My parents upgraded their house, and that included a new elevator to replace their aging stair-chair.
This is the same stair-chair that earned the name ‘The Orient Express’ while we were in high school and Kennon had a house party (without my parents’ knowledge).
Fortunately the stair-chair was not removed after the elevator was installed. Scientific curiosity demanded that we expand human knowledge and answer the burning question: which way is faster?
Kennon and I agreed on the rules: we start at the same place; we would end at the same point on the second floor; both elevators would start at the ground floor; we would walk, not run. Kennon and I both agreed that the stair-chair would probably win.
Grandpa died over a decade ago. I found out about the Cobia several years after he died. Grandpa never mentioned that it still existed, though he had attended crew reunions there. I think he considered his service to be very personal and never spoke of it much. I’ve wanted to visit, to make a pilgrimage if you will, but I wanted to take the girls when they were old enough to remember and appreciate the history of the thing.
I took advantage of a confluence of events this year to do it: 1) Alpha is old enough, 2) an impending total eclipse would pass (relatively) close by, and 3) I wanted a vacation and a road trip. Alpha was agreeable to going, and she too wanted a road trip, so boom it was on.
As a side note, Alpha handled this trip with aplomb. She has a bladder of iron, remained agreeable even when things went sideways, and is generally helpful around the car.
We chose to leave on a Friday. I put in enough of a day at work to count it as a full day and avoid using another vacation day, which meant leaving around lunch time. Alpha and I were packed and ready to go by 1 pm. A final stop to see Meghan at work, and we hit the highway… and traffic.
I made the mistake of assuming that traffic would be moderate at mid day. Friday afternoon rush hour tends to be nasty, especially so in summer, but it begins earlier than I know.
As we crawled our way down the turnpike we witnessed an almost-crash in front of us. We mostly idled our way until Charleton. I guess that house rentals in Maine must run from Saturday to Friday, since a large portion of the cars around us were from NY, NJ, and PA and they all peeled off at the I-84 exit.
The rain moved in as the traffic cleared. We made fair time for a couple of hours as we skipped into New York state under showers.
Skies cleared by mid-state, with a few hours of sunlight left. After dark we cruised through the Seneca reservation. All of the road signs were translated into Seneca, which was kind of neat. They also have a casino that, much like Foxwoods, rises out of the forest in a jumble of incongruence.
We made Erie at about 9:30 that night – a Motel 6 alongside Interstate 90. It was a plain, but clean and serviceable hotel. We turned in sans dinner and slept well.
Central and western New York are very boring. We didn’t get cell phone service anywhere and the highway just seems to go forever. There are some peculiar town names in western New York, ‘Horseheads‘ was a particular favorite.
Along the way we found some sites and some sights. The day was warm but a little cloudy, which meant that it never got too hot. I was looking forward to rolling with the top down on this trip and I was not disappointed. We hit the sweet spot for a convertible: 50 mph @ 72 F, moderate humidity.
Before we left Conneaut, Ohio we stopped at a lemonade stand; the kids even served us in the car. (I’ve made it a policy over the years to always stop for lemonade.) The roads were beautiful, alternating between showing us the lake and just being green.
Lake Erie itself is gorgeous. The towns that border the lake are a mix of quaint, middle-America, and gaudy: some reminded me of Cape Cod, some reminded me of the over-commercialized beach town of Misquamicut, RI, and some reminded me of any number of nondescript towns that I’ve encountered along my travels.
We switched over to the highway around Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio, as we became conscious of the time: I wanted to get into Chicago before sundown. Being Saturday we didn’t have to worry about rush hour. We rolled into town around 5:30, which was perfect.
Our hotel in Chicago was right next to Chinatown, so we took a walk to find some dinner. We found a hole-in-the-wall with some of the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.
We turned in no long after dinner; we had a full day ahead. We spent a little time unwinding and calling home. Earlier in the day we had found out that the USS Indianapolis had been located, and shared the news with Meghan and Beta. They proceeded to watch Jaws (with the Indianapolis scene) and brag to us about doing so.
Route 531 along the coast of Ohio is beautiful.
