Monday, August 8, 2011

East Coast Visit & Wedding

          This past week Emily and flew home to New England to visit family and go to her high school friend Amy’s wedding.  I was able to visit Kenny, Logan & his new family, Jon Hughes and of course my mother while Emily drove all around New England visiting her college friends and hanging out with her parents.  We had a wonderful day on the Essex Steam Train and Gillette Castle Tour as well as a great day on a beach in Rhode Island and the wedding before we left was a ton of fun and we met some new friends.  Click the link to read more about our trip.

When we bought the tickets Nicolette still had a job in Greenwich, CT so I was planning on visiting my daughter Ellie for a few days but just after we bought them she was fired and recently moved back to Ft. Wayne, Indiana where her mother and siblings live.  Therefore, I had a lot of spare time on my hands during the week before the wedding.  We ended up spending a little extra cash to fly Jet Blue on a redeye non-stop flight on their new route from Portland to Boston.  Unfortunately the flight was delayed until 1am from 11:30 but they were super nice and gave us free movies and headsets.  Everyone at Jet Blue was friendly and there was way more leg room on the plane than Southwest or United and on the back of each seat was a video monitor with free satellite TV.  We are definitely going to be flying Jet Blue non-stop from now on as I was able to sleep soundly on the non-stop flight and the amenities were much better!
                When we got into Boston on Saturday morning Chris and Julia (Emily’s brother) picked us up from the airport and drove us to her parents house in East Granby, CT.  From there we drove a little ways to her cousin’s house for Jess’s 12th birthday bbq party.  Jess and Julia and their friends played together for most of the afternoon while the adults sat in the backyard in the sun relaxing and drinking some beers.  I was happy to not be exhausted after the flight.  Just before dark Jess opened up her presents in the middle of the circle of adults.  I thought she’d be a little more excited when her dad handed her an expensive video camera…. There was great food and it was nice to catch up with Jason and meet his mom who happened to be an Apple fan like me.  After the BBQ we went back to Emily’s and watched “Source Code” with her parents and Chris and Julia before bed.

                We got up early on Sunday as it would be a full day in Essex County, CT with Nick & Jen, Chris & Julia, and Emily’s parents and I.  We all squeezed into Jen’s very roomy Audi and headed to the Valley Railroad Company 1892 Train Station in Essex.  There we boarded a steam train under the hot sun and headed 12 miles down the track along the Connecticut River to the Hadlyme Ferry which took us across the river to Gillette Castle.  Before we ascended the trails to check out the castle we had a nice lunch along the shore of the river.

When I say this castle was amazing it is HUGE understatement.  The enormous castle was built from the shale and other bedrock from the area and was designed and owned by William Gillette, an actor famous for his role as Sherlock Holmes who lived from 1853-1937.  The castle was built in 1914 and he built a long railroad track to take his guests from the main road all the way up to the castle.  The track was later torn up to become hiking trails which we walked up from the ferry to the castle.  He is famous for using crazy trap doors and mirrors to spy on and play innocent tricks on his guests like locking the liquor cabinet on them and watching as they struggled to open it after the hair-raising train ride they just departed from.  

The castle was restored in 2002 and has been open to the public since.  Gillette designed all the doors and locks in the castle with each one being a intricately designed and different from the next.  There was also a 7,000 gallon tank for rainwater collection, an art collection on the top floor, and every wall of the house was covered in carpet (yes, the walls, not the floor).  The carpeted walls were made of eel grass and other hemp-like materials of the time.  I found the walls the most amazing part of the castle.  Gillette also owned 30 cats which I pictured in my mind hanging from every wall and possibly even the ceiling!  I of course had our new camera with us so I took a ton of photos! 

From the castle we took the Ferry back across the river (the Governor is trying to shut it down so we signed a bunch of petitions against him).  There we met back up with the steam train that took us back up the river to connect with the Becky Thatcher riverboat at Deep River Landing for an hour and a half cruise along the river up to the Goodspeed Opera House and Haddam Swing Bridge.  It was blazing hot weather so we were glad to be on the bottom level of the boat where we could purchase drinks and food after the castle visit and train ride.   

