Friday, June 29, 2012

Did She or Didn't She?

Lake Champlain from our Colchester, Vermont cabin - May 16, 2012

On May 27th, I posted a blog entry titled, "Will She or Won't She?"   The question asked was whether or not I would reach goal weight while traveling for seven weeks in New England.  Today, just over seven weeks later, I can tell you that I did not.  But I am also very happy to report that I am a whole lot closer than I was.  From the morning I left home bound for Dulles, Virginia to the morning after I arrived back at home, I lost exactly five pounds.  I am thrilled with that because rest assured, I enjoyed the food we ate along with some extras along the way.  To the best of my knowledge, I remained white flour and white sugar free, although in the interest of complete disclosure, there were a couple of times that might have been slightly questionable.   I strongly suspect that a whole wheat wrap I ordered somewhere did have some percentage of white flour and I'm fairly certain that a salad or two I ate had some sugar in the dressing.  How did I know?  I can pretty quickly detect sugar because I've been away from it for so long that anything with regular sugar in it overwhelms me with that sickeningly sweet taste.  

Did I suffer?   On the few occasions we chose not to prepare our own meals, was I deprived or left with tasteless choices?   Is this the face of someone being "forced" to eat something with which they are unhappy?   I DON'T THINK SO!

Beal's Lobster Pound - Southwest Harbor, Maine
June 12, 2012

I am one of those odd souls who enjoys seeking out new and different things rather than relying on the familiar.   When we travel, we like to patronize local grocery stores, health food stores or markets.  Once thing we failed to anticipate, was how far behind New England would be from the south with respect to fresh fruit and produce.  At the beginning of our trip, most farmers markets had not yet opened for the season.   Those that had were very limited in the available choices.   The familiarity of Sam's Club was quite welcome a couple of times since I am so familiar with the fruit and vegetable options found there consistently.  

For the most part, our cottages/cabins were well equipped, each had excellent grills and we thoroughly enjoyed preparing yummy meals along the way.  This is consistent with the way we always eat on our Summer Adventures in order to keep on budget and stay true to our healthy eating habits.   

I was thrilled to find a blender in  FIVE of the six places we stayed (not counting the four Marriott's).  Truthfully, in all these years of traveling, I've never really LOOKED for a blender before as there was no need for one.  But I've become quite attached to my afternoon "smoothie" and had no idea whether rental properties considered a blender an essential kitchen item or not.   On a humorous note, wish I'd taken a photo of each of these blenders as they ranged from the ridiculous to the deluxe with the ridiculous being very similar to the one I received as a wedding gift 35 years ago.   But you know what???   It worked!!  And that's all I needed it to do - who cares what it looks like?   Most afternoons, while Bill was eating his ice cream, I was dreaming of what smoothie variation I was going to create and knew without a shadow of a doubt, it would taste better to me than anything I could possibly buy.

Another thing I was happy to see is the fact that most every ice cream shop had at least one low fat frozen yogurt option.   Most had multiple choices and a few even had a generous selection of fat-free AND sugar-free ice cream or yogurt.  Can't say I've paid much attention to that in past years, but I'm hoping it's a trend that will continue to grow.

We did get a lot of exercise mostly in the form of walking and biking.  There was not as much hiking as I'd hoped, mostly because of time.  Many of the areas we visited were new to us and there was much to see and do.  As much as I'd enjoy hiking every day, it needed to be balanced with other must-see activities in the area.   I am happy to say that there were very few days in which my pedometer registered less than my required 10,000 steps and those days were usually travel days.  

So where do I go from here?  I am within four pounds of goal.   I am also at a bit of a plateau.  No surprise there - it happens about every 10-12 pounds and with so little left to lose, a plateau becomes even more of a challenge.  My immediate plan is to return to Cycle 1 of the 17 Day Diet for the number of days it takes me to break the plateau and lose the four pounds.  I don't think it will take the full 17 days.  I'm hoping for 7-10.

