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Exploring New England

Lowell_1I love to explore new places. My neighborhood, my town, the local area, and neat places within a day’s drive or so. It’s the reason I enjoy moving. I get to dig deep into areas I’d normally only cover with a quick pass.

There are lots of ways to find hidden gems. I start by running. I’ve pretty much covered all of Hanscom AFB on foot now (it’s a fairly small base), and I already found a new commuting route for my husband. You know, to shave his ten minute drive down a bit. 😉 (He deserves this after his long trip to/from the Pentagon every day for four years. We’re all excited to have him around more.)

Last weekend we took a drive just to get out of the hotel. We headed up to Lowell for lunch and then into New Hampshire to look around (and check another state off my list).

LifeAliveLunch

I’m excited that Lowell is so close. I remember learning about this birthplace of American industry in my Textiles class at Cal Poly, and I’d like to visit the Smithsonian museum up there. Plus, it’s a cute town with a great little vegetarian restaurant. 🙂

Even closer to home we have Lexington and Concord. (Did anyone else have to read April Morning in school?) The American Revolution started here, and I remember some really cool cemeteries from my visit as a teen. I’m not into the macabre, but the headstones have interesting inscriptions and date back to the 1600s.

Of course, we’re less than 20 miles from Boston, close to the beach, finally have easy access to the whale watching tours (I’ve been trying to do this for years!), not to mention the rest of New England, Montreal, and Quebec are within a day’s drive.

I’m not too keen on winter weather, but I’m looking forward to all of the cool places we have around us to explore. Maybe I’ll take up snowshoeing or cross country skiing. Really, the hardest part will be choosing where to go next!

Incredible Sedona

 

SedonaValley

I was in Phoenix and Sedona over the weekend to say goodbye to a wonderful and amazing woman whom we lost too soon, my mother-in-law. Our reason for being there was sad, but Sedona is beautiful. The perfect place to celebrate the life of a beautiful woman who brightened the spirits of everyone she met.

If you ever find yourself driving between between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon (or Flagstaff), the (slight) detour through the valley of red rock is worth the trip.

Oh, Canada

View of Rogers Centre and CN Tower from the Toronto harbor.

View of Rogers Centre and CN Tower from the Toronto harbor.

My husband needed to take some time off or risk losing it, so we decided to give our passports a little work out and head to our neighbors up north last week.

First stop: Niagara Falls (Canadian side). I hadn’t been to the Falls since I was eight, so I was excited to see them again as an adult. They were even more impressive than I remembered. We took the Maid of the Mist boat tour for an up-close—and very wet!—look to get a good feel for the size and power of both American Falls (U.S.) and Horseshoe Falls (Canada).

Next up: Toronto. I didn’t know what to expect from Toronto. When it comes to big cities, we’re always looking for what makes it different from any other big city in North America.

In Toronto, we found a modern, friendly, relatively clean metropolis with incredible ethnic diversity. Apparently half of Toronto’s population was born outside of Candada! We could have taken the subway, but instead we walked nearly everywhere.

Our hotel was close to Dundas Square (say “Dun-dass”), the city’s version of Times Square, as well as the LGBT-friendly neighborhood of Church Wellesley Village, which had a great selection of shops and restaurants. In fact we ate dinner in Church Wellesley two of our three nights there. The area—and in fact the entire city—was decked out with pride flags and banners in anticipation of last weekend’s Pride Parade.

Toronto is located on Lake Ontario, and we got a great view of the outlying islands and the city landscape from CN Tower, the tallest tower—and second tallest building—in the world. We lunched in St. Lawrence Market, an indoor market of individual restaurants and shops selling organic produce, meat, cheeses, and plenty of kitschy items.

On our last day in town, we took a bus tour. It’s something we often do in new-to-us cities to pick up on the local flavor and history, and get an overview of the place. This one came with a fabulous boat tour of the harbor and Toronto Islands.

Toronto is a city under construction with many high-rise condominium buildings going up near the water, and work being done to expand Union Station (which supports both subway and train). I can’t say I blame people for flocking to this city by the bay.

If you get a chance, check it out.

Work and play in California

I had a fabulous time in San Jose two Saturdays ago, delivering my first in-person Scrivener workshop for the Silicon Valley Romance Writers. Lots of good questions and enthusiastic students, followed by a delicious Indian lunch buffet.

To top it off, my flight didn’t leave until Sunday night. Never one to miss an opportunity for a little extra travel—or a peek at the ocean—I took a side trip to Santa Cruz before meeting a longtime friend and his family for dinner.

If you’ve been hanging around my blog long enough, you probably know that I was meant to live on the beach. So far, destiny and reality have not caught up with each other, but I’m an optimist. Until then, I take every chance I can to feed my need for the sight, sound, feel, and scent of the ocean.

Besides, when the rental car company upgrades you to a red Mustang because the compact you booked is not available, you must take a road trip.

Here are a few highlights from my fun in the sun.

Workshop photo taken by Kristina Wright.

A long weekend in Delaware

I’ve driven through Delaware on my way to New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, but I’ve never stopped there before. Dover is less than three hours away, so over the long weekend, we decided to check it out.

We started off on Saturday with a detour to Rehoboth Beach for a quick ocean fix. There’s a kitschy little main street lined with clothing stores, candy shops, and restaurants, and capped off by a gazebo with a dolphin statue.

