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The 2021 Variant - The Year We All Said Would Be Better

My year in review - another bad year for travellers

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I reread my 2020 year end blog before starting to write my new one for 2021. I ended last year in isolation, staying at home, and being anxious about Covid. The vaccines were not quite available yet. It was scary to even think about going out any place. I started the new year with hopes of getting a vaccine and getting my life back to normal. I soon realized I had no idea what normal was any more. We were not getting a new year. It was going to be 2020 the 21 variant.

I grew a Covid beard in 2020 and had planned to clean it up in the new year. But we never really got that new year and the beard remains. I have kept it trimmed and not long. But this is still a first for me and I have grown to appreciate it. I have a feeling it will still be here at the end of 2022 also

2019

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2020

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2021

I spent most of January and February still in lock down but not just because of Covid. Our dog Tallulah had been hit by a car in December 2020. She had surgery on December 23, 2020 and the emergency vet tried to save her front leg. We brought her home on Christmas Eve 2020. She was under complete sedation and was not supposed to move at all. We found out eight weeks later that the surgery was not successful and she would need her front leg amputated. So I remained at home with her for her recovery from the amputation which was just as well as I had not received a my Covid shot yet and should not have been out anyway.

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My daughters and Mark were all concerned that I should get my Covid Vax as soon as I was eligible. My age group was opened in March for the shot. Katie drove me down to the Raven's Football stadium where the state of Maryland was doing mass vaccinations.

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Memorial to Baltimore Colts Football Player Johnny Unitas with a mask

I was glad to get the vaccination hoping it would allow me to get back to some sort of normalcy. But as I mentioned above I was soon to find out I still had no idea what normal really was any more. Three days after getting the vaccine I woke up to find that I had no sense of taste of smell. I knew what that meant! I had Covid. I went to the nearest test location at my local CVS Pharmacy to do a drive through test. One day later I had my response. I tested positive for Covid. This was certainly not part of my plane. I was still home with a recuperating dog and now I was concerned about getting ill from Covid. I was very fortunate. My case was very mild, thanks to the vaccine I had taken right before being diagnosed. I had no other symptoms other than no taste or smell. No fever. No weakness. And within the week my taste and smell has returned. But we still had to stay quarantined for a full ten days. I spoke with my personal physician by way of a Zoom meeting. He said I could assume I caught it while in line for the shot at the mass distribution site and that in his opinion my vaccination worked because I had such a light case.

April the fourth was a big day for me this year. I felt some sense of things returning to some kind of normal.

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I was a fully vaccinated Covid surviving member of society and I returned to favorite bar, Racers, and had my first beer back inside the bar.

Now for the next big step. Mark was finally qualified to be vaccinated. So now we were wondering if we would be to do some traveling. Nothing big, nothing out of the country. We had really wanted to go to Hawaii again but that was just not possible. So instead I found a wonderful beach rental on the Outer Banks. Tallulah was doing well with only three legs but we could not see ourselves leaving her at a kennel just yet. Luckily the house I found to rent had handicap access ramps. It was perfect.

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Tallulah loved the beach house and spent a lot of time on the deck watching the neighbors. This had to be one of our best vacations in a long time. We were still somewhat isolated but it could not have been more relaxing.

We were able to do some more local traveling in September over the Labor Day weekend. Oh how we wanted it to be Hawaii again but that still just was not happening for us. Plane travel was still sketchy. People were fighting on planes over mask mandates. Flight schedules were not dependable. And honestly Hawaii was not being too open to tourists returning yet anyway and who can blame them. And due to the unvaccinated Covid just kept growing. After some initial Google searches we were able to find a log cabin to rent in New Hampshire in the same area we vacationed in 2020. So the 2021 varient year of 2020 continued for us.

We enjoyed New England as much this year as we did in 2020. And the blending of the years continued. Writing now it's difficult to remember did that happen in 2020 or was it 2021. It's almost liked we have blotted out 2020 and just jumped from 2019 right into 2021. It's still difficult even going through photos to tell the story of this year to differentiate what happened and when. And to make it even more bizarre I am currently researching plans for a return this spring to New England.

