Slightly over an hour from Portland Maine are 5 trolls hidden among towering trees on a sprawling 300 acre garden known as Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The trek to each troll rewards you with croaking ponds, hiking trails, tidewater shoreline and over 3,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants.
The 20-foot-tall trolls were created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo and were built entirely from recycled materials. Sculpting the trolls took a whopping 500 hours each and have a life expectancy of 5 – 10 years. The trolls increased visitors to the garden and encourages them to see more, as the trolls are strategically located apart from each other and you must trek the trails to reach them.
Roskva is the first troll you will encounter in the garden and is the strongest of the trolls. If other trolls have a lapse of memory, Roskva will come to their aid as she counts the seasons and remembers all that happens in the gardens.
Lilja is still just a child and loves the colors and scents of the flowers. She watches intently as bees and butterflies playfully fly among the flowers and land upon branches.
Birk is a limber and omnipresent troll, listening to everything happening in the garden. He hides in the shadows and entertains other creatures of the forest with his tall tales.
Soren is an adventurous troll, constantly twisting and turning to discover higher places. He daydreams about blustery days floating on a cloud and celebrates life with a dance.
Gro is the most zen wanderer you’ll ever know. She leaves the forest in the fall and returns in the spring to feed all friends by catching sunbeams and raindrops.
Visiting Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Located in Boothbay, you can reach the botanical gardens in a 1.5 hour drive from Portland Maine. Purchase tickets online from their website at MainGardens.gov before you go. Once you’ve enjoyed the gardens, you can head over to Boothbay for spectacular water views, grub and beverages of your choosing.
After retiring (for the 2nd and last time) in December 2021, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my Dad. One of his and my favorite past times is to go fishing. He has 2 boats (a smaller creek boat and a larger lake boat).
He lives in South Georgia and is only 5 minutes from Spring Creek. We either fish off the bank or float down the creek in the creek boat. Sometimes we go to Lake Seminole for lake fishing.
I love the outdoors, nature and spending time with my Dad. My favorite part of any fishing trip is when we get into the boat and start moseying down the creek or lake — my Dad at the helm and me taking in the views.
As you cruise the lakes and creeks, you get glimpses of nature at its best — like this eagles nest.
But nothing is more fun than reeling them in and cheering each other on.
My Dad and I started following this expert fisherman on Youtube — his name is Richard Gene the Fishing Machine and he is incredible. He ends every video the same — with these words of wisdom:
Just over a mile from our home is Camp Helen State Park where in the early 1950’s a fishing pier (referred to as the Inlet Beach Pier) was constructed. Families gathered to fish, swim, collect shells and find shade from the brutal Florida sun.
In 1975, the pier took a hit from Hurricane Eloise, a CAT 4 storm that punished it with 120 mph winds. Most of the pier was lost but what remained became an icon for the Inlet Beach area.
Locals and tourists staying in Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, Alys Beach, and towns further down Scenic 30a made it a habit to walk to the pier along the crystal emerald shores. The pier was a great turnaround point where people could hang out, swim, or just rest before returning home.
When heading west from Panama City Beach, each time I crossed the Lake Powell bridge of Phillips Inlet, I would look south to spot the decaying pier. It was visible just in the distance and it became a habit to glance that way. A few weeks ago I glanced over and no longer saw the pier. I thought my eyes were deceiving me but later learned that it had been taken down.
Sadly, here is how it looks today. Other than a few pilings barely visible under the water, it’s completely gone.
In 2014, a sailboat washed ashore adjacent to the pier. It was loaded with all kinds of goodies (a kid’s bike, solar panels, sonar and more). We figured the owner would have it towed soon.
The sailboat sat there for 5 months until the county removed it. By the time they did, it had been swept from the original location to the back of the pier and was submerged in the sand.
Here are a few more pictures I’ve taken over the years. RIP Inlet Beach Pier!
If you want to learn more about Inlet Beach and the Inlet Beach Pier, MarineMax put together a phenomenal video:
A short 1 hour and 15 minute drive from our place in Arundel Maine is a sleepy fishing village called Bailey Island. It’s a dog friendly spot that’s perfect for a day-trip.
With a population of 400, this small island is located in Casco Bay, a part of the town of Harpswell, Maine. Legend has it that in 1742, Timothy Bailey purchased this island for a pound of tobacco and a gallon of rum from William Black who moved to an adjoining town, Orr’s Island.
Bailey Island is home to the only known cribstone bridge in the world made up of rocks, sand and gravel. The unique design allows tides to flow freely through it and boats to easily navigate its narrow passage.
