We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, September 5. 2019
The US TSA offers a few Trusted Traveler programs which reduce some or much of the annoyance of air travel.
The Pre-Check is easy to obtain. The Global Entry is a bit more involved, but worth it for regular travelers. You can do most of the processes at the TSA website, but a brief in-person interview is required for all of these. It's a vetting process.
Somewhat related, many states now offer "Real ID" driving licenses. It's a minor hassle to collect the info your DMV wants for this, but worth doing for some people. You can upgrade your license to REAL ID any time. Next year, REAL ID will be required.
Ideally, make a lot of money and fly private... no fuss.
Wednesday, August 28. 2019
Photo: Our porch. No screens, no bugs. Just a constant cool sea breeze.
Cut my driving time to our place on Cape Cod by an hour with my new fun car. A sporty but not excessive 280 hp with turbo, but I've never had a car that could cruise comfortably in the left lane at 85- 90 mph or which wants you to accelerate into corners and curves instead of braking. I have been cheap/practical with vehicles all of my life until now. This car has the tightest steering I could imagine, and zero roll on curves. Sheesh, kinda fun, a bit of adrenaline.
Only thing I could figger out on the sound system thus far was the Sirius Grateful Dead station. That is something ok for driving. Never a big Dead fan but I got the gist of it. Still not a big fan, but I sort-of appreciate their relaxed stoner approach. No CD players in new cars, which is a great annoyance.
A few thoughts about Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, below the fold.
Continue reading "Life in America: Cut my driving time by an hour to the family getaway, etc."
Monday, August 26. 2019
While I thought the Urban Hike of 2019 was one of our best, despite the rain, the Brooklyn trip of 2018 remains my favorite so far. To that end, this article about Battle of Brooklyn sites is worth a look-see. We stopped at a number of these sites, such as the Old Stone House, the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn Heights, and the monument to the prison ship martyrs.
The article did miss one site, on the side of a bank, which commemorated the battle (perhaps the author is unaware of this plaque, but we stumbled upon it and I wish I had a picture or a location to share).
Looking forward to planning 2020's Urban Hike. Need some thought starters. Right now, Wave Hill to City Island is what I'm considering, but that's more walking and less sightseeing.
Sunday, August 25. 2019
Some things I didn't find a way to fit into my prior posts. Glad some readers have enjoyed the posts.
(For those who might be interested, I have created a Travelogue and Travel Ideas category which can be linked on the left column. Haven't had time to go back and re-categorize older trips to that category, yet.)
View from the garden wall at our Abazzia-hotel:
More below the fold -
Continue reading "My Umbria photo dump #7, with a little more tasty food, reposted from 2012"
Sunday, August 4. 2019
Saturday, June 29. 2019
This is Mohonk's 150th Anniversary. Still owned by the Quaker Smiley family, and still on Conde Nast's list of 100 best hotels in the world. Not sure I would agree with the latter (it is rustic and a bit stuffy), but it's a unique place with thousands of acres with hills, cliff, farmland, mountain lakes, etc. Great hiking trails, and challenging bouldering not to mention rock climbing. I've been going there since I was a little kid, first did the Labyrinth when I was 12.
Our hiking team is doing an Uncle Bob Memorial Hike up there this week, with a late lunch at their cookout place (there were no more reservations for brunch at the inn). I will focus on bouldering routes, but I have alternates for those who are uneasy scrambling big rocks.
Monday, June 10. 2019
There are still a few wooden homes left in Manhattan, 11 of them are listed here. As luck would have it, we actually saw 3 of the 11 (Morris-Jumel, Hamilton Grange, Sylvan Terrace) on our urban hike, and could've seen 2 more (if I had known and added them...more research needed next time).
Saturday, May 18. 2019
Sunday, May 12. 2019
Better than I could have done:
Fish Terrine (Sole)
It's a darn shame that the Chateau de Bellefontaine doesn't deliver.
If interested, the foods of Normandy
Friday, May 10. 2019
My photo report from our 5th Annual Urban Hike - Upper Manhattan this time- Upper West Side, Harlem, and Washington Heights
Y'all shoulda joined us last Sunday.
This was our first urban hike with all-day cool (low 50s all day) rain. Very similar to northern Scotland. Undaunted, our team marched on despite some discomfort and got to see all sorts of cool things along with the always-interesting (or more interesting) street scenes.
Along with us we had famous website owners, family members, of course Dear Leader Bulldog and his adorable Mrs., and representatives from Texas, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and NYC. Ages 22 to 70+. Such an enjoyable, interesting, amusing, adventurous, and high IQ group. Friends.
We covered 11.5 miles with all of our detours while trending north, with lots of uphill in Washington Heights.
