A Highly Successful Vacation Redo!

My girls standing at Pickering Wharf in Salem, MA

I can honestly say that this most recent vacation with my girls was the best one we’ve had so far. We crammed a lot into it while still finding time to relax and best of all, we had fun! Having spent last year’s vacation in hospitals, Jaycie was eager to do things on this vacation and every day she enthusiastically asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” She wanted every day filled with something and for a girl who admits that she’s lazy and is proud of that fact, it was an amazing thing to experience!

While the drive out was filled with the usual traffic on 495 the last hour or so, we all had a good time. The girls watched movies on my laptop and I listened to my music up front. We stopped plenty of times for leg stretches and snacks and I didn’t worry about being stuck in traffic because we were in no rush.

We arrived at the Best Western Merrimack Valley in Haverhill, MA a little after 5 p.m. and I was immediately impressed by the cleanliness of the facility and the friendliness of the staff. Our room was on the third floor and I was pleasantly surprised to find that we had our own private balcony with a sliding glass door leading out to it. Being on the top floor, the room had high, upward slanting ceilings and was very spacious. We had two queen beds and they were very comfortable with clean bedding. The room felt very homey and welcoming and I knew we’d be happy there.

Shortly after unpacking the car, the girls and I headed down the road to the 99 Restaurant. We don’t have 99’s where we live in New York, so it’s a treat going to one in New England. Although the restaurant was a little busy for a Wednesday night, we had a great waitress and got our food relatively quickly. The food was delicious and the girls devoured their food, while I took half of mine back to the hotel to eat later. It was a great first evening on our vacation.

The next morning, we headed into Newburyport for the Newburyport Whale Watch. This was what Jaycie had been most excited about and her excitement continued for the entire cruise. She loves boats and being out on the ocean and she was smiling, animated, and happy the entire time. We saw a large pod of dolphins, a sunfish called a mola mola, a couple minke whales, and a humpback whale. At one point, Jaycie was walking back and forth through the lower level of the boat checking one side and the other for whales as the narrator of the tour suggested. She’s spent most of the summer relaxing on the couch or outside swinging so watching her be so animated was almost like seeing a different child. Jordan enjoyed herself too, but was a bit more reserved in a typical 15-year-old fashion. She’d go up on the upper levels of the boat or sit inside reading the book she brought along.

We ate lunch on the boat and weren’t quite ready for dinner yet so we headed into Amesbury, MA to Friendly’s for some ice cream. Ice cream after several hours in the sun on a boat was just what we needed and we decided to just have dinner back at the hotel after picking up some groceries.

On Friday, we headed into Salem, MA because the girls had never been there. I’ve visited twice before, once in October and once in the summer, so I knew my way around pretty well. We walked the streets a bit and I took the girls to the Salem Witch Memorial and around the graveyard a little. We then ate lunch in Red’s Sandwich Shop, which was delicious! Jordan and I brought over half of our lunches with us and they were worth carrying around Salem for a bit before we returned to the car. We visited the Peabody Essex Museum just for the gift shop and to enjoy the air conditioning and then decided it was time to head back to the hotel. We ended up back at the hotel most evenings by 5 p.m. and that was fine with all of us because we were tired.

Saturday, we headed into Boston via the Oak Grove T Station and we got in shortly before lunch. Comic Con Boston was going on so we headed toward the Convention Center just to people watch. On the way there we stopped at South Station for lunch in the food court area because we could all get what we wanted and it was nice and air conditioned! We eventually reached where Comic Con was happening and sat down outside to watch people coming and going. It was fun seeing all the people dressed in costumes and trying to guess what some of them were. Jaycie didn’t quite understand why Jordan and I were so excited seeing people in costumes, but she was a trooper and made the walk for us.

After that we headed back to South Station and then took the necessary subway lines back to where we’d parked the car at Oak Grove. It was a good day to be in Boston because there had been some clouds and a nice breeze, but we were all hot and tired nonetheless. I showered once we got back to the hotel to wash the T humidity off of me and we just relaxed for the evening again.

I’d determined Sunday would be our day of not doing anything and that’s indeed what it turned out to be. We hung out at the hotel for most of the day then drove to a nearby town in New Hampshire to get Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s for dinner. We don’t have either of those chains near us so again, it was a treat for us. I got my beloved hush puppies from Long John’s while the girls got chicken and biscuits and we all ate happily back at the hotel.

Monday, we headed up to Portsmouth, NH for a bit and then drove the short ways up to Nubble Lighthouse in Maine. There’s not enough parking at the lighthouse for the endless stream of cars coming in so we ended up parking at the ice cream place up the road and walking down to the lighthouse area for a bit. We then walked back up the hill and enjoyed ridiculous large “kiddie” size ice cream dishes as a reward for our exercise.

