Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Day 2: Exploring.

•December 28, 2011 • 1 Comment

Friday Dec. 9

We awoke to the sound of gunfire. No, not really. But what did happen was this: as we headed to breakfast at Restaurant Zi, a military jeep filled with half a dozen camouflage-clad soldiers bearing Uzis sped past us, zooming down the road inside the Club Intrawest complex. My thoughts ran wild. Were we under attack? Were drug lords clandestinely operating out of this luxurious seaside resort? No. It turns out that El Comandante had a hankering for Chef Navarro’s breakfast burritos at Restaurant Zi. And wherever the commander goes, so goes his security detail. Although Club Intrawest is a gated resort and is very, very secure, the staff jokingly commented to us that they always felt safe whenever the commander came to dine at the club. I desperately wanted to whip out my phone to snap a photo of this show of military might, but I was afraid that my phone would be confiscated (best case scenario) or I’d be shot (worst case scenario). What a memorable shot that would have been (the photo, I mean).

*Note to soldiers: your cammo really didn’t live up to its name in camouflaging you on the grounds of a luxury resort. You were impossible to miss. Now, if you had worn brightly colored, flowered shirts, you might have blended in…either with the landscaping or the tourists.

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast in very secure surroundings, Steve & I decided to explore the resort and the town. Club Intrawest is located near several other exclusive resorts &  hotels on Playa La Ropa, high on a hill just south of the center of town. The lushly landscaped property is exquisite and painstakingly maintained.

Clusters of stucco buildings, also referred to as towers, are nestled into the hillside, cascading down to the beach. Each tower is painted a bright tropical color: papaya, tangerine, avocado, and lemon, evoking the image of a giant exotic fruit basket.

View of Club Intrawest from the bay.

Our studio suite was a “lookout” unit, located at the top of one of the towers, with a guaranteed view of the bay. Our balcony had a private outdoor shower, dipping pool/cool water jacuzzi, a small dining table with 2 chairs, and a comfy chaise lounge wide enough for two. It felt like the height of decadence.

Chaise & dipping pool on our balcony.

The other side of the balcony: outdoor shower is beyond the table.

One enters the Club Intrawest property from an entrance at the top of the hill. An interior road snakes around the complex from top to bottom, and resort guests can be ferried around on golf carts by the eager-to-please staff. But those wishing to work off a few vacation calories can do some vertical walking and take the stairs. Be forewarned, there are lots and lots of steps! A trip down to the beach and back to the room can be quite a workout if your room is located near the top of the hill, as ours was. One can work up quite a sweat here. Actually, in this hot and humid climate, that can be accomplished simply by standing still. Having recently visited Sedona, Arizona (which I will blog about later), I was struck by how very different the same temperature can feel in different climates. On an intellectual level, I always knew humidity was a factor in terms of “real feel,” but the extremes of these two locales helped me to understand on a visceral level how dramatic the difference can be.  We had daytime temperatures averaging in the high 80’s in both Arizona & Mexico. In the 25-35% humidity (aka “dry heat”) of Arizona, we rarely broke a sweat, even while hiking. Yet at the same temperature in the 80-90% humidity of Zihuatanejo, I had to reconcile myself to feeling as if I were spending the week in a steam bath. Steve’s comment, “It’s raining inside my clothes,” described the conditions perfectly. Once I accepted it, feeling sweaty & sticky no longer bothered me. It was just part of the experience.

We headed into town, a short 15-minute walk from the resort. Heading down the hill, this beautiful vista caught my eye.

Zihua (as the locals call it) is a fishing village and still retains its authenticity and small town charm. Besides fishing, tourism provides a major source of income in this village, so shops and street vendors abound, selling everything from fine jewelry and beautiful local crafts to cheap, generic tchochkes. As is typical of Mexico and other tropical locales (such as the marketplace at Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica…if you’ve been there, you’ll know what I mean), locals selling us their wares and services accosted us every step of the way. I found myself uttering, “No, gracias,” every few seconds. Steve described our walk along the beachfront and through the marketplace as “running the gauntlet.” This unfortunate situation is a reflection of the poverty of many of the citizens, especially now when tourism is down due to both the worldwide economic downturn of the past few years and an increase in violence in Mexico attributed to the growth of drug cartels there. You can be sure that before this trip I scoured the US State Department website, paying close attention to the government’s warnings of areas in Mexico to avoid. Tourism is definitely being impacted.

