We have just completed our 28th week on the road. The Old Home has taken us 15,000 miles through 31 states (plus DC and 1 Province). We have slept in 47 different beds in 47 different cities, towns, and villages; explored caves and caverns, cliff dwellings, Civil and Revolutionary War sites; attended Mardi Gras, the Masters, the Kentucky Derby, plays, concerts, and baseball games in St. Louis, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Boston; visited the Kennedy and Roosevelt Presidential Libraries, Kennedy Space Center, Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Stonewall Jackson’s home, Abe Lincoln’s home, Grand Ole Opry, Graceland, Cooperstown, several Vanderbilt mansions, 5 National Parks (Acadia, Carlsbad Caverns, Smokey Mountains, Mammoth Cave, and Shenandoah), Kill Devil Hills, and Niagara Falls. We have hiked, biked and paddled hundreds of miles. We are now half way through our trip which has been everything we hoped and then some.
Our blog is meant to serve several purposes. First, it is our diary. Recording our experiences with words and pictures has already proven invaluable to our aging and forgetful minds. Having the blog will enable us to relive the journey for years to come (and it will no doubt allow us to settle various disagreements that arise about where we were, when we were, and what we did). Second, some friends and family wanted to follow us, track us, and in some cases even join us. Our small but loyal group has truly helped us with knowledgeable suggestions, recommendations, accommodations, and encouragement. Lastly, we wanted to monitor “us”. You have to wonder what this kind of a change in lifestyle does to you individually and as a couple. How are we getting along, how are we feeling physically and mentally. What, if anything, has changed?
This post will attempt to address our last blog goal. We have been discussing “our condition” lately and it turns out that we are pretty bad at expressing this kind of thing. Typical conversation:
Bob: Hey Rob, give me an observation…..something you feel you’ve learned during our trip.
Robin: Well….. I’ve learned that I really don’t like sharing a sink with you. How about you?
Bob: Agreed. I’ve noticed that B&B’s tend to have really small sinks. It’s hard not to make a mess.
So, are we that shallow or that secure with ourselves? We had a good laugh about it and decided that after all we have done and seen, we would try to be a bit more introspective……”try” being the operative word. If only we could express ourselves the way people did centuries ago. Reading letters and speeches from the Revolutionary and Civil War eras, you gain a real appreciation for how eloquent people once were in expressing their thoughts. I wonder what they would think of texting?
So, sink aside, we really are getting along marvelously. Whew! We have never spent this much time together (who has) and knowing how people change after 35 years of work, kids and life, one has to wonder. We consider ourselves very lucky. Not that we don’t have our moments! They are just very few and far between (and apparently all my fault…lol).
Robin seems to have really found her stride on this trip. She is our researcher, planner, coordinator and tracker (in other words I just drive and blog). She is interested in everything. Almost every town we pass through on the way to a scheduled destination gets a thorough vetting. Population, history, educational institutions and most importantly…notable people, are researched and recited. So, what do Francis Scott Key, Patsy Cline and Barbara Fritchie all have in common? Well, they all come from Frederick Maryland! I think by the end of our trip we will know exactly where most famous people come from. Barbara Fritchie? You can do your own research on that one! Now Robin’s latest thing is to live on a working farm for a few days…….this has me a bit concerned…
Ever the pragmatist, Robin keeps the trip moving along, making sure we’re prepared and getting the most out of every stop. She keeps it all together for us.
As for myself, well, I don’t think I will ever get tired of visiting historic places and seeing historic artifacts. I really enjoy being on location……….so much better than the textbook picture or TV documentary. I find myself envious of people that grew up on the East Coast and had access to all of this history. I would have been such a better student!
Retirement: The other morning at breakfast, one of the B&B guests asked what I do for a living. Robin immediately piped in “he’s retired”. That has happened a few times this trip and for some reason I can’t get the words out before she does. Not sure what that means. My friend Chuck Rosenberg helped me decide that “what comes next” is a question best contemplated when our journey ends and no sooner. I like that idea….one less thing to worry about. Perhaps I’ll have an epiphany one of these days……..perhaps not. One thing for sure, I rarely think about work.
