Road Trip 2020 Part 2

July 19. After a scrumptious filling breakfast with Mary and Annie we toddled on down the road westward to make our way slowly to San Antonio for the next sit. A few hours later Bill was hungry so we pulled into the side area of a gas station, parked in the shade, and had sandwiches, chips, and an orange from our food supply. As we went through some towns I was taken with all the front porches with rocking chairs, so typical of the Deep South.

Adoring Jimmy Carter and being not much of a detour, we drove to Plains, GA to see what there was. With a population of under 1000, there are few public buildings. We did get out of the car, despite the intense heat, and wandered along the short stretch of businesses. One store was advertising peanut butter ice cream which I decided we had to try. As we made our way to the back of the store we passed a display of Billy Beer! Sure was pricey! The clerk gave us a sample of the ice cream and it was mighty tasty. We could have had it mixed with chocolate but decided the take the creamy soft serve style peanut butter ice cream just as it was. A small cup was $2.25 and worth every penny. We sat outside the store on a bench but gnats were beginning to show interest so I got up to walk around. By the time our cups were empty and the bottoms scraped clean, we had approached the old depot which was used as Carter’s campaign headquarters. The building was chosen as it was the only one with a bathroom! Inside there is a display with his history. Diagonally from there is Billy’s Service Station, long out of business.

From there we drove to his childhood home a couple of miles further. We parked in the lot behind the farm buildings and were greeted immediately with a Siamese cat who came trotting over to say hello. As we walked toward the house the gnats were quite bothersome as they looked for moisture on my arms. We meandered to the front of the house and as we were taking it all in an older gentleman came along on his riding cart to greet us, tell us the building was closed but we could wander around the outside, and tell us Jimmy always asks him about his mother. With the gnats and heat taking away the fun we returned to the car and drove back to town to try to find Jimmy’s current house as we had the street name and a picture. It turns out that his house is way down a driveway and hidden behind trees. The gated white one-story building by the road must be for the secret service, we decided.

By the end of the afternoon we had crossed the border into Alabama, a new state for me, and erected the popup tent on our selected site. There were maybe six places all in a row but as no one else had made a reservation we were told we could choose whichever one we wanted. Rather than site 2, we chose 3 which had a better electrical hookup and shadier spot for the tent. It was hotter than Hades so were quickly covered with sweat as we established ourselves. Later an employee told us we could go in the main building and sit in the AC for as long as we wanted.

We returned to Eufaula to get something for supper and were quite taken with the mansions and huge porches along the tree-shaded Main Street. After we finished a simple supper of sausages and raw spinach, with annoying flies clamoring for their share causing us to walk around while we ate and I even went in the building, we took our camping chairs and tried to cool off a bit inside before heading to bed.

With a portable fan to help cool us a tiny bit and to at least move the air, we actually slept pretty well. Cars started leaving about 5 AM so I was awake early. I took a shower and was very thankful that the bathroom was so well air-conditioned I didn’t really want to leave it! Flies were a problem again for breakfast, the rest of the sausage and scrambled eggs, which turned out to be because the dumpsters were nearby and filled to the brim. The smell as I neared them was overpowering and as Bill said, like there was a dead animal. We packed up, Bill took his refreshing shower, and off we continued.

The rural drive was rather boring and we stopped for another picnic lunch of PB and J in the shade of the parking lot of a Baptist church. Later that afternoon we arrived at Coffeeville Lake where we had a remote camping site along a wide river. Again we had both water and electricity so were able to plug in the cooler. Not being in any hurry to put up the tent in the heat, we drove to Choctaw Nature Preserve only to find out the rustic road was washed out and impassable. We turned around, got groceries at Dollar General, and returned to camp. Soon I decided we both needed a fan so I went back there and could only buy an electric one. I also got another bucket for my toiletries as the one I had bought at Goodwill was beginning to split. Back at camp with chairs set up to enjoy the river view and being cooled by our personal fans, Bill told me that while I was gone he thinks he saw an alligator way out in the water! Later we saw a very long barge come down river with a heavy load of coal.

Just after 9 PM and being ready for bed in the tent, the radar showed an approaching electrical storm. Not knowing if the tent was waterproof we were a bit nervous. As I peered out through the small half-domed window I was suddenly presented with a huge lightning bolt across the river a ways. It wasn’t just a simple bolt but was surrounded with a very bright glow. I decided we needed to move to the car so packed all the supplies on the table into the car, took our sleeping bags and mattresses as well, and settled into the front seats. Soon another closer lightning bolt showed off immediately followed by a lightning ball. Cool! There wasn’t much thunder so they were further away than they appeared. We never did get more than a quick rain shower despite the radar showing differently. Eventually we returned to the tent, watched another barge pass by with lights, and yes, starboard is green!, and slept through the night without further fuss.

We were up early the next morning and after a quick bite started to decamp before the sun rose high enough to zap us with its heat. Of course, it didn’t take long before that did happen and we were not anywhere near done. After a quick stop at the restroom to freshen up we continued on our way across Mississippi. Not far away is Laurel, MS, where the HGTV show Home Town is filmed and the hosts live. Erin always mentions what a great town it is and as we were going that way we checked it out. We could see why they love it so with the charm of a small town. The center of town is a crazy maze of confusing lanes, though! Erin and Ben are part owners of the mercantile and it is where Ben has his vast word working shop. The store was closed but the door to the workshop was open. No entrance was allowed but I was able to peer in and see two young men working on a project and Ben partially hidden behind a desk working hard on something. When he looked up and saw me waving, he flashed his hand and went back to work.

While we were in town we opted to replace the cardboard boxes we were using with plastic tubs so when it rained, especially unexpectedly while we were at a campground, we wouldn’t have to load them in the car. Dollar General didn’t have anything of quality so off to Wal-Mart we went where we found two Hefty containers, we bought another battery-operated fan for when we don’t have electrical hookup at camp, and more batteries. After loading the plastic bins I deconstructed the boxes and trashed them.

The next two nights we spent at Fullerton Lake Campground in Louisiana, another state new to me. Being a National Park, no reservations were taken. When we arrived we found no else staying there! After checking out the advantages and disadvantages of the 8 campsites, we chose number 7 for the amount of shade as well as the pea gravel base vs. larger gravel for the tent placement. As we have a Golden Passport we paid half price which came to $15. Not bad! There was a bathroom with sturdy boxy toilets, perhaps composting. Well around the loop by the water was a larger complex with four bathrooms, each with running water for the toilet, sink, and shower. Our site has no water nor electricity. That made it a challenge to keep the cooler at a temperature cool enough without running down the car battery.

Once again we waited until almost dusk to erect the tent. Meanwhile I cut through the grassy weedy center part of the loop to check out the lake. Leaf cutter ants had made a wide well-trodden path through that area. Over by the water is a sign warning that due to being a wildlife area visitors needed to beware of alligators and rattlesnakes. Lovely.

Bill went to a nearby convenience type store to get something for him to eat as I had canned fish. While he was gone there were several drops of rain but not enough to be a problem. After supper I did a cardio walk around the camping loop. Almost four laps took me a half hour. As I was walking I noticed a water spigot on the other side of the next tent site and on the way back through the grass noticed poison ivy. Yikes, and we had been short-cutting through the grassy area and feared I would have it all over my ankles and sneakers. In the midst of my walk I was alerted to impending rain and before I could get back to the car it started coming down harder than before. Fortunately it lasted only a few minutes and the tent was dry inside. I continued with my walk and kept passing an elderly woman with a walker and perhaps her granddaughter. She stopped me at one point to see if I was local or just passing through. Later I showered without AC, I ended up still covered with sweat, but at least it was clean sweat. Once we got in bed there were a few more drops of rain but that was all for the night. There were some day users of the park, one or two to fish, but some seemed just to drive the loop, wave, and head out.

The next morning we attempted to hike on the one trail by the lake but once we crossed the bridge and went a bit further, the overgrowth didn’t interest me. Between more poison ivy and rattlesnakes possibilities I decided to turn back and wait for Bill on the metal bench. He said the trail cleared a bit, he soon reached the remaining foundations of an old building but then the overgrowth continued on so he returned. It was way too hot anyway. On my way back from the closer restroom I noticed another water spigot closer to us on the other side. There was no information anywhere these existed!

We decided to go into Leesville to get more batteries for our non-electric fans which were slowing down and food. When we returned we were visited by a volunteer taking a survey of any park users. He seemed like an interesting guy. He has a PhD in physics but said he can’t seem to remember to keep his tablet charged! Later Bill found a huge spider web attached to two trees about twelve feet apart with enormous spiders. When I went to get something out of the zippered food bag, which was placed on the gravel, I noticed ants were swarming all over it. Placing it on the picnic table we got them off and found lots more had made their way inside. They seemed to have been after Bill’s fig newtons which went in the hanging trash bag. That night there were more storms to the west and we were quite thankful they didn’t come our way. There was a dramatic expansive orange sunset through the trees, though. I got up about 11:40 to pee and a motorcyclist was just entering the loop. By the time I exited the restroom it was leaving and a truck came, did the loop, and left. Why?

The next morning Bill noticed the hanging trash bag had been clawed but we don’t know what animal did it. I did another cardio walk, packed our gear, and showered. Being earlier in the morning there wasn’t as much humidity in the restroom, thankfully. The survey man was already set up and told me he had dropped his dentures in the hotel bathroom and they shattered. He was not having a good day. I told him about the drive-through late at night. He suspects they are locals out for a drive and drinking as they go.

Off we went, stopping at a picnic area for a quick sandwich, and made our way into Texas. Soon we saw a road sign saying the speed limit was 75 yet this was just a two-lane highway! Shortly after that there was a huge yellow sign warning not to pick up hitchhikers as they could be escaped prisoners! Yikes!

The Huntsville State Park has a vast campground. After checking in and finding our site we opted for another one that was flatter with a wider area covered with pine needles and I didn’t have to walk in the grass with possible poison ivy. The water spigot was really close but again we did not have electricity. Dozens of tent sites were vacant so we had plenty of space and privacy. There were numerous RV’s in other sections. Across the water from us is a swimming area with dock, canoes, etc. As we needed cash and supper we drove into Huntsville and found an Allpoint ATM at Kroger. That night the frog and toads started making an awful racket which I feared would keep us up all night. Right after we got in bed I heard something knocked over on the picnic table and some rustling. I shined my headlight through my tiny window and my eyes rested on a cute raccoon going after the food scraps left in a container. I unzipped the tent and yelled at it to go away. Off it scampered and we hung the trash from the hook on the site pole. Despite the interruptions and chorus we both slept well.

Always awake early, we ate and packed up before the heat came. Being shady I never did break a sweat. Bill showered just before we left to head off to our next pet sit, two pit bulls in San Antonio.

Bill decided he enjoyed the Coffeeville camp site best, all storm shenanigans not included. It had the river view, water, and electricity. The restroom was quite far but with our seclusion we could just use the woods. I liked camping amongst the tall trees at Fullerton but did miss the electricity. I was relieved I apparently had not inadvertently brushed against a poison ivy plant as no rash occurred.

A Week with Friendly Annie and Three More Elusive Cats

Annie is a most wonderful two-year-old cuddly Old English Sheepdog who lives in Fountain Inn, SC. Her three feline housemates are Elle, Willow, and Simon. We had a great time with them, especially Annie who was our constant companion on excursions and shared her couch with me while resting in the AC at home.

After leaving my brother’s place in NC we drove west a few hours to get to our first pet sit while on a road trip through the US. We arrived at Mary’s in the early afternoon where we were greeted by the excited Annie and Mary. After a tour and explanations we were handed a portion of pound cake she had made for her mother’s birthday. When I commented on her generosity, Mary said she likes to share. Willow was lounging around but not too sure about new people in her space. Mary then led us in her car to Swamp Rabbit Trail where she often takes Annie for an evening walk. We passed a quiet pond with a couple of beaver dams and then took the short spur out to the main road and turned back. Annie loves to chase squirrels and some accommodated her as they ran up a tree. From there we went our separate ways, us to a campground while Mary and Annie returned home.

The campground was about a half hour away, quiet, and our stay in a tiny cabin with AC dry and restful. The spacious restroom was nearby and clean. I wiped down surfaces in our cabin, we unpacked just what we needed for the night, and ate a make shift supper outside. After a while on our tiny porch we headed inside for bed. There were two separate single built-in beds with thick mattresses which were comfortable and worked well with our sleeping bags. In the morning we had a quick breakfast and returned to Mary’s house which she had just left for a vacation in the Florida panhandle.

