wander project travel and never leave home!


The advantage of working for a US Federal Contracting company is you get all the US Federal Holidays off. The first year we were in Maryland, I got Columbus Day out. We can argue that there should or shouldn’t be a European’s discovering the new world day or not. In the end, I had the day off. The kids wanted to go on a day trip, and we picked Mt. Vernon. My dad was a history buff, and we had gone to Mt. Vernon when I was around 13 or so years old. I wanted to take the kids to see the home of the first president. Because it was a holiday, there were many Federal employees and their families there to see the various exhibits. But, there were fewer school tours.

DSC00088
Schools were pretty much closed! We started on the great lawn. Washington designed the gardens and farm areas around his home. He had a front and a back yard. The front lawn led to Mt. Vernon (the name given to his family), and then the other front lawn led to the Potomac River. It is a truly beautiful place lined with old trees. You can imagine Washington or Martha (his wife0 feeling those trees on a spring day in touching those old trees. The history of the place is amazing. The thing about Washington that I learned that day was that he loved to experiment with farming techniques and new ways of raising the crops that he was growing to feed his family.

IMGP0020
The thing that struck me that day was that my father loved to look at and consider new ways to garden. I guess the first time I went, I was embroiled in labor. I was one of the people working in the park. So I didn’t see the connection the first time. During the time with the kids, I realized how cool it was that Washington (and my father) were always trying new things and new ways to grow things. It made me proud that day of my father. There are many things about history that I wish were different. But Washington’s’ farming innovation is something that I found and find to be interesting. The kids had a blast as we walked the entire facility and walked through the house that Washington loved!

.doc

wander project travel and never pack a bag!


The last day is wandering pictures from Mexico. We walked during our wander. George Carlin (US Comedian) did a bit once about having to take your stuff on vacation and then going off on a day trip during that vacation, so you have to choose what stuff you brought and take less stuff. It makes me laugh to think about it now. The last day will focus not on food (although we did find a really fun local place that day). We, and by we I mean my daughter, really wanted to swim with dolphins. She was in her dolphin phase. When I was gone for two weeks, I used to bring the kids each something special from where I had been. It was to remind them that I cared.

DSCN0372
For the longest time, all my daughter wanted was dolphins. Now, I suspect the reality of time has changed many things. Now, I know she would be concerned more for the dolphins’ treatment that the real opportunity to go swimming. But youth can see things differently, and we all change as we age. So, off to see the dolphins. The actual “dolphin” swimming experience was on a small island just off the shore. We took a boat ride (I was happy). At that time, my boss called me with a question as we were waiting in line for the dolphin area to open. He apologized for calling, but it was an urgent question. In the long run, better he called and got the answer than not.

DSCN0736
The twins didn’t want to swim with the dolphins, so I sat out and watched. I remember the first time I thought dolphins were cool. It was watching the old TV show Flipper. I did get to feed and rub the nose of a dolphin, and that was fun. I don’t know that we should have dolphins in places like where we went now. But I guess I have evolved a bit as well since then. We also met a really interesting person. He captained the boat that took us there and back to Dolphin Island. He was an ex stunt person and had been a stunt person on several Hollywood movies. It was cool; he talked about his life in Mexico now and his fishing tours. I wish I would have booked one!

.doc

wander project travel and never leave home!


Being on the Pacific was cool. Finally, we did more than eat, even though eating features in all of the posts so far. But food, when you have kids, does feature in what you do. One of the things we tried to do when we were in another country with the kids is introducing them to the culture. Mexico has a very old culture. The Mayans were around back when Europe was beginning. Of DSCN0428course, in fairness, China had been building empires for more than 1000 years when the other civilizations started. The measure of civilization, of course, is the time!

DSCN0407
But sometimes, in the US, we see history as 300 years or less. Mexico has a much older and richer history than the US and, by extension, Canada. So, we tried to expose the kids to the culture as much as we could. That meant eating food that locals eat and going where the locals go. Yes, we did a few of the touristy things, but when you go to a place the cruise ships dock, a lot of the town is geared towards tourism. The only thing we didn’t do that I wanted to do was go out into the Pacific fishing. But with young kids, that isn’t the optimal experience. That, I suspect, is part of being a parent in the end. You give up a lot of what you want to do for many years.

The hotel complex had several restaurants in it. We wandered away from the hotel, but we also tried a couple of restaurants. By this point, Japanese Steak Houses were a family favorite. Everyone could enjoy the food and experience. This one, our server made origami animals for the kids as we were waiting for dinner (he got a huge tip)! The kids loved them. One of them survived the trip back to Indiana. The Hibachi experience is one that we’ve tried in several US states, Mexico, and two different cruise ships. I guess you could say we are more than fans of Hibachi! I wish, by that point, however, that I had never had the kids try sushi! That introduction has become very expensive!

.doc

wander project travel and never leave home!


I wish to put two disclaimers upfront today. Our trip to Mexico was a blast. We left cold in Indiana and wandered to warm in Mexico! Being on the Pacific was cool. Finally, we did more than eat, even though eating features in all of the posts so far. But food, when you have kids, does feature in what you do. One of the things we tried to do when we were in another country with the kids is introducing them to the culture. Mexico has a very old culture. The Mayans were around back when Europe was beginning. Of course, in fairness, China had been building empires for more than 1000 years when the other civilizations started. The measure of civilization, of course, is the time!

DSCN0512
But sometimes, in the US, we see history as 300 years or less. Mexico has a much older and richer history than the US and, by extension, Canada. So, we tried to expose the kids to the culture as much as we could. That meant eating food that locals eat and going where the locals go. Yes, we did a few of the touristy things, but when you go to a place the cruise ships dock, a lot of the town is geared towards tourism. The only thing we didn’t do that I wanted to do was go out into the Pacific fishing. But with young kids, that isn’t the optimal experience. That, I suspect, is part of being a parent in the end. You give up a lot of what you want to do for many years.

DSCN0338
The hotel complex had several restaurants in it. We wandered away from the hotel, but we also tried a couple of restaurants. By this point, Japanese Steak Houses were a family favorite. Everyone could enjoy the food and experience. This one, our server made origami animals for the kids as we were waiting for dinner (he got a huge tip)! The kids loved them. One of them survived the trip back to Indiana. The Hibachi experience is one that we’ve tried in several US states, Mexico, and two different cruise ships. I guess you could say we are more than fans of Hibachi! I wish, by that point, however, that I had never had the kids try sushi! That introduction has become very expensive!

.doc

wander project travel and never leave home!


I have been to Mexico several times. Each time there was another unique part of the country found and explored. Puerto Vallarta was the first time in Mexico on the Pacific Coast. We wandered into the actual town of Puerto Vallarta. The city does have an area in the harbor for Cruise Ships. That made me happy it meant that the Love Boat was at least possible. The city is set up like most towns that have cruise ships docking (disgorging passengers). The only difference, honestly, would be the language on the signs. It was a long strip so tourists could easily walk from one end to the other. Of course, it was filled with their and souvenir shops one after another.

DSCN0461
We walked the entire tourist area and ended up in an open field where I think of Asian style outdoor markets. I know that the style is pretty universal. They are all over the world. I just really don’t remember them much before seeing them in Thailand, which stuck with me. There were lots of fun things to look at as we wandered that open-air market. Everyone decided they were hungry (and that they wanted to swim). We decided to try a restaurant back in the tourist area. It wasn’t a traditional chain style but looked like most Mexican restaurants in the US. We were interested in the less spicy cuisine as we had at least one picky, if not two, picky eaters.

DSCN0655
We found out that Mexican food is favored by two of the three kids. Our daughter doesn’t love it; she found cheese cascades on the menu, which was ok. They also did my favorite hand made tableside guacamole. The food was awesome, and we enjoyed hanging out and watching the water as we ate. Honestly, it was the perfect place for lunch. We then got out and walked around a bit more after lunch, but for the most part, the kids wanted to swim in the pool. The pool was the number one attraction for the kids overall. I enjoyed hanging out there, but walking down to the ocean and smelling the salt air was the best part for me.

.doc

wander project travel but never leave home!


To Mexico, we go! Warm, by the ocean and well a whole lot of fun. When I was at the peak of my business travel, I was earning 120,000 miles a year. So, in the matter of several years, we had a lot of miles. We also had a lot of hotel points. So, we spent those on going to Mexico. It was a vacation that too a lot of planning. The kids have juvenile passports (we had been to Bangkok the year before). But there was a lot more coordination. It just so happened that there was a Marriott Resort in Nueva Porta, which is the new part of Puerto Vallarta. I wanted to go there because, once upon a time, my little sister and I watched the old show “The Love Boat” and it docked there.

DSCN0361
The resort was amazing. There was a beach (on the Pacific Ocean) and a pool that was simply amazing. We arrived (about a 5-hour flight, but you lose 3 hours) around 10 am local time. We headed to the hotel (I’ve stayed at Marriott’s many times over the years and get early check-in). We unpacked and then headed down to the poolside restaurant to plan the rest of our first day and have lunch. I had Ceviche (it is a fresh seafood dish), and it was amazing. I hadn’t had that since the last time I had been to Mexico, and it is one of my favorites. It doesn’t work well in Indiana; the fish is a little too long out of the water to taste good. But there is beyond amazing.

DSCN0510
After lunch, we explored the grounds of the hotel. It was very impressive. The pool area was the most interesting for the kids. But they were also happy to walk along the beach and see the ocean. It was warm but not oppressively warm, and the ocean breeze was refreshing. I love the smell of salt in the air from the sea. The wander took us to the jetty sticking out into the water. We stood there for a time, and then the kids wanted to go swimming. So we went back to the room, and everyone changed into swimsuits. I was going to be the pool monitor and relax by the pool. I did find when you relaxed by the bank that they came and brought you drinks. So that worked out well!

.doc

wander project travel and never pack a bag


Southern Indiana (as well as Tennessee and Kentucky) is often called Cave Country. The reason for that is the mix of two rocks – shale and limestone. Limestone is primarily fossils mixed with sand and another bottom of the Nebraska Sea materials. A component of Limestone is CaCO3 or Calcium Carbonite. That compound is very water-soluble. If you ever want to prove it to yourself but don’t want to take the millions of years, mother nature took, put a piece of limestone in water and add just a tablespoon of vinegar. Water is naturally a little acidic, which is why regular rainwater will over time erode the CaCO3. That cavity produces a cave

DSC01345
But what you will get are beautiful crystals, and it takes 2-3 days, not millions of years! I did that every year when I was teaching school. The kids were always amazed that their teacher could grow something on a rock. It then allowed me to talk about why Calcium Carbonite was the basis of caves and limestone. One of the things we did many times visited one of the larger caves in Indiana, known as Marengo Cave. I first went to Marengo cave when I was in 4th or 5th grade on a field trip. We went many times over the years we were in Indiana (11 years total). The Cave is located in the middle of the southern half of the state of Indiana. It is a fairly long drive because it’s a lot of back roads.

DSC01344
The way we made the trips was got everyone in the car and then headed down. We always packed a picnic lunch (it is a long drive to food; I learned that the first time I went as a teacher). They have a nice picnic area with an upper and lower level. There are two managed entrances to the Cave. The “dry” and the wet exit. The west entrance is a much longer tour. When the kids were little, we always took the shorter term. That one had been built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. They made a “main” building, and then stairs cut into the rock that led easily down to the cave entrance. Of course, the main entrance started and returned you to a gift shop!

.doc

wander project travel and never leave home


I suspect that ending or the last day in Maine would have to be focused on the water. Not that Maine doesn’t have much more than water. Or that we spent the whole time they’re on the water. No, Maine is also famous for lighthouses. I love lighthouses. I have loved them ever since I was a little kid. The sheer romance of lighting the lamp and helping others get to safety has always intrigued me. Lighthouses have two jobs often; one is to invite ships out at sea to the harbor. The other is to warn them of impending danger. The lighthouse is tragic in the sense that the keeper goes and is there alone. Sometimes their families live there with them. They are making the lighthouse itself a home.

109A0940

There are many sad stories of people that went to lighthouses and just disappeared. There are also wonderful stories of people from the lighthouse saving the lives of sailors. There are also videos where the lighthouse is the only thing standing in a storm, the light pushing out to sea. There are a lot of outcroppings of rocks on the shore of Maine. Not many beaches but lots of great rocks to wander around. The number of lighthouses you see depends entirely on how much of a day you are willing to spend. Starting on the Southside of Portland, Maine, and heading north along the shore, there are between 20 and 25 total lighthouses.

109A0888

Some are smaller, meant for incoming pleasure boasts. Some are larger, meant for the large ships that come to Portland. The harbor in Portland is very busy. There are a lot of lighthouses. One of them, and I don’t have smaller pictures to share, is an iconic lighthouse. Iconic in the sense that when I was first playing around with customizing my computer, that lighthouse was one of the backgrounds Apple included with the old Macs. I remembered as I saw the lighthouse from the north side. It wasn’t the same as in the picture; there were a winter feeling and ice around the rock’s edges. But it was the same lighthouse and very cool to see in person!

,doc

wander project travel and never leave home!


I learned several interesting things in Maine that I thought I would share today on the last day of a Maine Wander.

1. When a car hits a deer in Maine, the fatality rate of the deer is high. The vehicle, for the most part, can be repaired.
2. When a car hits a moose, the rate of car survival goes way down. I hit a moose; your car is likely totaled.
3. You can add blueberries to Vodka, and it is amazing!
4. Blueberry pie is a favorite of mine; it is amazing in Maine.
5. Lobster rolls should never be rolled. All the good stuff falls out.
6. There is a desert that isn’t a desert in Maine.

PA260395

The other day I spoke about Glaciers and flaunting the state of Indiana. When a glacier recedes, it leaves an amount of rock and stone. In Northern Indiana, there are dunes made of Glacial Sand. In Maine, there is a huge swath of ground that is covered by glacial sand. Ground into fine sand and left as the glaciers retreated. Time and mother nature covered the sand in Maine. When it was discovered, it was called the Desert of Maine. It isn’t a desert because it rains far too much. But it is cool to drive through a pine forest, arrive, and suddenly be on an open expanse of sand. The park was closed at the time, but there was a “leave donations” window area, so I left two admissions costs.
There was a play area for children. The camel made me snicker!

PA240107
Who knew there was a desert in Maine that isn’t a desert. I was pretty sure hitting a moose with your car was a bad thing before I found that out.

.doc

wander project travel but never leave home…


I am a huge fan of Craft Beer. I have a good friend in Seattle that brews his beer (it is amazing), and over the years, he has taught me a lot about what to expect with various types of beers. In Portland, Maine, there is a delightful craft brewery (there are several, but this is the one we went to ) named for a River in Northern Maine (The Allagash River). The Allagash Brewing company offers a restaurant and a tour. They also have a gift shop (yes, I got my second hat there for the trip)! The specialty, every brewer has a thing, is a Belgian White. Now, normally Belgian Whites are somewhat on the hoppy side of the beer street. Allagash using the water, and a technique they developed is less hoppy. The tour was fun; we got to try several of their creations. The fun thing was at the end, getting to try beers that had been aged in barrels. They encouraged their employees to create a new beer in their lab area.

PA240268

That was fun to try a couple of those. The other thing that was a lot of fun was seeing the process to make beers and see how it evolves. Interesting, some of them were unique. They had a beer with Blueberries in it. Maine is famous for Lobsters but also Blueberries. The beer with blueberry flavor was one of the best ones I tried. The other cool thing, as I mentioned, was there were also beers aged in casks.

PA240270

I have tried aged beer a few times in the past. Normally Whiskey, Bourbon, and Scotch (Cognac, etc.) are aged in barrels. Many wines are aged in Barrels. Purists (I am not one) talk about the wood and how that barrels are built, treated, and used, impacting the flavor. I can taste the wood a little but not to the point that it affects my choices. I like what I like. Some of the beer aged in a cask was very different, and the flavor was changed from new to year old beer. It is an interesting thing how they build and treat the barrels. I want to spend time learning that craft. It seems interesting. Some barrels are treated with fire. Some are just left as is, the wood exposed to the alcohol. It is something that I think might be fun to learn!

,doc