We found out that Tallulah does travel well. She managed the both trips in the car with no real issues. She was more relaxed than at home. At home she is on constant guard duty guarding our house and yard growling and barking at everything and anything that moves. But on the vacations she seemed to be on vacation also. She ignored most of the dogs at the rest stops. She did not bark at any of the neighboring vacationers at either location. She pretty much became a some what normal dog. And then we returned home and she went back to her self appointed guard dog duties.

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Our cabin was isolated and on a dirt road. We were surround by beautiful lakes, trails, mountains and wild turkeys! The only time Tallulah got really animated was when a large group of wild turkeys decided to visit out yard. She also got a little agitated one evening and the next morning I saw a paw print that might have been from a small bear in our back yard. But other than the wild life there was nothing there bother us and we had one of our most relaxed vacations in years. We hiked. We photographed lakes. We saw lighthouses and cliff climbers. We drove to Maine and my daughter from Massachusetts drove up to see us for a day also.

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Portland, Maine Lighthouse

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Cliff Climber at Cathedral Ledge New Hampshire

The year progressed to a slow end by December. I saw some friends get sick. I saw some friends die. I got angry at Covid. I got angry at the unvaxxed who continue to make this pandemic a political argument while I tried to avoid political arguments. And I spent a lot of time at my local bar. Day drinking at Racers was my one refuge. With Covid and the restrictions, depleted staff, and the general malaise of the year they survived. Many places closed permanently. Some closed temporarily. But my favorite bar survived. Monday mornings this was where you would find me. It was never crowded. There was no real concern of getting infected from people who were not there. It was just me and my bartenders this year. Roxy, Mariam, Bernard, John, Eric, and Brooks kept me entertained and hopefully I didn't bore them too much with my old man stories. And I thank the manager Emily for her kindness to an old man with free tickets to a local beer event this year and many free samples of the newest beers on draft. And Monday regulars Lou, Chris, Roger all properly vaxxed. All feeling safe. And all glad for the escape. They all helped me keep my sanity this year.

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Colorful beer for a black and white world - Racers Cafe Parkville, Maryland The 2021 Variant

Ending this year I am glad t to have had my family together all at the same time over the Christmas holidays this. I am grateful for the vaccinations and the boosters being available. I am thankful they are all vaccinated and have received their boosters. I am thankful to have survived a very minor Covid infection. I am thankful for a year with strong leadership from our President and no longer going to bed angry or fearful each night from the actions of his predecessor. And I am looking forward to a new year. Will it be 2020 variant 22 this year? Will we all adjust to the new normal? It's difficult to say. I do know I will miss those good friends and family who did not survive this year. I dread hitting the big 70 this year but grateful to have been able to make it this far.

And Tallulah is looking forward to another vacation from her guard duties and returning to her mountain retreat.

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Posted by littlesam1 18:15 Archived in USA Tagged beer dogs new_hampshire bars north_carolina outer_banks covid year_in_review racers_cafe Comments (10)

2020 - The Year We All Stayed Home

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I usually write a year end blog on New Years Day. I have been thinking about what I wanted to say about 2020. I went back and reread my year end blogs from 2019, 2018, and 2017. I noticed that each of those years I started out by saying this has not been one of my best years. And I ended each blog saying I was sure the new year would be better. This year I just don't know what to say. So I think this photo taken in Meredith, New Hampshire is the best way to start. What a long strange trip it's been.
Last years blog said we were already planning travel for February 2020. Well that didn't happen. Mark did buy his new car in February.

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And we did take a road trip to Odessa, Delaware where we went to a restaurant for the last time without a mask. Also with the new car we went to Woodland Beach, Delaware. That's a place I had not been since I was five years old when my family rented a boat and went crabbing in the Delaware Bay. The high lights of Woodland Beach were my photos of a lone house on the beach...

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..and a nuclear reactor on the New Jersey shore across the Delaware Bay. When I edited my photo of the reactor to a black and white image there was a spooky blue haze all around it like radiation coming out of it. Oh 2020 this was just my first surprise of the year.

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We started hoarding toilet paper, stocking up a two week supply of emergency groceries and hunting for masks to wear next. While doing this we got the word from my daughter Danielle that she had been hired for a job in Boston, She had been unemployed for most of 2019. She and her wife ended up selling their house in Atlanta, packing up a rental van and moving to Boston right at the heart of the original quarantine. List this under things to stress out Dad. Just as Danielle was preparing to move my other daughter Katie was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. She was hospitalized and of course we were not allowed to visit. Another item to add to the list of things to stress out Dad. We did go the hospital parking lot and wave to Katie's window. You can see Katie in the window above. I will not be embarrassed to say I cried on the way home.

