Category Archives: Travel

Wanted: traveling transparency

Vehicle barely visible behind Jersey barrier between lanes.Jersey barriers came into being for a really valid safety reason – but do they have to be opaque?

Our kids got their car legs at a very early age. First was a P1800 Volvo, a two-seater with a ledge behind on which we strapped the bassinette containing our firstborn, as we toured the mountains of central California and eastern Nevada. We found an observatory on a high place in the near-desert I probably could not find now if my life depended on it.

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First solo flight

A boulder once named The RocketI believe I have come down with a nearly debilitating case of cabin fever. This constant grayness, in which I wake in the morning to a liquid sky the color of a World War II battleship dripping just outside my pillow, is like a scene from “The Twilight Zone.”

But I’m pretty sure Spring, if I can hang on long enough, will arrive in a spectacular explosion of soft colors. It’s happened nearly 70 times thus far, so probably …Granddaughter affirmed my hope New Year’s Eve.

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Slipping the leash

Oldtown toll bridgeMy on-the-road navigator really is quite competent – as far as getting me to addresses I might not be able to find on my own. She is very accurate when she estimates my arrival time, even when the trip is several hundred miles.

Sometimes, though, the windshield-mounted GPS we named Sally G just doesn’t have a clue. Thus it was that she took me 30 minutes by the regular highway beyond my intended destination Sunday, landing me in Frostburg, Md., instead of tiny Oldtown.

On the other hand, I would not have driven around a particular curve on Md. 51, past the post office at Spring Gap, population 55 in the 2010 census. I don’t know where those 55 people were hiding, though some of them probably lived in the home beside the post office. The next closest sign of habitation – a Methodist church and a general store – lay some distance south.

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Different kind of drawbridge

“He’s in the tiny shack just behind the even smaller one.”

A road worker told me where to find the South Bristol swing bridge operator. The 78-foot span was built in 1933 to provide land vehicles passage to Rutherford Island, Maine, over “The Gut,” a narrow slot of water between the open ocean and the enclosed haven used by area fishing boats.

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Leaving the jet planes and Interstates behind

covered bridge in snowy woodsDriving the Interstate is like flying in a jet liner. There’s a whole world racing past your window, patterns and big green signs with white reflective lettering hinting at places we would like to stop – sometime.

… our attention was arrested by a giant cast iron gas pump, about four times taller than I.

May it please the court, we offer Exhibit A: a road trip I took last Thursday with a fellow photographer.

We drove out to Greensburg, where we had business to perform, on I-76, cruise control set on “Quick,” legal libations close at hand.

“We are going to have to stop there sometime,” one of us said as we blurred by St. John the Baptist church, at the top of a staircase leading from beside the turnpike in New Baltimore.

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No Training Wheels

I am sitting in the living room, reading a book and watching the news, when the doorbell rings. Almost immediately, the door swings in, followed closely by an excited little girl.

“Papa John! Papa John!”

Right here in the story I could leave the reader with the notion that Papa John’s the most important person, but actually I was just the first person in view. And when you’re excited and have to tell a grownup something important …

“Papa John,” she cried out.. “I can ride my bike-without-training-wheels! Come see me ride my bike-without-training-wheels.” Continue reading

Vacations are about the people

A 985-pound Johnson-powered pumpkin

Going on vacation is loads of fun, especially in the people we meet. Like the night in Maine last week when we had dinner at the Salt Bay Café in Damariscotta, Maine. Couples three were we, sitting to our first dinner on the rocky coast of the Pine Tree State. We each ordered our favorite choice of fresh-from-the sea fare.

… he would grow a pumpkin – his first “boat” was 754 pounds – and build the boat, but he would not get in it.

I had oysters. I love the things on the half-shell, with jalapeño relish to spice ’em up a touch.

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Burning Bridges

Bridges of booksLast month, a Jefferson County, Colorado school board proposed modifying its Advanced Placement U.S. History course. “Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” the proposal stated. The new requirements would “promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights.”

“Stories mean more when they are in the words of real people,”


Civil disobedience, it appears, would not be part of the curriculum.

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Rural Directions

Friends, meet Staci “Mrs. Matt” Gower. Readers of the Gettysburg Times may remember her as Staci George, an energetic police and fire reporter who eagerly responded to blazing infernos, kept her fingers on a plethora of social events, and once returned to the office with a tip that led to a Public Service award for the paper.

Staci is a detail-oriented young woman who, responding to my request for information to feed the GPS, led us thusly to a diner for the post-rehearsal repast, last weekend:

“When leaving the church, go down the road toward the beer distributor on the left (you’ll see on your way to church). Continue reading

That’s a mid-size car??

My wife-slash-Resident Travel Agent and I went to Florida recently. We left my Jeep in Long Term Parking and flew to Fort Lauderdale, where I signed for a rental car to use for the week.

Renting a car for a trip actually is a good way to go. You get a fairly new vehicle, and all you need do is drive – and turn it in when you are done for someone else to clean out any dog hairs or French fries you might have dropped between the seats.

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Welcome to Terra II, maybe

An exciting piece of news crossed the television screen last week, sandwiched between a missing airplane (“Breaking news: Searchers still have not found Malaysian Flight 370.) and Russian troops daring the Ukraine army to come out and play.