As you enter Bailey Island, you see “Morse Lobster”. A stone’s throw away from it is “The Nubble”, a bait shack used by Lobster fishermen.
Our aim was to view “The Giant’s Steps”, a rock formation on the edge of the island that looks like a large flight of stairs. On our way there, we stopped at Mackerel Cove, a quaint cove filled with boats, fishermen, and small shops.
A short drive later we reached “The Giant’s Stairs”. Our dog Ziggi enjoyed the short hike to the ocean’s edge.
Our final stop was “Land’s End”, a rocky beach at the tip of the island. From there you can faintly see a lighthouse in the distance.
We had big plans. Rent a NYC apartment in the Upper West Side and enjoy all that NYC has to offer – Broadway, museums, incredible dining and entertainment, Central Park, Macy’s Day Parade, Christmas and New Years in the Big Apple. Learn what’s it’s like to live in a really big city that’s always buzzing.
It started off well. We committed to a year lease in an apartment in the Upper West Side at the corner of Central Park and mid-town. It was Fall, the leaves were turning bright orange.
We saw Bruce Springsteen and several others on Broadway. We visited all the major museums and enjoyed the Macy’s Day Parade by stepping just outside our apartment.
As Peloton enthusiasts, we even worked out at the Peloton studio with one of our favorite instructors (Ally Love).
Christmas came quickly and we were beginning to feel like a local — finding our favorite restaurants and finding nooks and crannies of Central Park that tourists probably won’t see.
We brought in the New Year and watched the fireworks over Central Park.
A New Day
The end of year came and we headed back to warmer weather in Florida. We excitingly started making plans for Spring and Summer 2020 in NYC. We bought tickets to lots of Broadway shows – Westside Story, The Music Man, and more. We bought tickets to see Jerry Seinfeld and to a Kenny Chesney concert towards the end of summer.
It was March 2020 and we traveled back to NYC to see Jerry Seinfeld. Just days before our travel, we heard about this new virus called Corona Virus and the possibility of it spreading to America. Broadway was still open and Jerry Seinfeld had not be been cancelled — surely things are OK, we’ll keep our plans.
A day after we arrived, things were starting to get real. Seinfeld was cancelled and so was all the Broadway shows. We quickly hopped on a plane back to Florida to wait it out. It took a while until we could return. Governor Cuomo did an amazing job of keeping things locked down until the viral surge was under control.
We returned mid July but NYC was not the same. The streets were empty, you rarely saw a taxi, no horns were blaring and the city was no longer buzzing. Restaurants were outside dining only or take out. Even Time Square was eerily empty.
We decided to make the best of it. We ate in and took long walks in Central Park. We saw pretty much every square inch of the park and it is beautiful.
Closing out our New York City Adventure
During all this craziness, we learned that our son Cameron and Kara were pregnant so we would become first time grandparents. They live in Maine and we want to be close to them so we decided to give up our NYC apartment and get a place in Kennebunk Maine (more on that later).
In September, we returned to NYC for one last visit before leaving for Maine. We spent about a month in NYC and it had changed since July. More people were out and about but people were socially distancing and wearing masks. Broadway was still closed but restaurants were beginning to allow a smaller crowd to enter (still mostly outside seating). But the streets were starting to buzz again, taxis were back and the familiar horn blowing and city noise was returning. We ventured out to take in some sights that we missed earlier in the year.
Summing it Up
Although the universe had a different plan for us than envisioned for our year in New York City, we still thoroughly enjoyed it. New York City is such a great city and we are happy we had this experience. I will leave you with a couple of final images.
It was early March and we were narrowing down our international travel plans for 2020. China and Tibet seem interesting. We were visualizing the Great Wall and visits to Tibet monasteries. Then the pandemic hit. China and Tibet will have to wait.
Fast forward 4 months and we are living in a new normal. Never thought we would wear masks, avoid hugging friends, stop eating in restaurants, or generally avoid others.
After things calmed down (before the flare up in July), we decided to travel domestically to see more of the Northeast. We started in Maine where our oldest son lives. We traveled responsibly — vigilant in wearing our masks, keeping our distance from others and ordering take out. Here’s what we saw…
Maine is a beautiful state with awesome foliage, mountains, lakes, streams and access to the Atlantic Ocean. Beautiful light houses protect its rocky shores.
Our son and daughter-in-law have an amazing farm on 11 acres, complete with a barn, horse, goat, barn cat, and lots of flowering plants.
We had plenty of time to work on projects together. One of our fun projects was building a table together — very rewarding.
I also got a chance to work on my handicap with some nice golf courses around this area. They allow you to ride a single cart, golfers don’t shake or high five and we kept our distance. The new normal I guess.