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So what is next to add to the list of things to stress out Dad. After leaving the hospital Katie was told due to Covid and budgetary issues she was being let go from her job. Perfect timing. Just what a person with a major medical diagnosis needs. No health insurance. Lots of prayers were said. That's one thing 2020 has done. It has increased my prayer life triple fold. And within a couple of weeks Katie was offered a temporary job in New Hampshire! The company provided her with a beautiful log cabin on isolated dirt road with a view of Mt Washington in her back yard.

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I was a bit concerned when she accepted the job. The idea of her just being diagnosed with Crohn's disease and moving to an isolated cabin on a dirt road in New Hampshire was definitely another item on the things to stress out Dad list. She had to drive up for an initial interview and introduction to the new company. I did not want her to drive from Baltimore to Lancaster, New Hampshire by herself so I drove up with her. We were booked into a resort that had been closed for twelve weeks, The Mountain View Inn. We were one of a handful of guests there for opening weekend. Other than one or two other people were were the only guests in a 180 room resort. I will say in the midst of a world wide pandemic with quarantining all around this was a wonderful escape for three days.

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I wanted to be trendy and follow the big fashion statement of 2020, a Covid beard. I had never grown a beard before and I have to admit I liked having one. I still have it to start out the new year 2021. Add this to the list of things to stress out your husband.

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We were able to visit Katie in New Hampshire later this summer and also spend a day in Boston with Danielle and Andrea. It was a bit tricky going to Boston. Massachusetts had a ban on visitors from Maryland due to Covid that came with a healthy fine if you tried to spend the night there. We did drive to Danielle's house and drove with her to see some of the sites in Boston but that was the best we could do under the circumstances.

2020 continued to haunt us the rest of the year. Everyone has been affected by 2020 no matter who they are. It was no respecter of persons. I had friends who died. Friends who were very sick. And our beloved dog Delilah died this year. She was fourteen years old and had health issues. We did get to take her to New Hampshire before she died and she loved the cabin and the huge fields around it. She died November 8, 2020. We had a vet come to the house and we said our goodbyes on the back deck of our house.

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We were lost without her and knew we wanted another dog to fill the void as soon as possible. We found Tallulah just a few weeks later from a rescue site. We drove to central Pennsylvania to pick her and bring her home.

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But 2020 was not finished with our home yet. Two days before Christmas Tallulah darted out of our house and was hit by a car. We thought she was gone for good. Once again many prayers were said and out faith was tested but she survived. She had a dislodged shoulder and a multi fractured leg below the shoulder. There was concern this 18 month old pup would have to have her leg amputated. But as of New Years Day she is recuperating at home and her leg has been saved. We will have eight weeks of recovery and hopefully the leg will heal properly.

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As I said in the beginning "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been". 2020 is a year no one living now will ever forget. This truly has been one of the worst years of our lives. But my girls both have jobs. They both had adventures moving to New England during the pandemic. Mark's mother had Covid while in assisted living and recovered but sadly is fading from Alzheimer's every single day. Our dog survived. We have toilet paper. And as a family we all have each other.

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What is my final image of 2020? This about sums it up. A dirty mask left on a table in Littleton, New Hampshire. I'll this year here at the table.

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Posted by littlesam1 20:39 Archived in USA Tagged family new_hampshire 2020 covid year_end Comments (11)

All Alone - Visiting A Resort During A Pandemic


View Weekend In New England - Pandemic traveling on littlesam1's travel map.

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I don't normally visit large expensive resorts. An all inclusive resort in the Caribbean would be my worst nightmare vacation. Recently I did visit a very beautiful resort and spa in New Hampshire. And it was not a nightmare. Of course there was no one else there but me. So that made it easier for me to enjoy. My daughter had a job interview in Lancaster, New Hampshire the first weekend in June this year. The company interviewing her booked us a room at The Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa, Of course this was in the midst of quarantines and lock downs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resort had been closed for eleven weeks. They reopened on Friday June 5, 2020. We arrived on Sunday June 7. It was interesting to see a big resort like this with no one else there. I did see three or four people in passing. But for the most part the halls were empty. The ballrooms were vacant. The bars were closed. And there we three very friendly staff members that I interacted with during my stay.

