the AT

Ridgeline hiking on the AT

Heading under Route 33 to the white blazes of the AT, we are set to climb to Hahn’s Lookout, a mile south on the AT. Here the AT is a trail of finely designed switchbacks with the usual run-of-the-mill rocks; but no rockier than other trails that we have hiked up and down the AT.

In the cloud at Hahn's Outlook

In the cloud at Hahn’s Outlook

It’s like we have stolen a day of hiking since it was iffy whether we would be on the trail at all, given the morning’s drenching rain. But no two ways about it, we are hiking in a cloud. Arriving at Hahn’s Outlook there is nothing to see of the valley below. Mist goes from light to heavy; with a wet trail, we step carefully among the rocks.

VCU Ram on the Appalachian Trail in PA

VCU Ram on the Appalachian Trail in PA

Rising to the ridge line after a modest 400 to 500 feet gain in elevation, we start to see that the rocks are having baby rocks. Protruding from the ground like the fins of a shark or the scales of a stegosaurus, they make our foot plants uneven; we find ourselves hiking with swiveling ankles adjusting to the varied, moist rocks from the rain over the last 18 hours.

You want rocks?  Pennsylvania's got rocks for you.

You want rocks? Pennsylvania’s got rocks.

With little to see hiking in a cloud, we set a goal of finding the Kirkwood Shelter 4.6 miles from the trailhead. The rocky trail is very well-marked as we walk single file; we don’t expect to see anyone. Who’d be hiking in the mist of early April but Maine-iacs?  Northbound thru-hikers starting in Georgia are only a month into their hike, spending nights somewhere in North Carolina or Virginia. Southbound thru-hikers cannot even start til next month (May) because of the snowy conditions at Mount Katahdin in Maine.

On the AT near Wind Gap, PA

On the AT near Wind Gap, PA

Still buoyed by the thoughts that this is bonus hiking, we see no signs of the shelter 90 minutes into our ridgeline hike. Due to the rocky terrain, we are hiking at best 2 mph.   This is no trail for sneakers, but our hiking boots provide us with modest protection.  Over the next 20 minutes, we find no blue blaze trail (side trail) to the hoped-for shelter. The rocks are more than annoying as we start to feel it in our knees due to the many angled steps we have taken on the wet rocks.

Shark fins protruding on the trail

Shark fins protruding on the trail

At a clearing of high tension wire towers, Hannah has had enough. She takes off her socks to revitalize her feet, but she says, I’ll go ten minutes more if you want. (We’ve been out nearly two hours.) But I don’t want to and am ready to turn back. A full afternoon of exercise is what we wanted; and in that we have succeeded. There is no reason to subject ourselves to the rocky landscape anymore.

WG 4 H descending rocky trailTurning for home, we still have nearly two hours of rocky trail hiking ahead of us. We are now firm believers in the legend of the rocks on the AT in PA. We are, in fact, disciples.  Three hours of rocks has us swearing we will never return to Pennsylvania to hike. Ever. The Land of Brotherly Love? Not on the AT near Wind Gap!

In a cloud on the AT

In a cloud on the AT

The mistiness has stopped, but the trail remains wet and as you might have guessed, quite rocky. We have no way around the rocks but through them. The rocks rule. I bow to their majesty. I will never trespass their sacred realm again.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Maryland where we will find some of our favorite trails on the AT. Rocks? Sure, but not so sharp, unforgiving, or numerous. This part of the AT in Pennsylvania is the kind of hike that could make you hate hiking.

Hannah’s final words to others: Don’t Do It.   We’ve done it for you; you don’t have to beat yourselves up.

Do I hear an Amen!

Dan and Hannah Hike the Appalachian Trail near Boiling Springs, PA


My second cousin Katie, a fulltime weather genius

My second cousin Katie rocking the weather in FLA

Off to Richmond, VA (RVA) to see our son Will and his fiancée Laurel, I have had rain on the brain for days.  I have two weather apps on my iPhone.  On our laptop, the weather channel icon has the position of honor on the tool bar.  I’m all over the weather.  Reasonably, one might suggest counseling.  For the last ten days, rain has been in and out of the forecast for our hiking adventure to Pennsylvania, Virginia, and points south.

Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine

Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine

After a day of hiking on the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Delaware Water Gap, PA (see blog for November 1, 2014), Hannah and I sack out at the Comfort Inn in Allentown, PA; the morning forecast is for a 70% chance of rain.  Make it 100%, it doesn’t matter!  We are hiking manana.  Be it with ponchos and/or umbrellas.  I’m serious; I’ll bring umbrellas on the trail even if I look like Mr. Mary Poppins.  Let me tell you, we haven’t driven the long way to RVA by way of I-81 to just drive the long way to RVA.  Fortunately, Hannah is game for hiking among the raindrops.

In the morning, thankfully the percentage chance of rain is down to 20%.  Rain has been pushed back to the afternoon.  Sweet.

Boiling Springs, PA

Boiling Springs, PA

It’s nearly a two hour drive on I-78 and I-81 from Allentown, PA to the AT town of Boiling Springs, PA.  A town of 3000+, Boiling Springs gets its name from its natural artesian wells.  Going right through town, the AT in Boiling Springs is just about the halfway point of the AT’s 2180 miles.

The trail begins across

The trail begins across Yellow Beeches Creek

Once in town, we are directed to the far end of the Children’s Lake, home to ducks, swans, and geese, for trailhead parking.  As we ready for the hike, a few drops fall; the Universe wants our attention.   Dan and Hannah don’t be fools. Pack your ponchos. I’m only going to say this once.  All ears, we pack our ponchos with our water bottles and Nature Valley crunchy Oats ‘n Honey granola bars (a personal favorite).

