USA - Miami to Boston, Autumn 2018

Introduction

This is the diary of a five week holiday to the USA.  Every two years we have a reunion with some IBM colleagues Jane worked with to ensure there was no problem with the Y2K date support.  This year we were to meet in Charleston, South Carolina.  Jane decided she'd like to see the rest of the East coast of the USA so booked up a pair of return flights using our Avios points, flying into Miami and returning from Boston. The car was booked through Avis via British Airways.  All hotels south of New York were booked using Trailfinders (more...)  and the rest were booked by Jane online.   
 
Instructions are here. The slideshow is here. The locations for the photos are here.

Itinerary

Saturday, 1 September - Home to Miami
Sunday, 2 September - Miami to Naples
Monday, 3 September - Labor Day with Gordon
Tuesday, 4 September - Marco Island and Naples Pier
Wednesday, 5 September - The Everglades Experience and St Petersburg
Thursday, 6 September - St John's Pass
Friday, 7 September - Dale Chihuly Exhibition
Saturday, 8 September - Kennedy Space Center
Sunday, 9 September - Jacksonville to Charleston
Monday, 10 September Fort Sumter and the Aquarium
Tuesday, 11 September - Evacuation to Asheville
Wednesday, 12 September - The Biltmore Estate
Thursday, 13 September - Lexington Glass Works and the Grove Park Inn
Friday, 14 September - Blue Ridge Parkway
Saturday, 15 September - Ashville to Alexandria
Sunday, 16 September - a Short Trip to Washington
Monday, 17 September - Alexandria
Tuesday, 18 September - A Rest Day with a Team Meal
Wednesday, 19 September - Mount Vernon
Thursday, 20 September - Alexandria to King of Prussia
Friday, 21 September - Strasburg to Paradise
Saturday, 22 September - King of Prussia to Mystic
Sunday, 23 September - Mystic Seaport Museum
Monday, 24 September - Mystic to Newport and its Mansions
Tuesday, 25 September - Newport to Mattapoisett
Wednesday, 26 September - Woods Hole
Thursday, 27 September - Mattapoisett to York, Maine
Friday, 28 September - Ogunquit
Saturday, 29 September - York to Camden
Sunday, 30 September - Arcadia National Park
Monday, 1 October - Camden to Boston
Tuesday, 2 October - Freedom Trail Tour
Wednesday, 3 October - JFK museum
Thursday, 4 October

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 1 September - Home to Miami

 Gary, from Miller’s Taxis, picks us up at 9:40am and drives us to Heathrow.  On the way we stop to confirm it is Terminal 3 from where we are leaving and not Terminal 5 as Gary has been told.  We arrive at Terminal 3, use the Fast Track and make our way to the business lounge. We walk a long way to gate 40 and wait.  We  board the Boeing 747-200 and are told that we have to wait for two components to be first obtained and then fitted.  After several announcements from the cockpit about the tardiness of the arrival of the components we take off at about 4pm, two hours late.  We watch several films including Ex Machina for which Stephen did some work.  He produced the iPhone screens shown during the first ten minutes of the film. This was enough to earn him a mention in IMdB (more...). We land at Miami International Airport at about 8:30pm and take the train to the passport control and baggage claim. We are surprised that there is not a long queue to get our details verified, a mug shot taken and our finger prints recorded.  No record is made of our weight and height.  On the way to claim our baggage our hand luggage is sniffed by a small beagle like dog.  We collect our luggage and drag it to the MIA Mover, a one-stop train journey to the Rental Cars.  We collect the details of our pre-ordered car.  It is a Mazda 3 hatch back.  We drive down La Jeune Street looking for the Marriott hotel.  We have driven in the wrong direction and after asking a man for the correct directions we drive to the hotel. We have been allocated room 704.  We retire.  It is about 3am at home.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 2 September - Miami to Naples

 We get up at 7am and go down for breakfast at 8am.  It  is a very unremarkable breakfast with one thing to note.  The metal milk jug without a spout is a novelty but the coffee is poor.  We download the map of Florida to use with NAVMII which is a GPS based navigation app for our phones. To have a Sat-Nav in the car would have cost $100 for the week. The app was suggested by Hodge, that well known ex-Rhodesian leader of the world famous rock band Razz (more...).  Whilst getting used to the app we drive the wrong way.  Fortunately the car has a very visible compass and we turn round and follow the instructions of the app.  Amidst torrential rain from Storm Florence we make our way to I (Interstate) 75, known as Alligator Ally.  The phone falls down by the passenger’s seat.  We stop at a recreation area and recover the phone.  The recreation area is by a waterway where people fish or ride boats.  It is very flat and swampy  in this part of Florida.  We pass signs to Indian Reservations but do not visit any.  We arrive at the Courtyard Marriott at about 11:30am. It is about 95F.  We are allocated room 325.  We walk to a nearby diner for lunch.  The diner is called Blueberry’s. We have Caesar salads, one with added chicken the other with added shrimps.  The portions are good but not as big as they used to be.  We retire to our rooms to try and recover from jet lag.  At six o’clock we drive 10 miles north to a restaurant which we fail to find.  We eat at the Zen Asian BBQ where Jane has sushi and Graham has a ramen. It’s a good bowl of noodle filled broth with meat and corn.  We return to our rooms and retire.  Not a lot of  energy has been spent nor cameras used today.          

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 3 September - Labor Day with Gordon

Today is Labor Day (more...).  There are big sales on with up to 40% off.  However Storm Gordon is going to be paying us  a visit on his way to New Orleans.  We stroll to Blueberry’s  at 9am for breakfast.  We each have a breakfast crepe  stuffed with bacon, scrambled egg and spinach, topped with Hollandaise sauce. Boy, don’t the Americans know how to serve pancakes!  Robin take note.  What should we do today with an impending storm?  The lady in the diner suggests we should have drinks and go to a movie. We return to our room and decide to take a ride to Naples Pier (more...).  On the way we turn down a cul de sac and leave the car while we go onto the beach and photograph the pier.  We find the road with the pier  at the end. Graham drops Jane at its end so a photo can be taken in the rain. We drive down Gordon’s Drive to its end.  The houses on either side are immense and pricey.  This is billionaires row.  We wander in and out of the roads but eventually we come to a poorer area of town where we enter a shopping mall.  On a wet day as it today it’s good exercise walking around a mall.  We  have a coffee at Starbucks and decide to eat at another diner we spotted yesterday evening.  This diner is called Mel’s.  We park round the back and walk through the warm shower to its front door.  We both have their Sanibel salad  (more...).  Jane’s is topped with a boneless fillet of white fish and Graham’s is topped with shrimp.  This is better than yesterday’s Caesar salads.  We get in the car and drive south turning off westwards to find the coast.  This time we stop at  Lowdermilk Park and walk on to the beach.  It is deserted except  for some birds, the feathered variety.  We return to the hotel and the receptionist informs us that Storm Gordon will be with us in the next few minutes which is probably why the beach was deserted.   We stay in our rooms.  A golf tournament is on the television.  The heavens open and Gordon  does his worst for the next few hours
. The roads get very wet. The palm trees bend.  The windows get very splattered.  At 7pm we leave to go for supper.  At least we do not have to swim.  The car has a mind of its own. It does not seem to lock.  We need to find out why.  On the wing mirrors are indicators to tell you when you are being overtaken. We go to the Fujiyama Sushi Club and have an expensive meal  washed down with expensive red wine.   We return to our room to watch some crap programmes.  Family Feud is a translated version of Family Fortunes and So You Think You Can Dance is a cheap version of Strictly Come Dancing without any classical dances. After getting bored we fall asleep.