The hotel was massive. It has 150 rooms. The have a full menu of services available for the guests. I was at the hotel for two full days while my daughter was interviewing for the job. She took the car each day into the tiny town of Lancaster, New Hampshire and I stayed behind at the hotel. I had planned to bring my lap tap with me. I was going to relax at the hotel and work on editing my travel photos. I figued a glass of wine from the bar or on the patio with my lap top in front of me would be perfect. When we arrived I realized I had left my lap top packed up in its travel case back at home. And then I found out the bar would not be open and there was no alcohol being served on the patio or any where else in the hotel. New Hampshire only had restaurants and bars opened if they had outside seating. So I had lunch on the patio deck each day but no wine or beer to relax me.

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That is my lunch view. Some water, a menu and a table with beautiful mountains in the background. It was a bit odd. I was the only person at the hotel other than one or two other guests. I asked the lady at the desk about lunch. She told me I would need to make a reservation each day for lunch. I looked at her with a grin and kind of looked over my shoulder to make sure there was no one else in line for reservations. So I asked to make a reservation. She asked me what time. It was 11:45 am. I looked at my watch and asked "Is 12:00 alright." And I am not exaggerating here. She pulled her little electronic tablet out of the drawer and checked the calendar. She keyed me in for 12:00. She then told me to come down to the lobby a few minutes before 12:00 and some one would come to seat me in the porch dining area. By this time it was already 11:50 so I just walked over and sat on one of the large couches in the lobby and waited to be called for seating.

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So there I sat with my mask, which was required in any public area of the hotel, waiting for someone to call me for lunch. And magically at precisely 12:00 a lady appeared from the porch area and called my name. I was the only person in the lobby. But I guess she wanted to make sure I was indeed the person waiting for lunch. I turned my head around and she asked me, "Are you Larry?" I assured her I was Larry and we walked out to the porch together. I looked around. There were several tables on the terrace all empty. She asked if I had a preference. I said no so she looked at all of the tables and pointed to one and asked if that was alright. She then looked around as if it was crowded and seated me. They were not using individual menus and I had to use my cell phone and focus on the link provided at the table to see the menu. She brought me a bottle of water and left me to read the menu on my phone. I did understand that the kitchen was not fully stocked yet and the menu was not full of choices. They had sandwiches for the most part and a pizza. I opted for the cheeseburger platter and had an enjoyable lunch. I took photos of my food and chatted on Facebook while I was eating. There wasn't much else to do.

After lunch I needed to find something to do to entertain myself. The hotel normally has a full selection of services for the guests. They have a spa in the tower room which looked beautiful in the photos. They also have an in ground pool and a huge golf course. The spa and the pool were both victims of the COVID-19 closing and were not open for guests. There was a large golf course which surrounded the hotel. It was open I was told. But I am not a golfer so I did not really care one way or the other about the golf course I did look at it though and the grounds were beautiful.

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But like everything else at the hotel, there was no one there to play golf. So I could not even go outside and watch a brisk game of golf being played. They did have two services available for guests. And they were not exactly what I was expecting. There is a large llama farm attached to the hotel where you can visit the llamas.

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There were quite a few llamas to go look at. I had seen llamas in the wild when I was hiking in Peru once. But I had not been to an actual llama farm. So I took a walk to the back part of the property to go visit the llamas. They mostly ignored me. I did whistle and got the attention of the one pictured above. He looked at me. I snapped the photo. And that was the end of our interaction.

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I tried to get a selfie with llama looking over my shoulder but he chose to ignore me and went back to grazing. I think he was as bored as I was at this point. The hotel did have one other service available at this time. COVID-19 was not interfering with everything. Every morning between 9:45 and 11:00 am the hotel offered axe throwing. Yes, you read that correct. There was no pool open, no spa to use, and no bar for a drink. But you could go throw axes.

