Amazing Gift

The trip this summer has reminded me of a time in my past when I received a LARGE gift wrapped box. Once I unwrapped the large gift I was surprised and thrilled to see yet another gift wrapped inside the outer gift. Our travels thus far are just like that gift long ago… we keep unwrapping our “gifts” along our journey up the East coast.

Before leaving Maryland we firmed up the locations we will be calling “home” for the last 8 weeks of our adventure.Making phone calls, checking distances from one location to the next and making some plans on what we will do and see once we are at each location is WORK. Planning is part of our new “carefree” lifestyle😊.

As my Handsome Chauffeur started looking at the maps and consulting fellow Nomads it became apparent that there were going to be lots tolls and there may be overpasses that perhaps the Mobile Condo may have difficulty getting under. With that said, the trip from Maryland to Massachusetts could be a bit more costly in many ways. My Handsome Chauffeur manned his phone, studied different routes and purchased a new app for his phone that calculates tolls. The preparation for the journey was arduous, but very similar to the adage carpenters use “measure twice… cut once.”  We wanted to spend the least amount of money on tolls ( the Circus Train has 5 axels) and we wanted to be sure the overpasses were at least 13 foot 6 inches to ensure we kept from losing our air conditioner from our roof.

Relocating to Massachusetts was going to be a Looooong travel day. The route My Handsome Chauffeur selected took us along the coast. We saw beautiful country sides and drove through major cities as well. All in all we traversed through six states. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and finally MASSACHUSETTS! To our delight we only paid ONE toll…$37.50 to go over the Tappan Zee bridge in New York! The $4.99 My Handsome Chauffeur paid for the toll app and studying the maps paid off! As we traveled through these states we talked about our return to spend quality time in each of them in the future!

Leaving the highways, meandering winding 2 lane roads through small towns, all the while dodging low hanging branches we finally reached our home on the coast for the next 2 weeks Fourth Cliff Recreation area in Humarock, MA. It was simply BREATHTAKING!The Atlantic Ocean view out of our front window (aka windshield). Behind us the North and South Rivers converge and dump into the ocean which is called a “Spit”. The travel day behind us and we get to call this place home for 2 weeks we were in HEAVEN!

Fourth Cliff is one of a series of cliffs located in Scituate, MA. It’s a peninsula. Before 1898 Fourth Cliff was connected to Third Cliff. As a result of the Great Storm of 1898 Fourth Cliff became detached from Scituate when a new mouth for the North River was created. 

We got all settled in and got to meet our neighbors. Fourth Cliff is a military recreation area. It was interesting to us that most of the folks staying here were actually Massachusetts residents where at many of our other locations we stayed at had folks traveling through from other states. The folks were equally interested in us being Professional Nomads. Most of the folks came here as a summer get away. No wonder…. Fourth Cliff is a gem that seems to be a secret. We were so thankful to be here. Our neighbors gave us history of the area and a “locals” perspective on things to see and do along with best times and days of the week to AVOID going into Boston or Cape Cod. We also got a lesson on how to pronounce and understand the eastern Massachusetts dialect. We were invited to “Potty”  to celebrate a birthday…. not a group trip to a restroom.  When someone was looking for “khaaahkis”  they are what we on the Midwest pronounce car keys, no one was looking for  a pair of missing men’s slacks! We all got a giggle out of trying to understand each other😊. 

I really enjoy reading along with other hobbies. Lately, I have been reading works by Elin Hildenbrand. I love her story lines! She writes often about Nantucket and Cape Cod. Her descriptions of the area captivates me and here I am living in the area for 2 weeks. Pinch me I think I am in a dream!

Along the coast most of the homes are weathered shake shingles adorned with multiple flower boxes FILLED with beautiful flowers and almost every home flys the American Flag.  This beautiful lighthouse is in Scituate, MA just down the road from 4th Cliff where we were making our home. Looking out from this point into the sea on June 1, 1813 you would have seen the battle between USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon in which Captain James Lawrence spoke his famous last words “Don’t give up the ship”  which became our Navy’s battle cry. The lighthouse was first lit in 1811.

We rode our bicycles to the beach where we were astonished to see that there was minimal sand. Most of the beach was covered with flat cobble stones which made it hard to walk on, but beautiful!I collected a few a painted some to leave along our journey as a ” treasure ” for someone to findIt was so cool to see the tide changes. We did find sand on low tide which was at least a flux of 6 foot. The ripples in the sand mimic the waves… 

About everyday my Handsome Chauffeur and I enjoy Potato Chips with our lunch. While eating one day I noticed on the back of our favorite brand of chips that they are made in Cape Cod…. go figure since they are  named Cape Cod Potato Chips … Duh! My Handsome Chauffeur loves to tour any kind of manufacturing facility  so BONUS.. the facility that creates something he loves too was a huge score! We learned that it takes four pounds of potatos to make one pound of chips! They use approximately 39 million pounds of potatoes a year in the plant! That’s a BUNCH! 

