Falling Prices

Filling the tank on our Camry yesterday brought a smile to my face since a fill up cost only $20. What satisfaction at pulling into a station with a sign proclaiming the price of gas $1.99 per gallon.

But then this morning crossing the border into Alabama I couldn’t help but feel we’d been ripped off when the first station in the state laughs at Floridians with the large yellow sign singing Sweet Home Alabama’s price for gas at $1.77.

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Really $1.99 is an exceptionally low price, much better than 30¢ gas of my youth which is equivalent to $2.32 in today’s prices or even the 19¢ ($3.26) of 1935. It’s only because the prices are posted so prominently that we obsess over every extra penny added to the cost of travel.

However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t make a left turn across three lanes of traffic to take advantage of the $1.73 gas price available to Sam’s Club members. It felt good to be able to take advantage of such a bargain.

And really, who doesn’t love a bargain?

Photos in the Garden

A walk through the Birmingham Botanical Garden seemed like the perfect way to begin a cool, actually a cold, Saturday morning. The garden was dressed in its best holiday attire.

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But unfortunately that meant at every turn another photographer was set up to shoot engagement photos, baby pictures, and lots of family photos for Christmas cards. In many places it was a challenge to keep from photo bombing these sessions.

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Only two weeks before the first day of winter, fall colors were still evident in many areas of the garden.

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And of course artwork added to the natural beauty.

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Following the paths we met many others enjoying an early morning walk in the garden.

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The greenhouse full of cactus and succulents added some color

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in contrast to the bare crepe myrtles lining the entrance.

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No professional photos for us. Just a holiday selfie.

The Twilight Zone?


What started out as a Sunday morning drive to a small Oregon town on our way to touring the wine country turned out to be a trip to the Twilight Zone. The signature music of the 1960s television program and the creepy voice of Rod Serling looped through my head as Lisa and I walked up and down the streets of a deserted town searching for a place for breakfast.

We stopped in Forest Grove looking for Maggie’s Buns, a bakery recommended by a tourist guide we’d picked up at a Visitor Center. Of course the guide failed to mention that Maggie’s is closed on Sunday, and apparently the entire town of Forest Grove is closed on Sunday. No bakeries, no cafés, no restaurants, not even a coffee shop could be found, this in a part of the country where coffee is king.

The dead streets were only the first of many strange events that day. Seeing many cars at the end of one street led us to what turned out to be a church, but on the corner of the church we found a mattress leaning against a power pole labeled for sale $100 then marked down to free.

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As we walked on we saw a truck driving down the street, the first vehicle we’d encountered. But in the truck bed…a raft with a ladder tied on top of it. Strange.

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We even found a pay phone with a phone book. Surely a sign we’d been transported back to the ’60s.

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Then turning to the sound of a barking dog, we looked up to see the sound coming from the roof of a warehouse. Yes, a dog stood on the roof 25 feet above the street barking at nothing.

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Curiosity led us to take a closer look at this strange sight only to find it stranger still, for this dog was barking on the roof of a warehouse that had its picture painted on the side of the building. After taking a few pictures, it was time to leave Forest Grove before we became part of some unexpected twist like those that occurred in the Twilight Zone.

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Off to find one of the wineries. Wine tasting would put this creepy place out of mind.

 

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Yesterday we spent the morning at the Venice Airport, the site of the Sarasota Chalk Festival. Artists illustrated this year’s theme ‘Eat, Drink and Be Merry!’ in images that boggled your senses like this shark rising from the runway.

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Scores of temporary works of art attracted visitors for the week long event.

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My favorites were designed to let those in attendance become part of the art. I joined the children dancing around a shark’s tooth.

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While John was served on a silver platter.

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And we reached in a trap and posed with a pelican.

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Each piece of art was marked with a pair of feet labeled “stand here” to ensure perfect viewing.

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The event is recognized as the first international street art festival with more than 250 artists from around the globe…absolutely amazing.

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Thanks Venice for a great event.

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More Lighthouses: Maine Style

Maine wasn’t on our radar when we set visiting fifteen lighthouses as one of our goals for 2015; but when we decided to take a September New England trip, Maine lighthouses were a natural part of our time along the coast.

Our first night in Maine, we stopped in York, the site of Cape Neddick Light. From Sohier Park we viewed the lighthouse located atop a rock island a short distance off shore,

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and as I turned around, the view of a white rowboat beached on the rock below with an inn in the background brought together everything New England.

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Later that afternoon, we burned off our seafood lunch by walking eight-tenths of a mile out to Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse along the granite breakwater.

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Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day surrounded by the blue sky and waters.

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Egg Rock, the small island with a lighthouse, was barely visible from the mainland; but that couldn’t keep us from counting this as lighthouse number twenty-one. Located in Bar Harbor, we were able to photograph the lighthouse from Acadia National Park.

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From Acadia’s Schoodic Point, the Winter Harbor Lighthouse is clearly visible, but again its location on an island in Frenchman Bay prevents an up-close visit.

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Our final Maine lighthouse visit…the Prospect Harbor Light. Located behind a fence and a Coast Guard manned security booth, makes access by the public impossible. However, by climbing down on the rocky beach along the road leading to the light, it is possible to get a good, unobstructed view.

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Twenty-three lighthouses. Looks like we underestimated our abilities. And with a camping trip in the Panhandle yet to come, I don’t think we’re finished.

