Auburn – Alabama

October 7, 2010

First, a quick update: I received email from Steve saying that I never smelled like a fish.

He also informed me, referring to our swim workout, that I did not swim like one either.

Anyway, back in Asheville, Kettle and I stayed in a bizarre downtown motel, where each room had a front wall that was almost entirely window. There was a shade, of course, but it was still a bit creepy.

The next morning we picked up Kate, then went for a drive and a hike.

The hike was really nice. Kate and I reminisced about the past, while Kettle lived in the moment.

It had rained recently, so while Kate and I were walking gingerly to avoid water and mud, Kettle was launching himself headlong through the soggy wilderness. At one point he sprinted ahead out of sight, then, after a few minutes with no sign of him, he suddenly came charging up from behind us. I don’t know how he did it, but he was quite pleased with himself.

After the hike we had a late lunch, followed by a long coffee. By the time I left, it was after 4pm. My destination was Auburn, Alabama – which meant driving across the corner of South Carolina, then through Georgia, then into Alabama.

And so, for the first time this trip, I drove through an entire state at night.

Sorry, Georgia. I hope to see you, better, next time.

 

Kettle brakes for a treat

 

 

Kate and Kettle: Happy Hikers

Asheville to Auburn

 

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I left Lexington, going in roughly in the wrong direction.

Steve had told me that I should drive up into the mountains of the George Washington National Forest. So I did that – even though it wasn’t on my exact path.

My exact path was to Asheville, North Carolina, where I would be meeting Kate for dinner. Kate is friend from the topsy-turvy TEN/pogo days, the Internet start-up where we worked in the late 90’s.

I had 3 somewhat conflicting goals for my trip to Asheville, in ascending order of importance:

1) See the aforementioned George Washington mountains.

2) Drive along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway leading to Asheville.

3) Don’t be late for dinner.

The George Washington National Forest was nice, and I got to see some backwoods areas. But the detour took longer than I expected, creating some worry about goals 2 and 3. So I almost regretted undertaking goal 1. But I didn’t. Because there was something else.

I rescued a doggie.

Driving on Highway 220, we crossed over a river with a gravel boat ramp. Kettle and I like to stop at easy to access rivers, so we turned off onto Glen Wilton Road and pulled into the boat ramp parking area.

As soon as I got out of the car, I was greeted by an excited and friendly little dog.

There were some other parked cars, but there was no one around.  I was worried that the little guy would run out onto the highway, so I got Kettle’s leash and put it on Glen, then walked him down to the river to see if anyone was there.

The dog’s name was not actually Glen, but whatever name had been written on his collar had faded off. That’s right, instead of buying a tag, someone just wrote on the collar with a marker. (I was annoyed, until I realized that it was something I might do.)

I called him Glen for two reasons. The first you will figure out, if you haven’t already. The second is that when I got Kettle, the name on his papers was Glen. But he didn’t respond to that name, and so I called him Kettle instead. I have since wondered if I should have used the name Glen. This was my second chance.

No one was down at the river, so I brought Glen back up to my car. Normally if another dog approaches the car, he will bark menacingly. But Kettle just watched Glen and wagged his tail.

Would Kettle end up having a buddy for the ride home?

Most likley not. Glen probably still had a home somewhere. If no one showed up soon, I would have to find a dog shelter so that, hopefully, his owners would find him there.

Then an old pick-up truck came down Glen Wilton Road and stopped at the stop sign. I waved to get their attention.

The three people in the front seat were the most hillbilly-looking folks I’ve ever seen in real life. We were in the woods, after all, and not far from West Virginia. They seemed a bit uneasy about having to talk to me.

I, of course, was completely comfortable.

I asked if they recognized Glen.

They did!

They were difficult to understand, but they said he belonged at a big, brown house half a mile up the road.

“He’s a roamer,” said the woman in the middle of the seat.

I was hoping they’d volunteer to take him back themselves, but no such offer was made. So I drove up the road, with the little dog on my lap, and found the brown house.

No one was home (I think), but there was an enclosed front porch with the gate open. I put Glen the Roamer on the porch, left a bowl of water, shut the porch gate, and went on my way.

No shot guns were fired in the process.

From there I drove to Roanoke, then found my way onto the Blue Ridge Parkway … running late for my dinner with Kate.

I was expecting the Blue Ridge Parkway to be just like any other scenic highway. But my expectations were far surpassed. The Parkway is 469 miles of road along the Blue Ridge portion of the Appalachian Mountains. The entire drive is buffered from civilization. Not only is it extraordinarily scenic, but it is uninterrupted by stops of any kind.  And the road was in great condition. And it was curvy (but not too curvy) – and nicely banked. And there were not many cars on the road.

