Road Trip 2024: Eclipse Edition

Back in 2017 I made a road trip with Alpha to view an eclipse as it passed over Illinois.  (We got tangled in traffic before we reached the path of totality, but it was a good trip overall.)

When we got home I started planning our next eclipse trip, so that pesky traffic wouldn’t prevent me from seeing totality.  Enter the six-year plan leading up to the latest eclipse in 2024, with the path of totality passing over Niagara Falls.

eclipse path map from NASA
NASA’s map of the eclipse’s path

We arrived a couple of days before the eclipse, and left the day after.  Traffic would not be a problem this time.  We had hotel rooms, cameras, snacks, and chairs.

The one thing you can’t control is the weather.  It was cloudy.

Most of the path of totality was cloudy, as a matter of fact.  A relatively short swath from Vermont to the Atlantic was mostly clear, but the rest of the path had varying levels of poor weather, including some nasty storms.

We eked by with a mostly cloudy experience, which had a pleasant side-effect: filtering wasn’t required for most of the time.

Approaching totality of the eclipse
The one artificially filtered picture I took. The rest were filtered by the cloud deck.
landscape during totality
During peak totality the sun and moon were completely obscured by clouds, so I took a few photos of the landscape
solar eclipse totality viewed through clouds
The clouds thinned out just enough during totality for me to catch a glimpse of what appears to be the corona, just before the moon slid out of the way. It could also just be glow from terrestrial clouds.
border of darkness and sunlight
As totality came to an end, we could momentarily see the border between darkness and light over the Canadian side of Niagara
sun peeking from behind the moon after totality
The clouds add some drama to the scene as the sun slides out from behind the moon again
more sun peeking from behind the moon after totality
A few minutes post-totality, the moon’s shadow leaves a Cheshire-cat-like visage

Montreal, QC

Baba, aka my mother-in-law, invited beta child on a lightning trip to Montreal as a Christmas present.  Three days, two nights.  I was invited to attend as well.*

Baba had two requirements.  One was seeing the Notre-Dame Basilica.  The other was eating in a French restaurant.  Beta’s sole requirement: shopping.  (I had no additional requirements besides going on a road trip.  I love road trips for themselves, so anything else is gravy.)

So off we go for a 300-mile drive.

looking down the highway in Vermont
Beta child’s view from the backseat as we cruised through Vermont

There’s an interesting bit of geography: the border between Vermont and Canada coincides with a geographical border between mountains and plains.  Shortly after crossing the border we were struck by the immediate change from hills and trees to flat plains and farms.  A few hills, including Montreal, stick up from the ground in anomalous fashion.

Montreal in January is not a popular tourist choice.  It’s cold.  Being from New England, we’re used to cold, but Montreal is still pretty cold.

Montreal is like NYC and Boston had a baby city.  Medium-sized office buildings.  One-way streets in a grid pattern with lots of potholes.  Mostly clean, but homeless people scattered around.  Not many people on the streets in the middle of night, but still 24-hour businesses.  Mostly new, but a mid-16th-century section.

We found a French restaurant for dinner on our first night: Modavie.  Baba ordered an appetizer called “Normandy Sweetbreads”, but she didn’t know that sweetbreads are actually organ meat.  Not knowing what it was, she thought it was delicious.  She had second thoughts the next day, however, when she found out they were probably made with a calf’s pancreas.  We also had charcuterie (Beta) and salad (me).  Entrees were seafood pasta (Beta), salmon filet (me), and Filet Mignon (Baba).  The food was excellent.

The next morning was crisp and cold.  Our first stop: the bus stop.  I had procured some 24-hour bus passes (unlimited rides for 24 hours) so we could get around town and have a cheap bus tour of the city.  It seemed wiser, as well as more environmentally responsible, than pulling the car in and out of the small parking garage by the hotel for each trip.  Waiting for the bus was a cold experience, however.  Beta child under-dressed for the occasion despite my warnings, and was visibly cold.

st denis bus stop with ferris wheel in background
Standing at the bus stop by our hotel. We didn’t visit the Ferris wheel on this trip – too cold.