Now that I am back in my own kitchen, I am thoroughly enjoying planning meals and getting my cupboards restocked.   I can hardly wait for Saturday morning when I can finally head to my local farmer's market!  We have a brand new Kroger Marketplace grocery store that opened Wednesday morning that is much closer to me than the other Marketplace location in our town.  These are fabulous grocery stores with amazing options.  Our Trader Joe's is set to open July 4th and our first Publix will open soon if it hasn't already.   Both Whole Foods and Costco are under construction and will be open by year end.  Will I shop consistently at ALL these places?  Probably not, but I love having all the options as I think this much competition forces EVERYONE to be better. 

With predicted temps of  100+ the next four days (107 for Friday and Saturday), what can one do besides stay home alternating between cooking and reading?   Thankfully, my bookmarked recipes can start to be culled and those three books that were waiting at the library can get read. 

I wanted to say a word of thanks to all of you who have faithfully continued to read as I integrated my travel blog in with this one.  This is, and will continue to be, about Life Through My Eyes.  It's a reflection of who I am and a constant reminder to me the importance of being true to that!   I appreciate every single person who reads and those who take time to leave comments.   Approaching the maintenance aspect of healthy living adds a whole new dimension of things about which to write and I am really excited about the future of Gains and Losses: Life Through Sharon's Eyes!

P.S.  I think this is going to be my "at-goal" picture.   You may have already seen it on an earlier post, but in case you didn't, wanted to know what you thought.   It's already posted on my picture tab, so check it out for progress pics.   Needless to say, I'm pretty happy with it!

June 14, 2012
Total Pounds Lost Since 11/25/2011 - 29.2
Total Pounds Lost From Highest Known Weight - 53.8

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Home Sweet Home!

Shore Path - Bar Harbor, Maine
June 21, 2012

It was time to turn our hearts toward home!  We generally begin discussing the journey home a week or so before the time arrives.  One thing we've learned through trial and error, is that it's best to leave the return trip open-ended.  We just don't know how we're going to feel.   Will we be more than ready to be home or is there still some wandering mojo left?  It changes from year to year.  For several years, I made reservations at nice Bed & Breakfasts along the way home thinking of it as a "treat" for all the weeks we'd cooked our own meals and taken care of ourselves.  But once those reservations are made, they cannot be cancelled without penalty so there was no flexibility.  Also Bed & Breakfast accommodations usually include a very nice sit-down breakfast prepared by the host.  We found most did not want to serve this breakfast before 8:30 or 9:00, long after we wanted to be on the road.  

This year, I had made reservations at hotels in places I thought we'd be.  We are loyal Marriott customers (they were very good to me during my high flying corporate days) and love the fact that a) all their properties are 100% smoke-free, 2) there is a property in every budget category, 3) their cancellation policy is generous/easy, 4) the rewards program is excellent, 5) there are few places in the WORLD where a Marriott property cannot be found, and 5) the icing on the cake is their consistency world-wide!!  

Didn't tell you all that as a plug for Marriott (although that's o.k. too), but to say that yes, I'd made a plan, but it totally and completely changed the day before we left Maine.  We realized there was no more wandering left in us, we knew the heat in the south was going to hit us hard and we were just ready to face it and deal with it.  I had also realized that by changing the course of our trip home, we could snag one more state capital (Pennsylvania).  The original plan had us going through Providence, Rhode Island, a capital which we've already visited, but have no good pictures of because it was pre-digital camera days.  Since it was on the way home and since we'd loved Providence on our first visit, we had decided to swing back through, spend a night, get some good pics and be able to visit the inside as that had not happened on the first trip.  

Changing the itinerary to include Harrisburg, Pennsylvania did not decrease the mileage home significantly, but did allow us to complete visiting ALL of the state capitals north of Washington, DC!!  It also did not change the fact that once we traveled the 52 miles from Southwest Harbor, ME to Bangor, ME, we would be able to travel interstate highways the remainder of the trip.  With a few clicks, reservations were cancelled and new ones made!

So on a picture perfect morning, we walked our favorite Ship Harbor Trail one last time........