After moving her work table in the garage we were just able to fit in our Ford Edge. Annie was excited to see us and supervised as we unloaded our gear and set it to the side of the garage. Once we had our suitcase upstairs and food taken care of, we loaded Annie in the car and returned to Swamp Rabbit Trail. Well, Annie was missing her mama so when we got there she ran around looking for her. That included running over to a car like hers and then over to ours where she stood up looking inside the driver’s door. No mama. She was reluctant to go for a walk and we didn’t get very far when she sat down and refused to continue on. She just wanted to go back to the parking lot and look for mama. We returned home and Annie spent the morning and afternoon quietly on the sofa looking sad. Cuddles and love words only did so much. It wasn’t until we sat down for supper that she got off the couch and came to join us. A return to the trail after dinner was successful! We took the long section and all went well.

Each morning as soon as I rolled out of bed and got dressed, I put the leash on Annie, gathered poop bags, and we did a cardio walk for a half hour or so. Initially we just toured the neighborhood and with all the tiny inlets we managed to get in a half hour. Later in the week we explored outside the development. The first time we turned left and left again and yet another left which took us to the road on the other side of the woods from Mary’s property. I was on the lookout for the most elusive Elle, who I assumed was in the woods somewhere. The area was not nearly as new or safe feeling as Mary’s so we got a move on and returned home. The next day we took a right towards town but only went as far as the church which is down a long driveway well off the road. I discovered the community garden Mary had mentioned but there wasn’t any produce ready for us. We continued on around the circuitous drive and saw a mother cat with two grown kittens who just stared at us. To get in enough time we repeated the loop and then headed back to Mary’s. On all these walks Annie was always well-behaved, did her business, and kept to whatever pace I set.

After breakfast for everyone we often put Annie back in the car and went somewhere to give her more exercise. One day we visited Cedar Falls Park where there is a dam and Annie has a favorite swimming hole reached by a paved path through the forest. With temps always in the 90’s she appreciated the cooling off and playing in the water. She would run around in and out of the river and just lay down in it to refresh her belly. Ah!!!! Another day we drove to Greenville where there is another park with falls. Again Annie got in the water to cool off but this time she didn’t play. We walked from one end to the other, despite the heat and humidity and took a couple of rests. Twice we visited Conestee Park with has a labyrinth of trails. Most of them are dirt and dogs are not allowed on them to protect the wildlife. We kept to the paved trail which went through the forest, paralleled the wetland, and at times crossed it with wooden bridges. The second day I went off by myself on the dirt River Otter Trail to see if there were any otters about. I only went to the first observation platform and didn’t see anything exciting. When I returned Bill told me Annie was beside herself waiting for me. Then Bill took his turn and Annie did the same thing! I guess being a sheepdog she wanted to keep her flock together. The first time we took Annie to the dog park there to get a drink of water. The second time we had water and a bowl with us.

We continued with the evening walks, usually on the same trail. One time as we passed the metal box with a supply of poop bags, a bird flew out of the lower opening. I peered inside and saw four tiny white eggs! For variety one evening we drove into town and walked around as we hadn’t really explored it yet. There is a CPA named Cooley with an office on the main street. The initial buildings were mostly vacant but more were filled as we moved through town. Once we visited a dog park in Simpsonville, but she didn’t seem very interested as no one else was there. Instead we took the loop around the park and when we returned there was another dog and his owner inside the designated area. This time Annie had more fun and the owner was quite friendly. He’s from Honduras and spoke English quite well. His dog and Annie seemed to like each other and when the dog came to see me jumped up and left dirty prints on my clean shorts. Grrr. Then another man came with three dogs and two of them added to the artwork. We left soon thereafter and went home.

Willow seemed to be kind of a house cat. She did go outside but seemed to prefer being in the AC. Simon was a bit more outdoor than indoor and seemed more interested in being in as he got used to us. Elle we didn’t see every day at first, which was typical. Coming in the house seemed a bit scary so often I would set the bowl of food for her on the deck so she could fill her belly. Towards the end of the week she seemed to be more curious so I baited her with salmon skin and she soon made entrance and stayed. After that she came in more readily and even let us pet her, sometimes at her request! She and Willow have very very soft silky fur.

Elle
Willow
Simon

Mary was missing her Annie girl so when she was on her way back from Florida she asked if she could stop by and get Annie as she was staying at her parents’ house in Greenville that night. Annie was soooo excited to see her Mama! The next morning we met Mary at a restaurant with outdoor seating for an early breakfast and Annie came with her. As soon as she put all four paws on the ground, she came right over to us all excited to be reunited with her trusted pet sitters. Annie stayed at our table while we ate and her humans caught up with each other. Our huge breakfast was yummy and filling, just right to send us off on our way to continue our summer journey. It was so great so to see Annie one more time. The previous night the house had seemed empty without her and our cuddle time on the couch. She often would rest her head on my lap or my chest and some times I even got kisses!

Road Trip 2020 Part 1

With the horrible pandemic ending our sweet plans of a summer in Europe we bought a used 2016 Ford Edge with just under 50,000 miles and have settled in for life back in the States. Not ones to just sit around as we had for the previous four months, we decided to buy camping equipment and head out to see the country. We were able to snag some pet sits beginning July 11 and off we ventured for a few months.

We left Charles Town, WV and Bill’s immediate family and drove several hours to see my brother Don, suddenly widowed just over a year ago, and meet his new live-in girlfriend in Supply NC. Bill found a campground in their area near Holden Beach and made reservations for three nights.

After arriving mid-afternoon we set up the large 6-person tent in the sweltering heat of the coast. It went pretty well considering we had only put it up once before and that was to practice and add another layer of waterproofing. The campground was mostly RVs and we were in a line of four small tent sites at the high end of grassy plot and across from the bathrooms. Our place was at the end and the largest, against the edge of the woods. The screen porch of our tent was just under a branch of the trees. It afforded us privacy and protection from the few mosquitoes and eventual mist. Then we headed off to get some groceries so we would have a light supper and an easy breakfast. That night I slept pretty well but Bill was kept awake by our neighbors, who spoke quietly, but continued conversing around their campfire until about 2 AM.

After some eggs and bread we gathered some items to take to Don’s we didn’t want stolen. We had showered the night before and felt presentable enough to drive to Don’s and meet his new significant other. We all established our comfort with assuming we were all safe from COVID and Don and Lindalee welcomed us openly. Our hostess with mostest fed us sweet fresh strawberries and watermelon and Bill enjoyed real coffee. After a bit we headed into Southport for lunch, Don’s treat, at his favorite restaurant, Loco Joe’s. With outdoor seating we were safe enjoying our best meal in almost two days.

That afternoon we rested and Lindalee and I had chances to bond. She has plans for the house to make it more her style, lighter and brighter. We talked about Susie and Don. She lovingly wanted Don to put Susie’s ashes on the built-in hutch along with the photo of their second date. She told him to think happy thoughts whenever he walks by. Nurturing him in many ways is her hope so that he can heal and find joy in life again. She is well on her way!

There were showers on and off all afternoon but seemed short-lived. Don decided not grill the steak on the patio so Lindalee took care of all the food prep in the kitchen. She air fried onion rings, roasted summer squashes, sautéd mushrooms, and cooked corn-on-the-cob. The steaks were thick and huge and we all had to save what we couldn’t eat for the next day. What a feast!

After a while Bill and I returned to the campground for what turned out to be a wet night. Shortly after we went to bed the rain came. I could hear thunder in the distance but there weren’t any flashes of lightning. This storm, however, lasted well over an hour. Bill nudged me about 10:30 to tell me the tent was leaking. We spent the next two hours soaking up small puddles and chasing leaks with dirty socks and very absorbent camping towels. They had to be rung out a few times which I could do after opening the tent door slightly. It seemed to me not only were the seams leaking but rain was penetrating the fabric panels. Occasionally there were drips from the screened roof covered with a fly which landed on my sleeping bag and mattress. Meanwhile, I really really had to pee! Finally the rain stopped and I was able to slip out of the tent and step into the edge of the woods to take care of business. There was no way I was going to slog through an already saturated ground from previous storms to get to the restroom in the dark.

We eventually were able to get to sleep and arose about five hours later. Lindalee had invited us over for breakfast at 9 but we decided, with their ok, to arrive a little earlier. As soon as we got there she offered to let us sleep there that night on the sofa bed. The storm had been much worse at their place, Roadie the cat was traumatized, and she and Don didn’t want us to have to chance another wet sleep-deprived night. We quickly took them up on the invitation and decided to pack up the tent later that afternoon when it had had a chance to dry. A huge breakfast of blueberry pancakes with Vermont maple syrup and warmed slices of steak helped fill our bellies and warm our souls.

After a bit Lindalee and I took a brisk walk in the development in the hot humid air. When we arrived at a small resting area where people often have photos taken, we sat a bit and continued to chat about life. I found her very easy to talk with and a great listener. Don is quite lucky she found him!

Taking down camp took about an hour and a half. Remaining wet areas I was able to dry with paper towels and leaving the items in the sun while we took care of other things. Covered with sweat once again and the car reloaded, we returned to Don’s for showers and get ready for dinner.

Doc (Rick) and Susan, Don’s closest and most generous friends and neighbors, joined us about 5. After chips and dip we enjoyed Lindalee’s plump juicy chicken wings followed by Susan’s vanilla pudding pie topped with fresh blueberries and raspberries. Doc and Susan have a teardrop camper I had seen on a previous visit but after the rain escapade the night before, Bill was interested in seeing it. They have quite a setup there that works for them. We have the dealer’s information in case we decide to buy one.

That night we had a restful dry sleep! Lindalee did her magic in the kitchen rustling up eggs, bacon, and toasted English muffins for our farewell breakfast. It was easier to then finish packing the car and begin the drive to Fountain Inn, SC where we would have our first pet sit.

Random US/Canada Travels

The summer of 1988 I flew to Reno and rented a car. I first attended an educational training on cooperative groups near Lake Tahoe. During that time I went with some of the attendees/presenters on a gentle tubing trip down the Truckee River. After the conference I took a road trip in Northern California.

July 15, 1988. Hi. Arrived on time in Reno despite a 35 minute delay leaving Bradley due to heavy traffic over Chicago. Rt. 80 is nothing great until outside of Sacramento. Interestingly, all drivers stayed at 55 and in the right lane until then! Saw 3 deer right by the side of the road near Nevada/California state line – was afraid one would get itself into trouble with my car but fortunately not!

The Friendship Inn is a motor inn but is quiet and very clean -seems new. San Francisco, for a city, is quite appealing. The hills, scarcity of skyscrapers, cleanliness, and dignity all make it charming. I’ve ridden the cable cars several times, the first time holding on the side as a standee! Besides the usual tourist attractions, I saw two plays, “Cats” and “Party of One”. The first wasn’t as wonderful as it was said to be. I had no idea what the plot was. Even if the songs are poems of TS Elliot, there should be some thread. Soon after the second act began, those of us in the balcony smelled burning rubber. A woman finally yelled, “There’s a fire!” I bolted, as did some others, and the play halted. A fire truck was outside and a few minutes later the Cats crew told us to return to our seats. There had been a fire in an alley but the theater ws never in danger. The second play was really in cabaret style and songs about the life of singles. Well done and funny.

Tomorrow I’m off to Muir Woods and perhaps Saucilito before winding southward. The weather’s been cool and windy although today people did wear shortsg as the wind was much less. I might cut Monterey (Salinias) etc. a day short and go to the Sequoia National Forest before heading to Yosemite. Love, Beth

Lombard Street, San Francisco
Pacific Coast
Half Dome at Yosemite

July 20, 1988. Hi. Lots of Stellar jays are hopping around. Saw several mule deer around Mirror Lake – 3 were grazing in the tall grass of a meadow. Beat the heat wave until I got here so bought a bottle for water with Velcro straps. Monterrey Peninsula was beautiful with otters and sea lions. Love, Beth

The summer of 1989 Patsy Mehlhop and I flew out to Seattle, rented a car, and drove across western Canada to Banff and Jasper. We had a great time and I found the Rockies to be immensely impressive! Upon returning to Seattle I met up with Bill who was on a solo cross-country road trip, and we headed north to Prince Rupert.