The Indiana turnpike is bumpy as hell, and boring, until you approach Elkhart.
Day 3: Destination Cobia
This was the main event. We arrived around lunchtime.
There are regular tours of the submarine, from forward torpedo room to aft torpedo room. They’ve restore the submarine to about 80% working condition.
We found at least three, possibly four, photos with Grandpa in them. The questionable photo is from a reunion photo, not everyone was looking at the camera and, sad but true, old men all start to look alike after a certain age. One other photo that we saw him is from a reunion, the final two are from his time on the submarine.
Our tour guide was new – his first day! – and he wasn’t familiar with any of the crew besides the captain. Grandpa, being an officer but not the captain, wasn’t a name he knew. The tour was about twenty minutes from bow to stern.
Being a real WW2 submarine the quarters were very cramped; I’m not sure how my grandfather, being a few inches taller than I am, was able to fit through the tiny intra-compartment doorways.
The submarine part of the museum is a little small; there’s a somewhat larger section devoted to boats on Lake Michigan and the various wrecks. Alpha and I agreed that we’d like to come back another time to view the lake history in more detail.
We ate dinner in Chicago, a pizza place of course. After we got back to our room Alpha wanted to veg out. I felt cooped up by the car all day, so I went out for a walk around the neighborhood. I took some photos but they were terrible; I need a new phone with a better camera.
The state of Wisconsin replaced a large section of the pavement on Interstate 43, both northbound and southbound, with a concrete washboard.
The car’s computer calculated our average MPG to be north of the 30 mark sometime this day.
Day 4: The Eclipse
Alpha and I got going a bit later than I had originally planned, and had a smashing breakfast at a market that’s a block from the hotel.
Getting close to or under the eclipse path was a bonus, so we didn’t have any specific destination to reach, just “as close as we are able or choose to get.” I picked Marion, Illinois as a target and we started driving.
We hit some traffic along the way, not due specifically to the eclipse but around construction along the highway. I don’t know if traffic would have been lighter and we would have slipped right through if it hadn’t been for the eclipse. We probably spent an hour and a half sitting in various stand-stills, and 30 minutes more finding detours, and were about an hour outside of Marion when we decided to stop to watch the eclipse in Effingham. It was a fair place to stop, with fuel and food, and we weren’t the only ones peering up at the sun. While it wasn’t directly in the path of totality the sun was reduced to a tiny hair-like sliver.
From the stopping point, our next destination was Lexington, Kentucky.
We got into Lexington late, due in part to rain. A large part of our drive was on country roads which, more than the interstates, are long, straight, and surrounded by corn.
We arrived in Lexington after 7 pm. It’s a college town and we ate dinner at a joint that caters to the college crowd. It was delicious. Alpha had breakfast for dinner and I had a burger. As we walked out the door Alpha remarked how good it was. The person walking out behind us was, unbeknownst to us, one of the cooks heading out for a break; she flashed a huge smile and said “thanks!”
Alpha stayed in our room while I took a swim in the hotel pool. We were in bed and lights-out before 9 pm, as we were leaving very early the next morning.
Midwestern seasons seem to be like New England: almost-winter, winter, still-wintery, and road construction. The side roads are much better for driving than the interstates, and almost as fast and direct.
Indiana doesn’t seem to understand the concept of interstates. They have traffic lights and intersections on I-64.
Day 5: Destination Home
This was the longest, hardest drive of the trip: almost a thousand miles in one day. Under the best of conditions it would be a fourteen-hour trip. Alpha and I discussed doing it in one day or breaking it into two, and her answer was firm: lets go home today. So we did, come hell or high water.
We didn’t take any scenic routes or make any unnecessary stops, it was just pounding the pavement (so to speak). We left Lexington at 7:30 am and made it home around 11:30 pm. We texted Meghan every time we crossed a state line, and she was reposting our updates to Facebook.
Somewhere in eastern Kentucky we passed a field that could have been straight out of a Bob Ross painting, with a shed or small barn, happy little trees, and a small mountain in the background.
West Virginia is beautiful, even from the highway, though cell phone reception is non-existent. We suddenly had great coverage when we entered Maryland, even though the mountains didn’t stop, so it seems to be a political issue not a geographic one.