The factory was close to Hyannis, MA. So we took another field trip to visit the town that is related to all things Kennedy. We toured the JFK MuseumThis was a small more intimate look at not only President Kennedy, but his entire family. Much different than his Presidentially museum that is located in Boston.

As we headed back towards our home on the cliff we stopped in Plymouth, MA. to see “The” rockyep…. there it is..The Plymouth Rock where the Pilgrims landed! It is located in a bay dotted by boats and surrounded by what looks like a mausoleum We were  glad our new friends told us to make this stop as part of  other sites we wanted to see, as even though it is a historic place, you could hear people say as they approached it for a gander “That’s it?”  We were equally underwhelmed. I am not sure exactly what I thought it was going to be, but I expected more due to all the hype we were taught in history. The reality however, is that our country’s birthstone is a mere boulder. The town of Plymouth was lovely though.Next stop “Baaaaaahston” (aka Boston in Midwestern dialect😉)

We were given lots of advice on how to get to Boston. Most locals take a ferry boat to avoid driving in the messy traffic and parking could be a nightmare. Then we met a new friend who let us in on a little secret…because we have a Military I.D. we could park on the Coast Guard base in Boston for F R E E! Score one for team We Be Winging it! We meandered around the dock and spoke to a Coast Guard service member standing watch on one of the Coast Guard Ships in the harbor. I thought the Coast Guard that patrolled our country’s seaboards, but I soon found out their mission is “to protect the public, the environment, and U.S. economic interests — in the nation’s ports and waterways, along the coast, on international waters, or in any maritime region as required to support national security.” The ship “wears” her own medals and sports other decal that show Her accomplishments.the Service Member graciously explained the what these stood for. The E is for excellent service when they have been evaluated, the 3 green leafs stand for confiscations of marijuana and EACH blue snow flake decals represent busts of 1 cubic TON of cocaine! Whoa! 

Boston is FULL of our great Country’s history and a wonderful walking city. Shortly after leaving the harbor we started our tour along the Freedom Trail that is 2.5  mile through the city where there are 16 sites significant to our Country. The trail is clearly marked along the route. Living so long in Kansas and all the Wizard of Oz stuff there,while following the trail markings I couldn’t help hearing the Munchkins singing “follow the yellow brick road ” We started with Paul RevereThe Old North Church that played a huge role in Revere’s ride. The candles that were lit in the windows indicated “One if by land, and two if by sea”In the courtyard of this beautiful old church there is a memorial garden to our Fallen Heroes of the Afghanistan-Iraq Isis. Each unmarked dog tag honors a fallen Hero.The white stones are etched with Year and numbers lives lost through the wars our country has played a part in starting with the Revolutionary War on the outer ring. The inner ring is stones reflects the lives lost in the war we are currently battling in the Middle East.The Freedom Walk took us up hill and over water. I wish I had a photo of the bridge we were walking across , but I looked down once…it was a grate with sight to the river below and frankly I COULD NOT look down again because of fear! Eyes trained ahead I made it without passing out! We made our way through beautiful neighborhoods to Bunker HillAlas, my Handsome Chauffeur and I did not walk up the 294 steps to the top of the inside of the monument as we still needed to walk back to where we began the tour and our old knees and feet were letting us know that they were about DONE with this tour 😉.

We made it to the USS Constitution aka Old Ironsides. This beauty was in dry dock just about finished being refurbished. The current restoration started in 2015. This wooden ship was first put into service in 1797. “She is the oldest warship afloat in the world. She is the oldest sailing vessel in the world that can sail under her own power and she is the beginning of the United States Navy,” Our tour of the Boston area included delicious food in the North End aka Little Italy. After a day of hiking through the city we were in search of a delicious meal. The North End’s air is filled with delicious scents everywhere you turn. The decision was difficult. We decided to take our friend’s recommendation to get a pizza at legendary Regina’s Pizzeria. WOW the meal we enjoyed after a long day of touring was off the chart DELICIOUS We couldn’t leave the Boston area without a stop by Cheers. The wings were hotthe beers were coldwe felt like one of the “regulars “The two weeks we spent on the Coast came to an end. We will miss everything about it! The people we met, the beautiful sightsthe amazing sunsetsIt was time to move inland. Next stop Hanscom AFB, MA. for a  stay. A short drive away, only 40 miles, this  is the smallest distance we have relocated our home. We traded the fresh sea air, sounds of waves crashing into the coast and magnificent views of Fourth Cliff for a RV Fam camp next to a flight line with airplanes constantly taking off and landing,  scent of jet fuel exhaust and waking up to Reveille. It was like being back to reality after waking from a glorious dream we had for 2 short weeks. As Arnold Schwarzenegger said “I’ll be back”  we also will be back to Humarock, MA in our future!

