Category Archives: Travel

Quick Trip

My colleagues and I are heading down to Boston for a quick trip down and back. We did this trip about a month ago to test some new technology for the museum, and this will be the final test of that technology before they come next month to install everything. (Or, will it be August? I can’t remember.) I picked up the rental car yesterday, and I’ll be driving. I prefer to drive as my colleagues tend to have lead feet and drive a little to fast for my taste, not to mention that my director hates to drive in Boston. Honestly, I don’t mind. Southern deivers are far worse than anything in New England, even the so-called “Massholes” aren’t as bad as drivers from Nashville, Tennessee, (notoriously known for being bad drivers) or even Montgomery, Alabama, for that matter. Driving is one of the times that I am a bit of a control freak. Most of the time I tend to think I am pretty easy going and go with the flow. However, I’d rather be the one to drive and be in control then be scared the whole time because of someone else’s driving. 

It’s going to be a very tiring day. When we went down last month, I was fine until I got home and sat on my couch and felt like I never wanted to move again. The good thing is that I’m taking vacation days tomorrow and Monday. I need to start using my vacation time a little along so that I don’t end up taking it all in May before the fiscal year ends. I’ll also be off Tuesday, but I’ll have to go in for a short while for a meeting. I’m looking forward to a four-day weekend. Will I be doing anything this weekend? Probably not, but I’ll have some time to relax and take it easy.


Boston

Yesterday, I went down to Boston for work. The new interactives for the museum are fantastic. They are so impressive and I can’t wait for them to be installed at the end of the summer. That was the good news. But, I knew from the moment I got in that rental car, that it was not going to go smoothly. As soon as I started the SUV, I realized that the instrument panel on the dashboard was not lighting up. It had worked the night before, but not yesterday morning. I tried several different things to get it to work, and nothing did. So, I thought I’d deal with it on the way. That was problem #1; problem #2 started a few minutes later when I was about a mile or so from my apartment. I had a thermos/tumbler of hot tea to drink on the way, and when I opened the spout and went to take a sip, the tea spilled all over the front of my shirt. I knew I had to quickly turn around and go back to my apartment to change shirts. I was only about a mile down the road, so it was a minor problem. The instrument panel was the major problem because one of the things not working was the gas gauge.

When I stopped to pick up the first of my coworkers, I googled on my phone how to fix the instrument panel. I watched a YouTube video and tried all the other troubleshooting sites. Nothing worked, so I had my coworker google it while I drove. She couldn’t find anything else. We were running late, so I headed to pick up my second coworker. After picking her up, I tried googling again. Finally, I came across a site that said, if you’ve tried everything else, it’s probably a blown fuse. I decided when I picked up our boss, I’d have him call Enterprise Rent-A-Car, tell them the problem, and have a car waiting for us at the place we were going in Boston. They’d been shitty enough yesterday, I thought this was the least they could do. My boss first said, “Oh, I can fix this.” I said, “I doubt it.” I know my boss, he always thinks he knows everything technical. So, he tried all the same things I tried, but nothing worked, just like I had told him.

His solution was to call our secretary and have her deal with Enterprise because if he or I called Enterprise, it was not going to be pretty. So, our secretary called. Enterprise’s suggestion was for us to go buy a fuse and change it out. I said, “No, no, no. That’s not going to work. We are on a schedule. See what else they suggest.” Their next suggestion was for us to show up at an Enterprise office on the way and try to talk them into exchanging our vehicle for one that worked. *eyes roll* Well, there were two fairly close to where we were, so our secretary called them to explain. The first did not have any vehicles for rent. Then, as we were waiting for our secretary to call the second place, suddenly, the instrument panel lights began to come on one at a time. My only assumption is that the fuse came loose, and as we were driving, it wiggled its way back in place. We did not have any more problems. It was smooth sailing the rest of the day.

Today, I am finally going for my next Botox treatment. With the problems I have been having with my migraines the last couple of weeks, I am really hoping this will provide some relief. I was happy that yesterday my headache was kept to a minimum. Yesterday was a long and tiring day, and today is another drive, but only an hour, not the three hours to Boston.


Enterprise 🤬

I’m taking a work trip today down to Boston. We are driving down, having a meeting, eating lunch, and then driving back. I hate doing a trip like that all in one day. It’s about three hours from my new apartment.

We are renting a car because my university says that any travel over 50 (or it may be 100) miles requires renting a car. We always have to use Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Back when I was the oral historian and traveled all over New England conducting interviews, I had a great relationship with Enterprise. The guys there knew me and really worked hard to be as helpful as possible. I never had any trouble except they’d often give me a free upgrade to an SUV when I really just wanted a car. Those guys transferred up to Burlington, and there is a whole new crew there.

