Post Disney

I know, I know, I’m a HORRIBLE blogger.  We didn’t take pictures at Disney.  We didn’t post any “during the experience” information.  We simply had a wonderful time visiting the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios) plus the “Downtown Disney” shopping extravaganza.  We rode bikes, busses, trains, and boats to get around almost 50 square miles of Disney property.  Did you know there’s an actual gated community of HOMES that people buy so they can LIVE in Disney?!?!?  It makes The Villages look natural!  Yes, the rides and shows were fun, but you can read about them on someone else’s blog.

I was really impressed with the “small” details.  There were NO LINES at any ladies’ room I used.  And I could always find one when I wanted one, within just a few steps.  Now THAT’s important!  We didn’t see a single piece of litter the whole week.  Well, except for that bloody tissue at the foot of the escalator in the Contemporary Resort one evening around 9pm . . . but I’m sure there was a perfectly reasonable bit of drama behind THAT.  Every staff member (or in Disney-speak “cast member”) was cheerful, helpful, and sincere.  Most we spoke with admitted they even came to the parks on their days off to shop, meet friends at restaurants, and see shows . . . just like a “real” city!  Well, except for the cranky old man at the 1st gate into Fort Wilderness who acted like we were potentially illegal immigrants to his domain . . .  was I SUPPOSED to know exactly how the check-in procedure worked before I’d ever done it?  It was fascinating to see the engineering involved in moving thousands of people in tightly planned ways without them noticing.  The place is mind boggling!

There was one incident at the campground where a guest checking out with his 38′ motorcoach cut the corner of his site too close.  His site was one of those with a 55-gallon trash can near the front.  There was a can every 3 or 4 sites for the convenience of guests, and they were partially buried to prevent being moved by wind or people — or 38′ motorcoaches.  The can did NOT move, but it was caved-in and badly scratched .  We saw this as we left our site for breakfast around 8:30am.  By the time we got back from breakfast around 10am, a brand new trash can was in place and no evidence remained of the damage.  Scary efficient!

So, we’re back at our winter home base, ready for family holiday visits, and working part-time at the local flea market for cigar money.  We hope you and yours will have a lovely holiday and leave you with our single Disney photo.  That’s Donald (according to Disney the original angry bird) and it cost us $14.95 to buy the JPEG (can’t you just hear Donald spluttering!?!?)

Disney Holiday 2013

OMG DISNEY!!!

We’re at the Fort Wilderness Campground at Disney for a week.  This is a big step for Everett & I as we 1) don’t like kids, 2) don’t like to be in crowds of people, 3) are not fond of using public transportation (i.e. not being in control of the ride), and 4) aren’t really “Disney People”.  We define “Disney People” as those who decorate their RVs with Disney lights, signs, and mouse ears.  Every T-shirt they own is Disney licensed.  These are the folks who start wearing their Disney Santa Hats with mouse ears on December 1st.  There are a LOT of those people here.  You should see the Christmas lights!!!  (no, we didn’t get any pictures last night, but we will, we will)

So . . . we will struggle to stay on our Fast Pass schedule and not snipe at the parents of crying children.  Or barking dogs – during Tyler’s dog walk last night one lady shouted over the hysterical yapping of her Tibetan Spaniel that “he doesn’t like other dogs, but he’s lovely with just people.”  Who could tell?

Everett promises not to be crabby about the sounds of fireworks from 3 different parks after 9pm.  I promise not to give parenting advice to anyone, regardless of how they’re struggling.  We both promise to make an effort to have a good time.  I booked this trip and I’m GOING to have FUN.  Can you tell I’m up too early?  Our breakfast reservations are for 8am.  Ugh.  I’m sure it will be an incredible, enchanted, happy, happy day!  But I’ll keep you posted.

Northerners Anonymous

“Hello, my name is Ethel.”

Chorus:  “Hi Ethel!”

“Umm, yeah, my name is Ethel, and I’m a recovering Northerner.”

Chorus: “Welcome to Florida, Ethel!”