The great thing about staying at Hanscom AFB was that we were between Lexington and Concord, MA. Our Revolutionary War lesson continued! We made our way over to  the Minute Man National Historical Park.  We drove the Historic Battle road. We saw the sights of the area that on April 19, 1775 the battle began between the British and Colonials…the war had begun for our liberty. Our stay in Massachusetts came to an end. We had the time of our life. It was truly a gift that we slowly unwrapped. We are ready to unwrap our next gift …..Maine! Big wheels are a rolling….. Maine here we come!

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Oh the Places, things and people we saw!

Our next stop on our summer of travel was Maryland. Neither of us had ever been to this area. We decided to stay a month as there was SOOOoo many things to see and do in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area and boy were we glad we did!

First we had to travel UNDER the Chesapeake Bay! Yes, you read that correctly U N D E R water. For those who know me and my RESPECT (insert fear) of water know that this little jaunt under the water while riding in a Circus Train was causing me a bit of anxiety! We asked plenty of folks in our campground what to expect in attempt to quell my fear. Knowledge is power right? Well, let me just say it kind of kicked it up a notch when they told us there may be an issue of us going through the tunnel with propane on board….and boy howdy we certainly do have a fare amount of it on board….to the tune of 35 lbs of it! Tunnels under water plus propane gas could equal trouble! After doing a bit more research we were told we could indeed enter the tunnel, but we would need to make sure the tank was turned off prior to entering. Now I was really sweating! Would we blow up the tunnel if there was an accident of sorts? As travel day approached my apprehension grew and GREW! My Handsome Chauffeur’s cool, confident and collected manner did help a wee bit, but as we approached the tunnel I could feel my palms start to sweat. We pulled over as directed and were met by an attendant who greeted my Chauffeur and collected information i.e. license plate and measured our height to see if we could even enter the tunnel. The attendant escorted my Chauffeur and observe him turning off the propane. When we were given the go ahead we entered the tunnel and went to the depth of 108 feet below sea level traveling for 3.2 miles! Finally as I saw the light at the end of the tunnelthe sweating palms subsided and off we went. Next stop Fort Meade, Maryland!
The travel day went without any glitches. “Lola” (our GPS) was cooperative. As we approached Washington D.C. the traffic became congested as usual. It seemed to take a longer than usual to get to our Fort Meade, but traveling any where on the east coast we have found you measure your trip in minutes not miles. More often than not it takes double the amount of time per mile. The closer we are to big cities depending, if we hit it around Rush hour, the time can easily be tripled! BINGO… we hit D.C. before Rush Hour! Score one for team We Be Winging It! 

As we crossed the Potomac River we could see the Capital and the Washington Monument off in the distance. I got huge GOOSEBUMPS! For me, it was seeing the Cinderella’s castle at Disney World! This stop on our summer tour was definitely one of our Big Ticket Bucket List items! We were so excited to hit the ground seeing all we could!

We are blessed to know some folks that actually live in D.C. and we were given WONDERFUL advice and recommendations on what to do and see while we were in the area. One recommendation we really tried to abide by was not driving into the city. We were excited to find that there was a commuter train station just 2 miles down the road from Fort Meade which we could also bring our bikes aboard on weekends. Score another big one for Team Winging It!

Up early, bicycles in our truck, map of Washington D.C. and the train schedule handy, off we went on our first of many missions to see as much as we could systematically checking off our list of MUST do and see! We exited out of Union Station downtown D.C. and the view was breathtaking! The sun was glimmering off the Capital. I no longer had goosebumps, but GOOSEMOUNTAINS!

Using bicycles to navigate the city was a breeze! We were able to cover so much territory in a short time. I could have taken a million photos. Here we were among monuments that we read about in history classes and saw on television each night on the news. I was pinching myself!