Upstate New York
We’ve spent lots of time in New York City but never Upstate New York. Looking at the map, we spotted 11 elongated lakes resembling fingers — appropriately named the Finger Lakes. We had never heard much about them and was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful this area of the country is.
Many of the Finger Lakes are lined with a scenic drive along its shores with lots of wineries (great Rieslings) and craft breweries.
Astonishingly, this area has a large Amish population and you will invariably see them in horse and buggy along the roads.
The Hamptons (Long Island)
This was our first time visiting the Hamptons — New York City’s playground for the rich and famous. It was a bit different than I had visualized. It is densely populated with trees and the few roads in and out don’t provide a view of the beautiful beaches. It does not feel like a tropical area but has lots of shopping and upscale restaurants.
Once you get to the beaches, they are wonderful. Being from Inlet Beach, we are used to sugar sand beaches — these have a similar consistency with a yellow hue.
But this area has a lot of charm and I can see why it’s a relaxation spot for New Yorkers.
Apparently, it’s also legal to be chauffeured around by your 4 legged friends.
New York City
Our final stop was our beloved New York City. Things have really changed since our last visit. There are almost no tourists, so there are no crowded streets, few sirens blaring and almost no horns honking. Imagine that. No museums are open, restaurants are order out or outside seating only and Broadway shows are closed. Everyone wears masks and are diligent about social distancing. Andrew Como did a great job managing the pandemic and we feel as comfortable here as we do back home.
With everything closed, we’ve spent a lot of time walking every inch of Central Park.
Black Lives Matter. They always have.
I am often asked what type of camera I use to capture my photos. I mostly use my iPhone XR and a Nikon D500 if I need a long distance lens (but I rarely use it anymore). I’ve learned a lot about photography and it is more about your approach than what camera you choose to use. Once you learn the basics of composition and post-processing techniques, you can create stunning pictures that tell a story.
A year or so ago, I learned about an online photography class offered by Emil Pakarklis and it took my photography to the next level. If you want to hone your camera skills, it’s invaluable. Check it out here: https://iphonephotographyschool.com/author/emil/.
All of the pictures in this blog post were taken with my iPhone XR.
A few years ago, we enjoyed a slow ride down the Rhine River to take in the small German villages and hillside castles. The Rhine starts in Switzerland and flows North through Germany and Netherlands before dumping into the North Sea.
If you haven’t cruised the Rhine, it’s something you will want to do.
I didn’t notice this until we reviewed our photos, but the one below is funny. Check out the kid at the bottom right of the picture. We had just passed the castle from the photo above and he is snoozing away as we drift. His Dad is getting it all on video for later ribbing.
As you drift down the river, you see castle after castle. It’s fun to speculate about who built and lived in the castles over the years.
If you do a bit of research, its not nearly as romantic as you might imagine. The castles were equipped with thick-walls and fortifications and were used mostly as customs control over trade. At the time, the Rhine was a major trade route for the Romans. During the 14th century, cannons pillaged the castles and were eventually abandoned.
Among the castles are vineyards. If you have the time, you can stop in and sample the famous German Rieslings.
There are numerous quaint German Villages along this route.
Germany is a leading maker of Cuckoo clocks. After our Rhine cruise, we traveled into the Black Forest to see where they’re made. A lot of workmanship goes into each clock.
The store that sold these clocks had a Cuckoo clock built into the top deck. At the top of the hour, it chimes and you get to see a couple dancing on the deck.
After retiring, I decided I wanted to learn more about mobile app development so I designed an Apple app and began looking for a developer to write the code. I picked an individual in India who previously worked for Microsoft. His name was Rupreet and he did a great job with the app. Once the app was live, I went back to traveling and enjoying retired life.
Then in 2016, an old friend called to ask if I would consider working part time as a consultant for a startup company in North Carolina. He wanted me to lead a team who could develop a web-based workflow solution. After mulling it over (and agreeing that I could continue traveling as I have before), I came on board.
After doing a few months of discovery regarding features needed of the product, I began thinking about who could do the work. I contacted my friend Rupreet (who did my app) and he and a partner had built a business in Chandigarh India to provide software outsourcing. The timing was right, so we hired them as our outsource partner.
Prior to this, I had no knowledge of Chandigarh. It’s located north of Delhi.
I came to learn that in a country of over 1.3 billion people, 29 states, and 7 union territories — Chandigarh is the cleanest city and has the highest happiness index. So how does the size of India compare to the USA? It is about 1/3 the size.