After wandering around town for awhile, we decided to pick up some snacks and drinks before returning to the resort since our room was equipped with a kitchenette. We took a taxi over to La Comercial Mexicana, a Walmart type of superstore selling everything from tires, clothing, furniture and household goods to liquor and groceries.  A word about taxis here. We were told that taxi drivers do not need to be tipped since they charge tourists about twice what they charge the locals. Even at double the price, it’s still a cheap ride, especially with the exchange rate being about 13.5 pesos to the dollar. We were also warned that taxi drivers are notorious for not having change (or at least claiming not to have change), so be prepared with a good assortment of denominations when going out and about. If the taxi driver charges you 30 pesos and you only have two twenties, then your ride will invariably wind up costing you 40 pesos. There is also room for negotiation. One time we were taking a taxi and the driver told us the charge was 40 pesos. Steve replied,”35.” The taxi driver agreed to the price, but when we arrived at our destination, Steve did not have the exact change, so we ended up paying 40 pesos after all. Nice going, Steve! If nothing else, it was good negotiating practice, I suppose.

Once back at the resort, we jumped into our bathing suits and spent the afternoon at the pool, walking on the beach, and just relaxing. The swim-up bar at the pool offers a different exotic drink every day during its two-fer happy hour (which lasts from 11 AM – 5 PM…some hour!). Today’s Blue Lagoon was a refreshing blend of coconut, rum and um…some blue liqueur I don’t know the name of…perhaps Curacao?  The details don’t matter, it was delightful!

Here I am, sitting at the swim-up bar.

After a pleasant afternoon at the pool, we returned to our room to relax on the balcony, enjoying a glass of chilled chardonnay while watching the sunset from our private perch. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Sunset view from our balcony.

We then headed down to Restaurant Zi for the weekly Friday night Mexican buffet, a delicious sampler of local dishes expertly prepared by Chef Navarro. Yum! On tap for tomorrow, a cycling, kayaking, snorkeling excursion in Ixtapa. Can’t wait!

Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Day 1

•December 20, 2011 • 1 Comment

I’ve gotten some constructive feedback from supportive friends, gently letting me know that my first blog post was waaaay too long. So I will make my postings shorter by breaking up my musings into multiple entries. I’m already backlogged with write-ups of two recent trips: a visit to Sedona, Arizona in October, and last week’s vacation in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Since I am still floating on warm memories of Mexico, I will share that one first, dividing it into what I hope are more manageable bites. Sedona will just have to wait.

Thursday Dec. 8, 2011

When the alarm buzzed at 5 AM, I found myself thinking, “I can’t believe I agreed to another early morning flight. I hate getting up when it’s still dark!” It’s kind of like childbirth. You forget how unpleasant it is until you’re in the midst of it once again. But off we went at the crack of dawn, arriving at the airport comfortably early for an 8:20 AM flight. I became concerned, however, when I noticed there was still no plane at the gate by the 7:45 boarding time. I asked the gate agent if it had been delayed coming in from another airport and was told that the plane had arrived the previous night but, “they are trying to locate it.” That did not inspire confidence. How do you misplace a large jet plane? It finally turned up and we took off…an hour and a half late. We initially thought the 3 hour layover in Mexico City for our connection to Zihuatanejo was going to be excessive, but in this case we were fortunate to have the extra time. Even so, there was a huge line at immigration when we arrived in Mexico City. Between that and having to clear customs with our luggage, recheck the bags, head over to a different terminal and then go through security again, our connection ended up being pretty tight.

Note to self, when flying internationally and making connections, try to arrange it so that one clears customs at the final destination, when time is not of the essence. In fact, that was how it was supposed to play out. Our original itinerary had us changing planes in Houston for a flight to Zihuatanejo where we would have gone through immigration and customs. But that flight was canceled a few weeks before departure and they routed us through Mexico City instead. I will definitely keep this in mind the next time we arrange any international flights, and will request different rerouting should this happen again. Do I have the right to ask the airline to reroute us differently when they make a change of this sort? I’m guessing for a price, they’ll put me on any flight I wish. Ugh!