July 24, 1989. Hi. Having a GREAT time. What a gorgeous section of the country! We’ve seen elk, mule deer, marmots, male and female goats. The glacial water in the lakes and some streams is incredibly turquoise! Hiked about 3 miles up behind Lake Louise. Going on 93N to Jasper tomorrow. Love, Beth

Canadian Rockies
Lake Louise
Patsy canoeing on Patricia Lake
Moose sightings were always exciting
Black bear visits were also thrilling

August 4, 1989 Greetings from Fairbanks Alaska! We ferried up the Inside Passage to Haines and drove two days to get here. Gas in the middle of nowhere is $1.40 but is $1.10 here. From here to go to Denali National Park and on to Anchorage and the south shore line. Last night we had pizza at Shakey’s! It still lives! Saw 3 rainbows within a half hour yesterday, one complete. Love, Beth

Journal entry: The scenery on the ferry ride from Prince Rupert was pretty but not spectacular. We got off in Ketchikan and Sitka, the latter being where we met 4 Aussies. From Haines we crossed back into the Yukon and spent the night. We continued on to Tok, Fairbanks, Denali, Talkeetna, and Papa Bear Lake before I flew back to Seattle from Anchorage. The highlights of the entire trip: Patsy chasing elk out of the woods, Lake Louise’s light turquoise color and the hike up the mountain, seeing moose, Mt. Rainer, ferry ride with otters, sea lions, and Aussies (with whom we got drunk!), Papa Bear Lake – seeing black bear running madly from the float plane we were on, sockeye salmon, Mt. Denali, having to outside to use the large outhouse and being nervous bear might come along.

Our float plane to Papa Bear Lake
Papa Bear Lake

In 1991 Bill and I flew out to Flagstaff to visit Jane and Cynthia and see some of the national parks.

June 12, 1991. Hi! We’re in the tent waiting out an electrical storm which is about over. The worst of it we spent in the car. Bryce is gorgeous. We went on a short hike earlier and hope to go on a longer one once the sky clears. Last night the temperature dropped to 44 – leftover ice was still frozen when we got up! J and C let us borrow their camping gear but we’re minus mattresses! No one thought of them. Tomorrow we’ll go on to Zion and Friday return to Flagstaff via the Grand Canyon. Love, Beth and Bill

DVES 1987-1990

After returning from life in Paris, France, I spent three years teaching at Deerfield Valley Elementary School in Wilmington VT. The following are excerpts from letters after I resigned.

Sept. 1990. Greetings, Pal! It’s really strange without you at school. Your guidance, support, organizational skills and focus on meeting the needs of students is completely absent from the SPED Dept. I think Tanya said it nicely, today. We were writing sentences with some target words from a story we’ve been reading and her word was “cool”. She wrote the sentence, “Miss Cooley is cool.” Well, she was so proud of how she made a sentence with “cool” hiding in it twice, that she read it to anyone who would listen. Oh, her letter is coming along nicely – should be ready to mail soon.”

Betsy, Howdy! Just a quick note. Our friend “Snowflake” found her sloppy copy for your letter so we finished it today and in the mail it goes. Hope you enjoy it! I only helped with spelling. Ideas etc. were all hers. Some nice ideas, I thought. Love, Patsy

Dear Ms. Cooley, Guess who this is? I had a fun time last year. You showed me a lot that I learn on the computer. I laughed hard and had lots of fun. I still look a little like last year, but I’m getting bigger. I learned to be helpful and not to take things. You’re still my best friend. Love, Tanya

My favorite student of all time, Stevie Brown, also wrote to me a few times. I worked with him in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades on learning to read and his written expression.

Nicki and I with Stevie

June 19990. Steven and I want to thank you for all you have done for Stevie. Not only as a teacher but as a loving caring friend. You will be missed but our wishes are sincere for a very happy and healthy life in the future. Think of us during the mild winters in Virginia and drop us a note from time to time. Our Love, Steven, Lynda and Stevie Brown

March 1991. Dear Miss Cooley, Mom got your address today from Miss Mehlhop and I wanted to write and see how you are. I hope you come back because the new one stinks. What is it like in Virginia? I am going to Williamsburg for the April vacation. I have been skiing all winter and going to races. I’am improving! I have to go now because I still have homework. From, Steve. PS please write back.”

October 1991. Miss Cooley. I got your letter today, thank you for writing to me. I was just talking about you. We were in the middle cricis. I lots my new backpack with my good pants and my only pair of shoes, But I found it, you came through again. I am getting ready now two hike up Mt Snow. I’m going with my mom and dad Meg streeter Charlotte and Joe and Trevor. I am playing soccer and getting ready to ski. We got a new special ed teach. She is nice but not as nice as you. Love Steve

Dear Betsy. Happy to hear you’ve found a job that sounds wonderful. All is well in these parts – busy as usual with soccer. This weekend is the Putney tournament, then it’s on to skiing at Thanksgiving until the end of March. Steve gets his braces on just before Thanksgiving but before that he has to have four second teeth pulled – not looking forward to that but he is looking forward to getting his teeth fixed. Sixth grade is an interesting experience. The girls are now noticing the boys and vice versa in a more outgoing way. It’s really cute. Steven went to his first party last week at Alison Libby’s house and had a great time. Don’t tell him but I hear he wanted to play spin the bottle. Can you believe it? Kate Dassati seems to be doing ok as she is basically doing with Steve as you did – which of course is just fine with him. I’ll close for now – it was good to hear from you and keep in touch. Love, Lynda

March 1998. Dear Betsey and Bill, Can you believe Stevie is graduating? Hope you will be able to join us. We think of you often and would love to see you. Steve is going to Gettysburg College this fall – getting closer to you in Virginia.

Steve graduated with a law degree and became assistant district attorney in Brattleboro Vermont. He is now married with two young children. When I returned to Wilmington in June 2018, Nicki surprised me with a visit from Steve along with his wife and kids. That was the first time I had seem him since he and his parents visited us in Woodstock, VA way back in 1991.

Conference and Travel in Europe 1978

Being in the real working world as a special education teacher, I decided to treat myself to a professional conference at the University of Stirling in Scotland. Afterwards, I topped it off with an excursion through northern Europe. The following are postcards home and a journal.

June 25. Hi Mom and Dad. Got bumped off the bus to Boston because of overcrowding so had to wait for the next one. Went to Filene’s and Jordan Marsh and walked around Boston Gardens. Limousine driver gave information as we drove – a running commentary. Registered camera and binoculars, got money. Departed Logan and arrived Heathrow on time. Left suitcase and bag at Euston Station. Saw Tower of London, took boat ride down Thames to Westminster Palace where I took a guided tour. Hotel Vanderbilt is very small but looks nice. Room on sleeper train 1/2 size of room at NYC graduate school – shared with older woman. Arrived at 6:32 AM! Took overcrowded bus to campus. Checked in and slept until 10:45 AM. Beautiful campus – same number of students as Sage but campus looks larger. Geese walk in line as they travel – parents and 7 goslings. Had a personal invitation from Lord McClusky at Stirling Castle for a reception. He’s the Queen’s solicitor in Edinburgh and sits in the House of Lords. When I arrived and was asked my name, I was told Cooley is a fine Irish name and was then presented. Music and dancing tonight for all here. Love, Beth

Westminster and Big Ben
Stirling University

June 30. Hi from Edinburgh! It’s sprinkling so I’m eating lunch – fish and tomato and onion all marinated, quiche, cottage cheese, and 2 coarse breads (really delicious). I take a late train to Peterborough which arrives 5 AM and then on to Harwich at 5:45 arriving at 8:57 AM. I’m then hoping to get the boat to Amsterdam. The conference was good and met people from all over the world. Love, Beth

June 30. The conference is over and I’m on my way to Amsterdam and seeing Jane. At Stirling I met all kinds of people and felt generally comfortable striking up conversations with people I didn’t know. Mona Timko was one I got to know pretty well. The night before we left we had a good talk about marriage and the age of people when they tie the knot. She was 29 when she did. Before that she went through a stage where she claimed she didn’t mind staying single. We also talked about ways of meeting people and counting up all the men in one’s life and building on those for ego.

Went to Edinburgh Castle yesterday. Huge place. Princes Street had lots of little shops. On the train down from Edinburgh I met a guy who was on his way back to the States after spending a year in York. He seems afraid of getting into the 9-5 rut and becoming a stereotype. He doesn’t know what he wants to do but will try law school. He’s still searching for himself and is not sure what he’ll find but knows what he does not want to find. I told him then he shouldn’t let it happen, to be himself, and not worry what others will think; he has to satisfy himself first. Finances are a worry, too. He wants to be fairly free but doesn’t seem to feel he can with a career. I felt kind of close to him when I got off the train. I hope he finds what he’s looking for. Al Ginsberg (Fremont, OH), Tulane Univ., New Orleans ‘79.

Edinburgh Castle

On the Sealink Ferry now – felt grubby when I got here so I changed in the bathroom as I had done at Heathrow. Had a 2 hour wait – 3:30 – 5:30 AM in Peterborough and then a 3 hour trip to Harwich Quay.

2 July. Dear Mom and Dad, Spunky and Mac. We’re sitting in the Ryksmuseum now. My hair is finally having a chance to dry. It’s been raining so hard today. Well, now at least Beth has an idea of what typical Dutch weather is like! I don’t think that it exactly thrills her. Now it’s Beth’s turn. Love, Jane

Hi! Made all my connections but got little sleep on train from Edinburgh to Harwich. Jane met me at the train station which was good as I’d have gotten lost. Went to Anne Frank’s house this morning. Saw the “Night Watch” and several of Rembrandt’s paintings as well as Vermeer’s. The hotel is small but we have a nice size room. Love, Beth

July 4. Independence Day! On the train to Amsterdam I met 5 kids who had just graduated from college and were going to spend 2 months touring Europe. I met them on the bus in Amsterdam which was an upper.

The rain put quite a damper on our stay in Amsterdam. It poured all of Sunday and until noon on Monday. It’s a dirty city and crowded. The canal ride was nice but the water’s polluted. We went by a rich section – 1 staircase means a millionaire, 2 means multimillionaire, and just living there means you’re very rich! Jane and I went to Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank’s attic hiding area, Rembrandt’s house, a hidden courtyard and tried to get into the Heineken Brewry but the tickets were all sold out. Took Jane out to eat at Sherry Can – excellent! Had a really yummy dessert!

On the train to Copenhagen I shared a cabin with a couple from Australia, one Canadian, and two guys from Dallas. The passport control people kept waking us up throughout the night. The Germans seemed to barge in and speak like Hitler – didn’t seem to know English. Left Holland at 9:01 PM and arrived Copenhagen 8:05 AM but had to turn watches back 1 hour.

Found a room quickly but it’s on the 4th floor with no elevator. Only $5.50 for bed but no breakfast. Will go to Odense tomorrow though it’s a 3 hour ride. Mostly cloudy today with a strong wind at times so it’s a little chilly.

July 5. Hi! I’m at Tívoli trying to stay awake for the midnight fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July one day late. It’s 10:15 PM and I’m finally able to eat dinner after a stomach-flopping roller coaster ride – I’m not as young as I once was! Went to Odense today where HC Anderson was born. He had a rough beginning. Odense is a pretty town. Copenhagen is much cleaner than Amsterdam with more to see and do. Jane looked well. Love, Beth

July 8. In Kramer hotel in Malmo, Sweden. While in Copenhagen I went to two castles, saw the Little Mermaid, City Museum, and Tívoli where the fireworks were spectacular! Lots of people and rides though some pretty areas. Lots of free entertainment. In Odense the childhood house of HC Anderson had depictions of his life but not set up as his home. Saw his birthplace – lived in one room of 2 room house while family of 6 kids lived in the other side. Found a quaint side street with shops.

On ferry to Malmo sat near 3 old biddies who chain smoked cigarillos which smelled ghastly.

The room in the hotel is ok. Need key to get into shower. Saw folk dancing performed by children in Lilla Torg. After watching Borg vs. Connors (Borg won for 3rd year in a row!) I went for a walk in the town park. It’s beautifully done with lots and lots of ducks and their chicks, geese, and some pigeons. There are meandering streamlets with stepping stones and tiny bridges – all very romantic. I leave at 8:08 AM for Stockholm tomorrow.

