Miles of Smiles

After traveling forty-seven hundred miles in eighteen days, we safely arrived back home on Tuesday. Since then, I have washed several loads of laundry, processed photos from the later part of the trip, updated our annual Shutterfly book, and pondered how to approach this post.

First of all, there is nothing more satisfying than having plans you’ve meticulously made unfold beyond your expectations. Great weather had a lot to do with that, but I also like to think that attention to detail, such as allotment of time in each destination and tailoring the trip to our interests contributed as well. Be warned, this post is fairly long and photo intensive. I have tried not to bore you with too many details, but I did share a few specifics, some personal opinions and some valuable links, for readers who might want to plan a similar trip.

The map below is the same as the one I shared in the last post, but with two return stops added. One week before we left, we decide to break up the trip home by staying two nights each at Bethesda, MD and Kiawah Island, SC. We covered a big chunk of the Eastern US during our time away and while some areas are old favorites, others were completely new to us. We both agree that we love the excitement of making new discoveries, but there is something comforting about returning to a familiar place and seeing it with fresh eyes.

First Stop – Georgia

We generally categorize our destinations as primary and secondary, based on level of interest so Alpharetta, Georgia was a logical one night stop in route to Louisville, Kentucky. Alpharetta is a beautiful suburb not far from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and was the perfect location to enjoy an outing at Gibbs Garden, great accommodations and a nice meal among a youthful crowd of local residents. This stop kicked-off what would be a very scenic and comfortable road trip. The surprise here was the little waterfall in the first photo below. Who knew?

Louisville, Kentucky

We found our first ‘real’ waterfall in Corbin, KY, located within Cumberland Falls State Park. The destination was conveniently (by design) on our way from Alpharetta to Louisville and easily accessible. Some waterfalls are earned and some are simply there. Cumberland Falls is in the later category. We pulled into a parking lot, walked a few yards and boom! There she was is all her glory. On this day, the water flow was heavy and with a powerful 69 foot drop, the mist floated through the air, blanketing everything and everyone in its vicinity. Welcome to beautiful Kentucky.

Pronounced Lool vull, by locals, and Lou e ville by the rest of the US, we were quickly enamored with this city. Having never visited the state of Kentucky, Malcolm and I relied on its iconic reputation for race horses, bourbon and bluegrass to choose Louisville as a destination. Wow, did it deliver all that and more. We have been to some very picturesque states; Texas, California, and Oregon, to name a few and the vistas here were comparable and beyond. Big skies, rolling hills covered in bluegrass, wild flowers, horses, long horn cattle, mammoth caves, magnificent waterfalls and of course Bourbon were highlights of our time here.

We shared our time here equally between sight-seeing and bourbon tasting, with the surprise outlier being a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum, (Malcolm’s pick). Until our museum visit, I thought that Louisville Slugger was a famous baseball player. For those of you who also fall into that category of ignorance, it is actually a baseball bat. In fact, it is THE baseball bat and we got to see how it is made. For $15, the forty-five minute tour included a souvenir mini-bat for each of us.

Having been in manufacturing for twenty-two years, Malcolm appreciated the process well beyond the typical feelings of boyhood nostalgia. I have to admit, it was intriguing to watch and I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend the tour.

Continuing the theme of ‘little boys and their toys’, we visited the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. Malcolm enjoyed this self-guided tour through the facility and I basically tagged along. Highly recommended for ‘car junkies enthusiast.’ Fee $15 for unlimited time.

Bourbon tasting is in a league of its own here and we visited a couple of our favorites, along with a new-to-us distillery. Lux Row is the featured bourbon at a culinary event we will be attending next month, so it was our first choice for a tour and tasting. Their facility is beautiful, the tour was informative and very professional and our time ended with a tasting of four of their products. Fee for the tour and tasting was $13 each.

We had a free tasting at 1792 (Barton Distilleries) and our last tasting of the day was at Willett (fee $12). I should mention that Kentucky’s distilleries are located miles apart from each other so if you go, plan your reservations carefully, pace yourself and enjoy some amazing drives.

Our home base here for four nights was the Brown Hotel, located in downtown Louisville. Covid restrictions were still in place and hotel services were limited. There were also some closures and reduced operating hours for restaurants around town. We quickly noticed this to be a recurring condition throughout our travels. We never felt inconvenienced and made necessary adjustments to our expectations, considering it a small price to pay for being able to travel again.

Corning, New York

The Elmira-Corning area and many other areas around the Finger Lakes of New York are a mecca for waterfalls. We discovered Watkins Glen State Park a few years ago and loved it so much that we made it the centerpiece of this road trip. I can’t say enough about the beauty of upstate New York and will let the photos speak for themselves.

