Saturday, October 28, 2006

Gettysburg II

The picture at the lower left is the Lincoln Memorial, one of two in the Gettysburg National Monument. This is of course, one of the pre-eminent battlegrounds of the Civil War and it is also significant that it was here, at the cemetery, that Lincoln gave his memorable Gettysburg Address:

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers rought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a greal civil war, testing wjether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground. The rave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, for above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, not long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they died here. It is for the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicating to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln November 19, 1863.

I picked up a book on the Ghosts of Gettysburg, only one, as there were several volumes and around 2 pm on this warm and humid day, headed for our next destitation and another site of Americana - the Hatfield/McCoy feud site in Metawan, West Virginia on the border of West Virginia and Kentucky.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Lincoln Slept Here

On Friday night, Bruce came to pick me up and the Big Trip was on! I loaded my stuff in the back of the Tundra which for me was clothes, my Ipod, newspapers, books and magazines to read when I have the chance and the week before, we had gone to BJs to load up on dried fruit and nuts and other snacks to munch on for on the road. Bruce was so excited he didn't even want to stop at a restaurant for pizza (I had a coupon!), so instead we went through a Wendy's drive-thru.

I figured that for our first night, we'd end of sleeping in Connecticut, but it turned out I underestimated Bruce's driving enthusiasm as we would go a bit further that. As far as I am concerned, the 'trip' doesn't even begin until we at least get to the New York State Line.

We hit the road at approximately 7PM and off we went into the wild blue yonder. Through Rhode Island, a small, but boring state because I've been through it so often and then on into Connecticut. No, we did not stop at Foxwoods, as we hugged the coast and motored through New Haven and Bridgeport untill we hit the New York State Line.

So, I was wrong about sleeping in Connecticut. In fact, Bruce's goal before calling a night, was a town called Springfield, New Jersey. Why Springfield? Probably because it reminded him of the Simpson's Springfield. We talked about visiting as many Springfield's as we could, after visiting Springfield, Vermont, but I opted for an attempt at visiting all the Newports instead. I've been to the one in Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Oregon, and Newport Beach, California.

Even Springfield turned out to be underestimating it. We arrived in New Jersey during the middle of the night. Both Bruce and I 'collect' states and we had both had been to New Jersey before. I'll talk about the 'criteria' for collecting a state in a little bit. We stopped at a gas station where I stretched my legs and bought junk food (pork rinds). I am on a low budget so I really didn't need this crap but it was there, ya know, along with a Slim Jim and some bacon and cheese.

Within a short time after that stop, we crossed the state line into Pennsylvania also in the middle of the night, headed for our first scheduled stop, Gettysburg. It was now getting late and we decided to find a place to pull over and rest for the night. We ended up at a truck stop in New Smyth, Pennsylvania. It was my first night ever in a truckstop. Truckers however, usually have a bed on board and a way to block out the light, so we had to find a place to park where we did not have lights in our eyes. Truckstops aren't just for trucks, as I found out, as there are parking areas for cars as well and I also saw near us, a panel van truck, not a big rig, whose driver also pulled over for the night. Nearby was a gas station, and a diner. We love diners, and I'd love it more if it has a bathroom in the morning.

When it was light, we ate at the diner, which was right out of Central Casting for 'Alice's Restaurant'. There were a few truckers and a solitary waitress. While Bruce was in the bathroom, I overheard the following conversation between the waitress, who reminded me of 'Flo' on the old TV show 'Alice' and a balding trucker.

He: "You do good work, you oughta win a prize."
She: " Whadda I win?"
He: "ME!"
She: "Let me go home so I change ma shirt"

I had scrambled eggs and bacon (Adam and Eve, wreck 'em in diner parlance) which was okay and so was the coffee. Truckers are a good source of where the good road fod is. I had heard from one trucking podcast I listened to that there is a good restaurant, an undiscovered gem, off the main highway in Pennsylvania, but I doubt it was THIS place and probably nowhere near here. After breakfast, we hit the highway, first towards Harrisburg and then on to Gettyburg. Oh, but for limited time! as I would have loved to make MANY more stops then we did as Bruce was determined to arrive in Winfield, Kansas, EARLY Wednesday morning. I would have loved to 'collect' state capitols and check out each state's 'stately' structures.