Rehoboth has the requisite tall grass and sand fences that I expect on the east coast, and a long, clean beach that was surprisingly busy for a weekend in October. Though it was a balmy 81 degrees, so maybe everyone was out for a last hurrah. (Sunday was about 30 degrees cooler!)

On Sunday, we headed for historic downtown Dover after breakfast. The area is a quaint section of older government buildings and homes, and a few streets of restaurants and boutiques, which don’t open on Sundays until 1:30.

We seem to have a knack for showing up when everything’s closed (Bermuda anyone?), but we just drove around. We’re not big on food and shopping as tourism anyway.

Instead we had lunch and then checked out Dover Air Force Base, and the Air Mobility Command (AMC) museum. You can’t be married to an aerospace engineer who’s in the Air Force and not enjoy a good airplane museum. 😉 My youngest has the flight bug too, so he was excited to check out the planes, even though AMC is all about transport, not the sexy fighters.

Dover is home to the massive C-5, the largest cargo plane the Air Force has, but those aren’t on display at the museum. You can see them in action taking off and landing on the runway. We did get to walk through a C-130 and a C-141. I’ve been inside many planes at museums (see previous paragraph), but this was probably the first time I’ve toured those two back to back.

I was surprised how much smaller the C-130 is, but it makes sense considering it’s used for tactical airlift (intra-theater). The museum had a section of the tarmac with rectangular outlines depicting the cargo footprint for each type of plane. The C-5’s cargo capacity is an incredible 144 feet long by 19 feet wide, and 220,000 pounds! By comparison, the C-130 has a meager 41 by 10 feet, and can carry 52,000 pounds.

On our way home yesterday, we stopped in Annapolis for another quick shot of water scenery. It’s such a cute town, but the residential streets near the water are incredibly narrow and lined with cars on both sides. It reminded me of driving in Georgetown. Thankfully, there was no Navy game traffic to contend with this time, just a boat show.

All of the things we saw were nice—I love to explore—but the best part was three days of family time. If we’d stayed home, we would have each been wrapped up in our own activities most of the day. Instead, we hung out together.

That alone made the whole trip worth it.

On impulse

I fancy myself spontaneous, but in reality, I’m not. I’m a planner by nature. I make lists. I categorize things.

I love adventure, and might plan a trip last minute, but I still don’t leave without hotel reservations confirmed, a route planned, and a loose budget in mind.

Snore.

Even when we decided to drive a couple of extra hours on our way back from Miami last month, we secured a new hotel room first. (Turned out to be a good idea, since they were booked up by the time we arrived.)

But one year in college, I came very close to total spontaneity. It was during my year of transition from California to Arizona when I was still establishing residency in Tucson, and not yet going to school full time.

I was driving home from the Phoenix airport after a spring ski trip in Telluride with my parents. As I passed the exit for I-8 to San Diego, I was really, really tempted to head west for an impromptu road trip to visit friends.

Really, really, really tempted.

Problem was, I had winter clothes in my suitcase, no money for a hotel, and no idea if any of my friends would be around.

Le sigh.

But for the next hour, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. It grew and grew until it took over, which is how I found myself calling people to see if they were up for a quick, unexpected visit from moi. Affirmatives received, I repacked, stashed some snacks and soda in my car, gassed up, and hit the road again.

Not exactly the spontaneous turn off of I-10 I had envisioned, but close enough for me. And I had a blast. I visited friends in San Diego, stopped by West Covina (near LA) to see my cousins, and sped up 101 to hang with a high school buddy at UC Santa Barbara.

I’ve never regretted that not-quite-impromptu road trip. Maybe one of these days I’ll do something truly spontaneous. You can be sure I’ll let you know.

What’s the most impulsive thing you’ve ever done? And I don’t mean choosing something different on the menu at lunch. 😉 Come on, spill.

Photo credit: ENDLESS ROAD © Verena Lüdemann | Dreamstime.com

Undressed

© Darren Green | Dreamstime.com

I’m leaving for the RWA National Conference on Sunday, and I have this fear that I’m going to forget something important. Like my awards night dress.

Sounds silly, but unfortunately, it’s not unprecedented.

Back on 2002, we drove from Santa Maria (CA) to Phoenix to visit family and attend my childhood friend’s wedding reception in Tucson. We packed up the car for our overnight trip, left the kids with grandma, and hit the road with enough time to make the drive, check in to our hotel, change, and walk downstairs for the festivities.

Unfortunately, the kids weren’t the only thing we left in Phoenix. Hanging neatly on the closet door of our guest room were my dress and my husband’s shirt, slacks, and tie. When did we figure it out? As soon as we pulled into the hotel parking lot and grabbed our bags.

We looked at each other and asked, “Where are our clothes?” Followed by a few choice expletives.

Somewhat reminiscent of the frantic race to sell our van in Los Angeles just the year before, we checked in to the hotel—coincidentally, the one where we got married—and made a mad dash to the mall for suitable attire. Sadly, our shorts and flip flops just wouldn’t do.

I’m proud to say that after weeks spent looking for a dress in California, I found a new one in 45 minutes flat. The Engineer had equal success with his own threads and we were “only” about an hour late for the two-and-a-half-hour event.

At least we got new clothes and a night in a gorgeous hotel without the kids out of it. Too bad the stress probably took days off my life…