We’re gonna miss ’em when we’re gone

I bought a ticket for the long way ’round, the one with the prettiest of views. It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to make you shiver, but it sure would be prettier with you. – Carter Family “When I’m Gone”, 1931

We are saying good bye to a lot of people these days. I do not like goodbyes. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.  I usually don’t take pictures of them, but…

 

 Dr Mama and kids came up from North Carolina and we frolicked in center city Philadelphia. There are wonderful fountains and we had a big sleepover and swam at their hotel’s rooftop pool. When will we see them next?


  
  
  Last minute goings-on are stressful. Yes, we are getting ready for an exciting trip around the world but I’ve been spending my time cleaning obscure, greasy corners of the kitchen.  Cleaning, packing, painting the house ugh. I am not, shall we say, the most fastidious housekeeper and we are kind of doing eight years of spring cleaning in a couple of weeks.  Then there are the Chinese visas. They have been denied 3 times! Ommmmmm it will work out…

The packing and organizing go on and on… I think the new tenants come tomorrow!!!

Maryland & Virginia & West Virginia Part 3

RW and I had made the highly questionable decision to bike in the rain.  Both Wonderful parents and two of their kids, along with Fiercely and Cleverly, decided to come along.  Mr. Fantastic was interested in bringing non-bikers to the Udvar-Hazy Center, a part of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum consisting of airplane hangars housing historic aircraft.  That quickly, the plan was made.
First, though, came breakfast!  We had checked out the Desert Rose Cafe the day before and decided to have breakfast there.  We had also discussed ordering bagged lunches from there.  Two great decisions! We biked to the cafe in the rain, had a cozy breakfast with all 12 of us, bought a couple of rain ponchos then split into our two groups. 

   
  Off we went back to the towpath. It was pouring rain nonstop, just as everyone said it would. The mud puddles were profound and unavoidable. I could not take pictures because there was so much rain. For about six hours we biked like this. Part of the path was a beautiful esplanade next to the river where the canal boats used to actually be in the river. I wish I had a photo, but, you know, rain. At one point we stopped and ate our sandwiches in the rain. Cleverly decided to bail out after about an hour (Mr. Fantastic was our support vehicle if we needed one) but then rallied and finished with us.

There were few bikers on the path. I noticed those in front of me had large mud splashes up their backs and after awhile it dawned on me that I probably did too. We all had mud caked on the inner sides of our legs and shoes. About an hour or two from our destination, the rain let up and we drip-dried a little. It was still cloudy. I thought again of the canal boats and how the workers would work in any weather until the canal froze.  We eventually came up to a bridge and into the historic town of Harpers Ferry.

   
    
    
    
 
We met up with the rest of our group, who had indeed gone to the airplane museum. We drove to get supplies and then to the Wonderful family’s cabin. This became another adventure since the steep gravel driveway proved too much for our car. We loaded our things into the Wonderfuls’ car and walked the short stretch to the cabin.

  
Above: our car trying and failing to get up the steep stretch of driveway. We ended up parking by the yellow car.

The cabin was beautiful and had all the modern comforts like running water and electricity. We all took showers, had dinner and went to bed. 

Day 7

We woke up in the cabin and had a great breakfast. Then we spent the day exploring the place. The Wonderfuls have a share in a cabin that is part of a larger Washington, DC-based spiritual group. The group has over 1,000 acres of hilly, forested land through which passes the Appalacian Trail. There is a pond, several hiking trails, and a number of buildings, including retreat center facilities.  We enjoyed hiking, playing the many board games there and a few we brought, and generally exploring the area. 

   
    
    
    
 

   

 Day 8

We headed back home today. First we went back to Harper’s Ferry where we had left a few bikes. It looked so nice in the sunshine!

   
    
 
And then it was time to drive home. It had been such a splendiferous trip! I loved it all- the history, the food, the biking in sunshine and in the rain. The kids had done great, and now most of us have biked most of the way between Pittsburgh to Washington DC. Not all at once, but this trip was 120 miles, and three years ago we did about 75 miles.