The highlight of Tuesday was heading to Hampton Beach State Park in New Hampshire in the afternoon. The girls had a ball walking and splashing in the waves and as they both said that was their favorite part of the trip, we’ll be spending more time at the beach next summer. Actually, when I asked Jaycie what her favorite part of the day was at the end of the day she’d always say getting whatever toy I happened to buy her. When I asked Jordan what her favorite part was, she’d say not being in a hospital. So having both girls agree that the beach was the best part was quite impressive.

Although the hotel was nice, clean, conveniently located, and had a lovely indoor pool that Jaycie enjoyed, we all three agreed that next year we’re going to rent a cottage on Plum Island, MA again. It’s just nice staying in a home where I can make dinner and we can just hang out and enjoy our surroundings. I’m going to try and reserve the cottage I stayed in our first week long vacation in New England because it was on Plum Island sound and I loved watching the various birds fly overhead every morning and see the tide come in and out from the sound. As I have a whole year to save up for next summer’s trip, I know I won’t have to type my fingers off the last couple months before the trip and I won’t feel quite so pressured. Next summer sounds like a long way away considering this summer isn’t over yet, but I know it will be here sooner than we expect!

The Great New England Vacation Redo!

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Humpback whale tail. Image by Newburyport Whale Watch

Every summer I take my girls on vacation to New England. This year marks our fifth year of this annual tradition. Although we’ve visited the areas of eastern Massachusetts and southeastern New Hampshire many times, there’s always something new to see and we always have interesting adventures.

Unfortunately, last year’s “adventures” were a bit more than I bargained for as Jaycie had a bout of appendicitis that had her spending almost the entire New England vacation in the hospital. She received the best care in the two hospitals she stayed in and she doesn’t remember much of the ordeal thankfully, but her older sister and I still remember. Jaycie had her appendix removed last fall and has been healthy and happy ever since, much to my relief and delight. She’s feeling perfectly fine this year as we prepare for our trip and we’re all looking forward to making new memories. 

There’s one particular memory I wish to erase from last year.  During the ultrasound in the hospital that was very painful and uncomfortable for Jaycie, she told the nurse that we were going on a whale watch later in the week. The nurse and I both knew that wasn’t going to happen and that moment broke a little crack in my heart because she wouldn’t be able to do the thing she so wanted to do. None of us really got to do what we’d wanted or planned and it was difficult for us, but I know that all that really matters is that Jaycie was properly cared for and eventually recovered.

To help undo the unpleasantness of last year’s trip, one of the first things we’re doing is going on the Newburyport Whale Watch. Jaycie loves boats so she’ll be happy even if we don’t see any whales. Being out on that boat will replace a bad memory with a good one and I’m sure everything that happens on vacation will continue to erase last year’s memories.

We’re staying in an area of Massachusetts I’ve never stayed in before but it’s close to a T station and a short drive to the coastal areas I’m familiar with. Although we were in Boston last year while Jaycie was in Boston Children’s Hospital, our visit there obviously wasn’t the fun time we’d hoped for. So our return to Boston this year will be infinitely better. We’ll make it into Salem, MA this time and wherever else we feel like venturing. 

It means so much to me as a mother to spend a full week with my daughters and I know this year’s trip will be another amazing vacation for the triumphant trio!

Another New England Adventure Awaits!

 

Wampanoag post at Plymoth Museum

Informational sign at Plymouth Museum

As I don’t have my daughters for the upcoming school break, I’ll be heading to New England Wednesday morning on another adventure! It will most likely by my last trip out that way until next year so I plan on make the most of it.

My plans include attending The National Day of Mourning in Plymouth, MA, heading into Boston for a day and attending the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Annual Inter-Tribal Potluck Social. While I’ve visited Boston several times, this will be my first time attending the two Native American events. I’m eager to partake in these new experiences and further expand my knowledge and understanding. I urge anyone in the area to attend one or both events as everyone is welcome.

It was only a few months ago that I uncovered my own Native American ancestry and I’m constantly working on learning more about the culture that was kept secret in my family for generations. To that end and to acknowledge what this time of year means to Native Americans, I started reading The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving by Larry Spotted Crow Mann last week. I saw Larry Spotted Crow Mann at the very first pow wow I attended at UMAss Amherst in Spring of 2014 and I found him to be a very engaging storyteller. Although I’m only a few chapters into the book, I’m finding it very educational and interesting and I feel it’s something that everyone should read to help learn the truth about this time of year.

I am a solo traveler and to some, the idea of being alone in a hotel room during this time of year might not appeal, but as my days will be quite full of new and exciting experiences, I’m sure I’ll happily collapse into bed every night I’m there. I’ve been making these road trips out to New England since November of 2011 and while I didn’t know during the first trip that it would become a regular thing for me, I’m very happy that it has and I look forward to every single one with the same excitement of my very first trip!