Look, I was born and raised in New England.  I believed to the bottom of my warm woolen double knitted socks that if you didn’t have the fortitude to stick out eight or nine months of cold and snow, you didn’t deserve to enjoy the short but perfect New England summer.

December in Maine

December in Maine

We used to joke about it:

“Say, Everett, what do you want to do this summer?”

“Gee I’m sorry, Ethel, I’ve got to work that weekend.”

But I was SOOOOOO sick of shoveling snow.  Again, I realize this is sacrilege to a good Northerner.  It’s healthy exercise, warms one up, clears paths and decks for winter use.  But we were tired of it and decided to winter down south after retirement.

So here we are in central Florida.  In December.  In the sunshine.  75° Fahrenheit.  No jacket.  Flip flops on my feet for crying out loud.  And BLOOMING FLOWERS!!!  No one ever told me there would be winter-blooming flowers!  I mean, I’d heard of Christmas Cactus and Poinsettias, but those are indoor plants that sit in your grandmother’s dining room.  Everett and I went to the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens in Gainesville this Monday and there was COLOR!  Outside!  We even saw a blooming BANANA TREE!

It IS winter.  It still gets dark around 4:30, 5pm down here, just like up North.  But the locals call anything below 70° “freezing”.  And I can walk my dog 3 times a day without spending 20 minutes getting bundled up before and unbundled after.  And I can stop to smell the flowers EVERY time.

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Interstate Two-Step Part 4

What possesses a man to wake up one day and say “I think I’ll buy a camel”?  Matilda’s owner was just a regular joe farmer who drove to Ohio 20 years ago and brought back a camel.  Did he look out over his fields and think, “I’ve got cows and horses and ponies and sheep – I need something new”?  Why a camel and not a goat?  There seems to be something in the American character that makes us dream big dreams – and follow them through.  This farmer wanted something different and enjoyed sharing his dream with random passers-by like us.

Another Pennsylvania native, Laurence Gieringer, also had a dream.  When he was 10-years old, he and his brother Paul hiked up a mountain and looked back down on the town of Reading.  They were impressed with how small the buildings and vehicles and people looked, and it changed their lives.  Paul was called to God and became a Catholic priest.  Laurence started building miniatures and over three decades put together an exhibit called Roadside America.  It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.  Not just a miniature railroad, but a glimpse at our country’s past, with touching bits of mechanized humor (such as the hunter trying to aim at a rabbit who keeps disappearing down a hole).  Mr. Gieringer raised the money and put up an entire building to house his miniature world, plonked on the side of Route 78 to attract as many visitors to Shartlesville as possible.  Unfortunately for them, the highway was upgraded, widened, and bypassed the attraction.  Instead of simply driving in off the road, you now have to go to the next exit and backtrack.  Still, there were several other couples besides us there to see the “Night Pageant” (which I can’t adequately describe, but involved sitting in the dark listening to Kate Smith sing God Bless America as the vast diorama’s many buildings and trains turned on their evening lights and the stars shone down from the ceiling, and an ancient slide show of patriotic drawings was projected on the far wall).  Mr. Gieringer has long since passed away, but his dream lives on, however dog-eared at the corners.

To get just a tad sentimental and creaky here, let me say that these two Pennsylvania men epitomize for me the true American spirit.  It isn’t just New England (biased as I am toward that region).  This whole country is full of dreamers and builders and folks who just DO so much to satisfy their right to the pursuit of happiness.  We will always be a country of bright prospects so long as anyone wakes up and says, “Today I think I’ll…”

Roadside America 2013

Roadside America 2013

1890's Town

1890’s Town

1950's Suburbia

1950’s Suburbia

God Bless America

God Bless America

Interstate Two-Step Part 2

After finally leaving NH, we headed south through the diesel desert of Massachusetts. Have you EVER tried to find a diesel fueling station on Route 495?!?!?!  We drove our no-more-than-250-miles-a-day allotment and stopped at the Brook Bend Campground in Thomaston, Connecticut, where only two tenths of a mile away, a gas station sold diesel – yay!  Thomaston does not look like a town that would have a campground.  It’s an old mill town, having been the home of the Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant and many other large factories during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  It LOOKS like an old mill town.  But tucked away between the sewage treatment plant and a large brook, an old horse farm was converted into RV and tent sites.  No need to enforce the 5 mph rule here – the road in (between an ancient oak tree and the original farmhouse) is so narrow and curves in so many places that cars and campers just naturally go slow.  Once you’re “down in the field”, it’s an amazingly lovely little place filled with friendly seasonal campers, dogs – lots of dogs – and one African Gray Parrot who sits in the front window of his owners’ Class A and curses the dogs.