A postscript

One of our group, thankfully only one, unfortunately contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever on this trip. It is a tick-borne disease and landed this person in the ICU and on some serious antibiotics. It is clear that taking precautions against insect bites of all kinds is wise when you are camping and hiking in the woods like this. We all had numerous bites on various body parts and luckily the ER staff identified the likely cause of our friend’s symptoms and prescribed the correct treatment. All is well as of this writing thank goodness!!!

Maryland & Virginia & West Virginia, June 2015, part 2

Lockhouse 49

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We could not believe it when we saw the place, in fact, we biked past it.  Unlike the wooden lockhouse buildings we had been passing- white with green shutters- this place was brick. It was on the other side of the locks we had passed, the opposite side from most other lockhouses we had passed.  Circling back for a better look, yes, wow!  This was Lockhouse 49 in what used to be the Four Locks community – our home for the next two nights.  It was magical to stay here!  As a lovingly restored historic home, it was a little like a museum or fancy B&B.  It also was a bit like camping (no plumbing), and like a youth hostel (4 beds per room).  We explored the house and the area and got settled in. There were books and old photos inside the house, outside we could walk around the bottom of the canal where the boats used to float back in the day.

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Day 4

We walked around the lock structures around us again this morning.  It was a beautiful day, and the stone structures were interesting and lovely in the light.

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Fort Frederick

The kids were reluctant to go after two days of biking, but this place surpassed our expectations and turned out to be a highlight of the trip.  It was about 3 miles from the lockhouse, back the way we had came, so we biked over to mile 112.4 to check it out.  From the entrance to the park, we could tell this place was really cool.  There was a rustic wooden fence, the kind with rough-cut wood leaning at angles against the parallel ones.  Beyond was a massive stone wall as far as we could see.  To the left was a parking lot with plenty of bike parking, which we rapidly monopolized.  There was a log cabin-type buiding next to the parking area, and several smaller buildings behind that.

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Fort (L) and visitor center (R)

We were looking around when L. Wonderful started trying to gather us to let us know “There are costumed reenactors!  They’ll give us a tour!”  We all headed for the fort entrance, which we learned until recently had a massive wooden door.  Standing by the entrance were indeed two men in costume, one of whom was speaking about the history of the fort in a strong English accent.

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The guide with the accent turned out to actually be from England and both guides were happy to discuss history of the Fort.  We had them talking for a long time after they did their usual tour since there were not a lot of visitors that day.  The fort was built for the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years War, in the 1750’s.  It was later used during the Revolutionary War as a prison for British soldiers, and during the Civil War for Union soldiers to protect the C&O Canal from attack. Later, it was forgotten, fell into disrepair, and was even used to house livestock until the 1920’s when it became owned by the State of Maryland and was rebuilt as a Civil Conservation Corps project in the 1930’s.  Meanwhile, here in 2015, the kids ran around and tried on costumes and generally explored the place and played all they wanted.

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Above: start of tour inside soldier barracks (outside is shown in last picture) Below: our kids running around and playing in costume

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It was so unexpected and so much fun.  L Wonderful and I loved hearing the English version of the Boston Tea Party and details of the soldier’s lives in Fort Frederick.  It is also interesting to know that Fort Duquesne, currently known as Pittsburgh, had a similar design, ironically a French design, of a large square with diamond-shaped corners, shown below.

below: L and me trying to make straight faces so we can be proper soldiers!

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After the fort, we went back to the lockhouse.  Happily, we were indoors during the big rainstorm that happened that evening.  We played cards, looked at the books and other reading material about the history of the area, and enjoyed the old-fashioned kids’ games that were there for our use in the house.  That night, it might have happened that I had to get up and use the facilities, and it is also possible I started thinking a lot about ghosts there in that house for a moment in the quiet dark night in that old, old house…

Day 5

This was to be a light day of biking with time to relax and explore a canal town.  We packed up the bikes and cleaned the lockhouse after breakfast.  Our next stop was only 10 miles away and we were to stay in a hotel this night.  We passed some nice rock faces, a dam area where the canal boats used to ride on the river on the flat area upstream of the dam, and wonderful views of the Potomac.  A large group of young men on a group trip passed us energetically.