The Basilica was worth the cold.

interior view of notre-dame basilica, montreal
The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. The pulpit is to the left. Stained glass windows and paintings adorn the outer walls.

After a quick lunch at a bakery near the Basilica, and a pit-stop back at the hotel for Beta to change into warmer clothes, we paid a visit to The Underground City.  Baba took a breather in a food court near our entry point, while Beta and I took off to see the malls.

After the mall we killed the remaining hour of daylight by riding the bus home from one end of the line to the other.  We went through neighborhoods we never would have seen otherwise.  The driver’s confusion when we didn’t immediately disembark at the end of the line was palpable.  “Where are you going?”

We ended the day with takeout dinner from a restaurant next to the hotel called “The Pastaman”, and talking about life for a couple of hours.

Coming home was uneventful, except the border crossing.  The guard asked us some off-the-wall questions, like “where have you been? – not just today.”  “Why did you go to Jordan?”  I think they try to ask unexpected questions to throw people off balance a little and shake loose anyone who may be concealing something.  I’ve only been out of the country a couple of times, but it happened each time.

* After some indecision on how to get there, because the train required 24 hours each way (due to an overnight stop in NYC) and neither wanting to drive a car for that long, I suggested that I could drive them.  They readily accepted my offer.  I very much appreciated the chance to join the trip, and I had a great time!

White River Junction

Megh and I recently celebrated our anniversary (22 years!), and we took the train to White River Junction, Vermont, for an overnight to celebrate.

Megh and Quinn
On the train to Vermont

The weather started clear and warm, and we ate dinner outside.

The town holds an annual parade for Halloween called “Gory Daze.”  It started at 9 pm and featured a few hundred young adults in costumes and small marching band.  We didn’t know about it until we saw the participants gathering in front of the local museum.  It’s a hoot!

The next morning was cold, cloudy, and (eventually) rainy.  We walked around a bit to check out the town.

Connecticut river
The Connecticut River from White River Junction

We started by heading across the river to a breakfast place in New Hampshire, then came back to do a little shopping.  About the only thing open on a Sunday morning was the local co-op grocery store.  We picked up some maple donuts and oatmeal cookies for the train ride home, and some local syrup for Meghan to give to her coworkers.

Narragansett mornings and evenings

A few photos over the last couple of days.

seascape and lighthouse
Scarborough Beach, Narragansett, with Point Judith lighthouse in the distance
seascape with fog and waves
The horizon disappeared on a foggy morning. The sunrise is (theoretically) directly ahead.

grass and white flowers

harbor seal in the ocean
A harbor seal surfaced near us at Point Judith, while we were enjoying the sunset.
meghan with Narragansett in the background
Megh, looking pensive as she gazes east across the ocean
Sunset from Rose Nulman park, Point Judith, Narragansett
Twilight from Rose Nulman Park, Point Judith, Narragansett

Cape Cod 2021

Highlights From Cape Cod

“Baba” plays the part of the matriarch and rents a house on the cape, then invites the families to come stay with her.  Our responsibilities include making dinner (plus cleaning up) and enjoying ourselves.

This year was one of the rainiest summers in a long time, among the top 5 since record keeping began, but we still had plenty of time for fun.

seals in the water
Swimming was poor for humans but great for seals on Saturday evening

We went on a whale watch out of Provincetown on Wednesday.  It was really foggy and we didn’t see any whales, or anything at all, for almost two hours.

barely-discernable boat in the fog
There is a boat in the center of this picture, less than a hundred meters away

Suddenly, out of the fog, we stumbled across some whales that really showed off for a bit.

We discovered Skaket Beach, on the bay side of Orleans, on a beautiful afternoon.

sunset at skaket beach
Sunset at Skaket Beach

The beach is very flat so as the tide retreats you can walk out very, very far.

looking back on skaket beach from the water
Looking back at Skaket Beach after walking out to meet the retreating water

There are natural tide pools that trap crustaceans.  The kids had fun hunting hermit crabs and minnows.  Tim dug up a couple of steamers to show the kids what lives beneath the sand.