The trail to the soybean and corn fields

The trail to the soybean and corn fields

Starting at a modest elevation of 500 feet, we have four miles of trail to the Alex Kennedy Shelter.  At our highest point we will climb to the 1060 foot Center Point Knob.  Crossing the bridge over the Yellow Beeches Creek, we cross a railroad and hike for the next two miles through soy bean and corn fields.  How great is it that Old MacDonald lets us e-i-e-i-o through his fields.

Bisecting the Indian corn fields and soy bean fields

Bisecting the Indian corn and soy bean fields

And then light rain starts to fall. Not enough to take our ponchos out but enough to get our attention.  In the lead, Hannah turns and says, Did we pack both ponchos?  A quick check shows that we did not.  Bummer.  What to do?

The AT crosses the Pennsylvania country side

The AT crosses the Pennsylvania country side (Double white blazes mean a turn in the trail)

Hike on and hope it doesn’t rain?  Blame? (always a “go to” strategy in times of stress).  We choose door number three.  Just turn the hell around and go back the half mile we’ve come, get the other poncho, and start again. It is what it is.  Perhaps something new and cool will happen because of this development.  On the plus side, we will get in an extra mile of hiking today.

BS 5A h crossing field

Going back the half mile to get the poncho is like having a generator in New England.  Hear me out.  Today it may not rain and thus we have no need for the ponchos; likewise we may never lose power and ever need a generator.  But not having to think of the possibilities of rain or losing power settles the soul and allows us to be in the moment.

The white blazes guide us on the AT

The white blazes guide us on the AT

As you can imagine, the fields are reasonably level and take us through the country side similar to what we might have seen 150 years ago during the Civil War.  Just 25 miles, as the soldiers march, north of Gettysburg, Boiling Springs was a stop along the Underground Railroad in the 1800s.

You can't keep a good VCU Ram down

You can’t keep a good VCU Ram down

We think back to our chance meeting with T-Bone (her trail name), the thru-hiker we met yesterday. By a fairly direct route, we drove the 145 miles from Delaware Water Gap, PA to Boiling Springs in about three hours; on the other hand she has 173 miles of trails to Boiling Springs that might take her 10 to 12 days. God bless you, Henry Ford!

Atop Center Point Knob

Atop Center Point Knob

With the fields behind us, our early afternoon hike during mid-October takes us into the forest. Climbing 500 feet to the top of Center Point Knob, I take smaller steps as my breathing increases. Under overcast skies, but no longer even any sprinkles, I go from Maine sweatshirt to VCU basketball tee shirt.

Once at the top, we descend the mountain heading north on the AT.  As with most of the AT that we know and love, we have rocks and roots aplenty.  Even so, we do not have the sharp, angular, jagged rocks of eastern Pennsylvania attacking our hiking boots as they did yesterday at the Delaware Water Gap.

Arriving at the Alex Kennedy Shelter after four miles of hiking, we know the rain is acoming.  Of that there is no doubt.

Enjoy the shelter video.

A quick bite of apples and granola bars and we are heading back to Boiling Springs to beat the rain.  Over nine miles of hiking (including the bonus mile of backtracking), we complete our outdoor adventure in three hours.  We now face a choice of how to get to Richmond on this Friday of Columbus Day Weekend.

BS 9D H on trail

We can be idiots and drive directly from Boiling Springs to the Beltway around Washington, DC, and then on through the hell that is I-95 from DC to Richmond during the evening commute.

Or we can add 100 miles to our drive by heading southwest on I-81 and then come in to Richmond from the west on route 64.

We like to think we aren’t stupid; we take option two.  With five hours of driving ahead of us, we stow our packs quickly as, wouldn’t you know it at this very moment (cue B.J. Thomas) the rain drops keep falling on our heads.

By the way, check out this shelter outhouse on the Appalachian Trail



Dan Pulls an All-Nighter for Owen and Max

When is the last time you pulled an all-nighter?  Do college students even do that anymore?  Got to say that I never did even one all-nighter during my college years.  I was an all right student, certainly not dean’s list.  Maybe my theory about studying for tests might explain the kind of student I was.  The theory: Find out how long the exam is, and then study the right material for that length of time.  Brilliant?

map of VA to ME

Having flown to Virginia with Hannah, I am part of a team of family and friends supporting our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and their sons Owen and Max move north.  Having taken a teaching job in Massachusetts for the fall, Molly with Tip is packing the contents of their two bedroom apartment into a 16 foot Penske truck.  Tip and I will team up to drive the truck/rental van while the others will head north in the Rawding’s two small cars.

Dan and Hannah are part of the packing team

Dan and Hannah are part of the packing team

A serendipitous call from my college roommate Rich makes me realize that driving a truck through the Northeast has limitations that cars do not have.  We cannot do parkways; so the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in MD is out; the Garden State Parkway in NJ is not happening; and the Merritt Parkway in CT is not making an appearance.  We need a plan B.

Dan and Tip are ready to roll a little after 8 PM

Dan and Tip are ready to roll a little after 8 PM

Given those limitations, Tip and I decide to leave Thursday evening to avoid driving during the day on the first Friday of the summer tourist season.  Never having done such a driving all-nighter, I figure what the hey?  It does make sense.  On this Thursday overnight, we should have fewer vehicles on the road and some fine smooth sailing.