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Williamsport, MD

We arrived, biked to the hotel, then explored this cute town for the day.  We found a swimming pool, an ice cream shop, an historic farm, and an antique car show.  Getting off the trail at mile 99.4 there was an aqueduct (the one where a boat fell off in the 1920’s!  You can still see the damage.) and a nice museum about the canal. The Conococheague – which I am proud I learned to pronounce as “KAHN-eh-ka-jig” – River meets the Potomac here, thus the aqueduct.

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above: Williamsport, the affected side of the aqueduct(with grassy hill in foreground), the intact side

below: things we found in Williamsport, in no particular order.  The town park was very nice – green, large, included a swimming pool open to the public for just $3! We had it almost to ourselves.  Antique cars, ice cream parlor, Springfield farm.

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We had a swim, some ice cream, and a walk around the town before calling it a day.  We went to sleep in a modern building for the first time in 4 nights, and waited for the rain everyone said would come over night.

Day 6

We awoke to the sound of rain.  A steady, relentless rain that had been predicted the day before.  The Park Service people even said the rain might threaten the towpath; parts had washed out from rain in the past.  We decided to give up our last day of biking and drive the rest of the way to Harper’s Ferry.  R. Wonderful and I were to drive him there to pick up his car, bring both cars back to the hotel, then we would all pack the cars and head out.  We headed in the rain for my car in the parking lot, a few yards from the hotel room.  In that short space of time, we realized that a few people wanted to bike in the rain.  Heck, I wanted to bike in the rain.  So did RW.  And Mr. Fantastic didn’t really want to bike; he might be happy to take non-bikers to a museum or something… and so hatched the plan to bike 40 miles in the pouring rain!  What happened?  Stay tuned, tripsters!!

 

Maryland &Virginia& West Virginia, June, 2015 part 1

This was an eight-day extravaganza!! We have now done seven bike/camp trips with the Wonderful family in the past eight years and I think this one is the best yet.  It was a fitting send-off in a way, since we are planning to be RTW tripping this time next year and don’t know when our next joint adventure will be. So this trip was special in more ways than one. First a major shout-out to R. Wonderful for extensive planning during the winter and spring. He researched everything and even made spreadsheets! Not my skill set! I am humbled and grateful.  It takes a lot of planning to handle 12 people (including 8 kids!), meals, accomodations, vehicles, and all those miles.  Thank you!!

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We started by biking some of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal towpath starting in Cumberland, MD. This trail skirts the borders of MD, VA, WV, and PA.  It connects with the Great Allegheny Passage to form a 335 mile bike path between Pittsburgh, PA and Washington, DC. We biked about 70 miles of the GAP three years ago with the Wonderfuls through the beautiful Ohiopyle State Park. Now we were tackling part of the C&O.

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Western end of the towpath, around mile 184 (L), our first campsite (R)

C&O Canal

This amazing piece of history was a jewel to discover, both as a bicycler who appreciates the scenery and campsites, and also for the canal structures and culture which has disappeared as a way of life. The C&O canal was built in the 1820s as an efficient way to move goods across difficult terrain and parallel to the Potomac River, which was considered unnavigable. Canal freight boats were about 90 feet in length, were towed by mules on the towpath, and were homes for some canal families. Children lived on the boats, sometimes tethered to them for safety!  The boats were wooden and not only included kitchen, food storage and bedrooms, but also had stables for the mules, who worked and rested in six-hour shifts, and space for about 15 tons of coal. They carried other cargo such as milled grains, sometimes loaded directly from canalside mills. This transport system involved mule drivers (often kids) who walked with the mules, boatmen using poles to steer the boats away from the stone walls of the canals, and lock keepers who maintained the canals and operated locks to raise and lower the boats to the changing water levels. The canal itself is just under 185 miles in length. It is now a national park and includes structures such as lock houses where the lock workers lived, aqueducts that carried the canal over rivers that would otherwise obstruct its flow, and elaborate locks with gates to control water levels.