July 8. Hi! My hotel room is nice and breakfast is an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. In Holland people generally spoke English even if Jane spoke Dutch but in Denmark people spoke Danish and few, except the youth, were able to speak in English. I’m looking for a nice Swedish maid for Don! Love, Beth

July 11. Hi! Sweden is by far the most exciting of the countries though I liked the Scots as people better. Tonight I take the night train to Norway – only that country may excede Sweden! My room here had a sink but no running water – it was in jugs. The sink emptied into a dishpan below, hidden behind a curtain. Place was neat as a pin. I’d love to learn more about Swedish folk-art. Monday night I watched some Swedish folk dances in the city park. All the dances seem to be based on a square which goes into a circle except for one made of three lines of three. Love, Beth

July 11. I’m waiting for the train to Oslo. Sweden is the prettiest as viewed from the train ride – lots of tall evergreens and lakes. Went to Skansen which is similar to Sturbridge Village and saw old houses with sod roofs, Nordic Museum, Wasa Museum, City Hall where I climbed the tower and just as I reached the top the bells began to chime, Millesgarden with numerous fun sculptures, and Old Town which was my favorite – lots of narrow cobblestone streets and quaint shops.

Millesgarden
Old Swedish wall covering

Prices are terribly high, the worst yet. I finally had two good meals – a smorgasbord breakfast and a rib steak special – both at the train station. The latter included American cole slaw which was 99% mayonnaise – yucko! One night I ordered steak tartare, not knowing what that is. Raw hamburger with a raw egg was a bit much but I ate some. I used a 3-day travel ticket which saved me money but I have plenty left over. Even took a taxi up the hill to the hotel in the rain last night and paid $2.50.

July 14. The train from Oslo to Bergen was absolutely incredible; the scenery could have been right out of National Geographic! Once we were outside of Oslo, every scene was magnificent. We even went above the timber line where there was snow not only in the distance but right outside the window. When we went past Flam, the train was slowed down so we could see the magnificence of the view – I wish I had had time to take the train trip from Myrdal to Flam. Someday I’d love to explore the mountains with the hidden fjords – their beauty is everything and more of what one dreams.

Myrdal

In the train station the night I was to leave Stockholm, I met a super nice guy, full of enthusiasm, excitement, gentleness. We talked for a few minutes but I wished we could have spent more time together. I would love to meet someone like him but my age or older. The train to Oslo was uneventful but the sun was crazy. When we left Stockholm at 11:05 PM it was dark but by 1:30 AM the sun was coming up and it was broad daylight when I woke again at 2:45 AM!

My room in the pensionette in Oslo was adequate but the shower room walls were crumbling and were badly in need of repair. The paint on the stairway walls was badly peeling.

I took the underground but most of it was on ground, to Volksenkollen, and walked to the observation tower. Although it was the first sunny warm date there was a haze in the distance so the view was somewhat obscured. I then walked down a path through the forest to Holmenkollen ski jump. There’s a ski museum there but I wasn’t feeling well so I walked on down to the underground station. The next morning I went to the Munch Museum.

The day before when I arrived in Oslo, I scouted shops for sweaters, bought some fresh shrimp down at the docks, cruised the Oslo Fjord, and toured City Hall. The next day I went back to the first sweater shop and bought a beautiful navy blue and white one. They were $20 cheaper there than downtown. While there the first day I met a family from Canada who were buying sweater for the daughters. They were very friendly and the father reminded me somewhat of Mr. Blumenthal my landlord in Silver Spring, MD. While trying to find a simple way to eat the shrimp I bought at the pier, I met two college sophomores from Washington and Oregon. They had finished a semester at Avignon and were traveling about.

I am now on board the Bleinheim en route from Bergen to Newcastle via Stavanger. We were over an hour late leaving Bergen which will probably mean I’ll miss my train to London. Being on this ferry is kind of like being on Love Boat – there’s a dance band at night, bars, even an area for pool although now it’s used for chairs.

Post script: That ferry ride across the North Atlantic was absolutely horrible. I had a comfortable reclining deck chair but the sea was so rough due to a storm I had to lie down on the floor to keep from becoming sick. The engines were cut to much lower speed which made the long ride seem never ending. I knew I would be too late to get to London where I had a hotel reservation so I had the radio operator send them a message. When I finally arrived, haggard and grubby, I was told they had given my room to someone else! I had to wait a few hours, barely able to hold my head up, until they had one ready for me. That finally happened and the first thing I did was take a much needed bath, no shower was available. Then I slept soundly for hours!

A Summer in Europe, 1990

June 26. Bill and I are now in Iceland on the way to the continent of Europe via IcelandicAir. We are extremely jet lagged and it was all Bill could do not to fall asleep at the wheel while we waited until we could check into a hotel. It’s very cold and windy but at least it’s sunny. The people are very friendly. Pineapple was served on the top of Bill’s hamburger which he said was very good. There was fish in the Russian soup. Last night in Akranes we both had monkfish in a delicious lemon sauce. Gas was $2.33/gallon where we stopped today.

June 30. Iceland has horses and sheep everywhere! It seems the lambs are born two at a time, although we saw some singlets and triplets. The adults seem to molt from head to hips and the ones in the south are about done. The most exciting part of the trip was seeing puffins atop the cliff of the westernmost point, Latrabjorg. They let us get very close and we both took two rolls of 36 exposure film! We saw them again as we took the ferry back to Stykishholmur. The scoot along the top of the water flapping their wings just as fast as they can. The shape of their body reminded me of penguins – kind of squat.

Prices have been very expensive. We rented a car for $418 with 200 km free daily and 25% tax. Gas was $2.33/gal. The short ferry ride was $64 which covered the car with driver and one passenger. Staying in homes can cost as much as $67 for two with breakfast. In Akranes we stayed at an independent summer hotel for $42 without breakfast. The Blue Lagoon motel is $95 with breakfast. A beer was almost $6! We bathed in the lagoon with its geothermal waters. Being so warm they were quite relaxing and Bill’s entire palms were wrinkled like prunes!

The funniest sight was a small collie by the side of the road on the way from Patreksfjordur to the ferry. He twirled once, stopped, twirled once again, stopped, then twirled four times which was until we got to a point where he could chase us. I’ve never seen that before; it was very amusing and I got quite a laugh out of it.

July 25. We have traveled hundreds of miles since Iceland. We flew on to Luxembourg, spending a day before heading to Paris. I was amazed when I called the hotel from the airport that I got us a room with a shower and toilet buy asking in French! The language just flowed out and I hadn’t even practiced beforehand. Bill was amazed, too! The Hotel Axe was right across from a bar which was noisy all night long. In the middle of the night our bed suddenly broke and we crashed down. After being woken by trucks early in the morning, we enjoyed ambling around the duchy.

Luxembourg

For our stay in Paris we were guests of Laura Forish and Jim Ferguson, former colleagues of my two years at ASP. We ate the French way – huge meals – and walked forever! I had my hair cut and streaked by Dominic at Hairlines, my former stylist, and then met Bill at Luxembourg gardens. After eating lunch there we walked to St. Michel, Norte Dame, down Rue de Rivoli and turned off at some point to get to the Bastille. We ended up at Pere Lechaise cemetery so Bill could see Jim Morrison’s grave. Over two hours later of pounding the pavement, we arrived to find that day was the nineteenth anniversary of his death. There were numerous peaceful mourners/worshippers there – many unsavory types and mostly kids who were barely born when he died. The next day we went to Musee Marmatton to see Monet’s waterlily paintings and then walked to Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysee, had lunch and decadent hot chocolate at Angelina’s, meandered around Opera to Les Halles, Pompidou, Louvre, and returned to Laura’s. I was exhausted!

From there we went on to Dijon and Beaune which are small old French towns. In Beaune we toured a wine cellar where we sampled their liquid products at each underground station. Oh my. There were a lot of them! About two hours later we stumbled back to our hotel where we both took a long nap!

Beaune, France

Brig, Switzerland was our next stop by train with our Eurailpasses. For $66 we spent the night at Hotel Brigerhof. The next day we caught another train to Zermatt to see the Matterhorn. On a clear day it can be viewed from town but as it was cloudy, we took the cable car up to the closest peak. Climbing the steps to the outlook was literally breathtaking as the altitude is so high we couldn’t inhale enough oxygen. We waited for an hour for the clouds to break enough to to see the tip. People had been skiing earlier in the day yet the snow conditions didn’t seem great. After we descended we saw a better view but one side still had cloud cover.

Brig, Switzerland
Matterhorn

Lake Como, Italy was HOT and HAZY and not very impressive although I did enjoy the lake itself. Hotel La Poste put us up for $63. Venice was wonderful and we spent a couple of days there. It´s a maze of narrow lanes which suddenly open up to plazas. We were continually exhausted, bathrooms were smelly and sometimes Turkish, train station personnel nasty, and people were everywhere. However, it was a fun place to be. We took a gondola ride, $50, for a half an hour. The water was a little bit polluted but not as smelly as we had read about. Cats of all types, friendly, scared, indignant, scruffy, and pretty were everywhere. Our hotel for two nights was $84.

From Venice we took a night train to Vienna in a couchette for an additional $15 to our Eurailpasses with people expressing bad BO. The compartment was so HOT that it made the smell worse, enough to the point where we could not spend the night in there. We arrived early in the morning, had breakfast, and found a place to stay for $50. Then, we were able to find a laundromat and with the help of an American couple who spoke some German, were able to manage three loads of wash at $8 a load! Bill was disappointed Vienna didn’t have quaint streets and that the opera house had been heavily damaged during the war and was reconstructed. Yet, we did take a tour and saw the Hapsburg crypts – very ornate!

Vienna shopping area

We both enjoyed Salzburg’s old town and the castle. There, Bill did get his fill of quaintness. We stopped and watched some buskers and kids eating ice cream. One toddler wanted to show his support and instead of gifting them coins in the guitar case, tossed in his ice cream and cone! Oddly enough, by coincidence we stayed at the same hotel where I had stayed a few years before. $46.

A day train took us to Hamburg, Germany which is a large developed city. That night for dinner I bought a meal with steak I was to cook myself on a hot stone. Fun! We came across some slot machines on which I doubled my money in five minutes! It was only $5 but still fun. Our hotel was more expensive than usual at $75.

Next up was Berlin. The western side is crowded, dirty, and neon signs are everywhere as are Polish people buying electronic goods to take back to their country and sell. Part of the Berlin Wall is completely shut down and the rest is being worked on. We even touched it! People are selling chunks and tools are available to rent and chip off your own piece. There is no border control anymore so we walked right through Checkpoint Charley as though it wasn’t there. Capitalism is already beginning to creep over but the east is quiet and unattractive. Bill wanted to get a special camera from eastern Berlin so we walked quite a ways to get there. Unfortunately, I was then in charge of navigation and in typical fashion, took us in the wrong direction. We decided to try to take a subway back to the western side but couldn’t figure out how to pay for it. I asked a couple of locals but they got as far away from us as they could. So, we had to walk all the way back with Bill in charge of the map. The cars there are all the same and very tiny with virtually no leg room in the back. The train ride through what was East Germany was interesting. The barbed wire fencing was still at the border but the guards’ towers were empty. Towns were few and far between, they were run down, dirty, and there was little activity. Technology seems to have frozen in time for forty-five years. It was so similar to what we had seen in movies of World War II.

N
Berlin Wall
West-East Germany

From Berlin another night train took us Copenhagen, Denmark but we stayed in seats, sharing a compartment with two guys from Texas. The train was overcrowded so ugly American teenagers banged and shouted all night to punish everyone. Copenhagen was dirtier than I remembered from 1978 and I remembered little of it. Tívoli Gardens seemed more of an amusement park this time. We had dinner there. The salmon was so fresh and tender! This hotel was extremely expensive at $122!!

Copenhagen

The next day we spent on the train to Stockholm with very nice people. A woman taught me Spite and Malice and some kind of rummy. In Stockholm we saw the changing of the guard, which happens once every two months. We happened upon it while seeing the old town with its narrow streets and lack of vehicles. Our hotel for $66 gave us breakfast. I unknowingly poured what I thought was milk but turned out to be a thick liquid onto my cereal. The yogurt was an interesting and different addition!

Old Town Stockholm

The following night we took the ferry to Turku, Finland for $73. We lucked out and got a cabin so slept well and were able to shower in the morning. The ferry was huge and had slot machines! This time I only lost. Turku is a small place and the Finnish are very friendly. We were surprised to see advertisements for condoms everywhere and porno channels freely accessed on the television! We toured the Handicrafts Museum which is all that remains of the original town due to the fire of 1827. We walked a bit, napped, and left the next morning by train to Helsinki. We needed to pick up rail tickets for the journey to Leningrad two hours later so off we hustled to the tour agency. There we found out that even though we had vouchers, there were no tickets fo us. The agent was able to get us two seats but we had to be sent to another agency by taxi to get them. The taxi waited and then took us on the station.