At a little after 8P, we set out as Washington, DC evening rush hour draws to a close.  Cruising around and through the DC Metro area, we think we are so smart.   Almost immediately we realize, Not so fast, my friend.  It seems that State Highway Departments find that summer overnights on the Interstates are the best times for road repairs.  In Maryland, three lanes go into one and we have our first delay, this one for only 15 minutes.

Delaware Memorial Bridge heading into New Jersey

Delaware Memorial Bridge heading into New Jersey

After Tip drives the first two and a half hours through Maryland and Delaware, it’s time for me to take a shift.  So just after crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge into Jersey around 1030P, we stop for gas, stretch, and take a leak; I am surprisingly wide awake and ready to hit the road again.  No Willy Nelson, no radio, just the commitment to each other that we will talk throughout the night.  We tackle, Where they might live?  Who they will likely keep up with from Virginia?  What jobs he might pursue?  What old friends in the area they will connect with?  Each question leads to meandering follow-ups.  I fill him in about our wedding 42 years ago and life in Arizona.

My drive is uneventful, and that is a good thing.  Since we cannot use our EZ pass (a transponder on the windshield that allows us to be charged electronically for passing through the tolls unimpeded), we must stop and pay at every cash toll booth.

As we approach New York City (NYC), we have the choice to go west on I-80 through New Jersey to take I-287 to cross the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee Bridge.  Or…

George Washington Bridge at night

George Washington Bridge at night

Or we can take the NJ Turnpike to the George Washington Bridge (GWB) for the shortest route to Maine.  I mean, how much traffic could be on Chris Christie’s Waterloo at one in the morning?  We do make a fateful error by not listening to WCBS 880 radio with traffic on the eights.

Approaching big bad NYC, we switch drivers and Tip takes over the wheel at 1230A.  Seeing electronic signs on the highway indicating 4 minutes for cars to cross the GWB on the lower level and 45 minutes for trucks to cross on the upper level, we just don’t believe that that could be true at this hour.  It’s got to be a mistake, a dated warning.  We approach the upper level and see the signs for the crazy $13 toll to cross the Hudson River.  As Tip pulls up to the toll window to pay, the toll taker says $34.  What!!!!  It turns out $13 is only for cars.  With no appeal process, Tip pays up and rolls on, so to speak.

That turns out to be the least of our worries over the next three miles – and 75 minutes!  Within one hundred yards, our speed of 30 mph drops to 2 mph.  And then we stop dead.  In the center of three lanes we are in a cargo carrier cocoon with the high sides of the semis on either side bracketing our little truck/van. Only occasionally can we see the lights of the Manhattan skyscrapers to our right.

The upper level of the George Washington Bridge where the trucks must go

The day time version of our night time passage on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge

After 5 hours on the road with five more to go, we inch towards I-95 through Manhattan and into the Bronx.  We just smile and know we are indeed trapped.  Construction takes three lanes to one, not once but twice, and, at times, construction trucks cross in front of that one lane so everyone is again stopped cold.

At 215A the highway opens up before us; we sit church mouse quiet as if tons of traffic will reappear if we disturb the highway gods.  Has somehow my voting for Obama gotten back to Chris Christie, and he has some sort of vendetta out for me?  With the reputation of having the worst traffic on the East Coast, I-95 is our only choice; the Merritt Parkway is off limits to trucks.  We know traffic jams are “first world” problems.  It’s not being hungry, having no clean drinking water, or the horror of war in the “third world.”  We are blessed; this has been a mild inconvenience at best.

We gas up near Bridgeport, CT and I take another shift at two forty-five in the very dark early morning.  More construction lies ahead as three times three lanes go into one, but the traffic is light and we pass through at 30 to 45 mph.  Conversation keeps our sleep-deprived bodies going, still some four hours from Maine.

Moving Unity

We touch on religion.  What was his Sunday School experience like?  I share that Hannah and I have lately been going to a Unity service in Rollinsford, NH.  I talk about the Unity belief that God lies within us all and how it draws on the wisdom of all great religions.

Passing into Hartford we see the first dark blue of sunrise.  The sun seems to have traveled around the world since we left Virginia and we are still rocking.  Surprisingly, the tension and stress of driving over the GWB in such heavy traffic has made me more alert and awake than I ever thought I would be at four in the morning.

Our driving shifts are getting shorter.  Forty-five minutes for me, an hour for Tip.  When I check my phone for a little too long, he says I need you to talk to me.  I “snap to” and ask about the people in the wedding he is going to on Saturday and the conversation takes off.

Molly, Tip, Owen, and Max

Molly, Max, Tip, and Owen

As dawn breaks wide open, I realize that the GWB delay has been a blessing.  It means we have had a shared experience to talk about for years to come, and I have had even more time with Tip to connect and build our father-in-law/son-in-law bond.  Having always felt that our daughter Molly married a lottery pick in Tip, I have been reminded this night that he was, in fact, the LeBron James of the 2011 draft (the year they were married).  His focus on their marriage and their family makes Hannah and me proud.  He shares his children with us and welcomes us into their lives.

Heading to Maine from New Hampshire on the Piscataqua River Bridge

Heading to Maine from New Hampshire on the Piscataqua River Bridge

In northern Massachusetts I take over with 45 minutes to go .  Over the last 30 minutes Tip asks me at least ten times, How are you doing?  I appreciate his awareness and attention to our safety.  Morning Boston rush hour traffic is picking up as we pull into New Hampshire, then on into Maine.