Despite the tight timing in Mexico City, we (and our luggage) made our connection, arriving in Zihuatanejo on schedule. My first impression when disembarking onto the tarmac at the Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo airport was that it reminded me of south Florida (heat, humidity, palm trees) except with mountains. So already we’ve got two of my favorites in one place…beach and mountains. I did find it a bit disconcerting to see 2 soldiers in uniform with big guns and a big dog on the tarmac watching us as we deplaned. I suppose I should have taken comfort in being protected by Los Federales, but the fact that they needed to be there still made me uncomfortable. The airport was so small that we were able to watch from inside the baggage claim area as the luggage was loaded onto the belt on the other side of the window. Now I know what the dogs were there for. They were sniffing all the baggage being loaded onto the belt, looking for drugs. A fellow passenger suggested that the dogs might be looking for explosives too. I think they need to sniff for that BEFORE the luggage is loaded on to the plane, not after the plane has landed! Perhaps this is going on behind the scenes in the bigger airports I usually travel in and out of, but is never within view of the public.

As soon as we exited the baggage claim area, taxi drivers swarmed around us, offering their services. This was just a taste of the week to come: vendors and service providers clamoring for our attention at every possible opportunity. Welcome to Mexico! We were grateful to see the representative from Club Intrawest waiting for us as arranged, who rescued us and placed us in a taxi headed to the resort.

It had been a long and tiring journey from New Jersey to Zihuatanejo, but as soon as we arrived at Club Intrawest, all the fatigue and aggravation melted away. We were warmly greeted at reception, and each of us was handed a bottle of chilled water and a cool, refreshing washcloth dampened with tangerine scented water. What a delightful touch! After starting our day before dawn, we arrived in Zihua just in time to enjoy a relaxing sunset dinner on the terrace of Restaurant Zi on the premises of the resort. All is forgiven. I think I might even agree to an early morning flight on our next trip if this is the reward!

Just arrived in our room. Welcome to our balcony!

 

Sunset from the terrace of Restaurant Zi.

Bicycling: Day Trips To Paradise

•December 2, 2011 • 3 Comments

July 24, 2011 – Off we go!

Although the week-long heat wave of triple digit temperatures had finally broken, the day dawned hot and muggy as my husband Steve and I packed the car and left for our cycling trip in Canada. The skies grew darker and rain greeted us as we left NJ and made our way north on the NY State Thruway. This did not bode well for the outdoor nature of our trip, but by the time we approached Lake George, the rain had stopped and the sky had turned a brilliant, clear blue. The Adirondacks were majestic and beautiful, providing breathtaking scenery as we continued on our journey. We turned east just before reaching the Canadian border, and meandered along country roads through northern Vermont, enjoying the beautiful landscape and quaint New England towns on our way to Glen Sutton, PQ in Canada.

The Outdoor Lodge Glen Sutton is such a hidden gem that we actually went right past it (not trusting our navigation system’s insistence that we’d reached our destination). The lodge is so secluded, there is not even a sign out front announcing its existence. Finally we figured things out and ventured inside, a little earlier than the designated check-in time. We ran into our host, Stephen, who was busily taking care of last minute details before the arrival of this week’s group of cyclists. He showed us to our room, which was lovely, spacious and comfortable. The lodge is a beautifully restored village school house, built in 1900. On so many levels, we felt we were turning back the clock, returning to yesteryear and an earlier, slower pace of life (while still enjoying many modern comforts). This trip meant going off the grid (cell phone access was spotty, and internet access was quite limited), so it was a nice escape from the hectic pace and digitally driven routine of our daily lives.

The Outdoor Lodge Glen Sutton

After getting settled in our room, Steve & I relaxed on the front porch and chatted with other guests as they began to trickle in. We spent the next couple of hours getting acquainted with one another, which included lots of joking and repetition of names. Everyone had arrived by dinner time, and we were treated to the first of many gourmet meals designed by Stephen’s wife, Joy, and prepared by her amazing kitchen staff.

Post dinner activity involved more formal introductions, and wearing our name tags certainly helped us connect names and faces. Stephen gave us an overview of the procedures and plans for the week, after which guests dispersed to their rooms for the night. Steve & I went out on the 2nd floor deck for a little while to enjoy the spectacular display of stars that one only sees in remote, rural locations, far from the ambient light of cities and suburbs. The night sky was so clear, we were even able to see the Milky Way! Catching sight of a shooting star was the icing on the cake.

July 25, 2011 – Ride Day 1, The Winery Tour (26 miles)

The sag wagon was loaded with our bicycles, and after a hearty breakfast and an explanation of the day’s route by Stephen, we piled into the 2 vans and began our adventure.

