The Total Solar Eclipse

We are not known for planning our trips very far ahead; usually just a few days. This year we had a couple of destinations in mind; Pennsylvania in June and the total solar eclipse in Mid Missouri in August. We just kinda wander around in between, visiting friends and riding bike trails.

We planned to be at Marni and Eric’s a year ahead for the eclipse. Eclipse glasses, check. Solar filter for my camera, check. Jim built me a custom solar filter for my DSLR and I went out a day ahead to practice a little. First I discovered that my tripod would not point the camera straight up enough into the sky. It just wouldn’t lean back enough. I improvised using my selfie stick as a tripod leg and got a good working arrangement. All ready for the party and friends on the 21st.

The 21st dawned clear and hot. Friends Doc and J came from the Lake of the Ozarks to howl at the moon with us.
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These are all SOOC (straight out of camera)

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Just beginning…
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A few clouds moved through… Go away clouds!DSC_0565DSC_0605DSC_0630
Almost complete totality…DSC_0653
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And the Diamond Ring! I got it!DSC_0671
Moving away, solar filter back on.DSC_0677DSC_0700

After this picture the clouds moved in and obscured the rest. We were thrilled that we got to see almost the whole three hours up to this point! What a fantastic experience!

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Whirlwind Week!

We planned some time in Kansas City to see Jim’s dad, keep appointments, shop and restock and visit with friends and family. Celebrate my birthday. Eat some barbecue. And have some downtime. That’s not too much, right? We planned to stay in our usual spot at the Elks in Grandview where we and the cats have the place to ourselves. We were also expecting mail and packages there. And there’s fresh catnip too.
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Carmella on the deck

On the way into town from the north we got our first surprise. A van pulled alongside the bus and the driver started waving at Jim. He said, “It’s Bob!” And indeed it was our very old friend Bob. We both pulled off and compared eclipse plans.
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It was a good thing we had Jim’s dad’s car for the week and knew our way around; we ended up flying around the whole week. We did get a lot of stuff crossed off the list and a few problems solved. Worthwhile but whirlwind.

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Jim’s dad made us another stained glass piece for our bus and now it hangs right below the one of the cats he gave us. We stow them while driving but we put them up when we sit awhile. He is 95 years young. Good genes, baby.
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My friend Laura came out to the bus and brought some extra eclipse glasses. We had a good time catching up. It is very difficult to take pictures when you can’t see anything!

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We got to see a ten year old tragedy solved when they found the remains of a girl who had been missing for over ten years. Seventeen year old Kara Kopetsky disappeared in 2007 and for ten years afterward this sign stood at her mom’s house in Grandview. They altered the sign after she was found.

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We enjoyed Happy Hour at Nick and Jake’s for my birthday. Bleu cheese stuffed olives and ahi tuna! Yum. I am officially old now.

The skies over Grandview during our stay.

From here we are off to Marni and Eric’s in Mid Missouri for the total solar eclipse. We will likely stay there several days and catch up with Columbia friends. And ride bikes on the Katy Trail, of course.

When we left KC heading for our eclipse spot, another car pulled alongside and Jim said, “It’s Chris!” And our friend and neighbor from Kansas pulled over and we had an impromptu chat. First two times that has ever happened! We have gotten a couple emails from other travelers who said they saw us. I guess the bus is hard to miss.

 

The North Coast Inland Trail

Once Jim got permission from the Fremont, Ohio Mayor’s office, we set up camp in the East Side Park, right next to the North Coast Inland Trail. We planned to stay for a few days and were all stocked up from our re-positioning day, fuel, groceries, ice, liquor; check!

Oh Ohio! Our parking spot was close to the railroad tracks but not as close as in Nelliston, New York where the trains were long, loud and constant. The cats ventured outside here but they could always tell when the train was coming; you feel it before you hear it. Trains are good cat control.

We rode about 26 miles to Lindsey and back the first day. The trail had just been resurfaced and it was like a superhighway. With lots of good old Midwestern skies to go along with it. And corn! I had fun fooling around with panoramas, down to up and side to side. The sky was magnificent!

The next day was also a gorgeous day so we rode to the end of the trail to Bellevue and back, about 28 miles. Part of this section was right along the tracks so, yeah, more graffiti.