Beta child made some new friends, as usual.  Baba did, too, with a couple that lives in the next town over from us.  Meghan and I had fun talking with them about local stuff, and listening to the husband grouse about local contractors and the crappy McMansions they put up.

A couple of days into our stay, a local hawk mother decided that her chicks were ready to leave the nest.  One of the three wasn’t quite ready and complained, loudly, every remaining day of our stay.

fledgeling hawk
This newly-fledged hawk haunted his former roosts while complaining, loudly, and calling for mom.

The mother hawk, to her credit, never strayed too far away.  The siblings showed up as well to coax him off his branch.  This one, however, mostly hopped from tree to tree and demanded a nest and food.

Other highlights, of which there are no photos


meghan @ blue man group
The ushers passed out strips of paper as we entered, suggesting we “turn it headbands or scarfs, or whatever you like.” Meghan liked a hair bow.

I got a text from my sister-in-law on a Thursday: would you like a pair of tickets to see Blue Man Group this Sunday?  Something came up and we can’t use them.

Always quick on my feet, I got back to her over an hour later, asking her where (even though there’s only one place in the area).

Both girls declined repeated offers to go with me.  Apparently I smell bad or something, but opportunity only knocks once.  At least Meghan was willing to go, but only after I promised to keep to the speed limit this time.*


The show was hilarious and high-energy.  It does appear to evolve over time, as it’s not the same show that we saw last time – except for the general tenor it was basically a new show to me.  If you too haven’t seen it in twenty years, go again.

*this is a short story: before Meghan and I were married we went to see Blue Man Group with Kennon and Katie.  While cruising down the Massachusetts Turnpike I was pulled over for “speeding and weaving.”  I disputed the ticket because I honestly don’t think I was speeding when the cop saw me (I now freely admit to having been speeding earlier) and the weaving charge was just plain stupid.  I was half successful.

Cape Cod 2018

Another change of venue this year: Wellfleet, MA.  We seem to be creeping further up the Cape every year.

Day 0: Driving and Arriving

We left the house around mid-afternoon, planning to arrive fashionably late.  Our intention worked as planned; we rolled into town around 6 pm and got busy making a pasta-and-meatball dinner for everyone.

After a short dinner, we took everyone to the closest beach to let the little ones burn off some energy.  The Fox family had been on the road since morning, and rolled in around 7pm; the kids were exploding with pent up energy and excitement.

mayo beach at sunset
Mayo Beach @ Sunset, Wellfleet MA

Day 1: Rain!

Meghan and I woke up on our usual schedule, 6am.  (This continued for the duration of the week.)  The weather was forecast to be poor, and it proved true for most, but not all, of the day.

We headed out to a full-size super market in search of a coffee maker (the house’s was AWOL) and groceries for dinner.  I prefer to spend a little extra money rather than pack the car with perishables.

After breakfast, the weather cleared enough that almost everyone headed to the beach — I stayed home and napped to catch up on a week of poor sleep, and missed seeing a Great White shark off Marconi Beach.

Dinner turned out to be an unpleasant adventure: we had picked up a pair of roasting chickens that morning, but after unsealing the packages we discovered that the fowl had gone very foul.  Tim and Kelly started cranking out their dinner planned for the following night, and Meghan and I dashed back to the store to get our money back.

After dinner and the little kids had gone to bed, we sat down to play Cards Against Humanity —with Alpha and Beta.  It was a night that they will not soon forget… nor will I.

Day 2: Chatham

I woke up early to a beautiful day and took a bike ride around the perimeter of Wellfleet.  The ocean side of the cape was still socked in with fog, but the land and western side were clear.

fog at white crest beach
The fog bank on the ocean side stopped abruptly at the edge of the water.

After breakfast we took a ride down to Chatham for some shopping and lunch.

Top Shark: Artist Mary Dunn Cauley, Middle Shark: Pati DuVall, Bottom Shark: Dennis Predovic

We introduced the Fox kids to Ponyo.  Tim and Kelly don’t seem to be big on anime, but the kids were fascinated.  (Sorry, guys!)

