Category: vacation

A Skication to Sunday River

While I am far from the biggest fan of skiing in the world, it’s a well-known fact that my family is. Denisa has taught each of our kids to ski from as soon as they could stand upright and it was snowy out. But in all this time of living in Maine, we’ve never done the whole “ski vacation” thing. We’ve gone for day trips to different resorts, and Denisa and I stayed over at Sugarloaf one time, but other than that, we’ve held off the multiday trips, just because they seemed so expensive.

And let’s be clear here. They seem so expensive, because they *are* so expensive. Finding a place to stay is pricey, the lift tickets add up, and then there’s all the equipment you have to get. (Thankfully, we’ve had all that for a long while now.) But we haven’t really done much in the way of travel, and so we decided if we were ever going to give a skication a chance, it would be this winter.

As usual, I committed to the vacation a long time in advance, and by the time the vacation was staring me in the face, I was wondering why in the world I’d committed to it. I’ve been (very) stressed lately, and when I get in that mode, it feels like *anything* more than what I’m doing is just too much. However, as is also usual, once I actually left and was on the vacation, I remembered vacations are a great way to unwind and recharge, and I came home feeling much more optimistic about everything than I had when we left.

We weren’t gone very long. Just a Friday and Saturday night. We went to Sunday River, mainly because it’s the fam’s favorite resort. It’s nice and spread out, so once you get past the main lifts, you don’t see that many people. And they make a ton of snow, so you’re pretty confident conditions are going to be decent whenever you go. This time through, it was in the 40s on Friday, and the skiing was lovely. Saturday started out rainy (boo!) but then switched over to blizzard-like conditions around noon. (Yay?)

We got an Airbnb right on the slopes, so we could ski into it and ski out of it. (Well, once you walked through the parking lot, though I do think we could have taken our skis around to the back and just skied out from there, had we chosen to do that. We kept them on the roof rack instead, for easier storage. It wasn’t cheap, as I said: the list price was $250/night, but once you counted taxes and fees, it came in a little over $400/night. We saved money on the lift tickets by buying them well in advance. (Someone came up next to me while I was picking up our passes. They bought a half day ticket for that day for $97. Yikes.) We also went during a weekend when Sunday River was doing twilight skiing, which extended the open time until 6:30pm.

The main goal was to go have fun, and to see if we could do this again sometime. I think we were successful on both counts, though we learned a thing or two. First, I think next time we do it, we’d just go on a Friday afternoon and check in, then ski on Saturday. Cutting the ski passes in half would save money, and everyone was pretty exhausted by the end of it all. Yes, it’s a skication, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ski every second. Second, I would avoid getting restaurant food next time. We did that for our first meal (carry out), and it was quite pricey. For Saturday evening, we picked up some homemade, ready-to-cook lasagna from the Good Food Store. It was delicious, and it fed the whole family for $32. (Strangely, I couldn’t find pizza that delivered. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough?)

Other than that, though, I think we did pretty well for ourselves. We brought games, ate plenty of junk food, and enjoyed the time together. I think it’s likely that we’ll do it again next year, especially knowing we could easily manage it on a regular weekend. (Leave as soon as the kids get home from school, come back Sunday.) The only thing I’d really love is to figure out a better place to stay that still had easy access to the slopes. It was so nice to be able to have some people head in and rest while others kept skiing, without having to worry about juggling rides. I guess we could take two cars? I’ll have to think about that . . . )

Anyone else out there have any tips?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Our New York City Thanksgiving

I’m back from vacation! And while I’m still up to my eyeballs in kitchen renovations, it was very nice to get away from it all for a few days and head off into Someplace Different. The vacation was, overall, a success, though of course there were some highs and lows. Among the lows was the reminder of just what it feels like to be around that many people. There were a lot of people in the city over the weekend. I’ve never been a huge fan of crowds to begin with, and I’m out of practice, which has only made that worse. Still, I made do.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we did and how it went:

