As we traveled yesterday, we could literally see how longitude, altitude and distance from the coast impact fall colors. If you plan a vacation to see the changing of the seasons, be flexible. During late September and early October, there will be color somewhere, you just have to drive until you find it.
On the coast, just a few isolated trees had changed. As we drove inland, the color got better and better. When the road went down into a valley, the trees would be mostly green. When it would climb over a pass, the trees were changing. In a few weeks people driving our same route, will find bare trees on the passes, and color in the valleys. In his research before the trip, HH had read that New Hampshire, Vermont, and part of Japan have the best fall colors in the world. I can't explain why that is true, but the closer we got to the New Hampshire border the more brilliant the color.
We got off the main road and took State Highway 16. The colors were breathtaking. There was a beautiful view around every bend in the road. We saw 11 wild turkeys scratching for food in fallen leaves.
Our Strong Son had planned to take a mission trip to Guatemala the same week we had planned to be in New England, but his trip was cancelled. Since he had already arranged for someone to cover his patients, he decided to take a vacation instead. In route to see friends from Physical Therapy school, he was going to meet us for three days. We picnicked for lunch, anticipating dinner with him in Littleton, New Hampshire.
We ate at the Littleton Diner. A note on the menu mentioned a gluten free item. Over the years, I have found it virtually impossible to explain the BTD to servers in restaurants. I've had a little better success if I say that I have a wheat allergy. But the term "gluten free" seems to have taken hold. Several television personalities have talked lately about going gluten free. I think there is a "one size fits all" book out that says everyone should be gluten free. I wasn't interested in their gluten free selection, but when I told the server that I wanted the roast beef dinner, but I wanted it gluten free, she was very cooperative about making substitutions. I thoroughly enjoyed my roast beef (no gravy), carrots, and baked beans.
It was raining when we woke up - a dreary day with low clouds. There didn't seem much point to getting out on slick roads when we couldn't see the scenery. I had work to do for clients, so I went to the hotel's sitting room with my computer, while HH watched TV.
We had lunch at the Log Cabin Restaurant just outside of Bar Harbor. As we approached the door there was a carving of a black bear in yellow rain gear. I thought it was funny, and took a picture, but I'm afraid the rain has dampened HH's sense of humor. HH had lobster roll and clam chowder for lunch - very New England. I ordered a Western burger. It was Black Angus beef with grilled mushrooms bell peppers and mushrooms. The irony of eating Western burger on the East Coast didn't hit me until later. With my burger I had a side of Cole slaw.
The hotel manager was trying to be positive about things we could do in the rain. One of the famous features in Acadia National Park is called Thunder Hole. The terrain is just right, so that when a wave hits the rocks it sounds like a clap of thunder. The manager said that the bad weather had made the water in the bay choppy, and that Thunder Hole might be exceptionally loud.
HH and I decided that we would like to hear it, even in the rain. So we loaded up our parkas and drove into the National Park. Incredible - the rain stopped. We parked near a beautiful overlook to photograph the rocky Maine coast. There was a trail that led from the overlook to Thunder Hole, so we started walking. Thunder Hole was indeed amazing. We kept walking almost to Otter Cliff, then backtracked to Sand Beach. We walked for a couple of hours photographing on delightful view after another. We got back in our car and the rain returned.
We were blessed, and we knew it. Thank you, Lord, for a break in the rain.
We headed up the coast to Bar Harbor. There is not much fall color in Maine. This is a huge disappointment to HH. I keep telling him that if the color was at its peak on the coast then we would have missed it completely in New Hampshire and Vermont. He is not comforted.
After two sedentary days - one on the plane and one in the car we had planned a long afternoon hike in Acadia National Park. But the sky was cloudy and the mist threatened to turn to rain. I put my parka over my camera and we took several short walks. One was on top of Cadillac Mountain. In spite of the clouds, my pictures of the bay and the islands turned out great. Another was around the Marina in Northeast Harbor.
By far the BTD highlight of the day was lobster for lunch. We stopped at Angler's Restaurant in Seaport, Maine. They had a special on their Lobster dinner. It came with salad, vegetable of the day and potatoes. The vegetable of the day was green beans, so I asked if I could have double green beans instead of potatoes, and they were agreeable.
Every other time I have eaten lobster, it has come on my plate whole. The chef at Angler's separated the lobster in 4 pieces. I joked with our server, saying that I was glad they had pity on a Texan who wasn't experienced with lobsters. I enjoyed every bite.
HH does not like picking food out of shells or off of bones, so he had a crab roll instead.
We are staying at a charming old whiteboard resort that has a gazebo overlooking the bay and an outdoor hot tub. By nightfall the rain had started in earnest, so we didn't get to enjoy the view or relax in the tub. We picnicked in our room. I fixed HH a turkey sandwich with fruit. I enjoyed canned asparagus and salmon.
