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Road Trips

Calico Ghost Town

When I was writing about Doodletown recently I realized I never posted pictures from a Ghost Town in California called Calico.

Calico is a ghost town and former mining town in San Bernardino County, California located in the Calico Mountains of the Mojave Desert. It was founded in 1881 as a silver mining town. By the early 1900′s t was nearly deserted. Walter Knott of Knott’s Berry Farms purchased the land, renovated it and began restoring it to its original condition. He opened it to the public and later donated it to the county. If you’re ever on a road trip and driving by the area it’s worth checking out.

You can find an album of pictures I took here.

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The North Fork, LI

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The Private Beach

Kay and I recently went to a Bed and Breakfast over in the North Fork of Long Island. The BnB is called By the Bluff and it is a very beautiful and well done home. The owners, Pat and Maurice were very accommodating, the food was delicious, and they also provided bottled water, towels, and chairs for you to take down to the private beach you gain access to by staying there.

Over the long weekend Kay and I ate at aMano, Noah’s, and our favorite of the trip: The Frisky Oyster. For our appetizers we had the Peconic Gold Oysters with serrano honey mignonette and the Cornell Oysters Friskafella. Both are amazing! I cannot decide which I liked better (for Kay it is the Oysters Friskafella.) I then had the filet of beef and Kay had the garganelli with local lobster, arugula, and a meyer lemon vodka sauce. It was by far the best meal of our trip, and those oysters were the best I’ve ever had!

We also visited several vineyards including: Kontokosta Winery, Pindar Vineyards, Sparkling Pointe, Bedell Cellars, and Macari Vineyards. All were beautifully done, and oddly enough the least elegant of them all, Pindar, had the best tasting wine. It was still a nice vineyard, but not as classy and polished as the others. Our server, Matt, was very polite and incredibly funny. Between him and the great tasting wine, it totally put Pindar at the top of our list for places to recommend for a tasting.

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Sparkling Pointe

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A tasting at Bedell Cellars

The area also had a lot of cool farm-stands, gift shops, and attractions. We visited Lavender By the Bay and The Village Cheese Shop, the latter which I would definitely recommend if you like or want to explore different kinds of cheese.

It was an amazing and relaxing trip which was even better than I had expected. Between Bar Harbor ME, Stowe VT, and now the North Fork of Long Island, I’m given hope that the East Coast does have some great places to offer on par with its Western counterpart.

You can view an album of photos here.

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Trip to Assateague Island

Last weekend Kay and I went to Assateague Island, a 37 mile barrier island off the coast of Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia). Two thirds of the island is in Maryland while the lower third is in Virginia. It is best known for its pristine beaches and wild horses that roam the island. Legend has it that the feral Chincoteague Ponies are the descendants of survivors of the Spanish ship that sank on its way to Spain in 1750. Per Wikipedia though, “the likelihood is that they are actually descended from domesticated stock, brought to the island by Eastern Shore farmers in the 17th century to avoid fencing requirements and taxation”.

From the research we did, it seems like most people that come for an extended stay grab a hotel in Chincoteague Bay, a small town on the Virginia side, or camp on the island.

Assateague Map

Our Trip
Kay and I drove down from New York and arrived at Assateague Island National Seashore in the early afternoon. We spent a few hours visiting the North Beach and as a few clouds rolled over decided to go for a hike. We started out on the Life of the Dunes trail but quickly veered off path to see some horses. We found several types of birds, deer, two carcasses of rabbits, and unfortunately brought back at least four ticks with us.

After the hike the sun came out again so we visited to South Beach for another couple of hours before heading to our hotel in Chincoteague. The beaches were clean, spacious, and had beautiful sea shells spread throughout it.

The town on Chincoteague is very small. The population during the 2010 census was 2,941. We get the impression that the town is choosing to not expand and open up more for tourists. (Unless it has been doing so recently, and slowly.) Although it is great for a long weekend, we couldn’t picture spending a full week there. Or at least we could, but we would probably pick other places over Chincoteague to spend a full week at. They have a decent, albeit small selection of restaurants, two miniature golf courses, and two ice cream shops. (Possibly three but the third one was closed.) For dinner we visited Bill’s Seafood Restaurant and Village Restaurant, both which were great. Bill’s had an amazing soft shell crab special that weekend. The only downside was that despite having reservations for 8:30pm, we had to wait till 9:10 to be seated.

