2019-10-15 Tue:

Posted 2019-10-16


2019-10-15 Tue: Boston

Posted 2019-10-16

It took a while to get the kids moving this morning, and as a result it was 10:00 before the gang left for Boston -- and the 57-mile drive still took two hours because of wrecks and the resulting traffic backups. Rant (from Michele; paraphrased by Charles): Bostonians can't drive! No wonder they have wrecks everywhere and constant traffic problems! They're crazy -- not crazy like a fox, like they are in L.A. or Seattle, but crazy like an idiot! -- they don't pay attention and constantly have to take emergeny action, and then they go all over the place like panicked rodents. Even the emergency vehicles don't seem to have rules. 4 vehicles try to thread their way through traffic to get to an accident, and every one of them picks a different route, forcing the stopped vehicles to try to scoot back and forth to let them through.

Then, after getting the bus parked and literally spending 45 minutes getting everything and everyone unloaded for the day, yes then an attendant comes over and insists that she can't let anyone off there -- that it's far too dangerous for the kids to walk across the busy lot (which was absolutely dead, because it was lunch time, but was, he promised, going to be moving "any time"), and he wanted her to load everyone back on, drive to another place to drop them off, and then come back to park the bus. Not a happy situation. She compromised and left Wayne with a loaded stroller, and took the rest of the kids over to drop off. As a result of all of this, we only got to visit a couple of major exhibits before it was time to leave. Traffic was still horrible late in the evening, so it still took a 2 hours to return home, arriving at 8:45 and fixing a rather late supper for those who were hungry.

After some amount of rest yesterday and a pretty good night's sleep, Charles felt better today, so he stayed busy at home, taking a break mid-day to walk around the neighborhood the wraps around an inlet of the Wareham river, which itself empties into Buzzards Bay.

2019-10-14 Mon: Vermont / Massachusetts

Posted 2019-10-16

The direct drive from Maine to our place in Wareham, MA wasn't to be very long -- unless you factor in the typical 2 hour delay going through Boston at rush hour -- so we took an inland route that curved around a national forest in Vermont and came back in South of the big city. We hadn't originally planned to go that far inland, but looking back at our route as I write this, I see that we went far enough west that it would've only taken another 45 minutes of driving to visit another church history site near Sharon, VT.

Michele wanted to drive through the scenic area, so once the fog started to lift Charles went to the back of the bus. A sinus infection that he'd been battling, along with a lack of sleep amplified his car sickness, and he spent most of the rest of the trip in a miserable semi-conscious state, wishing for sleep and starting drift off just in time to be awakened at the next stop. We arrived at twilight, and went through the usual unpacking routine. Our place is a nice little cottage, but not big enough to accommodate grandparents (unless they wanted to sleep under the screened porch -- the glassed-in porch was already filled with bodies), esp. not with only one bathroom, so they left us and went to their own place, Wayne returning later to borrow our WiFi so that he could go on the Web to look up the WiFi password for his place. (Living without cellular data requires careful planning sometimes, esp. where AirBnB is concerned!)

2019-10-13 Sun: Creeks & Creaks

Posted 2019-10-16

Nobody was up before 7:00 this morning, because church wasn't until 9:30 and was only a 10-minute drive away. As we were getting ready, a powered paraglider buzzed the house, but by the time a camera was taken outdoors, he was far away.

Music accompaniment for Sacrament meeting consisted of two fingers on a piano. Charles followed the younger kids into Primary, and when he saw the kids getting rowdy and no pianist (or adult leaders) he sat down and played to redirect their attention. The stake primary presidency was visiting, and he stayed to play and offer what help he could as they split into two groups and the half that wasn't well informed about what was planned were trying to figure things out, before finally joining Alexander and Wayne in Elders Quorum. Michele got to attend Relief Society, and the teens attended their respective classes.

After church, the kids explored a trail leading past a creek and down to the river. Right before dinnertime, we messaged our host and invited him to come meet us and tell us what he knew about the history of the aged house and attached carriagehouse. He came over, so we paused our spaghetti consumption to listen and walk around with him.