A documentary of Ted Williams premiered on PBS that night, which was important to Joan, so we cleared the deck, got the kids in bed, and watched with her.

Day 3: Marconi

We chose to go hiking around the Marconi Wireless Station on Tuesday.

artsy-fartsy picture of some snow fencing

Quinn and Beta looking out over the sea.

Listening to the Navy Band at the Old Salt Pond Visitor’s Center at the National Sea Shore.

Day 4: Biking and A Guest

Meghan and tried out the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which has a trail head in Wellfleet.  Our goal when we started was Marconi Beach, but the ride was so easy we kept going and made it to Orleans before turning around.

Kappa sleeping on the couch, take 1. He refused to sleep in his own bed until we bought child-proof door handle covers. We found him like this on Tuesday morning.

While we were gone, the Foxes hit Mayo Beach in Wellfleet.  When Meghan and I got back we headed to the beach with the girls as the Foxes were leaving.  We stayed about an hour and a half, and came away with minor sunburns, but the water was warm and the swimming was easy.

We hosted a friend of Joan’s who lives on the Cape, and her young daughter, for dinner.

On this night an issue withe the youngest of the Fox clan, Kappa, not going to bed at bedtime became particularly troublesome.  We pledged to find doorknob covers the next day so that he would have to stay in his room at night, even if he wasn’t going to go to bed.

Day 5: P-Town

After a very slow start to the day, we headed to Provincetown with Joan while the Foxes went back to the beach.

We started at the far eastern end of the main drag and worked our way westward.  People watching in P-Town is always an adventure.  The girls are still young enough to not really notice how bizarre the crowd is and have more fun shopping.

Day 6: Cape Code Lighthouse and Pilgrim Monument

Meghan, Alpha, and I spent the day being tourists.

We checked out the Cape Cod Lighthouse, where Meghan went up –and down– the spiral staircase of the lighthouse.

Quinn climbing up onto the light platform of the Cape Cod/Highland’s Lighthouse.

Quinn and Megh at the Cape Cod/Highland Lighthouse 7/27/2018

We then went to the Pilgrim museum and tower in Provincetown.  I, however, was the only one to climb the tower.

View up the Pilgrim Monument

View from inside the Pilgrim Monument, Provincetown, MA.

I was curious about how good a picture from this distance would come out. Very surprised everything is as sharp, considering the haze!

detail of view from top of pilgrim tower
The view of Provincetown Light from the top of the Pilgrim Monument tower

After dinner at home, the adults stayed up to watch Jaws with the RiffTrax overlay.

Day 7: Leaving

We were supposed to vacate the house by 9 am.  We missed the time by less than five minutes (WE were ready, but the Foxes have a small army to move.)

We ate an excellent breakfast at Laura & Tony’s kitchen, and hit the road for home.  Others in the party were hitting the beach one last time, but we were all ready to be home.

Assorted Snapshots

Mom hanging out, waiting for breakfast 7/28/2018

Cousins on the Group Shark Bench. Chatham

Will they swim or won’t they. Marconi Beach at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

We’re off to the Cape! 7/21/2018

A view of the fog over the ocean from the top of the Nauset Light House.

Quinn and Megh climbed this amazing lighthouse. The view from the top was breathtaking

Delta and Kappa when we woke up. Kappa had been on the couch all night, apparently. This was escape # 2.

600Inside the Nauset Lighthouse

Cape Cod/Highlands Light House

View down the Cape Cod/Highlands Lighthouse. There are a combination of a ladder, several platforms, and stairs, all made of cast iron.

View of the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown, MA from the Cape Cod/Highland Lighthouse’s windows.

View up the inside of the Cape Cod/Highlands Light House.

Beta and Delta looking for shells

Kappa and Baba waiting for breakfast

Alpha took a nap on Quinn’s lap for an hour or so.

Getting ready to climb the Nauset Light House! Kelly is having fun talking to the docent.

Delta and Kappa with Kelly “up to their ankles” which meant they totally got their shorts wet.

