May 2015 — Diane and I have enjoyed our first year of retirement. It has been a very good year. The slower pace gave us more time to be with family and friends. Eli and Viv remain the best. Lots of baby sitting in the past year — in Gladwyne and Yardley. Actually awaiting their arrival today for the Memorial Day weekend.
We did our share of travel. In June, Bob Vierlinck and I traveled to Boston to visit HGP grads (Burns and O’Mara) of Night Shift Brewery. We hung out in the brewery, toured Cambridge and the North End. We even did a day trip to Salem.
Our next trip, together this time, was to the Hudson River Valley with John and Barbara Paglione. Diane and I love the region, not far from her childhood home in Carmel, NY. Visited Storm King Arts Center, a day at Hyde Park, meals in Rhinebeck. Great trip.
In July we were in Cape Cod at the Orleans house on Pilgrim Lake that we rented the year before. Eli did baseball clinic every day, fished and finally caught a smallmouth bass. The kids enjoyed the beach — bay and ocean, seafood (Eli’s speciality is clam chowder), nature programs at the National Seashore. The adults enjoy watching the kids, food, seafood and more seafood, the quiet and seclusion of the house. After our week, Diane and I spent three nights at a Nantucket B and B. This was our family vacation spot for 10 years so we have many great memories. Some year we will look for a weekly rental but we will never match our years at Rattlesnake Bank.
August found us in Vermont. I signed up for a rye bread class at the King Arthur Flour School. We found a delightful B and B outside of Woodstock, VT. and loved to just explore the countryside, finding farms, historic sites, and small towns. And I can now bake a loaf of Jewish rye.
September we were in Virginia for a week of archaeology at Montpelier, James Madison’s plantation. We lived dorm style in Arlington House on the property — rough but adequate accommodations. Each day found us in the field on our knees, scraping our square, bagging artifacts, screening buckets of dirt. Each day in the late afternoon we took a tour of the Main house, property, freedman’s cabin, and Civil War encampment. Our group, primarily women, really bonded and there is a movement to get us all back this summer. Although it was a fantastic (if physically difficult) experience, I don’t think will will do it again this year.
From Montpelier, we drove to the Blue Ridge and spent three quiet days at the Peaks of the Otter lodge. We did some hiking, countryside driving, discovered the Walton Museum — a nice way to wind down from our archaeology adventure.
When Jenny was a kid we rented cabins in PA state parks. Usually with HGP friends — Corley’s and Gallagher’s. In November we introduced Eli and Viv to cabin camping at Rickett’s Glen State Park. Waterfalls are the Glen’s main attraction. Although I could only hike so far down, the kids loved the adventure, climbing up and down the valley, one waterfall after another. We cooked some meals outside, had evening fires, told stories and enjoyed the glow of a mild fall weekend.
In January we headed to Washington DC, specifically to visit the U.S. Holocaust Museum. The story and book written by our close Danish friend and survivor, Ragna Hamilton, has become a project. We hope to see her memoir published in English. On line, I met a researcher who has written about Ravensbrook, Ragna’s camp. I have read several books about the camp and dug out a slide show about her life that I made many years ago. Diane had never been to the Museum and it turned into a very productive visit. We also enjoyed some nice time with cousin Ellen.
My next trip was without Diane. John Paglione and I returned to Montpelier VA. This time to help with the reconstruction of a field slave cabin. The professional carpenters that guided the volunteers were fantastic. Using historic hand tools, we learned how to hew logs, make shakes, pegs — wow. It was more physical than the archaeology week and by Wednesday I thought I was done. I was swinging a broad ax but nothing was happening. Some encouragement by Chris, one of the professional carpenters, a lighter broad ax and Thursday I was back swinging. John and I hewed one log ourselves christening it the Senior Beam. Traveling with John also meant visits to local breweries. We spent several nights in DC, the Yorktown area, and drove home through Delaware — we found local craft breweries everywhere.
Having lived in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione for four years, traveling with them is pretty easy. They had the good fortune to be invited to stay in an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for two weeks. Thoughtfully they invited us to join them for several nights. The defining theme of the trip was definitely food — from our first stop at the Italian market Eataly, Zaber’s, a tour of the Lower East Side, Russ and Daughter’s new Cafe, Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune (daughter of Jim Hamilton — Grill in Lambertville), McSorley’s Ale House, Lalo Cafe (meeting place of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, in “You’ve Got Mail,” Jacob’s Pickle (a new restaurant, and on the LES a treat, one of the last pickle shops in the City). Yes this was a food-centric trip.
Diane and I headed to Portland, Maine in early April. On the way up we stopped for a pilgrimage to Walden Pond. Despite decades of interest in Henry David Thoreau, we had never been to The Pond. We settled into the North Bridge Inn, in the center of town. And off to the pond, a walk to the site of Thoreau’s cabin, reflection. We also visited the Alcott residence — Diane got a biography of Louisa. Before, during and after the trip I reread several books about Thoreau — “Walking toward Walden: a pilgrimage in search of place” by John Hanson Michell and “Searching for Thoreau: on the trails and shores of wild New England,” by Tom Slayton. The books reinforced a sense of mission, dipping into the past, and contributed to what I call thematic living — finding the intersection and relationship between place, books, history, food, movies and other art forms. We continued on to Portland — the Maine coast, rock formations, salt air, lobster and other seafood treats. We had stayed in the Percy Inn a few years ago and enjoyed a quiet two nights. Walks in the old Port district, the Portland Museum of Art, and great restaurant experiences.
My last trip for the first retirement year was two weeks in Italy with my cousin Joey Lentz. It was basically another pilgrimage. This one to Roccavivara the hometown of my grandfather, Thomas Profy. Diane had been to Roccavivara previously and decided not to go. For me it was special. We stayed in several other towns traveling from and to Milan (our airport) but the heart of the trip was staying in the hometown. Hopefully I paved the way for future, maybe longer trips. While I was in Italy, Diane and Jenny spent a few nights in Rhinebeck, NY. They explored familiar haunts and some new sites. Although Diane and I are excellent travel companions, an occassional trip with someone else is probably a good idea.
Ten trips — almost 2 months on the road — not bad for our first retirement year. In this first year, we also had a fantastically productive, expanded garden, took many local day trips to Philadelphia, Bucks County and New Jersey, adopted our mutt Mosley (still getting to know each other). I joined a Great Books discussion group, started a blog and a Yardley photographers group; Diane became a Yardley tree tender. We bought a new Highlander, drafted a new will and had the house painted. Academically, I got involved with a curriculum project related to the book, “On the Run.”
Basically a really good retirement year. What do we do in year two?