Posted from Bar Harbor, Maine at 6:17 pm, September 17th, 2021
Aaron and I managed to get to the Beehive Trail around 8am before the bulk of the crowds arrived, and we had a great hike up to the top. I had my doubts as to whether a trail in Acadia could measure up to some of the gnarlier routes out West, and while this one was short, it packed a punch. After climbing over boulders, pulling ourselves up iron rungs, and shimmying along sheer cliffs we had a good deal of adrenaline coursing through our systems when we reached the top.
Audrey and I later attempted a “moderate” hike up Gorham Mountain – at least one site rates the park’s hikes using a scale of “easy”, “moderate” and “iron rung”. While there were no iron rungs or scrambling on the day’s second hike, it still gained 500 feet of elevation in a relatively short distance, but thankfully the view was excellent so Audrey was willing to forgive me putting her through physical duress while she’s on vacation.
The day finished with an anniversary dinner for Ma & Pa. We had our last dinner of the trip together next to the ocean, and both of the married couple got the baked stuffed lobster to celebrate. We’ll all be parting ways tomorrow, but it’s been a good first week of vacation, and Audrey and I still have a couple more remaining as we start heading west across New England.
Early Fall colors from the Beehive trail in Acadia National Park.
Ryan and Audrey in Acadia National Park. She was a good sport and decided to let me live after I made her climb a mountain in the afternoon sun.
Posted from Bar Harbor, Maine at 6:19 pm, September 16th, 2021
We’re in Bar Harbor for two nights, with plans to go exploring in Acadia National Park tomorrow. The drive up here was along Route One, through a million small Maine towns, past many million roadside antique shops, and (surprisingly) past less than two dozen Dunkin’ Donuts.
The day started with a quick solo hike along the Kennebec River before I returned to fetch Audrey and start off on the journey from Brunswick to Bar Harbor. Because I’m driving, and thus choosing the stops, our only planned stop was at Fort Knox (no, not that one) and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, a huge cable-stayed bridge that was calling out to this engineer as soon as I saw it on the map. I’ve been reading about the Penobscot for years due to dam removals that led to river herring numbers increasing from a few thousand fish before dam removal to over three million fish in recent years. The fact that there’s now a crazy-cool bridge over the river, AND you can ride an elevator 420 feet to the top of its main pier, made it a can’t-miss attraction for this science nerd.
The plan for tomorrow is to visit Acadia, including the Beehive Trail, which if I understand correctly is essentially a bunch of metal ladders and rungs that make it somewhat possible to reach an impressive view of the sea; I’m excited to give it a go.
Penobscot Narrows and Fort Knox from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observation Deck.
Posted from Brunswick, Maine at 5:49 pm, September 15th, 2021
The destination for the day was Brunswick, Maine, but the path there was a choose-your-own-adventure of Maine locations. Being mature adults, Audrey and I decided to make our way there via Smiling Hill Farm, where we were able to pet cows, goats, sheep, pigs, and a handful of other animals. After being slobbered on by cows and mobbed by some very enthusiastic goats I may need to do laundry sooner than planned – a text message was sent to my parents letting them know I’d need a little extra time before dinner to change because I smelled like a barn – but the stop was very worthwhile and made for some great videos. Of particular note, the farm’s mini horses had apparently learned that they could cajole visitors to drop a token in the food machine and bring them snacks if they stomped their front hoof repeatedly, and it took only a minute or two for them to properly train us in this routine.
The day’s other notable events included a stop in Fort Williams Park to see the Portland Head Lighthouse, and of course have another lobster roll from one of the food trucks. For dinner we re-joined the Holliday Clan and took Ma Holliday to get the fried clams she’s been craving since we left New England in 1984; luckily she was not disappointed and came away a very happy lady. Tomorrow we’re off to Bar Harbor for two nights of exploring Acadia National Park.