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towpath with lockhouse to the right and remains of lock to left

As you may guess, I became obsessed with the canal history and the ruins around us as I biked along. Some of the biking was tough since there were muddy patches, bad gravel, and I was towing our heavy gear in a bike trailer. I could identify with the mules at times!

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a muddy patch – it was to get much worse!  Me towing the “Joyrider” trailer

We found some books about the canal life with actual interviews done in the late 1970s with people who had grown up in that life. Home on the Canal by Elizabeth Kytle was my favorite. We went to a museum that had a silent film done in 1917 by Thomas Edison’s film crew which they filmed while boating down the canal and through locks. About eight years after that, the canals had a terrible flood and by then were also becoming obsolete due to the railroads and they never recovered. By then, though, the canals had a ninety year history and structures that would remain today and hopefully for a long time to come.

As a bike path, the C&O is wonderful in many respects. It is quite level, it has stunning scenery including massive rock faces and views of the Potomac River, it provides port-a-johns and drinking water every five miles or so, it is dotted with historical sites and lovely towns, and there are free camp sites all along the path. Two things to note are that the path is not paved, so wider tires are helpful as it can be bumpy and muddy, and drinking water from the pumps (not available in winter, BTW) is treated with iodine, which didn’t bother us too much but it is noticeable.  The canal structures such as lock houses, aqueducts, and the locks themselves are fascinating.

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remains of lock (L), aqueduct (R)

Day 1

We arrived in Cumberland, MD, the Western end of the towpath and biked 4 miles to a campsite. Two adults drove cars to Williamsport, MD, and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and then took the train back to Cumberland and biked to camp with us. This took about five hours. Our campsite was called Evitt’s Creek (mile 180.1) and was between the towpath and the Potomac. Just past the towpath was the canal which at this stretch had water and many turtles and algae, unfortunately many bugs as well.

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Parallel to the canal, towpath and river were several active train tracks with trains passing by at least once an hour. I was delighted to be camping and starting the journey, I also love the sound of nearby trains, but other campsites proved to be further from the tracks so others may choose to go a few more miles to avoid them.  It is interesting to note that at times we on the towpath were moving parallel to trains that replaced the canal system, which were running parallel to highways with semi trucks that have largely replaced the trains! Three transport systems side by side, one gone, one partly used, and one going strong.

Day 2

We awoke, packed our gear, and headed out on our first long day. The trail was bumpy on my narrow tires, but the twins’ little bikes had fatter tires and they did well.  The teens carried little gear and got ahead, so we had a policy of stopping every three miles to meet up before heading out again. There are mile markers every mile, which made it easy to know where to meet. There are also maps and guidebooks to show campsites, towns, structures, and other points of interest, all using mile numbers to identify location.  The canal was to our left and continued to be full of croaking frogs, turtles lounging on logs, and seaweed. The kids saw a large black snake. There were groundhogs and deer. We mostly biked under a green canopy of trees on a double trail with grass in the center. I often heard “on you left” as bikers from our group and others passed me as I trundled along. We saw our first lockhouse and we also filled our water bottles at trailside water pumps.

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We went through Paw Paw Tunnel, hand carved, lined with six million bricks, and over 3,000 feet long.   There is dripping water, uneven footing, and almost complete darkness at times, so we were glad to obey the signs by walking our bikes and using headlights.