The good news is that HH's Mom's pain in her neck and her head is much better. The bad news is that she is refusing to eat more than 5-6 bites at a meal. Wednesday the nurses at rehab became so concerned that they ordered tests to see if she was dehydrated. Her mineral levels were so far out of balance that they sent her to the emergency room in an ambulance. After giving her IV fluids, she is now back in her room at rehab.
Months ago HH and I had prepaid for a vacation to see New England fall colors. One of HH's sisters had also prepaid for a vacation to Mexico during the same week. This leaves the other sister with all of the responsibility. That does not seem fair, nonetheless, yesterday morning we were at the airport. To our already high stress level we added airport security, a long layover in Chicago, rounding up luggage, and driving an unfamiliar car in the rain.
Three things we did right on our travel day.
* I packed lunch for both of us in our carry-on bags. Airport food is more BTD friendly than it used to be, but it is expensive.
* I put a wrap around neck pillow in my carry-on. It let me sleep comfortably on the plane.
* When the Southwest Airline flight attendant came to take our drink orders, I asked if I could have water in a bottle. She said that they didn't have bottles, they had cans. I had never had water in a can, but it tastes really good. I stashed a can in my carry-on for our layover, and that helped keep me hydrated all day.
One thing that I should have done was walk around the airport more. I had work to do on my computer for a client, so I spent more time sitting than I should have.
This morning we start up the coast of Maine. We are ready to rest and relax!
How many times do mothers tell their children, "If you do that, you'll break your neck." I know I said those words many times. I'll never forget the day when my Strong Son, a 7th grader at the time, came into the kitchen with his head cocked to one side. He had to confess that he had been jumping on his bed - something that was absolutely against the rules. He couldn't straighten his head. I took him for x-rays, and the radiologist was afraid to make the call. They sent the x-rays to a neurosurgeon who said his vertebrae were fine, but the muscles in his neck were in spasm. The doctor prescribed muscle relaxers, which didn't help his neck but had some weird side effects. So we stopped the medication and he wore a padded neck brace for several days. One morning he woke up and everything was back to normal.
Now I can smile when I think of that story. But my Honorable Husband's mother was not so fortunate.
A week ago she fell in her home and cracked two vertebrae in her neck. Fortunately she was not paralyzed. But she is in lots of pain. She was in the hospital for 5 days. During that time they observed that she was having trouble swallowing. After tests, they put her on a diet of pureed food and thickened liquids. No one knows whether the swallowing is a result of the neck injury or something unrelated.
She has terrible headaches. No one is sure whether the headaches are caused by the fall, the neck injury, or too few calories (because she does not like pureed food). She takes pain medication every 3 hours.
She was released from the hospital to a rehab center where she will get 3 months of physical and occupational therapy. She will also see a speech therapist who will work on her swallowing techniques. The therapists are optimistic about her chances for a full recovery - if she eats enough to keep up her strength and if she works hard in therapy.
HH and I went to stay with her in rehab for 6 days. He was there in the daytime. I was there at night and in the morning. That way we made sure we got to talk to all of the doctors and therapists.
Here are a few things I want to remember as I get older. Perhaps they will help you or someone you love.
* Don't be too ashamed or too busy to use a walker. HH's Mom is 91 and has arthritis. She has a walker. She uses it almost the time. But that particular day she decided to walk across the den without it.
* Pain medication is a mixed blessing. Without it she cannot make it through a therapy session. But there are side effects - noticeably anger and repetitive behavior.
* Nurses and nurses aides respond to kindness. When she smiles at them and says thank you, she gets better care than when she complains. She got better care because family was there to take on a lot of duties ourselves - like feeding her and standing by while she went to the potty.
* A strong, healthy 59 year old woman (like me) is not strong enough to support the weight of a helpless 91 year old. I had to call for assistance when she needed to be moved. I was very aware of the danger that I could wind up in the room next door if I was not careful with my own legs, neck, and back. Injuries can happen fast - and have serious consequences.
* It would be really, really hard to come anywhere close to the BTD diet in a hospital or nursing facility. Everything is sweetened - sometimes with sugar; sometimes with NutraSweet. The theory is that the patients will eat more if sugar is added to the food. There are wheat products everywhere. On the pureed diet, they smash up rolls, pancakes, noodles, cereal, and more. The pureed bread must be pretty bad - HH's Mom usually loves bread, but she refuses to eat it pureed. The thickener in the water and juice is made from corn starch.
Having experienced how much better I feel, and how much faster I heal when I eat right, I'm afraid I would seriously clash with hospital dietitians.