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 4 September - Marco Island and Naples Pier

We go to Blueberry’s in the dry warm weather and have a Mixed Berry breakfast, a true American concoction consisting of French toast with berries on top filled with some cream of marmalade and served with one sausage, two eggs as you like them and a small dish of maple syrup washed down with coffee.  After breakfast we drive south down US  41 to near the centre of Naples and book tomorrow’s adventure.  We will be picked up from the hotel at 8:30am.  We drive down to Marco Island which was mentioned a lot yesterday as the storm passed over it.  It’s an island full of condominiums and hotels and flats lying on either side of palm tree lined dual carriage boulevards.  When we are bored we turn around and stop at a Walmarts.  It’s another good place to do some exercise in the shade and cool air.  We buy a couple of sun hats as we had failed to pack them.  We also buy an iPhone charger for the car as it does not have a USB socket.  Our next stop is the car park near the old pier at Naples.  It has a funny pay machine and requires you to enter the number of the bay you are in and then demands for how long you will stay.  You pay by card but do not get a ticket.  it costs  $2.50 per hour. If you want you can enter your phone number and you’ll get a text message telling you when your time is up so that you can top up the cost of parking using your phone (more...). We walk along the pier stopping to watch a fisherman gut a sheepshead fish.  Further along we stop to chat to another fisherman who spends about 250 days a year on the pier.  Recently the beaches have been plagued by red tide algae (more...). The fisherman has just caught a small blue runner and he throws it back.  The best edible fish is the Florida Pompano which he shows us on his chart.  We walk to the end of the pier  spotting a shoal of dolphins, some frigate birds and the colourful little bird we saw yesterday.  Nobody knows its name except one young man who looked it up on Google and claimed it was a baby green heron.  On our way back we ask the friendly fisherman who tells us it is a killdeer.  It looks much too small to do any damage to such an animal. We stop at the kiosk and buy a couple of drinks and consume them in the shade.  It’s  98F at the moment.  We take pictures of plaques of  local birds and fish. We decide to have lunch at another diner so we drive miles north up US 41 till we find Bernie’s City Diner.  There are no booths so it is not a proper diner is it?  We both have salads, Jane has hers with tuna and Graham has his with chicken.  They are both very tasty.  We return to our rooms to get out of the heat.  At  7pm we drive south down US 41 to the Red Lobster. It’s one of Jane’s favourite food suppliers.  We start with New England  clam chowder. Jane has scallops  and Graham has dragon shrimps.  Graham finds an email from Everglades Excursions saying they will not pick us up in the morning, We return to our hotel.  There is a message from Everglades Excursions saying we should drive to the office to join the trip.  We retire to our room.

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 5 September - The Everglades Experience and St Petersburg

We get up and pack up.  We load the car and have a light breakfast in the hotel, Jane has fruit and a coffee while Graham just has a coffee.  We get in the car and drive to 1010 6th Ave South.  The office is open but no one is there!  It is 7:50am and we thought the tour started at 8am.  We wait a couple of minutes and re-enter the office.  Taylor says he’s just opening the office and the tour does not start til 9am.  He gives us his credit card and directions to Starbucks.  We follow the directions but do not use his card.  Graham has a coffee and Jane has two bacon goudas.  We admire the statues  in the street and return to the excursions office owned by Hoffman Real Estate.  Apparently Mr Hoffman owns several business in Naples and has erected statues around the city.  We clamber into a mini-bus driven by Kenny our guide.  There are four others on the half-day trip, a couple from Cologne, Germany and a couple from Cincinnati, Ohio.  As we drive to the outskirts of Everglades City, Kenny gives us an ecological explanation of the Everglades.  We stop to admire a family of limpkins.  Kenny gives us graphic warnings of going near the water in the Everglades where ever hungry alligators and crocodiles live.  It’s about an hour’s drive along US 41 to the outskirts of Everglades City.  Everglades got its name from English explorers who called what is now called a prairie, a glade. The glades went on forever so the area was called the Foreverglades.  The name has been shortened.  There was a wealthy ex-New York police chief and land owner called Barron Collier (more...) who built US 41 from Naples to Miami provided the state of Florida named an area he owned after him.  They designated Collier County (more...). We get on one of Captain Jack's air-boats  and zoom under the mangroves  until we come to an area where the pilot of the boat knows an alligator  lives in the water and racoons  roam the tree branches. The ride is exhilarating and noisy.  We return back to the dock.  Kenny takes us on a tour of Everglades City (more...) where last year’s hurricanes devastated many of the single storey homes  leaving many empty concrete bases.  We pass the Rod and Gun club  visited by presidents and celebrities. Our next stop is the Captain Jack’s animal sanctuary where we see a lot of crocs and alligators.  There are are also otters, lions, tigers, a panther and some turkeys. We watch as Levi  plays with an old alligator.  Our next stop is the smallest post office  in the USA (more...).  Kenny is a stamp collector and shows some examples of scratch and sniff stamps picturing ice-creams.  We  return to the office arriving at 1:30pm as predicted - remarkable.  We drive north up US 41 to the gas station next to the hotel. We fill up and drive next door to Blueberry’s for lunch.  Graham has a Waldorf sala d and Jane has Key West fish  and French fries.  We say good bye to Dawn, one of the servers we have seen each time we have eaten there.  We turn on the iPhone navigation app which guides us  north up the US 41 and then on to I 75 and then on to I 275. Here we reach what might be the highest point in Florida.  We drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (more...) which reaches the height of  200ft at its peak. The car is fitted with a device which avoids have to pay tolls on the roads but we will pay later.  We reach the Guy Harvey Outpost Resort at about 5:30pm.  We are greeted by Lee who checks our details and offers us an upgrade to a room with a gulf view which we accept.  We get a car park pass and have a blue plastic band  put on our wrist to show that we are allowed access to all amenities on the resort and next door at the Trade Winds resort.  Andrew takes our baggage and Jane to our room while Graham finds a place to park the car. Room 4814 is not one but four.  There is a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living room with the gulf view and a second television.  We unpack and go to the Rumfish Grill to eat.  There is a 33,500   gallon fish tank for one wall of the restaurant.  The menus  are all back-lit so that they can be read in the subdued lighting.  We opt to have cocktails.  Jane has an Elixir  which is close to a Pina Colada and Graham has a Shark Bite, a mixture of ice and rums.  Jane has clams  to start while Graham has the spicy soup.  For mains Jane has a sort of bouillabaisse  and Graham has a rock shrimp curry. Graham washes it down with Malbec while Jane has another Elixir.  Our most expensive meal was good.  We retire.     

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 6 September - St John's Pass

It looks like another hot day. We get up and drive across the street to the 7-eleven where we buy two cups of coffee and a chicken wrap for breakfast.  We sit in the car and eat them.  We last visited St Petersburg twenty-six years ago.  We stayed one week in Kissimmee visiting Cape Canaveral, Disney and Universal Studios with our children and for the second week we came here and stayed in an apartment overlooking the gulf.  We remember walking along a boardwalk with pelicans sitting atop posts.  We ate in one of the restaurants. We are going to repeat that.  We drive north up Gulf Boulevard to Marina Beach and park the car, entering our plate into the pay machine.  We walk to St John’s Pass Boardwalk  and the pelicans  are still there though a much newer generation of them.  It is 91F. We find a place to eat called The Hut and while Jane has clam chowder  and a skewer of shrimps. Graham has a chicken salad. A two-man band playing Hodge style music entertains us from a balcony in the restaurant. We go back to the 7-eleven and buy tomorrow’s breakfast and some beer for Graham.  A storm  lashes the beach and the television programmes are interrupted showing weak signals.  We decide to stay in and have Raisin Bran and banana for supper.  It was much less expensive than last night’s meal.  Jane watches some old X-files episodes and Graham falls asleep.                
 

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 7 September - Dale Chihuly Exhibition

Another fine day.  We have a breakfast of Raisin Bran and fruit.  Afterwards we stroll along the beach on which there are more birds than people.  We spot our new best bird, the killdeer, walking amongst the many gulls.  There is also another bird  which we have not seen before. We return to our room to find where the Dale Chihuly exhibition is being held.  It’s at the Morean Art Center on Central Avenue, some ten miles from here.  We are guided by Mr Navmii and find a free place to park nearby.  We get senior citizens tickets at $17.95 per person - quite expensive but worth it.  His works are magnificent.  We walk around the exhibition and then watch a movie about his work
We than walk back through the exhibition with knowledge about how some of the works have been created.  We leave the exhibition and cross the road to the Banyan Café where we have coffee.  We return to our car and ask Mr Navmii to take us to Madeira Beach where we were yesterday.  On the way we  spot a Bob Evans (more...).  We had been introduced to Bob Evans by the Pankos when we were last in the USA two years ago.  Jane has a potato and cheese soup  and Graham has a chicken salad.  He is impressed with American salads.  This one has pecans, dried cranberries, blue cheese bits, grated carrots and lettuce, served with a sweet Italian vinaigrette. It is washed down with iced water served in Bob Evans preserve jars, similar to a Kilner jar.  It's about 95F. We return to our rooms.  There’s another storm  with great flashes of lightning and instantaneous thunder claps. We stay in till 6pm and then discover that the gulf side grill is undergoing refurbishment. We get in the car and drive south to close to the end of the road.  We dine at the Seafood Critters restaurant.  Jane has the Critters Seafood Combo  and Graham opts for the Scallop Risotto.  Both are very good but we need a box  for what Jane cannot eat.  Breakfast tomorrow should be exciting.  More old X-files are being shown on the BBC America channel.