He'd lived next door for a few years when the lady who lived there -- granddaughter of the builder -- died, leaving it to her caretakers as a group, who knew he wanted it and happily sold it to him. The lady had fairly severe cerebral palsy and spent her life in a wheelchair which explains the odd placement of a lot of things. ("Why in the world did they put the thermostats at toddler height?") 3/4 of the house was never even touched during the latter years of her life. He's chosen not to spend the money to completely renovate/restore the place; instead he's done what had to be done (e.g. electrical) and is slowly making repairs and improvements, but largely leaving it as it is: a really old house that was redone in the 60's, then some things undone because the original stuff was still in better shape than what was added later.

2019-10-12 Sat: Ferry Ride

Posted 2019-10-16

Since we arose early because we had a full day's drive ahead of us, naturally our host informed us that nobody else was coming in so we could linger as long as we wanted today! We thanked them and took off. More sleep would've been nice for the adults, because we'd been up late that night with a last minute change of plans. INTRO: There are two ways to get on and off PEI: the bridge (finished in 1997) and the ferry. Both are free to get to the island (unless you want a guaranteed reservation, in which case the ferry costs ~$80), but the bridge toll is about $50 the other direction, and the ferry is $108 for our bus. (All amts. Canadian).

We were going to take the bridge back across to save time (likely 2 hrs or more, depending on the schedule) and money, but realizing that the ferry wasn't that much more, that the ride would be a neat experience for the kids, and we'd get to see some more Nova Scotia scenery. Unfortunately, big vehicles can't use the web-based reservation system, and the office didn't open until 8:00, so we delayed our planned 7:00 departure a bit and hit the road w/ Michele driving and Charles calling to make arrangement en-route, knowing that it would amount to a 40-minute detour if we had to abort the ferry idea and return via bridge. Everything worked out (the port official advised the toll booth that despite appearances, we were a camper, not a $465 bus) and after nearly an hour we boarded the 9:30. The vehicle area was vacated, and we roamed around the passenger cabin, passing all the high-priced food places and settling in the general seating or just milling around looking out the windows.

The weather was a bit stormy, and the seas proved rougher than they looked from the shore. We weren't there long before Charles began mentally slapping his forehead for not thinking to pass out Dramamine (which we had) while sitting waiting for the ferry. Charles & Michele had both been sick on a ferry ride during their honeymoon to Vancouver Island 22 years before, so he really should've known better. Some family members had no problem, some were able to lessen their nausea somewhat with occasional forays out onto the deck (though we'd been advised to stay inside because of conditions) and others huddled miserably in chairs and and tried to sleep through it. Alexander joked that they couldn't lose anyone overboard on the windward side; if someone jumped off the wind coming up and over the side of the vessel would blow them back onboard.

After we disembarked, we drove -- and drove, and drove -- with Cookes trailing us. About 6PM we stopped at a Walmart close to our route to buy groceries. After Michele had been shopping for a while, Charles suddenly remembered that he'd seen a Lowes nearby and he had a shopping list. Talking to her over the radio, he got permission to head over there for a while. There's where things went South. See, Cookes didn't bring a radio into the store with them, so they didn't hear that or any other conversation. When they came out and the bus was gone, they assumed we'd left them behind. Wayne made a single call saying "It looks like someone stole your bus!" and then took off in pursuit of us. Charles heard his call on his HT down at Lowes, but it was weak so he asked the kids on the bus to reply -- and then failed to follow up to make sure that someone *did* reply. The kids were having fun and could hear the conversation, but ignored it. Michele was in the store and should have heard Wayne clearly, but apparently her volume was low and the store noise was high, so she didn't catch it either. Charles gave no more thought about it until we went to leave Walmart and couldn't raise Cookes -- at which time he figured out the likely scenario. Matthew called Wayne's cell phone, but got no answer so left voicemail, and it was our turn to race off in pursuit. Aggressive driving took its toll on the fuel supply, and we thought it prudent to add some along the route instead of waiting until we got to our destination, as Charles originally figured. While trying to leave, Wayne called from our house in Farmington wondering where we were. After arriving and finding that we weren't there, he checked his voicemail, found that he had 19 messages waiting (he hadn't checked since before we entered Canada the week before), and didn't want to wade through them all (no smartphone, so he'd have to listen to each to determine if it was important), so was completely in the dark about what had really happened. Knowing that it was going to take a long time to work through a phone conversation with him, we traded drivers and Michele drove the rest of the way at a much slower rate.

