Monthly Archives: March 2016

Travel Makes Happy Memories

Vacations are a wonderful way to make lifelong memories. When I was a child our family took summer vacations visiting states throughout our country. I am awed I think how our forefathers headed west in covered wagons. Three-thousand miles is just a number until you consider it is nearly that far from New York City to San Francisco.

1948 Buick Sedan

1948 Buick Sedan

It took my family days to drive from San Antonio where I grew up to such destinations as Colorado, New Nevada or California. The first vacation I went on, one I barely remember, was to Colorado. I was six at the time. We packed up the Buick and off we went: the goal was to drive up Pike’s Peak — which we did. It was the first time I saw snow. I don’t remember if that was so or just something my folks talked about after the trip. I think it might have been the first time they saw snow too.

While we were in Colorado, we stopped overnight in Golden to visit friends of my parents. This I do remember – as if it were yesterday. I was outdoors with their son – who was my age – when suddenly he whispered, “STOP! Stand Still!”

Pike's Peak - America's Mountain

Pike’s Peak – America’s Mountain

I followed his eyes to the ground. There, coiled up, was a rattlesnake with its rattle rattling. After what seemed like hours, the snake uncoiled and slivered off.

We probably scared the snake as much as it scared me. My friend was unfazed. I don’t remember Pike’s Peak, but I remember standing there in my jeans and boots with a rattlesnake coiled at our feet.

On another vacation, I remember visiting Yosemite National Park where we saw the beautiful fire fall. It no longer takes place, but in the evening in the 1950s, a giant fireball was dropped down the side of Glazier Point.

Firefall in Yosemite National Park

Firefall in Yosemite National Park

The fireball drop began in mid-1800s and continued until it was stopped by the National Park Service in 1968. In the summer, as the sun set, the employees of the Glazier Point Hotel would build a huge fire atop Glacier Point. As the fire burned down to embers, someone yelled, “Let the fire fall!” Originally, that someone was the hotel’s owner. With long rakes, the hotel employees would push glowing coals over the 3,200-foot cliff.

I don’t remember anyone singing The Indian Love Song or someone yelling, “let the fire fall,” all part of the show, or so I have since read. But I vividly remember seeing that magnificent fireball heading down the mountain.

The Takeaway: Life is full of vivid memories, some good and some we’d rather forget. What memories do you have from childhood – especially ones from travel experiences – to share with us? Let’s remember together. Please include your name and email address or phone number so I may contact you for clarification or if I have a question. I will not publish your name. Contact me at [email protected]

The Love of Travel

My love of travel began at an early age. In the summer, my family took driving vacations, or road trips, of two to three weeks. We visited states from the East to West Coasts and the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. It was the boom days after World War II. Gas rationing was lifted and new cars began rolling off the assembly line. I expect my parents had pent up travel bug.

As an adult, my travel adventures have expanded to other Continents, but I am getting ahead of myself. In this next segment of Retirement is a Journey, I will blog about travel and how it has expanded my horizons and enriched my retirement. First, I will begin with how travel got in my DNA.

While I was growing up, it was in the summer months I learned about our country, both geographically and historically. While I didn’t think of it that way, travel was my best social and history lessons. Seeing where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address had its impact. It probably means I’m an experiential learner.

mapIt was the early 1950s, before Interstate highways crisscrossed the country and gave all major roadways the look of “sameness.” There were no McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts or Holiday Inns. It was the heyday of Route 66s and California’s beautiful Pacific Coast Highway 101.

Each stop was an adventure. We were easily identified as tourists with our Texas twang. Ordering a hamburger for lunch was an experience. We’d ask for lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, mustard and mayonnaise on the burger. The waitresses, always a girl or woman in those days, would stop what they were doing and watch us “put salad on our burgers.” We found out burgers in most places consisted of a thin meat pattie, ketchup, onion and pickles.

signIf we hadn’t reached a specific destination, we would drive until late afternoon. Around 5 p.m., we’d start looking for a motor inn, usually located on the highway. Back then, motor inns were not called motels. Most inns were one story buildings built in an L or wide U shape with parking in front of the rooms.

My brother and I would ask to stay where there was a swimming pool – easy to identify as we were driving. Pools were on grassy areas in the middle of the motor inn.

Mom always asked Dad to check the room to make sure it was clean. Once the room passed muster, we would unpack and change into bathing suits for a swim. Motor inns did not have restaurants in those days, so after a swim, we would dress and look for a restaurant that looked nice, but not too nice!