We reached a peak mileage of 31.8 MPG, according to the car’s computer. My back-of-the-envelope math came up slightly lower at our last fill-up, but close enough.
The climate control system lost it’s mind somewhere in Kentucky and was alternately blowing cold and warm, regardless of actual setting, for the rest of the ride. Things got a bit warm and sweaty, but not the worst I’ve ever had.
Pennsylvania doesn’t know how to manage traffic around construction, of which the was plenty, including some standstills well before rush hour. Neither does Connecticut, where we were hitting standstills at 9 pm. That shouldn’t happen on a Tuesday night.
Sixteen hours of straight driving is very, very tiring.
Well, ok not a whole day, just a few hours. We didn’t go to bet, though Meghan did bet $3 and is now up by $3. We went to watch the horses.
Our destination was Suffolk Downs. It is an eighty-something year old horse-racing track just outside Boston. Its days are numbered but they’re still holding a few races per year in the meantime.
Our Alpha child loves horses. She’s loved them since the first grade, when she abruptly gave up a love affair with dinosaurs to fall madly in love with horses instead. When I found out about the races, I realized I had an opportunity to make one very happy child.
We bought a program as soon as we arrived and set Alpha loose. She immediately headed over to the paddock, started matching the horses to the program, and figured out pretty much everything on her own. She picked her favorites and apparently has a good eye because, of the two she picked, one was a winner and the other placed at #2.
We stayed for three races before heading back home. The siren song of chores beckoned us home, plus Beta child was in a mood, one that didn’t include horses or racing. There’s another race weekend this year, and I think Alpha and I will attend again.
Sorry for the long absence, I forgot my password. 🙂
Anyways, I had my first driving lesson today. I backed up Mom’s car, it was a little jerky but I didn’t end up in the back yard! I didn’t even dent the car, I call that a huge win!
In short, I kicked ***. Booyha!!!!!!!
So, my life in my long absence.
I am trying to write, I promise! I’ll add to Stories by Alpha soon, don’t worry ya’ll.
I’m now 14, (It’s been, like 2 years, last time I logged in was tail end of 6th grade) and I’ve grown. Been to DC without my parents, admitted a crush, never get said crush’s number even though I gave him both my cell and house numbers. (I’m not bitter, not one little bit)
We’ve all had that moment (or at least those of us who are the “fun,” read “irresponsible,” part of the couple), where our responsible half, they who keep roofs over our heads, food on our plates, and everyone mostly on task, sighs a sigh of wistful desire. Well, mine happened today. Dad’s mountain bike is 25 years old, and in need of so much TLC at this point, it would be cheaper to replace it. This offends his sensibilities, so he’s been effectively without a mountain bike for years. Until today.
I give you his new bike. Its another Specialized Rockhopper, and he loves it. The rack was pretty simple to put on, as far as trunk-mounted bike racks go. That means the swearing was kept to a minimum, and there was no blood spilt.
We took it out for a dry run with Beta. A traditional trip to the Panera downtown to grab some lunch and have some fun. Their kitchen sink cookies are not for the faint of heart, but oh so good if you share.
We hung out for a while, until the whinging from certain parties about going home became too much, got back on our (lovely, new) bikes and headed home. The ride is surprisingly flat (yay floodplain), which made testing out and finding gears so much easier.
After we got home, the statement was made: I want to go to the beach (guess who). After some digging to find a beach with other things to do. Apparently we were not doing bathing suits today. Some pretty slick Googling came up with Castle Island. Beach, walking trail, dog beach, perfect!
After some finagling, browbeating, and the promise to play Minecraft when we got back, we piled everyone (including the dog) into the car and took off for South Boston.
The place is surprisingly pretty. It is right next to the docks for the really big ships, so we got to watch a cruise ship put out to sea. Beta and I walked the beach, while Dad and Alpha walked the dog around the causeway. Beta turned out to be the periwinkle whisperer. We didn’t count how many she found, but they were all still alive. We put them someplace safe to wait for the tide to come back in.