After dinner we went back to the hotel for a late night dip in the hot-tub. The following day we visited the beach in Chincoteague. We preferred the Assateague Beaches in Maryland better for the sole reason that there is more space which made it seem less crowded. We also didn’t see any horses while on the Virginia side of the island.

On Sunday, our last day there, we visited the North Beach at Assateague one last time and got some really close up shots of the horses. They were actually roaming the parking lot as we tried to park. As our stay went on they continued grazing near the bathrooms and even by the brush between the asphalt and beach.

Overall it was a really nice trip and I would recommend anyone who is looking to spend a few days on the coast of Maryland or Virginia to check this island out. You can check out an album of pictures here.

Here are two videos of the horses roaming the parking lot at Assateague Beach:

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An Inspirational Letter

West CoastAbout ten years ago (my God), one of the most influential Guidance Counselors I’ve ever had handed me an envelope with a note and $100 in it. On the face of the envelope were doodles of a road lined with Redwood Trees, the Oregon shoreline, the Seattle Space Needle, and other prominent features of the West Coast. (The $100 was a loan which she never allowed me to pay back.) She told me to take time during our three week break and travel, because she knew that’s what I needed.

It was a phenomenal trip. I drove from Los Angeles to Whistler, Canada which is a town right above Vancouver. On the way I also stopped by San Francisco and Sacramento, drove through the Redwood Forest, visited Portland and Seattle, and even drove up Mount Saint Helens.

My pictures don’t do it justice because at the time I was experimenting with just taking video, and using still frames from it as pictures, so the quality is not that good. But recently I discovered a roll of film, tucked away in my draw for over 10 years, that I never had developed. The film contains some pretty bad pictures. Some are just horribly taken, and others may have just degraded over time, but one stood out to me though:

Drive Thru Tree

This is the Chandelier Tree, named for its distinctive limbs at the top that bear resemblance to a chandelier. Found in the town of Leggett, Northern California, it’s a 315 foot tall Redwood tree so large that you can drive a car through it. The base measures 21ft in diameter and has a 6 foot wide by 6 foot 9 inch hole at the base that allows cars to drive through it.

The trip was my second major solo adventure of significant length, but the one that spurred many more to come, and I have to thank my former guidance counselor for that.

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Fall Trip to Vermont

The first weekend in October ago Kay and I went to Vermont for a three days. We decided to stay in Stowe, renting a cabin from a place called Cabin in the Woods, and driving over to Burlington for the afternoon on Sunday. Monday we would drive back.

The drive up was really nice. It was a little cloudy but we still got a good taste of the fall foliage. I plotted a scenic route, driving along Route 7 and Route 100 to get a taste of the beautiful orange and golden leaves along the highways in the Green Mountains. There was one town, either Rutland, Vermont or around it, which had some interesting artwork alongside the streets. We saw moose, panthers, and other exotic animals carved as statues. (You can click any of the pictures on this page to enlarge them.)

We arrived at Cabin in the Woods around 2pm, after a five hour drive up. We stayed in a small and quaint cabin, perfect since it was just us and Kay’s dog Brindle. We actually could have fit two more people in bunk-beds in the 2nd bedroom, and another person or two on the pull-out couch.

We then drove around Stowe checking out the town, and eating delicious burgers and fries at The Blue Donkey. Many reviews on Yelp mentioned a long wait, and they were exactly right. It took about 25 minutes to receive our meal. The food was really good though.

Afterwards we attended Oktoberfest, which was kind of a let down. I can see locals finding it exciting to meet up with friends and family, but for us it was just a venue to grab a beer and watch people dressed in German clothes perform music. It was all inside a huge tent, with a few vendors trying to sell some goods.

Sunday was fun. We drove a half hour over to Burlington. For breakfast we ate at the Skinny Pancake. The line was out the door, which to us was a good sign. The menu looked so enticing we couldn’t decide what to get so we ordered 4 different crepes and a side of cheese fries. (We’re pigs, I know!) We almost finished everything. I would say 3 of our plates were completely finished.