Cookes didn't have to sit in their car for an hour waiting for us; Charles informed them that the door was open, so they went on in and started getting the place ready. Bev found that parts of it were pretty dirty, so she spent much of the time sweeping and such (though it remained a "shoes on" place). The rest of us got there, negotiated sleeping places (Bev put a mattress on the floor in an unused upstairs hallway in preference to sleeping in the enclosed porch on the cot that looked and smelled like an animal bed), and we had a late supper before bringing in the Sunday clothes.

2019-10-11 Fri: Green Gables

Posted 2019-10-16

Today the group (minus Charles) visited Green Gables in Cavendish, where Miriana felt a kindred spirit in LM Montgomery (and Anne!) and a reawakening of her desire to write something besides school papers. The kids had fun dressing up and learning more about the place and woman behind the books many of them had read. In the evening, despite a slew of technical difficulties (How many devices can one try?) the family watched the Anne of Green Gables movie (most for the first time) before retiring or staying up to prepare for departure.

2019-10-10 Thu: The Beaches of Prince Edward

Posted 2019-10-16

The family (sans Charles) spent the day exploring various parks and beaches on our part of the island. As with some of the other places we've been, we noted the many different rock and sand colors not normally found in the Northwest. (Some places have varied colorful road pavement; PE has colorful beaches.) We ran into an Amish group, and though Miriana found them to be to reserved for her comfort and soon tired of thinking of questions to ask in exchange for terse answers, Grandpa, ever the conversationalist, visited for quite some time, comparing LDS and Amish communities (e.g. we're both "weird" and abstain from things that much of the world views as essential) and covering a variety of other topics. Evening excitement was had as someone didn't pay attention to the gaps in the upstairs tub surround, and we found water dripping on us in the kitchen.

Trivia: Christopher is our first child to learn to crawl in another country -- or on an island.

2019-10-09 Wed: Annandale

Posted 2019-10-16

Knowing that we had a long drive across New Brunswick, and wanting to cross the 8-mile bridge onto Prince Edward Island when we could enjoy the view, we left at 6. We in the bus enjoyed the bridge more than Grandma & Grandpa in their little car, who primarily viewed 8 miles of Jersey barriers! Another hour and a half of driving brought us to our house, an old farm house whose previous tenant also served as the keeper of the lighthouse in our backyard. It was roomy enough that the kids could scrunch together and the Cookes were able to stay with us and have their own bedrooms. It still being light when we arrived, the kids walked across the grass to the lighthouse, scrambled down the embankment, and explored the small rocky shore below before coming back in to dinner.

2019-10-08 Tue: Catching up in Quebec

Posted 2019-10-16

Today was a "no place to go" day, the first in a while. We walked down the highway and visited the Cookes in the old little farm house where they were staying. Shana said that she felt odd to be walking around such an old house, with "skinny doorways and lumpy mattresses" and filled with antiques, and not have an elderly missionary there telling her not to touch anything. :-) In the afternoon, most of the kids went to the park, Charles puttered in the back of the bus for a while, and the teens caught up on various things. Everyone enjoyed hot apple crisp in the evening, then we packed as much as possible for morning.