Did I mention I was running late?

And have I mentioned that I’m driving a Mini Cooper?

If so, you will not be surprised to learn that on this spectacular afternoon in Virginia (soon to be North Carolina), on one of the most beautiful roads in the world, I broke one of my 3 rules for the trip …

I drove fast.

And it was good.

So was dinner with Kate. She took me to a place called Tupelo Honey, where I had blackened catfish over goat cheese grits. For two things that seems so different, goat cheese and grits go quite well together.

The only problem with dinner was that it was too short, so we decided to go for a hike the next day.

One reason that dinner with Kate was too short was that … well …  I was late.

But hey, I rescued a doggie.

And that wasn’t even on my list.

 

George Washington National Forest

 

 

Meet Glen

 

 

Glen at the river

 

 

Glen in the driver's seat

 

 

Glen meeting Kettle

 

 

Glen back on the porch

 

 

of hopefully the correct brown house

 

 

The Blue Ridge Parkway

 

 

Parked on the Parkway

 

 

A view from the Parkway

 

 

Last Parkway shot

 

Lexington – Virginia

October 5, 2010

After sixteen and a half days, my vacation’s vacation came to an end.

I received my credit and debit cards in the mail, so I was good to go.

I will miss Steven & Diane and Calvin & Zack. So will Kettle. But we have places to go and people to see.

And there’s that fish thing.

Our first day of travel took us through the scenic Shenendoah Valley. We stopped at some caverns, where I marveled at the brochure and explored the gift shop. I didn’t actually go into the caverns, but I did bring Kettle to see the miniature train that takes kids for rides near the cavern entrance.

No one was around, so I took the opportunity to have Kettle get into one of the train seats so I could take his picture.

Kettle took the opportunity to assert that he’s a 95 pound Rottweiler / German Shepherd mix that won’t be cajoled into getting into a kiddie train.

We also stopped at James Madison University because James Madison is one of the most underrated of the American founders and because that’s where I found myself after pulling off the highway to go pee.

We spent the night in Lexington, Virginia. It’s not the Lexington from the battle of Lexington and Concord, but it is the Lexington that is home to the home of General Stonewall Jackson.

And that’s good enough for me.

Dog Not On Board

Dog On Campus

The day's route.

Vienna 2 – Virginia

September 28, 2010

Hi.

I’m still here.

I was going to leave a couple days ago. Really, I was.

But I lost my wallet.

I lost my wallet because of a Kid’s Scoop of Chocolate Fudge ice cream.

It’s been hot while driving across the country, and as I result my car ran low on coolant. So Friday afternoon I drove to the Vienna auto parts store to get some. I went to the Mini to add the coolant, but I decided to wait a bit to let the engine cool down (that’s what it says to do). In the mean time, I went to the Baskin Robbins across the street and ordered a scoop.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I must have put my wallet on the counter to take the ice cream and been so captivated by the Chocolate Fudge that I failed to retrieve my wallet.

I realized that evening that I didn’t have my wallet, but when I returned to Baskin Robbins, they said they didn’t have it.

Staying in motels with a dog requires plastic, so I called the banks to get new credit/debit cards sent here to Steve and Diane’s house. It takes 5-7 business days to get the new cards. So I’ll be here for a while longer.

When I told this to my mom, she said I was going to start smelling like a fish.

I talk to my mom almost every day, and she’s my favorite person in the world, but I had no idea what she meant.

She explained that people say that a guest who stays over three days begins to smell like a fish.

I Googled it and found that it’s a Benjamin Franklin quote: “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

Surely not.

Vienna – Virginia

September 24, 2010

Two friends for me. Two friends for Kettle.

The two friends for me are Steve and Diane. Steve and I were in the same freshman dorm in college, and we’ve been friends ever since. Diane showed up a couple years later, and the three of us have been even better friends ever since.

The two friends for Kettle are Calvin and Zack. Calvin is a 13 year old Australian Shepherd, and Zack is an 11 year old Chow mix. Calvin is an old and wise dog. Zack is not as old, nor as wise – but makes up for it with enthusiasm.

Steve and Diane have a house in Vienna, Virginia, which is about 20 miles west of Washington D.C. Diane is an OB-GYN, and Steve in the State Department.

I like them. I like their house. I like their dogs. I like their friends. And I like their Internet connection.

So I haven’t left yet.

I’ve been here a week.

When I arrived last Friday, we immediately went out to meet some of their friends for dinner in Arlington.