I find I am still the “defensive” pessimist I’ve always been (those that have seen me park a car can attest). I figured I would loosen up somewhat with all of this constant changing of location and being in new and different environments every few days. You know….just go with the flow. Not going to happen. So, (time to rationalize) maybe constantly assuming the worst will happen and constantly planning for it isn’t such a bad thing? It’s just time consuming…but I think it keeps me sane.
Some of our observations:
- It amazes us how many cities and towns located on scenic waterways have not developed their waterfronts.
- Southerners really are more polite than Northerners.
- The nation’s highways are in pretty bad shape.
- Most panhandlers: Memphis, Chicago a close second.
- Most creative panhandlers: Nashville and Chattanooga (not unusual to pull into a parking lot (sometimes a very empty parking lot) and be directed to an open spot…gratuities accepted).
- Every town in the East (North and South) has memorials to their Civil War dead.
- Monuments in the South inscribe “The War for State’s Rights” or “The War Against Northern Aggression”
- In the North it is “The War to preserve the Union” and “The War to Abolish Slavery”
- If you plan to drive through the Northeast sector of the country, buy an EZ pass. They love their toll roads.
- Boston has the easiest Subway system to learn and navigate. DC seems pretty easy too.
- Worst drivers: DC
- Best find: Presidential Libraries
- B&B’s really do tend to have very small sinks.
What have we enjoyed the most?
- Visiting with family and friends, traveling with family and friends, the occasional dinner with our friend’s millennial children.
- We think the best single day was at the Masters. We had a picture perfect day and wonderful hosts (thanks again to the Jeffries). Attending has been a dream of ours for decades and the event exceeded all of our lofty expectations.
- Favorite cities: Sedona, Savannah, Charlestown, Chicago, Boston and Bar Harbor all stand out. Savannah and Charleston being uniquely charming and visitor friendly. Chicago and Boston being very cultural, entertaining, and walkable. Sedona you have to see to believe. Bar Harbor and Acadia were a blast and so beautiful; just the quintessential historic coastal Maine town. We also had a really good time in Austin and St. Louis. Asheville NC is also a favorite (great hikes, very scenic).
- Several towns we literally blew through that we easily could have stayed longer include Durham NC, Lancaster PA, and Austin TX
- Food: We have had some great meals everywhere we have visited. A few standouts include New Orleans (oysters, po’ boys), Savannah and Charlestown (especially for breakfast), Memphis (so far the best ribs, Austin a close second), Chicago (steak, pizza and serving size), Boston (Italian seafood), and of course Maine for lobster.
- Best beer: Sam Adams Lager and Leinenkugel Summer Shandy.
- Best cave or cavern: Carlsbad
- Best accommodations: Scottsdale AZ, Silver City NM, Boston MA
- Best Civil War Battlefield: Gettysburg
What part(s) of the trip have we found lacking (but still enjoyed)?
- Our worst night was in the Shenandoah Valley where we shared a very rustic cabin at Skyland Resort with countless spiders, crickets and centipedes. The Park is gorgeous. We hope to return someday (during Autumn) but will check out the lodge.
- Gatlinburg, TN. The Smokey Mountains are beautiful and we found several great trails to explore. Also saw several bears. However, the city itself is completely dedicated to entertaining small children. So, if you want endless amusement venues (Ripley’s believe it or not, Wax Museums, Haunted Houses), candy shops and pizza, this is your place.
- Memphis. We found Graceland a bit corny but the Civil Rights Museum was well worth the visit. I think we are too old to appreciate Beal Street although we did have some amazing ribs at one of the local restaurants. The city seems very poor and dirty.
So, time to get on with the second half! We just arrived in Washington DC yesterday. No shortage of history here, so we are pretty excited about the next couple weeks.
To close the post, here is a little video from Acadia National Park. We call it “Finding Robinster”. Enjoy!