After spending a month on the road it feels nice to stay put for a bit. I recently read a blog that described various types of travelers. Destination travelers was the first group listed. I think those are the ones we most often encounter and until we retired I think we fell into this category. We generally aimed for a destination and then checked out all we could see in that area. When the kids were little we camped a lot. This was definitely the most economical way to go but also the kids had chances to explore and make new friends on their own in a way they never could have if we had been in a hotel. We did try a couple of summers traveling in an RV but because neither Bob nor I is particularly mechanical we gave this up. Now in our seventh year of nomadic life style I think we fall into the category of slow travelers. We like to see what we want to see and on our own time schedule. We generally aim for a couple of days a week of sightseeing.
There are generally two responses I hear again and again when folks first learn of our peripatetic lifestyle. The first is, “You’re living the dream.” And no doubt for me that is true. I have yet to find the location where I want to “settle down.” After seven years, Bob would like to slow down and finding three or four locations where we could return each year may be the best compromise for us. At least that’s our thinking for now. The other response is, “Wow! You are really big risk takers.” This is definitely not true. We do what we are comfortable doing. I like to look at travel guides and see what’s out there. When folks offer suggestions as in, “Oh, you’re going to (fill in the blank), you must …” I generally write it down and check it out later to see if that’s something that would interest us. I believe everyone has their own style of travel and there’s no one way that works for everyone. For me it’s important to follow our own path. I definitely don’t consider myself an adventurer. There are so many things that I would never consider as we travel: No small boats, few amusement parks (Tivoli Gardens being an exception) no helicopter rides, definitely no down escalators. And public baths? No way! When I plan (and all the planning generally fall to me), I plan what I know we both will enjoy at a pace where we can relax as we go. I look for opportunities to: interact with the locals and learn about their culture, experience the natural beauty of the area, visit gardens and museums of all types, try restaurants featuring the local cuisine. And of course. spending time with family and friends!
Through Labor Day weekend we were in suburban DC. This was something new for us. We like cities: the excitement, the things to do, the opportunities to meet interesting people. And especially because we don’t drive after dark, we like that we usually can find interesting places to walk for dinner. If not walk, then a short Uber ride. The big plus with the suburb was we’d be within a ten minute drive of our middle son’s family and three grandchildren. And because it was summer the kids were out of school! This was going to be especially nice given that we’d not seen them in over a year!
An extended stay allowed us lots of time to enjoy being together. We visited the Palisades Library branch in DC.
A second plus to being in the suburbs was the cost. Staying outside DC is considerably cheaper than being right in the city. A big drawback, however, was being tied to our car. We had to drive everywhere and because this is metropolitan DC there was horrific traffic everywhere, regardless of the hour.
One Saturday we decided to venture into Baltimore with Patrick and the grandkids to visit the National Aquarium. Even with the trip into DC to pick up Patrick before heading to Baltimore it was still less than a 60 mile trek. (Although it took nearly 2 hours!) As we were coming into Baltimore and passing near Fort McHenry, Uncle Patrick, attempting to add a bit of history into the conversation, asked the kids if anyone knew what famous song was written in Baltimore. Without missing a beat, Desmond, at age six, shouted out, ” We Will Rock You?” Hmmm…
The National Aquarium is the largest tourist attraction in the State of Maryland. From many of our travels I’ve learned the advantage of buying tickets on line. This was particularly helpful on this busy weekend. Three adults accompanied by three kids proved a very enjoyable way to see the aquarium, allowing us to view exhibits in pairs, not rushing anyone along.
The stated mission of the aquarium is to promote water conservation. There are more than 2,000,000 gallons of water in the aquarium and the facility is laid out with the water in the middle. Visitors follow a path around and up the five levels. It was a really fun afternoon. So many things to see and experience. We all enjoyed petting the sea creatures.
As we were leaving, Uncle Patrick asked if anyone wanted to take a boat ride in the harbor. We knew the kids were excited when there wasn’t one complaint as they waited for more than an hour in the hot sun for a 30 minute boat ride. The woman at the ticket counter shared her bottle of sun screen with me so we could ensure that we didn’t all end up looking like lobsters we had just seen in the aquarium! The boat tour was followed by a stop at Mr. Belal’s ice cream truck and then 3 very tired kids and 3 very tired adults made the trip back home. What a great afternoon!
When we weren’t spending time with the grandkids we found other things to entertain us. Rock Creek Park is an amazing green of more than 1700 acres making it an oasis right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. We found this to be a relaxing place to spend an afernoon.
There was one more jaunt we wanted to make. This time to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. It’s a bit farther but still only a two and half hour drive. It’s the private collection of Dr. Albert Barnes who had wished for it to remain in his home (about six miles from Philadelphia) but after much controversy, involving many lawsuits, the collection was moved to downtown Philadelphia. I tend to get overwhelmed by huge museums and generally prefer smaller collections and this one was perfect. It was also extremely easy to get to and we had no issues finding a place to park.
We had arrived on the first Sunday of the month, when it was free. We hadn’t known this when we planned the trip, but were amazed that it wasn’t crowded. When we first went in I was disappointed to learn that none of the paintings had descriptions next to them. Instead you had to use an app on your phone. Aim at the picture and then the description would pop up. After about 10 minutes I was sold! Using the process eliminated the need for everyone to squeeze up near the painting and read the sign (usually in very small print) hanging next to the painting. As we toured we could select any that we wanted to know more about and spend as long as we wished reading and viewing.