When I started this consulting gig, I figured I would get the software up and running and return to full time retirement. But it has now been almost 4 years and I am still enjoying the part time work. As long as I can continue having freedom to travel and feel that I am can make a positive impact on the project, I am happy to continue doing it.
Although we’ve worked with the team in Chandigarh for almost 4 years, I had never visited until recently.
We started out trip in New Delhi — the capital of India. One of the partners of our outsourcing partner lives in Delhi and he was a great host. We ate amazing Indian food and closed down several night clubs before heading to bed at 3:00 a.m.
One of the local desserts is something called Paan.
It’s part breath freshener and part digestive aid. It is a wad of dried fruits, spices and seeds wrapped into a large green leaf from the betel nut plant. Our host spotted a local shop, purchased it and asked us to swallow it down.
How did it taste? To us, it tasted like soap! For most, probably licorish.
The rest of our stay was in Chandigarh. Right away, we noticed it was much cleaner and less crowded than New Delhi. It is a master planned city that resides in one of the union territories — so it is not actually in an Indian state.
Our hosts treated us to some of the best restaurants in town. The person to the left below is Ketan — he owns the outsourcing company that we partner with. This was at a micro brewery. It was a bit different than our micro breweries in that it had a live deejay with music pumping as you sipped your brew.
The place below was a sports bar with stadium seating and dining pods. Kinda reminded me of The Hobbit. This was a very cool dining experience.
They also have trendy restaurants with amazing service. This place had an amazing ambiance and outdoor seating with fireplaces and individual table side warming stoves.
We had a few days to explore Chandigarh. We visited the Silent Garden and Sukhna Lake where the locals were enjoying the 60 degree winter weather.
Of course, daily life in India is much different than the states. People commute via bicycle, motorcycle, scooters, and even via horse. That’s what I love about travel, you get to experience cultures unlike your own and gain a great appreciation for life.
I’ll leave you with a picture of our team in India — a great bunch of people!
If you’ve wanted to visit Northern California, here are 7 spots you may want to visit:
Sonoma and Napa Valley
Muir Woods Redwoods
Sonoma and Napa Valley
If you’re in the mood for wine tasting, consider making Sonoma your hub. Cheaper than staying in Napa, it has amazing wineries and is a short 25 minute drive to Napa. A couple of our favorite wineries in Sonoma were Jacuzzi and B. R. Cohen.
Since we were staying 3 weeks, we rented a beautifully appointed rental home situated on a couple of acres surrounded by vineyards. We would wake up each morning to hot air balloons and jack rabbits scouting food among the vineyards.
This was the view we woke up to each day:
We also visited Napa. One of our favorite spots to visit is Frog’s Leap. Not for the wine so much, but for the farm surrounding the winery — it is beautifully done.
It also has some reasonably priced golfing — some built around vineyards. I golfed Eagle Vines Golf Course and the 2 pm tee time cost less than $30. Most tee boxes had views of vineyards that can be reached with your drive if not careful.
Just an hour drive from Sonoma is Bodega Bay — the iconic beach town where Alfred Hitchcock shot the 1963 movie “The Birds”. A coastal town, we rented a beach front house with amazing views.
Although it is about 20 degrees colder than Sonoma (in the 60’s), it was nice to wake up with these views.
The Links at Bodega Harbour offers spectacular views of the bay — this was a really fun golf course to play and if you play after noon, it’s not very expensive.
There are ample hiking opportunities in Bodega Bay, here was our view from one of our hikes.
We decided to drive north along the coast from Bodega Bay and we stumbled on Fort Ross. This was a great find, an old fort built my the Russians who occupied this land from 1812 to 1841. If you are in this area, it is certainly worth a stop.
In less than 45 minutes, you can drive from Bodega Bay to the Armstrong Redwoods. This impressive park has lots of huge redwoods and fun hikes.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a 5 hour ride north to Mount Shasta. We dedicated a weekend to it. It is a beautiful mountain with great hiking but it also is a sacred site because it is a Chakra Center of Gaia. Just like our bodies, Earth reportedly has seven chakras, or energy processing centers and Mount Shasta is one.
While we were there, I was practicing creating long exposure shots with my iPhone and I took this picture on one of the hikes. Long exposure gives water a silky look. If you want to learn how to do this — shoot me an email.
Muir Woods Redwoods
Even more impressive than Armstrong Redwoods is Muir Woods Redwoods. This park is much bigger and you must purchase a ticket before you get there (you can do this online). It has miles of trails via boardwalk — if you are in the area, this is a must!
A short distance from Muir Woods is Stinson Beach — a beach with a bohemian vibe. If you are in the area, it’s worth hanging out here for a few days.