Joy and the sag wagon

Today’s ride was the winery tour. We were driven to the start point of the ride in Berkshire, Vermont. We then bicycled back into Canada. Having crossed the Canadian border numerous times by car, I found crossing by bike to be a novel experience. We still had to go through the same process the cars did…having to wait at the stop sign and proceeding one by one to show our passports and answer the usual questions. But it just felt a tad unusual pedaling up to the customs officer rather than driving up.

We cycled to Frelighsburg for our first rest stop where there was a cafe for refreshments and shops for us to explore before pedaling onward. Several of us stopped in at the paper maker’s studio where he showed us his paper presses and displayed some of his beautiful paper artwork.

We resumed our cycling tour, enjoying the beautiful rolling countryside dotted with farms and vineyards. We were impressed by the fancy log cabin homes (not an oxymoron) as we pedaled along Chemin Ross. Our lunch stop was at the winery, l’Orpailleur. We ate our bag lunches outside and then Steve & I sampled some wine in the shop, purchasing a bottle that we knew we’d enjoy with dinner back at the lodge.

Steve in the vineyard at l’Orpailleur

We continued on to another winery, Cote d’Ardoise, where we tasted and bought more wine. When we got to Durham, we stopped at the cheese shop and purchased some cheese, of course. We just can’t pass a shop without buying something. Thank goodness the sag wagon was available to haul our loot back to the lodge!

As we continued on our ride, some of the more ambitious cyclists opted to take on the “hill of the day,” but I decided not to face that challenge and chose the slightly longer, yet gentler, alternate route. My dear husband, Steve, who could have taken the hill without breaking a sweat, gallantly suppressed his inner climber to accompany me on the wimpy way.

We returned to Frelighsburg where the vans waited to drive us back to the lodge. Along the way, we stopped at an orchard that produces ice cider. The owner gave an interesting presentation of the process, followed by more tastings. Yum!  Naturally, Steve & I purchased 2 bottles of this delectable dessert drink.

Upon our return to the inn, we were greeted by the delicious aromas emanating from the kitchen. What a wonderful welcome for weary wheelsters! (Okay, I’ll try to put the brakes on my affection for alliteration). Oops!

Dinner was delicious, as expected, and the company was delightful. All of the participants on this tour came from such diverse backgrounds and have led such interesting lives. Everyone had fascinating stories to tell. The group clicked quite well and quickly developed a very nice rapport.

After dinner, we settled into the comfy sun room for a presentation on Quebec nationalism. The historian, Dr. Manson, is clearly brilliant in his field and possesses tremendous knowledge of his subject. However, many of us were exhausted from the day’s activities. Having had a little wine with dinner, it is not surprising that some of us were nodding off during his presentation. My favorite quote of the day was from Donna. As she exited the room promptly at 9 PM (an hour before the lecture finally ended), she declared, “I have to go, my lights are out!”

July 26, 2011 – Ride Day 2, Bridges of Franklin County (29 miles)

Like day 1, this ride started across the border in Vermont. It was so thoughtful of Stephen to design a ride that began at the top of a hill, saving us the climb to get to that point. We started with a HUGE downhill, unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. It was both  thrilling and frightening. I’ve never gone so fast on a bicycle in my entire life. I checked the speed on my bike computer…40 mph! Glancing at the speed limit sign as I flew by, I realized that if a police car had been patrolling the road that day, I could have gotten a speeding ticket! I cannot believe I was actually over the speed limit on my bicycle. I shudder to think what might have happened if I (or any of us) had hit some some sort of road hazard. Taking a spill at that speed surely would have resulted in more than just a nasty road rash.

We continued along, looking for the bridges advertised in the title of the ride. Surprisingly, I only saw two. I guess one has to take a few detours to actually find the bridges. Still, the scenery was lovely and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves, bridges or not. We did get one piece of bad news as we made our way along the route. Bob pulled over in the blue van/sag wagon and notified us that the white van had broken down, and that there might be some logistics problems in transporting the riders & bikes back to the inn, depending on what was wrong and how long the repairs would take. We passed the word on to those behind us, and continued on our way.

One of the bridges along the route

As we rode along, some menacing rain clouds began to loom in the distance.  Steve, Deb, Lou & I  arrived at the picnic shelter just as the rain began to fall, quickly turning from a light drizzle to a very heavy downpour. Unfortunately, the rest of the bunch were not as lucky with the timing, and straggled in, sopping wet, over the next 20 minutes. Luckily, it was a very large shelter with lots of picnic tables and plenty of room for all of the riders and their bikes to dry off and seek shelter from the storm.