 

 

When the time is right

snhu acceptance

This past trip to New England with my daughters was the best trip I’ve had so far! Being with my girls for an entire week was great and they got to meet most of my friends in Amesbury, MA. There was even a miracle that proved to me that anything really is possible when you’re determined enough! It also showed me that when the time is right, everything has a way of falling into place in ways even better than you imagined.

I’m always sad to leave New England at the end of my trips but each visit convinces me even more that my future lies out that way. To further my pursuit of that future, I’ve decided to pursue an online degree from Southern New Hampshire University. My current endeavor is a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and English but that might change as I figure out the best degree to accomplish my goals.

I had the opportunity to go to college right out of high school but I chose not to because I was tired of school and wanted to continue earning money in the workforce. Almost twenty years later, I’m a single mom who is making a living as a freelance ghost writer and I’m proud of my accomplishments. I know I can go so much further though and I feel that college will open up new avenues for my development as a writer and a person.

I chose SNHU because I already love New England, want to make my life out there and because they keep showing their commercials on my TV stations in NY. Everyone I’ve dealt with at SNHU has been very helpful and supportive and I’m excited about this new chapter in my life! I’ve enrolled in two courses for the first semester and while I’m certain adding that into my already busy life will be a challenge, I’m certain that I can do it. I’ve already done so many things I never imagined I could, what’s one more?

You can’t keep a good girl/resourceful woman down!

Driving toward the Mohawk Valley area of NY.

Driving toward the Mohawk Valley area of NY.

This bridge over the Hudson River is one of my favorites!

This bridge over the Hudson River is one of my favorites!

When I left Upstate NY this morning it was a pleasant 60 degrees with low humidity, blue skies and tons of happy, puffy clouds. That was an extremely welcome change from most of my previous trips where it was pouring, snowing, sleeting, ice-storming or marking the return of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Okay, that last one was a slight exaggeration…

Shortly after I crossed the border into Massachusetts, the clouds got thicker and less happy looking. The skies eventually turned quite dark and ominous but luckily I only drove through a few sprinkles. I could tell by the state of the roads though that it had rained quite a bit during the day.

I only got caught in a couple of bouts of stop-and-go traffic amid construction and that was another positive improvement! Usually I encounter bumper-to-bumper situations through every major city/town in Massachusetts.

Notice how much distance I keep between myself and cars ahead of me. I used to work for an insurance company, nuff said!

Notice how much distance I keep between myself and cars ahead of me? I used to work for an insurance company, nuff said!

I arrived at the hotel in Seabrook, NH at around 4:15, checked in and unloaded my car. Once everything was settled in my room, I hopped in the shower to wash away the day of driving. The cooler, drier weather hadn’t reached New England yet despite my best  efforts to drag it along behind my car. It was still rather gloomy when I left the hotel to head into Amesbury, MA but I was certain it would clear up eventually.

My usual route into Amesbury was blocked by a police car and I didn’t realize why until later when I left the town. There were some lines dangling so low that it was impossible for cars going into town to sneak under them. I don’t know what kind of lines they were but they must have diverted traffic because of them.

Well at least there's caution tape on the lines...

Well at least there’s caution tape on the lines…

 

My trip into Amesbury proved less eventful than usual because shops were closed and I was bit bummed. I’d really wanted to see some familiar faces today. But I’m not one to stay down for long so being the resourceful woman that I am, I decided change my plans and head elsewhere for dinner.

I’ve been craving clam strips and fries ever since I failed to get them during my last trip so I typed “seafood restaurant” into Foursquare and one of the places that came up was Lena’s Seafood in Salisbury, MA. They listed exactly what I wanted on their menu and were only a few minutes from Amesbury so off I went. I ordered my food and didn’t have to wait long before they called my number and presented a plate covered with a mountain of clam strips, fries, onion rings, coleslaw and a roll. I definitely got my money’s worth!

It'd take 4 of me to eat all this!

It’d take 4 of me to eat all this!

The food was delicious but way more than I could eat. I stayed at Lena’s Seafood until the latest bout of rain stopped and then headed back to Seabrook for a little shopping. I’d forgotten to pack an item of clothing I needed so I headed to Kohl’s where I originally bought it. When I parked my car I noticed a couple shopping cars scattered about blocking parking spaces. I grabbed two carts and then saw a third and managed to steer them awkwardly back into the store. Nobody likes having a stray shopping cart run into their car and I figured they’d been rained on enough for one day. Happy with myself for doing such a good deed, I breathed in the air conditioning and looked around to discover the store was laid out exactly like the one back where I live in NY! They had what I needed and a few other shirts that jumped off the rack and into my arms 😉

After Kohl’s I went to Market Basket for my usual milk and other small essentials before heading back to my hotel. By then the skies were clearing up nicely and the red tones of the sunset promised warmth and sunshine tomorrow.