Afterwards we went to the Church Street market, which reminded me a lot of the Santa Monica Promenade in LA. The great part is that there were still a lot of local stores selling Maple Syrup, hand-made wooden kitchen supplies, local mustard, and more. The promenade in Los Angeles has gone almost completely to big chain stores.

As we finished the strip it started to drizzle so we went back to the car. Randomly we started looking up spas on Yelp to book massages, and luckily found a place back in Stowe. We did stop by the Green Mountain Coffee Roasters shop, which was more like a store with a small informational museum attached. No big deal.

Back in Stowe we enjoyed a relaxing couple’s massage, to which Kay got to enjoy a dip in the jacuzzi and a Himalayan Mineral shower after. Completely beat, we decided to grab pizza and wine and head back to the cabin to relax some more.

Monday was an exciting day. We stopped by the Cold Hollow Cider Mill which had a huge gift shop with tons of goodies. From apple cider and sauce to salsas, mustard, syrup and more. We easily dropped one hundred bucks in there, if not more. We even got to watch part of the process of making the cider.

We followed that with stops in a cheese store, chocolate store, and last but not least the Ben and Jerry’s factory. As we walked in two parents were having a problem with their child and gave us their tour tickets for free. The tour was about 30 minutes and pretty interesting. We got to take a look inside the plant and sample a flavor in trial. Afterwards we visited the “Flavor Graveyard” where some flavors go to die, grabbed some ice cream at the shop, and departed for New York.

Overall it was a fun trip. I wish the clouds kept their distance some more so I could take some better pictures, but I’m glad we went nonetheless. Between this trip to Vermont and one to the White Mountains in New Hampshire last fall, I’m designating the first two weekends in October as the prime time to take a vacation each year. I love the fall colors.

You can find the full photo album here.

Planning the Vermont Trip

Sorry for the delay in entries. This Fall has been pretty hectic. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very full plate of exciting activities:

- Two camping trips (one to Bash Bish Falls and one to North South Lake)
- Sunday Wine Trail day
- The Hudson Valley Food and Wine Fest
- Work get-togethers
- A tour of the Millbrook Winery with Kay’s family
- Apple picking with friends at Dressel Farms

This upcoming weekend should be a lot of fun, if the rain steers clear of northern Vermont that is. It looks like the rain has been pushed back till Monday, the day we leave, so that’s good. Kay and I are driving up to Vermont for a long weekend to see the Fall Foliage. I plan on driving through some scenic areas in the Green Mountains and through Brandon Gap. We’re renting a cabin in Stowe, and going to visit Burlington as well. I haven’t had time to do a lot of research, but here is what I have so far:

ON THE WAY
- Scenic Drive on Route 100 from Readsboro to Newport. Center of the Green Mountains.
- Scenic Drive on I-91 from White River Junction to Newport.
- Scenic Drive through Brandon Gap

STOWE
- Octoberfest: Stowe’s event field will become a Bavarian Village. Enjoy German food and freshly brewed Vermont beer.
- Ben and Jerry’s Factory
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Factory
- Farmer’s Market on Sunday 10:30-3pm

BURLINGTON
- Church Street Market Place
- Vermont Teddy Bear Company
- Waterfront Park

There are a few things I’d still like to look up, like good restaurants in both towns, and maybe even a Gondola Ride or Zip Lining excursion. There also seems to be great spas around, so maybe even grabbing a nice massage before our car ride back on Monday. We’ll see…

Here are two maps of the trip we’re planning:

Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.

A Review of the Shawangunk Wine Trail

Warwick Valley Winery

Last Tuesday night Kay and I were talking about things to do this Labor Day Weekend. Saturday we planned to head to her parents for a BBQ, and Monday I wanted to allocate to staying home, doing a few chores, and relaxing before the workweek. Sunday we were both open to doing something. Since she’s not too familiar with New York she asked, “Are there any good Wine Trails in the area?” That got us looking at trails in lower New York.

We found this great website Hudson Valley Wine Country .org. They have an interactive Google Map of the local wineries and even a “Plan A Tour” page where you can select certain wineries and, through Google Maps, plan a route for you with distances and times.

So Sunday we went along the Shawangunk Wine Trail to the Warwick Valley, Demarest Hill, Applewood, and Brotherhood Wineries. (The interactive Google Map doesn’t list Demarest for some reason. It was a pleasant surprise though.)