2019-10-07 Mon: Le Canada à nouveau

Posted 2019-10-16

Time to head into Canada again! We aimed to leave at 7:00, but the bus didn't leave until 8:00, our departure not being helped by Charles forgetting to download offline maps the night before, and fighting extremely slow download speeds. Another border crossing, and we were into Québec. Elsewhere in Canada, all signs are required to have French in addition to English; in Québec they apparently didn't get the memo about the English part; their signage is exclusively Français. Fortunately, most North American signs are fairly universal in the two countries, so it didn't take a translator to figure out where to go and what to do. It was 7PM & dark when we passed our little historic home, La Blue Casa (yes, French/English/Spanish) in the village of Berthier-sur-Mer near Québec City -- and had to drive an extra 3 km before we found a place where we could turn the bus around so we could approach the house and park on the right side of the narrow street. Of course, in the other direction, cross streets were plentiful.... The girls noted that the local citizens aren't in the habit of closing their curtains at night, and they enjoyed watching the neighbors' shocked reaction to our bus parking across the street.

Nothing particularly special about this house; just a small old house that a woman -- quite the world traveler -- is restoring. The quality of work is better in this home is better than most of the others we've stayed in; it's apparent that she cares about the house for the house, rather than just slapping some paint on a pig to make a quick buck on AirBnB. That she only charged $50/night + a $15 cleaning fee -- and includes all the basic things you'd expect plus a few thoughtful extras -- supports her stated goal of providing a nice, inexpensive place for travelers to rest.

2019-10-06 Sun: Whitmer Farm

Posted 2019-10-15

General Conference weekend! We opted not to sit around watching conference yesterday, having places to go. Most of the visitor centers were pretty dead, so the missionaries were sitting around watching or listening to conference, making us feel a little funny about interrupting them; we had to remind ourselves that their job was to serve us, and they, like we, could re-watch it later.

We started off the Sabbath by watching yesterday morning's conference session (downloaded last night) on the big TV in the living room. In the afternoon we drove to the Whitmer Farm in Fayette. It was neat to stand, on General Conference Sunday (and occasionally hear the proceedings), in the cabin where the first official meeting of the restored church was held 189-1/2 years before on April 6th.

The visitor center on the farm is odd; it shares a building with the local meetinghouse. Looking at the front of the symmetrical building, the left wing is the visitor center, and the right wing is the church! People were attending conference in one side while we were touring the other. On the way to/from the farm, we watched the Saturday afternoon session, Alexander having finished the work to pipe the audio from the Android set-top box behind the driver seat to the main controller/amplifier in the dash. (The next day's drive to Quebec was filled w/ more conference viewing -- listening for those up front.)

In the evening we went next door to tour the servants' quarters. Fun fact: The home was constructed after the legislature determined that having servants living in the mansion (where they could overhear sensitive political meetings) was a bad idea. The senator was a tightwad; it was his wife who insisted on building a home for her faithful staff that was of such high quality that it still stands solid.

It was neat to listen to their story of the series of miracles that led to their acquisition of this place. Like Indiana, we were amazed at how low real estate prices can be (and how quickly they're climbing here); they only paid about $55k 2 years ago for the place, which admittedly needed some work. It has proven to be of excellent service to them and to their service. After the tour, Sister Meyers let each of the kids pick a toy out of a tub -- and she loaned Shana the book missing out of the middle of the series that she's currently reading to the other kids! That was nice, and well worth the postage to return it to her.

Another fun fact: Our hosts aren't LDS, but they love hosting Latter-Day Saint families visiting the church sites (and/or attending the pageant) because they find them to be good tenants. We'll try to maintain the reputation and avoid holding any drunken parties, trashing their place, etc.

2019-10-05 Sat: Palmyra / Manchester

Posted 2019-10-15


Our hosts visited us and spent an hour telling us of the history of where we're staying, and it was fun learning a little about their family, too. They enjoy travel, and invited us to stay in their FL home sometime.

We visited the Smith Farm, where Joseph Smith Jr. was raised. We stood in the upstairs bedroom where the the prophet Moroni first appeared to him. And of course, no visit to the farm would be complete without a walk through the grove of trees where, in 1820, an imperfect but humble 14 year-old boy knelt, poured out his soul to his maker, sought the wisdom promised in the Epistle of James, and saw the heavens open and was visited by God the Father and His son Jesus Christ, marking the most significant epiphany in 2000 years and ushering in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. It was humbling to consider the faith and integrity of the simple God-fearing folks who raised their children here, without many of the distractions that we suffer today, yet with much work required to satisfy basic needs. In the "careful what you pray for" category, it also inspired respect for the boy -- later the man -- who gave his entire self to the work that he was given to do, and later sealed his testimony with his blood. As with many of the sites, it also reminded us that there have been so many others, most practically unknown, who have been no less faithful to the Lord, in this and previous ages.