  • Wicked: Seeing a Broadway show again was a blast. I had seen this production back with the original cast, but it was still fantastic, and a great introduction for my kids to Broadway. MC has been listening to the music ever since, and they all really enjoyed it. The sets, the costumes, the production value: all of it top notch. (Though again, the audience was a bit of a different story. There was a kid a few rows away from me who was sniffling loudly, constantly. It’s not a fun noise to hear at any point, and even worse in a pandemic.)
  • Restaurants: We went to three. First was Tony’s Di Napoli for Italian. It’s right in Times Square, and it’s delicious. Family-style, with huge portions. Next was Thanksgiving dinner at Beauty & Essex, which was a bit of a ways away, but very cool. (You enter through a pawn shop, and it has a very speak easy sort of feel to it.) The portions were very small (because it’s that sort of restaurant), but the food was fantastic. Daniela loved it. We also had kebab at a chain restaurant called Naya’s. It was good as well. Oh–and we got bagels at a place called Joe’s Bagels, down by the 9/11 Memorial. Yay for eating different food. Especially good food that didn’t have to be made in my “kitchen.”
  • 9/11 Memorial: Speaking of which, this was my first time making it down that far in Manhattan. We didn’t do the museum, but the memorial itself was very touching.
  • COVID precautions: I loved how NYC was handling everything COVID-related. Anywhere you went that was inside, you had to be masked and you had to provide a picture ID and vaccination card. And they didn’t just wave you through. They checked each and every card and ID. I didn’t see anyone object or throw a tantrum. It all worked smoothly, and it helped me not mind the crowds as much.
  • The parade: After much thought and consideration, we skipped going in person and watched it on TV instead. Warmer, and definitely more comfortable. Plus, we were already doing a ton, so I think adding that on top of everything else would have been a bridge too far. I’m at peace with the decision, and I think we made the right one for us.
  • Empire State Building: We went Thanksgiving afternoon. We got down to 34th street soon enough after the parade that everything was blocked off to traffic still. I was surprised by how few people were around then. The streets were fairly empty, and the line for the ESB wasn’t bad at all. (Not sure if that’s because you need reservations now, or just because it was Thanksgiving afternoon.) The views were fantastic. It was a clear, sunny day. I was surprised to find that I’m much more averse to heights now than I remember being. I wasn’t a huge fan of being that high up, and I had low level anxiety the whole time. But I still had fun.
  • Night Cruise: We went on a 2 hour boat tour around Manhattan on Friday night. This was very popular with the whole family. Great views of the city, and a great tour guide. We got there early enough to be one of the first ones on the boat, so we had very good seats. Definitely recommend it to others.
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Good as always, though I’ve decided if we were to do it again, I think it would make more sense to split into smaller groups. It’s hard when some people want to breeze through a display and others want to meander. And then later on it’s the opposite. Smaller groups would alleviate that problem.
  • Walking: We did a ton of it. 11 miles on Friday. My feet and back were very unhappy with me. That was less fun.
  • Central Park: The first time I’d been through the park in a long time. Fun, but see my earlier comment about walking . . .
  • Driving: We had traffic both ways down, which wasn’t great. It actually took about 9 hours for me to get home on Saturday. (It didn’t help that I got pulled over for speeding, which is another story.) Still not a fan of traffic, but who is?
  • Hotels: The stay in Jersey City was great. I preferred the Courtyard, simply because it was so close to the PATH train. The Doubletree was maybe a bit nicer, but a farther walk. (And full size beds instead of queen size.) If I could have found a place that slept 5 for a reasonable price in downtown Manhattan, that would have been better, but this worked well.
  • The Subway: Easy peasy. No problems at all. On time and straightforward. I’d been a bit worried about riding it with kids late at night, but my fears weren’t justified. Definitely a great way to get around the city.

Overall, a fun time was had by all. I hope your Thanksgiving was a good one, too. Now, back to kitchen renovations . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Heading to New York City

Since we moved to Maine, Denisa and I have typically gone down to the Philadelphia area for Thanksgiving to spend time with family. As part of that, we’ve often headed into the city as a couple to go see a show and grab a bite to eat. However, we’ve never brought any of the kids in with us. Growing up, I went into New York very regularly. My parents had an office there, and my brother and sister and I would go in and spend time there. I can’t remember how often we went, but it was often enough that I always felt at home there, if that makes sense. When I think of a city, Manhattan is always the one that really means “the city.”

Since this is Tomas’s last year at home, we thought it would be good to at least get him into the city once, and as long as we were taking him, why not take the whole family? It also helped that we had a few free Marriott nights to burn through. With the way our schedules our, Thanksgiving was really the only time that made sense to head down.

So we’ll be doing something I really never planned on doing: spending the holiday actually in the city. It’s been a good long while since I planned anything with a complex itinerary, and this was seemed more complicated than many I’ve done before. How long did we want to stay in the city? Where would we stay? What did we want to see? What was the most economical way to see those things? I did a deep dive into the interwebs, and yesterday after a marathon session, I’ve got our plans more or less in place.

We’ll be staying just across the river from Manhattan, in Jersey City. It’s significantly cheaper there, and we could also find rooms that fit 5 people. (Not the easiest thing to do in a city). I actually had to really accelerate my planning because I discovered the hotel I wanted to stay at was losing availability quickly. I had procrastinated making the actual reservations, and when I went to check again, some of my dates were no longer open. So after some frantic finagling, we’ll be staying four nights: two in a Marriott, and two in a Hilton.

I’m notorious for planning too much to do on a trip, so I’ve tried this time to rein myself in. On the agenda? A Broadway show was a no brainer, but I wanted to pick one that would be good for the whole fam. There are the Disney shows, but I wasn’t too keen on going Disney for their first intro to Broadway. Instead, we’ll be seeing Wicked. I think they’ll love it.