July 30. When we paused at the border and the police came through to check our papers, I just knew we would be thrown into a Russian jail forever! Having US passports though, gave the agents little pause and they moved right on. Leningrad was an experience I don’t care to repeat. The city, supposedly the nicest in Russia, is filthy, polluted, smelled like Peru, and the people were generally rude. The only truly nice people were the key ladies on the floor of our hotel. Someone was supposed to meet us at the train station to take us to our designated lodging, Hotel Leningrad, but after waiting quite a while and no one was found, we made our own way. Our room was basic but had a great view of the harbor. Not bad at a cost of $40 per night. The snack bars, tourist shops, and taxis wanted no roubles, only hard currency, aka dollars. The Express Bar which had buffet meals, the key ladies who did our laundry, the Hermitage, and one young woman selling Russian items in the hotel were all that took roubles. For $7.25 we had three loads of laundry washed, ironed, and dried! Admission to the Hermitage was 25 cents each! Lunch was 68 cents. Dinner was 57 cents, but if you paid in dollars you paid the same amount. Meals at the hotel were always buffet with the same items. When asking what kind of meat something was we were always told it was meat. I’m hoping it wasn’t dog!

While walking throughout the city there were long lines to buy things and huge department stores were basically void of anything to purchase. We stood in line outside the Hermitage waiting our turn to enter yet several people just went to the front of the line without any regard to the rest of us. Inside the museum the displays of paintings were poorly lit and many had glares from the windows making viewing difficult. Upper windows were open. The city was very dirty and the air rather polluted from exhaust fumes.

While on a harbor cruise we met a family who said their five year old daughter was pulled by her hair off a dance floor by a German employee when the girl didn’t understand the woman wanted her to leave. Even worse, we saw a man on a bike hit by a car. The driver wasn’t upset about what she had done but seemed perturbed she had to wait around. An ambulance stopped but refused to give help, left, and it took twenty minutes for another one to come. Police never showed up. We just stood there in awe. At some point we were told that the first ambulance didn’t help because they had not been assigned to that accident. Amazing.

From Russia we wound our way by train back to mainland Europe. When we stopped at the Finnish border we watched with great interest the Russians seeing large quantities of food available in the station. After a night in Helsinki, we took the ferry again. Dinner was a delicious smorgasbord with group seating. We found ourselves with a great variety of friendly personalities. Then we continued on by train. We spent one night in Amsterdam, Holland and continued on in a bus without air conditioning to Caen, France where we took the Hovercraft to the white cliffs of Dover, England. Landing was cool as it just zooms up onto the shore and stops in the sand. In London we stayed at a hotel that offered us an inside room with a fan. The air was stifling and Bill was amazed that hotels advertised modern heating so why not air conditioning?

We spent a week traveling in a rented car, me with a horrendous head cold during the worst heat wave ever and no AC. We drove north through the Lake District and all around western Scotland, including the Isle of Skye. The BnB we stayed at in Kendall in the Lake District was on a farm but the building was fancy. The room was small but cute with private bath. We had a surprise when we found the price quoted was per person! That evening we had a wonderful meal in town. Scotland was cool and beautiful. We scouted heartily for the Loch Ness monster but to no avail. Urquhart Castle is in ruins but fun to wander around. We returned to England via Kircudbright where we saw ancient church ruins and tombs and Carlisle. On the way south we visited Wales and we stopped at Lichfield, after which my hometown was named, only spelled Litchfield. It’s a quaint village with a train shop, a chocolate shop, and lawn bowling. Bath and Stonehenge were also fun to explore and quite striking. Bill handled driving on the left side of the road just fine.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Kirkcudbright
Towncrier with assistant
Stonehenge

Ashes to Alaska

One day in 1999 while visiting Dad in his intermediate care room at Lakeside, we chatted a bit about his wishes regarding his death. As he always loved his time in Alaska on Attu during WWII as a radio operator, he chose to have his children take his ashes to Alaska and spread them there. The money from the inheritance was to pay for the trip. Don wasn’t able to go so Jane, her partner Cynthia, Bill, and I all flew up there the following summer. We chose to make it an extra special adventure in Dad’s honor and opted for several cool excursions.

Sunday, July 9, 2000. We’re enroute to Juneau, Alaska to spread Dad’s ashes in the Inside Passage. We shipped him via UPS so I wouldn’t have to “mess” with him as luggage or going through baggage control. Jane and Cynthia are taking the ferry from Bellingham to Juneau and arrive about 6:15 AM tomorrow.

Monday, Jul 10. We went to bed at 8 PM, midnight our time, and arose at 5 AM. The girls’ ferry was already in at 6 AM despite an ETA of 6:15. They had gotten a cabin before departing Bellingham so were ready for adventure. We all went back to Auke Lake BnB where Dale let them have a free breakfast of homemade muffins, fresh fruit, bagels, cereal, juice and coffee. Most of the day was spent shopping in Juneau. Bill bought new binoculars as his old ones broke in flight. He also bought two shirts and a pullover fleece top, all on sale! I bought a funky unflattering hat to keep me warm as the weather will be cool and possibly wet with cold boat rides.

After leaving downtown Juneau we took the tour at Glacier Gardens @ $14.95 each. Of interest were uprooted trees placed upside down and filled with annuals amongst the roots! as we were taken up the hill in golf carts, the steepness really strained the engine! At the top of the rainforest we were afforded a panoramic view. Later in the afternoon we drove west to the end of the road, stopping at the Shrine of St. Therese hoping to see wildlife. There were a few loons fishing, salmon jumping, and what must have been a mink slinking among the rocks. Further down the road was the hugest porcupine any of us had ever seen! We tried to get a picture of him, but he wasn’t interested in obliging us.

BWI, me, jane, Cynthia at Aukr Lake BnB

Dinner was at Fisherman’s Wharf. Jane and I got messy eating Dungeness crab. The center portion had the sweetest meat with the legs being saltier and less delectable. Bill sampled salmon, and Cynthia enjoyed halibut. Early to bed!

July 11. Up at 6 AM, breakfast at 7, on way to Tracy Arm with Adventure Bound by 8:20. Almost four hours later we reached south Sawyer Clacier where superb glacier calving was happening. The roar of cracking was like thunder and fireworks. The calves were about the size of a submarine and surfaced in a similar manner. The blue hue was incredible. Seals were reposing on the myriad of icebergs, but we couldn’t get really close to them. On the return we saw two bears in separate places. Neither one was found to enjoy the invasion of privacy. One even had the poop scared out of him! The only other wildlife on the way in was a quick glimpse of an orca arching in the water twice and a small black bear in the distance.

Wednesday, July 12. This morning we hiked up East Glacier trail by Mendenhall Glacier and found a secluded gravel spot by a stream where we could disperse Dad’s ashes. At the mid-section of the trail we descended to Nugget Creek and forged through forest growth to get to the area I could see. The water was a lovely light sea green from glacier melt. Jane, Cynthia, Bill, and I took turns tossing Dad’s ashes which were grainy and flesh-colored. We had private silent thoughts and reflections and watched as the ashes swirled down stream to a gushing waterfall where he made a grand entrance near the base of the glacier. From there he makes his way to the Inside Passage where he can play poker with the salmon.

In the afternoon we took a helicopter ride up to Taku Glacier for a two-hour trek. The flight was very soft with no sensation of the take-off. Bill and I got to sit in the front so we had a fantastic view. Trekking on the glacier was enjoyed more by Bill than Jane or me. We were loaned outerwear, crampons, ice pick, and helmet. Walking uphill involved digging in with the toe teeth and downhill meant stomping to grip the ice securely but with toes forward – no side stepping as slipping comes too easily. We saw one very deep hole in a glacier stream and numerous crevasses.

Thursday, July 13. Up early today to go on the trip to Pack Creek with Alaska Discovery. The sky was true blue and cloudless at 5:30 AM. We were outfitted with rain gear, which we didn’t need, life preservers, and rubber boots. As the water was perfectly calm we didn’t need to use the kayak skirts. We flew from the airport via floatplane and saw a bear in Pack Creek rolling in the water. Double kayaks were provided. We paddled about thirty minutes to get to Pack Creek on Admirality Island. Fortunately we had several brief respites as my arms tired quickly. Originally we were to do a mile hike to an observation tower, but we spent the entire time at the spit. The sun beat down on us, and I feared some people would get badly sunburned. Later, clouds formed, blocked the sun, and the temperature was much cooler!

Probably about 45 minutes after perching on the viewing logs, a sow and cub emerged from the distant woods. Mom began fishing and soon snagged a huge salmon with pink striping. They trotted into the woods to feast. Much talking was heard as the sow probably really didn’t want to share with the baby! A bit later a single bear came into view behind us and disappeared into the beach shrubbery. Our guide received a radio message that another sow and cub were coming down the beach but were taking their time showing up. Out in the bay there was much splashing. Two seals were fussing over a fish! Suddenly, the single bear was just on the other side of the tall grass, stood up to peer over at us, retreated, and ran through the meadow to the woods. We never saw her again. Meanwhile, the sow and cub had caught another fish and taken it to the woods on our left to eat. Later they descended where the single had entered and spent the rest of their time munching on vegetation and relaxing. For a long while they were barely visible due to the grass.

Another sow and cub emerged where the originals first had and splashed around trying to get a fish. The cubs just lag behind as mom does all the work. She was successful and really talked while in the woods eating. Just as we were getting ready to leave, mom caught another salmon further up stream. After being there for a short three hours, we had to return to the kayak area for lunch and make our way back to the float planes. On the return, our guide Leah pointed out a bear path in the trees that consisted of bear footprints only. They walk only the footprints! There’s no beaten path as humans make.

Friday, July 14. After breakfast and a photo shoot with Roxie, the host’s mellow chocolate lab, we turned in the car ($250 for five days) and were taken to the Auk NU Ferry for the trip to Gustavus. Fortunately the ride wasn’t crowded and a naturalist provided information throughout the trip. We did see one black bear in the distance walking on the shore and some sea lions crowded together on a buoy. I had clam chowder for lunch which was excellent. Along with that came juice, roll, and a cookie all for $2.50!

Our BnB hostess Meadow met us at the dock but we had to go to the Mobil gas station to pick up our luggage. The wait was extra long as the wrong container had been left. The house is gorgeous – open with a Swedish influence. jane and Cynthia got the larger room with the better view – for only $10 more. Aidan, the border collie, befriends everyone and wants the world to go to the river with her. She even followed us down the quarter-mile driveway to the road. Lupine grows everywhere and hummingbirds were all over the yard hovering over the fireweed, lupine, etc.

Aidan and Cynthia with lupine in the background

The local mercantile is packed with goodies as it’s the only grocery store in town. I never did see fresh meat. Next to it is Strawberry Point where Cynthia and I had ribs, and Bill and Jane had burgers. The brownie dream for dessert was just that. It was topped with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, nuts, and chocolate and butterscotch sauces. Yum! Later we hung in the girls’ room as theirs is so much nicer.

Saturday, June 15. Breakfast was eggs Florentine, bacon, and toast. That was preceded by yogurt, strawberries, and brown sugar in a fluted glass. Their berries area a cross between wild and cultivated, quite flavorful.

We rented a car from Bud – it had over 176,000 miles, was filthy, and a Euro; however, it got us all over which was fine. We drove first to the Sandhill Crane Sanctuary. As the air was misty and the grass wet, Bill stayed by the car as we three girls explored. We hadn’t gone very far when Jane and I caught sight of a large brown body with its head down. I wasn’t sure if it was a bear or a moose. It suddenly lifted its head. I turned to Cynthia who was in the rear and mouthed, “bear”. She high-tailed it back to the car! Jane and I stayed to get some photos. The bear quickly retreated, but only a few yards, stopped, and continued foraging. I got another photo as it looked at us again, but it still wasn’t a clear shot. We then decided the black bear probably would prefer to be alone so we joined the others back at the car.