With the new crew, I have only one thing to say, “Fuck Enterprise.” We booked a full-sized car (there are four of us going, so we wanted to be comfortable). They didn’t have a car that worked (no air conditioner), so they gave us an SUV. Because I’ll be driving in downtown Boston, I had specifically wanted a car because I think it’s more maneuverable. The “free upgrade” to an SUV really pissed me off because we were very specific on what we wanted. I don’t care if it’s a free upgrade. I booked a car for a reason!

As I said, I used to rent cars from them on a regular basis and have never had an issue with picking up the car. Yesterday was different. I was using the museum’s travel card, which is in my boss’s name. We’ve always done it this way. But when I went to pay, I was told that only my boss could sign for it because the card is in his name.

This has never been an issue. It’s a corporate account, and they always understood that the card may have a specific name but it was for anyone who worked at the museum. I pitched a fit, and after calling my boss to see if he could come to sign it (he lives about 30 minutes from Enterprise and was already home), the guy reluctantly decided he’d make an “exception” just this one time. I told him I’ve booked many cars with the museum card not in my name. He said “The policy changed.” If you change a policy like this, you should probably have inform you largest customer (my university rents a lot of cars from them because they are the only place here to rent a car from).

I’m also renting a car next week, again to go to Boston, for a four-day conference. So, I thought I’d check to make sure this wouldn’t be a problem again. When I told him it shouldn’t be because the car was already paid for through a direct payment from our corporate account, he said, “I doubt I that’s true.” I told him that it was booked through our CFO’s office. Thanks made him check, and when he did, he realized I was right and assured me that there would be no problem. I hope he’s right, and I hope he remembers me and makes sure they have car available.

Enterprise is going to think I’m a real asshole. Some of you may also after reading this, but I had a similar issue the last time I tried to rent a car by myself. I was not nice then, and I wasn’t particularly nice today because they were being unreasonable. Enterprise and really anyone that changes the rules without letting anyone know bring out the bitch in me.

Oh, and to top all of that off, they didn’t even have it ready. I had to wait forever for them to clean and wash the car. 🙄


Beaches

Sometimes, especially during the coldest days of winter, I miss the sugary white sands and emerald waters of the beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I especially miss going into a store to pick up a few things and see similar sights to the one above: a hot guy in swim trunks and barefoot doing a little shopping before heading back to the beach. I also used to love sitting on a blanket at the beach and reading a good book. Beach reads were always the best. The only problem with the beach is that you can easily get sunburned if you’re not paying close attention, and there is no way to leave the beach without having sand in uncomfortable places. Not to mention, on a hot summer day, the sand could literally burn your bare feet. Also, I never much cared for swimming in the ocean. It was okay once yo got past the waves, but for the most part, I just loved the scenery. More so than sitting on a blanket on the beach, I preferred sitting on the balcony of a hotel room looking out over the beach and watching all the hot guys. There was always a cute lifeguard or cabana boy to look at.

I remember one winter, my parents and I went down to Navarre Beach, which is about halfway between Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach. (All of these places are in Florida, of course.) I don’t remember where my sister was, but she was not with us. We stayed at a nice hotel on the beach, and I think it’s one of the only times we went the whole trip without arguing about something. I think this was just before Christmas and we did some Christmas shopping at the outlet stores in Sandestin. My fondest memory though was going to this little restaurant near our hotel. It was winter, and we mostly had the restaurant to ourselves. The food was good, but what made it so wonderful is that we laughed, talked, and had a great time having dinner that night. There weren’t many times like that. My father could be mean to my mother, and he and I often argued. My mother and I always got along much better than my father and I. However, this night, there was no fussing or fighting. I don’t remember what we were laughing so much about, but it was a very happy memory.


Traveling

Like many of us, I have not traveled very far since the pandemic began. I went home to Alabama the Christmas before the pandemic started. In fact that holiday season, I took a cruise from New Orleans to Mexico with some friends of mine, then flew home to Alabama before returning to Vermont just before the New Year. I could not have guessed back then that I’d be spending my second Christmas in Vermont away from my family. I don’t completely miss traveling to Alabama. I know that probably makes me a bit of a bad person, but when I go home, I basically still have to pretend to be someone else and suppress my sexuality. I don’t miss doing that. I also have zero alone time when I go home, and I like my solitude at times.