As we pull into York, Maine, Molly driving one car and Hannah the other are now just approaching Delaware this Friday morning.  I am fried, over easy and hardboiled, but intact.  I park the truck/van, Tip heads for his childhood home in Rye for some much needed sleep, and I want to celebrate before I take a morning nap.  It’s a celebration worthy of an 11 hour all-nighter from Virginia to Maine: a bowl of oatmeal with raisins.

Tip in York, Maine after 11 overnight hours on the road!

Tip in York, Maine after 11 overnight hours on the road!


I have had the opportunity of a lifetime spending eleven hours with Tip, the father of our grandchildren, Owen and Max, and the love of Molly’s life.  I’d pull this all-nighter again in a heartbeat.  What a night!

Dan and Hannah Take Gloucester, Massachusetts by Storm


The Perfect Storm of 1991!

Hannah and I have lived in New England (Maine) for 32 years, yet we have never driven one hour and change south to the seafaring town of Gloucester, MA.  Gloucester is the harbor town from which George Clooney sailed into the Perfect Storm never to return.  Like many coastal New Englanders, we remember this Halloween super hurricane as the epic storm of our lives.

Flying home at 8A from RVA (Richmond, Virginia) after visiting our son Will and his soon-to-be fiancee Laurel while Hannah was in Vermont with girlfriends this April morning, I persuade Hannah, who has picked me up at Boston’s Logan Airport, that this Monday is a gift for us to explore the Atlantic coast closer to home.

Gloucester, MA, northeast of Boston

Gloucester, MA, northeast of Boston

Driving north on route 60, Hannah and I soon take a sharp right eastward on route 128 to the seacoast town of Gloucester.  Having awakened at 445A to leave RVA on Delta Airlines at 630A, I am ready for a down-home breakfast before we hike.

Gloucester statue

After taking the rotary towards the downtown on Washington Street, we pass George’s Coffee Shop on the main drag.   It looks promising.  After we park, I approach a mail carrier and ask where do the locals go for breakfast?  George’s.  We have no idea how lucky we are about to be.

George's Coffee Shop

George’s Coffee Shop

Walking into the welcoming spacious front room with six tables for two or four and a counter of ten barstools, we find a table against the sidewalk windows.  And then Deirdre approaches.  A twenty-something young woman, who we later learn is of Irish descent, smiles over to us to see if we want coffee or tea.  With our Rand McNally atlas spread out on the table for four, she gathers that we are tourists and welcomes us to her hometown.

Hannah and Rand (McNally)

Hannah and Rand (McNally)

Asking us where we are from, we respond, We are from just up the road in Maine, not an hour away, and we’ve never been to Gloucester.  We are looking for a place to hike in the area.

Deirdre then opens up about her town and the area.  Since Deirdre isn’t a name you hear every day, I ask her if she liked her name growing up.  She did – until when researching her name for a school project, she found that Deirdre meant sorrowful and broken-hearted maiden.  Even so, she seems a most happy young woman who makes our breakfast food taste even better.  I wish that kind of person when you breakfast out.

Ordering our traditional two eggs, home fries, and toast for $4.50, we are set for a day of hiking along the Massachusetts coast.  The home fries are original and tasty; with my eggs over easy, I have a gooey mix of breakfast love.  Deirdre glides from table to table and still has time to chat us up now and again.

Funky Red Barn

And then the guy sitting behind me says, I hear you’re from Maine.  So am I.  He learns we are from York and we that he is from Bethel, though he grew up here in Gloucester.  We get advice for hiking and learn that he has a restaurant, the Funky Red Barn, in Bethel, which is near Andover, ME where we go with good friends.  We’ll seek him out this summer.

Then the lady behind Hannah says, I hear you’re from Maine, and begins to mention her Ogunquit, ME (the next town north of York) connection and how we might proceed through the town of Gloucester on our way to the Halibut Point State Park on the Rockport peninsula five miles away.

Hannah and Deirdre

Hannah and Deirdre

I’ve got a tip for traveling:  Lay out your atlas or road map on the table when you go into the diner/restaurant and you will draw the attention of helpful folks everywhere.

We over tip Deirdre, get her picture with Hannah, and know our lives are richer when we take the time to seek out these hidden breakfast gems.

The trails of Halibut Point State Park

The trails of Halibut Point State Park

It’s a simple drive along route 127 through Gloucester and Rockport to the petite Halibut Point State Park.  Rockport puts the quint in quintessential New England fishing towns – houses from centuries past with small shops and childhoods of Norman Rockwell.

California Dreamin' East Coast style

California Dreamin’ East Coast style

The winding streets hug the coastline on this April morning; with kids back in school after spring vacation, the town is turned over to us retirees and a few townsfolk heading to the post office.  Though we can only imagine how crowded these narrow streets are in the summer, we are resolved to return next April to bike this Cape Ann loop on a day when it is more than 50 degrees!

Halibut Point sign

Arriving at the appropriately miniscule parking lot, we gladly pay the very modest $2 (who charges just $2 for a state park???) and set out for this seaside park with a rich history in granite.

Starting point of the Halibut Point trails

Starting point of the Halibut Point trails

Called Halibut Point, it would make one think that it has something to do with the halibut fish.  It, in fact, does not.  Sailing vessels and clipper ships in the 1800s would have to “haul about” their sails around the Cape Ann part of this peninsula due to the shifting offshore winds.  “Haul about” with a Massachusetts accent morphed into halibut.

G6 trail at HPSP

The park is small.  There are 2.5 miles of trails that are level, easy going, really for walking more than hiking.   On this late April chilly morning in this still winter-ish spring we are always just a stone’s throw from the ocean.