The Maggie's Urban Hike tradition is to stop for pizza and beer around 1 pm. Victorio's on 145th St. had pretty good greasy pizza. Our team occupied every seat in that hole in the wall joint, deeply immersed in this amazing city.
Below, the elegant Victorio's Pizza Plus, in north Harlem near City College on 145th St. Very efficient pizza joint but no damn bathroom and no beer!
Photo tour of our hike, etc, below the fold -
Continue reading "My photo report from our 5th Annual Urban Hike - Upper Manhattan this time- Upper West Side, Harlem, and Washington Heights"
Monday, May 6. 2019
I'd like to thank everyone who braved the rain and chill yesterday to join Maggie's Annual Urban Hike. As Mrs. Bulldog and I approached the Natural History Museum, we were curious who would actually show up. We were very surprised to see a hardy group which totaled 13.
The choice of Northern Manhattan was a good one. I'm not sure we could have made the Cloisters even on a nice day, but by the end of the 9.2 miles (or so) that we did complete, we'd seen a good chunk of the Upper West Side, Harlem, and Washington Heights.
We passed 2 (of 5 planned) Carnegie Libraries. Took a gander at, and some pictures of, Pomander Walk and Sylvan Terrace. We saw Alexander Hamilton's house (which the city has moved twice), Aaron Burr's house, and the lot where the Collyer Brothers made hoarding a headline (as their house is gone). We passed the Polo Grounds and finished up at Highbridge. The group determined the Little Red Lighthouse should be our final stop - but we nixed it as walking there is far more complicated than we imagined. We'll save it for another trip.
I didn't take any pictures, unfortunately, so hopefully others who did can share them. The rain was definitely not a deterrent. While we considered cancelling (discussing whether "rain or shine" means "light mist or shine"), I think we made the right decision as it was one of the best walks we'd had.
Great fun, good people, nice conversation, wonderful views of New York.
We're running out of new things to see in NYC. Next year may be an interesting one to plan.
Sunday, May 5. 2019
Ireland has a number of great house inns/hotels, some near golf and some not. A favorite is Ballyfin which is not near any famous golf. It's about horseback, cycling, hiking, reading, dining, and immersing onseself in the green Irish countryside.
Thursday, April 18. 2019
Stuff does not appear by magic, even if Amazon makes it feel that way.
Many freighters do take a small number of passengers. This guy took one from Germany of Charleston (a great town to visit - one of the best). People tell me everybody ought to try one freighter trip. Get a lot of books read, but BYOB. And a date, I think.
Monday, April 15. 2019
Starting a mile further north at a Dunkin' (Donuts) near the Natural History Museum (yes, Dunkin' Donuts is our traditional launchpad). I've done what I can to keep this at 11 miles. I'd like to make it shorter - but The Cloisters is the goal. So we can make choices along the way to see how people feel and what can be cut. The Little Red Lighthouse was something I considered cutting - but as Mrs. Bulldog says the view of the GWB is pretty spectacular. I could cut out the Collyer Brothers' Park, but let's be honest, if they can clutter up their house, we can clutter up our walk.
So we'll go for it. I'm sure I'm missing a few things. However, High Bridge, Morris-Jumel Mansion, Collyer Brothers, several Carnegie Libraries, Hamilton Grange, the Fascist Building at Columbia, the Battle of Harlem Heights....it's all there. UPPER MANHATTAN in all its glory to be invaded by Maggies' Farmers. I'll find subway stops for those who need to leave early, have swollen feet, etc. If you're hardy enough...maybe we shall return to Lower Manhattan and have a drink. Mrs. Bulldog and I have started stopping in at The Ear Inn - a magical place - where we have seen a ghost (or at least I believe I have) throw a glass. I'm sure there's a logical reason for it having broken by flying off the rack...but I WANT to believe. Alternatively, the Campbell Apartment is a good place to relax.
Looking forward to seeing everyone. I have been trying to find a weekend to do a test walk to pin down eateries, but weekends fill up quick these days. I may drive it just to see how it goes...
Monday, April 8. 2019
May 5th is the date for the Urban Hike. Upper Manhattan is the route. We have some interesting stops. Starting at Lincoln Center, then working our way up, we will take a gander at 5 of the remaining Carnegie Libraries in Manhattan. There is the Collyer Brothers Park, where the infamous pair lived (the house torn down). High Bridge, Morris-Jumel Mansion, Sylvan Terrace, the Little Red Lighthouse.
Right now the trip is 11 miles. My plan is to hike it a week or two prior, plot out some resting locations and eateries, and then make adjustments. 11 miles is long. Shorter than last year's, but still very long. 9am start time - but beware. May 5th is the Five Boro Bike Tour. We shouldn't have any issues with this. The tour is more or less out of the Central Park area by about 11am, and it's all on the east side. By the time we reach the Collyer Brothers Park, most of the bikes will be past. However, beware of getting to the city early! The Five Boro Tour usually can add 30-45 minutes of entry time into Manhattan if you're coming from the north or east of the city. Plan ahead and keep your radio tuned to traffic reports as you try to get to Lincoln Center.