After dinner, it was time for bed…no television in those days. Plus, after a full day of driving with stops for whatever there was to see along the way, we were tired. And, my parents wanted to get an early start the next morning.

desertIn the 1950s, cars were not air-conditioned. When we vacationed in California or other states in the West, we would drive over 500 miles the first day. We’d stay overnight in Las Cruz, New Mexico, just over the Texas border from El Paso.

I have groggy memories of being awoken the next morning while it was dark outside. We wanted to drive across the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona before it got too hot. My parents feared our car would overheat. Others must have had similar fears as we often saw cars with water bags hanging from the hood ornaments.

wolfWhile driving was not as safe as it is today, those were more innocent days. Driving in the 1950s was a very freeing experience. No seat belts or safety carseats for kids, let alone laws requiring them.

There were no video games, iPods or other portable devices to amuse the kids. We had something called car games. These games were a group effort with the likes of I Spy, 20 Questions and license plate games. Remember those funny little red and white Burma shave signs that dotted the roadways.

In the 50s, for better or worse, many states allowed youngsters to get a driver’s license as a young teenager. In Texas, I got my license at age 14 — after taking a safe driving course and passing a written and driving test.

I was legal to drive, but not yet five feet tall. My parents had an Oldsmobile 98 and I could barely see over the stirring wheel. That year we vacationed in Florida. My parents gave me a turn at driving on the highway when a Florida state trooper started following us. He finally pulled me over. He couldn’t believe I was old enough to drive legally. I probably should not have been, but, those were more innocent days.

The Takeaway: What lesson or remembrances do you have from childhood – good, bad or indifferent? Share it and let’s start a conversation. Please include your name, email or phone number. I may need to contact you for clarification or with a question. I won’t publish your name. Contact me at [email protected].

Taking Chesapeake to New Home

Bayside yard at the Chesapeake

Bayside yard at the Chesapeake

Our home at the Chesapeake was situated on a hill that contributed to issues with stormwater runoff and cliff erosion. Once we settled fulltime at the Bay, we worked to keep water away from the top of the cliff. We built a berm in the front yard with underground pipes taking water to a culvert beside our property. We also planted trees, bushes, groundcover and perennials in the front and bayside yard to help absorb ground water.

When FEMA offered us a buyout in 2012, it meant the house would be demolished and the property returned to its natural state. It also meant all the landscaping features we had installed would be destroyed.

Moving to Elkton, Maryland

Moving to Elkton, Maryland

After months of house hunting, we found a home in Elkton, Maryland. I was pleased the 15-year-old house lacked real landscaping. It had only basic foundation plants. It gave us a clean slate to plan how the outside of the house would look. We fenced the backyard to protect our dogs and got to work on a landscaping design.

When we moved from the Chesapeake in July 2012 what we wanted most was to bring the bay with us. Since that was not possible, we took as much of the outdoors as we could.  We brought our hardscape including a small wooden bridge, fountains, decorative rocks and benches. We also brought plants from the yard.

It was a rainy Saturday when a friend came over and helped us dig up many of our trees and bushes. The same ones he had planted for us over a span of eight years. The rain that day mirrored the sadness the three of us were feeling.

We had rented a truck and filled it to overflowing with those bushes, trees, groundcover and perennials. After a full day’s work, my partner climbed in the truck’s cab and drove our plants up Interstate 95 as I followed in the car.

Our new shade garden in Elkton

Our new shade garden in Elkton

A friend from New Jersey who is in the landscape business helped us developed a design for our new yard in Elkton. The plan incorporated plants from the Chesapeake we hoped would survive transplant shock. Fortunately, most are going strong after three years!  We were sad when a Japanese maple and Korean dogwood didn’t make it and had to be replaced.

For two years after we moved, I spent many hours working in the yard. Now when we go outside, we smile as we see so many of our Chesapeake transplants thriving in our new yard. We take special joy in our two fringe trees, native to Maryland, with their lovely white blossoms in the spring. Other Chesapeake transplants doing well are the many perennials blooming in our shade garden, a blue-flowering chaste tree and nandina in the front, variegated willow bushes, burning bushes and variety of groundcovers in the backyard. We found new homes for our wooden bridge and benches. And this past summer, we installed our large pottery fountain in the backyard.