G7 quarry at HPSP

Within a quarter of mile we are at the old Babson Farm granite quarry.  Do you remember Breaking Away, the 1979 coming-of-age classic where working class local kids (called cutters because of the nearby quarry where the granite was cut) clash with the affluent frat boys at Indiana University?  This quarry feels like a scene out of the movie where the cutters would often go to swim to kill time and figure out what to do with their lives.  No swimming allowed in this quarry.

G8 rocky shore at HP

Hiking the side trail to the rocky shore beaches, we are glad to have our hiking boots to climb over granite chunks, safely back from the ocean’s waves and forbidding cold.

Wrapping up an hour on the trails of Halibut Point

Wrapping up an hour on the trails of Halibut Point

This rocky granite headland with tidal pools below is a place for grandparents (Dan and Hannah) to take their grandsons (Owen and Max) for a day of exploration; then it’s ice cream cones for all.

As we head for home through Gloucester on the side roads to Ipswich and eventually past Newburyport, we know we are so returning to Gloucester to bike next April. It won’t be 32 more years before we are back.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Pinwheel Vista on the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey

Max at ten days

Max at ten days

Maxwell Archer Rawding has arrived!

Hannah and I are bee-lining it from Maine through JERSEY to Virginia to see Owen Daniel’s little brother Max, who is five days old today.  As grandparents, we now have more time, energy, and moolah to really enjoy our grandkids than we had when we were parents ourselves.

Owen and Max with Omi and Boppa

Owen and Max with Omi and Boppa

Why just the other day at an elementary school Spring Fling of carnival rides and petting zoos, we saw cotton candy for sale.  With their Omi and Boppa (our grandparent nicknames), Owen and Max are going to enjoy the good life at the end of a cotton candy swirl.

Goshen Plaza Diner, New York

Goshen Plaza Diner, New York

With 550 miles of driving through the maw of the monster (traffic in the Northeast) ahead, we find a hike along the way to break up our trip to the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Having grown up in nearby Fair Lawn, JERSEY, I am coming home to love a state I couldn’t wait to leave when I was 18!

Leaving home in York at 520A, we travel 250 miles on Interstates to the Goshen Plaza Diner in New York for our pre-hike breakfast; it’s just 15 miles from our trailhead at Wawayanda (pronounced by the locals as Way-Way-On-da) State Park.  Wawayanda is Lenape for “winding waters.”

Good times at the Goshen Plaza Diner

Hannah knows breakfast!  Good times at the Goshen Plaza Diner

The Goshen Plaza Diner is a classic New York diner with booths, shiny metal interiors with mirrors everywhere, and veteran waitresses.  At 10A we easily score a booth and Susan, with seven years of experience and diamond ear studs, warmly welcomes us.  Though I love pancakes when eating out, I find that I am still hungry an hour later; that just won’t do when hiking.  So it’s two eggs over easy, home fries, and rye toast for me while Hannah spices up her breakfast with four strips of crispy bacon.  Susan is cheery and engaging in a JERSEY sort of way, which is a good thing.  In fact, a very good thing.

9G Wawayanda Park sign

After breakfast in New York we cross into JERSEY and turn right to enter the near empty parking lot on this mid-May Thursday (no one is collecting the $10 admission fee for out-of-state vehicles).  Changing into hiking boots, we find the blue blaze trail (side trail) is immediately in front of us, just three tenths of a mile from the white blazes (signifying the main trail) of the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail (AT).  I wasn’t much of a hiker as kid but growing up in JERSEY meant baseball, basketball, and tennis all the time with the guys in the neighborhood.

AT map 2

Setting foot on the Pinwheel Vista trail, we make JERSEY #10 of 14 states that we’ve hiked on the Appalachian Trail.   (Going from south to north, it’s Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.  I think of the 62 miles of the AT in JERSEY as an easy going, mellow part of the trail.  BTW, JERSEY guys can be easy going, mellow themselves.

Easy-going Jersey guy

Easy-going Jersey guy

The nine-mile round trip Pinwheel Vista hike through the rolling mountains of JERSEY has its trees that are not fully leafed out.   But today’s spring green is a most pleasing-to-the-eye forest color.

White blazes of the Appalachian Trail

White blazes of the Appalachian Trail

Setting out at 1120A, we are shooting for a rockin’ three miles per hour pace to complete the nine mile hike in around three hours.  What’s the hurry sister and brother, you may be thinking.  We have an evening motel reservation in Newark, Delaware, which means we’ll be traveling the length of JERSEY during the afternoon commuter rush hour when we finish the hike.

Hannah by the puncheons through the boggy part of the trail

Hannah by the puncheons through the boggy part of the trail

With drizzle and a thundershower in the forecast, we find the well-marked trail moist but not too sloppy and messy.  And then voila, we see a hiker with a huge pack and I greet him with Are you a thru-hiker (meaning he’s hiking the AT from Georgia to Maine in one calendar year).  His trail name is Captain Cook; he’s, in fact, is a section hiker hiking a part of the AT; in his case he is going from Pennsylvania to Vermont this time.  Still looking for a trail name myself and with no nautical experience, I find his trail name doesn’t bring me any closer to finding one for myself.


The red spotted newt on the trail.  “He” is an intermediate terrestrial version, as “he” started in the water and the adult form returns to the water.  This stage is called an “eft”.  (Thank you Patty P for this information.)

The red spotted newt on the trail. “He” is an intermediate terrestrial version, as “he” started in the water and the adult form returns to the water. This stage is called an “eft”. (Thank you Patty P for this information.)