Posted from Kennebunkport, Maine at 6:22 pm, September 14th, 2021
We returned to Nunan’s Lobster Hut again tonight, this time with my parents and brother in tow, and it was delightful. My dad licked his plate clean after finishing his blueberry pie.
Prior to dinner, the day included hiking among forest, salt marsh, and a myriad of weird mushrooms and fungi in Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge. The entire clan did a one mile loop, and the mosquitos only got to snack on us a tiny bit before the bug spray was fully deployed.
From there everyone mostly went off to do their own thing. Audrey and I stumbled on a farm stand in Kennebunk featuring what seemed like a million pumpkins, then headed to the coast for a few short excursions before returning to our room for a nap. Afterwards I set off on foot to see the coast of Kennebunkport, including George Bush’s family compound, and covered about five miles before returning home. The night concluded with lobster and pie at Nunan’s, followed by drinks outside at the hotel with music and campfire smoke wafting through the air.
Tomorrow we’re continuing north, and the tentative plans suggest that there is a high likelihood of petting goats along the way.
Posted from Kennebunkport, Maine at 6:19 pm, September 13th, 2021
The lobster feast New England trip continued today, with the route taking us from Manchester up to Kennebunkport, Maine. After ambling through backcountry roads in New Hampshire for a couple of hours (total Dunkin’s spotted: eight) we met the rest of the Holliday Clan for a stroll on the Marginal Way along the rocky Maine seashore in Ogunquit. From there we spent a few hours hiking in the Wells Reserve with wild turkeys and among hundreds of migrating monarch butterflies, while passing through fields, forests, a saltwater estuary, and finally along a marshy boardwalk where we met another one of Maine’s native inhabitants: the voracious mosquito. We arrived back at the car down a pint or two of blood, but still happy.
Ma Holliday booked us at a beautiful place along the inlet in Kennebunkport, and after a short siesta we searched around for a dinner spot. In general, the shabbier a place in New England sounds, the better the food – you really want something with “Shack” or “Stand” in the name if it’s available. Our first choice, The Clam Shack, was already closed for the day by dinner time, but luckily we found Nunan’s Lobster Hut, which served up the best lobster rolls so far by a wide margin, as well as homemade blueberry pie that warranted an exclamation after each bite (“oh yeah”, “that’s delightful”, “oh no, there are only three bites left”); we will almost certainly be back again tomorrow.
Nunan’s Lobster Hut, Kennebunkport. This place possessed all of the omens for a great New England seafood place: “Hut” in the name (“Shack” is also acceptable), picnic tables out front, and a packed parking lot. Having now finished our amazing dinner, we can confirm that the omens were most definitely correct.
Posted from Manchester, New Hampshire at 6:32 pm, September 12th, 2021
It’s Ma and Pa Holliday’s 50th wedding anniversary this year, and to celebrate five wonderful years together, as well as forty-five additional arduous years having to deal with my brother and me, they decided to do a week-long family trip in New England; Aaron and I were born here and called the place home until we moved to Cleveland in 1984. Audrey and I decided to extend the trip, so in addition to a week with the family, we’ll be spending a total of three weeks on a glorious, work-free adventure through New England, across Southern Ontario, and ending finally in one of the world’s most popular travel destinations, Cleveland, Ohio.
The trip started with a 5:30AM wakeup in Los Angeles yesterday, and we arrived in Boston by late afternoon through the magic of chairs that travel through the sky at 600 mph; airplanes are truly wondrous machines, and the folks causing current increases in air rage incidents really need to jump back into conestoga wagons for a little while to regain some perspective.
Shortly after landing in Boston we made the short trek to Manchester, New Hampshire, where we met a high school friend at her family’s home for dinner. After much laughing and some incredible home-cooked food (thanks Erin & John!) we finally returned to the hotel and headed to bed.