 

The Warwick Valley Winery has a beautiful setting. Upon driving up and parking there is a huge open lawn where you can have a picnic and throw a frisbee around, as well as a seating area next to their market. You can also grab a drink or bite to eat indoors and visit their store. They have live music certain weekends as well. I would highly recommend this place for a good lunch date. After doing a wine tasting we ended up purchasing several bottles of delicious wine and cider. The trip was off to a great start.

We then passed a sign for the Demarest Hill Winery. For some reason this isn’t listed on the Google Map we looked at but decided to stop by anyway. (Good call on Kay’s part. I love how spontaneous she is!) As we pulled into the parking lot it started to pour. We grabbed our umbrellas and ran inside. Francesco Ciummo, the owner and founder of the winery, was inside tending to a group of tourists from Italy who came in for a tasting. After chatting with one of the lovely ladies Kay and I joined in for some samples. He was very generous, giving us 9 tastings whereas a normal tasting only consist of 7. We purchased several bottles, with Kay and one of the outgoing Italian ladies enjoying his Peach white wine the best.

Next we stopped at Applewood Winery. Outside there was live music and a patio with people enjoying delicious food and wine. We went inside for a tasting and walked out members of the Wino Club. (This is an actual club you can join. You’ll receive 2 bottles every quarter, discounts on their wine, and free tastings for up to four guests.) The selection here was great.  After enjoying three wineries worth of tastings though we decided to let our brains catch up. We walked through their market and ordered two really delicious pizzas and some chips and guacamole dip.

Unfortunately we really didn’t get to explore our last stop, the Brotherhood Winery. We arrived 10 minutes late to their last tasting session. The “village” they have going on looks very big. They had live music and food offerings as well. We did stop in the store to pick up a few bottles to taste ourselves, but we definitely plan on going back for a longer experience.

It was a really fun day. One of the reasons we joined the quarterly wine club at Applewood was to spur ourselves to go enjoy a day like that every so often. Overall I would definitely recommend venturing on this wine trail and give yourself a good amount of time to soak it all in.

 

Miami and the Florida Keys

In my attempt to drive across the whole continent, I’ve traveled to San Diego CA (Southwest), Fairbanks AK (Northwest), Orlando FL (Southeast), and Bar Harbor ME (Northeast).

There are three ways I could expand the territory covered by car:

1. Drive from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska. (Northwest)

2. Drive to L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland. (Northeast)

3. Drive to Key West. (Southeast)

Realistically speaking, Prudhoe Bay won’t happen for awhile. There are much more interesting trips I’d like to take (Europe, Australia, etc…) Part of me wishes I could have fit that into XCRT-7. Newfoundland could be a possibility in the next few years, although again I’d rather fly overseas for a trip. Key West is definitely a fun and easy trip to pull off though, and Kay would love a vacation like this.

My plan would be to fly into Miami and rent a car. Maybe spend a day there and then drive 3 hours along the Overseas Highway to Key West. Along the way I would like to stop in Homestead to visit Biscayne National Park (I believe this is the only National Park under water) and Key Largo. It’ll be a nice trip, and Kay and I devised a fun way of saving money so we should be good by next summer. :)

Time for some research…

The Final Frontier

I was cleaning up my laptop (sorting and deleting files) when I came across my “Travel” folder. As I was skimming through old trips and potential ones for the future, I found my Northeast Canada folder. I’ve always wanted to visit Nova Scotia, and last year I was online and discovered a former village in Newfoundland that was the early settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows. Leif Ericson discovered and settled in this area before Christopher Columbus discovered what is now the Bahamas. The remains of L’Anse aux Meadows were uncovered in the 1960′s yet still remain unpopular.

While I’m still not certain of what I’d like my next big trip to be, driving to Newfoundland and Labrador is definitely on the list. Just looking at a map brings chills down my side. The thought of exploring a new area is so exciting. I feel like this would be the Final Frontier for me when it comes to North America. I’ve driven southwest to San Diego California, northwest to Fairbanks Alaska, southeast to Orlando Florida, and northwest to Bar Harbor Maine. Yes, I would like to go back and drive to Key West in Florida and Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, but those are relatively minor trips I would fly in for and perform a short drive. For the most part I have driven to three of the four “corners” of the continent (excluding Mexico for safety reasons), but in terms of the northeast, there is technically still another 1,000 miles of road for me to drive past Maine.