While I may not miss going back to Alabama too much, I do miss traveling. For Thanksgiving and my birthday in 2019, I went to New York City to see my friend Susan, and we had a very lovely Thanksgiving dinner, and she took me to see Chicago, one of my favorite musicals, on Broadway. I got to see the Stonewall Inn and the Freedom Tower among other famous Manhattan landmarks. I would love to get to spend more time with Susan in person, whether that is her coming to Vermont or me going to Manhattan to see her, but that won’t happen until COVID-19 becomes as routine and as seasonal as the flu.

I also want to get back to Montreal, which has become one of my favorite places to visit. New Orleans used to be my favorite place to visit in North America (Italy, especially Florence and Rome, still beat out everywhere else), but while New Orleans is fun, it’s also kind of nasty; it stinks, and it’s filled with drunk tourists. Montreal is a much cleaner city. The Village (formerly the Gay Village) is much larger than New Orleans’s gay area in the French Quarter, and Canadians are much nicer than Louisianans. I just always have more fun and feel safer in Montreal, so I’d really like to go back when the border is easier to cross again.

When you are like me and enjoy traveling, it’s hard being somewhat confined to central Vermont. The farthest I’ve been is Burlington to the northwest of me and Lebanon, NH, to the southeast of me. Both cities are about 45 minutes away. I guess I got spoiled working at my museum. When I first started as the oral historian, I traveled all the time to conduct interviews all over New England. Then, we had the traveling exhibit which took me to places all over the eastern seaboard. It all came to a sudden halt when the pandemic began. At some point, I do believe we’ll get back to normal. Vermont thought it was ace enough to return to some sort of normalcy, and now we have the fifth highest percentage of COVID cases in the country. All we can really do is stay vigilant and keep up with our vaccinations. If we do that, then maybe we will return to normal sooner or later.


Six Years Ago…

Six years ago today, I arrived in Vermont. It had been a hellacious trip up here from Alabama. My plan had been to drive to Blacksburg, Virginia, the first day to see a friend who was a PhD student at Virginia Tech. Then I’d drive to Albany, New York, for the second leg of my trip getting up the next morning and drive to my new apartment in Vermont. The trip did not go as planned. In Knoxville, Tennessee, while blocked in on both sides by semi trucks, I had no choice but to run over something in the road. Whatever it was punctured my gas tank. I pulled over on the side of the interstate and watched as gasoline poured out from under my car. I had to call 911 and they sent police and a fire truck to make sure everything was okay and put some type of absorbent over the leaked gas.

Close to tears, I called my dad. All of my possessions to begin my new life in Vermont were inside my little car. One spark or a lit cigarette from a passing car and it would have all gone up in flames. My dad called the insurance company and they found me a mechanic, a hotel, and a rental car because it was going to take at least several days before the mechanic could get a new gas tank. The police called a tow truck who loaded up my car and drove me to the mechanic. The tow truck driver was kind enough to wait as the mechanic and I did whatever we initially had to do, and then he drove me to my hotel. He was so nice and kind; he made the whole thing a little more bearable.

I checked into the hotel and waited for my rental car to be delivered the next day. Only one restaurant was nearby, a Mexican restaurant, so that’s where I ate dinner and had a huge margarita. Luckily, I got a call from the mechanic saying they’d been lucky and were able to locate a gas tank at another mechanic in town. They were able to get it late the next day and install it the next. I was stuck in Knoxville for two and a half days, but my car was ready around 11 am if I remember correctly.

Off I was again to see how far I could drove that day. The remember driving through the Shenandoah Valley and thinking I’d never get through Virginia. Finally, I did and continued north. Late that night, I was so tired, I could not drive any further than Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I pulled over at a hotel only to be told there was no room ar the inn. In fact some major convention was in town and few hotels had any vacancies. I finally found one, checked in and quickly crawled into bed and fell asleep. I got up early the next day and drove the rest of the way to my new apartment. That last eight hours and 500 miles was rough, but I did it.

 October 7, 2015, I started my new life in Vermont.


Mount Washington and the Cog

Other than anywhere in the state of Maine (the only New England state I have not visited), I have wanted to visit Mount Washington in New Hampshire, which is called Agiocochook by some Native American tribes. Mount Washington is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288.2 ft. and the most topographically prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River. The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a windspeed of 231 mph at the summit, the world record from 1934 until 1996. Mount Washington still holds the record for the highest measured wind speed not associated with a tornado or tropical cyclone. The mountain is located in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, in Coös, New Hampshire.