An hour into our hike, we spot an athletic looking hiker with a back pack who acknowledges he’s a thru-hiker, having left Springer Mountain in Georgia on his way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.  His trail name is Sloth, which he says, when we ask, is an inside joke.  Way inside for this lean and fit college student (University of North Carolina) is no sloth; since late February, he and his buddy have completed 1350 of 2179 miles of the trail.  Maybe irony in a trail name is the way for me to go?  Dancing Dan?  I think not.

9 D on trail above stream VCU

Soon his buddy Rameses (trail name) comes by.  Rameses is the animal mascot of UNC.  Just as athletic, Rameses says this is one helluva way to spend a spring semester and he doesn’t have to pay tuition.  Like the Mormons on missions and the British with their gap year, these young men have stepped away from their university studies to take an unconventional path.  Maybe a college nickname as a trail name might work for me?   Sun Devil Dan?  Nah.

Cable secures this bridge during high water

Cable secures this bridge during high water

Feeling a time crunch to find Pinwheel Vista, we know the geography of JERSEY is not our friend today.  We have some 220 miles to our motel in Newark, Delaware (pronounced New-Ark) going through the belly of the beast of JERSEY traffic.  We have been had for dinner by the Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike before.  We keep up a good pace on the trail and are looking for the blue blaze side trail to Pinwheel Vista.

9F river on trail

Approaching the 90 minute mark of the hike and still seeing no blue blaze marking to Pinwheel Vista, we find ourselves heading down the other side of the mountain!  That is not a good thing!  We are supposed to be at a vista.  And then we meet Stephanie and Heather, college girls from JERSEY, who are hiking up the mountain from the opposite direction.  When we ask if they have seen any blue blazes to Pinwheel Vista, they shake their heads no.

Blue blaze trail to Pinwheel Vista

Blue blaze trail to Pinwheel Vista

Retracing our steps, they help us find, in literally 100 feet, the massive pile of rocks indicating the Pinwheel Vista turn-off; its blue blaze hidden behind the leaves of a newly greening small tree.  We had walked right by it!  In 100 yards we are looking over the valley to the Pochuck Mountains on this quite humid and threatening-to-rain day.

Dan and Hannah at Pinwheel Vista

Dan and Hannah at Pinwheel Vista

A quick look and then it’s time to turn for the trailhead.  With a purposeful, steady pace, we cruise through the forest.  I’m so fortunate to be married to someone so athletically fit who can cruise (and likes to!) along the trails in the mountains, over the streams, and through the woods.  (You can sing that last sentence to the tune of Jingle Bells.)

Meeting the two college girls from JERSEY who went to college at William Paterson University (where I spent a summer in 1969), I just may have my AT trail name: Jersey!

Enjoy this one minute video heading for the trailhead at Wawayanda State Park.


Rawding boys

Leaving Wawayanda State Park by 320P, we are no match for late afternoon JERSEY commuter traffic.  What is normally a three hour trip to Delaware takes us five hours.  Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.  So sayeth Davy Crockett.

Molly with her sons, Owen and Max

Molly with their sons, Owen and Max

No matter, for tomorrow we will see our six day old grandson Max and his what’s-happening two year old big brother Owen.

Dan and Hannah Say Good-bye to Dan’s Mom

Santa Barbara palms

Santa Barbara palms

It’s a sunny January day in the 80s in Santa Barbara, California.  Though it is the rainy season in the Golden State, there has been little rain for months, really years.  The hills and fields are parched and baked a dusty brown.  The drought is epic and serious; the very modest silver lining is that conditions are ideal for hikers like Hannah and me.

After hiking the beach at high tide in Summerland ten miles to the south, Hannah and I are resting at our Quality Inn motel prior to an afternoon hike to Inspiration Point in the Front Range of the Santa Inez Mountains near Santa Barbara.

Hannah at Summerland beach near Santa Barbara

Hannah at Summerland beach near Santa Barbara on another cloudless day in California

Then my sister Patty calls with news that Mom’s doctor has given her permission to stop eating and drinking; in addition to lung cancer, Mom’s body is no longer absorbing nutrients anyway.  I learn that without food or water people can last one or two weeks, maybe more; especially someone as fit as Mom who was still going to the gym six days a week at the age of 92.

Now Mom is in northern New Jersey and I am some 3000 miles away on the coast of California.  What is a good son to do?

Mom at 92

Mom at 92

My impulse is to return immediately to New Jersey on the next flight out of LAX, the Los Angeles airport some 70 miles to the south.  The dramatic gesture!

USA map

Is it selfish for me to stay in California on a hiking vacation while her life is rapidly closing?  I am unsure and unsteady.  My core beliefs about meaningful relationships and friendships bang up against these first instincts.

Our local York coffee shoppe

Our local York coffee shoppe

For me, I believe that love is shown by a lifetime of moments together, breakfasts and dinners, road trips, and making soup and biscuits for another, not the showy once-a-year appearances, beautiful flowers, or expensive gifts.  It’s listening when another’s heart is heavy.  It’s going out for coffee to just talk.   It’s playing Words With Friends on the computer on a daily basis to stay connected.  It’s checking in regularly.  It’s celebrating a small victory or large, be it making the team or having the girl of your dreams say “yes” to a first date.  It’s the long line of moments that cement relationships and make them real.

For me, grand gestures of love are overrated.  It’s the day-to-day, consistent interest and care for another that builds strong relationships.  Mom and I have a 66 year backlog of such love, such regular times together.

Still, what does a good son do when his mother has chosen to take such a definitive final step on her life journey?

And then as the universe and God so often do, my sister’s husband Glenn provides the simple advice that parts the clouds and lets the sun stream through.