As we toured the Smith home and a gentleman described the chain of events, from a worldwide calamity that brought the family from Vermont here to experiences of the young Joseph, he was effective at helping us, particularly the youth, to mentally place ourselves in the scenes he described. In Miriana's words:

...he was an awesome tour guide. Instead of telling us “this happened here and this happened here” he put some acting into it. He had Matthew be Joseph Smith, because Matthew was the closest boy to his age.... I felt like I was watching Joseph Smith sitting on the bed, wearing Matthew’s baseball cap, sunglasses, and camera...

Before we left the farm, we dined on apples we plucked from the trees. One day we shall have to thank Father Smith for having the foresight to plant those 35 apple trees over 200 years ago just so that we could enjoy a good lunch today. ;-) We went back to town and toured the Grandin shop in Palmyra, where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed, and heading south again, we climbed the Hill Cumorah.

Our hosts had made sure that the heated backyard pool was available for us, so we did our part by getting home in time to let the kids enjoy a swim before bedtime!

2019-10-04 Fri: Niagara

Posted 2019-10-15

It's only a short hop from Ohio to New York (there are going to be lots of these shorter trips around New England), so to ensure that we didn't see our new home before nightfall, we visited Niagrara Falls. Hmmm, waterfalls with a gift store and lots of casinos across the river. Big, but falls in a more natural setting are a lot prettier.

Another old house! This one (ca. 1880) is quite interesting; it was the carriage house for the senator's mansion next door. Charles ensured that we met our host (who lives upstairs) when he disconnected their Internet router, thinking it was powered off! (It eschews bright blinking lights in favor of a tiny power savings.) While unloading the bus, he also met a couple who bought the servants' quarters on the other side of us (same senator), and serve in the Palmyra Temple.

2019-10-03 Thu: Kirtland

Posted 2019-10-15

Today, was a visit to Kirtland, Ohio, which played a prominent role in early Church history. Smaller that Nauvoo, it didn't take as long to tour, but we enjoyed being able to visit and hear about sites like the ashery & sawmill, and the Newel K. Witney store, where the School of the Prophets was first held. We looked at the outside of the Kirtland Temple, which, unlike the Nauvoo temple, was not completely destroyed, and is now owned by the RLDS Church (recently rebranded as "Community of Christ"), but opted not to pay for an inside tour for 17 people. We drove a short distance to the John Johnson home, another site where many revelations were received and other events occurred which were significant in the early days of the restored Church.

When we got back home, we walked down the street to Walnut Beach on Lake Erie, and in spite of the oncoming wind, the kids enjoyed spending time on the playground, in the sand, and in the water.

2019-10-02 Wed: Flames and Dungeons

Posted 2019-10-15

The weather changes have continued to entertain us. Back in Montana, where we enjoyed the sunshine, they've gotten a ton of snow, and there is already snow in the passes back home.

Yesterday, Alexander spent all day redoing various circuits on the bus to his satisfaction. As is not terribly uncommon, he worked until late in the evening to get everything put back together so that we could leave this morning.

This has been the funnest place for the kids to stay (and the best Internet for Charles and the schoolies) -- though the kids didn't have quite as much fun yesterday evening during their 4-hour search for the kayak paddles that they lost at the bottom of the lake.... We were disappointed that we didn't get to visit with the family (met the dad and a daughter briefly once, then they were gone); such a fine place must have a fine family living there! We did get a gentle chastisement via SMS, though, because check-out time was noon but we didn't leave until 1:15 (The kids were having too much fun!), and they had more guests coming in.