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I took a photo of the TV screen where it explained about the axe throwing This was advertised as Adult Axe Throwing. I was glad to hear this. I certainly would not want to see child or family axe.throwing. I was a bit confused by the image on the TV screen though. It appears the two ladies are getting ready to battle with axes much to the amusement of the man standing behind them. My only thought was if there were people here I could go watch this and maybe start looking for Jessica Fletcher from Murder She Wrote in the episode The Missing Axe.

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I did do some hiking on the back roads while I was here. The scnery was beautiful. My only concern was all of the signs warning me to wear repellent and to be check for ticks after hiking. I had not prepared for this and doubted they had tick repellent at the hotel. So I mainly walked down old roads and took photos. I did not really adventure out into the wooded areas. There were also warning signs about moose and I had no idea how to deal with a wild moose. The only moose I was ever familiar with was Bullwinkle J. Moose.

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It was fun though. I've never had a huge resort all to myself before. The room was beautiful. I really had nothing to complain about with the hotel or the staff. They could not have been nicer. And they seemed really happy to be back at work and having a guest again, even if it was only me.

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I will admit thought that the empty hallways did get a little creepy in such a big hotel. At times I did think of Jack Nicholson in the movie The Shining. If I had seen two little creepy twin girls in the hallway I would have run as fast as I could out of there. Of course a lone old man in an empty hallway wearing a mask is kind of creepy in itself.

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Posted by littlesam1 14:50 Tagged hotel moose new_hampshire alone pandemic mountain_view_grand_resort_and_ jessica_fletcher axe_throwing Comments (10)

The Mountains Are Calling Traveling During The Pandemic 2020


View Weekend In New England - Pandemic traveling on littlesam1's travel map.

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I did not think I would be traveling this year. We have been under quarantine for three months. We had cancelled a planned trip to Sweden for June. We had grown content staying at home. No complaints. We had our masks for when we ventured out locally. All was good even in trying times like these. Then fate stepped in. My younger daughter had gone through a period of unemployment. She lived in Atlanta and had been offered a job in Boston. So she ended up moving in April from Atlanta to Boston and was driving all that distance in the midst of the quarantine. My older daughter ended up in the hospital in May for a week. And when she returned home to recuperate she was informed her company was going through a COVID caused reduction in force and she no longer had a job. So I had a lot more on my mind than just a pandemic and no masks could cover my anxiety. I was escaping a lot of this by looking at my photos and at Facebook pages related to Switzerland. Switzerland is one of my favorite travel destinations. The mountains calm me and bring me peace.

The first week in June my oldest daughter Katie received an offer for a contracting job in New Hampshire. She had only been unemployed for two weeks so this was a God send. The company interviewed her over the internet. They liked her and thought she would be a good match for their company but they wanted to meet her in person first. This was completely understandable. So she planned her drive from Baltimore to Lancaster, New Hampshire.

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Lancaster was not only in New Hampshire. But it was high north New Hampshire. This would mean at least an eight or nine hour drive from Baltimore. Not wanting to see her drive all that distance alone I offered to go with her. She happily agreed this would be best. So it wasn't Switzerland, but the mountains were calling and I must go. During our quarantine Katie sent me a few surprise gifts from Amazon to lift my spirits. The cup in the photo at the beginning of this blog was one of those gifts. The cup was imprinted with the words The Mountains Are Calling and I Must Go. So it does seem like fate was playing a game with us all and all things were working for the best.

Travel during a pandemic is different. I expected it to be different. I wasn't packing passports, power adapters, or language guides. I was packing masks, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer. Food was also an issue. It was a double problem. Katie was on a restricted diet from her hospital stay. And there was no place open for food other than fast food drive throughs and order in advance carry out. Luckily we were able to stop in Boston to visit my younger daughter Danielle and she prepared lunch for us. She was trying to prepare something for us that would be ready when we arrived so we could eat, visit and then hit the road again. But this was not easy. We had a major hiccup on the road. We were dependent on a maps app that streamed from the phone into the car through blu ray. We stopped at a rest stop where we gloved and masked up for a break. When we restarted the car the phone app for the map started an automatic update and we had no map for a few miles. When we finally had map service again we had missed a major exit making us arrive in Boston two hours later than planned. We had to text Danielle updates on our location so she could make sure not to cook too early or too late. It all worked out. We arrived two hours late and stayed longer than we had planned but it was all good. We would just arrive a little later in New Hampshire.