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The city of Clyde, Ohio has really rolled out the red carpet for trail riders, they have gazebos and flowers and lots of places to stop and rest. It’s kind of funny that this is a rails-to-trails bike path but another railroad runs right alongside. From the historical markers on many of the trails, the competing railroads each laid their own track. Talk about a chance to cooperate… Naw.


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For my buddy Paul

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We had planned to leave today anyway but since it was Monday there was more activity in the park and a few worker’s trucks came to check out the bus. While we were having breakfast, we got a visit from the Parks Director who told us, “You can’t camp here.” We explained that we had gotten permission from the Mayor’s office but no go. We were planning to leave anyway so no harm done and we had a great weekend stay. We ate some good Mexican food, toured the historic houses on Hayes Street and rode by the Rutherford Hayes Presidential Library but didn’t visit it. I have actually never been to a Presidential Library. Maybe that would be a good theme to take up after we have ridden all the bike trails.

Tonight we are in Lafayette, Indiana, making our way back to mid Missouri for the total solar eclipse August 21. We have a great camping spot at Eric and Marni’s place right on the Katy Trail and Sandy and Carl will be joining us.

Before that we will hit Kansas City to see Jim’s dad, practice yoga with Emily and catch up with friends. We will be there for First Friday where they are having a street art paint event. Maybe we should take the bus… Nope.

Long Live Rock!

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From New York we headed for Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jim found RV parking by the Browns’ Stadium just a short walk from the Hall. I don’t really have a Bucket List but The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is definitely a Bucket List item for anybody our age. Ahem.

There was about three acres of parking and very few parked there. Perfect! We walked to a nearby watering hole for Happy Hour and settled in for the evening on our return.

About 2:00 AM we were awakened by three buses who parked surrounding us! Like I said, there were about three acres of parking but they had to be right by us. Why do people do this? And their engines were left running. I went and knocked on the door of the closest one and asked if they were planning to run their engines all night since the diesel was coming in the windows. The guy was a total jerk and got abusive and profane. I suggested that maybe they could go to another part of the lot. He refused. He said they paid $100 to park there (it was only $25) and he would park where he pleased. He was swearing up a storm! The next thing we knew a bunch of cop cars swooped in. I got out and explained the situation and told them they guy was being a threatening and profane jerk. We ended up moving our bus to another part of the lot. They were still there in the morning, engines running.

Most of the people we encounter in the bus are really nice and friendly so this was different. I was glad the police came though; they figured out right away that we were not causing the problem.

Anyway, the Hall… They did a great job of explaining the history of Rock and Roll from Robert Johnson, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday and all the others who shaped the genre. There are all kinds of interactive displays and of course, music everywhere.

They were preparing a special exhibit on Johnny Cash. He had a 1979 MCI, just two years older than ours! I like ours better.

From the Summer of Love Turns 50. Love that genre of graphics…

Seeing the clothes was interesting too, not just because some were totally outrageous but a lot of these people, including Elvis, were really small.


One of the most interesting exhibits was the 50 years of Rolling Stone magazine. The inception, development and literary and investigative essence of rock and roll’s journey was unique. I remember lots of them.
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When we got back to the bus the other buses were gone. Whew! We moved to a nearby Walmart in Avon, Ohio for the night. We were preparing to go to Norwalk Elks to ride the North Coast Inland Trail even though the trail was a ways from the Lodge.

When I came back from shopping Jim said he had found us a better place to stay, the city park in Fremont, right on the same trail! Free, quiet and safe. Sometimes it pays to not have a plan.

The Erie Canal Heritage Trail

From Nelliston we motored over past Rochester to Brockport, New York. They have an Elks Lodge there, #2110 and we settled in. We had the whole lot and a park-like setting to ourselves. Astrid even came out and hung around on her leash. This is real progress! Carmella caught three mice. Did we mention how we love the Elks?

The next morning we got the bikes out and headed toward Hulberton, about 22 miles. This trail is a towpath trail right along the canal so it was nice to ride along the canal. There are drawbridges, beautiful gardens and lots of little villages to explore.