We’re also planning on going to the Thanksgiving Day parade, perhaps against my better judgement. It had never been high on my list of Things I Want to Do, mainly because I don’t really love crowds, and I worry there are going to be hordes of people there. That said, the parade route is very long, so I imagine we’ll be able to find some place to watch some of it without being too overwhelmed. But since we were going to be in the city on Thanksgiving, it didn’t make sense to skip the parade or just watch it on TV. (Plus, there aren’t a whole ton of options for things to do on Thanksgiving Day, you know? We’ll also be going through Central Park, going up the Empire State Building, and eating dinner at a nice restaurant. It won’t be Thanksgiving-themed, though. Trying to get a “real” turkey day meal in the city was going to cost an arm and a leg. Some places I was looking at were charging $125/person. Some were “only” charging $55. We’ll have a nice holiday meal when we get back home.)

There are a ton of other things to do in the city of course. I wanted the kids to see the Statue of Liberty, but having been before, I don’t really think it’s that necessary to be on the actual island to see it. Going up inside is always a madhouse, and I believe it’s closed right now due to COVID. So the initial plan had been to just take the Staten Island Ferry for free to go by it on the river. However, after checking into other options, I decided to go with an evening river cruise instead. We’ll get to see much more of the city, it’ll be at night, and it should be a lot of fun.

Other than that, we’ll be going to the Met, the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, the 9/11 memorial, and eating at a couple more restaurants. I’m sure there will also be pizza, bakeries, bagels, and goodies galore.

I’m excited for the trip, especially now that all the planning is done and the reservations are in place. The kids are super excited to be going, and it’s good to have something to look forward to. Knowing me, I’m sure I’ll be less excited the closer we get to actually going, but then once we’re there, it’ll be a great break. There are COVID notices for everything I booked: vaccinations are required for anyone 12 and over, masks are required for everyone, and for Wicked, MC has to have a negative COVID test before we can go. So there will be a lot of COVID protocols, but that doesn’t bother me at all. (I just hope no one makes a scene around us about not wanting to mask or be vaccinated. The signs have been very, very clear. I tend to think New Yorkers aren’t going to mess around with objections. This is NYC, after all . . .)

Anyway, that’s it for now. Guess I’ll go back to obsessing over my kitchen renovation for the time being. What are you going to be doing for Thanksgiving this year? Going anywhere interesting? Got any fun plans?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Adventures at Flagstaff

Sorry for the lack of posts for the past few days. I’m entering a busy stretch here. I’m off to Utah tomorrow, and then I’m heading to Machias a week from today, and I was up at Flagstaff Lake camping for the past three days. So the good news is that this hasn’t been a stressful busy stretch, but it’s going to busy nonetheless. (And seriously: I am so out of practice flying. The anxiety I get around it seems to have gone up a few notches over COVID.)

But camping was lovely. Flagstaff Lake is about an hour north of where I live. It’s famous for having been a site of controversy back in the 40s or 50s. There was a town by a much smaller lake at the time, and the government decided they needed to dam the lake for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me. When they dammed the lake, it submerged the town completely, so some of the time you’re boating around, you can actually see asphalt roads beneath you, as well as (potentially) buildings. That’s kind of creepy to me, and I’m sure I could have made it into a wicked scary ghost story one night, but I held myself back.

Creepy drowned city aside, the place is absolutely lovely. We saw bald eagles and loons and tons of frogs (which made Daniela very happy). We went fishing (caught yellow perch, but that was it) and canoed all over the lake, going swimming and just generally having a blast. The weather was about as ideal as you can get (unless you prefer really hot weather for swimming). Mid 70s and breezy during the day, 50s at night. It was mostly clear, though we did have a bit of intermittent very light drizzle. It cleared out enough at night for some star gazing, and that’s always fun as well.

I loved the fact that our site felt very remote, even though it was easy to get to: just a half mile canoe paddle. The site itself was huge. We had five tents scattered around the area, and it could have held many more if it needed to. Just one picnic table though. There were some boats out on the water passing by now and then, but other than that (and a random guy who walked through our site once to go swimming with his dog), the place felt empty.

Camping is definitely something I don’t do a lot, and in some ways I came back home well-rested, and in other ways I’m just plain exhausted. I know when I got back yesterday afternoon, I didn’t want to do anything other than lie there like a slug. Every time I closed my eyes, it felt like I was back on a canoe. But on the other hand, it was so different from everything else I do that it felt like I could approach what was waiting for me from a better position.