Along the route in Pennsylvania, which was mostly super-highway view, nothing much too notable and I tend to check out the names of some of the towns we pass by. One was Nickel Mine, a town I had mentioned to Bruce, which was the site of a tragic school massacre just a few weeks ago. We arrived in Gettysburg about 9am.

The image to the left is of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Both Bruce and I have an interest in History (I majored in it) as well as an interest in the paranormal and one reason I picked Gettysburg as a must see stop is because Gettysburg is always listed as one of America's most haunted places. In fact, one Podcast I have started to listen to is 'Ghostly Talk' and they pointed out that the Eastern States Paranormal Convention was held there in July.

When we arrived, although it was September, the weather was quite warm and humid, not the best weather for me to want to walk around and explore, but explore we did, the tourist shops and colonial structures of Gettysburg. We stopped at a farmer's market where I picked up a few red ell peppers, although I had no salt and a small berry pie, that I failed to eat. I saw a lot of touristy things, but nothing tickeled my fancy but there was a superb gallery specializing in Civil War themes. I picked up a small book of Gettysburg Ghost Stories, as I found out later was one of several volumes. Haven't read it yet.

I make no claim as to having any kind of 'sensitivity' about having 'otherworldly' experiences, but Bruce has had a few. We have visited many graveyards in the past so he can collect pictures of historic and interesting gravestones and I usually imagine what the lives of some of the deceased might have been like. Bruce didn't have any particular 'feelings' but I, on the other hand, felt an overwhelming sense of sadness about the Gettysburg National Monument.

In fact, as the picture to the left shows and a plaque at the monument states, there are about 6000 bodies buried at the cemetery, about half of them are 'unknown'. The graves that you see have no names, just numbers like 623, 624, etc. No wonder I felt the sense of loss and grief there - no one knows who is buried there and future generations have no one spot to grieve at. If there ever was a monument that points to the futility of war as politics by other means, this is it. We would spend about 4 hours in Gettysburg, a place I am glad I visited, but I was also glad to ,eave, since it is one of the saddest places I've ever been. We left about 2 pm, Bruce asked me if I was hungry for lunch and despite the fact he mentioned pizza (PIZZA!), I declined and said let's hit the road and head for Maryland.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Mainly Maine

The picture is one that Bruce took on our trip to Maine a few weeks before our trip to the Midwest.

I have been spending quite a bit of time away from the computer mostly with Bruce, his family and friends. Last week we went apple picking in Stow in the rain, but despite that we picked up a few bags of delicious Cortland and Macintosh varieties.

I usually end up spending a day or two extra in Braintree as we usually finish our activities late into the evening. When I get home, I end up spending a lot of time playing catchup on the computer such as emails, Garden Web, job hunting, Itunes, etc and I have plenty to post here, but before I write about the Winfield, cross-country excursion, I need to write about a trip to Maine that Bruce and I went on as we took his stepfather Elmer, fishing to his son-in-law Tom's cabin in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.

As you can see above, Bruce takes excellent pictures. He never leaves home without his camera, which I believe is a Minolta and of course is digital. I used to be into photography years back, but mostly my picture taking is limited to the disposal camera variety, although Rozz gave me her old 35mm Canon. Bruce expends a lot of time, effort and care into his 'art' and the Eagle is closeup thanks to a zoom lens. I could barely see the bird off into the long distance from Long Pond. I of course, forgot mine at home.

Bruce had promised Elmer a fishing trip for all guy weekend with he and Tom, but Bruce asked me to go along so we could do some 'exploring'. Ever up for an adventure, I happily agreed since I just love Nature and hadn't been to Maine in a number of years. I wouldn't have minded fishing, but there there is so much to explore, despite the high gas prices.

We left at about 11am on a Saturday once Elmer arrived and we headed to Belgrade Lakes, west of Augusta about 4 hours later. The day was perfect for anything you wanted to do. We stopped for lunch at a Wendy's in South Portland.

