Mount Washington

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

There are still eight states we haven’t visited together, so we decided to knock five of them off the list this month. We flew into Bangor, Maine this morning, and plan to drive through New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and end up in Newport, Rhode Island.

Unfortunately, we are shortchanging Maine. We’re only out here for a week so can’t take the time to visit their many beautiful parks, beaches and harbor towns. We’ll have to go back when we have more time.

Thursday, September 5

We left Bangor this morning, headed for Mount Washington in New Hampshire. While still in Maine, we noticed a sculpture of a hand-cranked telephone in Bryant Pond, Maine! We try to stop for oddities and quirky attractions, and this was no exception. A few of you may remember the hand-cranked telephones of days past. My grandparents had wall-mounted version when they still lived on the farm in Iowa, in the mid-1950’s.

Barbara and Eldon Hathaway purchased the Bryant Pond Telephone Company in 1951 for $2,500. This was the last hand-crank telephone system operating in the U.S. The Hathaways operated the company out of their home until selling it to the Oxford Networks Company in 1981 for $50,000, and that was the end of the hand-crank system.  Some local residents tried to save it, calling themselves the Don’t Yank The Crank Committee, but were over-ruled by the Public Utilities Commission.

There are two ways to get to the top of Mount Washington, by automobile or cog railway. We opted for auto due to our tight schedule. The Mount Washington Cog Railway is the first mountain-climbing cog railway, using both steam and bio-diesel to power the engine up and down the second-steepest railway in the world. The railroad was completed in 1869, 150 years ago. It takes about an hour for the train to climb the three miles to the top.

The Mount Washington Auto Road is privately operated, and is the only way to drive up. The road is about 7.5 miles long with lots of switchbacks, and it takes about 30 minutes to drive. The grade is steep in many areas, so we drove cautiously. We were warned to use low gear for the drive back down, and to stop frequently to cool the brakes.

We did stop a couple of times on the way up to enjoy the views. Our best views, though, were from the top of Mount Washington.

IMG_3503Located in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, Mount Washington is also called Agiococochook (Home of the Great Spirit) by the Abenaki people. It is almost 6,300 feet in height, and is well know for high winds, recording a wind speed of 231 mph in 1934. Only tornadoes and cyclones have recorded higher wind speeds. A February record was set just this year on February 25, 2019 when a peak gust measured 171 mph.

We were able to visit the Weather Station at Mount Washington Observatory, where we enjoyed a tour and learned more about the work that’s done here. The observatory is a private, non-profit scientific and educational institution that works with the National Weather Service, reporting its observations throughout the day and night. The staff work 12-hour shifts, from midnight to noon, and noon to midnight.

Our guide, Tom, talked about why Mount Washington experiences such strong winds. There are no mountains between the Rockies and the White Mountains, nothing to stop the winds or change their altitude. When the winds do reach here, they are effectively squeezed  between several peaks and gain speed, not unlike fluids that are compressed in a venturi tube.

Besides wind speeds, Tom and his co-workers measure temperatures year-round and snowfall in the winter. They must venture outside each hour to collect the snow and take measurements, fighting winds that make it almost impossible to remain upright. The equipment ices up quickly with rime ice, which occurs when supercooled droplets freeze and attach to any exposed surface that’s 32° or colder. Large snow pushing machines are used to keep the road open to the top of the mountain.

Today was very pleasant, and we were able to go to the top of the observatory for some phenomenal views.

The Tip Top House was a hotel built in 1853 before the cog railway even existed. It is the oldest building on Mount Washington. Built by Samuel F Spaulding with rock blasted from the mountain, it cost about $7,500 to construct. It operated off and on as a hotel until the early 1900’s, and then as an annex to the Summit House, another hotel, until 1968. The building was restored in 1987.

We stayed at the Omni Mount Washington tonight, where we could see the beginnings of fall colors as well as the observatory far away.


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Falling From the Sky

July, 2019

As I was driving through northern Minnesota, I saw a sign outside of Eveleth, announcing a nearby memorial for Paul Wellstone, so I stopped to pay my respects. Wellstone died in an airplane crash just eleven days before the Senatorial election for his third term. He, his wife and daughter were flying to Eveleth for the funeral of a friend. They, along, with two aides, a family friend and two pilots all died in the crash which occurred in the woods not far from the airport.

Former Vice President and Senator, Walter Mondale, stepped forward to take Wellstone’s place on they ballot, but lost to Norm Coleman. This was Walter Mondale’s last campaign, although he continues to be active, both statewide and nationally, at the age of 91.

Driving away from the site, I was reminded of others who have died in airplane crashes. Politicians and musicians are among those who often travel between engagements by small plane. I can still remember where I was when I heard of Wellstone’s death, and what a shock it was. Mostly, though, I’ve been impacted more by the deaths of singers who have died in airplane crashes.