It wasn't a terribly long drive, but because of the late departure, it was nearly 8PM when, after skirting around Columbus and Cleveland -- oops, navigator goofed, and we went right through the middle of Cleveland during rush hour -- we got to Ashtabula. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself in the tale (easy to do when you're trying to remember things that happened nearly two weeks ago)! Roughly mid-way between Cleveland and Astabula, we caught a piece of a call from Cookes that sounded something like "The motorhome's on fire". A few minutes later, we were passed by a couple of fire engines, which soon pulled in behind a familiar-looking RV. We parked a ways ahead of them, and got out to investigate.

Long story short: Their transmission self-destructed, overheating in the process until it started a small fire. It didn't destroy the vehicle, but at the least it will need a new trannie and minor repairs. (As of this writing, it's still in the shop.) Because Matthew had gone with them to get some driving in (he wasn't driving at the time) and Alexander had changed their oil for them the day before (also unrelated), they (and Bev, who was driving, and Wayne, who's Wayne) have endured many jokes about just who caused the transmission to go up in flames and how. Anyway, after an hour in the rain there, we hit the road, with Cookes following us in their car (after emptying a fire extinguisher unsuccessfully and calling 911, the next thing Wayne did was disconnect their car and back it a safe distance away) loaded with a few of their belongings from the RV. Cancel the RV park reservation -- looks like they'll be camping out with us tonight!

Consider: Cookes had stopped for a while earlier, and we were well ahead of them on the road. Had it not been for the goof that stuck us in rush hour traffic, we would've been almost to our destination when the incident happened, instead of right behind them where we could receive their call and stop very conveniently. How many times do we curse events and never know for what what good they may have been orchestrated?

Fortunately, The 1888 House was roomy, so they "camped" in style. This house is really neat old Victorian style home that has been restored to retain much of the original flavor. The upstairs area has its own kitchen, two sets of stairs, and a bathroom. With a couple of bathrooms downstairs, there was room enough for everyone without too much contention for the potty. It was a neat home to explore and dissect, trying to figure out its history. The cellar was a particular adventure, with multiple time periods represented in a fashion that almost represented an archeological dig. Particularly entertaining was a small area that was apparently walled off but then broken through perhaps to provide access to maintain the corner of the foundation or something. We don't know what it was later used for -- why the door on it and light inside. Maybe somebody's dog slept there. Solitary confinement for naughty children? :-)

The original foundation and chimney base, shored up by concrete and surrounded by a taller basement under a newer part of the house, with jacks giving additional support to the 1st floor beams.

Making arrangements for the RV...

At least nobody had to sleep in "the cell!"

Published in reverse order, some pictures make great teasers for the stories!

2019-10-01 Tue: Fun on the lake

Posted 2019-10-07

The kids sunscreened and took full advantage of the lake today. Michele set up a canopy on the little beach so she could take care of the baby while being out there with the others. Charles only poked his head out a couple of times; otherwise he stayed inside to work. More on the lake from Miriana:

The property is partially in the woods, and also on the edge of large fields. It’s a very large lake, and only about 16 feet deep in the deepest areas, so it is warm. There are four kayaks (and paddles) a rowboat, and a paddle boat that are free for guests to use. There are two docks, two huge snapping turtles, and an inflated trampoline. We had a fantastic time.

Charles: Springport is also just south of Muncie, headquarters of Ontario Systems, owner of the two collection platforms that represent 95% of our client base at work, and we have a couple of employees that live in the area. I sent my coworker Tyler a "honk honk" SMS as we drove by his exit. (It wasn't until after we left Springport that I realized that after finding out what the place was like, I'd forgotten to invite Tyler and his family over as I'd planned. What a dolt! They may not have been able to come, and it would've been at the expense of work for both of us, but it sure would've been fun!)

We were amazed at the low real estate prices here. The whole property (w/ 3600/7200sf house, near-exclusive lake access) sold for only $400k a few years ago, and Zillow suggested a current value of something like $570, only $100k more than our home. (More entertaining, though not necessarily realistic, was the rent estimate: $2200/month for our place vs. $725 for here. Guess it's a renter's market!