Predicting Snow in Stowe

Working on a large piece of sculpture at the West Branch Gallery and Sculpture Park, an artist stopped his work to talk to us about the process of carving over 6000 pounds of rock into a double fountain weighing more than a ton. He explained that this would be his last large piece of the year since all outside work would have to be completed within two weeks before the first snowfall.

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“Really? Snow in only two weeks?” we’d asked on September 29th. It was hard to believe that snow would be falling only three weeks after the beginning of autumn, but he was right. On Sunday morning, pictures of Stowe, Vermont’s brightly colored leaves covered in snow were broadcast on the morning news.

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I feel confident the artist met the deadline, adding another piece in the outdoor sculpture garden located behind the gallery.

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Over a dozen large pieces carved from local materials including walkways, seats and fountains were on display.

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Jigsaw like stone puzzles as well as metal sculptures were included in the garden as well as more practical pieces. Additional works will have to wait until the snow thaws next spring.

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If this art thing doesn’t work out for the man we spoke to, I’d be glad to provide a recommendation as a meteorologist.

Bridging New England

Our drive from Maine to Vermont wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable if we hadn’t decided to go on a covered bridge scavenger hunt.

The first bridge of the day we found was the Lancaster Bridge just off Highway 2 in Lancaster, NH.

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Not far away we located the Mt. Orme Bridge which connects the states of New Hampshire and Vermont.

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By the time we reached the forgotten village of Greenbanks Hollow and its bridge in Danville, Vermont, the blue skies of the morning had changed to gray.

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Coburn Bridge no longer serves vehicles but instead supports pedestrian traffic and commemorates the bridge’s history as a museum.

 

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The rain started falling by the time we left the museum at Coburn ending the scavenger hunt but one that can be continued on another day.

Chasing the Moon

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Photo of blood moon taken by John.

We decided to stay an extra night at Acadia National Park when we learned that Sunday, September 27th was to be the night of the blood moon.

I captured the rising moon over Bar Harbor on Saturday evening after dinner, and on our way back to the campground we made plans for joining the park ranger at Sand Beach the following night for the eclipse.

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Photo by Dee

What better place to watch the total eclipse of the full moon than over the ocean on a cool, clear night in Maine.

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Photos by Dee

However, Sunday night was more COLD than cool and with 20mph winds, we scratched the beach plan and instead parked overlooking the Atlantic and The Thrumcap adjacent to the Sieur de Monts entrance.

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Sitting in the car and out of the wind, we were able to watch the changes over a three hour period from full moon

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Photos by John

to blood moon.

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Photo by John

A moon worth chasing.

John’s photos were taken with a Canon G16 through the lens of a spotting scope.

Really…it’s 17 miles…all downhill

Right, a trail that’s ALL DOWNHILL. 

When John suggested we ride the Virginia Creeper, he said I’d love this trail since it was a 17 mile ride, all downhill. I thought he must think I’m not very bright since I’m sure that any trail that’s all downhill must be ALL UPHILL on the way back. When I mentioned my skepticism that a ride could be 100% downhill, he explained that for $11 a shuttle takes cyclists to the trailhead so yes, it was indeed possible to ride 17 miles…all downhill.

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We met at Sundog Outfitters in Damascus, Virginia and loaded our bikes on the trailer behind the brightly painted van and then rode to the trailhead at Mount Rogers Recreation Area with six other cyclists ready for the downhill adventure.

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For the first time ever, I shifted my bike into its highest gear and pedaled occasionally, but mostly rode the brake all the way back to Damascus on a beautiful, cool, early fall morning.

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We stopped at the old train station which has been converted into a museum.

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Walked on a portion of the Appalachian Trail.

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And then had to check out The Creeper Trail Cafe since the most common question asked of cyclists after riding the trail is, “Did you eat a piece of cake?” According to locals, the cafe serves the World’s Best Chocolate Cake so yes, we ate cake…good cake, but not the best chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten.

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I didn’t think I’d ever be called a Creeper, but having ridden the Virginia Creeper, I guess it’s a term that describes me.

 

 

A Bushel or a Peck?

Driving from Maine to Vermont, we saw hand painted signs pointing the way to Burtts Orchard, a place to pick apples. So we took a slight detour and found the advertised orchard.

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I think the woman at the stand was a little surprised that we wanted to pick apples in the rain instead of just purchasing a bag of apples, but what fun is that? I can buy a bag of apples at any grocery.

So we were given a map indicating what type of apple was grown in each row with the ones ready for picking highlighted in yellow, an apple picking tool, and asked if we wanted to pick a bushel or a peck.

We decided a peck would be plenty, especially since they would be kept in the car until we returned home. Then we headed out to start picking.

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The first couple apples were pretty puny so we moved on to another row and got busy picking only apples deemed worthy. We picked McIntosh, Empire, Gala, and Honeycrisp, all traditional September varieties and even picked a few Golden Delicious and Fuji that were ready a couple of weeks before their usual October picking season.

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Of course, there was a little taste testing during the picking and after filling our bag, it was back to the stand to pay for our freashly picked peck. For less than $8.00, we left with fruit that we’d snack on all the way home. However, who can tell which apple is which? Was that a Honeycrisp or an Empire? Oh well, it doesn’t matter. We’ve started an apple a day habit.