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 8 September - Kennedy Space Center

Happy Birthday Jane!  The birthday breakfast is Raisin Bran followed by microwaved onion rings, crab cake and chips - not everyone’s cup  of tea.  We discover that the car is to be handed in today so Jane goes down to the concierge to sort it out.  Graham is called down as it was his card which was used.  Renee has learnt that it’s Janes birthday and sends Graham a couple vouchers for lunch.  As we are leaving we thank Renee for the vouchers and explain that we are leaving for Jacksonville.   We are offered vouchers for breakfast but we have already eaten.  Mr Navmii directs us onto the I 275 and then on to the I 4. We stop at McDonalds for a coffee.   We see a sign for the Kennedy Space Center and follow it.  Mr Navmii does not appear to know how to get to it as we enter an airport terminal road and go around in a loop.  We see another sign for the Kennedy Space Center and send Mr Navmii to bed.  We get there and are directed to Area 5 to park the car.  It is now about noon. We buy tickets and Jane is given a Happy Birthday badge with her name on it. We make our way to the bus stop to go to the Saturn V visitor center and the launch pads. A lot has changed since we were here 26 years ago.  The Vertical Assembly Building  has had a coat of paint.  A Stars and Strips occupies the upper eight storeys.  Its stars are six feet wide. We are driven down to the launch pads   some of which are hired out to Boeing and SpaceX.  NASA is preparing to go to Mars so they have started building Orion which is the capsule the pilots will be in.  A new launch system is also being developed. We are dropped at the Saturn V visitor center and enjoy three shows about aspects of the Apollo missions. We have beef sandwiches  in the Moon Rock Café. We buy a couple of T-shirts for the grandsons in the souvenir shop and then board a bus back to the main Visitor Center. At the center we make our way to the Imax Cinema and watch an excellent 3-D film about space exploration through polaroid glasses.  We walk briskly around some other exhibits.  We leave at 5pm and find a BP gas stations.  We are unable to enter a 5-digit PIN code so have to go into the shop and estimate how much fuel the car will take.  We fill up with $20  worth - about  7 US gallons. Mr Navmii is awoken and guides us on to I 95 and then the I 285 to Jacksonville (more...). We make our way to to the Sheraton and check in.  We cheekily ask if they have birthday badges.  On the way into the lift with our luggage, Tyler, the man at the desk, presents us with two  $10 vouchers to be used in the Bold City Grill which we do.  We both choose the 12 oz rib-eye steaks.  We don’t want the potatoes so we are offered a double portion of the asparagus.  We ask Hana, our server, if there is any French mustard.  She says they don’t have French mustard but they do have Dijon mustard. The steaks are very good and are washed down with Malbec. We finish by sharing a bread and butter pudding. Hana brightens up the dreary clinical atmosphere of the restaurant.  She will be reading psychology at university in December.  We retire to our room 308.

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 9 September - Jacksonville to Charleston

Florence is approaching.  The sun is shining.  We  have the buffet breakfast in the Bold City Grill.  It is luke warm so when asked if everything is OK we tell the server it isn’t .  As a result we do not pay for breakfast.  Thank you Mr Sheraton or should we thank Mr Marriott who has taken over the chain.  We leave Jacksonville and are guided by Mr Navmii up the I 95 and on to US 17  to Charleston.  We stop at a McDonalds for coffee and then make a couple of stops for fuel but we don’t eat.  We arrive at the Hyatt in the historic area of Charleston shortly after 3pm.  We unload the car and go to find the Avis place where we can drop it off.  The place nearest to the hotel is closed.  The bell boy suggests one at 7201 Rivers Ave..  We drive through very heavy downfalls to the address but fail to find it.  We look at the contract and find it should be returned to 2070 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard.  It is a mall.  We enter Belks, a clothes store, and talk to Peggy on the customer service desk. She phones her manager who says there is an Avis somewhere in the mall.  Graham rushes out and makes an abortive search and returns to Peggy.  Peggy phones the Avis help desk and Graham talks to them and agrees to drop the car off at the airport.  After another 8 mile drive we successfully drop the car off at the airport.  We take a  $30 taxi ride back to the Hyatt.  We meet up with the other seven in the reunion as they are walking to the Coast restaurant.  We sit outside for ten minutes as the table is not ready.  It’s restaurant  week in Charleston so the restaurants are doing special deals including half price on wines bought before 8pm.  Graham has shrimp ceviche, surf and turf, and panacotta. Jane has calamari, shrimp and grits, and chocolate mousse.  Some peoples’ mains arrived and then were taken away - the wrong table.  Some time later the mains arrive.  There was a complaint and the wine was paid for by the restaurant. We walk back the several blocks to the hotel.  

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 10 September Fort Sumter and the Aquarium

We have a good buffet breakfast and gather in the lobby.  Lynn and Bob have changed their flights.  They are flying back to Chicago on Wednesday evening.  Jaap and Roeline have changed their flights to leave on Thursday.  We stroll across the street to the CARTA bus stop which is a free shuttle around the historic area of Charleston.  We change buses and get off at Liberty Square.  We book to go on the boat trip to Fort Sumter. The boat takes 300 people and leaves at noon.  Thirty minutes later we dock at Fort Sumter which is where the American Civil War started (more...). One of the female rangers  gives a very good speech about one of her heroes Mr Smalls (more...).  We think she may have been trying to beat her previous speed record for the talk.  We wander around the fort  in the heat and return to the boat.  On our way we meet a lady from Edinburgh who gives us some ideas to be used in the next reunion.  We dock and walk to the aquarium next door.  We have a snack and then make our way to their large ocean tank  full of fish and a lone scuba diver.  We learn about the turtles  they help to recover from injuries.  Next stop is to watch Liberty,  the bald eagle, try and break into a cardboard box to retrieve the rat in the middle. We get the shuttle bus back to near the hotel.  We have a phone call at about 6pm to say we must leave the hotel by noon tomorrow. This s follwed by a letter  being posted under the door.  At 6:15pm we gather in the lobby, we, with Bill and Joan, go to the shuttle stop, whilst the others make arrangements for their onward journeys.  We go to the Fleet Landing restaurant and Graham uses Bill’s phone to call Avis about picking up a car tomorrow but they tell him to call BA who made the booking.  BA don’t open until 7am tomorrow.  Eventually the others join us and we eat.  We choose the Lowcountry Boil  which is the specialty.  It was very good. Lynn arranges for Uber taxis to take us back to the hotel.  We return to the hotel with Eva and Roeline. There is nothing for us to do until 7am tomorrow so we go to sleep.

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 11 September - Evacuation to Asheville

The alarm goes off at 7am.  Shortly after Graham phones up the BA toll free number and after waiting many minutes he gets through to a very pleasant lady somewhere in  the UK.  She quickly changes the car rental agreement so that we can pick the car up from the airport at 10am.  The next step is to find accommodation. Graham phones up a toll-free number for the Hotel Indigo in Asheville but the cost of staying there for the next two nights is very prohibitive. We are booked into the Holiday Inn where they have a suite.  Asheville is a very popular place at this time. We have breakfast and say goodbye to the others in the group and book a taxi to the airport.  We leave at 9:30am and share a taxi with two other ladies, one going to Texas and the other going to Arizona.  The road to the airport has been blocked by the police but the taxi driver informs them that it should not be blocked until at least noon. The ladies are dropped off at the American Airlines entrance and we are dropped off at the Car Rentals entrance. Graham waits in a queue of a dozen people and eventually gets a car.  We walk out to bay A10 to find the blue Hyundai Elantra.  The boot is slightly larger than the Mazda3.  We load the car and then ask Mr Navmii to drive us to 42 Tunnel Road, Asheville but he cannot find the destination so we think we have not downloaded the map for North Carolina,  We need wi-fi to download the map so we get Mr Navmii to guide us to the nearest McDonalds, about 4 miles away on Rivers Avenue.  For those paying attention this is the road along which we had driven on Sunday to try and drop off the Mazda.  At McDonalds we have two small coffees and discover that the map for North Carolina had been downloaded.  However we manager to find a route to Asheville.  We follow the instructions but the approach to I 26 is blocked off.  We drive west along Rivers Avenue for several miles until we get to an unblocked entry onto I 26 west.  As we are driving along I 26 westwards we notice that there are also vehicles in the other carriageway  driving westwards as well.  It is bizarre but well done to the Governor of South Carolina and his team.  There are a couple of traffic hold ups which last for miles but otherwise it is not as busy as we had thought it would be.  We have lunch at 3pm in a McDonalds in Clinton.  We get to Asheville at about 5pm.  It is at an elevation of 2000ft. We check in at the Holiday Inn and have been allocated room 330.  It is a suite. We decide to eat in the hotel as we are both tired.  In the dining room is a mother and her two children. They have driven from Wilmington which will be where the eye of Florence will hit the coast of North Carolina.  She is on her way to her parents in Nashville.  Her husband is in the emergency services and has stayed back in Wilmington.  Jane has salmon, broccoli and French fries. Graham has chicken and the same vegetables.  We retire to our rooms at 8:30pm. 