 It was very early, only saw a few lobster boats checking their traps,

no other walkers - just us and nature!!

................loaded the car and headed south!  The next few pictures tell the story of our day and illustrate precisely why we detest interstate driving.

 Welcome to New Hampshire..............
 Welcome to Massachusetts!
 Welcome to Connecticut!
Springhill Suites - Danbury, Connecticut!

And so ended day one of driving.  Earlier that afternoon, we entered Connecticut in one of the worst thunderstorms I've ever experienced in a car.  It passed on by, but then another formed just as we approached Hartford.  To insert a bit of humor here, let me say that I have now visited Hartford, Connecticut three times in my life.   All three times have been experiences from ________!  The first time was in 2006 as we were driving from Nantucket Island to the Litchfield Hills area for a couple of days on our way home from that year's Summer Adventure.  We got caught in a horrible traffic gridlock because of a major downtown concert (I think I remember that it was Madonna) that evening and then our interstate exit deposited us in one of the worst areas of town in which we'd ever driven.  We are pretty intrepid travelers, but this was SCARY!   Obviously, we made it out alive!!   The second visit to Hartford, you can read about HERE because it happened earlier in THIS trip!  Leaving the capitol complex, Bill and I had one of the worst arguments we've had in a long time (arguing is something we don't do very often) and once again, we found ourselves in an area of Hartford in which we were very uncomfortable.  All I will say about Hartford visit #3 is that because of severe weather, rush hour traffic and road construction, it took us 2 1/2 hours to drive less than 40 miles from the northeast to the southwest of Hartford!  We were starving, needed gas and stuck in gridlock with lightening dancing all around us.  It was a very difficult few hours and with still several miles to drive before arriving in Danbury for the night, let's just end this paragraph by saying Hartford, Connecticut will never evoke fond memories in our hearts!!  There was one beacon of light in what was otherwise, a horrible few hours........................

Just outside Hartford, Connecticut

We did enjoy a restful night in a quiet hotel in Danbury, CT.   Since we arrived two hours later than we'd planned and were exhausted, we didn't take time to do any driving around in Danbury, a city we'd never seen.  Given our frame of mind, they'd possibly have found a way to keep us in Danbury Minimum Security, so we thought it best to just go to sleep and next morning, get out of Connecticut as quickly as possible!

But all things looks better first thing in the morning.  We were able to laugh about our trip through Hartford and move on.  We saw this shortly after leaving Danbury...................

 I don't deny that a sigh of relief was heard when we exited Connecticut!

First challenge today?   Get around New York City.   This turned out to be as effortless as the prior days driving had been tedious.  It was a beautiful day for driving and traffic was light.  We crossed the wide Hudson River at Nyack via a gorgeous bridge.
 Tappan Zee Bridge - New York State

And the miles flew by....................

 Welcome to New Jersey!
 Welcome to Pennsylvania!

By capital city standards, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania isn't large (pop. 49,528).  We've been to and through it numerous times, but had never "officially" visited the capitol complex.  On a weekend day, the small downtown area was virtually empty so we enjoyed stretching our legs a bit.  We were already 2/3 of the way through the day's drive and so far, it had been a perfect day for driving.  

The Pennsylvania State Capitol is impressive!  This was our TENTH state capitol on this trip and I cannot tell you how much we've enjoyed seeing them so close together.  Each is unique.   We've each had our personal favorites.  

Pennsylvania State Capitol - Harrisburg, PA

There was a nice breeze blowing, lots of shade trees and no one else around!  We thoroughly enjoyed a restful hour or so meandering around the complex!   

Leaving Harrisburg bound for our final night in Winchester, Virginia, we decided to exit the interstate for awhile and enjoy some more relaxing driving heading south on US Hwy 11 which parallels I-81 sometimes within sight and often crossing over/under the interstate.   Yes, for those reading from my hometown, this is the same highway 11 which we fondly (LOL!) call Kingston Pike.  What you may NOT know is that highway 11 extends 1,645 miles north to south beginning at the US/Canadian border in Rouses Point, New York and ending in eastern New Orleans, Louisiana.  Getting off the interstate and driving these types of roads are the way to see our country.   But that's a soapbox for another day!!  