The kids all had a great time, and I’m chalking the trip up as a big success.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Sea Glass Hunting on Monhegan Island

It’s interesting that sometimes it takes someone coming from hours away to get you to do the touristy things people do when they come to your state. Denisa and I have lived here for 14 years now, and we had yet to venture to any of the islands off the coast of Maine, despite the fact that many people come here to do just that. For the first while, it was because of the expense ($38 for a ferry ticket?), and then it was because we had kids of ages that didn’t really line up right to do the outing, and then it was because we were busy, and then . . .

There comes a point when you begin to convince yourself that if you haven’t done something all this time, then there must be a good reason you haven’t done it, and you stop even considering doing it anymore.

Thankfully, a friend from high school came up to visit for the weekend, and one of the things he was planning on doing was taking the ferry out to Monhegan Island, famous for its artist colony and beautiful landscape. If that had been all it was, maybe I might not have decided to go, but he also likes to go looking for sea glass, and that’s been something I’ve been curious about enough that I decided it would be fun to tag along and see how it was done. Denisa and MC came on the journey as well. (Tomas had to work, and Daniela had drama camp.)

To get out to the island, we first had to get to the ferry. We took the one out of Port Clyde, which was about a two hour drive for us. Once we arrived, I was surprised to see the range of car license plates arrayed on the dock: Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and more. People were coming from all around to go to this place I’d just ignored the whole time. It took an hour to get out to the island on the ferry, though the company did fill some of that time talking about the history of the island and the surrounding area, and the lobster industry. The ride was choppy enough that by the time we arrived, my stomach was very glad we were about to get off. I had expected a large ferry without too many people on it. Instead, it was a small ferry that was pretty packed, leading me to wonder just how busy the island would be.

Monhegan is only 1.75 miles long and .75 miles wide. In my head, this was a place we’d pretty much be able to completely explore in a couple of hours. No cars are allowed over onto the island, though some of the people there do have trucks they use for transportation. There’s a small village there, with quite a few houses, though many of them seemed like they were probably rentals for people coming out to stay. Cell coverage was spotty, but existent. Restaurants were few and far between, and prices were what you’d expect on a remote island. If you’re looking to come and check out stores, this is not the place to go.

However, the island is criss-crossed with plenty of hiking trails. We set off right away into the middle of the island. I had been expecting wide trails with plenty of visibility, like most of Maine’s hiking. These trails were very narrow, and the forest in places was incredibly thick. It reminded us more of the rain forest at times than of most of the other places we’ve explored in Maine. The trails were generally easy to see, though markings were few and far between. In most places, the trail was maybe a foot wide. Some mud, because it had just rained, but the real obstacles were tree roots and rocks. It wasn’t easy hiking, by any means, but it was absolutely gorgeous.

In our three hour hike around the island, we probably saw about 5 other groups total. It was a much bigger place than I expected, and it generally felt like we were alone. If you want peaceful, secluded beauty, this is definitely a good place to go.

The sea glass hunting was less than overwhelming. We headed to Pebble Beach, which we’d heard had the best offerings on the island. We got there as the tide was coming in, which wasn’t ideal, so perhaps there was better hunting farther out, but where we were, to find any sea glass took an awful lot of combing through the boulders and pebbles. The pieces we did find were generally small: tinier than the tip of my pinky. On the other hand, we had a great time doing it. MC loved the sense of exploration, and it was fun to have something to do together. The beach was nothing like a place where I’d want to go swim. Far too rocky. (And it was only 65 degrees that day, anyway.)

(We did try one other spot I’d heard had sea glass: Fish Beach. It was very small, but it had quite a lot more glass. Unfortunately, almost all of it was pretty new. New enough that it was another place I don’t think I’d want to swim, even though it was sandier. There was just too much glass. Go figure.)

We had lunch at a small cafe. Nothing extravagant: some pizza ($3.50/slice) and wraps ($8.00/each). The food was fine. We might have gone to some of the other restaurants, but finding out where they were was a struggle. (Remember: bad internet), and the prices seemed like more than we were really up for at the moment. One of the best things I bought the whole time was the $1 map of the island that included all the hiking trails. We used that a ton, and I’m sure we would have gotten hopelessly lost without it. (We’d also considered bringing Ferris on the trip, but I’m very glad we didn’t. He would have been far too hyper on the ferry, and he would have gone crazy on the island. We’d tried taking him on a short hike a few days before. It was sensory overload for the puppers.)

In the end, we stayed five hours, and I think that was about right. I’d considered coming out to stay with the family on the island at some point, but I don’t know that I will, having been there. I loved the outing, but I think I’d likely get bored if I were there for too long. (Though maybe some boredom and internet-free time would be just the thing. I’ll keep thinking about that.) I’m sure it would have gorgeous night skies if we were to stay over, though it was foggy and overcast the entire time we were there. (Luck of the draw.)

Overall, it was a terrific outing, and a great change of pace. If you haven’t been, I’d definitely recommend it, and it’s got me thinking about other outings we might do in the future . . .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: