Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Monday, 25 August 2008

Sitting on the dock on the bay

Annapolis, Maryland

We drove five hours to get here. Mrs. Phred is catching a train to New York to see the U.S. Tennis Open. I'm staying here by myself to watch the dog. Andy left his computer for me to use. My computer died again so it may be awhile before I blog again...stop me before I blog again...

Annapolis is a lovely little city on the Chesapeake Bay. Lots of old town homes and row houses. We're staying with friends that have a house two blocks from downtown. I do a walking survey this morning and see many pubs and restaurants. One place, established in 1750 offers a variety of afternoon teas and Shepard's pies. We see the lower class men from the U.S. Naval Academy walking the streets on Sunday in their whites. The shoulder boards of the lower class plebes are familiar. I wore the same ones in Officer Training School in the Air Force.

The guy who will fix my computer again is Jeremy in Tampa. He drove an aircraft carrier during the 1st Gulf War. I let him ride my Kawasaki when he came back, thinking that if he could handle a carrier, a motorcycle would be no problem. He revved it up and popped the clutch and drove it though a wall. Later I hired him into my IT shop and taught him what I knew. I think he's up to 50 employees now and repairs my laptop when it breaks. He gives me a break on the price. I think he remembers what he did to my bike.

Jeremy told me a story about scraping and painting a carrier anchor chain at midnight in the Mediterranean. An old Chief Petty Officer caught him doing it and asked why. He said "it's something I know how to do". I knew then that he was a good officer.

we got a great deal on a transatlantic crossing from Ft. Lauderdale to Rome on the Holland America/Noordam cruise ship on April 3rd. We'll do a global Eurail pass for 60 days (or just buy train tickets) and then catch a flight back...that's at least a year before we have to worry again about a home....

I'm doing a volunteer trip to assist with the annual audit of a Puerto Rican affiliate on September 23. I'll spend an extra week to do some diving and bet on some cockfights...then to Key West in October for more diving and the Fantasy Fest.

My knee hurts when I drive more than 30 minutes. They don't make enough legroom in today's little cars. When our Dalmatian got old, we gave him massive doses of glucosamine to help his joints. Eventually we had to put him down but the glucosamine seemed to help for awhile. I think I'll try some myself.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Visiting the Grandchildren

Raleigh, North Carolinao

My policy is to never report a location while we are still there. You never know when Homeland Security or creditors might be on your trail. All I can say is that we’re a Park that has a great swimming beach on a lake. The lake is only a few steps from our RV. They have a 14 day limit on camping. We’ll be close to that when we leave on August 23rd.

Our six grandchildren are close by. We set up their tent and their Dad brought over a canoe. The one-year old and three-year old are a bit too much of a handful for us to camp with, but we have had two to four of the older ones over to spend the night, grill burgers and swim every day.

My daughter-in-law has five or six rooms that she wants painted. Painting is one of my favorite things so the days pass quickly. I love the smell of mineral sprits in the morning. It's the smell of renewal.

I spent the night in the tent with grandchild number four. His name is Bob, like mine. He’s five years old. After ten minutes he said that I needed to turn off the flashlight and stop reading so he could go to sleep. I see him as a General or CEO someday; a take charge guy who knows how to manage people effortlessly and have his orders followed.

We’re heading up to Annapolis in a week so Mrs. Phred can jump on a train to New York City and attend the U.S. Open. I’ve agreed to be a dog sitter for a few days so that she can travel with friends who think that watching someone else play tennis in the hot sun is a good idea. I’ll give her the camera and ask for pictures of Ground Zero where Jil and Tom used to live on Cedar Street.

We looked at a house here in Raleigh to possibly purchase. As usual the experience solidified our desire to continue to travel for another year. We feel like we just narrowly escaped a stultifying existence. Being stuck in one place seems unthinkable. Our broker's name here is Fair Pickle. Someday we may use her talents, but not now.

Maybe next year we’ll take one of those repositioning cruises From Florida to Europe and then bum around the great cities for a few months. How cool would it be to buy an antique Morgan in England with right-hand drive and ship it on a train though the Chunnel, or maybe a take a long cruise to the South Pacific? All I need is a new tuxedo and a nice pair of dancing shoes.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Getting High Again

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina

We went to visit some old friends up on top of Beech Mountain. Mrs. Phred used to babysit for them back in Miami when she was 13. He's a very bright old CPA. She's Cuban. Actually, she's Jewish and Cuban, which is fairly rare. Harvey tells me he placed number two in Florida father/daughter tennis. Serita say the daughter carried him. Beech Mountain is up a steep winding road from Banner Elk. The elevation is between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. There's not much commerce there: just a couple of restaurants and real estate firms. numerous old Floridians in the summer and college kids in the winter. Traffic was acceptable.

There are lots of homes and condos for sale at reasonable prices. It's very cool there in the summer. I had to get out a winter jacket to listen to a free concert next to Fred's Restaurant and General Store, Fred is the Mayor. You can buy a place right on the ski slopes for a reasonable price. There is a country club with tennis and golf. If you buy a house, you can join the club for $1,100 a year. I was ready to buy, but Mrs. Phred had some reservations. She says she would rent first to be sure.

I've been doing this travel blog since Mrs. Phred and I retired in 2005. It was fun at first, but I think maybe I've been losing my sense of wonder and sense of humor about all the new places.

My son and I stand watching my oldest grandson in soccer practice for two hours in the rain yesterday evening. My son asks what I've learned in my travels and what my future plans are. He wants to know how I plan to spend the rest of my life.

I don't have any answers. I tell him about a cruise out of San Diego that goes to the Hawaii Islands and Tahiti and Bora Bora that I'd like to take to see the Southern Cross and dive again on a Pacific atoll. Mrs. Phred is not ready to sit on a boat for a month just yet. I'd settle for snorkling. I tell him about the dive trip coming up in Puerto Rico. These are both short term ideas, of course. They don't speak to the distant future.

The current trip is coming up on five months in duration. We've circled the US again and are within 700 miles of our starting point. We have gone out to Arizona and Utah, up though the Dakotas, across the Great Lakes and Canada, though New England and down to the Carolina. We have the winter in Florida and maybe a trip to the Keys and Everglades. After that, it's all very murky. We need to hit the Fantasy Fest in Key West again in October. That's been my most viewed album. People like to see naked painted bodies more than they like to see butterflies.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

The Town That Couldn't

Marshall, North Carolina

We set the GPS to home in on Marshall. As we get close we finally see an auto parts store and stop in to get a new set of tow wires. The last set got chewed up somehow on the trip from Boston.

The kid inside offers to build a new set of wires. I notice an overflowing ashtray and ask if they can still smoke inside. They say yes so I light up. I begin to feel uncomfortable about this and go outside. Two of the staff run out holding an ashtray and tell me to please come inside to smoke like everybody else. They tell me about the fellow down to road whose dog likes to chew wires. Every time they get a new truck, the dog comes out and chews up all the wires he can reach. He only does it once per truck. They shake their heads and say there is no understanding how dogs think.

I blame Mrs. Phred. The oldest guy says he quit when his son was born because he wanted to live to see his grandchildren. He says he still likes the smell. The wires come to $10.03. The kid takes about 20 minutes to build them and I get $.97 change. The kid digs out a baseball cap with the store logo and gives it to me as a souvenir.

The road down to the Marshall "hollow" is though a long ravine. The guys at the auto parts store tell me its in the Guinness Book of Records as the only town completely unable to expand because of the hill on one side and the river on the other.

We have coffee in a little coffeeshop. They have a bluegrass band coming in that evening and an Open Mic the next day. They have books to read. I pick up one called "Southern Dogs and Their Owners" and browse though it. A man wearing an "Alabama" T-shit with no sleeves is the other customer.

Later we tune the GPS to the Blue Ridge Parkway and it leads though an Asheville suburb, up along Beaverdam Road, lined with high-end houses that extend all the way up the switchback gravel road to the parkway. The drive on the Parkway takes you though rapid changes of bright sunlight and deep shadow. It's very cool up there at 5,000 feet looking down into the valleys. We're heading up to camp in the high country today. We don't expect to have Internet or telephone service.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Head shops, Vegetarians and Aged Hippies

Asheville, North Carolina

We pushed the RV hard and made the 1,000 miles from Boston to Asheville in 20 hours of drive time. We stopped to sleep in a vacant lot on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border and cooked tortilla crusted taplia for dinner. It was hot, so we cranked up the generator and ran the air-conditioner all night. Usually we only use the generator 15 minutes at a time to make coffee while running down the road. I change its oil once a year, usually back in Tampa in the Winter.

We are perched on a mountaintop near Asheville with a great view.

Today we went into Asheville to look around. We saw a many disreputable old hippies on the streets. Lots of street musicians, head shops, tattoo parlors and vegetarian cafes. The Arts scene is very active here with many scheduled plays, music festivals and film festivals. If you want to buy a bong, some zig-zag papers, a smoking glass pipe or a Greatful Dead sticker, this is the place to be. The downtown is a great place to stroll; interesting architecture, shops and restaurants. I know I'm getting old now because when I see a silver blob on a young woman's nose, I always think of snot and boogers.

The house below was way out in the country. We went to look at it and let the GPS guide us in. It looked good online, but it's pretty far out. (3 bedroom, 2 bath...$298,000 asking price).

After a while, we drove to Hendersonville to look at the housing. We also looked at Weavervile, just down the road. Asheville has a population of 70,000. Hendersonville is about 20,000. Weaverville has 3,000. We liked Weaverville the best.