A daily routine of hearty breakfast, morning hike, waterfall hunting and late afternoon lunch along the Seneca wine trail is a life I could get used to. I was in waterfall heaven and the anticipation of a new adventure every day was invigorating. Some falls are easier to reach than others and a typical day included hiking approximately 5 miles of easy to moderate terrain. Taughannock Falls, Lucifer and Ithaca Falls are pictured below. There are lots of resources on the internet that will help you plan which ones to visit. As with the distilleries in Kentucky, waterfalls are every where in this region of New York. It is wise to have a plan before heading out or you could end up driving in circles. Click Here for one of the guides we found helpful.

In addition to waterfalls, this region is also known for its Riesling, a light, slightly dry, slightly sweet sipping wine that goes well with anything from cheese to barbeque. We chose the wineries we visited based on the view. Seriously, it’s as simple as that. A nice chilled bottle, a plate of cheese and a killer view of the lake – perfect ending to a perfect day. There were others, of course, but the menu, service and ambiance at Fox Run earned a shout-out.

Home base for four nights was the Hilton Garden Inn in Corning. There are many options for accommodations in the area, including a number of charming B&B’s, but we like this hotel chain. We stayed here on our first trip to Corning and found it to be comfortable and exceptionally managed. Once again, we noticed a shortage of workers and reduced services, but it did not diminish our comfort in the least. One very dedicated employee seemed to be everywhere, from cooking our breakfast, to providing fresh towels to our room. More signs of the times we live in.

Block Island, Rhode Island

Six years ago we discovered Block Island. It is one of those places that compels a return visit, so it was an easy choice to make this our next stop after leaving New York. The last time we visited the island, we left our car behind and rented a scooter for the day while visiting. This time, we took our car over on the Ferry with us. It was the right decision since it enabled us to access many of the island’s gravel roads where scooters are prohibited.

When you think of the islands of New England, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket likely come to mind, but Block Island doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. There are a number of reasons for that, but most likely it’s about size. Block Island is just seven miles long and 3 miles wide. Over 43% of it is a natural preserve, which leaves very little left for development.

The island is hilly, with rocky beaches and high bluffs juxtaposed against flat sandy beaches, unspoiled coves and a grand salt pond cutting through it all. The natural beauty and wildlife habitats encountered here are astounding.

There are a couple of small hotels and a few Inns within walking distance of the ferry. Private homes are also available throughout the island. The tiny downtown area and main street showcase the National Hotel as its centerpiece. It is flanked by restaurants, souvenir shops, and ice cream parlors intermixed with scooter and bicycle rentals. Look further to the left and up the hill sits the stately Spring House Hotel, built in 1852. White Adirondack chairs, neatly displayed in a row on the front lawn, welcome visitors to sit a while. There is nothing pretentious about this place and you are clearly welcome.

From the minute you step, or drive off the ferry, you know you are on island time. Life moves at a slower pace here, with fewer distractions and less noise. Our days begin and end much the same but the discoveries made between sunrise and sunset is what brings us back.

A good place to begin exploring Block Island is with its beaches. There are several notable ones that couldn’t be more different and unique. These are our favorite three.

Mohegan Bluffs Beach

Mohegan Bluffs from the overlook platform

The platform at Mohegan Bluffs beach is just under 100 steps. It’s an easy walk, but beyond the platform gets a bit tricky. Erosion has dissolved the natural path down, so locals have rigged a rope for the remaining trek. Malcolm hung back and cheered me on. It was worth the effort.

Not to be missed just a few yards away is the Southeast light, a national historic landmark built in 1875. Parking spaces are located within a short walk of the structure.

Cow Cove – North Light

This beach is located at the end of Corn Neck Road near Settler’s Rock. Park at the monument and walk about a half mile to the tip of the island. That is where we found the these guys hanging out.

On the hike to the tip of the island, you will pass the North Light. The second light on the island and also a historic treasure. It typically offers tours and will be reopening soon.

Mansion Beach

Follow Corn Neck Road toward the North Light for about three miles. The right turn is marked with a sign and easy to follow. Parking spaces are just below the ruins of the old mansion. This beach is away from the crowds near the main street beach and has beautiful white sand.

Our home base on Block Island for four nights was the Darius Inn. Run by two sisters, the Inn personifies laid-back, island hospitality and reflects the multi-faceted eccentricities of the guests who find their way there. Having stayed here before, we knew what to expect of our hosts and were appreciative of their creative solution to providing service to our room. Their attitude was ‘your room, your choice.’ 1)Full service, 2)towels only, or 3)no entry were the options provided. Fair enough!

Block Island can be accessed by Ferry from several ports. We departed from the Point Judith Ferry Terminal in Narragansett. Our Senior Tickets cost $20 round trip (different day) and the fee for transporting the car was $77. Same day RT passes are available for $18. Some ports also offer a high speed ferry for passengers only, and there is a small airport on the island. It is possible to get the flavor of this island in one day, but we highly recommend a minimum two night stay.