We rode our bikes over the Potomac to Arlington Cemetery. Tears were hard to keep at bay as we walked the entire cemetery approximately 2 miles around the rolling hills.. We saw all of the major stops, Kennedy’s resting place, changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and Arlington House which were so impressive. The thing that stuck with us the most were the acres of White Tomb stones as far as we could see! Over 400,000 Americans and their family members make this their final resting place. From the Revolutionary War until today. 25-30 burials can take place a day! The cost of our freedom is visualized here! I wish every citizen who lives in our country would take a walk through this resting place. The lines of stones covering this 623 acre sacred place makes me reflect on what so many take for granted. I don’t think a person can enter and not leave the cemetery unchanged

Our first of many trips into D.C. under our belt. We got back on the train back “home” exhausted! We were so very thankful we had booked a month stay! Our age was apparent. Our feet were soreand our minds full as we reflected on what we saw and learned. We were excited to take a day of rest and then off we go AGAIN!

The next time we ventured into the city my feet were better prepared We spent the day touring the Capital, Library of Congress and just walking all over the Hill. It was a weekday so the city was not only filled with tourist like ourselves, but Congress was in session so it was a busy bustling area!

We took the guided tour of the Capital and learned so much. We highly recommend it if you get a chance to visit. All that we saw was bigger than life to us! Now when we watch the nightly news interviewing Congress members we know that we too were in that room!

Much to our disappointment we were unable to tour the inside of the White House. In fact, the day we were trying to get close they had the roads cordoned off. Sirens were blaring in the distance we could see a motorcade of black Suburbans pulling up to the White House. We asked a reporter and camera man near by if there was something happening? We were told that they were not aware of anything…. “maybe the President was coming home from playing golf?!” This photo illustrates how far we were all kept away! At least I can saw we were there! Through the “magic” of cropping and zooming WA-La the White House!

We took a ride to Mount Vernon and were not disappointed! The grounds of the plantation and buildings are amazing. I can see why President Washington called this beautiful place on the Potomac home. As we walked through the home I couldn’t help but think of who the President and Martha entertained.. Jefferson, Franklin… the list goes on and on. We also learned that Washington died from a throat infection. Today, we treat an infection with antibiotics and considered not a big deal. Poor Washington didn’t have access to the medications we do. Instead he was “bled” a few times to try to get the infection out of his blood stream. Yikes… a clear case that the “cure” probably was a contributing factor to his demise. It’s hard to believe that he fought in the wars to set us free and a throaty infection took his life.

He died in the bed he shared with Martha. In her grief she left that room and would have the room secured, never for her to sleep in her marriage bed again. After the death of her beloved husband she gave his slaves their freedom per his wishes in his will.  She died two  and a half years after the love of her life. She grieved for the entire time after his death. They are joined in death buried on the property.

I grew up hearing that President Washington had wooden dentures. Prior to becoming a Professional Nomad I was a Registered Dental Hygienist aka Smile Maker 😊. I looked forward to seeing these “wooden” dentures. Much to my surprise the President’s “chompers” were NOT made of wood! They were made of ivory, human and ANIMAL teeth with a base made basically of a “concrete” with a spring hinge connecting the top to the bottom arch. HOLY COW MOLARS….I have no idea how he wore them comfortably let alone eat with them!Next to these dentures was a display of dental scalersWe have come a long LOONNGGgg way in dentistry since his day! Thank goodness! 

Before going to D.C. I had no idea that there are nineteen Smithsonian museums and galleries as well as the National Zoological Park.  Seventeen of these museums are located in Washington D.C., with eleven of those located on the National Mall. There are two in New York City and one near Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia. HOLY COW… where do we begin? We thought having a month in the area would would be  plenty of time to see it all. After the very first museum we knew that was going to be an impossible task for us to complete. We decided to narrow our scope down. We wanted to take our time exploring and learning. We were given a list of must places to see by friends and family who have been to D.C. It was easy to spend anywhere between 3-4 hours touring and learning. We compiled a list of those museums we HAD to see on this trip. We ended up spending time at only seven! Our feet were sore from walking and standing, our brains full of new found knowledge and sights we took in, and we knew right away we will make a return visit to see the museums we didn’t see! So many photos were taken….here are a few highlights Orchid in The Botanical GardenNational ZooThe  Hope DiamondDiscovery Space Shuttle

On top of going to the Smithsonian museums we were privileged to get a personal tour of the Pentagon from a friend of ours that works in the Pentagon. What an AMAZING place!! It is a museum inside along with a work place for many Americans both Military and Civilian. A person could actually take hours if not days to taken it all in!

Below are some of the facts about this amazing buildingThe original plan for the building allowed for four floors, but a fifth floor has been added. As we went around the rings of the inside, the corridors are filled with artifacts from all branches of service, there is a corridor dedicated to Humanitarian services, NATO and POW/MIA. The area that brought tears to my eyes was the Chapel  and 9-11 Memorial. 