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 12 September - The Biltmore Estate

 It’s still pretty warm at 85F.  We have the buffet breakfast which is better than at most hotels.  We drive to the Biltmore Estate (more...).  It is 2 miles from the opening gates to the ticket office. There is a queue.  We ask for old aged foreigner tickets. The young man at the desk says that these are only available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  So instead of paying $65 each we only pay $58.65  each and are given a free wine-tasting voucher.  We drive along the one-way road through the well manicured tree-lined road to the parking lot A-2.  There is an 8 minute walk to the house.  It doesn’t seem to take that long.  Once we walk out of the woods we get an amazing view of the very large house built like a chateau.  It is amazing. We walk through a garden area where there are many Dale Chihuly installations.  George Vanderbilt (more...) built the house towards the end of the 1800s. It is massive.  We enter the house and stroll through the three floors above ground and the basement.  We drink iced coffee in the stable yard and then walk down hill to the conservatory and see more Chihuly glass works.  The gardens are beautiful and symmetrically laid out. We walk back to the car and drive 4 miles to the winery. We walk through a stone tunnel to the wine tasting and wine bar.  We are shown to a counter and are hosted by David, a retired ex-citrus fruit distributor.  We try five wines and like the Sangiovese the best. All the wines are made in the USA though few are from vines grown on the Biltmore Estate. The wines come from Oregon.  A couple of days ago we were helped by Peggy in a Belk store.  A lot of Biltmore brand products can be purchased in a Belk store.  We drive for miles to leave the estate and return to our hotel.  We have dinner at the nearby Outback Steakhouse.  We start by sharing a bloomin’ onion, something Jane last had at the Raleigh State Fair some years ago. It is huge.  Next Jane has tilapia and Graham feasts on a 14 oz rib-eye steak washed down with red wine. We retire.  Today it has not rained at all.          

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 13 September - Lexington Glass Works and the Grove Park Inn

There is no buffet breakfast as too many people had cancelled but we eat in the hotel.  We leave at 10:30am to fill up with petrol.  The first gas station we come to has all its pumps blocked (too many people filling up because of Florence?) so we drive to the next gas station which is okay.  We put in $30 of fuel - about 8 US gallons.  We return to the hotel to connect to their wifi so that we can find out where we want to go to.  We have chosen to visit the Lexington Glassworks.  We park in a multi-storey car park and walk across the road.  It is a shop, exhibition area and a couple of furnaces.  We watch as a glass bowl is made.  It is fascinating as the men control the flowing glass.  The furnaces are heated to 2300F and they don’t wear gloves when absolutely necessary as the hands have a better grip on the rods on which the glass is moulded.  We leave and find our way to the Hotel Indigo.  We have been assigned room 802.  The car is parked by the staff.   We leave our luggage in the room and stroll out into the city.  We visit the vast Basilica of St Lawrence and then wander down the street and have lunch at Isa’s Bistro.  Jane has calamari and Graham has a Caesar salad with chicken washed down with a local craft beer - something akin to Hopback Summer Lightning.  We make our way back to the hotel watching the continuous reporting of approaching Florence.   At 6:30pm we drive to the Grove Park Inn (more...).  It is a huge place with a golf club attached.  Not knowing what the parking arrangements are we park in a member’s slot.  We walk up to the entrance and see that most people are using valet parking.  We stroll around the place which was built in 1923. Just after 7:35pm a voice in Graham’s ear enquires if he would like a Harvey’s Wallbanger.  The speaker is Caroline La Fond (nee Davenport) one of Emma’s school day friends.  She is with her 3-year old daughter Amelia who is delightful.  We meet Wilder, Caroline’ s husband, and 17 year-old Melanie, her half-sister from Cocoa Beach, Florida.  We have an excellent meal and are invited to stay the weekend with them.  We leave and ask Mr Navmii to take us home but he gets confused.  We stop at a Pizzeria and log into their wi-fi to set up directions to the Basilica of St Lawrence which is close to the hotel. We get back at about 11pm.
 

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 14 September - Blue Ridge Parkway

We watch the latest antics of Storm Florence. We leave the hotel at 10am not having had any breakfast and make our way to the Northern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway via Town Mountain Road.  Wilder had suggested this to us yesterday evening. It had been built many years ago and is free from commercial vehicles (more...).  There’s a  45 mph speed limit.  We stop at various outlooks to admire the magnificent views across the valleys and mountain tops.  We have lunch at the Little Switzerland Café and then return back to the hotel.  We try and contact the next hotel which is in Raleigh to cancel it but they don’t answer.  Trailfinders have said they will sort it out.  We decline Caroline’s invitation and have told Jane’s friend, Karen, in Raleigh that we will not be going there.  More than 30,000 people are without power in Raleigh. We will try and drive the 475 miles to Marcia in Alexandria, Virginia. We rest for a while and select a place to have dinner.  We leave at 5:30pm and walk to the Bouchon at 72 N. Lexington Avenue.  It’s about a 15 minute walk, mostly downhill. We get a table quickly but the restaurant soon fills up. Jane has Moules Frites and Graham has the Poisson du Marché, red snapper.  Both dishes are very good.  We climb back up to our hotel and continue to watch the wicked ways of Florence.   

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 15 September - Ashville to Alexandria

We make coffee in the room and check out.  All we have to pay for is the car valet service as we have already paid via Trailfinders. We drive on to the I 240 and then onto the I 26. We stop at a McDonalds near Salisbury for breakfast, a coffee and a McMuffin with sausage. We continue on the I 81 and then onto the I 66.  We have lunch at Fairfield, a Big Mac with French Fries and a Coke.  The drive is easy. We are driving through the Appalachians so the scenery is very picturesque.  We even see cows grazing. Surprisingly we drive through very few heavy short showers though Florence is not that far away.  We arrive at Marcia’s three storey town house in Alexandria at 5:45pm having driving  475 miles.  Marcia cooks us a very tasty chicken stir fry.  We retire to test out her guest room facilities.  We make contact with the Whitelocks and Swansons who are in Yellowstone Park but will be arriving in Washington on Monday evening.   

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 16 September - a Short Trip to Washington

It’s cloudy but warm outside.  Marcia leaves for an art workshop.  We sit and process some of the photos taken, discarding many. At 11:30am we walk out onto Duke Street and wander to a nearby shopping area.  There is too long a queue in the AT&T shop where Graham would like a new iPhone wallet cover.  We have lunch at the Glory Days Grill.  Jane has clam chowder and we share a chicken salad washed down with a craft beer.  There is a mistake by the staff and a free extra beer is delivered.  We return to the house and pick the car up.  We are now looking for a Target store and a Best Buy shop.  Marcia has supplied us with maps but we make a mistake and go over the Potomac River into Washington.  We park near the Jefferson Memorial but there is no obvious way to walk to it so we get back in the car and drive around the city hoping to get a glimpse of the White House which we do get but it is only a glimpse.  Now we have a problem about getting out.  Graham has not downloaded the map for Washington D.C. so we go on a circuitous route and eventually cross back south over the river and find ourselves on US 1 which takes us past the Target store.  Now Mr Navmii can help us get back to our base.  We return about 5pm.  Marcia has had an enjoyable art workshop. We leave at 6:15pm to go to Hanks Oyster Bar where we share a seafood platter.  Jane and Marcia are in heaven as there are oysters, clams, shrimps, prawns, squid, mussels and a lobster.  We devour it all with gusto.  We return to base and drink a very good Pinot Noir.
 

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 17 September - Alexandria

We have a lazy morning.  It’s cloudy outside and very humid.  Marcia drives us to Best Buy and Target at Potomac Yard via a trip around the historic area of Alexandria which is very picturesque with a mixture of brick and clapboard town houses.  Most of the brickwork is English Garden Wall bonding (more...). At Best Buy we look for a later model of Jane’s Panasonic camera but they have none.  At Target we buy a set of clothes for the child of one of Jane’s younger friends.  We return to Arell Court for a good lunch - Caesar salad and shrimps.  We process some photos supplied by Eva from the reunion in Charleston.  Marcia then takes us to the New Grand Mart which is a wonderful indoor emporium selling a range of global vegetables and food catering for people from  all corners of the world.  The camera was working overtime here.  The next stop is Home Depot where we purchase a small leveler to help with aligning Marcia’s pictures.  After this we stop at Marcia’s favourite food shop - Harris Teeter.  We purchase food for tonight’s meal which Marcia will prepare.  A tornado is forming in Richmond. At 6:30pm Valerie arrives.  She is a practical clinical psychologist who has just returned from visiting her daughter on the Cape Verde islands.  Marcia’s fish dish is excellent. We have a very entertaining evening.  Loud thunder claps are heard as we go to sleep.        

