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Archive for August, 2011

Back to life, back to reality…

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Evening sky, from our Bar Harbor rental

(With apologies to Soul II Soul)

We’re back. Back from our glorious, six-week sojourn, back from spring sabbatical and summer break. Back to school — me at UGA’s Grady School of Journalism teaching magazine writing; Bill teaching painting and drawing at Carson-Newman. Back to schedules, deadlines, alarm clocks, cat feedings, trash-emptying, lawn-mowing, house-fixing. Back to work. With a deep, regretful sigh: No more daily adventure of the road ahead. No more long conversations in our traveling living room — the car. No more being together all day, every day. And every night. (Sniff.) Perhaps most tragically: No more room service. (Nooooooooo!)

But also: Back to friends. Back to our crazy cat, Rocket. Back to our separate, but comfortable homes — the ones with the sofa seating curved to the shapes of our bodies. Back to looking ahead farther than the next bend in the road. Back to living from our closets and chests, rather than our suitcases. Back to knowing our way around. As wonderful as our trip was, we agreed — six weeks was a little too long to be away. As much as we loved each adventure, we started to get a little homesick.

Still, we’re glad we did this long version of our annual Maine hajira. Who knows if we will have the chance again, much less the time, energy or funds? Our epic journey (click here if you want to see the whole crazy map in detail) began in Atlanta,  stopped briefly in New Market, TN, continued up the East Coast to New York. Here was our big kickoff, planned for months (see previous post) to celebrate Bill’s 60th birthday in a pull-out-the-stops four-day stay in our favorite U.S. city.

View Sabbatical 2011 in a larger map

We love NYC so much that our visits (we were last in town around Christmas, to see Pee-Wee Herman’s Broadway show) have begun to take a familiar pattern: We make a lot of plans, but not so much that we don’t have time for a lot of walking around. That’s our favorite thing – just walking around. (Besides eating, of course.) But as much energy as New York lends you, it also taketh away. On each of our recent trips, I’ve gotten sick, and we’ve both been so tired we’ve literally fallen down in the street.

At Lincoln Center, for Die Walkure.

Oh well. We had to eliminate one plan – to see Al Jarreau at the Blue Note – because of my sheer lack of energy from a bad cold. But everything else went gloriously well: The five-hour opera (Die Walkure), the three-hour meal at Per Se, the discovery of ABC Kitchen, the back-in-time service and style of the traditional French restaurant, La Grenouille, even the the B-list celeb sighting of Jim Belushi at Minetta Tavern and overrated Bar Masa. We loved our small, but comfortable and well-appointed room (complete with tiny, noisy terrace) at the Gotham Hotel.

Amuse bouches, at Per Se, NYC.

And that was just the first week. We continued from New York to Maine, crawling up the coast to a few days in Portland, relatives in Harpswell and our two-week summer rental in Bar Harbor. From there, across New Hampshire and Vermont, tracking lakes Champlain, George and Placid into the Adirondacks and beyond to the shores of Lake Ontario. From Buffalo, down through Ohio, and on to rural Pennsylvania and the Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, Fallingwater.  Several pieces of our trip were so extraordinary I’d like to take them one at a time in future posts: New York and the Per Se meal. Portland, Maine. The Adirondacks. Fallingwater. But the capper was a destination we added at Bill’s request: The museum and homestead dedicated to his favorite watercolorist, Charles Burchfield.

I’ll be getting to those soon. Until then, a quick recap of our trip by the numbers:

Days on the road: 39

Miles traveled: 4660

Hours in car: 90

Avg speed: 44 mph

States visited: 15

(Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Ohio)

Low temp: 41 degrees, Bar Harbor

High: 92, Winchester, Va.

At the Pierce-Arrow Museum, Buffalo.

Oceans visited: 1

Great Lakes seen: 2 (Erie, Ontario)

Adirondack lakes visited: 3 (Champlain, George, Placid)

Ferry crossings: 1

Hotel stays: 13

Renaissance Pittsburgh.

Weirdly coincidental hotel stay: 1 (in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire)

Summer rentals: 1

Relatives crashed upon: 1

Restaurants visited: 49

Lobsters consumed: 8

Oysters: 13

Steamahs: 36

Chowder bowls: 5

Periwinkles: dozen

Favorite breakfast: Cafe This Way, Bar Harbor

Favorite lunch: ABC Kitchen, NYC

Favorite dinner: Per Se, NYC

Favorite hotel: Renaissance Pittsburgh

Favorite inn: Mirror Lake Inn, Lake Placid, NY

Worst meal: Summit Inn, Farmington, Pa.

Worst hotel: Sagamore Inn, Lake George, NY

Best discovery: Shelburne Museums, Shelburne, VT

Best museum: (tie) Albright-Knox, Buffalo; Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pa.

Favorite funky-weird store: Tool Barn, Bar Harbor

Best record shop: Burlington Records, Burlington, VT


Trip highlight: Charles Burchfield Homestead, Salem, Ohio

Nerdiest museum visited: (tie) Green Bank Radio Telescope Museum, Green Bank, WVa; Pierce-Arrow Auto Museum, Buffalo, NY.

Best quote: “I’d describe it as ‘Aspirational WASP.’” — Susan Percy, on the trying-too-hard decor of the Bar Harbor rental.

New relationship catchphrase [in the rising falsetto of Bill’s late grandmother]: “i donnn’t waaaannnNT IIIITT!”

Birthdays celebrated: 1

Moose spottings: 1

Museums (nerdy and otherwise) visited: 8

Operas attended: 1

Live jazz: 2

Stupendous fireworks shows: 1

Celeb sighting: 1

Near altercations with obnoxious strangers: 1

Fingers closed in car door: 1

Me vs. car door: Car door won.

Emergency room visits: 1

Facebook postings: 417 (OK, I made that up, but it has to be close)

Cats retrieved from avuncular sitters: 1

Combined cash on hand at end of trip: $16