On September 11, 2001 at 9:37 in the morning American Airlines flight number 77 deliberately crashed into the Pentagon killing everyone aboard the plane and 125 people in the building. As we walked through the corridors of this amazing building there are no windows in the center rings. I noticed that there are arrows in a row lining each side of the wall that are close to the floor directing towards an exit. I also noticed that although there were escalators and stairways through the building there were also LARGE ramps. I asked our friend who was showing us the building about what I was observing. He solemnly stated that the arrows are close to the ground to remind people to stay low when exiting in case of an emergency and the corridors were filling with smoke, the ramps help move people faster than stairs. According to Wikipedia there are 23,000 military and 3,000 Civilian employees in the Pentagon. After being within the confines of this beautiful structure it amazes me that there were not more loss of life when the plane came through those walls. How they all got out of the building especially on the side that was hit is truly amazing! With windows only on the outside ring it is easy to see how a person can lose your sense of direction and truly have no idea what hit them! 

Reagan National airport located in Arlington has planes taking off and landing every few minutes. While we were outside we saw planes making their descent approaching the flight line in order to land. We were astounded to see how close they appear to come to the monuments and buildings. On that fateful September 11, 2001 planes were doing just that.. taking off and landing. It would appear as a normal day planes flying close, but as we now know America Airlines Flight 77 was not heading to the flight line.

Inside the Pentagon they have a beautiful chapel that is dedicated to those Americans that we lost. It is a beautiful and somber area. Panels on the left and right represent the medals awarded to the military and civilian casualties. The panels on the back wall have all the names etched into stone ALL of the names of the victims. A large book contains pictures and biography of each person who lost there lives from the youngest victim, 3 year old Dana Falkenberg to the oldest, John D. Yamnicky, who was 71 years of age.

Outside of the Pentagon on the side that was hit there is a beautiful memorial as well.there are 184 Memorial units located on an age line of the victims birth year denoted by stainless steel strips that cross the grounds of the memorial. Above these stainless steel markers etched in Limestone reads “September 11, 2001 9:37 a.m.” The direction of each marker is symbolic in that those pointing towards the Pentagon are for those who perished on American flight 77 hitting the building and the monuments facing away were those who lost their lives in the building. All of these precious lives became intertwined in eternity,

As we stood in the Memorial looking at the building itself,  we could see the repaired area as it is slightly different in color… a scar if you will. Nearly 20 percent of the Pentagon structure was affected by the attack, offices in the undamaged portions were kept open and the business of our nation’s defense went on. In fact, in less than a month after the attack, some employees were able to move back into their office near the crash site. Amazing!

Not far from the Pentagon is the Air Force Memorial The United States Air Force Memorial honors the service and sacrifices of the men and women of the United States Air Force. Located on a hill in Arlington, Virginia, overlooking the Pentagon and adjacent to Arlington Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial is easily seen on the skyline of Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia in Arlington county.  My Handsome Chauffeur served in the Air Force and took part in many fundraising campaigns for this memorial. It was wonderful to see it in person. The Memorial’s formal dedication was in 2006 eleven years after he retired. 

As we stood within the memorial we heard sirens coming our way. There was a bus being escorted to the Memorial. As it approached and the passengers disembarked we found out the they were a group of folks touring D.C. as part of the Honor Flight. Another goosebump moment for me!

An Honor Flight is conducted by non-profit organizations dedicated to transporting as many United States military veterans as possible to see the memorials of the respective war(s) they fought in Washington, D.C. at no cost to the veterans. Currently these organizations are focused on bringing veterans of World War II to the National World War II Memorial, and any veteran with a terminal illness to see the memorial of the war they fought in. Organizers plan to “naturally transition” their programs to focus on veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and subsequent wars as the veterans of those wars get older.

It was an honor to personally thank these heroes for their service and to thank those who were escorts of these wonderful folks. There are many ways we can serve those who served our great Nation. Here we saw service in the actions, be it assisting those in wheel chairs or just an arm to lean on to get up close and personal to the monuments. To me this was love and respect in action and I am so thankful I got to witness the gift!

As our time came to a close in Maryland we headed to Annapolis. We had visited this beautiful city a few years back with good friends. We love the seaside. We had spent most of the month visiting and touring in cities. It was so nice to be back on a coast, breathing in the salty air while taking in the beauty of the harbor we were familiar withWe thoroughly enjoyed our visit to D.C. and plan to return again as we only scratched the surface of all the Smithsonian Museums seeing only 7.  Our day trip to Annapolis got us excited about our next stop along our tour this summer. 

Big wheels start turning .. next stop the coast of Massachusetts! Oh the places, things and people we will meet!