Tom is a retired science teacher who took a small cabin and gradually expanded into a beautiful property on Long Pond. His picture window looks out on the Lake. The view is gorgeous, especially for someone like me, who loves trees. I inherited my love of trees from my mother, who also loved them. The place is set back into the woods and it is definitely not 'suburbia' with a typical driveway and a sub-compact in the garage. Tom has a small boat dock, and both a rowboat and a fishing boat with an outboard motor. One of the first things we did of course, was Tom gave me a tour of the house and the Lake and Elmer and Tom got fishing licenses at the general store while Bruce and I merely went along for the ride. The weather was perfect, the ride pleasant, Elmer caught a few fish, but there were small, so they ended up being thrown back. I think Tom told me the pond is stocked with trout and I can't remember what else, since it has been almost two months now. It was on the fishing expedition that Bruce saw the Eagle that was flying around, we watched its flight plan and it perched in the tree quite a distance from us. Ah, the miracle of the zoom lens..
Although Elmer threw his small fish back into the lake, I'm told that the ones he caught the next day were used as sacrifices to the Eagle God.

After the pleasant lake tour (a shallow lake averaging about 7 feet deep with an Island, which if I remember correctly is known as Cat Island), we had ham and cheese sandwiches, relaxed and chatted for awhile. By late afternoon, it got cloudy and the weather report said rain and it did start to shower later in the evening. Bruce asked me if I wanted to find a movie theater and go to the movies and we found a new theater that had just opened in Waterville, which wasn't that far away. We just plugged the address into the GPS and off we went to see Snakes On A Plane with Samuel L. Jackson. The movie was campy and fun, so rent it from your video store or Netflix if you haven't seen it yet. It is so implausible, especially in the post 911 world, it makes it funny. For a brand new theater, we were the only ones in the theater on a Saturday night in Waterville.

We went back to the Cabin, arriving about 11:30, we slept downstairs and we had already decided on another excursion the next day, headed for Millinocket, in the North Central part of the state at the end of the Appalachian Trail and at the base of Mount Katahdin. I had relatives who lived there in the past, and as it turned out, I still have an aunt living there, but the primary reason for going there was a friend of ours, Shirley, grew up there and when she met me, she was totally shocked that someone else had heard of Millinocket, much less meeting someone who has actually been there. We had also hoped to possible make a trip to Moosehead Lake.

The next day, we got up early enough because we knew we had several hours on the road ahead of us. We programmed the GPS for 'downtown' Millinocket and off we went.

The day was cloudy, threatening rain and in fact was showering and misty nearly all day. We set off into the bowels of Maine. On the way, we decided to surprise Shirley with a call. We had to use my phone, because I had bars (Verizon) while Bruce did not (Nextel). I know I have blasted Verizon in the past, but I must admit that I can often boldly go where others usually cannot. One place my phone doesn't work is in the mall behind my house, but it worked well in Manhattan, the Maine northwoods and all over the Midwest.

I called her as asked 'Hypothetically, if two guys were exploring in Millinocket, where would they stop for a bite too eat?'. She was totally surprised where we were. If this were an episode of Seinfeld and she were Elaine, she would have said "Get Out!" and shoved me down the stairs.

She recommended Ruthies which was on the east side of the Penobscot (I believe) River. She said it was good when she was growing up The place was very homey and probably the only restaurant for miles around and I had the seafood platter which she suggested and I was less than impressed. Not horrible, but I know seafood and the coffee tasted like mud and Bruce wasn't crazy about what he had, but to be fair, we shouldn't expect the Ritz in the middle of nowhere, so I don't wish to be too harsh. I did eat my fill, however, so that says something. Although August, we were far enough north that there was an autumnal chill in the air. I had been to Millinocket when I was a kid, but this was the furthest north that Bruce has ever been.