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 18 September - A Rest Day with a Team Meal

It’s miserable outside so a day of rest is declared.  Jane uses Marcia's laundry facilities. Graham helps Marcia set her pictures level using the leveler we bought yesterday.  Adhesive strips which do not damage the wall surface are attached to a bottom corner of a picture and then pressed against the wall (more...). Marcia makes a very tasty shrimp salad with a mild curry dressing for lunch.  At 5pm we leave to meet the Swansons and Whitelocks.  Marcia likes using Waze for navigating as its online connection gives traffic news.  It also announces how far the next turn is once a turn has been made unlike Mr Navmii. Short distances are announced in feet. We drive into Washington where many of the streets going East/West have letters as names eg K Street and the streets going North/South have numbers eg 15th Street while the diagonal streets are named after states eg Rhode Island Avenue.  We are looking for a parking slot which Marcia has booked online.  It is bay 2 behind 4017 Rhode Island Avenue approached by an alley.  Marcia has printed out the directions to the bay. We cannot find it but there is an empty bay 2 behind 4015 which is where we park.  It is a short walk to the Holiday Inn where we meet the other UK tourists, who flew in last night from Bozeman, Montana where they had visited Yellowstone Park.  We walk to Logan’s Tavern on P Street where we eat steaks, or ribs, or chicken washed down with iced water or beer.  The other UK tourists have spent the day walking around Washington and are quite weary.  The cameras have had a rest today. We all walk back along an alley to Marcia’s car and say our goodbyes.  There is a traffic infraction ticket on Marcia’s window saying the car is ready to be towed away and a $100  dollar fine is to be imposed.  We return to base and drink some red wine and reminisce about our very varied IBM careers spanning many decades. No old white men are mentioned tonight. We get to bed at 11pm.    
     

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 19 September - Mount Vernon

It’s a bright sunny day today so it’s safe for President Trump to visit the Carolinas where Florence has been "one of the wettest hurricanes of all times from a water standpoint" (with apologies to The Donald if he has been misquoted).  We have scrambled eggs for breakfast.  Marcia makes a phone call and gets a refund for her parking ticket. At about 11:30am we drive out to Mount Vernon (more...).  We stop at a CVS to buy Graham some shampoo with selenium in it.  You can buy it straight off the shelf here instead of getting it from the pharmacist’s counter as we have to in the UK.  We drive down the beautiful tree-lined George Washington Parkway.  We get an occasional glimpse of expensive properties.  We park the car and walk a little way to buy tickets.  They cost $19  each for old people.  We watch an introductory video and then walk briskly to spot 6 on the map where we join some others to walk around the house. No photos may be taken in the main house.  No food or drink may be consumed in the house so if anyone is chewing gum would they deposit it in one of the trash bins over there.  In the party of nine is a lady with the widest legs we have seen so far on the trip. There are no visible knees and she is wearing a very short skirt.  It is not a pretty site and she obviously has no mirror at home.  Her husband appears to be from the Indian sub-continent and they tend to like large women. We enter the house where George Washington lived and managed his 7000 acre  farm.  In each room the interiors are described by separate guides.  Many guests stayed there, and they stayed for as long as they like, the longest stay was of nine months.  300 slaves lived in bunk houses, one for males and the other for females.  The main house has a clap board exterior but the outhouses have brick exteriors, all using English bonding.  It is like a small village with blacksmiths and cobblers buildings. The clerk for the estate had their own building.  We walk back to the education centre and food court and have lunch. We return to the education centre and walk around the displays explaining how George Washington lived and fought wars against the British.  We see several films.  We watch one about Martha Washington.  One is in 4D.  The seats appear to vibrate when guns are fired.  Lights flash in the ceiling in time to flashes on the screen.  When the Delaware River is crossed on Christmas Eve snow falls from the ceiling.  Fumes from dry ice melting rise from the bottom of the screen.  However we do not wear polaroid glass as we did in the IMAX theatre at the Kennedy Space Center.   We enter another theatre and sit in front of a large monitor with a touch screen.  We have to decide what to do to quell a protest about a tax being levied on whiskey.  We have three options, withdraw the tax (A), quell the protests with local law enforcement(B), send in the military(C). A film is shown telling us the background and then we can select a member of the committee to gives us their views.  The film recommences and we get further information and listen to more views.  At the end of the video our votes are all counted and we find out whether we have come to the decision which George Washington made.  We are shown the running totals of all the votes cast since this theatre opened two years ago.  38% was the slight majority who agreed with the action George Washington took. You'll have to look elsewhere for the result or visit the place. It is a place well worth visiting. We leave and drive to the Target store to buy some wine for Marcia.  One of the shoppers suggests we don’t use the self checkout machines as we have alcohol.  We enter a manned checkout and Graham is asked for his date of birth.  Having given it he apologises for having said it in day, month, year order instead of the US way of month, day, year.  Why they do it this way we do not know (more...).  We return to Marcia who has had a very successful tennis clinic.  Marcia barbecues some large steaks for us which we wash down with Pinot Noir.  Graham discovers the voice recognition feature of Marcia’s television and utters ‘Youtube Dynamo’ which is recognised correctly.  Marcia and Graham watch a short Youtube video of Dynamo performing some magic tricks.  And so to bed.    

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 20 September - Alexandria to King of Prussia

We leave Marcia at 11am, reluctantly, having been entertained royally. We fill up with  gas.  When you enter a card they ask for a zip code rather than the pin code on the card so you have to go to the desk and estimate how much fuel you are going to use. An estimate of $40  is given. The car only takes $24.13 worth so we are hoping for a refund of  $15.87. We have opted to avoid tolls on our way to the Valley Forge Sheraton in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.  Mr Navmii guides along the northern continuation of the George Washington parkway which is very pleasant.  We join US 1 and enter Washington.  We drive through the city and through various anonymous townships.  The only one named is Elkridge.  It is understandable why they wish to retain their anonymity as they all look similar with lots of exposed overhead cables lining the streets.  As we approach Baltimore we look for a diner.  We fail to find one so decide to try a KFC.  It is almost empty and the serving counter is highly fortified with thick perspex.  A person behind the counter needs to unlock the door to the restrooms on the inward and the outward journeys.  We opt to have a thigh and a breast and wash it down with Pepsi.  It is tasty.  We rejoin US 1 and continue our journey through Baltimore. At some point US 1 turns into a dual carriageway with vehicles ignoring the 45 mph speed limit.  We take a wrong right turn at one point but are guided back onto the correct route.  We arrive at the Valley Forge Sheraton at 5pm. We are allocated Room 303. At 6:30pm we dine in the hotel at Ralph’s of South Philly. Jane has Fruiti del Mare and Graham has Chicken Scallopine.  Both are good and are washed down with a Pinot Noir to remind us of Marcia.    

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 21 September - Strasburg to Paradise

We have a very light breakfast.  Jane has an apple and Graham has an orange.  We wash them down with a cup of coffee.  We decide to go to Strasburg and take the Road to Paradise, something we did when Emma was nearly three.  Strasburg is about 42 miles  east of the hotel and takes about an hour to get to.  We turn in at the entrance and discover we have arrived on one of their special days.  Today is  a Day Out With Thomas (more...). There are lots of cars and children.  We book to go on the noon train to Paradise so we have plenty of time to look around and have a coffee.  We clamber up into one of the coach-class coaches and have a 45 minute round trip to Paradise on the steam train.  Meanwhile shorter runs of trains with Thomas and James are running.  It is a pleasant journey through Amish farming communities.  After leaving the train depot we drive to the Amish Village museum.  We remember it from when we were last here.  We have a guided tour of the main house and then wander around the farm animals, shops and schools. There is a short warm shower.  We have lunch at Katie’s Kitchen, an Amish run restaurant.  We are given too much to eat so ask for a box.  We leave very replete and drive back to the hotel. Time for a beer in room 303. We finish off lunch from the box as our evening meal.  The X Files are watched on BBC America. 

