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  • Des & Sandie Nichols

FROM COOPERSTOWN TO BELFAST VIA NEWPORT RHODE ISLAND


We have arrived in Belfast, Maine having said a fond goodbye to the rolling hills of New York state. It was moving to have been bid a somewhat haunting farewell, as we set off, from an Amish washing line of empty frocks and pants, waving gently as we drove past. We surmised that the usual occupants of these disembodied fashions had probably headed for the nearby forest hills for a special edition of Naked and Afraid and Amish.

There was a packed schedule on the road to Massachusetts, where our destination was a long overdue family reunion. We had a couple of nights in a beautiful site in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest civilization being distant Cooperstown, NY. They put us in the perfect site on the edge of a field of 10ft sweetcorn, ripe and ready for harvest, that stretched out to the horizon. Sitting by the log fire under the canopy of stars was the stuff of clichés.

Our journey to our next stop was interrupted (for 20 minutes) only by a herd of 700 cattle who crossed the narrow road in front of the bus, moving from one field to another, each beast giving it and us a bemused glare as the parade went slowly by.

Then we went to Westhampton, MA for the holiday weekend and had to endure the normal Labor Day swarm of 'other people's children' but thankfully a couple of rumbustuous nights with our new friends Pete, Marsha, Glen & Ellen restored our will to live while doing some considerable damage to the wine-cellar-on-wheels.

One place we went to had always been on our list - Newport, Rhode Island - what a great town. Dominated by the yachting, the seas were packed with a bunting of sails, shining brightly in the sun. The town itself is just picture perfect, with narrow streets lined with 19th century houses rising up from the harbor edge. We found a great restaurant that reminded us of Port Grimaud and St Tropez (where we once had a house) for a Sunday lunchtime lobster roll. It's tough, this RV life.

FAMILY MATTERS

It was in Westhampton that we met up with my lovely and ridiculously talented cousin Wendy, who tours the world playing the flute exquisitely. She had just come back from China, full of Far Eastern tales. Her husband Ben also had so many interesting stories to tell as, having known since an early age that he was adopted, he has just had the life-changing experience of discovering the identity of his real birth mother. And what a colorful customer she was. A gifted musician, a theatrical producer, and theatrical in every way, living a life of a very popular bon viveur. And to his absolute delight he has found a new sister and they both have started to catch up and form that special bond that was denied them for so long. It was a privilege and thrill to share his unbridled excitement. But, most importantly, we got to see my dear favourite aunt Steph, my late mother's sister. This extraordinary 92 year old grande dame remains as demure as an English rose, has the noblesse oblige of a countess, retains the deportment of a 50s debutante and bubbles with good humor to match. Thanks to all, and to Wendy & Ben's son Sam, who is doing extremely clever things on a think-tank before moving on to his PhD and is a thoroughly fine young man (and I am sure has a bit of rebel in him).

So, looking at the family photo, that's where the brains went in the family.

We also took a pilgrimage to the Old North Bridge in Concord, the very spot where the first shot of the Revolution was fired (and fatally hit a luckless British Redcoat). It was indeed 'the shot heard around the world' according to Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1837 poem.

SOUND ADVICE

We have some advice to all of you who possess an I-phone and who also like to listen to the radio in bed. First of all....

1. DO get the TuneIn app and select the comedy, theatre or music station of your choice. It is excellent.

2. DO put on quality headphones to get the best sound and so as not to disturb your significant other.

3. DO always try to turn the radio off and remove headphones before falling asleep.

4. DO, and this is important, turn off very carefully if you do fall asleep and wake up at 1.43 AM still attached to the headpieces.

5. DO be aware there is a 'Call Emergency' button on your phone, which is hidden away so that only the late Steve Jobs knows where it is but can pop up at any moment.

6. DO answer the door promptly if there is a heavy handed, repeated knock.

7. DO be polite and apologetic to the 6' 6" armed policeman with three stripes on his arm, who is shining a flashlight in your face, asking if you called 911 (999).

8. DO grovel, pretend to be elderly and senile. He will eventually leave.

9. DO say nothing as your partner launches a barrage of abuse at you and threatens to kill you.

10. DO go back to bed as if nothing had happened.

We pass on this advice with experience and confidence. We followed it to the letter last night and we still, remarkably, have our freedom.

Just another day in our world.

But now we are so excited to be on the Maine Road. We have just walked the beach and seen the seals poking their inquisitive heads out of the water and porpoises searing out to see the closing of the day.

Tomorrow we explore Belfast, a small fishing town about half way up this most peaceful and natural state. Arcadia National Park 100 miles to the north beckons and we hope you don't mind if we share the experiences with you.

As always, thank you for following us. It is just wonderful to share the experiences... and not be in jail.

And finally.... the view from the Hotel du Van


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