Here is the current path.
Saturday, April 6. 2019
Friday, April 5. 2019
Saturday, March 30. 2019
Photo is a cabin at Phantom Ranch.
Arguably the best hike in the USA are the trails down - and back up - the Grand Canyon. It's the only way to see the Grand Canyon up close and personal. The hike up takes twice as long as the hike down, roughly. It's not too challenging but it is glorious.
We did it 12 years ago and stayed 2 nites at the rustic Phantom Ranch on the riverbank. That's the way to do it. That first cold beer at the bottom is the best beer in the world even if it's Bud Lite in a can. The food there is great, thanks to the mules who carry everything down and up all day. Phantom Ranch has some cabins, 4 dorms, and a wonderful mess hall.
Look at the photos.
It's not a hike for young kids, and it's a hike for spring or fall - not summer. Too hot. One handy service they have is that they will take a duffel bag down for you on mules, and back up when you leave. Thus all you need to hike with is a daypack with water and snacks.
When you're out there, why not hop over to Sedona for some easy hiking in red rock country? Lots of pleasant hikes, few of the basic ones long or arduous:
Friday, March 29. 2019
- Take the ride on the Roosevelt Island tram. Once the site of a state mental hospital and other hospitals, Roosevelt Island in the East River is now a city unto itself, but with almost no cars. You can see the creepy ruins of the old asylums and the Smallpox Hospital (photo above), and you can visit the FDR Museum if you want to and the Four Freedoms Park. (Not an FDR fan, myself, but many are.)
- The New York Transit Museum (h/t reader). New York first had urban mass transit in 1868 (Els) and underground since 1904.
Tuesday, February 26. 2019
Monday, February 25. 2019
Friday, February 15. 2019
Friends just got back from Palm Beach. I've only been there once, for a lunch of stone crabs (which are overrated).
It's a narrow barrier reef, just a few feet above sea level but nobody seems worried about that at all. There is a beautiful, tony estate area of the island with magnificent tropical and subtropical gardens like Casa Phippsberger:
and other areas with less exclusive, more normal life, condos, schools, etc, and not all very expensive.
Of course, Trump's Mar-a-Lago is there. His club was the first in Pal Beach to welcome Jews and blacks.
From what I gather, few people go to the beach there. There are heated pools. In winter, the sea is too cool for most people to swim (about 55 degrees F).
Tuesday, February 12. 2019
It's trip-planning season.
Self-guided is much cheaper than guided trips. It depends, though, on your travel confidence. GPS is always handy. You get to see countryside, villages, and cities at your own hiking pace.
What they generally do is to transport your luggage from destination to destination, give you a map, and make your reservations. Most of their point-to-point daily walks are 8-10 miles, but some travel companies expect you to walk or hike 15 miles/day. That's a lot for many people especially in hilly terrain.
Another point is that their mapped walks are rated in the Euroland method of mild/moderate/challenging. Their "moderate" can entail serious hill-hiking so your fitness is a factor. If they say "challenging," they really mean it.
So, a more vigorous with less luxury, and a chance to see what ordinary tourists do not.
Sometimes they provide transfers to another starting point. They usually plan for two days in cities of interest, like Pisa, for people who love old churches, museums, and cafes.
It's fun to check out what these companies have to offer:
MACS Adventure Travel has walking/hiking trips all over the world.
Hooked on Walking: Guided and Self Guided Walking, Trekking, Hiking Holiday and Tours
Friday, February 8. 2019
Thursday, February 7. 2019
Being a Dad, I peeked in her fridge. A dozen eggs, some butter, two jars of artisanal mustard, and a bottle of DayQuil and NyQuil. Typical youth. She's off to Vietnam and China this week on biz. Hanoi!
To amuse me, and because we both love walking around NY, she took me on a mini-tour of some of her favorite food courts in mid-town, and chattered about some cool things she has recently found to do. She has always speed-talked, but after a few years in NYC she talks faster and walks faster. Makes me feel like a country bumpkin.
I'll start with the latter:
Saturday nights at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Live classical music from the balcony, and drinks.
Saturday night opera singers at Papillon Bistro (E. 54th St.) Professionals show their stuff for free dinner and wine.
For when she has kids: THE PLAZA HOTEL ETIQUETTE PROGRAM WITH CHILDREN AND TEENS, ages 5 -17. I've seen many kids who could use that.
Food courts in midtown that she likes below the fold - with photos -
Continue reading " Life in NYC: A few fun food courts, with a speed walk around mid-town"