Looking a bit brighter when I parked at Market Basket.

Looking a bit brighter when I parked at Market Basket.

Glimpse of the sunset from my hotel.

Glimpse of the sunset from my hotel.

While the evening didn’t quite go as I’d hoped, I’ve learned to adjust quickly and think on my feet. I am living proof that you can’t keep a good girl/resourceful woman down!

My Clark Kent persona. Glasses and fuzzy hair.

My Clark Kent persona. Glasses and fuzzy hair.

Expanding explorations

A rough idea of where I'll be going this trip!

A rough idea of where I’ll be going this trip!

Tomorrow I’m heading out to New England for one of my monthly adventures. I make it a goal every trip to explore a new area of New Hampshire or Massachusetts and so far, so good! My last trip I explored new areas of Boston, scouting out places to take my daughters in August and finding the best route to get there. Despite getting lost once or twice in Boston, I found exactly what I was looking for and know the girls and I will have a ball in Beantown.

For my trip starting tomorrow, my newest exploration destinations are Plymouth and Cape Cod, MA. I’ll be staying in Seabrook, NH as usual but on Friday I plan on leaving rather early to head south to the Cape Cod Bay area. I’ve encountered the traffic to the Cape on more than one occasion and I know that the earlier I go, the better. I plan on visiting Plimoth Plantation and the Wampanoag Homesite and then wander wherever the spirit takes me.

Before heading to Cape Cod Bay Friday, I’ll spend Thursday in my favorite city/town of Amesbury and the surrounding areas. I plan on visiting my favorite businesses in Amesbury and investigating a couple of the new ones for future write-ups. There are also trails I’ve yet to walk and sites I’ve yet to see! I’ll scope out where the girls and I will be staying on Plum Island in August and visit the beach at least once.

On Saturday and Sunday I’ll be attending the MCNAA Annual Summer Moon Pow-wow in Danvers, MA and have volunteered to help out there on Saturday. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend and I’m looking forward to experiencing more of the Native American culture.

I cram a lot into my days in New England and I love having the freedom to go wherever I wish. This summer is going far too fast but I’m going to fill it up with endlessly expanding explorations as I pursue the path leading to my future in the area I love most!

An anniversary of sorts

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

Amesbury mural by Jon P. Mooers

This coming Wednesday, June 25th, I’m heading to New England for one of my monthly/bi-monthly visits/adventures. I’m celebrating an anniversary of sorts because around this same week last year was the first time I made an official and well-planned trip to Amesbury, Massachusetts. I visited during Amesbury Days last year and this year’s visit is timed perfectly with that same event!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I started visiting the area that I immediately fell in love with during my first official trip to North Shore. After that first trip, I wanted to visit as often as possible and quitting my office job to do freelance writing full-time gave me the ability to do just that!

I’ve visited the area through all seasons now. Walking the sandy beaches in summer was invigorating, seeing the  autumn colors around Lake Gardner was breathtaking and I even found the area beautiful and welcoming when it was buried in three feet of snow. I caught a glimpse of spring’s beginnings during my April visit and by the time the girls and I visited for Memorial Day, the splendor of spring was in full bloom! I don’t live there (yet) but I know New England’s charm remains through all types of weather.

 

Plum Island beach

Plum Island Beach, MA

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The beautiful color on Lake Gardner in Amesbury, Massachusetts

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

The deep snow in Amesbury, MA after a February 2014 storm

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Spring flower boxes in downtown Amesbury, MA

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation

Girls playing on the beach at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, MA

My plans for my upcoming trip are flexible as always and I tend to go wherever the fancy strikes me. There’s the 16th Annual Amesbury Chamber of Commerce Block Party on Thursday, 6/26/14 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. that I’ll definitely be attending and a variety of other happenings around town I might investigate. I also think I’ll venture into Boston this trip since I haven’t been into the city solo since November of 2011. That first trip to Boston inspired me to write and publish my first e-book New England Adventures: Boston, MA and was the beginning of what has become an amazing and ongoing chapter in my life. I can only imagine what another solo journey will bring!

The conviluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston

The convoluted walking route I took during my first visit to Boston, MA

I’m planning another visit in July and then August brings a huge first: the first time I’ve had the girls for a whole week of vacation since the divorce. I’m indescribably excited about spending that much time together! We’ve rented a cottage on Plum Island that comes complete with bikes and kayaks and we can even bring Jazz! The drive there is going to be unforgettable I’m certain as I fit an entire circus in my little Matrix but I know we’ll all have fun!

Before the fun for my upcoming trip can begin though I have to finish my freelance work so off I go! Is it Wednesday yet??