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IMG_0144The other side of the tunnel was one of my favorite parts of the trip.  There was a wooden walkway next to a steep rock face with the canal and another sloping rock wall on the other side.  When the wooden path ended, there was a single earth trail still with the canal to the left and tilted rock walls on either side.  Gorgeous!imageimageimage

We stopped and made lunch at a lovely campsite, which I’m pretty sure was Purselane Run at mile 157.4. We biked to Devil’s Alley at mile 144.5 and set up our camp. As soon as our tents were up there was a thunderstorm so we hid out in our tents until it was over. Luckily, it lasted under an hour and we were able to enjoy the evening at the campsite. We cooked dinner, played cards, and the kids swam in the river. There was a beautiful sunset.

 

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selfie in tent during storm

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Day 3

Oh the misery of a sore butt! Thirty-six miles in a day are not much in comparison to other bikers on this trail, but most of them are not carrying all their camping/cooking gear and stopping every three miles to gather the kids.  I was sore in numerous places but there was nothing to do but get back on the trail. I got onto a groove and kept going. At one point, I was lagging behind as usual when a bunch of our group started coming towards me. Why were they going the wrong way? It turned out there was a paved path we could use for about twenty miles. And so we turned around and headed uphill to the Western Maryland Rail Trail. And we were in awe of the wonder of asphalt! The ride became smooth like buttah! I didn’t realize how difficult the bumpy, muddy path was until I sailed on the silky black WMRT. We all enjoyed it immensely. We stopped in the tiny town of Hancock for lunch.

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the smoooooth WMRT (top L), coming into Hancock, relaxing and having lunch in Hancock’s town park

After Hancock, we were back on the asphalt, but only for a few miles.  We returned to the C&O towpath and got excited about stopping for the night, as well as where we would be stopping.  You see, R. Wonderful had found unusual accomodations for the next 2 nights – an historic lockhouse!  Check out part 2…

Bike camp trips with kids

Delaware Water Gap June 2013

Delaware Water Gap June 2013

I wanted to record distilled advice for anyone crazy enough to do these kinds of trips. After seven trips in eight years with a group of 12- two families with four kids each, the youngest kids being two years old on the first trip and the oldest being 15 on the most recent trip- here is what has worked well (in no particular order):

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Poppa with Cleverly on a tagalong

1) Find bike paths. They have no cars and it makes the biking so peaceful. The kids can bike ahead and have a little independence. We like the Schuylkill River Bike Trail, the Greater Allegheny Passage, the C&O Canal bike trail, and any Rails to Trails we can find!
2) While riding, meet up every three miles or so. We found this to be a good way to allow some independence but keep the group from getting too dispersed.  It is also excellent to help be aware of tantrums, mechanical problems, berry patches, interesting scenery, changing plans, anything that could affect the trip.

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3) Don’t worry about having the best gear. One family slowly added lightweight tents, panniers, etc over the years and that is a great way to do it. That said, not having these things should not prevent an enjoyable trip. Neither family has specialized bikes, for example.  Enthusiasm for the trip is more important than gear!
4) Consider tag-along bikes and trailers for younger riders. The trailers are great for hauling gear when the kids can bike more on their own. For a couple of years we had the twins take turns riding on a bike then resting in the trailer. When they both were too tired, they could both rest and we fastened the bike to the top of the trailer with a bungee cord. The trailers, even inexpensive and used ones, can take a lot of abuse and still remain functional.

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5) Vary the schedule. Take a day or two to see local sights and do less biking. Spend a night at a hotel rather than camping every night. Go to a restaurant for lunch. It isn’t the cheapest way to go, but it improves morale and gives variety to the trip.                             6) Make plans, but allow for spontaneity. True of any trip. Figure out how far you want to bike and how you willl break it up, but don’t make too many commitments to this schedule (like hotel reservations, etc.).You will find unexpected things!  See the sights along the way, but look for other distractions.  We have stalled the troops for wildflowers, snakes, creek walking, berry picking, interesting rock formations, etc. Similarly, we have cut out some plans when weather or fatigue have interfered.                                                                                                                                       7) Share things! We organize group meals since it is easier to cook one big breakfast than two or more. The non-cooking adults get a nice break.  We also take turns riding with/encouraging the slowest riders.  Sometimes mixing it up helps everyone’s mood on an 8-hour day of biking.  Sharing other things, like camp stoves and repair tools, literally lightens the load with economy of scale, which you will appreciate as you pedal uphill.