Chatting with Shirley, she guided us to the Great Northern Paper Company, which appeared to be open, although am sure it is a fraction of its former self, as is the industry in most American cities and towns in the Industrial North. According to Shirley, there is a lot of drugs up there now, both as a way to make money and burn the days away. She guided us to the house that she formerly lived in, (walking distance to work) and down through 'Main' Street. Seeing everything we could we headed out. We told Shirley that we hoped to see Moosehead Lake, which we didn't think we have time for and Bruce wanted to know where we could photograph a live Moose. She told us to go a little further to the Northwest and head for Echo Lake, which we did. She also called me back and fortunately I got her message before my battery died and she said we could head for Greenville which is near Moosehead Lake and we still could get back to Belgrade that way without taking the same road back. So we headed to Echo Lake.

Arriving at the Lake, we sat for awhile, looking for the elusive Moose. Bruce went off into the woods, while I remained in the truck. I usually have a newspaper, a book on Nature or a ghost story with me as well as my Ipod. I don't remember if I had my jacket, but it was chilly. The lake is bisected by the highway, so the lake is on both sides of the road. It too is shallow, where there is a rich undergrowth and it is quite marshy. I love LLBean and its products and the scenery here would remind you of one of their Outdoor, Summer or Fall catalogs. The scenery to me was heavenly and the silence was golden, broken only by the occasional truck going southbound. No one, it appeared, was going northbound. I turned off my Ipod and enjoyed the solitude. After about a half hour, Bruce came out of the woods and claimed he saw one a little further down the road so we moved further down, he got out with his camera and the above picture is what he gained, a young one. Good job, Moose (and Moose).

We followed Shirley's suggestion, by taking a Northwesterly, then southwesterly route, sort of diamond shaped and headed for Greenville and Moosehead Lake, arriving there after dark. All told, we traveled about 350 miles that day and decided to get a room and the Lake and enjoy the place during the daylight. We found a nice motorlodge with kitchen and two bedrooms. I had a good night's sleep, but before we called it a night, we stopped for dinner at the Black Frog, an interesting restaurant with a humorous menu and although I don't remember what I had for the main course, I do remember having the clam chowder. I thought the food was excellent and so was the coffee and Bruce felt the same. I got a menu as a souvenir and Bruce got a tee-shirt. Its website is but when I checked the site was not working. If you find yourself in Greenville, Maine, be sure to check it out. You can't miss the place.

The next day, we were up early as we wanted to check out the shops. The first order of business was finding a place that was open even at 9am. We found the only breakfast nook that was open. I think it was called Auntie Ems. Since it was the only place open for breakfast (the Black Frog isn't open for breakfast) the place was crowded with locals as well as tourists. The food was good and the prices were reasonable and the restaurant was wallpapered with a log cabin motif. Bruce suggested that I open the Scorched Pig restaurant, as I'm sure the place gets plenty of visitors even in the winter for tourists that are on their way to one of Maine's many ski areas, but I can just imagine the cost of heating the place with a few feet of snow on the ground. Bruce and I would love to visit Tom in the middle of the winter to see if the lake holds the same kind of magic in the dead of winter.

On Monday, a day Bruce took off from work, we had to hang around long enough for the stores to open so we could check them out. Never having much money, I have to content myself with refrigerator magnets and free maps from the state welcome centers where we did stop on the way up. We checked out some great wood carving and 'antique' (just old) stuff stores. Then we headed back to Belgrade Lakes, stopping for lunch at a nearby diner before hitting Tom's. We hung around for awhile, Bruce went out for a canoe ride, I picked up a pinecone, disengorged it of its seeds, but according to my friends on the Tree Forum on Garden Web, they probably won't sprout unless they are cold stratified. They were right. I planted them when I got home and they never sprouted, so if I end up there soon, I will make sure I get a few that spent the winter outdoors.

We stopped for supper at a seafood joint, whose name I don't recall (the Shipwreck or something). The food was good and we got home about 8:30. Elmer declined to stay over, but I did

I had many a good 'exploration' trips with Bruce, but I think this one was definitely one of my favorites. Even the trip to Kansas, as great as it was, didn't quite have the same sense of natural 'magic' as the remoteness of Echo Lake.


Visitors for September

CA: Oceanside, Sunnyvale

Canada: British Columbia, Quebec

Till next time...

Foreign: Australia, Chile, Germany, Italy, South Korea