We had a great walk, and found a couple of live oysters, too. After a while, we started down the causeway towards the open ocean. Beta walked back on the outside of the fence, only having to jump across about half way back (no more asphalt to walk on, and I lost my nerve). We met up with Dad, Alpha and the dog a little while later, and packed up to head home.
I just found out that my brother’s family maintain a blog as well. As usual with things that pertain to my brother, we found out by accident — he hasn’t mentioned it to anyone for the three months since it’s inception.
FYI, their blog overloads the Alpha and Beta identifier for their kids, who are known as Eta and Mu on this blog.
Our southern friends from Connecticut invited us to go camping at Hammonasset Beach State Park with them. They go every year as a big party, with family and friends.
I only recently found out that this is a thing; our neighbors/friends from across the street go up to a campsite in New Hampshire every year to meet with other friends, some of whom they only know from camping.
This was our first time going camping as a family, ever. I’ve gone deep-woods camping by myself. (No facilities, no roads, no people, no nothing — I’ve never smelled worse than three nights of that.) Meghan had been camping at Pennsic and Gulf Wars during college. (She has stories that amaze.) Beta has been overnight camping (in cabins) as part of Girl Scouts. We’ve all been “camping” in the backyard. This trip was a first for being away from home and trucking everything we would need.
We arrived mid-afternoon and immediately set to pitching our tent, figuring that there could be nothing worse than setting up a tent in the dark when you’re exhausted. Though the tent was new and this was our first time, it went up pretty quickly and cleanly.
Our friends provided dinner: our traditional Friday night get-together victuals, spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread, only on a Monday. Being experienced campers with a lot more room to pack stuff, they graciously offered to provide dinner for the two nights we were there. After dinner there were s’mores around a communal campfire, where we got to meet the rest of the party — more Gaileys and some family friends.
There were kids of all ages, including a few that were right around Alpha and Beta’s ages. They played boffer swords until dark, then convinced a couple of us adults to play manhunt.
We didn’t tuck into bed until about 10 pm. As the kids washed up some of us gathered around to chat and stargaze, and we were able to point out some satellites going by. The other adults hadn’t known that you could see them so easily. Schwing!
Sleep, for a variety of reasons, was somewhat elusive the first night, except for Alpha who can sleep through pretty much anything.
We started the day with pancakes, eggs, and bacon. The Gaileys possess a propane-fired flattop grill which made cooking a breeze.
Sam wanted to get the two Hobie Cats they brought along into the water. We got to the beach and set to rigging them, then took ourselves and the kids out for some sails.
We were at the beach for about four hours, and as a group we only got slightly burned — I had planned ahead and coaxed the girls into going to the beach with me for a week leading up to the trip. Meghan got a bit burned across the shoulders, and oddly enough Mu (the junior Gailey) got sunburned on the tops of his feet.
After packing the boats back onto their trailer, we headed back to camp (with a detour into town to get aloe) in order to make dinner. Second night was a communal pot luck, with hot dogs, hamburgers, and a bunch of sides. We got to know the other campers in the party and found that we have a lot in common.
The rain, which had been holding off all day, finally came in the form of a few brief showers and a rumble of thunder. I checked the weather radar back home and, wouldn’t you know it, heavy storms were moving through our town. (I love thunderstorms but seem to have a repelling effect on them. Even the strongest storms peter out as they reach our area.)
We took the opportunity to coax the girls into bed a bit earlier, though sleep was still hard to find the second night. Besides possibly being over-tired, the temperature dropped to nearly 50° F so everyone (except me) was cold despite blankets.
We all got up early to a beautiful morning. Meghan and Joanne took a walk back out to the beach to look for some bald eagles we had noticed the day before.
Checkout is 12 pm, and we planned to swing through Noank on the way home to see the folks, so we packed up the campsite right after breakfast (more bacon, eggs, and pancakes, plus sausages) and hung out with the Gaileys until it was time to go.
We bid adieu and headed out right at noon, spent a few hours having lunch and visiting with Mom and Dad Jones, plus Katie Jones and Eta (my niece). We made it home just in time to get Butter out of doggie daycare.