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Those were some of my thoughts as I biked along on our latest trip, which may have been the best yet!  Watch for posts coming soon!

Mamas in the City! NYC, June 2015

Leaving behind children and Papas, not to mention one mama’s pressing obligations in preparing for a certain trip to China, three Mamas went to The Big Apple for the day.
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Train to Penn Station

We landed under Madison Square Garden after taking the NJ transit – a much more afordable option than Amtrack, especially when coming from Philadelphia where one can take SEPTA to Trenton, then transfer to NJ transit.  It ends up being about 1/4 the Amtrack price.  There are also Chinatown buses to NYC, but they land in Chinatown of course, and sometimes it is better to end up midtown.  We walked from Penn Station to The Highline.

The Highline

We scored a beautiful day with low humidity, breezes, and sunshine.  There were sailboats in the river and a blimp in the blue, blue sky.  I had the excellent companionship of KJ, a homeschool mama and improv actor, and her best friend J, who just got back from three months in Thailand (!!!).  I really could not have been happier. 

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The Highline is an elevated rail line that has been made into a walking trail/park that has delicious design.  Flowering vegetation, quirky sculptures and other art that plays off the railroad tracks  present in some places, amazing views of trains in use near Penn Station and of the many cranes doing Manhattan construction, glassed-in lookouts over some city streets, and other little surprises like a maze and a water-sidewalk where you could cool your toes.  Also, there was a Lego thing, see below:

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Below are the maze, the cranes and the trains!!

 

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McSorley’s

KJ says she takes everyone here, and I can see why. Built in 1851 and barring females until 1970, this place has a lot of history. Dust covers a collection of drumsticks suspended over the bar, framed photos and paintings and newspaper articles cover the walls, sawdust carpets the floor. I got a bowl of chili and a seltzer for $6.  Lunch in Manhattan for $6??  Unthinkable, but it happened!  There were not many people there on that weekday afternoon.  An older lady with a walker ambled in and we all kind of eyed her suspiciously, but KJ is relentlessly friendly and soon we were sharing a table with DS, a septuagenarian lifetime New Yorker with a gorgeous accent.  Talking with DS turned out to be a highlight of the day as she regaled us with stories of Greenwich Village in the early 1960’s when she had male interracial roomates and was involved in the art scene.  She did stand up comedy just like KJ!!  DS belied our early impressions and proved to be completely lucid, very young in spirit, and appreciative of our company. We were sad to say goodbye to DS, but she had a doctor appointment and we were off to look for discount show tickets

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 The Strand

LOVE this bookstore!!  We dashed in for just a minute.  I wanted a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet since I had re-encountered his beautiful, soul-feeding poetry recently.  I realize this is a bit of a non-sequitor, but the next time you struggle with life’s pain, just let these words sink in:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

Thank you, Mr. Gibran. 

Moving on, we took a crazy taxi ride to TKTS at 3pm which, according to KJ who is knowledgable about these things, is the time to go. None of the Broadway or off-Broadway offerings grabbed us, we were having so much fun just talking and being outside in the beautiful weather, so we decided to go to Rockefeller Center.

Rockefeller Center

We walked around the place where the Christmas tree stands every December, which is when we Fantastics tend to visit. This day was full of people sitting outside, enjoying the weather and the people-watching and maybe a treat from a nearby café. We had amazing baked goods from Le Bouchon, which according to Google Translate means “cork” and also “traffic jam” but who cares because YUM!!  French pastries!

Below is Times Square, a beautiful church we passed, and the arch at Washington Square Park.

