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High Rock Tower in Lynn, Massachusetts.

On our way out of Salem we made a fun stop in Lynn, Massachusetts, to climb up the hill at High Rock Tower Park. The tower is tucked into a densely populated residential area, and the approach that we used has no parking area (we found street parking). There are no informational or directional signs, so when we found it, then hiked up the hill to see it, I felt like we had discovered something special.

This approximately 5-acre piece of land has held an observation tower since the 1840s. The original tower was burned down in 1865. The current tower is 107 feet high and was built of granite in 1904. Since 2002 the observatory has been open to the public for views of the starry skies, from 8-10pm. It contains a 12-inch Meade telescope and visitors get a good look at the craters of the moon, the rings of Saturn and the great storms of Jupiter.

If a person were to approach from the other side of the hill, there are wide streets and parking spaces. I don’t know why the map app sent us in the back way, but it was more fun. Up on top we found a small city park there as well, with a jungle gym for the kids and grassy lawn to play in. A few parents and kiddies were running around, but it was mostly abandoned. No one was appreciating the beauty of the place, the tower itself, the gigantic boulders of fascinating porphyry rock (a reddish rock with big crystals embedded in it) all over the site, or the incredible views. Will and I did appreciate all of that, however.

View of the sea overlooks Stone Cottage, also part of the site. There is a clear view of Nahant Bay, and the community of Nahant, on an island.

The Boston city skyline appears to the south, while standing at High Rock Tower.

Will then took me to see a ball game in his hometown of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, at McCoy Stadium. That is the home (for now) of the Pawsox (the Pawtucket Red Sox), a team affiliated with the Boston Red Sox. Of course seeing a hometown minor league game was fun, but there was the added excitement that we might get to see one of the major league players on the field, while they got up to speed after an absence from the Boston team. Will thought maybe Dustin Pedroia would be playing that night. Pedroia is one of the players who was a star when I was watching a lot of baseball about ten years ago, so it would be super cool to be able to watch him play.

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Tickets for the game.

Pedroia would be playing!

It was a warm night. We parked in a neighborhood and walked to the stadium. It felt wonderful to be sharing a small-town experience with all the other happy people walking to the game with us. Once we got our tickets and got inside the stadium, I checked the roster. Yep, Pedroia was on there.

We were hungry and I had fun standing in line for deep fried food and beer, all the stereotypes of baseball you could ask for. We found our seats and settled in. By the time we sat down the game had already started.

The Pawsox played the Gwinnett Stripers, from Gwinnett County, Georgia. I didn’t know anything about either team, but you can learn the players pretty fast by watching them during a game. These days of course you get up-close photos of the players, their positions and their stats up on the marquee every time they are at bat or make a significant play. That helps you learn. Another fun tradition is that each player picks a theme song and a few seconds of it are played as they approach home plate to bat. I learned who the country guy was, the hip hop guy, etcetera.

Hoping for a Pawtucket Red Sox run.

We had a pretty decent view of the field from our seats.

Stripers pitcher fixin’ to let loose.

Even though I only had my phone camera, I thought it did alright with capturing the scene.

The Stripers started off strong with three runs in the first inning, and another run in the the second. Pawsox gained momentum as they played, and by halfway through the game were clearly putting their hearts into it. That isn’t a way to win a game though. We finally got two runs in the 5th inning, but never caught up, and we lost the game 5-2.

I’m glad I got to see a game there. The team has been sold and is going to move to the city of Worcester in 2021. Once they move they will no longer be the Pawsox. It’s a pretty significant loss for Pawtucket, a small town that really doesn’t have much to brag about, or for the citizens to come together and enjoy.

After the game we hung around for fireworks. It’s a summertime tradition at McCoy stadium. Will’s mom is not a fan of the fireworks I hear, because it makes a lot of noise when many people are trying to get some sleep. I recommend being AT the game for the fireworks, because then all the light and noise go together, and it’s a lot of fun. After the show we walked back along the sidewalks to the car, in among many tired happy families heading home.

Stunning Mt. Hood - seriously lacking snow for the end of December

I’m late, but I still need to tell you about my awesome Christmas! When Mom died it just screwed up everything about the holidays. It doesn’t even feel like Christmas really happened, because it went all wrong without her being a part of it. However! I had a great vacation and it was packed full of stuff, so I’ll describe it in two parts. Part II will be available soon.

Tara spent the winter holidays in Cali with her dad, and Arno’s boys went to Wisconsin to see their mom, so we realized we were going to be granted the opportunity for a grown-up Christmas. We reserved three nights at the Lara House Lodge, in Bend, Oregon.