He says, Ask her what she wants you to do.   Brilliant.  Rather than tie myself in knots of duty, guilt, and misplaced obligation, I can ask her.

Still of very clear of mind, Mom responds to my question whether she would like Hannah and me to come back East to be with her now by emphatically saying, Absolutely not.  That would be nonsense.

The bluffs of Montana De Oro State Park, California

The view from the bluffs of Montana De Oro State Park, California

And that’s that.  Hannah and I will continue as planned up the Pacific coast to hike the ocean bluffs near Pismo Beach, Santa Cruz, and Gualala, California for the coming week.  I know there are no guarantees that Mom will be alive when we return.  Yet I know I have had 66 bountiful years as her son.

I am at peace, for our relationship is strong.  I respect her decision.  I trust her.  I don’t want to be so arrogant to think that I know better than she does whether I should return or not.

Each morning at 630A Pacific time I check in with her by phone, for she is up and about at 930A on the East coast.  We talk and she still wonders what we are doing and where we are.  I fill her on hikes at Montana De Oro State Park near of San Luis Obispo and the bluff trail at the Wilder Ranch State Park near Santa Cruz just south of San Francisco.

Bluff trail near Santa Cruz, California

Bluff trail near Santa Cruz, California

Each night I read to her over the phone from Garrison Keillor’s Homegrown Democrat, a book she loves as a lifelong Democrat herself.  Mom lives what Democrats believe: promoting the common good, serving others, being generous of heart, being optimistic, and living with hope.    We stay connected and she knows she is loved 3000 miles away.

Homegrown Democrat

As fate or the universe or God would have it, Mom is alive nine days later when I arrive in New Jersey at her senior living apartment.  That first night her three children (my brother Richard, sister Patty, and I) sit with Mom as she lies in bed.  We toast her life, tell her how beautiful she is and how much we love her, sing to her, and say good-bye to our mother.  She believed in us throughout our lives and took control of her last days.

She passed peacefully three days later.

Mom (eight days before she died)

Mom (eight days before she died)

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.

Dan and Hannah and Mom

Three days before Mother’s Day, Becky’s 92 year old Mom died peacefully.  Right til the end she lived in her own home.  No nursing home, no extended stay in the hospital, no pain.  She lived the dream.

Our sister-in-law Becky had moved to Maine some year and a half ago to be near her, living in the condo just above her mom in Portland.  They had plays, concerts, meals, and Sundays together.

Today in Portland the family and many friends gather to celebrate her life.

Of course, Gamma’s passing got me thinking of our mom.  (Using my mom feels too personally possessive and proprietary, like I am claiming someone that I rightfully share with my brother Richard and sister Patty.)  Mom turned 92 early this month.  She, too, lives independently, in a complex for 2000 seniors.  At any one time, she may be enrolled in 20 Elder Hostel courses or having friends to her apartment.  Each evening, she has dinner with friends and a movie out if she wants.  She’s just so upbeat and interested in others that people love to be around her.  And Mamoo loves time with her great grandson.

Owen with his great grandmother

Owen with his great grandmother

She has had her physical challenges.  Who hasn’t?

Two questions guide me as I think about Mom and any medical issues that lie ahead.

             What does Mom want?   

             What would her doctor do if she were her 92 year old mother?

She decides her final act.  Our job is to listen.

I’m in your corner, and I can’t say it too much, I love you Mom.

Mamoo with her grandson Will

Mamoo with her grandson Will

Hurricane Sandy Update from the Owners of the Beach Haven Motel on Long Beach Island, NJ

I emailed the owners of the Beach Haven Motel where we stayed days before Hurricane Sandy to let them know I wrote about them on my blog and to see how things are for them on Long Beach Island.  This is their email response.   Dan

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Rothermel,
     Thank you for the kind email and even kinder report on our motel.  The storm was a real experience.  We’ve lived here 65 years and this was the worst storm we ever had.  The motel suffered 28″ of water in the first floor rooms and office.  We left the island on Wednesday after we lost electricity, water, sewer and gas services.  We have flood insurance and have started to repair and rebuild the damaged rooms.  We hope to have the second floor open by around December 1 and then add additional rooms as they are rebuilt and refurnished.  Believe it or not we have a lot of calls for the roooms due to FEMA and others that need them to rebuild the island.  We would rather not get business this way as there is a lot of displaced persons around here.   In any case we are safe and sound and are working every day to get back to normal .  Again thank you for your kind remarks and for thinking of us.  Regards, Bill and Dennis Flynn
PS  Coming home from Virginia this spring, Hannah and I plan to return to LBI and spend another night at the Beach Haven Motel.

Dan and Hannah Visit Long Beach Island (NJ) Just before Hurricane Sandy Blows In

Just five days before all hell broke loose, Hannah and I were standing on Long Beach Island looking north,

Looking north on Long Beach Island

then south on the expansive beach of white sand on the Atlantic Ocean.

South view of beach

We had no idea this would be ground zero for Hurricane Sandy’s fury in the coming days.

You see, as a child, I went here with my family to Beach Haven on the Jersey shore each summer.  A couple hours down the Garden State Parkway from our home in Fair Lawn, NJ, Long Beach Island was where we walked the docks seeing the yachts and pleasure boats that were alien to our life in the suburbs.  So when heading for home in Maine after visiting our daughter Molly’s family in Virginia, we decide to break up the 500+ mile trip home and head to Long Beach Island for the overnight.

