Archive | August, 2010


Congdon's Doughnuts ImageI can’t deny that her answer wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. But I had asked the question for a reason, and I was determined to see it through. We stopped at Congdon’s Doughnuts in Wells, Maine, on a whim and I had just asked our cashier, Rebecca, for their best doughnut. Her response: jelly. With options like chocolate crunch and blueberry filled, how can jelly be the answer to that question? A jelly doughnut is so ordinary, so typical, and not usually my first choice. But she was the expert, or at least more expert than me in all things Congdon’s, so who was I to question her wisdom? Jelly it was.

I could tell the pastry was going to be terrific the moment I plucked it from the bag. It was plump, and pillowy, and almost impossibly fresh. Just the feel of it in my hand was something to be admired. A bite confirmed my suspicion. Holy crap these are good doughnuts. The fresh raspberry preserves still contained lumps of fruit and had just the right sweetness to complement the sugar dusted cake. Too often jelly doughnuts are sweet enough to induce diabetes, but not Congdon’s, theirs are perfectly balanced. Somehow they’ve managed to raise the simple jelly doughnut to a form of high art, a masterpiece. Thank you Rebecca!

When we’re lucky we happen upon places like this. Little, nothing-looking, road-side establishments that turn out to be memorable gems. We found out later, though, that many others have discovered Congdon’s before us. This mere doughnut shop is listed by Trip Advisor as the sixth best restaurant in all of Wells. If anything, it is probably ranked too low.


I’ve been told that traveling in a motor home fulltime is an old-fart kind of thing to do. So it stands to reason that I’d also read AARP magazine. Well, I don’t, normally, but I did happen upon this month’s issue and was intrigued by their article “Paradise Found: Ten Best Places to Retire Abroad.” It’s a good list representing both traditional Latin American destinations and less traditional European ones. They surprisingly skip Asia completely, but it is always easy to nitpick a “best of” list, so I won’t.

Having just set out on our North American travels, we’re not looking to settle down at the moment, either abroad or anywhere else for that matter. But we do like the idea of living overseas someday for long enough to become locals: to learn the language, the culture, and the traditions. A year in any, or each, of these places would be fantastic.

I have to admit that reading this article stoked a desire to pick up and rent an apartment in Languedoc-Roussillon, France, which is funny considering we just picked up and bought an RV to travel in. And that reminded me of Shannon’s comment asking whether it is possible to have wanderlust while traveling. I know, for my part, it certainly is. Not wanderlust born of a “grass is always greener” kind of thinking, but rather from the simple recognition that there is so much to do and such a short time in which to do it. Visiting one destination necessarily means foregoing, or at least postponing, another. If one were to spend even a single year in each of the places suggested by the AARP article it would consume an entire decade. And as much as we’d love to do just that, we’d cover just ten places on three continents after all of that time. There is simply too much ground to cover.

So even as we travel we dream of other, more distant places we hope to visit one day, knowing full well that we can’t possibly get everywhere. It is both a curse and a great blessing. For as sad as it is to think of the places we’ll never get to, how much sadder still it would be to have already visited them all.

[Photo © Jason Varney / AARP Magazine]

Whiteface Mountain

Lake Placid, Whiteface image

A stop in Lake Placid isn’t complete without seeing the lake from above. It’s an 11 mile hike to the top of Whiteface Mountain, but why hike when you can drive? Although one might expect that some of the proceeds from the $16 admission to the toll road ($10 for car and driver and $6 for each additional passenger) are used for occasional road maintenance, mostly what they seem to be invested in is “Rough Road Next 4 miles” signs. So don’t expect a smooth ride, but it’s still worth the trip.

Whiteface MountainThe road ends just shy of the apex, at a parking lot and “Whiteface Mountain Castle.” Built with the granite excavated during construction of the toll road, the castle now houses a café and rest rooms. From there you can reach the summit by two distinct routes: the quarter mile “Stairway Ridge Trail” or an elevator through the center of the mountain. Each has its merits, so plan on doing both. We hiked up the “Ridge Trail,” which winds directly up the north slope of the mountain, mostly over boulders but occasional steps as well. It’s a neat hike with excellent views the whole way.

The top of Whiteface provides stunning 360 degree views of the Adirondacks. On a clear day they say you can see all the way to Canada. After our descent, we heard you can even see the dome of St. Josephs in Montreal, which would have nicely linked our last destination with this one. But alas, we didn’t know, and didn’t look (and are somewhat dubious, anyway).

Whiteface Tunnel ImageFor the trip down we rode the elevator, which is an entirely different experience. It descends 276 vertical feet through solid rock, ending in a 424 foot tunnel back out to the parking lot. The tunnel stays naturally cool given the superb insulation of the mountain. On our trip through it was a chilly 40ish degrees. But just as the chill began to set in we emerged on the other side; out of the cold and the darkness and back to the sun dappled vista of the Adirondack Mountains.

For Love of Flora

Lake Champlain Ferry, Image

It was like Washington crossing the Delaware.

Except it was August instead of December. And we were going to retrieve a plant from relatives instead of launching a surprise attack against Hessian forces. And we had coffee.

So basically it was nothing like Washington crossing the Delaware. But we did ferry our car across Lake Champlain. Not heroic, but kind of neat.

We’re Back


Back safely in the U.S. of A, we sailed through customs with nary a finger probe. We even managed (unintentionally) to smuggle Mothra here across the border. Our little stowaway, demonstrating the remarkable determination common among those trying to escape Canadian tyranny, braved sustained 65 mph winds for the duration of the trip, even at the cost of clearly tattered wings. But here, at least, she has the chance for a free and prosperous life.

Oh, if at some point in the near future, New York is destroyed by a plague of giant months, don’t blame us. Call Godzilla.

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