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I had to bid adieu after that, since I really have too much to do at home to be traipsing about NYC into the wee hours, sigh.  But it was a lovely day and I feel lucky to have walked around admiring the city with such wonderful companions.  I also got some hot tips from J about Thailand, mainly that she was happy with Booking.com, which I will look into, and Charles Schwab, which she recommended (along with NomadicMatt) for overseas banking and where I already opened an account!  So, thanks KJ, J, DS, and NYC!

planning the first few months of RTW, part 2

We rented the house yaaaayyyy!! Boy is that a load off my mind.  But they come Aug 1st so, much to do!  Anyway, here are notes on some planning I have done recently and some from a few months ago.  Also, I spent time a few days ago with a woman who just returned from 3 months in Thailand and she said not to plan too much!  She said housing, etc. is easier and cheaper when you are there.  Good to know.

Shanghai to Nanning

I have been researching the train routes from Shanghai to the border town of Nanning, China.  If we go to see the terra cotta warriors in Xi’an from Shanghai (still not sure if we will do that from Shanghai), we will go between Xi’an and Nanning.  It is basically along the eastern border of China going south towards Hanoi, Vietnam. I wanted to consider stretching this journey a bit, especially since we just paid almost $1200 for Chinese Visas (good for 10 years but still!  We gave cash to the travel agency in Philly’s Chinatown, along with our passports and also our cruise itinerary and a hotel reservation in Shanghai we were told we had to get, and copies of our kids’ birth certificates!!!  This better work out!!) So here is a list of towns, and notes to myself about them. p=population in millions, (+/-) indicates whether or not they have a train station, *1-10 is my ranking based on what I read about them in a 2008 lonely planet guidebook I have.

Hangzhou p=6.16 (+) *7, known for beloved-by-poets West Lake

Nanchang p=1.9 (+) *5, city undesirable but nearby ‘bucolic’ villages

Jiujang p=4.7 (+) *5, access to European-style village LuShan

Wuyuan p=0.334 (-) *10, historic villages outside of town, known for best-preserved ancient architecture

Wuhan p=4.23 (+) *8, is on both sides of Yangtze

Changsha p=2.1 (+) *2, Mao-related sights

Pingxian p=0.1?  book confusing, there looks to be 2 of these I have to research further

Hengyang p=7.1 (+) *6 near Mt. Heng, impt mtn.

Guilin p=0.67 (+ but not recommended) *5, great scenery but maybe too touristy. Karst land formations may make this closer to a 10, see this article http://www.geotimes.org/apr07/article.html?id=Travels0407.html

Yangshuo p=0.3 (-) *9, backpacker haven, many nearby trips+activities

Liuzhou p=1.2 (+)*6, nearby minority villages

Kaili p=0.153 (+ but recommend bus) *8, markets/festivals/good base for trips

Guiyang p=1.7 (+) *7 minority Ming/Dong festivals

Quinzhou p=0.18 (+) *7 walkable town, puppet museum!

Yichang p=4 (+) *4, gateway for Yangtze cruises

Chongquing p=5 (+)*3 expensive, ancient town restored for tourists

Fenghuang p=1.3(+) *8 minority Miao & Tujia, good sights for walking around

Nanning p=1.3(+) *3 but we have to go, train ends here then there appears to be a bus and train to Hanoi. people stay here to get visas for Vietnam, which cannot be bought at border.  We may get visas before leaving US so maybe not spend time in Nanning.

Bangkok to Cambodia

I want to settle in Cambodia for a time, since it seems affordable per budgets from Bootsnall, lonely planet and also Traveljunkies and Globegazers, and it is central on the SE Asia peninsula, bordering on Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.  So, on to Battambang. It is in northwestern Cambodia about 170 km from Angkor Wat and boasts a bamboo railroad, a scenic river trip to Angkor Wat, and a lot of bicycle tours. I chose it as a place to stay a month or so due to its size, bikability, location, and the fact that it is a quieter place than, say, beach/bar/backpacker favorite Sihanoukville. Those days, if I ever had them LOL, are gone for me and I am looking for a family friendly place.

Here is a place with a pool for $235/wk.  I like that B’bang is not too far from Thailand.

 

signing off for now!