The cruise was super relaxing and pretty uneventful except for some cool wildfowl along the river like Ospreys, ducks, etc and a very cool hot dog guy who set up shop on a small boat in the middle of the river for other boaters.  There was of course narration along the whole route but it wasn’t of too much interest to me.  It was just nice being on a slow moving East Coast river again with a lot of activity all around us. 
Once back on shore we boarded the train for the last time to take us back to the station.  By this time we were all hot and starving so we drove up the road and had a nice dinner with plenty of cold pitchers of beer at Oliver’s tavern upstairs where it wasn’t very air conditioned.  I wanted to be polite and not order the expensive lobster roll but was jealous when I saw them come to Nick and Jen absolutely packed with lobster meat… Pati gave me a big bite of hers which was really nice though.  From there we drove the couple hours back to Granby where we had a relaxing night watching soccer.

On Monday Emily’s parents took a surprising day off of work and we all headed to the Watch Hill Carousel Beach in Rhode Island for the afternoon.  Not surprising for an east coast beach it cost $20 to park and $8 friggin’ bucks each to enter the beach.  Keith, as usual, graciously paid our way.  We then spent the entire afternoon relaxing on the hot beach and occasionally going into the water to cool off.  Emily could tell I was stir crazy sitting on the beach for so long with nothing to do so we went for a nice walk to get some ice cream.  The sea gulls were unbelievably bold, dive-bombing people in their chairs and taking their food.  I tried to tempt them closer to me to no avail.  Chris and Julia saw some paddle boards out on the water but when we walked down to inquire we learned they were only for resort guests… boo!  When the clouds later rolled in we walked down the street to the very pricey Olympia Tea Room for dinner.  We first sat at the tables on the patio because my trunks were still wet but after watching amazingly beautiful thunderhead clouds forming off the shore in the distance we were ushered in even though it never did rain.  Wanting to be polite I again ordered just an appetizer bowl of clam chowder because the prices were astronomical.  We had a wonderful dinner then went window shopping in the local tourist shops where Em’s mom bought me a mug which had disappearing coast lines on it when you pour hot water in it.  Chris and Julia still had a 4 hour drive left back to Portland, ME so we said our goodbyes to them and headed back to East Granby.   I really do love those two and hope that we can figure out a way for them to come visit Oregon soon!
On Tuesday Em’s parents returned to work and she gave me a ride to Lee, MA where we met my mom at a Friendly’s for lunch off of I-90.  I then parted ways with Em and headed with my mom to Queensbury for 3 days.  Knowing how much I love lobster and seafood she took me out to dinner at Red Lobster on Tuesday night where I stuffed myself with the “ultimate feast”.  The rest of the night I spent helping her install a printer in the house and getting her organized with her new iPad. 
On Wednesday we went out for breakfast at Peter’s Diner in Glens Falls which I hadn’t been to in years.  Apparently my mom had become good friends with Peter and his family and she definitely appeared as a “regular” in the place when we walked in.  Peter was a truly wonderful person and the fact that he could get away with such crazy low meal prices and still financially survive is a testament to how popular he must be in the town.  My mom said on the recent 50th anniversary of both his business and his marriage 6 different mayors of the town came back to have lunch there and catch up with him.  It was the stereotypical mom and pop diner and I absolutely loved it.  If I still lived at home I’d be there every morning.  At one point my mom started referring to Emily as my “partner” in a story and I thought a couple construction workers at the counter were gonna kick my ass so I quickly told her to please refer to her as my girlfriend still. J
That afternoon I took her car and drove to Moreau Lake off of exit 17 to see Logan & Jacquie and their new house and two beautiful children.  Both of their two little girls are super cute, and super blonde appropriately.  Jacquie has become a stay at home mom and Logan has a great job in the wired-wireless network sales industry (what I gathered from his explanation).  He travels about twice a week to western NY for business and seems to really like his job.  They have a beautiful home which has recently undergone a bunch of renovations with the help of his dad Bill. Unfortunately they had a dinner engagement with neighbors and I had to head off to visit Kenny for the night in Albany so I wasn’t able to stay very long but it was really great to catch up with Logan and hear all about his family life which started when another woman bought the motorcycle Jacquie was looking to buy… apparently they would have had a much different life now if she had been able to purchase that bike…
The rest of the evening on Wednesday I spent in Albany visiting Kenny and getting a few drinks at Café Hollywood on Lark Street.  Kenny seems to be the same old Kenny every time I see him but I was glad to see he is taking his drivers test again and is looking to move out of Albany somewhere.  I’ve been a huge supporter of Kenny getting the hell out of Albany for years now as I think the city has taken a turn for the worse in both crime and cleanliness.  I grew up with Kenny and know that he would really enjoy the outdoors and getting back into shape out west.  We caught up about old friends but actually didn’t know much as neither of us really speak to many Lake George kids anymore…. He is thinking of visiting San Francisco this fall and I told him Emily and I would probably be able to drive down and hang out with him if he does.  After a good burger at the bar and a few rounds of beers I dropped Kenny off and headed back to Queensbury where I stayed up late to watch the Portland Timbers crush the L.A. Galaxy 3-0 unknowing that I wouldn’t be able to sleep in the next morning.