Delta checking out the Nauset Light.

Kappa checking out the Nauset Light.

After we all got in on Saturday night, we had a dinner of pasta and meatballs, and took the kids out to work off some energy and collect some shells at Mayo Beach in Wellfleet.

Maine 2018

We made an impromptu trip to Maine with our friends Sam and Joanne.

There’s a back-story: we were supposed to be camping this week with Sam and Joanne (and others) but a conflict with school forced some to cancel, and eventually everyone canceled.  Since we all had the time off already scheduled I had the idea for a quick road trip with S&J.  Meghan made the arrangements when they bought in, so game on.

dock and reflection
Found this very stereotypical Maine view while biking on Friday morning

Day 1: Foul Weather, Destination Southport

We left home on Thursday.  S&J had the longer drive, but our house was on the way so we met up here and caravaned the rest of the way together.

A bundle of rain followed them from Connecticut, and would continue to follow us all the rest of the way.

Meghan and I neglected to pack until they arrived, as we were running around all morning doing chores, so they got in a short, much-needed break from driving in the rain.

We rolled into the Ocean Gate hotel around 5 pm.  We had rented three rooms: one for S&J and their son; one for Alpha and Beta; and one for Meghan, me, and Butter-the-dog.  We were spread across different buildings in the resort, but the girls were close to S&J so that was ok.

Our room, unlike the others, had a full kitchen — indeed, that was one of the selling points for us.  It was billed as “not having a view” but that was a lie: the view was, in fact, beautiful.

Sunrise on Saturday morning. I didn’t mean to wake up at 5 am, but I’m glad I did since I got to see this.

We went out to dinner at a tiny-but-tony restaurant called Oliver’s at Cozy Harbor.  The food was excellent, btw.  Joanne went high-end and got a “lobstertini,” lobster meat served in a martini glass, but most everyone else went basic with burgers or fish-and-chips.

group photo
Sitting down to dinner at Oliver’s. Everyone was tired. and nobody but the server saw me taking the picture, which is why everyone looks bored

We did check out some of the “traditional” Maine sight-seeing, which is to say we took pictures of the fog:

foggy harbor
The very foggy view from Oliver’s [click to expand]

Day 2: Swimming, Shopping, Dinner at Home

Sam and I started Friday off with a bang: we went biking.  The kids started off with fun: they went swimming in the pool.  Meghan and Joanne started off with style: they took a dip in the hot tub.

After everyone felt ready to start their day, we packed into the cars and took a short ride to Boothbay Harbor.  It was hot so we had an ice cream lunch.  The girls shopped, while I took Butter on a walk up and down the main drag.  She’s truly an adorable dog and we stopped to talk to several people that wanted to “say hi” to her.

sam in kayak
Sam braved rumbles of thunder to discover that a nearby island is not, in fact, an island.

We all took a siesta in the late afternoon back at the hotel, except for Sam who ignored the impending thunderstorm and went kayaking.

After a brief downpour and a bit of lightning, we got going on our planned “traditional get together” dinner: spaghetti and sauce.  This is why the in-room kitchen was important, you see.

For years, when we lived near each other, we would gather at one house or the other and feed everyone with a simple pasta, meat sauce, and garlic bread dinner.  From time to time we do it even now, but the drive is much longer.

I made the pasta, Sam made the garlic bread, and the kids watched TV.  This was about as traditional as you can get without being home.

preparing dinner

After dinner I washed up while everyone else played a game at the table until bedtime.

Day 3: Freeport and Home

Our stay was intentionally short because we were trying a too-good-to-be-true hotel and everything came together last-minute.  Much too short.

After a big breakfast we packed up and rolled out, destination: Freeport.  Sam had only passed through Maine before, never stopping, and Joanne has never been at all.  Both wanted to see the main L.L. Bean store in Freeport.  Meghan is always game to go there.  I walked around with Butter while everyone wandered inside the store for an hour because I just can’t even.  We also made time for the Ben and Jerry’s store, of course.

We made our final leg home, where S&J paid us a final visit before making their way home as well.