The Takeaway: Through no fault of our own, we might have to move on. It might be moving on from a special someone or a special something or somewhere. We all know, moving on can be very difficult. What we keep when we move on is our memories and these memories can last a lifetime. I smile when I think about our time at the Chesapeake. So many happy times shared with loved ones and good friends.  So many happy memories.

Let’s start a conversation about a situation or time you had to move and how you handled it. Send me an email. Please provide your name and contact information so I may get in touch for clarification or with a question. I will not print your name. Contact me at [email protected]

Time to Move On


Storm clouds over the Chesapeake Bay

During the twelve years we had our Chesapeake Bay home, we learned much about the power of nature. We watched strong weather systems sweep up the Bay and when the sun broke through the clouds after a storm, we saw colorful, double rainbows stretch across the sky.

We also learned, firsthand, the downside of nature’s power. In previous blogs, I’ve detailed efforts to save our home when erosion claimed ever more of our cliff. Shoreline erosion and the effects of sea-level rise on our shores were a constant reminder of these powerful forces.

In a way, I’m glad the decision to leave the Chesapeake was not entirely our own.  We would have wanted to stay longer than we should, either because of cliff erosion or our own age.  We worked for years to save our home and were relieved when we got a permit in December 2006 to build a stone breakwater. We knew a lot of damage had been done by that time.

Even so, we were caught off guard when Calvert County wrote us in February 2012 saying we were one of ten homeowners eligible for a FEMA buyout. We were not aware FEMA had conducted a study along the Calvert Cliffs to determine if it was better to try and stabilize the cliffs or buy properties in imminent danger of erosion.



The formula for a FEMA buyout is straightforward: the federal government pays homeowners 75 percent of the fair market value of their property before the disaster occurred.  While buyouts generally occur as a result of flooding, our “disaster” was a tornado that came through the county in June 2010.

With a buyout, states or counties often provide the remaining 25 percent to homeowners.  In our case, state and local officials agreed to administer the buyout, but refused to provide any money. It meant we, as homeowners, had to pay 25 percent of the cost of buying our home, plus 25 percent for demolition, engineering and closing costs. Calvert County now owns ten vacant lots that must be kept in their natural state ad infinitum.

deskThe buyout was a comedy of errors from how FEMA and the state did their part of the project to how the county managed it. While we were losing our homes, we got double talk from the government. The buyout was not completed until May 2013 – fifteen months after we were first informed. As for one, we had to pay two mortgages for nearly a year.

Since nothing would ever be built on our property, we had agreed to sell our breakwater stone to a friend who lived nearby. Then a strange thing happened just before the buyout was completed. The county attorney called and said if we sold our stone, we would not be eligible for the buyout. Needless to say, selling the stone was off the table.

From previous blogs, you might remember U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources tried to stop us or anyone else on the Calvert Cliffs from constructing shoreline erosion controls. Their reasoning: it would disturb habitat used by the Puritan tiger beetle, put on the threatened/endangered species list in the early 1990s. While neither the state nor federal government spent funds to rehabilitate the species, they did pay a biologist to count the beetles during their mating season in the summer.

It was difficult to leave the Chesapeake Bay. We knew our house was unsaleable and we knew we were fortunate to get money for it. We had previously made the decision to be closer to our family in the Philadelphia area when we moved. After numerous house hunting trips up Interstate-95, we moved to Elkton, Maryland, in July 2012.

Sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay

Sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay

Leaving the Bay meant saying goodbye to a wonderful way of life. Goodbye to friends and our well-established social and religious connections.

It meant saying goodbye to sunrises over the Bay, to watermen pulling up their crab pots and watching the many ships go up and down the Bay from the Port of Baltimore.

It was particularly hurtful to know our wonderful home would no longer exist. According to FEMA rules, the house had to be demolished within 90 days of the buyout’s closing and the property returned to its “natural state.”  We did ask if that meant taking out the stormwater management systems we had installed. We got no response.

While we were living on the Bay, my first grandson was born. Moving closer to Philadelphia meant being with him more often. It meant being a more active part of his life. We would also see family and old friends more often. There is always an upside to most every situation.  Thank goodness.

The Takeaway: We are stronger than we think we are when tested with difficult situations.  Age has taught us something and that is good.

Would you like to share a situation in which you were tested? If so, write me. Please provide your name so I may reach you if I have a question. I will not print your name. Contact me at [email protected]