On Thursday morning I was awoken at 8am by mom yelling next to me to get up.  She came in so quickly and panicky that I thought the friggin’ house was on fire and was pretty startled.  She had apparently found a nice gentlemen to hem my dress kakis.  Unfortunately for her I was in a miserable morning mood after staying up late and tried to remind her that I was on vacation and for her to treat me a little gentle while on it!  But, as usual, there isn’t negotiating with my mom so I dragged myself out of bed and we drove to South Glens Falls to the 92 yr old’s home.  Although the trip was completely unnecessary because Emily had bought me a better pair of pants anyway I am sure glad I went because I got to meet an incredible POW from WWII.  His name is Floyd Dumas and he is an incredible man in great shape with a crazy good story from when he was a POW in WWII and had to hide from the Germans in Italy.  He showed me his purple heart and about 12 other medals in a glass case as well as his original uniform which he said is worth about 25 grand right now!  They even made a movie out of his story.  While he was hemming my pants we went out for breakfast at Steve’s place and when we returned he refused any sort of payment!  Seriously, one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve met in life.  I shook his hand and sincerely thanked him for the pants, but more for the incredible story we had been told!
From there it was off to Connecticut for a BBQ with Emily’s parents, Nick & Jen and Stacey which we hadn’t seen yet.  There was steak and grilled chicken and Em’s mom made some great salads.  I really enjoy hanging out with the Riggotts and I know my mom does too.  After dinner I was surprised with a birthday ice cream cake that Emily’s mom had bought for my belated birthday a couple weeks ago.  How nice!  We then chatted for a while before my mom headed to bed and then we all did a couple hours later.
On Friday my mom drove Emily and I to Boston to drop Emily off at the BrainTree mall to get her nails done with the rest of the bridal party.  We then took off to go to see the Dale Chihuly Glass exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts.  Unfortunately it took us forever to get into the city and then both of us were starving so we ate at the Boston Market on Mass Ave after luckily finding a parking spot.  By the time we walked over to the MFA it was too late to buy the pricey tickets for the exhibit, allowing us only enough time to peruse the gift shop and look through books of his amazing glass blown art creations from around the world.  It’s hard to believe he’s had time in one lifetime to create all that he has.  I felt bad because I could tell my mom was disappointed but I had to get back to the Hampton Inn in Norwood, MA to get ready for the rehearsal dinner with Emily.  It’s a good thing we didn’t go in as it took us an hour and half to go just 11 miles from downtown Boston to Norwood!  Thank God I don’t live on the East Coast and have to deal with traffic like that on a regular basis.