There are many paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, and Matisse. There are 181 Renoirs in the Barnes Collection, it’s the largest single collection of Renoir paintings in the world. A perfect museum for me; I love the Impressionists! I also discovered a painter I really liked but who I hadn’t heard of, Edith Dimock. I think it’s her droll style that I like so much.
We spent a little more than two hours in The Barnes taking it all in at a leisurely pace. On our way back to DC we decided to stop in Wilmington, a city we’d never visited, to get something to eat. I had found Big Fish Grill on Yelp and it turned out to be a great choice. It had a lovely covered patio where we were protected from the rain that had started to fall. And it had a great view of the river to accompany the wonderful food. It provided a great end to a lovely day.
Labor Day soon was upon us and our time in DC was winding down. We had one last day to spend with Stephen’s family. In previous blogs I’ve mentioned my husband’s family’s connection to Rachel Carson. And on a recent visit to the DC area we had tracked down her gravesite in Rockville. But what we didn’t know was that she also had a home there that has been turned into a national landmark. Stephen explained all this to me and said he would love to show it to us.
When we drove up to the house, we were surprised to find an older gentleman standing in the driveway. He looked at us curiously as if to ask why we were there. He explained this was a national landmark. I quickly jumped in and explained that my husband’s grandmother had been a friend of Rachel Carson’s mother, and we were here to see the where Ms Carson had lived. His demeanor immediately changed. He walked us up the driveway and explained that while it had been her home, now it was an education center, a place to share her work. He asked us to wait outside for a moment and then disappeared into the house. A few minutes later he came out and asked if we’d like to tour the home! Wow! This was far more than we had expected. He introduced us to his wife, Dr. Diana Post, who welcomed us and began to explain the changes in the home since Ms Carson had lived there. The high point for me was the room, the actual room, where she wrote, Silent Spring. Everything in the room, from the typewriter, to the pictures on the wall, was just as it had been when she wrote it.
I had no idea she had received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After visiting for more than 45 minutes, we thanked them for their kindness. As we went to leave, Dr. Post asked the kids if they’d like to pick out a book about Ms Carson. It was definitely an afternoon none of us will forget.
The next morning as we made the drive from the east coast back to the shore of Lake Michigan we knew we had to make a stop in Springdale, just to take one more look at the Carson homestead there.
Our next stop is Manistee, Michigan, right on the shore of Lake Michigan. It’s a small town of about 6,000 but lives much bigger in the summer. We think September and October is the perfect time to be here. The weather should still be nice but the summer crowds have pretty much disappeared.
Any place along Lake Michigan is a place we like to be. It brings a peacefulness and sense of wonderment that’s not surpassed by any place we’ve ever visited. Manistee is extra special because we have good friends here, and it’s also only an hour and a half from our oldest son’s family and the city we called home for twenty years.
It was definitely nice to be here during the off season and fun to have lots of opportunities to catch up with family and friends.. We found great places to eat, went to a home football game. There was even a boat show in town.
Because Patrick hadn’t “been home” in several years, he decided to fly in while we were here. I had suggested that the closest airport would probably be Grand Rapids, but that he could try Muskegon, just an hour and a half south of us and perhaps that would be better. Imagine my surprise, when he texted me that he had a flight directly into Manistee. I couldn’t believe it. We had gone out to dinner on the night he was to arrive and because he was in a puddle jumper we couldn’t track the flight online. We decided to head to the airport a little early, just in case… The airport is small to say the least, but there he was standing right by the parking lot as we turned in. He had flown from DC National into O’Hare and then got his connecting flight. He said when he approached the gate, a woman asked him if he were Patrick. When he acknowledged that he was, she told him well, we can get on our way. “You’re the only one on the flight!” Nothing like having your own private plane! He even said the pilots asked him as he was waiting for us, if he needed a ride. And as soon as he got in the car, the lights inside the airport were turned off.
One of the best things about being on the east side of Lake Michigan is the dunes. They are beyond description. We took a drive up to Sleeping Bear Dunes. We hadn’t been there in more than a decade and were amazed to see how much it had changed in that time. There used to be a board walk out to the an overlook but that had since been buried beneath the sand. There’s a sign at the top of the more than 400 foot dune indicating what an arduous process it is climbing back up the dune and warning anyone thinking of trying it just how expensive their adventure would be if they needed help returning to the top.
The drive along the lake continues to offer beautiful views. The size of the sailboat shows just how massive the dunes are.
It was great to have time to spend with our oldest son and his family. Their home also serves as our address while we travel. We found out early on that you have to have a home address. While we were In Michigan we had all sorts of maintenance activities to complete: dentist appointments, renewing our drivers licenses, getting a new license plate, getting our Covid boosters, all those mundane things that we take for granted in our everyday lives.
Our condo is across from the marina and has several outdoor balconies. It was especially nice that the condo sleeps six so we had room for family to spend the night after nights of cards and fun!
Patrick returned to DC. This time he was on a fully booked flight with seven other travelers. And we got ready to move on. The weather is beginning to turn cool but then it is late October. We’re headed back to Florida until the middle of December. Not ready to head to Europe just yet. We’re a bit nervous but figure we’ll return to the same place in Port Charlotte where we have our own pool, can entertain ourselves reading and playing cards on the beautiful lanai and even order our groceries. We should be able to stay safe! That’s the plan at the moment. So one last trip to watch the sunset over Lake Michigan! Then we’ll be on our way!