As a child, I remember hearing of the death of singer Buddy Holly, whose plane went down during a flight from Clear Lake, Iowa (near where I grew up). The Big Bopper and Richie Valens also died in the crash. Waylon Jennings was supposed to be on the flight, but gave up his seat to the Big Bopper (J.P Richardson).

Bobby Vee, a 15-year old from Image result for bobby vee album coversFargo, North Dakota, was tapped to fill in for Holly at an engagement a few days later in Moorhead, Minnesota. I became a fan, mostly because he was cute. Later in his career, Bobby Vee settled in central Minnesota, which benefited from his many philanthropic efforts. My son’s high school was one of Vee’s beneficiaries.

Jim Croce was another of my favorite musicians; I loved his voice and guitar work. I owned all of his albums, and was very sad when he died at the age of 30 in a plane crash in 1973. I’m listening to his music right now, and am still moved by it.

John Denver also comes to mind, with so many songs that celebrated the beauty of our land. Far Out!

I’ll think of these people and many others when I fly again, and hopefully I won’t fall from the sky.



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I’m a Hodophile!


If you’re reading my blog, you are probably one too. No, it’s not someone yelling “hold the door!” It’s a person who loves the road, loves to travel.

I enjoy learning new words almost as much as I love to travel, so I was excited to see a fascinating article on Hopscotch the Globe listing 25 words every traveller should have in their vocabulary, several I wasn’t familiar with (they haven’t shown up in any crossword puzzles lately).

I already knew I suffered from wanderlustbut now I can say that I frequently experience fernweh, a craving to perigrinate. I love the feeling of resfeber as I prepare for the next trip. I look forward to the selcouth feelings I derive from a dérive.

No sooner am I home than I begin planning the next trip, hopefully one to the northeastern states of the US this fall. We have already booked two cruises for next year: the Panama Canal with Crystal Cruises and the Mississippi River with American Cruise Lines. We especially enjoy river cruises, as we learn so much of the history and culture of the lands we slowly pass by. It’s hard to wait!


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A Day of Inspiration

April 30, 2019

This morning, my brother and I headed to the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, while our sisters explored the The Ringling in Sarasota. Regardless of destination, we all wished we’d had more time there.

The highlight of this morning, however, was our 30-minute ride to St. Pete. We had an Uber driver named Marc-Henry Jean. Marc is a young man who came to our country about ten years ago from Haiti to get an education. He spoke no English before coming to the US, but managed to earn a degree in Business Management. Marc asked us very insightful questions regarding religion, management, and politics. He listened and responded respectfully, adding his own thoughts when appropriate. The ride ended too soon.

Marc is an entrepreneur already, with a clothing line called Yes to Love, No to Hate. but he is saving money to earn a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship to gain more skills. To that end, he has set himself a minimum earnings goal per day, if he makes it early, he can spend time on other things, if not, he will work until midnight if necessary. Besides his clothing line, Marc has written a small book called Grow Together in Prayer, Reflection and Action. I’ve purchased his book and look forward to reading his insights. Keep an eye on this young man, I think you’ll hear more about him in the future.

I really wasn’t very familiar with Salvador Dalí’s work. The museum was highly recommended by several friends, and it lived up to everything they said. A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse had been avid collectors of Dalí’s art, having aquired about 2,000 pieces. When they decided to donate the collection, there was a stipulation that it all be housed in one location. The City of St. Petersburg took over the collection in 1982, which was originally housed in a former marine warehouse. A new museum was built, one that’s built to withstand strong hurricanes and floods, opening in 2011.

Dalí (accent on the second syllable, by the way) was born in 1904, and expressed an early interest in art. His father arranged his first exhibition, at their home, when Salvador was 13 years old. We were just in time for a tour where we learned more about the evolution of Dalí’s style. We were taught about some of the symbolism and the attention to tiny details in his paintings. I now understand why people peer closely at paintings, looking for the meanings. I was doing it as well by the end of the tour.


IMG_3207Dalí’s cubist style is reflected in the above painting of his wife, Gala. When viewed from a distance, however, this becomes something else entirely, as demonstrated here. It helps to squint a little too.

This evening we took a sunset sail off of Anna Maria island. It was a lovely night, although we were inundated by Lovebugs, an invasive bug that is harmful, but very annoying. This is mating season, and there is no escaping them. Even as we moved out into the Gulf, they were with us on the boat.

07738979-D36C-43B9-86E5-549A66DC9864That didn’t spoil the evening, though. It was a peaceful way to end the day. The next day was one of relaxing and preparing to return to the cold Midwest.

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Anna Maria Island and Everglades City

April 28 – 29, 2019

We’re quite pleased with our lodging, a four-bedroom home in Palma Sola that we found on VRBO. It’s located in a quiet neighborhood within walking distance of Palma Sola Bay, near Bradenton, Florida, but with the screened-in saline pool, we might want to spend most of our time here. It’s a treat to have my morning coffee by the pool.