Aside from traveling to Europe for my next trip, or flying to Colorado and driving around the southwest to California, I think this Newfoundland and Labrador road trip is another top candidate.

I would drive up the coast of New England into New Brunswick Canada, then over to Halifax Nova Scotia. From there I would take a ferry to Newfoundland and drive up the Province to L’Anse aux Meadows. Afterwards I would take another ferry into Labrador and drive up to Happy Valley – Goose Bay. That area seems to be the farthest drivable area in the northeast part of the continent. It would be a long loop inland and back down to Quebec, then Montreal, and then back to the states.

Overall I think it would be a fun drive. I have a feeling it’ll require a lot of research to make this trip exciting, and I’ll want to spend less time driving and more time exploring towns and cities. But heck, after driving through northern Alberta and Saskatchewan, I should be used to it.

Here’s a map of a rough route option:

And some rough calculations:

- 3,600 miles round trip
- Drive 7 hours a day for 10 days
- 133 gallons of gas at @ 27mpg
- $532 in gas @ $4.00/gallon

If I spend 9 nights in hotels at $100 a piece, that’s almost a grand right there. Of course I’d like to spend $50 on a Motel 6, but most of the towns and cities I’d want to stay in have jacked-up rates. That’s what I witnessed on my road trip to Alaska. So we’re looking at $1,400 just in gas and hotels, not to mention food, souvenirs, and activities.  So this’ll be a 2 grand trip easily. Hmmm… Better start saving…

Trip to Kennebunkport, Maine

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis past weekend Kay and I went to Kennebunkport in Maine. I had been to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park a few years back and loved it, and decided I wanted to head back to the state but to a point further south with less travel time. Through my research online Kennebunkport became the next destination.

Kay and I arrived around 1pm Saturday afternoon. Both Saturday and Sunday had heavy cloud cover with slight drizzles of rain here and there. Luckily it didn’t prohibit us from exploring the town, but we mostly just ate at restaurants we looked up while planning the trip. Here’s some quick reviews:

Saturday Lunch : Mabel’s Loster Claw
- The food was good. Nothing to write home about but no complaints.

Saturday Snack : Rococo Artisan Ice Cream
- While walking around town we hit up Rococo’s for ice cream. While the menu is very limited, the quality (and quantity) is really great. They had interesting flavors using ingredients like Maple Syrup and Goat Cheese.

Saturday Dinner : Federal Jack’s
- Food was okay. Reminded me of Applebees. Wait staff was horrible. It took us 2 minutes to be acknowledged by the 5 employee’s up front. Waitress forgot our order and brought out the wrong drink while serving us. I can see this as a good place to drink on a Friday night if you’re in your 20′s though. The beer was good.

Sunday Lunch : Maine Diner
- I had the Triple D which was featured on Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives. The Seafood Chowder and Codfish Cake were really good. It also came with a Lobster Pie which I was so full I barely touched. I’m also not a huge lobster fan.

Sunday Dinner : Stripers
- This place had the best food we had while in Kennebunkport. Kay and I were so full from lunch that we sat at the bar for awhile then ordered Oysters, Crab Cakes, and Mussels. They were all really good (as was the Sangria). I highly recommend this place for dinner. It’s also along the water (windows facing West) so you can watch the sun set.

Monday Lunch : The Clam Shack
- After kayaking to Goose Island we walked over to The Clam Shack where we ordered fried Clam Strips which were amazing. We followed that up with ice cream at Aunt Marie’s which was pretty good too.

Photo from TheClamShack.net

 

Aside from stuffing our faces with food we also drove down Ocean Drive and passed the Bush Family Compound and went for a kayaking tour with the Coastal Maine Kayak company to Goose Island. It was fun and scenic, especially since the weather was beautiful that day. During our shopping spree in the market area we took home some interesting local ingredients including dressings, jams, salsas, mustard, and marinades from the Flaming Gourmet. That store is dangerous to the wallet!

You can find an album with photos from the trip here.