Bill took us by the airport, post office, school, and library. We drove five miles to Bear Track Lodge, back to town, and ten miles to Glacier National Park. After checking out the lodge we took the one mile loop trail past a wonderful pond moose would like, but no one was munching. After snacking we took Bartlette River Trail through the forest to an inlet. Although there had been bear sightings, all we saw was a seal and moose tracks. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the bird’s nest with three babies in the middle of the forest. Mom came by and fed them, three yellow beaks opening hoping for a morsel.

We had dinner at the lodge there. Jane and I got fat on salmon en croute – puff pastry with salmon topped with crab and artichoke dip. Bill had wild boar and Cynthia chose t-bone. No one had room for dessert so we went back to Meadow’s but no more wildlife came along.

Sunday, July 16. Breakfast was mixed fruit (mainly mangoes) flavored with candied ginger, spearmint, and peppermint. Quite delightful! Then we had Belgian waffles with a choice of maple, birch, and homemade currant syrups. The birch was really sweet, and the currant was a bit sour.

Meadow’s husband Chris took us to the dock at 8:45 for an all-day boat excursion with Doug Ogilvy to Elfin Cove, Hobbit Hole, and Pt. Adolphus for $170. We all agreed it was the best trip of the vacation. Even though the day was foggy, most of the time there was enough visibility to see wildlife. First there was a huge raft of otters on a bed of kelp. They flexed their toes, washed their faces, and played around. Just as Doug started to pull away there were two otters right next to us. He thought it was an adult and cub but turned out to be two adults feeling sexy! They were rolling around and such when suddenly they saw us and sped off back to the otter community.

Sea otters

Further out I saw a humpback whale suddenly breach in the distance. Doug steered us that way. It spouted off a few times and dove down with a flip of its fluke. We moved on.

As the fog prevented shoreline viewing and whale sightings, we went right to Elfin Cove. There, Doug explained trawling is fishing with a net and trolling is fishing with lines. Even though the general store wasn’t officially open, we were allowed in. In the winter they open fifteen minutes twice a week since at that time of year there are only 20 residents. The school has not been open the past two years due to a dearth of students. Home schooling has been implemented. The highlight was tasting the smoked salmon (silver). We each bought several packages for gifts and ourselves. Bill and Jane were sure to get Pat’s business card. She will ship!

From there, Doug steered us to puffin paradise where we viewed two pairs of tufted puffins bobbing in the water. When a plane roared right overhead, one pair dove and the other took flight. Most of the cliff was filled with seagulls and cormorants. Just past them was a rock arch. We then zoomed around and found a few fishing boats. Doug knew one and asked if we could watch. Most of what they hauled in was pink salmon which ends up in a can so they sling those off the hooks into a container.

Tufted puffin

We then scooted on to Hobbit Hole for lunch. Jane and her husband live in their renovated house. She runs a guesthouse and provides meals to the staying guests and Doug’s tours. Her brother-in-law lives in the house next to them. The only other people live on the other side of the island. Jane has a flower garden and raises ducks. Cynthia’s egg sandwich was courtesy of them. As Jane got hot drinks ready, Doug gave us a tour outside. We sampled salmonberries which are a mild raspberry. Elfin Cove had numerous bushes, too. In the back are an outdoor shower and jacuzzi. They generate their own power.

Back inside we had tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. After a bathroom break we sat down to lunch. Three of us had smoked salmon sandwiches with tomatoes, red onions, and capers. Ours were closed on rye bread while Cynthia’s scrumptious duck egg sandwiches were open-faced with strips of roasted red pepper. She also had green salad for us and chocolate cake for dessert.

Bill got a kick out of the ducks after lunch. The flock was in single file heading down to the water. One stopped to take care of an itch. When it saw it was being left behind, it hurriedly waddled to catch up.

At sea once again, Doug showed us a large group of sea lions up on rocks by the shore. The bulls were mammoth! And such goings on! They constantly were barking at each other. If we had been much closer we could have seen their tonsils!

Behind us we saw some whale spouts and flukes but never got very close. Even though he didn’t want to, Doug took us to Pt. Adolphus for better whale viewing. On the way Jane and I saw a pair of puffins in the water, and there were more sea lions barking on the rocks.

At the Point we quickly were surrounded by whales not very far away. They sent up water spouts, waved their flukes, and a duo did some sideways tail flops and slapped the water with their tails. The first time they did it, I missed it but heard what sounded like a rifle being shot. when I spun around there was a huge mound of water swelling. There was a trio and some singles feeding.

We arrived back sat the dock about 5:10. Meadow was there to give us a ride back to her place. At 6:30 we boarded the van to Bear Track Inn for dinner. Even though we arrived at 6:50 we weren’t seated for about a half hour. We met a woman who has a zoom lens with an image stabilizer. It really helps prevent pictures being blurry from camera shake and being on rocking boats. Jane and I each dined on Alaska king crab legs. The half pound was just right. Bill had salmon with fruit salsa, and Cynthia said her broiled halibut was the best yet. Dessert was individual peach pies with cinnamon ice cream. Too much crust for the amount of peaches for me. The whole meal with salads was $30 each. We hoped to see moose going to or from dinner, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Monday, July 17. Breakfast was yummy wet scrambled eggs, blueberry scones, hazelnut muffins, yogurt in a flan shape with fresh fruit. Afterwards we packed our bags and set off for a moose hunt with some drizzle. Doug had recommended a marsh near the airport, about a mile from the BnB. The marsh certainly did seem to be prime moose munchies but no one was eating. We followed the trail which paralleled it until it seemed to peter out. As Jane was the driest she went on ahead to see if the trail became more defined. She quickly came back all excited as she had glimpsed a moose! it was startled before she heard it running and by the time she located it, it was almost out of sight. She said it was smaller than she had thought it would have been. We proceeded on very quietly to the end of the trail. On the return we saw two moose meadows where they made a trail. Cynthia took a nap sitting on a log in the second one until Bill tossed a stick in her direction. Although no more moose appeared there was abundant evidence of bush munching, deep tracks, and even some scat.

Afterwards we went to the Fireweed Gallery where Cynthia purchased a watercolor on a nautical map of the area covering our trip. As we were all damp to soaked we went back to the BnB to change. Then we shopped for snacks at the mercantile and ate them in Meadow’s living room. Bill and Cynthia even took naps. Imagine! At 4:00 Chris took out baggage to the Mobil gas station and an hour later Meadow drove us to the ferry. The ride back was uneventful. They ran out of clam chowder so I was out of luck. More hummus and triscuits kept me from starving until we got back to Juneau.

The first taxi Bill called didn’t answer so I had a terminal employee help. He called one for us, and the guy didn’t know where the Gustavus ferry was! Ten minutes later the others watched him drive by. He finally found us and took us to the Auke Lake BnB so Bill could drop off the camera he had rented as I had broken his panoramic Hasselblad. Roxie came out with a big hello.

The Travelodge was smoky! Stale! Good thing we had non-smoking rooms. As Cynthia a was hungry (a constant side effect of her medication) we got down to the Mexican restaurant just before it closed. The food was good! Back upstairs Jane bought film and cash from us. We soon said our goodbyes as we all have early wake-ups.

Tuesday, July 10. The flight from Juneau to Seattle was delayed 35 minutes due to fog preventing the flight arriving from Sitka. The weather during our whole trip was generally 63-65 degrees and overcast. The smallest patch of blue for 2 seconds makes it an officially sunny day! In Seattle I had a 15 minute massage to relax a knot in the left upper back. He used really deep pressure. He said the knot relaxed a bit but would take more time and sessions. It was still worth $17.

I felt sad as we flew from Alaska as the fabulous adventure made Dad’s death truly final.

Mullion Cove, Cornwall England 1973

The summer after my junior year in college was spent as a chambermaid at Mullion Cove Hotel on the coast of the English Channel. This was my first foray across the pond. The following are excerpts of letters from that summer.

Hi! Didn’t leave JFK until 9:20! They served supper about 11 PM and three hours later fed us breakfast. The food wasn’t too bad. Arrived London about 8:20 AM and was a bit later when I met Mr. Clayton (Dad’s business friend) and his son, Rex. They are a very nice family and quite the sense of humor. I have to keep reminding myself I’m in ENGLAND – it better hit soon before it’s too late! Our English seems so dull. Sure wouldn’t mind picking up a bit of a British accent! Seeing a bit of London later. Everything’s fine so don’t worry about anything. Hope you didn’t get home too late and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Love, Beth

June 3. Dear Mom and Dad. The Claytons were wonderful to me and saw to it that I saw their part of England. Tuesday afternoon Rex showed me parts of London. First we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral which was under restoration. We went up into the Whispering Gallery where if one whispers or talks in a low tone into the wall, someone on the other side of the circular balcony can hear what you are saying. We then climbed the 100+ steps to the stone gallery and looked over London. We walked through Carnaby Streets which has lost its’ original splendor. Then we continued on to Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, the guards’ house, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben.

The next day Mr. Clayton had business four hours northeast so Mrs. Clayton and I went along. I fell asleep part of the way due to the time change and getting up early. I had to cash the checks in Kingston as none of the branches would do it. Since I cashed them all, the Claytons thought it advisable to open a post office savings account which gives interest. I can deposit or withdraw at any post office which is a part of the bank. There is one in the village of Mullion, a half hour walk from the hotel.

Friday morning Mr. Clayton drove me to Paddington – I thought of Jane’s books – to get the Cornish Riviera train to Redruth. The trip was about 5 hours. From there to Helston I took a bus and then transferred to one which took me to the hotel. The distance is about twenty miles but it took over an hour to get here. The streets are very narrow and the buses had trouble going up the hills.

Mullion Cove Hotel perched on the hill.

My first impressions of the hotel were pretty poor and I was discouraged in the first five minutes of arrival. They’ve put me in a dingy cold room in an annex behind the hotel. The bed couldn’t help anyone with a weak back. I might be able to move into another room tomorrow if I like it better. I have to wait because it isn’t made up yet. The part of the building where the staff stay doesn’t leave anything to be desired. The bathroom is filthy and nothing is how I imagined it. When not on duty I am not allowed to go into the hotel at all. For my cold bleak supper they gave me what seemed to be canned ham inside of a crust of some sort. In the center was part of a whole egg. While I was eating, a woman of low intelligence, Mrs. Harris, came in asking me if I could zipper her dress. She works in the kitchen and scares me. The manager of the hotel is a small bent over old man, Mr. Kenney, who doesn’t appeal to me at all. Nobody seems very helpful and I feel very lost and alone. Big brave me who was going to be so independent.

Having nothing else to do after supper and it was too early to go to bed, I went down to the beach. The water was a lovely color and the cliffs magnificent. I had done most of the needlepoint project on the train so back in the room I worked on it some more and went to bed. The blankets were heavy so I was warm through the night.

I got up the next morning at 7:30 for breakfast, and Mrs. Kenney had me help Mrs. Harris who works part-time cleaning rooms. I did that for four hours, lunch from 12-1, and then I was free until 7. At that time I was to go to the dining room to help Linda, Mrs. Kenney’s daughter-in-law, with the waitressing. Linda’s husband is the chef and they’ve been here nine months. Linda has been very nice to me trying to make me feel at home and not lonely. There is one other girl who is Mrs. Kenney’s daughter. She helps in the office, at the desk, etc. She is much older and has a daughter who appears to be 14 but her mother looks younger than a mother with a daughter that age. Linda said there are 16 or 17 other kids my age coming within the next two weeks. I’m counting the days until then. Dick, who has worked here for years, says that when they come the atmosphere is different and I’ll like it much better then. There’s an American girl coming the 15th who will be sharing my room with me. That item of news lifted my spirits! An American boy is supposed to come but he’s having trouble getting a work permit.

I was allowed to move to the attic of the hotel that day which afforded me a wonderful of the English Channel and sunsets. There was no bathroom up there so I was to use one in the hall the next floor down. I could take a bath, no shower in it, only at night.

Sunset over the English Channel and typical view from my attic room

Yesterday afternoon I hiked up the side of a cliff following a path worn through the years. I walked along for a ways, enraptured by the cliffs, the varying shades of the water, and watching the sea gulls. It was a warm gusty day and the gulls were trying to find the perfect flight. Back at the harbor there is a place where the sea has bored a hole through the front end of a small cliff, big enough to walk through. When the tide is out one can go through it without getting wet feet. I stepped right into a deep pool the first time, not being very brilliant.