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 22 September - King of Prussia to Mystic

We leave at 9am without breakfast except for Jane picking up an apple to eat in the car.  Mr Navmii sorts out a route to Mystic using toll roads.  We get onto I 286 towards New Jersey and Harrisburg (anyone remember what happened there?).  A warning light comes on the dashboard.  There is a problem with the tyres.  We turn off at Willow Grove and at the Toll Plaza we are confused by the two types of exit ‘EZ Pass and No Cash’ or ‘Cash’.  We opt for the ‘No Cash’ gate but there is no credit card machine so we pull to the side.  Graham walks back to the nearest booth which takes cash and credit cards and offers to settle with the credit card but is unable to do so as an infraction has occurred.  We had driven though a toll without paying.  We drive to a garage and pull up at the air supply machine.  It does not have a visible gauge which you can set before putting in the air.  Some enlightenment comes from the shop attendant.  At the head of the pipe is one of those old-time pop out stalks which comes out and indicates what the pressure is.  We put into the air machine four quarters and try to pump all the tyres up to 35 psi.  We get in the car but the Tire Pressure Monitor System says the front left tyre is still low at 32 psi. We ask where there is a tire shop and drive to it.  There is a two hour waiting list at Pep Boys so we drive to another about a mile away.  The lad at the reception desk of National Tires and Batteries tells us there is a half hour wait and then shows initiative.  He drives the car to the workshop and manages to pump up the tire to 38 psi.  We have since read that the pressure should be 33 psi.  Jane stops panicking and we resume our journey.  At the next toll we settle with a credit card using a ‘Cash Only’ booth. We join the I 95 aka the New Jersey Turnpike and drive north.  There is a toll plaza near the state boundary so we enter the cash line.  This time they only take cash.  This is the USA isn’t it?  Why don’t they take credit cards at toll plazas?  We are given a slip of paper telling us where to settle the debt in five working days.  We stop at the Vince Lombardi Service Area.  There are a few service areas on the NJT.  Jane has a Burger King burger and Graham has a Popeye Fried Chicken dinner (two pcs and a biscuit) washed down with Coke.  We rejoin I 95 and then arrive at the George Washington Bridge.  We have to queue for quite a long time.  It is cash only.  We are told that a photo of the plate will be taken and the bill of $10 will be sent to the rental company.  We drive north on the Henry Hudson Parkway and then on the Merritt Parkway and finally onto the I 95.  We arrive in Mystic at 3:15pm having driven 247 miles.  At 4:45pm Hugh joins us.  Hugh drives us to the Inn at Mystic which overlooks the water.  We sit outside though it is getting colder at 72F.  Both Graham and Hugh are wearing trousers.   Jane has a Cosmopolitan, a drink introduced to Jane by Hugh.  We are driven to Frank’s Gourmet Grille, TripAdvisor’s top rated restaurant in Mystic.  Jane has a seafood medley, Graham has a large coconut shrimp and Hugh has a pot roast.  It is good. We retire shortly after 9:30pm. 

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 23 September - Mystic Seaport Museum

We meet Hugh at 9:00am for breakfast in the lobby of the hotel. We leave after breakfast to go to the Mystic Seaport Museum.  We start with an explanation of the Vikings exploration of the North Atlantic and as far east as Constantinople.  We go out of the entrance building and visit an explanation of the Vinland Map (more...)  which is of uncertain origin. We walk around the buildings which had been moved to the site from elsewhere in Mystic.  There are a lot of veteran cars lining the streets and some are taking tourists for rides.  The cars are just here for the day. We wander around the Charles W. Morgan whaling ship and then take lunch in the Galley Restaurant.  After lunch we visit the Mayflower II which was built  in 1957 in Brixham, UK and sailed to the USA.  It is being restored to be seaworthy in time for the 400 years anniversary of the arrival of the original Mayflower (more...).  We admire a very long building which used to house a rope building factory.  We return to the car and visit downtown Mystic.  We make our way to the Drawbridge Café where they sell very good ice cream but we opt for coffees.  We watch the rise an fall of the drawbridge and return to our hotel.  At 5:30pm Hugh drives us into Mystic and to the Red36 restaurant (more...).  He has heard a lot about it.  We sit at a high table for four on high chairs. Our server is a lady called Sydney.  Jane has a Cosmopolitan and 6 oysters, two of each kind.  Hugh has paella, Jane had scallops and Graham has s hrimps and grits.   Thank you Hugh.  We are back in our rooms by 9pm. 

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 24 September - Mystic to Newport and its Mansions

At 8:00am we have breakfast in the lobby.  Hugh continues to regale us with his stories including when he met Bill Clinton.  Hugh and his friends were dining in a restaurant in Vermont when someone at the table said that Bill, Hillary, Chelsey and Hillary’s brother were eating at another table.  After a while someone at Hugh’s table said the Clintons were leaving. Bill came up to Hugh’s table and, standing behind Hugh, asked which person had had a louder welcome than Bill had had. It was Hugh.  We say our goodbyes, and use a trolley to take our luggage to the car.  We opt for the toll free journey which will take about two hours.  We drive to the outskirts of Newport on I 95 and then turn onto a state road.  You see a lot more on a state road than you do on a tree lined interstate highway.  We arrive at the Newport Harbor Hotel just before noon.  We are allocated room 230 with two queen size beds.  We wander out to look for a place for lunch.  On the way we stop at an ATM and take out $100.  We are charged $3 but this is the first time we have used an ATM holiday.  The $20 cash which Jane brought with her has lasted well.   We enter the Back Alley Pub and walk through to a back room full of booths.  We like booths.  Jane has clam chowder and sweet potato fries washed down with diet Coke.  Graham has a harvest salad with broiled chicken and blue cheese dressing washed down with a local Newport draft beer.  We walk out along a cobbled street and onto a wharf where we spot a very large yacht - Black Gold (more...). We chat to a young couple who recommend visiting one of the many large mansions in Newport.  We return to the hotel and get the car. We drive out to Belle View Avenue to visit The Breakers.  It is a very opulent large Italianate mansion built for Cornelius Vanderbilt (more...).  We are given very helpful audio guides and visit two floors and the basement. After leaving The Breakers we drive along Ocean Avenue enjoying the sea views and large houses. This is not a poor place.  We return to our hotel.  At 6:30pm we wander down to the Salt Water restaurant attached to the hotel.  The dining area is in a plastic walled afterthought warmed by several gas flame heaters.  We share a calamari starter and a cod and waffle chips for our main. It was not the most inspiring meal we have had on our trip but it was convenient.  

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 25 September - Newport to Mattapoisett

We have breakfast in the hotel as we have a 2 for 1 voucher.  The buffet breakfast costs $21.50 for the two of us but there is tax. At the checkout Graham questions why we have to pay a $36 dollar amenity charge.  Well there's the $36 parking, the wifi charge, the swimming pool, the gym facilities and the 2 for 1 breakfast voucher.  It's raining. We drive out and stop at a wine store to buy a couple of bottles of wine.  We stop at an Avis office to ask how to pay off the toll bills.  Go online is the answer.  We stop at a Shell garage to refuel.  It accepts our credit card without a zip code, pin, or signature. At last we have found a modernized gas station.  Who said they were going to do something about the infrastructure?  We use the restroom which is locked and needs a key to unlock it.  It is very clean.  We head north of Newport and onto the I 195.  We arrive in Mattapoissett (more...) just before noon.  We are warmly welcomed by our hosts, Bill and Kris. After a coffee made with a Keurig coffee maker for which Bill had made the prototypes many years ago, we are driven to the water front to have lunch in an unIrish Irish pub.  The Cobb salad is very good.  We swim back to the car and are taken on a tour of the town and the next town of Marion where Bill keeps his boat. We learn about half cape, full cape, and three-quarter cape houses in this Quaker based area (more...).  We are also shown where Bill and his mates are farming oysters.  Many of the houses are on a flood plain and are now built standing on stilts. On the outskirts of Wareham (pronounced 'Where Ham') we are shown some cranberry bogs.  Cranberries grow on vines in paddy fields and get flooded (more...). We return home and we have tea and peruse photos of the metal structures that Bill's company (Van Noorden) (more...) has produced, including the gates of The Breakers which we saw yesterday.  Bill also produced the crash resistant gates of the White House.  Bill prepares pizzas for dinner whilst Graham installs their Alexa Echo system.  The pizzas are extremely tasty.  Bill's favourite beer is Newcastle Brown.  We are late going to bed at 10pm.   