We will be viewing the Biltmore Estate tomorrow. It's one of the grand castles built during America's gilded age of great mansions and rich people. It was a time before income taxes. They also have canoeing and white water rafting here.

I'd like to look at some of he high elevation places close by. 102 miles up the Blue Ridge Parkway, you run into Beech Mountain and Grandfather Mountain, both with 5,000 foot elevations, both very cool in the summertime.

All I really need is a place to park the RV and a two car garage or a barn to make my wine and beer and for my woodworking and other tools. I'd prefer a barn.

I made an "avatar" for Mrs. Phred to use on her website chats. She's gotten very serious about the online Women's RV Forum. The picture is severely cropped from a shot at Niagara Falls last summer. You can see my shoulder to her left (your right). I had to brighten it because her face was in the shade. I don't know how she manages to stay so photogenic.

I spoke to Cousin Danny last night. We went fishing in Alaska together two years back. He will be in Wilmington on the 13th. He knows a boat Captain there who runs way out in the Atlantic to catch tuna. Maybe he will take me along. We plan practice spitting overboard and drink whiskey from a bottle on the return to port.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?

Newport, Rhode Island

You probably saw the commercial back in the 1980s. A man riding in a Rolls Royce pulls some mustard from the glove box and spreads it on some roast beef.

Another Rolls pulls alongside and the other guy says, "Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

Last week a man rolled down his window in Salt Lake City and asked another driver the question. In response, the second driver pulled out a large gun and replied, "Here's your %$*#@ grey poupon, you @#%%#@. Now roll up your %$*#@ window. Later the second driver was charged with assault (defined as a threat to commit bodily harm).

So we drove to Newport to see the famous mansions. These were built during America's gilded age, before income taxes, when being a millionaire used to mean something.

The first picture in this blog is a summer cottage called "The Breakers". It was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt and contains 138,000 square feet. The rooms are extremely ornate and were built in France and shipped over.

Cornelius was an interesting guy who borrowed his first $100 from his mother to buy a rowboat. He rowed people from Staten Island to Manhattan. He ended up with hundreds of steamships and dozens of railroads. His net worth was about $100 million when he died. Inflation adjusted, that's equivalent to $167 billion in 2007 dollars, considerably more than the net worth of Bill Gates, who currently is only number 20 in the list of wealthy people.

It was very fashionable to have a "cottage" here in Newport. The first to build were rich southern plantation owners, followed by Yankees who became rich in the Old China trade and, eventually the Vanderbilts and Astors.

I missed the street with the big mansions and eventually got rained out just when I figured out where they were. The little cottages here were built on some of the surrounding streets.

Richie Havens showed up again last week for the annual Newport Folk festival.
The Festival was started in 1959 by Theodore Bikel. Bob Dylan performed here in 1965 with a electric band and was widely booed by the purists. Havens went on to play a 3 1/2 hour set at Woodstock with seven encores. My first wife abandoned me in 1965 and drove to the Newport Folk Festival in my car with a bearded beatnik named Tully. She told me about Havens and Dylan and we dissolved our union soon after when I met Mrs. Phred.

A Four-Museum Day

Boston, Massachusetts

Museum: A place to muse? Archaic. to gaze meditatively or wonderingly.

 We take the train in to Boston and buy day passes on the subway. Our first stop is the Harvard campus to visit the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the Peabody Museum. I later surprise Mrs. Phred with a stop at the Semitic Museum in the Divinity School.

We've been told that the "glass flowers" collection in Natural History is unique. Perhaps it is, but to me they look just like regular flowers so I leave Mrs. Phred to muse there and move on to look at the insects, minerals and old bones. She later informs me that that is exactly the point; the precision and attention to detail is amazing. I still liked the bugs better.

The Peabody has a definite "Indiana Jones" flavor. There are things here from expeditions to remote places in South America and the Middle East back in the 1930s. The Semitic Museum has exhibits of Ancient Cyprus, Nuzi and the Hurrians and The Houses of Ancient Israel during the Iron Age as well as other small collections.

We have lunch and get back on the subway to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

The library building is impressive. It's on the Boston Harbor on the flight path for incoming aircraft to Boston International. It's on the campus of the University of Massachusetts.

We've been collecting Presidential Libraries over the past several years, so this visit is mandatory. I like the sailboat display. The sailboat was given to JFK on his 15th birthday by his father, Joe Kennedy, Ambassador to Great Britain. JFK sailed this little boat as long as he lived. JFK visited Berlin, Moscow and London in 1938-39. They have a movie, as you enter the museum, about his life. It's interesting to see him with his eight siblings, smacking a tennis ball at age 20, driving a PT boat in the Solomon Islands or running for his first elected office. He reminds you of Obama in some ways (aside from being born rich and white).

We didn't have time to see the MIT Museum and Campus or the Boston Museum of Fine Arts....Maybe next time.