Mrs. Harris is a gossip from the village, she told me so herself. She said the hotel used to have a four out of five star rating several years ago. Then the Kenneys took over and it lost everything. They are now up to two stars. The two hired hands, Dick and Taffy, both do not think the Kenneys know how to manage a hotel and Mrs. Harris agrees. Personally, so do I. It’s not a place I’d ever want to come to for a vacation. The rooms pleasantly remind me of the farm and the heating is by portable heaters. Mrs. Harris says most people complain the food is not good. There is a very narrow selection of maybe four choices at the most for the main meal. Guests can have tea or breakfast in bed if they like and I have delivered it the past two days and will do so again tomorrow. Mr. and Mrs. Kenney mean well but just don’t have it in them. Linda has some pretty definite ideas but can’t take them into her hands.

Friday is my day off this week and I’ll take the bus into Helston and then try to get to Penzance. I want to see St. Michael’s Mount and whatever else there is. Buses will take me there but the last one from Helston to the hotel leaves at 5:45 PM which doesn’t give me much time. I can catch one from here to Helston at 8:20 AM.

Mullion is a small village whose center crowded with small stores along a narrow street. Just before that there is a small restaurant with fish and chips to go. Cornish cream is everywhere but I don’t care for it. The milk is full of cream so I bought some powdered skim milk which I mix with Ovaltine to kill the taste. Fruit is expensive and scarce from the kitchen to my plate, but there are two fruit stands in the village. Hope everything is well at home. Love, Beth

June 7. Dear Aunt Betsy, Uncle Bob, Don, and Jane – Beth and I are having a small but wonderful family reunion! Everyone I’ve met has told me that I must come to Cornwall and since I wanted to see Beth, I saw no reason why I should not come. The postcard doesn’t do it justice, but you can get some idea of how lovely it is. Beth and I have had some great walks on the cliffs. I’m spending a few very relaxing days here. Tomorrow’s Beth’s day off so we’re going to Helston – 10 miles but 30-45 minutes by bus! One might feel slightly isolated but the countryside is gorgeous! Love, CYI

View from cliffs looking towards Mullion Cove harbour and hotel

June 12. Hi! It was good to hear from you! I guess you’ve gotten Claudia’s postcard by now. It was sooo good to see her. It certainly was a surprise! She stayed at a local BnB until Sunday afternoon and then headed back to London. She loved the cliffs and spent hours there and in a little church yard in the village. We even ate supper at the latter a couple of times – not exactly appropriate but sunny and peaceful. Instead of going to Penzance on my day off I went into Helston in the morning to do laundry and make travel arrangements. She met me there after lunch and we went to the Helston Museum and then looked around while we waited for the bus back. There are a few towns I can get to by bus leaving here at 8:20 and then transferring in Helston.

Two girls finally arrived today. They are from Wales and are waitresses. They seem to be a bit younger and are staying in the part where I spent my first night. They seem very nice but not particularly impressed with the hotel. Later on a French girl is coming and the American coming Friday is attending Kirkland College in Clinton, NY. She might be sharing my room with me.

My room is clean and as I told Jane, looks out over the channel. I took the bed which is in the direction of the channel so I can lie on my bed and view it. Land’s End is directly opposite and the harbour is away to the left. The water is a clear aqua – so different from what I’m used to. There are many caves along the coast, once used by smugglers. At the end of the road to the cove is a boat launching area. To the left of it is a tunnel through a cliff. At the other end is a beach but is accessible only at low tide. Further along is another small beach, reachable by boat. At the end of the first beach is a huge cave several tens of feet high. It is quite deep and is explored by the sea at high tide. Getting back to my room, it’s about the same shade as my room at home which I enjoy. It makes me feel more at home as Claudia’s visit also provided a link. I have a sink with both hot and cold water, a dresser with a mirror for each of us, and a wardrobe to hang a few things. On cold days the room is a bit chilly but on warmer ones I can sleep with the window open. Love, Beth

Mullion Cove harbour

June 15. Happy Father’s Day! I’m in Penzance right now and the center certainly is a bustling place! I thought I’d have a typical Cornish Cream Tea if I can find a place which serves it. From Mullion, Penzance is about an hour and twenty minutes. From here I can to go to Lands’ End – 11 miles, St. Ives, and just about anywhere. I like the double decker buses best with the big front seat and with the huge front window. Takes me back to my childhood excitements, I guess. The days have been cold lately. Though today the sun is shining, the wind can be terribly gusty. You have gotten or will be getting a letter from an American couple who stayed at the hotel for a night. They are from Brewster, NY and are on their way back from vacationing in Europe. She thought you might like to know they had seen me and I was alive and well. They were in an accident on the way to the hotel – a blowout on a hired car. She had a nasty cut on her scalp from when the car rolled over. They said a guide they had in Venice had just returned from visiting first cousins in Litchfield! Small world, isn’t it? Love, Beth

Jun 15. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cooley, My husband and I were at the Mullion Cove Hotel last week and your daughter came to speak to us, as fellow Americans. I told her I thought (as a mother) that you might like an objective opinion as to how she is. Beth seems fine – healthy, reasonably happy, looking forward to the new American girl due this week, thrilled about her cousin’s unexpected visit. She plans a trip to the Channel Islands and seems excited at ending her summer in Paris. She’s a lovely, intelligent and sensitive girl, and we so enjoyed talking to her. Hope she will follow up on her thoughts re working with children who have learning disabilities. Sincerely, Carolyn Eliot (Mrs. Robert)

June 24. Happy Anniversary! The American girl never showed and they finally got a letter from a friend of hers a few days later saying she would not be coming due to financial reasons. On Friday a boy from Scotland came. He washes the dishes. Mrs. Kenney doesn’t think much of him as who would want to be a dishwasher, The girls are very friendly.

Saturday night there was a midsummers eve bonfire at a farm about two miles from here. They served hot Cornish pasties and tea which went very quickly. Before lighting the bonfire, a short history was given of which copies were sold. After the lighting hymns were sung, I went with the two girls and were very glad we went. The people who run the bed and breakfast were there and remembered me from when I visited Claudia there. She is very friendly and always on the go – a bundle of energy and warmth.

This week for my day off I’m going into Falmouth, and if there’s time, into Helford. The bus service, being very limited into Mullion Cover, restricts how far I can go in one day.

The hotel is getting much busier now. I still work from 8AM to noon cleaning the lounge with dirty ashtrays and glasses with remnants of stale beer, making up guests’ beds and cleaning their rooms. Then from 1-2:45 I clean bathrooms and those rooms that are vacated. From 7:30-8:30 I’m to be around in case I’m needed for anything. They have me iron towels and pillow cases when there is nothing else to do which there hasn’t been. I waitress only when needed which has been when one of the two girls has a day off. One of my tedious tasks was to sweep the front staircase, which is carpeted, with a small brush and dustpan. I hated it as the dirt and dust flew up into my face, I asked Mrs, Kenney if I could use the vacuum cleaner instead, why I wanted to, and she said I could not. Therefore, I told her I wasn’t going to clean the stairs anymore. Now another girl gets the filthy job.

Hope the woodchucks aren’t being too greedy. I hope there’s corn on the cob when I get home. Please save a few strawberries for me. Oh, for garden fresh vegetables! American milk! Ice in my water! A shower instead of a bath! Home cooking! Love, Beth

Dear Jane. As you can see the Lands’ End coast is much grander than here at Mullion. We’ve had a week of cold rainy weather, but today brought sunshine. The girl from France said she saw sharks when she was at Lands’ End. At the bus station in Penzance I met a group of kids from Conn. sightseeing before going to study at Cambridge. Sure was good to hear an American accent. Love, Beth

July 6. The French girl arrived last Sunday taking a ferry from France and driving down here. The car has a stick shift but comes out of the front of the dashboard. She is a teacher of French for kids about 16 years old and keeps referring to how old she’s getting. She can’t be more than 27. She is sharing my room and we get along very well. Having a roommate reminds me of my freshman and sophomore years at RSC. She speaks English very well but I warned her about learning an American pronunciation. Her name is some sort of derivative of Michele but we call her Mickie. She has visited England various times before, either traveling or studying. It’s nice to have someone on the summer staff who is down to earth. The others are 18 and seem a bit younger, but then I must seem young to Mickie. She once referred to an incident when she was a 21 year old girl.

Just before supper Mickie and I drove to Lizard Point where the most southern point in England is. The water was a very deep blue and there were several fishing boats off shore. In the town itself are several small shops which seemed very touristy. Last night she tried to teach me how to count and the say the colors in French, but I found the sounds very difficult to pronounce.

I find myself constantly wishing I had something to read. There’s no library in Mullion and being a foreigner, I’m told I wouldn’t be able to borrow books anyway. I’ve read all the ones the manager’s daughter-in-law has and nobody else has any. I bought Jamaica Inn but may sell it to a secondhand store in Helston. Love, Beth

July 17. Today I went to Lands End which was magnificent. It sort of made the coast here look less so. Although the sky was darkening I was able to see the Isles of Scilly in the distance. I walked along the coast to Sennen Cove which has a very deep beach. Just before I got there it began to rain but managed to get into a store before the worst of it came. The most surprising part of the day happened when I went to the bus stop at Penzance to wait for the connecting bus. I was standing by two girls who were talking to two older men and I heard them mention Storrs and Manchester and then realized they were Americans. I asked one of the girls if she was from Connecticut and she was surprised I was from Litchfield. One of the men turned out to be a professor at UCONN who was traveling by himself. And we all met at the same bus stop! The girl sat with me to Land’s End and she was very friendly. She had graduated from Manchester High in June and her English teacher brought over eight students with another chaperone. They are traveling a bit before going to Cambridge University to study modern English authors for three weeks. They flew from Logan airport in Boston earlier in the month but had to pay the full $258 because the airlines decided to drop youth fare and give discounts to older people instead. Guess I left just in time!

Lands End

Last week I went to Truro Cathedral and Trelissick Gardens which overlooks the River Fal. On the way I met the wife of the diplomat to the States who’s with her family here on holidays.

The weather hasn’t been very good with cloudy skies and periods of rain in the afternoons after a partly sunny morning and succeeded by a fair late afternoon only to cloud over again. Did you follow that? Hope you’re getting some cooler weather and you’re not working too hard. Love, Beth

July 29. Dear Uncle Buzz. Today I went to Falmouth to this castle on the river Fal. Henry VIII had it built around 1540 to strengthen the coast vs. invasion from the continent. At 2:30 I took a trip down the Helford River viewing the castle, Falmouth Bay, Manderley of Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca, Helford Passage, Frenchman’s Creek, and Port Navas. We stopped for 45 min. In Helford Village which is minute! Beautiful place and so quiet. Many 14 century churches around – one here in Mullion, too. Love, Beth

Helford

August 1. Dear Mom and Dad. Sorry to be so long in writing again. Nothing particular has been happening. After nearly a fortnight of rain we finally had a week of fairly sunny weather. I went swimming in the channel both Sunday and Monday. The water was ice cold but I didn’t seem to mind it. Sunday night low tide was at 11 PM and I went down to the beach through the tunnel. It was warm and the sky was speckled with stars.

Yesterday was my day off and I went to St. Ives which I loved. It was laden with tourists and its share of hippies, but I still enjoyed it. It has great beaches. Porthmeon is used for surfing championships. It has a complex of narrow streets and stucco houses. There was a mist coming in off the Atlantic and there was a haze but the beaches were still covered with bathers. I’d hate to drive through St. Ives, not because of the narrowness of the streets, but because of the spilling over of the crowds.

Last Friday I went horseback riding with Micki for an hour not far from here. We went up on to Goonhilly Downs where there are four Telestar satélite receivers, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I enjoyed it and wasn’t sore the next day as I had expected. The horse was gentle and easy to control. I was surprised as to how much I remembered after six years of not even being a horse.

It doesn’t seem possible I have only two and a half weeks here. Since there has been more staff, time has gone very quickly and I know that even though there is still a month before I’m home, it’s going to seem short. Although I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, knowing I’ll have only one year left before I go out into the real world is frightening. Considering an extra semester to be certified for elementary education is somewhat consoling.