On this day, we enjoyed a 100 or so mile segment of highway 11 through rural Pennsylvania and were so thankful that we had.   It took us through beautiful countryside heavily influenced by the Mennonite culture, past some delightful little small towns and by a couple of lovely small college campuses.   Before we knew it, we passed these................

 Welcome to Maryland!
 Welcome to West Virginia!
 Welcome to Virginia!

Soon we arrived at our final "home away from home" for Summer Adventures 2012!

 Towneplace Suites - Winchester, Virginia

Next morning, we were up and away for the final 438 miles.  This is a stretch of I-81 we know well so quiet conversation, lots of silence, music and napping made them go by quickly.  We made only three stops and simply smiled when we passed this familiar sign................


Sometime in the next few days, I'll write one last wrap-up post with some trip statistics and answering questions you've asked along the way.   We have so enjoyed the feedback from you as we've traveled.   

As Always, Thanks so much for reading!

Sharon and Bill

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Bridges Of Acadia National Park

 Duck Pond Bridge - Acadia National Park
June 19, 2012

Prior to arriving in Maine and visiting Acadia National Park, I did not know about the bridges!  On the day of our first bike ride around Eagle Lake via the 57-mile network of carriage roads, it wasn't long until we came upon the first one.  It was only after reading the sign below which was placed at the entrance to the loop, that I found myself wanting to learn more about the bridges.

To my utter amazement, I found that there were 17 of these bridges spanning the 57-mile carriage road system and EVERY SINGLE ONE WAS UNIQUE!  The quest to find them all was born.  If the others were at all like the Eagle Lake bridge, it was something I didn't want to miss.  A scan of the hiking map I'd purchased told me that each bridge was identified on the map in a very understated way (perhaps why I hadn't noticed it before since I'd been pouring over that map for days!!).   17 strokes with the orange highlighter and I went into full strategic planning mode.   We only had three days left, but utilizing both hiking trails and the carriage trails, we could find and photograph all 17 plus get some really good exercise in the process!

I am happy to say that we did just that only falling one short.   There's a perfectly good reason for that.  It's the one most difficult to reach.   We were headed towards it late Wednesday afternoon and almost simultaneously realized we were both just exhausted.   Yes, I can be pretty focused when I'm working on a goal, but I also have enough sense to know when the goal becomes obsession.  We'd seen some stunning architecture, walked over 15 miles in two days and biked even more.   We had another several miles to walk/bike on Thursday.  It was time to let one of them go.

I'd like to share the bridges with you.   While making our way through the woods and along the carriage roads, there was lots of time to think.   And I thought a lot about bridges.  Always in anticipation of what the next one would look like while still appreciating the variety of what we'd already seen.  Some things kept coming to mind as I thought about the different kinds of "bridges" we travel as we make our way through life.   I was reminded that life has gone on while we've been away from home.   Lots of people have crossed, are getting ready to cross or may be looking forward to a future of "bridges" leading to new and exciting aspects of their lives.  Others have experienced deep sadness and crossed "bridges" forcing them to navigate life in a way they hadn't anticipated right now.  Both of us usually settle into a period of deep introspection near the end of our Summer Adventure when we feel deep gratitude for what we've experienced, yet look forward to returning home and rejoining the lives we love and the people whom we miss.

So the journey of discovering the bridges was a fitting finale to our wonderful time here in Maine as we say good-bye and turn our hearts toward home.   As I share the bridges, enjoy some of the thoughts I had about different ways I'd like to build stronger bridges in my life.   There's no great depths of material here - just some thoughts that flitted across my mind.   Add some of your own!!

1)   Bridges beginnings!

 Amphitheatre Bridge

2)  Bridges to................the future!

 Bubble Pond Bridge

3)  Bridges to.................a better understanding of and more patience with each other!

 Cliffside Bridge

4)  Bridges to..................deeper relationships!