I had set my sights on eating at the local Lebanese restaurant; they consistently got five stars on Yelp. When we got back to Brockport we were starving and prepared to feast. Unfortunately the guy there said they could make us a salad but they had no pita bread. And Pita was the name of the restaurant! He said he would have some in an hour but we couldn’t wait so we went to a burger joint up the street. Their restroom doors:

The next day it rained so we didn’t go back but the third day we did and they were closed! Note on the door “Sorry!” Grrr. We never did get to eat there. But we did have good sandwiches at the Barber’s Grill and Taproom.
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Some scenes along the canal. This place had one of the most spectacular gardens ever! Mr. Buck Noble came over to chat. Hi Buck!

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This part of New York is truly beautiful. Lush and green with dramatic skies. And the bike trails go on for hundreds of miles!

Toward Spencerport:


From Brockport we made our way to another Elks Lodge right on Lake Erie. Sunset the first night:

Next stop: Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!

The Erie Canal Trailway System

We wound our way up and through the mountains of Vermont through Killington and several other ski areas before settling in our Elks Lodge in Nelliston, New York. Ski areas=slow going for the bus but we made it in a long day.

Sometimes it happens that the last 10 or 15 miles are the most eventful and this proved true here. As we made our way to Nelliston/Canajoharie and Ft. Plain area, we saw a cloud of smoke in the distance. Google Maps said there was an accident causing delays. But it wasn’t an accident; it was a full blown smoke and flame fire that had erupted in an auto repair business in Fonda, just short of our destination.

We were diverted onto Rt. 5s and made it to the Elks just fine. They have a 30 amp hookup and water at the lodge. The lodge is right between the Mohawk River and the railroad tracks. When I asked a member how often the trains came through, he said “About every ten minutes.” Whoa! We are right up against the tracks but it proved to be interesting to be in a moving art gallery. With lots of unfinished work… I know lots of people don’t like graffiti but I’ll take my art where I can get it. And I’m a graphic designer who would love to be able to do graphics like these. And finish them.

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We wanted to get in several days of bike riding to counteract all the eating we’ve been doing!

The Erie Canalway Trail System is great! It runs for hundreds of miles through some of the most beautiful parts of the state of New York. The first day we rode about 40 miles and back to Little Falls. Lots of cool Erie Canal history along the way and working locks too.

We took a break for a day and then rode another 25 miles past Canajoharie to Randall.
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In Canajoharie, a historic school.mohawk-pano-2
The Mohawk River… On the far left side you can see the bus tucked behind the Elks. The bridge this is taken from is between the tracks and the trail. In the river valley everything happens. The New York State Thruway, the river, the tracks, the canal, it all flows through here.

The only downside is that we really wanted to eat at the local Farm to Table Restaurant which gets great reviews on Yelp. I thought we would be able to go on Sunday, but they are only open Wednesday through Saturday. Next time.

We are off tomorrow to Bridgeport, New York for another Elks Lodge which is conveniently located near the Erie Canal Heritage Trail. Making our way to mid Missouri for the total solar eclipse and more meet-ups with friends. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the Way.

Showering Outdoors? Why not!

One of the first things we did after we got the bus (and we did a lot of stuff before it was ready for the road) was install an outdoor shower in the water bay.

We have a large waste tank onboard. 165 gallons for both black and gray water. So we can sit a couple of weeks if we are careful with our water usage. It is not unusual for us to be parked where fresh water is available, but there is no RV dump station nearby so if we can keep that black/gray tank filling slowly we can stay longer. Its no surprise that we quickly learned that washing dishes and showering are the two activities that fill the black/gray tank the fastest – and yes, we take nautical showers. Whenever we are in a location where it is appropriate, we can save a lot just by dumping our dirty dish water outside instead of down the drain. If we could do the same for showers, so much the better!

So we needed a way to take better advantage of that outdoor shower. I had some time to kill here in Nelliston, NY at the Elks lodge so I rode my bike up to the local ACE hardware store looking for my outdoor shower kit. Here’s what I cam up with:

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Several 30″ sections of 3/4″ CPVC

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Assorted couplers, 90’s and T fittings

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Reducers and 1/2″ CPVC

I found these holes in the top edge of the bay doors – how convenient! So a little grinding with a drill and coarse bit enlarged them just enough for the 1/2″ CPVC.