Passersby honked their horns while we were getting this shot!

Neither of us had been to Bend since we were kids, so it was an excellent place to get away from all the thoughts of my mom plaguing me. Didn’t have my home to remind me of her, and didn’t have any familiar sights reminding me of her.

We left from Hood River, south on highway 35, which eventually connected to highway 97, and we spent some time reminiscing about, and comparing, highway 97 memories. When you spend any time in central Oregon, you get familiar with 97, its long boring straight stretches through lodgepole pine, the caravans of RVs traveling at approximately 8 miles per hour below the speed limit, and inevitably the deliverance to one of your favourite childhood recreational sites.

We went through Madras, and I turned temporarily into a blathering idiot because I’m infatuated with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is from Madras. Ellsbury is a center fielder for the Boston Red Rox, of American Indian descent, and damn fine. Arno teased me by saying, “Maybe you’ll see him!”

Highway 97 bridge over Crooked River Gorge

Beware!

After Madras we stopped at Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint. I am always impressed with fabulous views, particularly those with intriguing geologic formations, so this captured my imagination. It was frightfully cold and windy out… but our entire trip was very cold and often windy. Just set that idea in the back of your mind and keep it handy for every single scene I describe. In fact, to assist you, I’ll suggest you simply add the words, “…and it was damn cold” to the end of each sentence from here on out.

Anyway, at the viewpoint we gawked and pointed, and I pursed my lips against the biting wind. Finally we returned to the truck and I spotted a sign warning people to keep their dogs in vehicles. Not just leash, but keep your dog in the car. Wow. I confess I thought dogs had more finely tuned senses than humans. I guess some dogs are smarter than others. Note to Bulldog owners and Ally at Hyperbole and a Half: don’t take your dogs to this viewpoint.

Anime Tshirts

We arrived at the Lara House Lodge with no difficulties at all. It is a brilliantly maintained home from 1910 and excellently hosted by Peter and Lynda who were gracious and genuine people. I even had the honor of meeting their granddaughter on one occasion, when she was helping in the kitchen. Had a lovely discussion with Peter, a retired minister who has a very interesting history of service, including years volunteering with Hospice (which is how we got on the topic of his work), and was able to wish Lynda a happy birthday on the 26th. They prepared us the most incredible gourmet breakfasts, and interviewed us each evening to ensure that any dislikes or allergies were taken care of.

living room

We arrived midday Christmas Eve and spent the remainder of the day walking the decorated streets of Bend. The Bed & Breakfast is smack in the center of town, and so convenient for vacationers. We were only a couple blocks from a lovely walking district. I found a shop entirely of Japanese gifts that I knew my daughter would have wanted to experience. More commonly, I spotted dozens of things I wanted to tell Mom about. I reached into my pocket for my phone a couple of times, with the intent of texting her… Eventually we met back at Lara House for wine and cheese, then wandered back into town for an elegant dinner.

tree

shadows

Christmas Day we opened gifts in front of a darling little tree that Arno brought as a surprise, with a silver star on top that he had made as a kid. The little tree was sent to him in college by his parents. So sweet. After a scrumptious Lara House breakfast, we went up to Mt. Bachelor to cross-country ski. However, there wasn’t good snow, so we opted to snowshoe instead. Still, the mostly ice-encrusted snow did not lend itself to snowshoeing. After clack-clacking a short way on the ice, we pulled off the snow shoes and hiked in our boots. The trail wound a few lovely miles through the forest, and we were satisfied.

Deschutes River in slanting rays of sun

icicles hanging from ice

After that, we went to hike a trail along the Deschutes River to Benham Falls. I snapped dozens of photos of the ice in the river, as it formed irresistible bubbles and icicles around the edges of the tumbling water. On the way back from the trail, we stopped at a vista across a wide valley where the region’s volcanic history was starkly evident. We saw a long and wide lava flow area (still black and crumbly!) with mounds raised over long-absent hotspots. Signs advertised cave exploration and museums available in the summer months, so we agreed to come back again when it’s warmer.

Lara House is across the street from Drake Park, and we went there every day for a short walk (are you remembering to add “…and it was damn cold”?). We ate entirely too much at our Christmas feast (with roast beast), and walked for an hour at the park before bed. The Deschutes River is wide and slow there, and holiday lights from the houses across the water glittered across the surface, Mallards peacefully floated about, and the stars made the sky magical.

the tumbling beginnings of Benham Falls along the Deschutes River

Arno and me at Benham Falls

 

Benham Falls

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