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 26 September - Woods Hole

It rains heavily at 5am and because we are sleeping in the annexe with no attic space there is a loud pounding sound on the roof.  Graham has an email from the New Jersey Turnpike saying that he cannot pay a toll by credit card but must mail the 'Patron without funds' slip together with a check or money order to their finance department.  Bill makes excellent scones for breakfast which we eat together with a fruit salad.  Bill agrees to sort out the $11.80 toll charge.  It is agreed that Graha $11.80 buy coffee in exchange. After breakfast we are driven west through Marion and Wareham. We visit the village of Onset where Bill's parents had their summer house.   From Onset we go to the start of the Cape Cod Canal. Across the canal is a railway bridge (more...) which rises to let boats go under.  The large decorative balls on the bridge were built by Bill's grandfather.  We cross over the Bourne road bridge and drive down to Woods Hole which s a seaport overlooking Martha's Vineyeard and the Elizabeth islands.  The rain stops. The car is parked along a quiet coastal road and we go for a walk.  We stop at a bay by some disused tennis courts and can't quite see Mattapoisett across the water.  We walk on and visit the aquarium which is quite small but has some interesting fish and big sea horses.  We walk past the Marine Biology Department and the Institute of Oceanography.  We take a quick glance at the ferry going to Martha's Vineyard and walk to a cafe where Graham can settle his debt.  We walk around a secluded cove and into a garden containing the bell tower for St Joseph's church.  We get back to the car and are driven to Falmouth and a patisserie where bread, dessert and tomorrow's breakfast are purchased.  We are driven back to Wareham where the main ingredent for tonight's meal is purchased.  On the way home we are shown many more desirable residences down leafy tree lined lanes in Marion.  At 6pm, Nicky and David arrive for dinner.  There is a discussion about educating voters on what is the job of the state District Attorney who is voted in on November 6th.  Kris is an active member of the League of Women Voters (more...)  and Bill is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (more...).  We have a savoury cheesecake as a pre-dinner snack.  Today Nicky is 71.  Happy Birthday, Nicky. The first course is a delicious seafood chowder prepared by Bill which is followed by a tasty lobster salad.  For desert we have a pear and caramel tart and a strawberry and rhubarb tart with vanilla ice cream.  While Graham and Kris drink wine, Bill drinks Newcastle Brown and the others drink water. It is a jolly affair with anecdotes about the couples married lives, all of whom have been married before. It finishes at 9:30pm.

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 27 September - Mattapoisett to York, Maine

Graham gets up early and is driven by Bill to the nearby Galley café for the Rant.  This a a weekly men’s breakfast club where like minds meet to talk about whatever they want.  Skip, a great bird spotter, gets there early to commandeer the table and put the sign up. We purchase coffee and cinnamon rolls and join Skip and Damon.  As more men come on they are introduced to Graham.  About a dozen men attend.  One of them is wearing a cap emblazoned with 'Make America Moral Again'.  A lot of camaraderie flows between them all.  Apparently a group of red necks occasionally gather at another table.  They are known as the Wind Tunnel, from the hot air they produce.  At 8:40am the men return home.  Kris asks us which of Bill’s landscapes we would like to take home with us.  We select one of Woods Hole Passage where we had been yesterday.  We pack up and download the map for Maine as we are going to a bed and breakfast in York, Maine.  We opt for the non-toll roads.  It will take us nearly 3 hours.  We drive up the roads quite quickly but on the outskirts of Boston the traffic slows down as we had been forewarned.  We drive through a tunnel under the Central Business District of Boston and in to New Hampshire.  We drive on to Maine and find where we will be staying tonight.  We drive along Shore Road to Ogunquit and then to Wells where we find Mike’s Crab Shack, recommended by Hugh.  On entering the building  we are told the restaurant is 500ft across the parking lot.  We both star with Clam Chowder  then Jane has five sea scallops wrapped in bacon and Graham has a Cobb Salad.  Graham is developing a cold.  We go to the B &B arriving just after 3pm.  Victor gets Jane to pay for the bill and we are shown the Fountain Room.  Victor explains that he will be working tonight but his partner Ray will be around to answer our questions.  Graham dozes listening to Radio WGBH which is broadcasting the whole of the Senate interviews of Dr Woods and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who has been nominated by the President to become a life time serving Supreme Court Judge. So why would the judge not agree to the FBI checking the people Dr Woods mentioned in her well delivered answers to all the questions posed to her?  At 7pm we go down to the kitchen.  There are five people in the room.  A couple we had met earlier and a brother with a wife and his sister.  They are going to a wedding on Saturday.  We drive down to York Beach and have Clam Chowder and a glass of wine in the bar of the Union Bluff Hotel.  Jane also has half a portion of fried mushrooms, the other half she takes back to her room. We retire early.

Previous DayContentsNext dayFriday, 28 September - Ogunquit

We have breakfast at 8:45am.  Victor produces a plate  of scrambled egg, crispy bacon, a slice of orange and one of his home baked blueberry muffins.  The couple from Connecticut are there.  We are joined by a couple from Kentucky who have driven up from Boston.  We chatter away about this and that, including AirBNB places having to be licensed now. Then Victor comes in and asks if we would like room touch-up.  Jane has a puzzled look on her face.  Graham explains that it is to see if we want our rooms serviced.  The table bursts into laughter and Victor says he'd have to put his prices up if the service he was going to provide were to be as inferred. We drive through York Beach to the Nubble Lighthouse (more...) but it is shrouded in scaffolding. We drive  along Shore Road and park the car at Perkins Cove. It costs $6 for two hours and the machine does not accept $6 rican Express cards.  A large Sysco truck  is delivering food to the restaurant at the end of the car park..We have been warned not to eat in such a restaurant as there is no home cooking.  We set out along the Marginal Way (more...). It is a tarmac footpath which runs for about a mile by the coast.  There are 36 seats along its way and lots of Kodak spots  facing the sea and the properties  bordering the path.  We return to the car and drive further along Shore Road and into Ogunquit where we join US 1.  Shortly after leaving Wells we take 9 East which leads us to Kennebunkport. We turn down Ocean Avenue which, we hope, will lead us to the coast.  It does and it is another pretty drive. We stop to admire a large house on a peninsular (more...). It is the summer home  of President George H. Bush.  Since the presidential flag is flying one of the Bush presidents is in residence there.  We continue on and eventually come to Arundel where Jane spots a diner.  Mike's American Diner is very popular as we have to wait about ten minutes for a seat.  Jane has a bowl of Mike's Haddock Chowder  and Graham has a cup which he follows with a Yankee Pot Roast.  They do not sell beer but they run a Bring Your Own Bottle policy.  We drink iced water.  We have a slow drive back to the B & B.   We look through TripAdvisor to find a place where they do steak near where we are staying.  One of the few places that does steak is the Union Bluff Hotel. We enter the hotel and find that the grill is closed and there is a forty minute wait.  We are given a pad which will flash when our table is ready.  We have a glass of wine to pass the time. After about thirty minutes we are shown a table.  There is another empty table by the side of ours.  We order our food - a New York strip of 14oz Angus Ribeye to share.  A couple arrives and asks if they can sit a the other table alongside us. We agree and we get chatting.  They both work for their own company which provides temporary trailer homes for people who houses have been damaged or require a temporary home (more...). They have 52 trailers and they are all out.  The couple live west of Boston and have just finished building a house not far from the hotel.  This weekend is the first time they will stay in their new home. James' best president was Ronald Reagan.  Graham says his was JFK but he died before James knew of him. We finish our meal and ask for the check.  The server tells us we are all set to go.  Our new found friends have paid for our meal.  Graham settles his bar bill. We thank James and Tricia for their generosity. A photo is taken  and later emailed to them. We return to our room and retire.                  
 

Previous DayContentsNext daySaturday, 29 September - York to Camden

  At the breakfast it is suggested that we can buy a pottery pumpkin in a shop in Kennebunkport.  We drive there and park the car in a ticketed car park. We wander around the shop and purchase a glass pumpkin.  We return to the car park and insert the car park card into the machine but it is not acceptable. We try several times without success.  We ask a gentleman  standing by what we should do.  He inserts his ticket into the machine and there is no charge so he gives it to us.  He says he knows the car park as he lives here and will sort it out.  He likes the operas at Covent Garden, London. We take his photo  and email address.  We hope he got out of the car park without too much difficulty and cost.  We leave the car park and rejoin US 1. Shortly before Portland we join I 295 but get off it just before Freeport.  This enables us to see the headquarters of L.L. Bean.  We stay on US 1 and find a diner in Waldoboro.  We enter Moodys Diner  and determine that you get a ticket from the desk and wait with others for a free table.  We chat with another couple and the father of one of them. They recommend Lobster Stew  to eat and Moxie  to drink.  At last we sit in the booth next to the three.  Graham orders the recommended items and Jane orders Clam Chowder.  Moxie contains gentian root extract and ingredients similar to Coca Cola. It's a bit like non-alcoholic Jagermeister or Dr Pepper.  The younger man gives us his business card in case we need help in the area - another kind gesture.  We drive to the Cedar Crest Hotel in Camden.  We are allocated room 22 by Rosemary.  Rosemary also gives us a local 7 mile car trail and lends us some books about the Acadia National Park and Andre the Seal.   We unpack and go out for the short car ride.  We see the Curtis Island lighthouse, some Belted Galloway cattle, and the marble statue  of Andre the Seal  (more...) in Rockport marina.  On the way back we call in at Renys to buy some provisions as we don't want to go out tonight. We return to our room.         