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With the reducers and 1/2′ CPVC the uprights are supported by the bay doors.

I figured that with the bay doors and 16″ of curtain we’d have a nice private shower stall right out under the sky! So another trip to the Dollar General for shower curtains and I had it nearly complete.

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The curtain supports are installed.

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A look from the side.

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Finished!

I used a few small pieces of adhesive-backed hook and loop on the uprights to secure the shower curtain to the uprights during use. That keeps the surprises for the user and gawkers down to a minimum (wind allowing). Finally I glued all the vertical pieces and left the horizontal parts unglued and it all folds up into a nice little bundle for storage. I numbered the fittings and horizontals so reassembly is a no-brainer.

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It should all fit nicely into a small cloth bag I have laying around.

Winzah For the Win!

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After we digested all the lobster and coffeecake we set out for Windsor, the birthplace of Vermont. Also the home of three of my long lost cousins on the Miller side. Actually, my only first cousins on any side… It was time to catch up with them. We met up with cousin Gaile and her husband Ken a few years ago. I hadn’t seen Lana for almost 27 years, Doug for 40 or Donnie for over 50 years!

They are the kids of my Uncle Chick, my mom’s brother. Chick was quite the legend in this part of Vermont. He was the brains and brawn behind Miller Construction where he also built himself an airstrip. Chick loved to fly. Instead of driving to a nearby location, he would fly. Either his Cessna or his Seaplane. Many years ago he and his oldest daughter Dottie, now deceased, flew into Canada and got grounded in a remote area. There was no radio contact and they were stuck for several days until Chick engineered a fix for the plane and flew out. I still have the newspaper article about that. Unfortunately he died as he lived, in a seaplane crash where his pontoons kept icing up and he eventually went down. He and his friend David Hall died, but as my mom said at the time, “Chick made sure his two grandkids in the plane survived.” We passed the Miller Construction sign on the way into town and I started to tear up for the loss of such a unique guy. My mom and I flew with Chick out of that field the last time we visited there, in like 1979. Chick died in 1982. Yikes! Time to catch up!

The Elks Lodge is right on Main Street and it was easy to walk around town and to Lana’s house. When we called about staying there the gentleman on the phone said you can stay three nights, then you have to leave for a night and can come back. Groan. Oh well, OK.

After a hilly ride we pulled into the Elks and Jim said, “I don’t think this is going to work…” The parking lot was smaller than it looked on Google Earth and we couldn’t really see a spot to park. Emily to the rescue! The Elks bartender just happens to be a relative of Lana and Brent’s and she had blocked off a spot for us right next to the building. She also said we could stay as long as we wanted. The Exalted Ruler came out to welcome us and even got us plugged in. We went in the lodge to have a drink and make our donation and met people who knew Chick and worked for Miller Construction.
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Early the next morning, a knock on the door. I looked out and knew it was Donnie; he looks just like Chick. I opened the door and he said, “I’m Donnie. What has it been, 50 years?” His wife Barbara is a creative chef with her own mouthwatering blog, Barbara’s Bistro.  He came in and handed me a jar of pickles and a loaf of still warm zucchini bread. He had picked the zucchini that morning and Barbara baked the bread. Needless to say, it was delicious and gone a few days later.

We made a plan to meet for lunch at Windsor Station, the still operating train station where they also have a gourmet restaurant and bar. Donnie is a songwriter and creative guy! He has been working with a team of musicians in Nashville and they have put his lyrics to music. “That’s My World”  describes the loss of his son, Ricky, in 2004. Ricky was one of the grandkids who was in the plane when Chick died in 1982. He wrote this song to celebrate Barbara and his 50th anniversary.

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Barbara and Donnie

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The waitresses’ boyfriend worked with Donnie on a virtual reality project for his arcade business.