As I mentioned, you don’t need a car on the island, but it does make getting to out-of-the-way places easier. We would never have found Grace’s Cove or Dories Beach on foot or by bike as the distance would have been too much for us. Unless you are used to riding on hilly terrain, a bike can be limiting and mopeds are not allowed on gravel roads (of which there are many).

Sunset at Grace’s Cove, just us on a secluded beach – ahhhh….

Homeward

It started raining practically the minute we exited the Ferry from Block Island and did not stop until two days later, when we left Bethesda. It was the first and only inclimate weather we encountered during the trip.

Bethesda, Maryland and Kiawah Island, South Carolina were basically rest stops, intended to break up the twenty-one hour drive home, but since we were there, why not explore a little? Adding a second night in each location gave us a full day to poke around.

The first thing we discovered is that most of the museums in DC are still closed and the ones that are open have limited admissions. Since exploring DC was out, we meandered around Bethesda and nearby Annapolis in a pouring rain. Bethesda is a beautiful suburb of DC and I was enthralled with the red-brick, colonial homes (very different to Florida homes), and the historic district in Annapolis is well worth a full day of exploration. We could easily fill a full week in this area and never run out of things to do. Noted! Tired of getting wet, we headed to our favorite place in Annapolis, Cantler’s.

Cantler’s is fairly famous in these parts and people come from all over for their steamed crabs. There was a forty-five minute wait when we got there, but within ten minutes Malcolm nabbed two seats at the bar. It’s the kind of place where you get to know your neighbors quickly, especially if you don’t know how to eat crab. Thanks Cantler’s for saving a soggy day from ruin.

We spent the next two nights at the Andell Inn on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Although there are some parallels, this island couldn’t be more different to Block Island’s kick-back style. It was truly lovely, beautifully sculpted and landscaped, almost to the point of ‘too much.’

A hotel staff member clued us in that the best way to see the island would be to have lunch at the Ocean Course Golf Club (recent home to the PGA National) which would allow us access through the private gate. Once in, it was easy to drive around and gawk appreciate this Audubon designated island. The vistas are beautiful and there are plenty of scenic pull-overs, walking paths and bike trails throughout the property. We are glad we satisfied our curiosity about Kiawah.

We enjoyed our complimentary two night stay at the beautiful Andell Inn (thank you Marriott rewards program) our self-guided tour of the island, a couple of nice meals, a walk through the village shops, a game of corn hole with a sweet young couple we met on the green and an enlightening conversation with the bartender at Cantina 76.

Next stop – home!

Waiting for the sun to set at Grace’s Beach, feeling satisfied, grateful and simply happy to live this life together. Traveling or not, we are always chasing waterfalls.

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Chasing Waterfalls

Today, Malcolm and I are heading north for a fifteen day road trip. Hotels are booked from Georgia to Rhode Island and although we have a few activities planned, a lot has been left to chance. We learned a long time ago to not overschedule, or impose impossible deadlines on ourselves. There is nothing worse than facing a twelve hour drive at 5:00 in the morning if you don’t have to. Road trips should be leisurely and accommodate spontaneous exploration. Otherwise, what’s the point? I say this, as we walk out the door at 5 a.m. to begin the first leg of our journey. 🙂

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Our Evolving Retirement

We were about five years into retirement when I started writing for a now defunct, on-line publication. My job was to write articles to inspire other retirees to visit the forum. Adjusting to retirement was still new. I had a lot to say and a lot to learn.

The words I wrote then can still be applied to today (although we have slowed our pace a bit) and what separates us from stereotypical retirees still holds true.

What I Wrote About Retirement In 2011

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Waterfalls and Other Bright Ideas

I have recently hinted that Malcolm and I will be leaving for a fifteen day road trip in about a month. We are heading north, with Rhode Island being our furthermost destination. My goal is to visit and photograph as many waterfalls as possible along the route.

After a lot of research, I decided to upgrade my camera and have settled on a Panasonic DC g9. I also purchased a new ‘walkabout,’ or multipurpose lens (14-140) which will allow me to leave behind a few lenses that I don’t want to carry. Both items arrived last week, and as with any new equipment, there is a learning curve. I decided I should practice as much as possible before we get on the road. Most of my practice time has been spent shooting the manmade waterfall in my neighborhood at different times of day and in different camera modes.

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For the Love of Easter

We have been a bit overwhelmed with the work of selling our tiny condo and helping our daughter relocate back to Miami to a larger place after living with us this past year, so we didn’t have our usual Easter celebration. Typically, Malcolm’s mom would dye eggs with red onion skins (they look just like the ones in the picture below) and I’d dye a few traditionally colored ones. We’d set a pretty table with dishes bought specially for the occasion at an estate sale many years ago. If they are available, I always add yellow tulips for the centerpiece.

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