Escaping north from Washington early on a late October Wednesday morning, we watch a ten mile backup on the opposite side in Maryland as we thankfully sail north out of harm’s way.  Off season driving on the I-95 corridor is often easy and in three hours we cross through Delaware and are heading East through the Pine Barrens of southern Jersey.  Truth be told, the Pine Barrens have quite a few oaks.  Jersey highway 72 is a straight shot to the coast and few cars travel with us this autumn morning, long after the tourist season.  Parallel to the highway are sandy trails, meant for four wheelers, not bikes or for walking since the sandy terrain would be too “mushy” for enjoyable riding or walking.

Route 72 in southern Jersey

Crossing the one bridge onto Long Beach Island, we are looking for Surf City.  (Surf City  [1963].  The Jan and Dean classic about two girls for every boy.  Does it get much better than that for a teenage boy!)  We turn north on Long Beach Boulevard looking for a motel.  What we find are vacation homes upon vacation homes packed together on this barrier island within yards of the Atlantic Ocean.  Heading north to Barnegat Lighthouse, we rarely see a motel or restaurant as we sail through Surf City, Loveladies, and Harvey Cedars.  Don’t you love a town called Loveladies?  In late October there are very few people in an area;  it is easy to imagine the congestion that we wouldn’t want to be within 100 miles of in the summer. The island reminds me of coastal Florida: very flat, wall-to-wall vacation homes, wide main boulevards with easy side street access to the beach, and sand everywhere.  No more than 100 or 200 yards wide, this barrier island stretches nearly 20 miles from Barnegat Lighthouse south to Beach Haven.

Hannah at Barnegat Lighthouse

At Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, we see fishermen on the jetties and look out to the next barrier island north where the residents have no idea that their Seaside Heights will be in ruin within the week.

Hannah on beach trail by Barnegat Lighthouse

The park has a ten minute trail through the pines that Hannah negotiates with her one crutch as she rehabs after fracturing her tibia while water skiing.

Beach trail at Barnegat Lighthouse

At this time of year, this would be ideal biking weather for us to ride along the wide shoulder roads with very little traffic.  The beaches are extraordinary and made for miles of evening walks, lovers hand in hand.  Alas we’ll return when Hannah is fully ambulatory.

Still looking for a motel, we punch “motels” into our GPS; many that are listed are closed today, two weeks after Columbus Day.  We pass empty houses on an island with 10,000 full time residents, 150,000 in the summer.  Most of the 10,000 must be hiding today.   Okay, it’s 3P and they might be working.

We see a sign for low rates at the Seashore Motel.  $60 sounds pretty sweet.  I step out of our Hyundai and proceed to the office door.  Asking if there is a room, I am met by a mid-40s woman who tilts her head and acts surprised that I want to see a room.  A min-red flag.  She says there’s a first floor room to our right which is open; we find the room with two double beds, fridge, microwave, and modern TV.  Looks fine, but something doesn’t feel right.  Since it’s the first place we look at, we decide to look at two more motels and see how they compare.  Back into the car, I know what’s wrong instantly.  The woman never smiled.  Big red flag.  Someone in the service industry who doesn’t smile at customers is not a good sign.  It’s off season and rooms are hard to rent.  What other unfriendliness and inattention will we encounter if we stay?

Haven Beach Motel

Further south on Long Beach Avenue, we pull into the Haven Beach Motel.  Immediately engaging Gaelic Dennis Flynn who says he’s got a room for $45. When I ask if we can have a room away from the road, he hands us a key for the room farthest from the road on the second floor.  Smiles all around.  How hard is that?  The room is delightfully open with two full beds, Wi-Fi, flat screen TV, fridge, sitting table and microwave.   Our search for a room is over and we will spend the night here in a room that goes for $170+ in- season.  Tonight only three of the 18 rooms will be rented.

With no Subway in the area, we opt for dinner from the Acme Market five tenths of a mile away.  It turns out we are 40% of the five people in the grocery store’s ten aisles.  Leafy romaine lettuce mixed with potato salad for me, cottage cheese for Hannah will be tonight’s repast.  First though, we toast the night with a fine merlot from the second floor deck outside our room.  Beneath us our 30 some mallards lounging in the motel swimming pool.

Ducks in the motel pool

Dennis Flynn says some motel owners put monofilament fishing line across the pool to keep the ducks out, but he doesn’t because they get tangled in it.  He just cleans up any mess in the spring.

Long Beach Island vacation homes

We are a mere 150 yards from the beach down a side street with vacation homes from the petite to the McMansion-esque.  The dunes “protect” them from the ocean waves not 80 feet away.  Many yards are covered with white stones where the vacationers park their cars.  We notice that you can park on these side streets for free, but it’s hard to imagine there is much room in-season.

Dan at beach path

The next morning, we walk to the beach, Hannah’s crutch sinking into the sand.  With 400 miles to drive home to Maine through the maw and gut of New Jersey on its Turnpike and later to cross the George Washington Bridge, we head for home.  Little did we know that Long Beach Island would be the bulls-eye for Hurricane Sandy.  A call I made to the Haven Beach Motel five days later found the line dead.

Days later after Hurricane Sandy

It’s eerie thinking just five days later this island was literally swamped.  (CBS News focused on Long Beach Island [5m 30s]).   Online I find this review from the Newark Star Ledger.  From the article is this quote The nearby Acme supermarket appeared to be intact, but piles of debris littered the parking lot.

Two hours away in northern Jersey my mom lost power for four days at her senior independent living complex.  A teacher friend in Long Island missed seven days of school.  A colleague in Connecticut was without power for six days.  Will this be the wake-up call that spurs us to action?   Our grandson Owen and his fellow three month olds are counting on us.

A member of the next generation