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Donnie and me

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Donnie is also a movie star! “If I Could Bark” in which he plays an older gentleman, is a sequel to “If I Could Talk.”He wrote some lyrics and worked with Shawn Welling to make  a recent short film “The Last Ride.”  All animal lovers, please make sure to have your hankies ready when you watch. Filmed in Windsor and the surrounding area, they feature local attractions like the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge, the longest two span bridge in North America and still heavily used. My Uncle Chick’s grave and the beautiful Vermont fall landscape are also featured. And Lana’s house. Donnie is working on a new project called “If I Could Run” which will be filmed in Windsor this fall. Even though these short films are tearjerkers indeed, he said they had so much fun making them and working together with the people and dogs. Very well done, inspiring projects! We had a lovely lunch; we laughed and cried and connected as family again. We have to make sure not to wait another fifty years to see them.

Lana has a lot going on! She is a working hospice, oncology and same-day surgery nurse who rotates several jobs and assignments. An avid golfer, she follows in her mom Olive’s footsteps. Besides working and playing in golf tournaments while we were there, she and her husband Brent worked a check in and medical station at the Vermont 100, a 100 mile event for runners and horseback riders. After playing all day in a tournament, they put in a 12 hour shift at the event. They also had a houseguest who was walking the length of the Appalachian Trail. Hi Steve!
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Some of the horses before the event. Lana said one of the medical emergencies she dealt with was a horse had a seizure and kicked the rider, breaking her leg. The fastest runners finish the 100 mile course in 14 hours!

They drove us around part of the course in Vermont woods dark and deep. We love this type of local adventure, getting to see things we never would otherwise.

These guys are like the Energizer Bunny! Always in motion. They raised four kids, so they are used to being on the go. They are busy renovating and moving into a new house in Plainfield, New Hampshire and we got to see that work in progress and the surrounding countryside. They will share the unusual floorplan and separate living quarters with daughter Chelsea and grandson, Noah.
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On Saturday Jim went on a work-related event and BBQ with Brent while I caught up on work. Then Brent worked the VT 100! The next day, on little sleep for them, Lana took us on a long hike around Lake Runnymeade, known to the locals as Everett’s Pond.
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Baxter and Tess, the fearsome guard dogs.

We also had Happy Hour at Lana’s with Brent’s sister Donna and her husband. and a lovely pizza and calzone dinner from Pizza Chef. I bet hey slept well that night.

Every time there was a knock at the bus door we said, “Which Miller is this?” One morning Doug and his wife Betty came over to invite us for dinner that night. Naturally we accepted, eager to spend time with them and see their house across the covered bridge in Cornish. As Lana described, it is unique and quite famous in these parts. They started building it in 1977 and still adding touches. They have a beautiful view of Mt. Ascutney, the local monadnock. Large freestanding mountain not contained in a range.

Betty maintains a large garden and we enjoyed the evening getting reacquainted with Doug and acquainted with Betty. We enjoyed snacks, wine and dinner and a tour of the grounds.

And their house is indeed unusual. Lots of rock and wood heating going on there…
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The stove room. All that rock heats up!
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And their view of Mt. Ascutney. Doug sent this pic offering bus parking. Be careful what you wish for!
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The last day we planned a happy hour at the bus to thank all the Millers and Farnsworths for a wonderful warm visit. But first Lana served once again as chauffeur and tour guide and we went to St. Gaudens Historic Site. Augustus St. Gaudens is perhaps America’s best known sculptor and he was prolific! In his career, cut short by cancer in 1907 at 59 years old he produced many works, large and small. The grounds and house are fabulous with a lovely view of Mt. Ascutney. Of course. He was also part of the Cornish Colony, an association of artists and sculptors including Maxfield Parrish who lived and worked in the area.

There were fresh flower arrangements throughout the site, a really nice touch. And these hedges are about 12 feet tall and thick!

Donnie and Barbara had to leave town but everybody else came over to the bus for happy hour our last evening there. Even though they all live close together, they don’t see each other that often. They are a busy bunch!

What a fun time! It was fun to look back on our childhoods and what we remembered about each other’s families. Donnie remembered that when my Mom would pick him up at Grammy Miller’s house and bring him to her house that he always had to take off his shoes. I remembered Chick sitting at his kitchen table smoking a cigar and if it would break, he would tape it back together with a Bandaid and keep on smokin’! And I remember this verse from their house after all these years.