The news was the discovery of a planet that may be capable of supporting life as we know it. It didn’t get a lot of play – couple mentions during the day and it was done – but it’s pretty big news in the history of human-kind. It is the first planet that is both the right size and the right distance from its sun for its climate to possibly have water and other features essential to human existence. Continue reading

Feline wizardry makes some enjoyable joe

Plastic-lined burlap bags of in-house roasted coffee beans wait to be brewed(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/17/2014)

The Tuesday Noon Coffee and a Movie Philosophical Society meets here, as does a Wednesday night knitting club. During the day, shoppers stop by for conversation and a cup of joe.

“Here” is Merlin’s Coffee, at the far end of a short alley at the Outlet Shoppes, on the outskirts of Gettysburg. Sometimes called by customers “the cat house;” owners Donna and Eric Burns, of Hanover, are deeply invested in rescuing cats, have named the business for one of the animals, and have decorated the interior with cat art and knick-knacks. All their employees agree to allow Eric and Donna to donate the tips to animal rescue efforts.

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“Walk into my parlor”

Ms. Cantrap repairs damage caused by a clumsy photographer.(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 9/27/2013)

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly; Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you may spy.” (from The Spider and the Fly, by Mary Howitt, 1799-1888)

This has been a bumper-year for spiders. In one corner of the lanai, there is a woven silken bug trap overseen by three very different breeds of tiny arachnids. In another place, suspended among some grass blades, a bowl web has been formed, about six inches deep, with a vase-like narrowed neck and round, closed-in, bottom.

The tiny, and sometimes not so tiny, creatures have always held me enthralled – how they can discover just the place to anchor their trap, and measure so perfectly the spacing between web strands, is the stuff, to humans, of engineering degrees, yet these little creatures just go out and do it. Continue reading

A tunnel of lilacs

Imaging a tunnel of purple lilacsFirst printed in the Gettysburg Times, 6/14/2013)

I love motorcycling. I haven’t ridden in nearly 20 years, but it’s like another unmentionable pastime – it’s a bit risky but once you’ve done it, you don’t stop wanting to do it.

When we lived in Norfolk, Va., a favorite ride was the Colonial Parkway, through a tunnel of lilac trees towering and bowed over the roadway from both sides, forming a roof to trap the sweet perfume the way tunnels a few miles east kept the river from pouring into the Hampton Roads bridge-tunnel.

It was a sight and aroma not often allowed to penetrate our enclosed vehicles. Continue reading

Carly came with the wine

The waitress recommended a wine, then brought the bottle.I’m pretty good at remembering who people are. I’m not worth a flip at remembering names – at least until I’ve sat down and chatted several times with a person, and then written about them.

We had stopped at our favorite winery in North East, Pa, one to be lauded for its Port – a good Port being sometimes difficult to find, in a vineyard or a storm. After chatting a few minutes with the clerk – an Australian lass whose husband had brought her back to Pennsylvania – we headed for a restaurant at which we had dined on our previous trip. Continue reading

Happy Birthday to the Mighty Lincoln Highway

New Oxford train station just west of the square on U.S. 30“It was 3,000 miles of rockin’ rollin’ highway, a million memories long and two lanes wide” – From the lyrics of “Old 30,” by C.W. McCall.

The Lincoln Highway turns 100 this year. Actually, it is about 3,400 miles, New York to San Francisco, and 28 of those miles are in Adams County, Pa., passing through Gettysburg, less than a mile from my home.

Former Adams County Commissioner Harry Stokes once told me the name reflected Gettysburg, and its downtown Wills House, in which the 16th president spent the night before delivering those few words the “world shall little note nor long remember.” Continue reading

Guides, science, say Susquehanna safe for recreation, but smallmouth fishery needs help

McClellan Cemetery, Black Horse Tavern RdIn 2005, the Susquehanna River was listed by American Bassmaster magazine as one of the top five smallmouth bass fisheries in the United States. No longer.

Young smallmouth bass have, for the past several years, been displaying spots, lesions and decreasing populations – though the problem’s severity depends on who is describing it. Some sportsmen who earn their livings guiding and supplying fisher folk on the river acknowledge the bass are in substantial decline, and what once was a world class fishery is threatened, but insist the river remains a safe waterbody for recreation and sport fishing.

Young smallmouth are experiencing a seven percent mortality, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Director John Arway told attendees at a Susquehanna Summit last week in Lewisburg, “The big bass are still there – the problem is, the small bass aren’t there.” (Additional remarks by Arway in video at the end of this piece.)

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Spring and the Rebs are coming

I’m pretty sure Spring is not far. I base that prognostication not upon annotations on a calendar or the profundity of a rodent in conversation with a group of men in stovepipe hats – but upon a flock of at least 100 Robins in my back yard as I write these thoughts. First ones I’ve seen this year.

Grady and I have cabin fever. Grady is a Golden Retriever who’s been living here a few days more than 6 years, and who loves being in the woods at least as much as he loves stealing from a bag of Hershey Kisses left on the couch by an inattentive human.

My favorite canoeing pond was covered with ice the last time I was up there. Most of that ice should be gone now; Continue reading

India is not that far

Author's pen seeks to expose government secrecy

When I was considerably younger, I would swim out in the middle of the lake at midnight or thereabouts, lie on my back in the water, and float there, nearly weightless, looking up at light from so far away some of it had been reflected from stars that had not existed for longer than humans have walked on this planet.

Stars are interesting. Our sun is a star. They are responsible for all the elements that comprise everything else, including us. Continue reading