I must tell you what I had for dinner …

Fried chicken and waffles.

Fried chicken and waffles, all of it covered with a maple butter syrop.

That’s right.

Apparently this dish is quite the craze around here. Understandably.

The next night we were part of a progressive dinner with another set of friends. We were responsible for the last course: dessert.

I must tell you about the dessert …

It was cake.

The cake was made with batter.

The batter was made with a pint of melted Ben & Jerry’s ice cream mixed into it.

That’s right.

Diane asked Steve and me to get the ice cream when we went to the store. We chose the “Boston Cream Pie” flavor because we liked the idea of cake ice cream within cake. (Boston Cream Pie is cake, not pie.) (Although, in this case, it was ice cream, not cake.) (But, also in this case, it ended up being cake.)

The cake was as good as you would expect it to be.

That good.

While we were eating cake, Zack the dog was in my room eating half a bag of Glycocyamine dog treats that he found in my bag.

While we were sleeping, Zack was having diarrhea all over the family room and living room carpets.

In the morning we cleaned up the worst of it, then Steve and I went to a yoga class, while Diane went to the store, rented a steam cleaner, and cleaned the carpets.

Totally unfair. Diane’s a trooper.

A pooper trooper.  🙂

We all then went on a hike to see the Great Falls. Calvin had to stay at home because his hips. Zack had to come with us because of his bowels. Kettle had his choice, and he came.

The Great Falls were good.

We then had a nice lunch out. A nap. And a nice dinner in.

When Monday rolled around, Steve and Diane went back to their busy lives, while I stayed and lingered around.

My days have been filled with working on my game, walking the dogs, helping with dinner, and doing yoga (I signed up for an “All the Hot Yoga You Can Do In Week” promotion for $20).

One night Steve took me to his gym where I joined him and his swim club for a one hour swim workout.

I’m not doing that again.

On Wednesday, I finally took Kettle into town to see our nation’s capitol.

We saw the Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress. We then walked back past the Capital, down the Mall towards the Washington Monument.

As we walked down the left side of the mall, I watched the sun set just to the left of the Washington Monument.

About 20 seconds after the sun had fully set, I realized that if I had been walking down the middle of the mall, rather than on the left, the sun would have set directly behind the Washington Monument.

About 15 seconds later, I remembered that today was the Fall Equinox.

About 10 seconds later I realized that whoever designed the placement of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument must have intentionally lined them up so that during the equinox someone could stand between the two buildings and admire what must be an incredible sight of watching the sun set down behind the Washington Monument.

Damn.

Damn. Damn. Damn.

About 45 seconds too late.

Anyway …

It’s Friday again, and I’m still here. I’ll let you know when I leave.

 

Home for the week

 

 

Welcome to my new place.

 

 

Diane & Steve being Diane & Steve

 

 

Calvin

 

 

Zack

 

 

Treat?

 

 

Squirrel?

 

 

Great Falls

 

 

Senator Kettle

 

 

Justice Kettle

 

Westport – Connecticut

September 17, 2010

Next stop: Westport, Connecticut.

Why Westport?

Because my cousins, Lou and Dorothy, live there. Lou’s mother and my dad’s mother were sisters.

I arrived at 7:30 and was welcomed with wine and appetizers, then a delicious dinner of roasted chicken and vegetables that Lou grew on his plot in a community garden. Plus a green bean salad made with beans from a line of seeds that Lou’s family has maintained for decades.

I felt at home.

The next morning Lou and Dorothy’s daughter, Gina, came over with her three-year-old twins, Nathan and Elaina. The kids flew out of the mini van and stopped moving only once – to pose for a picture. Well, they didn’t really stop, but they slowed down at least

I then took the train into Manhattan. Kettle stayed at home with Dorothy, where he made sure that the big house and yard were fully appreciated.

I did 3 things in NYC that afternoon and evening:

1. I met up with Katherine, who is another daughter of Lou and Dorothy’s that lives and works in the city. We had coffee near Grand Central Station.

2. I met up with David Lipa, the significantly younger brother of my friend Bill. When Bill and I were in high school, Davey had just been born. Davey now does things like start companies, write novels, and hang out with New York models. We had drinks in SOHO.

3. I met up with Brion, a friend of Davey’s, who is a graphic designer and may help out with my game. We had gourmet smoothies and talked shop.

I then took the train back Westport, where Kettle met me at the door. He seemed quite at home with Dorothy and Lou.

And he’s not even related.

My original plan was to head to Washington D.C. the next day, but that changed because of what Davey told me while having drinks:

“You should stay and party at least one night in New York. It’s fashion week.”