A few years ago, I read Jamie Fessenden’s Murder on the Mountain, a gay mystery novel that takes place on and around Mount Washington. Here is the publisher’s summary:

When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mount Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.

Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking in to the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon he is learning things that could very well solve the case–or get him killed. 

Fessenden lives in New Hampshire, where several of his books take place. Murder on the Mountain is a mystery and gay romance, which is always fun. It is also my favorite of Fessenden’s books. I rarely read books more than once, but this one I have. It’s always enjoyable, and it got me interested in Mount Washington.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway, also known as the Cog, ascends the mountain’s western slope. The Cog is what attracted me to want to visit Mount Washington. I’ve always loved trains, and the Cog is a historic and interesting locomotive. Built by Sylvester Marsh between 1866 and 1869, the Cog is the world’s first mountain-climbing cog railway (rack-and-pinion railway). The railway is still in operation. It uses a Marsh rack system and both steam and biodiesel-powered locomotives to carry tourists to the top of the mountain.

The steam locomotive above is the Waumbek built by the Manchester Locomotive Works in 1908 and is still in operation. In the picture above, you’ll notice how the boiler is tilted to compensate for the steep mountain grade of the tracks going up the mountain. The boiler needed to be even, so they tilted the boiler to compensate. The original locomotive #1 Hero (nicknamed Peppersass) first reached the summit in 1869. While it was primarily designed to build the railway, Peppersass saw passenger service until it was retired in 1878. Until 2008, the Cog was a steam railroad. As more locomotives were added over time, the wood-fired engines gave way to coal when the railway began to operate biodiesel engines. These engines were more economical, easier to maintain, and environmentally friendlier. The biodiesel engines take anywhere from 18-22 gallons of biodiesel fuel to complete the nearly 7-mile round trip; by comparison, the steam locomotives consume 1000 gallons of water and a ton of coal to make the same trip.


Five Years Ago…

Five years ago today, I was stranded in Knoxville, Tennessee. I had headed out the day before for my new life in Vermont. I had everything planned. I was going to drive that first day to Blacksburg, Virginia, to see a friend of mine who was a Ph.D. student at Virginia Tech. Then I would drive the next day to Albany, New York. I had reservations at a historic hotel in downtown Albany. Then I would spend the third day of my trip driving the rest of the way to Vermont. Life has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans because none of those plans happened.

I set out that Wednesday morning on October 7, 2015, and things looked like they were going so well. Then while driving down I-40 just outside of Knoxville, I hit some large piece of metal (well about the size of my head) in the road.  It punctured my gas tank.  I had no choice as semi-trucks flanked me on both sides.  Luckily, no sparks were present, and I could pull off to the side of the road and call 911.  The local fire department arrived and neutralized the gas, and my car was towed to a local garage.  The tow truck was kind enough to take me to a hotel.  So, I was stuck in Lenoir City, Tennessee, in a hotel. My insurance company provided me with a rental car while mine was being fixed, but it would not arrive until the next afternoon. Luckily, there was a Mexican restaurant next door to my hotel, so I could at least get something to eat, but emotionally, I was as wrecked as my car. I had called my new boss and told her what had happened, but she insisted that I had to be there by a specific date, and I could not be delayed. Luckily, I did make it to Vermont in time.

As I was finishing packing my car before beginning my journey to Vermont, a good friend of mine wrote to me to give me this advice:

I’m so excited for you starting off this new adventure and, more importantly, putting the past behind you. A friend once told me to not just look ahead but to metaphorically turn a corner because then if you should ever glance back, you won’t be able to see what’s behind you because it’ll be out of your sights. Good advice to go and never look back. This poem reminded me of a song on the radio. Every time I hear it, I smile and think of you. Play it as you hit the gas and drive like hell out of the south.

He then sent me the Andy Grammar song “Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah).” These days, I have a really hard time listening to this song because I had no idea that by the end of the next month, my friend would die in a car accident, but today, I don’t want to dwell on that. Today, I want to say: Hallelujah, it is good to be alive. I can’t help but wish my friend was also still alive. He would be so happy with the way things have gone in my life since. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but overall, I do have a new life and a life that I love.


Where?

I’ve written a fair number of serious posts in the past week or so mainly because a lot of serious events have been happening. I’ve tried to remain silent on politics and just be mostly a lighthearted blog, but I’ve realized I cannot be silent anymore. Today, however, I want to be a little bit lighter, but I need your help. Many of us dream of living someplace other than where we currently are while some people are exactly where they want to be. They cannot imagine living anywhere else. 