The crew at the harbor. Gordon is the tall one wearing a blue sweatshirt and Micki is to hs right with curly hair.
The guys racing while wearing flippers, harbor wall

Last Thursday several guests left and I got four pounds in tips! That’s about $10. They were the first tips in about a month and were quite welcome. I can usually pick out the ones who will leave the tips. They are all the very friendly ones and 99.9% of them I take early morning teas to. Love, Beth

(This letter was never mailed). August 7. Dear Diane. It is good to be with different people – each one is different and brings another view of life as it is here with everyone being from a different part of Great Britain and Micki from France. I really have difficulty understanding Gordon who’s from Dumbarton in Scotland. He is the dishwasher and speaks with a burr. I get tired of asking, “What?” When I asked him if he was frustrated having to repeat himself all the time, he replied he rather enjoyed it! We get along well and have spent a lot of free time together. We have gone swimming, played baseball at the harbour in the rain, watched a tide come in with a gale and saw a seal, gone for walks, hitched rides (it’s legal here), had long talks star gazed, had a bit too much to drink together, etc. just enjoyed each other’s company without anything romantic. I feel comfortable with him, trust him, and have high respect for him. I’ll miss him, especially when I get back to school. We both came here not knowing anyone as most everyone else came with a friend. He said he finds me easy to talk to and accepts me for what I am, though he did complain about my wide variance of moods and not being able to tell which one I was in at any particular moment. It was he who helped me to get to know and accept the others who have had very different upbringings and backgrounds from me. It was he who helped me overcome my siege of loneliness and self-pity. He was always telling me to savor every moment. He keeps mentioning how short a time I have left – 10 days – before I leave the hotel. It was he who helped to make my summer a happy, enjoyable one and it was because of him I have special memories. He offered to show me Dumbarton, north of Glasgow, and said I could stay at his house. I’m not going as I already have set plans to go the the Channel Islands and Paris. It was awfully nice of him to offer, to say the least. Betsy

August 12. Dear Mom and Dad. Well, my days here at the hotel are numbered. We’ve been terribly busy especially with people changing rooms and those who come for one night. Because I won’t know until the 22nd which day I’ll be flying home, I asked Mr. Clayton to make reservations for both the 26th and 28th. I’ll be staying at the Grosvenor Victoria on Buckingham Palace Road. Even if I don’t come until the 29th I may leave Paris the 26th and spend the night in London. I sail from Weymouth Wed. Aug. 22 at 1:30 PM, to Guernsey. I’ll spend the night and Thursday there and then take a ferry to Jersey that night. Thursday night and Friday I’ll spend in Jersey and then to Paris that night. Mr. Bourdais has said I can stay at his home for however long I’ll be in Paris which is extremely generous of him. I’ll arrive there about 7:30 PM on Friday August 24 from Jersey on Rousseau Airlines. I fly from Paris to London on BEA at about 6 PM on Sunday August 26.

The other day I swam about a quarter mile out with two other staff. Distance swimming in salt water and waves is quite different than a quiet freshwater pool! I wasn’t looking forward to the frigid swim back when Gordon saw Colin, the chef, out in his boat heading our way. Fortunately he gave us a lift back to the harbour. I have a 5” by 2” black and blue mark on my thigh from being hauled into the boat – I must weight a ton!

I’ll have the hotel forward any letters to the Grosvenor Victoria Hotel if they will. Love, Beth

August 20. Dear Mom and Dad. I love Bath and know you would find it exciting, too. The Roman Baths were fascinating. It was very sad leaving the staff at the hotel and they gave me a piece of Cornish pottery and address book from Mullion – exceedingly generous as there certainly was no need. Took train here – 6 hours – and found Bed and Breakfast not far from train station. I walked around Bath last night and loved it. There are many exhibitions commemorating 1000 years of monarchy – all very interesting. Cloudy today so I hope my slides will come out. It’s only noon and there’s much more to see. Off to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Weymouth tomorrow, then Channel Islands on Wednesday. Hope all is well and see you in a week. Love, Beth

August 23. Don and Jane. Hi! Greetings from Guernsey! I arrived last night and stayed at a guest house 10 minutes inland. Guernsey is crowded with tourists, which I add to, and is not as exciting as I thought it would be. Beaches near here are mainly rocky. Germans did a lot of damage during the war. Guernsey has its own stamps and will not honor English ones. Own coins too but same value as England. Beth.

August 24. Dear Mom and Dad. This may arrive after I get home but anyway…The best way to see the island in a day is to take an island tour. I was going to take the one around Guernsey but I was too late for the morning one and the afternoon one was too late for me to catch the ferry. Apparently the west coast is very “Cornish” with its high cliffs while the east is flat. Hope I can get a tour in Jersey and that I can find something for Mrs. Bourdais. Bad electrical storm last night, cloudy today. Me

September 1973. Dear Bob. I was on the edge of having a congestion when we reached the Gare St. Lazare as Beth has probably told you. We are glad that she enjoyed her stay in Europe and there is no need to thank us for what we did as it was a real pleasure to have her with us. You did just the same when we visited you and under worse conditions because of the snow. The lady friend across the road came every day talking about Beth and she asked me this morning to send her best wishes to her. If Beth could drop her a few lines or better send her a postcard she would be full of joy. She leave alone since her Mother died three years ago.

April 4, 1975. Hi Betsy. I’m back at Mullion Cove Hotel as a guest for a couple of days. I thought I would enjoy it but found the place did not mean anything to me without all the people in the staff. I still write to Gordon and he’s coming through Paris in June. The hotel hasn’t changed except for a fire emergency system. I’m in room 8. Mrs. Kenney didn’t remember who I was, “we see so many people” she said. But Linda and Mr. Kenney were nice. They hotel is far more comfortable than I thought it was. It’s not too cold whereas BnB places are. They both seem not to have heard of control heating. Hope everything’s all right with you. Mickie

In August 2019 Bill and I drove to Cornwall as we were between house sits. I was thrilled to revisit Mullion and the hotel. Click on the link to read about that highlight of the summer. https://retiredandfreetotravel.wordpress.com/2019/08/05/edinburgh-to-cornwall/

Other European Travels 1985-1987, Part 2

In early October I went to a vendange in Montmartre which celebrates the first picking of grapes to make wine. There was singing and a parade and Madame Chirac was on the reviewing stand. Among the onlookers were the Sumi wrestlers in town for an exhibition. They walked right me and boy, are they massive!

My friend Diane and I took the train to Giverney to see Monet’s house and gardens. He had lived there for twenty-five years and was what inspired the water lilies series. The house was very sunny and bright while the gardens were unkempt with tall flowers. The Japanese bridge was beautiful and the object of many a tourist’s photo.

October 24, 1987. Diane and I took a train to visit Dad’s business associate Roger Bourdais and his wife in Maurecourt. Over the years they have become great friends and I met them once at the end of my summer in Cornwall, England. I had flown via the Channel Islands Guernsey and Jersey and Roger met me at the airport. His car was quite interesting in that when it was turned off, the back end lowered and it raised upon starting!

Roger speaks English and loves to talk. His wife is a fabulous cook and speaks no English. As Diane is better than I am in conversational French, I had her go with me. The lunch was the exact same as when I visited them with my parents, with a most delectable quiche Lorraine, roasted chicken, potatoes, peas, salad, cheese, and wine. She had two desserts, apple cake and tarts! We spoke French to include Madeleine but I missed at least 75%. Roger just goes on and on, thankfully in English. She didn’t play the organ this time but showed us the same photos. They would not let me do the dishes and when I asked Roger if there was anything I could do, he said no, but he’d like a Texan hat, size 7 1/4. They were both in good spirits but he mentionfed his health problems a lot. We took a large bouquet of flowers.

At the end of the month I flew to Lisbon, Portugal. It was quite warm and felt like eighty degrees in the direct sun which was strong. When I arrived the taxi driver told me my hotel destination was in an area with prostitutes and transvestites, so he took me to another hotel which was good. Of course, he was friends with the manager. He charged me more for his safe delivery, but it was still only $5. Lisbon and Belem were dirtier and poorer than other European cities. The oldest part of Lisbon is fun with compact narrow streets on a hillside. Portugal is famous for their tiles and are even used as exterior finishes. I walked an incredible amount and was exhausted at the end of the day. From there I went to Sinatra and Queluz. I spoke Spanish when I couldn’t use English and got by. It’s interesting how the Iberian peninsula people are less sophisticated than the other parts of Europe I have seen. On a train up to the north a girl was knitting using her thumbs to guide the needles and kept tension on the yarn by draping it around the back of her neck. Later I saw three women in a passing train also with yarn around their necks. I was fascinated with that! I had to take a local bus to get to Chaves, which was cold and quiet, but I did enjoy the scenery along the way. Coimbra was another fun town where I spent one night. I only had four days and I made them count!

Working on the cobblestone street

The end of November I decided to go to Luxembourg and Strasbourg. The old section of Strasbourg was a highlight and in Luxembourg I bought a few pieces of Villeroy and Boch china at the factory outlet at 20 percent off. I hope to have Uncle Buzz take them back to the States for me when he comes to visit. Despite 24 hours of what was, I guess, an intestinal reaction to Mexican food, I enjoyed my trip. The train ride through the rolling countryside of vibrant green fields was relaxing.

Strasbourg

My trip to Kenya was during this time and in another blog.

Nora, a first grade teacher, and I flew to Italy for February vacation. Rome was wonderful though rainy, but not cold. We visited the Forum, Coliseum, Palatine Hill, Trevi Fountain, Spanish steps, Vatican museums, and St. Peter’s. The Sistine Chapel was not as awesome as I expected. It’s a long rectangular room. I’d always imagined Michangelo’s hands of God and man in a dome. Restoration has “revealed” very brilliant colors, especially striking compared to the ceiling half covered with soot and dust. Most buildings close at 2 PM. Gypsy kids were seen at the Forum and train station so we guarded our belongings and used body language to tell them we were aware of their misdeeds.

Siena is a picturesque and charming old town. It was my favorite place with mountain air and narrow winding streets. The buildings are mainly very old brick with tiled roofs. The duomo is reminiscent of the mosque in Córdoba Spain.

This must be another postcard as the lighting is so good.

Florence made me feel very closed in, of which I wasn’t aware until I arrived in Pisa which is smaller. Both cities were rainy, which didn’t help. Florence also has more of a dingy quality to it. Ponte Vecchio is charming with quaint shops. I bought an onyx ring there. In Pisa the duomo and leaning tower are surrounded by open space and grace. All these towns have more color than Paris as the buildings often are ocher or burnt orange.

I have seen enough religious paintings to last me quite some time. I do have a renewed respect for Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Raphael. Nora, who was an art history major, was able to help me appreciate a bit more some of the paintings and sculptures – in other words, I gave them some more time than my customary glance. I found the duomos rather gaudy on the exterior. David was exquisite, though.

I am feasting on pasta (the best was tagliolini al limone – thought I’d gone to heaven) and ice cream (chocolate is like mousse and so incredibly rich). I really noticed the difference with fresh pasta. Portions are US size, not golf ball size of Paris!

My April vacation was partially spent with a visit from Aunt Ruth and Uncle Pres along with cousin Biffy. After they left I flew to Greece (see separate blog).

In early May I ventured to Munich Germany and immediately hopped a train down to the Bavarian Alps region via Heidelburg. My goal was to get to Fussen and tour Neuschwanstein Castle, which was the basis for the Disney castle. King Ludwig II was a bit crazy but had all the latest technology of the day. Despite being the Middle Ages, he had hot water heating in every room and flush toilets! I understand why he wanted to be a recluse in the wooded setting. I loved it there! Once all the tourists had gone I found it so beautiful, peaceful, and tranquil, especially down by the incredibly clear lake with reflections of the trees and a resting swan, waiting for the sunset. There are snow capped mountains in the distance and forest everywhere. As I heard the birds twittering, smelled freshly cut trees, and listened to the rushing of a nearby stream I was reminded of the woods behind my childhood house. We were so fortunate, incredibly so, to have grown up there.

Later in May my sister Jane and her friend Cynthia flew over and we investigated the Loire Valley by train. We visited numerous chateaus, including Chenonceau, Azay-le-Rideau, Villandry, Clos-Luce, Saumur, Chinon, and Langlais.

Of course, before they left Paris I had to take them to Angelina’s for the most sinfully rich thick hot chocolate ever. There is no equal.

I ended my two years of teaching in France with several days in Ireland on my way back to the States. I rented a car, drove on the left side, and managed not to have any accidents. I had flown into Shannon and drove to Dingle, the Ring of Kerry, Blarney (yes, I kissed the filthy stone and bought a kilt for $40), and Galway. I was quite taken with all the stunning green and the rolling hills. Surprisingly, didn’t mind all the overcast skies and frequent rain. Beehive huts, stone slab altars, Cliffs of Moher, flocks of wooly sheep, church ruins, and the friendly people were all highlights.