I didn’t know what fashion week was, but I played along.

“You can come with me to an art gallery reception tomorrow. My girlfriend can get us in. And then maybe we’ll go out with her and her model friends.”

I called Steve in D.C. and told him I’d be a day late.

The next day in Westport I went to a yoga class, had a nice lunch with Lou and Dorothy (I had a swordfish wrap!), toured Lou’s community garden, and gave Kettle a much needed bath. I then took the train to Grand Central Station and walked to the Haunch of Venison art gallery on the 20th Floor of a midtown skyrise.

While I was on the train, Dorothy called and told me to be careful because there was just a tornado in Brooklyn.

It would be hard for anyone to say which was more odd:

a) that I was on a train to a trendy NYC art gallery reception

b) that the name of the gallery was “Haunch of Venison”

or

c) that there was a tornado in Brooklyn.

But there’s no doubt that the exhibition itself (Patricia Piccinini: Not As We Know It) was more odd than any of those things.

Her sculptures were partly human, partly animal, and completely freaky. Supposedly the things sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nonetheless, you may want to skip the pictures.

I found Davey, who had just been in Brooklyn during the tornado and seen people outside running for cover. He introduced me to his girlfriend Emma, who works at the gallery, and his friend Ari, a writer originally from Santa Cruz.

After the show, Emma wasn’t able to take us out with her friends, so Davey, Ari and I did the next best thing.

We went to an Asian noodle place, where I gorged myself on Saigon noodles with vegetables.

Then Ari broke off, and Davey and I had a drink at the W, where two attractive girls in their early 20’s sat down and started talking to us.

Well, they sat down next to Davey and started talking to him.

But I was there.

It was then that I got a text from my cousin Katherine, asking if I was still in the city and whether we wanted to meet her and her boyfriend at a nearby bar.

Davey was fine with leaving the two girls – because he’s with Emma.

I was fine with leaving the two girls – because of the creepy rule: half my age plus 7 was more than their age.

And they weren’t talking to me anyway.

So we met Katherine and her guy, had beer and conversation, and played a bit of shuffleboard. I then caught a train back to Westport.

It was a good night. Nothing to write home about … but that’s not the standard for this blog.

Nathan-Gina-Dorothy-Elaina

Slowing Down

Me, Lou, and Lou's Beans

Emma and Davey

Thing 1

Thing 2

Thing 3

Thing 4

Thing 5 - front

Thing 5 - Back

Boston – Massachusetts

September 14, 2010

I started the day by doing triangles with a dozen older ladies and one older gentleman.

It was a Iyengar yoga class, where you do fewer poses but do them longer. In this case, we spent about half an hour doing triangle poses.

(If you don’t know what a triangle pose is, imagine doing a cartwheel, but freezing right before your feet leave the ground. It’s something like that. If you know what a triangle pose is, then please forgive me for just saying that.)

After class, we drove 3 hours to MINI of Peabody, where they fixed my car window.

Peabody is on the outskirts of Boston.

Peabody is pronounced Peebidee.

That’s all I know about Peabody.

(No, you thought it wrong again. It’s Peebidee, remember?)

After that, I met Nanette and Tony for dinner. They live in San Francisco in the same condo complex as me. I know Nanette because we go to the same yoga studio … Pretzel’s Yoga & Pilates.

Nanette and Tony also have a great place in the South End of Boston, and I met them there for a glass of wine before we walked over to a fabulous dinner at Legal Seafood. Legal Seafood has the reputation as the best place in Boston for seafood, and based on the crab cakes and the Atlantic salmon that I had, I have no qualms about spreading the word.

And Nanette and Tony were super nice hosts, so I’ll spread the word about that too.

The next morning Kettle and I went sightseeing. We did this in two ways:

1) We walked from Beacon Hill (fancy houses & shops) to the North End (Little Italy) and back.

2) We drove to random places because we missed the proper on or off ramps.

I can’t believe that I said that driving in Quebec was difficult. Compared to Boston, Quebec was like navigating a Drive-Thru.

I was using my iPhone GPS, and it worked like a charm. A bad luck charm. A voodoo doll that you stick needles in. Something that you don’t want anywhere near you. Something bad.

But Boston is great, and I’m glad I went.

And as an added bonus, I managed to find my way out.

Eventually.

A Beacon Hill sidewalk

A Beacon Hill 7-Eleven

A Beacon Hill Starbucks

An unregistered voter

Paul Revere's house - on left

If it was 235 years ago, Paul Revere would have been crying wolf.

Chocolate Gelato for hungry me