Sag wagon in the rain outside the picnic shelter

We ate our lunch and waited for the rain to stop, which thankfully ended after about an hour. Suddenly, the sun was shining and the wet pavement was now steaming as the water evaporated from the roads. We headed out of the shelter and rode to Jeffersonville, which was the endpoint for some of the riders. Those wanting to do an additional 8 miles, continued on, while the rest of us meandered about town, visiting art galleries and shops, or simply looking for that very special ice cream cone. You know who you are! 😉

By the time the 6 riders who went the extra distance were ferried back to Jeffersonville in the blue van, Joy had arrived with the white van, which was now running again thanks to the installation of a brand new alternator, enabling all riders and bikes to be transported back to the lodge with ease.

The group continued to get to know one another better and bond over another gourmet dinner at the lodge that evening. Afterward, we all walked a short distance down the road to a charming church that had been converted to a recital space by Maestro Miklos Takacs, billed as “one of Glen Sutton’s most illustrious residents.” We were treated to a performance by the lodge’s very own multi-talented chef, Ginette. She accompanied herself on the piano and sang a variety of traditional and popular tunes in an exquisite soprano voice. It was a delightful end to another wonderful day in paradise.

July 27, 2011 – Ride Day 3, Top of the Hill Tour (28 miles)

This ride began in Vermont and ended at the lodge for some of us, while others took the van back. More about that later. True to its name, this ride began with a long downhill (3 miles, to be exact). Unfortunately, the weather at the start of the ride was simply awful. We started our descent in misty rain and heavy fog…not an ideal situation for freewheeling downhill! Having large logging trucks lumbering by (sorry, I just couldn’t resist the pun or the alliteration) under those conditions was quite frightening. It was definitely a white-knuckler. Unlike the downhill speed I allowed myself to attain the previous day, it’s no surprise that I pretty much rode my brakes all the way down this time. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, the rain had stopped and the fog had lifted (or perhaps we left it at the top of the hill?). However, even under cloudy skies, the scenery along the ride was still beautiful. Our first point of interest on this ride was the quaint Jay Country Store, located in the shadow of Jay Peak. We stopped here to browse, shop, and enjoy some refreshments. On that chilly, raining morning, a nice cup of hot cocoa was just what the body needed.

Here I am by the Jay Country store, my natural fluffiness enhanced by several layers of rain gear.

After our rest stop, we continued on the ride, arriving at Paddie’s Snack Bar for lunch. Paddie is quite a colorful character. Anyone who has seen the Soup Man episode from Seinfeld needs no further explanation. Having been forewarned by Stephen about her personality, we were all on our best behavior at Paddie’s, making sure we knew exactly what we were having when placing our order. No hemming, hawing or asking questions! The food was phenomenal, well worth the effort of minding our p’s and q’s to stay on Paddie’s good side. The highlight of our visit to Paddie’s (in addition to the food) was hearing the talking moose head thank us for visiting. We learned that the moose head only talks when Paddy’s in a good mood, so I think our good behavior paid off big time.

Paddie’s Snack Bar

After lunch, several people in our group chose to take the van on a side trip to the Louis Garneau outlet store to shop for cycling clothing and accessories. The rest of us got on our bikes and rode across the border back into Canada once again, cycling the 11 miles from Paddie’s back to the inn. Just after I cycled past Nell, a few miles before we reached Glen Sutton, she called out to me that her chain had fallen off, and asked me to please send the sag wagon back to help her when I reached the inn. I turned around and pedaled back to her to see what I could do, and lo and behold, I put her chain back on her chain ring all by myself! I felt like such a pro! What a perfect segue into that evening’s post-dinner activity: Bike Mechanics with Stephen.

Speaking of bike mechanics (and other people named Stephen, coincidentally), my husband Steve happened to be having bike problems of his own. While Steve is normally quite proficient at performing his own minor bike repairs, the fraying of his rear derailleur cable necessitated finding someone with more expertise. He was lucky the cable held up until he reached the inn. Stephen and Joy directed him to the nearby shop of Stefan, a world-class Canadian racing pro, who fixed him up in a jiffy. Yay!