 Cobblestone Bridge

5)  Bridges to..............a healthier lifestyle!

Deer Brook Bridge

6)  Bridges to..............greater acceptance of those who are different!

 Hadley Brook Bridge

7)  Bridges ideas!

 Hemlock Bridge

8)  Bridges to...........experiencing greater depths of love.

Jordon Pond Bridge

9)  Bridges to...........eliminating the tendency to judge others.

 Jordon Pond - Seal Harbor Bridge

10)  Bridges to................better utilization of time!

 Little Harbor Brook Bridge

11)  Bridges to..............letting go!

Stanley Brook Bridge

12)  Bridges to.............a wider worldview!

 Triad - Day Mountain Bridge

13)  Bridges to...............making better choices!

 Waterfall Bridge

14)  Bridges to..................finding contentment!

West Brook Bridge

15)  Bridges to..................knowing without a doubt that happiness cannot be bought!

Eagle Lake Bridge

If you are interested in more information about the history, design and construction of the bridges, here are two excellent articles you might enjoy!

As for us, all bridges are headed towards HOME!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Hiking and Biking In Acadia National Park

Jordon Pond - Acadia National Park
June 15, 2012
(My apologies for the two spots on the camera lens)

We knew that the pace of our trip would change once we reached Maine. And it has!   The focus during these two weeks was to be on hiking and biking the trails/carriage roads of Acadia National Park.  Acadia, at only 47,000+ acres, is one of our smaller national parks, yet it attracts more than 3 million visitors each year.   Thankfully, we have been here very early in the season and have never felt a sense of overcrowding.   After a very interesting 2/10th mile rock climb to Conners Nubble last Thursday, we had a delightful 45 minutes ALONE on top with a 360 degree view of what seemed liked THE WORLD!!  We never saw another soul!!  

Yesterday (Sunday), we drove to Bar Harbor mostly to revisit Bar Island (with which I am fascinated) and Bill's favorite ice cream parlor (with which HE is fascinated) only to find that TWO cruise ships were in port for the day.  Even with the addition of 2,000 people from those ships, the town did not seem crowded like we had expected it to be.  In fact, there are TWO things which have been very pleasant unexpected surprises on this trip to New England.  I think I've mentioned previously that Bill has wanted to do this trip for the last couple of years, but I have hesitated because of these two things neither of which in the end, have been a factor!!   The first is crowds.   We are fortunate to be able to travel during May/June and are generally able to avoid the higher prices and larger crowds of the main tourist season.  With the less rural area of New England, its popularity and its proximity to the I-95 corridor (think NYC to Boston) coupled with the areas notorious reputation for crowding, I just anticipated that the last few weeks of our trip would be spent fighting crowded places.  That has simply NOT been the case.

The second (and several of you have actually asked about this) was the well-known New England mosquito and black fly issues.   During a normal year, following "mud season" when many trails are actually CLOSED, the mosquitoes come out in droves.   Lots of veteran NE outdoors enthusiasts simply hang it up for the season.   And then sometime between Mother's Day and Father's Day come the dreaded black flies.   For those of us from the south, these are NOT your normal pesky flies that bother our picnics or we chase around our kitchens with the fly swatter!!   These are GIANT ugly flies that BITE!  We have personal experience with the arrival of black fly season having naively encountered it during our 2001 Summer Adventure in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  And we DON'T want to encounter it again!  

Having said all that, I am happy to say that we have not seen any black flies although local website tracking enthusiasts say they are here.   Technically, that would've been more of an issue around Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire as we are told that they are LESS of a problem here on the coast because of the constant breeze.   We have purchased and are using insect repellant, but I certainly can't say that mosquitoes have been a problem or kept us from doing anything we wanted to do.  