Previous DayContentsNext daySunday, 30 September - Arcadia National Park

 We have the cold buffet breakfast and leave at 8:30am to drive north for 72 miles. It is a pretty drive up US 1 with the leaf colours beginning to change.  In Maine unlike some of the other states there are road-side signs telling you which town you are entering.  The mid-term electioneering has begun.  At strategic points on the roadside you can see, pinned into the grass verge, an array of small posters  giving a candidate's name but not the party they are standing for.  On television it appears that only anti-opposition ads are shown.  There is no evidence of swamp draining or infrastructure improvements.  We arrive at Hulls Cove Visitor Center  and purchase our 7 day pass for $30.  Rosemary has lent us a motorist's guide with notes from her as she was a guide on buses visiting the park. We stop at a few places to admire the view  and then we fail to turn left so we ascend the 1530ft Cadillac Mountain .  At the top  are magnificent views.  We walk along a short path at the summit.  As it's Sunday there are a lot of tourists.  In the bay off Bar Harbor are a couple of cruisers.  We descend the mountain and find the road to Sandy Beach. There are no places to park so we continue on.  We follow the Park Loop Road in a clockwise direction.  We visit the wild gardens. We park at several spots to view the scenery.  Just after 1pm we park at the Jordan Pond Restaurant and wait twenty minutes until our booking device flashes red.  We are shown a table overlooking the lawn and lake. Natasha from North Maine is our server. We share a crab and goats cheese dip  and follow this with catch of the day.  It's salmon.  Before the salmon  arrives we each accept a popover  with butter and jam. It's a Yorkshire Pudding and it is not complimentary! We leave the park and visit Bar Harbor which is a pretty seaside port but is too full of trippers.  We leave and drive back to our base.  We arrive at 5:30pm.  We return the books to Rosemary and seek a light food recommendation.  We drive for two minutes southwards to The Helm where Jane has a Mussels  appetizer and Graham has a Fisherman's Chowder.   We wash it down with a glass of Pinot Noir. We return to the hotel and retire.      

Previous DayContentsNext dayMonday, 1 October - Camden to Boston

 It's raining.  We have the buffet breakfast and pack up and leave.  We choose the toll road option for Mr Navmii.  We set the destination as a Tesla showroom in Boston.  We fill up with gas at a quaint petrol station.  It is quaint in that there are straw bales and pumpkins on top of the pumps and that the nozzle for the pumps are at their side. You have to push a bar down to start the pump.  The pump only sells 87 octane fuel.  The lady in the shop accepts the credit card and there is no need to enter a pin or sign a piece of paper because the amount is under $50. The trees are changing colour more.   On the outskirts of Boston we stop to have lunch at a McDonalds - a Big Mac meal. We drive to the Prudential Center and park the car in the multi-storage garage.  It has stopped raining. We find the showroom and sit in the gleaming red Model 3.  It is very comfortable and Jane likes it!  We may have a different colour though.  We buy Jane a new iPhone wallet cover and then we use the restrooms in a large Italian food shop called Eataly.  We return to the car. The charge for use of the car park is $12  for the first hour.  It's raining again. We wend our way to the Charles River Motel.  Unfortunately it has been booked for October 1st, 2019.  Fortunately they have a room for us.  Unfortunately it costs nearly a third more than next year!  We drive out at 6pm to search for Carlo's Cucina Italiana which is not far away.  We park close by to it.  On entering the small restaurant we are greeted by the gum chewing madame (she's fag smoking as well) and shown to a window table for two.  It is a very noisy bustling restaurant.  We order our food and are brought some bread and a bowl of olive oil with olives in it.  Graham's glass of Chianti arrives a little later and then the main courses.  Jane has the house salmon  and Graham has chicken saltimbocca. Both dishes are excellent. We share a large piece of flan to finish.  And so to our room at 7:30pm.     

Previous DayContentsNext dayTuesday, 2 October - Freedom Trail Tour

We have the buffet breakfast in the crowded area. It is drizzling. We drive to where we parked last night and leave the car. It is a disused Avis site. We walk to Packards Corner and wait for the T.  We pay $2  each in notes to the conductor. The train goes underground near the downtown area. We get off at the terminus, Park St. We purchase tickets for the Freedom Trail walk starting at 11am. It is no longer raining. A tall gentleman  dressed in hose splits us into two groups. He introduces himself as John Hutchison III and gives us a brief history of Boston and the American War of Independence. We visit the Granary (pronounced 'Grainery') graveyard where are interred several signatories of the Declaration of Independence. We wander on to the City Hall and some other old buildings. We end up near Quincy Market  which we walk through. We retrace our steps and enter the Beantown Pub  where we have a very tasty clam chowder. We leave and climb the steps down to the T. We have to buy CharlieTickets which cost us $2.75 each to get back to where we started. We return to the car and drive back to the hotel. At 6:30pm we drive to search for Miller’s Ale House. It is over the river from the hotel. It has a large multi storey car park to shelter us from the rain. Graham has a rib eye  washed down with a Merlot. Jane has mahi mahi  washed down with a cosmopolitan. It is a good meal. We retire.

Previous DayContentsNext dayWednesday, 3 October - JFK museum

We have the buffet and take our time packing up.  It isn't raining.  Graham has trousers on for the first time in the morning on this holiday. One of us has left a small backpack somewhere.  We drive to last night's pub on Arsenal Street, over the Charles River. It is shut.  We start to make our way to the JFK museum.  On the way Graham notices Tremont Street, where the Beantown Pub is situated.  We drive down it but soon discover that the part of the street where the pub is located is a one way street.  We drive clockwise around Boston Common and are lucky enough to find a free street parking slot.  Graham walks to the pub and points out a bag hanging on a hook which looks like the missing bag.  One of the servers hides it from him and asks Graham what the make of the bag is.  He doesn't know.  What is in it? Some polychromic earrings.  There are some in a box so Graham can have the bag.  We drive to the JFK museum  (more...) and park for free.  We pay our entrance fees and enter a theatre where we watch a short film about the early life of JFK up to his 1960 nomination as the Democratic Party presidential candidate.  We walk round the exhibits and watch a film entitled To The Brink about the Cuban Missile crisis.  Apparently JFK recorded all the Executive Committee meetings so we are able to hear the conversations which took place. We walk around a mock up of the White House corridor and the Oval Office. We visit an extra exhibition showing 100 objects of JFK memorabilia including a chunk of Berlin wall and  a post mortem oil painting by Jamie Wyeth entitled Man From Boston. There is a buzz on Graham's phone. He has received a text from the President.   We admire the high glass and steel structure of the Pavilion  and then walk up the stairs to have lunch.  We have our most common lunch - a large cup of clam chowder and a chef's salad with blue cheese dressing. We watch the planes  coming in to land at Logan Airport.  We finish lunch to travel the toll free route to the airport.  We follow the instructions and end up at a fenced off road.  Apparently since 9/11 there is limited access to the airport.  We ask some locals how to get to the airport and resort to driving back into the city and taking the US 1A through tunnels to the airport.  There were no tolls to pay on the route.  We find our way to car rental returns, hand the car back with a full petrol tank and use the shuttle service to take us to the terminal.  We arrive about 6pm and make our way through security.  We are stopped because someone had hidden a bottle of water in their hand luggage.  We make our way to the BA lounge and prepare to wait for several hours!          

Previous DayContentsNext dayThursday, 4 October

We take off  about twenty minutes late.  We dine at midnight and doze till breakfast.  We land about five minutes late and quickly go through passport control though Jane has to show her boarding pass. We wait a bit for the bags but they arrive with the first batch on the conveyor belt. We are picked up by Joanna of Miller's Taxis and driven home.  We arrive about noon which is 7am in Boston.  We are a little tired.  We have had a wonderful holiday.  Thanks to Jane for organizing and to Graham for driving 3477 miles of which 2467  were assisted by Mr Navmii (more...).      
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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