Sometimes, not often enough
We reflect on the good things.
And our thoughts always center around those we love.
And I think about the people who mean so much to me
And for so many years have made me so happy.
And I count the times I have forgotten to tell them
Thank You and I Love You.

Elsie: “I Like to Share…”

We met Elsie and John our first winter in Texas. When Elsie found out we didn’t have a car, she took us under her very formidable wing and often took one of us with her when she went shopping.

She is an early riser, unlike us, so many mornings we woke up to a note taped to the door regarding her next foray into town in case we needed anything. We quickly found out that she is a gardener and we had many chats about our gardens.

She is also a baker. All types of cookies, banana bread, date nut bread, coffeecakes and goodies found their way to the bus during the winter. With no oven or way to reciprocate I protested one day saying, “Elsie, you don’t need to chauffeur us around and feed us!” She looked right at me and said, “I like to share.” So simple and direct. And appreciated.

I did get to walk their two very cute kitties for a couple weeks when she had to fly back to Boston. I was happy to help. Buster and Betsy are brother and sister who are now a year old. With their Maine Coon fluffy tails and social demeanor, they are a true delight.

 

When we left Poughkeepsie it worked out that we could squeeze in a couple nights visit before they had family coming. We took off for Montague, Massachusetts and drove through very beautiful and picturesque areas before we arrived and parked in their driveway. All the New England gardens were in full bloom, adding to the enjoyable drive. The driveway was narrow but Jim backed the bus up and we were surrounded by beautiful flowers. Elsie said, “This is me.”
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We arrived in time for Happy Hour and it was hot! They have a Sandpipers style pool that was cool and refreshing. Carmella had a walkabout and Tikita met Buster and hissed at him. Buster and Carmella just laid under the bus together. That evening we feasted on spare ribs, corn and potatoes. If that wasn’t enough, we had homemade brownies and ice cream for dessert. Eating our way across the country continues! Yum!
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Carmella checks out the pool.

The next morning she resumed her giving ways and came to the bus to announce that she had made rhubarb coffeecake. It was delicious. Of course.

That day we did some laundry, walked the kitties, swam in the pool, toured the gardens and planned a lobster dinner. John got the lobsters, Jim grilled corn, Elsie got baguettes and I provided a bottle of wine. We were all completely stuffed by the time we each ate a two pound lobster! Or “sea bugs” as John calls them. We had all the tools but sometimes even the crackers weren’t doing the job and John used his powerful hands to help me crack the claws. Elsie also had a hammer, Elsie’s Enforcer, that we put to good use. We ate outside at the newspaper-covered picnic table and we still got butter all over ourselves. John said, “That’s what the pool is for” and we took advantage of it!

They were preparing for John’s daughter and three kids to visit so we limited our stay to the two nights to give them some breathing room. Besides, eating like that is not sustainable!

Elsie sent us along with some of her famous cranberry nut bread and chocolate chip cookies. She also picked a big bunch of catnip for the kitties. See Astrid enjoying it here.
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Jim had checked the oil in the bus on arrival and we needed to buy some more. John directed us to the Tractor Supply in Greenfield and we stocked up before taking off for Windsor, Vermont to meet up with some long lost cousins.

What a good time we had. New England is beautiful in the summertime and we got to enjoy it in a beautiful spot with special friends.

I have to go eat a chocolate chip cookie now.

Pedaling and Partying in Poughkeepsie

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Across the Hudson River we go!
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We made the trip from Milford to Poughkeepsie and got settled in at the Elks Lodge. The lodge backs up to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and the Dutchess Rail Trail and the views from the Walkway over the Hudson were amazing!
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The Elks had a pizza/calzone dinner night and we took advantage; both unique and excellent. They warned us that they were having a big motorcycle rally that weekend and that there would be lots of bikes. And there were! When we got back from our second day of riding, the parking lot was packed and Elks were taking advantage of the shade our awning provided. So we joined them, of course.

More trail scenes…

This trail is well used and we saw bikers, walkers and skaters of all ages. We got in about 45 miles, riding to both ends of the Dutchess Rail Trail and The Hudson Valley Rail Trail. Plus we got to meet and visit with more Elks, some of the nicest people there are!

Next: On to Massachusetts for a few nights with Elsie and John.