We also luckily had Mark at home giving us guidance. Mark is a map guru. I hate maps. Mark loves maps and studies them. When he and I travel he will have the trip all worked out in his head from the maps he studies at home. He then hands me the atlas, points me to the page, and asks me to watch for exits. I then get confused, read the map wrong, and end up having no idea where we are located. Mark was texting us helpful directions while we had the phone app updating. He mentioned to watch for the Tappan Zee Bridge near Tarrytown, New York several times. Once again I am useless with directions and maps and now apparently useless looking for bridges also. I never saw the Tappan Zee bridge.

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A while later Mark calls me on the phone and asks if we ever crossed the bridge. I said no. I never saw the bridge. But we were now past Tarrytown, New York and back on our way. He said then you had to have crossed the Tappan Zee River. I said no. There was no sign for the Tappan Zee River or Bridge. But we did cross a beautiful bridge about twenty minutes ago. It was the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. It appears the Cuomo Bridge is the name for the newTappan Zee Bridge. The original bridge has been demolished. Yes once again the map guru was right and I was not. Even when we aren't traveling together we still get into arguments over maps it seems.

Driving through New York State we saw signs of locations that immediately hit me with nostalgic memories. We passed New Rochelle which immediately reminded me of the home of Rob and Laura Petry on the old Dick Van Dyke Show. Then we passed Brewester, New York which gave me my best memory. I said to Katie we should stop in Brewester to dine at Lou Marie's French Restaurant. Katie glanced over at me kind of puzzled wondering where that came from. I told her he was Ann Marie's father. She was still a bit confused. Then I explained it was a reference to That Girl which she knows is one of my favorite 1960's TV shows.

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It was on to Massachusettes to see Danielle and Andrea. We had not been to see them in Atlanta for at least a year so we were excited to see them now in Boston and to have a quick visit.

After spending an extra hour with Danielle we finally left to continue on to Lancaster, New Hampshire. We had originally planned to arrive around eight o"clock but by now we were three hours behind schedule. We arrived at the Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa at eleven o'clock that evening. It was very dark on the back roads in New Hampshire with no kind of street lights. Katie mentioned she was glad I was with her on these dark roads. It would not have been fun navigating them alone. We finally found the hotel on a very deserted dark road. The hotel was immense. It is a 300 room resort. The hotel had been closed for eleven weeks due to COVID quarantine rules in New Hampshire. The had just reopened two days before our arrival. There were only two or three other cars in the parking lot when we arrived. We found they belonged to the staff and that we were the two of very few guests actually at the hotel. We had to wear our masks in the hotel lobby while checking in. The lady at the front desk said she thought we might have cancelled due to our late arrival. But she was very pleasant and told us she was glad to be back at work again.

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Mountain View Grand Resort and Spa

While in New Hampshire I spent my time walking and hiking the small roads and trails near the hotel while Katie was interviewing for the job opportunity. I saw signs warning of moose crossing. Although it would have been exciting I did not see any moose. I did see some deer along the road. And some wild turkeys on the farm at the hotel. We were told to watch for moose on the roads at night. It was difficult to see them in the dark. The same for deer. And to our surprise we were told to watch for wild turkeys also. We were told hitting a turkey could total you car as well as a moose or deer. Who knew?

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Masked and ready to travel back home

Our return trip home was not very different from our drive up. We missed one of our exits on the interstate and decided to back track to find the exit rather than continue to drive out of our way. Food was still an issue for us. With Katie's restricted diet and a lack of open restaurants we had to resort to fast food drive throughs again. We drove back through Vermont and stopped at a small gas station with a small store attached. The area reminded us very much of some old country stores we had seen in the southern part of the US. We noted the only difference was the accent. We were tired. It had been a whirlwind road trip. Leaving Baltimore early on Sunday and back home late Tuesday night. But it was a nice break from being house bound in quarantine. As always the mountains spoke spoke to me. I was refreshed but tired. And Katie returned home with a new job which is the best part.

It wasn't Switzerland but the mountains in New Hampshire were beautiful. They called me and I answered. Even if only for a day.

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Posted by littlesam1 14:44 Archived in USA Tagged mountains road_trip new_hampshire massachusetts boston maryland mountain_view_grand_resort_and_ Comments (14)

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