Passenger train service from Thomaston was shut down in 1963, but the station has been restored and is operated by the Railroad Museum of New England.  Their billboard on the highway drew our attention.  Their website informed us of the Saturday Pumpkin Train.  We HAD to stay.  The depot building is an incredible example of architecture from a time when making public places beautiful was an art and craftsmen took great pride in their work.  Look at these roof joists!

Thomaston Station Supports Thomaston Station

Thomaston Station Pumpkin TrainThe train ride itself was an hour and a half of gorgeous views, happy families, and a well-narrated history of the area.  The only flaw in the entire day was when Everett learned the pumpkin patch stop was for CHILDREN ONLY.  He complained his adult ticket had cost more than a kid’s ticket, so he ought to get a pumpkin too!

Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant

Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant

Thomaston Pumpkin Field 6

only the KIDS could take pumpkins!

Thomaston Train Views 2

Thomaston Station Caboose 2

Our 2-day Thomaston adventure was topped off by discovering a great little cigar bar in the next town over (The SmokeEasy, Watertown, CT).  The hosts and some regular customers made us feel right at home by sharing a good smoke, friendly conversation, and some of the owner’s delicious homemade sausage and cheese.

Coming soon:  Part 3 – Shartlesville, PA (Cabela’s, Roadside America, and Matilda)

Fryeburg Fair Food

Sausage and Peppers and Fries, oh my . . . One of the best things to do at any country fair is eat.  There are hundreds of choices for every taste (please note Prospector Jack’s Oct. 6th comment about clams and turkey legs!)  Some of our friends plan their visit to the fair to arrive 8am-ish for breakfast, walk around until it’s time for “elevenses”, walk some more to work off those calories, then take in a good dinner around 1:30.  After spending the afternoon in the grandstands for some shows or the horse pulling, they’ll wander back to the midway food vendors for supper.

Now that we’re retired, Everett and I don’t have to get up early anymore, so we arrived about noon and had a great time wandering through the barns and seeing all the livestock while everyone else was standing in line for food.  Once the lines had thinned out some, we were ready to start our shopping.

If I’m going to the fair (any fair!) I want grilled sausages with peppers and onions on a warm, soft roll – preferably hot Italian sausages.  Everett’s must-have is hand-cut french fries.  There’s always more than one vendor of each of these fair favorites, so you’ve got to work the booths and determine which is the “right” one.  It didn’t take us long to find my sausages as we simply chose the vendor with the stool seating around the counter and the grill full of gorgeousness:

Grilled Sausages

It wasn’t until they were about gone that Everett asked why we’d gotten sweet sausage instead of the hot, spicy ones this year.  I’d ordered the hot ones, mine was a hot one, and I’m not sure what he thought I could do about the mix up of his at that point.

Next we debated french fry vendors. One booth was dodgy and appeared to be using frozen, pre-cut, fries.  Another was cutting their own fries, but only had ketchup as a condiment, not good malt vinegar.  After much searching we found a mom & pop booth with fresh hand-cut fries, the correct condiments out front, and that special scent of fair fries that you just can’t get from a fast food joint.  We were excited, so parted with $8 for the jumbo bowl, doused ’em with vinegar, and ate while we walked along.  “So good,” I muttered as I crunched each salty, vinegar enhanced potato bit.  Then stopped dead.  “Oh, Everett!  You don’t LIKE crunchy fries!”  Too late I’d remembered his preference for the firm but tender type – think al dente pasta.  Poor Goldilocks, these fries were not just right.  We left them with his sister and her EMT’s at the first aid station where I’m sure they were thoroughly enjoyed.