Emily and I got a ride to the chapel at Stonehill College with Gina & Tina (also bridesmaids) who went to school with Amy (Bride).  The rehearsal was a traditional Catholic one and the pastor/father/preacher/whateveryoucallhim was a super great guy who used to be in charge of blessing the sports at the Catholic-based school when the bride and groom went there.  After the rehearsal we all headed to the Bon Caldo Ristorante down the road from the hotel for a great buffet-style dinner of the bride & grooms favorite foods (chicken parm, haddock, steak tips, etc).  It was a great meal and it was nice getting to know both Tina and Gina.  The bride and groom gave out really thoughtful gifts to the wedding party.  The guys got engraved full sized axes (yup, axes) and the girls got really nice jewelry for the wedding and bath robes with their names on them! Near the end of the dinner Gina’s husband Mike showed up with Tina’s boyfriend Ryan.  Mike was planning on getting up at 4am to go fishing off the Cape with his dad so he and Gina went to bed but Ryan, Tina, Em and I got another drink at the Joe & Maria restaurant bar at the hotel before heading to bed agreeing that I would meet up with the two guys the next afternoon for a ride to the wedding.
On Saturday morning after I got some breakfast downstairs I met up with Jonny Hughes for a few drinks at the Coolidge Corner Clubhouse in Brookline near where he lives.  It was really great to catch up with Jonny Boy and it was super nice of him to meet up with me (unlike two other married friends who completely blew me off despite me introducing them years ago and visiting them several times in between).  Jon seems to like it in Boston but, like Kenny, is considering looking out west for graduate schools in art and graphic design.  I told him Portland would be wonderful for him and he agreed to look at designing my photography graphic and perhaps a couple tattoos for me.  We left Brookline just in time to get me back to the hotel for the wedding. 

Before the wedding Ryan, Mike, Jim (another bridesmaide husband) took a tour of Mike’s old stomping ground Stonehill College looking for a hidden bottle of vodka in one of the coaches offices.  We never did find the vodka but it was clear that Mike was a memorable basketball player for the school during his time because he seemed to know everyone!

Amy and Matt’s wedding ceremony was beautiful and I was surprised that everyone fit inside the small chapel.  Being a Catholic Ceremony Emily and I were conspicuously not reciting the words or taking communion which felt a little odd.  It was great practice for me and our new DSLR though!  I think I got some great shots that perhaps the wedding photography and videographer may have missed that I’ll post to their photobucket site later. 

After the wedding Jim, Mike, Ryan and I headed off in Mikes car towards the reception but because we were super early we were able to stop at a liquor store and also to get white t-shirts for both Ryan and Mike who had forgotten them.  I was just waiting to see how long Mike would last the night after getting up at 3:30am to go fishing with just a 20 minute nap before heading to the wedding…. I picked up some small bailey’s drinks and small half-liter bottle of Captain Jerry’s that I never really ended up drinking and later gave to Jonny Hughes.

The reception was at a wonderful place in Sharon, MA (same town my Bowdoin roommate and Alexa’s cousin Evan is from).  The place sat atop hill above a lake with flowers and water fountains in the front.  I won’t go into too many details about the reception.  Everyone danced (except me because I suck at dancing), the food was fantastic (Em and I had filets) and the DJ was the best DJ I’ve ever heard at a wedding (played all my favorite old school songs).  The only thing bad about the reception was that the power went out briefly and seemed to knock the AC off for a most of the night resulting in over 100 people dancing in a small 90+ degree room… yeah…. shirts were wet.  I got a ton of photos of everyone and they turned out pretty good.  

After the reception ended we all boarded a trolley bus that drove us back to the Hampton Inn where Matt and Amy had arranged a beer and pizza after party at 1am!  Emily caught up with her high school friends Ashley, Becca, and Lindsay while I got a kick out of Mike’s beet-red eyes from being up almost 24 straight hours!  After an hour or so of people slowly exiting I did as well with Emily behind me about 20 minutes later after helping her friends find a cab back to their other hotel. 

On Sunday Emily and got a much appreciated ride to the airport from Jon and his girlfriend Kristin.  Like last time I visited we went to the Sunset Bar and Grill for some lunch and drinks.  We had wanted to go to the North End for a food festival but it was pouring out so instead we chilled in his apartment after lunch watching shark week with a cute (but very allergenic) black pug they were watching.  We were very appreciative when they drove us to the airport at 5pm for our flight that actually had been delayed to 9:30pm… I do hope to see Jon again soon!
The Jet Blue flight home was comfortable and I enjoyed watching the Red Sox take the series against the Yankees on the satellite TV on board.  We got back to Portland at 1:30 and was home in Corvallis by 3am (6am in my east coast oriented head).  I almost fell asleep several times on the drive home.  It was a good vacation, a great wedding and it was great to see family and friends but Emily and I are definitely looking forward to a vacation just for us somewhere different in the near future!

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