We took a "rest" day from hiking/biking and drove the 50 miles to Bangor late last week.  Bangor (pop. 31,400+) is considered to be the cultural, retail and commercial center for eastern and northern Maine.   For us, it was simply a destination that allowed us to drive some backroads of Maine to see what it's like AWAY from the tourism focused areas around Bar Harbor and Acadia.  We also were able to visit one of only two Sam's Club locations in the ENTIRE state of Maine.  It was nice to stock up on some of our familiar staple items we haven't been able to find.  Other than Sam's, we didn't find much in Bangor that held our attention.  The world's tallest statue of Paul Bunyan, was completly enclosed in some mega-construction project so we weren't even able to pay homage to the father of our nation's lumber industry!!

Other than that, our days have been filled with meandering around in our little village of Southwest Harbor (which we love) and hiking/biking.   With less than a week to go before turning our car south and heading home, we are beginning to think about that as well.  Our return trip is left open-ended to allow for some flexibility.   Sometimes, we are just ready to get on the road and go,  other years, we still have some meandering left in us and enjoy a slow paced return seeing some more interesting things along the way.   Not sure yet what this year is going to be, but we know it will involve at least one more state capital city!!

In the meantime, enjoy some pictures from the hiking trails and carriage roads of Acadia National Park!!

There are 125 miles of carriage trails around Acadia National Park.  Every intersection is signed like this one and is identified with a number (see it near the bottom of the pic - this was #9) that corresponds to a number on a well-drawn map that can be obtained at the visitor center.  There are lots of intersections and with a map, almost impossible to become lost.   Without a would be clueless and we've seen plenty of "clueless" people!!   On this day, we were doing the Eagle Lake Loop.

Something rather unique to us is that the 125 miles of hiking trails are constructed in and around the carriage trails, so it is easy to map out a great hike using both.  A few miles into the Eagle Lake Loop carriage trail, we secured our bikes and headed up what we thought to be a "piece of cake" 2/10th mile to Conners Nubble.   I'll write more later about the hiking trails of Acadia, but for now, just know that most of the time, 2/10th mile in Acadia is worse than 5 MILES in the Smokies!  In Acadia, you do not hike, you rock-climb!!  And that's exactly what this was!  Yes, Bill is on the trail.   He is actually reaching back to help me up!

To say I was proud of myself is quite an understatement.  In fact, at one point, I'd told Bill to just go on - I'd wait.   Except there was no easy place to wait and I couldn't get back down without his help!! Once we made it, the 360 degree view was incredible and we proudly placed our stone at the top of the cairn.   We enjoyed our time there, but all I could think about was how I was going to get back down!  

 Back down on terra firma, we completed the Eagle Lake Loop and drove over to Jordon Pond to hike the Jordon Pond Stream Trail.  This is a view of the Bubbles (I can only imagine what OTHER names have been given to this!!) which we will be hiking before we leave.

This was the Witch Hole Pond and Paradise Hill Loop Carriage Trail.   We chose to bike the Witch Hole Pond part, secure the bikes and walk the Paradise Hill section. 

Rest stop at the top of Paradise Hill overlooking Frenchman's Bay.

One of the very unique features of the carriage roads are the 16 bridges.  The bridges were built to cross a ravine, stream or road and EACH ONE IS DIFFERENT!  I'd hoped to find them all!  Not sure that is going to happen, but here is my favorite so far.  It is a triple arched bridge that crossed one of the few mountain streams in the park.  The design was so intricate and beautiful!  (If you follow the link describing all the bridges, this one is the Duck Pond Bridge)

We saw lots of Beaver dams, but I've rarely seen one where the "front door" is so clearly evident!  I'd have waited an HOUR if I thought I might have seen a beaver come or go.   Since they are primarily nocturnal, most likely it wasn't going to happen!!

Here are a couple of miscellaneous pictures I thought you might enjoy......................

The village green in Bar Harbor, ME.   Couldn't believe how uncrowded it was on a Sunday afternoon.   Vastly different story a few blocks over on the waterfront where two cruise ships were docked!!  Bill's favorite ice cream parlor is straight ahead where you see the red awnings!!

I am completely mesmerized by Bar Island.  It can only be reached during low tide. This pictures was taken on Sunday afternoon as low tide was approaching.  In less than an hour.......................

......................this is what it looked like.  Is that cool or what!!

Thanks for reading!!!