Category Archives: Places

2016: My year in review

When I was a teenager I would write a last journal entry the last hour before the end of the year. I was usually babysitting, so was awake at that time — and never was out partying because I was not popular enough to party on New Year’s eve.

Here’s my personal review in pictures…

In January we trekked through a blizzard to attend a Burns' Supper
In January we trekked through a blizzard to attend a Burns’ Supper
In February we threw Mom a surprise 80th birthday party
In February we threw Mom a surprise 80th birthday party
and helped Andrew move into his own apartment in DC.
and helped Andrew move into his own apartment in DC.
In March we visited Austin, Texas and obtained a new chum
In March we visited Austin, Texas and obtained a new chum
and we also visited Chris and Sheri in Winston-Salem in March.
and we also visited Chris and Sheri in Winston-Salem in March.

There have been heated discussions on Facebook and elsewhere about why it is not right to call 2016 the “worst year ever”. Dean and Clare both agree that it is wrong to call it that. I don’t agree with them. There have been many worse years in the world than 2016 — with that I will agree. If the Bible is to be believed, the year Noah had to build the ark because God was pissed off at his people enough to drown all but a handful. Then there were the years of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, and the years of plagues and the two world wars, and the Holocaust. Yes indeed, there were many horrible years in the world — much worse than 2016 when a handful of celebrities died and Donald Trump won the U. S. presidential election. So, no, 2016 was not the worst year. But it was my worst year, especially if I tack on the last week few days of 2015.

It was not all bad.

Sure, 2016 had some mighty fine parts. I traveled to some fun places — Austin, Texas; Southern California; Olympia, Washington (twice); Illinois (countless times). I got to hang out with my brother and his family more than usual. I saw my brother marry a wonderful woman.

Despite all the exciting travel and good times with family, I lost two very important people in my life between December 27th, 2015 and August 26th, 2016.


One of my favorite people ever, my Aunt Ginny, died December 27, 2015. Her husband, my Uncle Jack called to tell me the news when we were on our way back from our semi-annual post-winter trip to Chincoteague. Then my mom got worse and worse and died in August, three days after I turned 60.

Yes, 2016 was definitely my worst year.

Found (in Oberlin): The Place Where the Sidewalk Ends

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Oberlin for Andrew’s Graduation (more on that later) and much of the time was down-time as we waited for Andrew to do this or that. Sometimes we simply rested on the grass, other times we drove around the area. On one of our drives we drove through a new neighborhood in Oberlin, not far from Andrew’s house. In one corner of the neighborhood was a strange brick structure in the middle of a neatly mowed lot with sidewalks leading to it and floodlights pointed towards it. Dean and I discussed what it could be for (it had signs inside it that said “PRIVATE”). On the way back to the car, however, I found something more interesting. I found the place where the sidewalk ends. Right there in Oberlin*.

Where the sidewalk ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends,
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

— Shel Silverstein — 1974

* It is fitting to have found this during Andrew’s college graduation weekend. Interpretations of the poem suggest that the place where the sidewalk ends is where childhood ends and adulthood begins.

The Inn at Mallard Cove

Because Dean had a meeting in Seattle earlier this month and I had some vacation time left, we decided to spend some time with Clare who recently moved to Olympia, Washington. We knew it would not make sense to try to stay with Clare and Bennett so I was tasked with finding a place to stay in the area. At first I thought we’d simply stay at a local motel (although not this one).

Then I got the idea to make it even more special and thought we should stay in a bed and breakfast. It had been a while since we’d done that, not counting the pre-hurricane stay in Cape May last autumn.

Olympia doesn’t have a huge amount of bed and breakfast establishments, but it as a few. I first considered staying at the Swantown Inn which is  5 minute drive from Clare’s house. It had many great reviews on Trip Advisor and is located in a beautiful colorful Victorian mansion. I nearly made reservations there, but I ended up clicking on a link to the Washington Bed and Breakfast Web site and found that there was another B&B a little further away, but right on Puget Sound. According to Google Maps it was only a 20 minute drive from the Inn to Clare’s house and Dean said that was an okay distance to travel. I called the second inn to check if they had room for us and was treated to a delightful conversation with Don, one of the hosts of the Inn at Mallard Cove. As we talked he mentioned that an eagle just flew by. He also brought up the subject of kayaks and said that we could use his kayaks — even in winter. That settled it. I made reservations there because Dean loves to kayak and I love birds.

I spent much of my free between making the reservation and the actual visit to Olympia reading many of the reviews on Trip Advisor. Of the 139 reviews, 134 are 5 star reviews, 4 are 4 star reviews and only one is a negative review by someone that didn’t even stay there — she just complained about their two-day minimum stay in peak season.

Even prepared with the glowing reviews, I was astonished by the beauty of the house (and its location), the hospitality of the hosts, the awesomeness of the breakfasts and the attention do detail in every single thing about the Inn at Mallard Cove.

Don and Linda are simply wonderful hosts. Don is vivaciously friendly and is knowledgeable about almost anything you ask him — especially if it involves the inn or the area. Linda is more reserved, but also very friendly. She, as Don put it several times, is the “brains” behind the operation and it is her attention to detail that makes your stay go smoothly. She is also an amazing cook. Our breakfasts were so delicious and filling that I could have easily waited for dinner before I ate anything more.

On Friday Don took Clare and Dean kayaking on Puget Sound into the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I’ve never kayaked and didn’t want to start kayaking in 30-something degree weather. They had a wonderful time and claim they didn’t even notice the cold.

I have stayed at dozens of bed and breakfasts in the US and in Europe, but I must say that the Inn at Mallard Cove may very well be the best B&B at which I have had the pleasure to stay.