On our first full day here, we drove to Anna Maria Island to spend some time at a beach near the northernmost part of the island. Although we didn’t swim, we did enjoy a leisurely walk, dipping our cold Minnesota feet into the warm Gulf waters.


The next day, while enjoying my coffee, I was serenaded by some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks perched on a power line near the house. They weren’t whistling when I saw them, rather they were raising quite a ruckus. Maybe they wanted a cup of coffee! Their call does sound like a whistle which I did hear in the distance. They are the only whistling ducks that perch in trees (or on power lines).

E2C70296-3C80-4396-99D1-4081DB01106DAfter breakfast, we headed south to Everglades City to enjoy an airboat ride. Before boarding the boat, we had a delicious lunch at The Camellia Street Grill, located just a few blocks from Everglades City Airboat Tours. I really do like being able to dine outdoors in nice weather.

The Airboat ride took us among a few of the thousands of Mangrove islands in Southwest Florida. The Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge contains 232 square miles of mangrove forest. The forest is home to shrimp, crab, many species of fish and birds, and alligators, of course. Mangrove trees are saline tolerant, thus frequently found near salt water.

We didn’t see any alligators, but our captain told us about a small park nearby where our luck would be better. The H.P. Williams Roadside Park has a short boardwalk overlooking a canal where we did, indeed, see a few alligators, along with some other wildlife.

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Homosassa Wildlife

April 27, 2019

After leaving our aunt and uncle’s home this morning, we headed south to Bradenton, FL. We contemplated stopping for lunch on the way in Hernando Beach, but weren’t sure we’d be satisfied. Still, I kind of wish we’d checked it out.


Instead, we continued on to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, about 70 miles north of Tampa. The park covers almost 200 acres, of which we explored only a few.

The Homosassa Springs area was a popular site for fishing and hunting by the Timucuan and Calusa Indians as well as Seminoles. It has been a tourist attraction since the early 1900’s, and was first developed as such in the 1940’s. The area was purchased in 1964 and marketed as “Nature’s Own Attraction,” complete with “Indian maidens” and exotic animals that were trained for television and movies. When the property came up for sale in the 1980’s, local citizens spearheaded an effort to have the local county purchase the park and hold it until the state of Florida could purchase and preserve it. The Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park became part of the Florida State Park System in 1989.

After arriving, we took a short boat ride, captained by a park volunteer. The weather was perfect today, warm with very little breeze. The blue skies provided a beautiful background to trees and birds, the water was clear enough to see the many fish and a few manatees, plus it provided a mirror for the water fowl, turtles and foliage.

The park’s oldest resident has been here since this was an exotic wildlife park. “Lu,” short for Lucifer, is a 59-year old hippo who starred in the 1960’s television show Daktari. Lu is truly a senior citizen, few hippos reach the age of 50 in the wild, or 60 in wildlife preserves and zoos. When the park became a preserve, Florida law would only allow native animals to reside here, and Lu didn’t qualify! Rather than have Lu shipped to a zoo, Gov. Lawton Chiles granted him official citizenship status so he could stay at the preserve.


The park is home to alligators, noisy flamingos, several other shore birds, raptors, bears, Florida panthers and manatees.

The park has an underwater observatory where we can see manatees (when they are feeding) as well as fish. It was a lovely day all around.

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Family Warms the Heart

April 25 and 26, 2019

This is a family trip, with the primary impetus being a visit to my aunt and uncle in Hernando Beach, Florida. My brother and I had visited them several years ago, when I first started this blog, and had such a good time that we wanted to repeat it. This time, we added a couple more siblings to enhance the experience.

My aunt is one of the youngest members of my father’s family, and is, in fact, closer to my age than she is to my father’s. With only a ten year age difference, I consider her to be more of a contemporary than an aunt.

In late afternoon, we arrived at their home which is situated on a canal in Hernando Beach. The weather was lovely, warm with a gentle breeze from the nearby Gulf. We enjoyed the sandhill cranes on the other side of the canal, the skinks on the screen around the pool and the ducks in the water.

As friends and family do, we gathered around the kitchen and shared good conversation while preparing meals. We met a cousin we hadn’t seen since he was a child, and he joined us for dinner each of the days we were visiting. He had lived on the east coast almost all of his life, and there weren’t many opportunities to connect with his Iowa and Minnesota cousins.

After dinner, we enjoyed the saline pool with its bathwater warm water – what a treat for us who had left 40 degree weather just a day earlier, along with forecasts of snow and rain.

The home’s location provides wonderful views of the surrounding area, and some especially beautiful sunsets and sunrises. We watched the sunset, but passed on the sunrise.


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