July 28, 2011 – Ride Day 4, Missisquoi Museum Tour (22 miles)

Sunshine at last! Hooray! The entirety of this ride was in Canada. We started at the Missisquoi Museum and rode through beautiful, gently rolling terrain, dotted with farms, vineyards and fields of wildflowers.

Wildflowers and in the distance, Jay Peak to the south in Vermont

Our first rest stop was at L’Oeuf, a delightful chocolate shop. I don’t know why a shop selling ice cream and sweets is named The Egg, but the refreshments were yummy nonetheless.

I will now digress briefly to mention that all hell was breaking loose in the world-wide economy (beyond what had already been going on for the past 3 years), particularly with the situation in Europe…especially in Greece at this moment in time. So despite being off the grid on this lovely vacation, we were sweating out the condition of the stock market, wondering if our retirement funds were about to go through the floor…again. After snacking on chocolate goodies at L’Oeuf, Steve noticed he had a strong cell signal outside, and took this opportunity to call our advisor in the US to determine whether or not to bail from the market. We decided to sit tight for the moment and readied ourselves for a wild ride…and not the bicycling kind. What a way to ruin a relaxing vacation!

Steve on the phone with the broker

After satisfying our chocolate fix, we rode on, having to make a last minute detour due to some construction on the road. Fortunately, Stephen had scoped out the route just ahead of us in the van and created a last minute route change for us on the fly.

The next leg of our ride took us to our lunch stop at the Domaine du Ridge winery. As usual, some of us partook of the products offered in the shop to complement the lunch we had brought with us from the lodge. After lunch we rode on, completing the ride where we began, at the Missisquoi Museum in East Stanbridge. Some of us visited the museum while others discovered a lovely art gallery across the street from the museum. There was a picturesque waterfall behind the museum which provided the perfect backdrop by which to enjoy our post-ride drinks on the patio of the Vieux Moulin Bar.

Waterfall behind the old mill

After another gourmet dinner at the inn, we were treated to an impromptu song by Ginette thanks to a request from one of the members of our group. Now that we knew she could sing, we couldn’t resist asking for an encore after Tuesday night’s concert. I tried to upload the video I took of Ginette singing for us, just the way I uploaded these photos, but it wouldn’t upload. Sorry! 😦  If anybody can give me any hints as to how to upload a video, I’ll be happy to post it.

Following dinner, most of us headed down the road to the Red Room at the Auberge Glen Sutton for half priced margaritas, lively Cuban music by a terrific local band, and dancing! It was a clear, starry night, so Steve & I concluded our evening doing some more star gazing on the upstairs porch of the inn, seeing a few more shooting stars!

July 29, 2011 – Ride Day 5, Abbreviated Memphremagog Tour (12 miles)

This was a short morning ride since it was, sadly, departure day. After starting out with a brief climb, we enjoyed a nice, leisurely cruise down to Masonville. There we stopped for a mid-morning snack at the Owl’s Bread pastry shop. This was an authentic boulangerie, with croissants the likes of which I have not tasted since my days as a college student in France, many decades ago. Just one bite brought memories of those days flooding back. Proust had his madeleines to invoke long forgotten memories; for me it was Owl’s Bread croissants. After savoring the moment, we reluctantly got back on our bikes and rode back to the lodge. At that point, it was time to clean up, pack up, and check out. We bade adieu to our gracious hosts and to our fellow road warriors. We were a very far flung, diverse group, but for those 5 days in July, we were one big, happy family. It was truly a memorable trip. The sign behind Stephen & Joy in the photo below expresses the sentiment perfectly.

Our gracious hosts, Stephen & Joy.

Heading Home

The weather turned cloudy as we departed, reflecting the sadness we felt leaving this little slice of paradise. The heavens opened up shortly after that, and it poured cats & dogs as we drove south through the Adirondacks. Thankfully we we were not cycling in this weather, and our bikes were safely ensconced inside the car, snug and dry. The sky cleared by the time time we hit Albany at dinnertime, where we met up with my college roommate, Judy, and her husband, Mike, for dinner. The clearing skies and time spent with dear old friends picked up our spirits and was a pleasant way to wind down from our trip. We arrived home several hours later, happy to find that after leaving our 26 year-old and 19 year-old sons holding down the fort at home, our house was still standing and no stories of what may (or may not) have transpired in our absence made it to the front page of our local paper. Whew! Looking forward to our next adventure…to be continued.