I used to think I wanted to live in the mountains until I moved to Vermont. That dream had been to live somewhere in the Great Smokey Mountains. I never dreamed it would be in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Some people want to live on the beach. I’m not one of them although I enjoy visiting there occasionally. If I had to choose a beach, it would be one on the Gulf Coast somewhere along the Florida panhandle between the Alabama-Florida border and Panama City Beach. Unfortunately, it’s just too damn hot down there, and the sand constantly gets stuck in places where sand should never be. Also, that area is known as the “Redneck Riviera;” the politics are far too conservative for me. I love the emerald beaches and sugary white sand, but to visit only.

Another dream was to live in Florence, Italy, but I’ve realized now how tough it is living so far from my family. Instead, I will settle for wishing I could visit Florence, or Italy in general, on a regular basis. I’ve been to Florence twice, and it’s still one of my favorite places. Some people claim it’s too touristy, but I loved it. First, the city is beautiful. The art museums can’t be beat except maybe for some in Rome or in Paris. Second, the food is fantastic and always so fresh. Then there are the streets where you can almost get lost except you can usually see the Duomo from anywhere and can navigate your way back to the cathedral and get your bearings. I loved getting a gelato to cool off then walking into a store and buying a bottle of wine. They give you a glass so you can wander around the city at night enjoying the street performers and various forms of entertainment that are seemingly everywhere. My only issue was I was alone and didn’t have anyone with whom to enjoy my time there.

My one constant dream, though, has been to live in a relatively quiet area of the New Orleans French Quarter. The picture above reminds me of Tennessee Williams sitting on his balcony in the French Quarter watching the people pass by and dreaming of new and entertaining stories to tell. New Orleans has its characters, and the food is to die for—so tasty but also so rich you’d be happy if you died after eating one of their sublime meals. I know New Orleans has its drawbacks. The smell when you first arrive is off-putting, but eventually, you don’t notice it. Then there are the masses of drunk tourists, the rampant crime that is prevalent in the city, and the bright lights and noise of Bourbon Street. But…I love the Gay District that begins at the intersection of Bourbon and St. Ann; Bourbon Pub, Oz, and Good Friends are always so much fun. Also, there is my favorite straight bar, Pat O’Brien’s, where they make one of my favorite drinks, a hurricane. And always, there is the wonderful jazz music wafting down the streets. In many ways, it’s like the easygoing feel of a European city; the culture and history are unique and awe-inspiring. 

Perhaps one day, I could live in New Orleans and travel to Florence during the craziness that is Mardi Gras. That would be ideal. Plus, from New Orleans, I’d be close enough to visit a favorite Florida beach, and at other times, I could drive up to the Great Smokey Mountains. These are my dream places.

So, here is where I want your help: If you could live anywhere in the world and not worry about money or working and just be carefree and enjoy life, where would you go?  Where are your dream places? And why?

I don’t often get a lot of comments, but I know a good number of people visit my blog each day. I would love for you to comment on this post. Maybe you’ve lurked around my blog and not commented for whatever reason. Please comment now. Perhaps you comment regularly then by all means please comment now. Or this could be your first time here so why not comment now? I really love getting to know my readers, so tell me, where would you love to live?


Not Enough Sleep and the TSA

I’ve been sleeping pretty good, when I fall asleep. However, it takes me a while to fall asleep and when I do I wake up long before my alarm goes off. On Saturday, I woke at 4:30 am, and Sunday, I woke at 5:30 am. Both days I’ve awoken with terrible migraines and just wasn’t able to fall back to sleep.
Hopefully, I feel better when I wake up this morning. After five or six cancellations, I finally have an appointment to do my fingerprinting and background check for my TSA Pre Check. I’ll have to go to Burlington. There is a center closer to me, but they’ve been the ones canceling on me. Finally, they notified me that the local center was closed until at least June 1 because of COVID-19. So I rescheduled for Burlington, and it looks like they will keep this appointment. It’s only supposed to take ten minutes. Hopefully, that’s the truth. Honestly, I’ve never known of the TSA to do anything quickly. I’ve been waiting on an appointment since January. But, once this is over, I can go through the TSA lines a bit quicker. 
You’d think as small as Burlington and it’s airport is, that you could go through fairly quickly, but the wait is always nearly an hour. In Burlington, you have to get to the airport at least two hours early, but it helps if you’re even earlier. When I fly out of Montgomery, Alabama, I’ve never had more than two people of in front of me at the security check, which is probably why they don’t have TSA Pre Check there.