We met up with the rest of the Holliday clan early this morning and set off on a trip to the coast and the town of Portsmouth. Audrey and I took the scenic route, revisiting Nashua where I spent the first nine years of my time on this planet. From there we played the “find a Dunkin'” game through rural New Hampshire on our way to the coast (spoiler alert: Dunkin’ Donuts has a location approximately every 250 feet throughout New England). We ate lunch next to several docked tugboats in Portsmouth, roamed across the state border to Maine for a quick stop in Kittery, then enjoyed more of rural New Hampshire by continuing to avoid highways on our 90-minute return trip to Manchester.
The lobster roll count after today stands at two (one for lunch, one for dinner), the moose count is currently at zero, and we’re hoping to increase both of those counts significantly as we start up the coast of Maine tomorrow.
Posted from Culver City, California at 7:50 pm, March 18th, 2018
It’s been a long time since there was a recap entry, so here’s a quick overview of the events since November:
Due to work I ended up skipping the annual Man Trip over the Christmas break, and instead just made a two day rush up to the Bay Area to enjoy the holiday with Ma, Pa, and Younger Holliday. As always mom cooked a tremendous dinner, we got to go for a couple of walks wearing dad’s goofy hats, and it was nice to be home be with family for a bit.
Following the New Year Audrey and I headed north to Alaska for the Northern Lights trip that has previously been chronicled in this journal. I had decided not to use vacation for the trip since the weather was likely to keep us indoors, and sadly the ongoing project that caused me to forgo the 2017 Man Trip followed me to Alaska – it has been three years since the job required an all-nighter, but there were two all-nighters required while in Alaska; the universe may owe me some time off.
Continuing a theme, there have been three work trips to San Antonio so far in 2018, although luckily they have been uneventful (i.e. no hurricanes).
In non-work news, Aaron came to LA two weeks ago and stayed with us for a night. There was much sushi, a walk around the Venice canals, and fun with his new toy – a drone that apparently doesn’t like all of the airspace restrictions around my house due to LAX and the Santa Monica airport.
Finally, in home news we haven’t done any major projects aside from some tree-trimming, but we now support a small zoo each morning as 4-6 squirrels, a few dozen sparrows and finches, several badass hummingbirds, and a murder of crows stop by for daily brunch.
Following the night of much music I took a few vacation days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, joining Aaron at his new place in Truckee where we threw hatchets at a pumpkin (we’ve clearly matured greatly over the years). Following that visit I made a detour to Muir Woods before picking up Audrey at the airport and heading to Ma & Pa’s for Thanksgiving. The annual family gathering saw much delicious food consumed, much laughter, and a display of amazing skills in playing Uno.
The month ended with Audrey’s birthday, which she celebrated with her tradition of roller skating and a visit to the library, after which I took her out for a fancy steak dinner before we joined her choir friends for celebratory beverages.
Posted from Culver City, California at 9:29 pm, October 30th, 2017
2017 is not shaping up as a great year for hitting the three-journal-entries-a-month goal, either because not a lot is happening or because I’m lazier than normal; it’s probably both. Anyhow, here’s a recap of the past month:
October started with a visit from Ma & Pa. They had just returned from one of those cruises where someone comes aboard with a horrible virus and turns the boat into a vomitorium, and they weren’t yet fully recovered, so activities were kept to a minimum. Dad had wanted to see the Spaceship Endeavour since it is awesome, and afterwards we took my mom to Casa Sanchez to celebrate her birthday since you can’t go wrong with a kickass mariachi show.
In home news, I put up a mealworm feeder to see what birds it might attract, and it turns out that the answer is “crows”. While they may not be exotic, crows have tons of personality, and they have clearly decided that the new feeder is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the avian world. We now have anywhere from 3-12 crows in the yard each morning, and we’re slowly training them to be less scared of us, although for such smart birds they’re either poor learners or else we’re bad teachers.
Finally, last week I made the month’s only work trip to San Antonio, returning for the first time since the hurricane. Luckily Mother Nature decided not to send any natural disasters my way this time, and insomnia was the only battle I had to fight – the fact that the client greeted me in the morning with “what happened?” is probably a sign that I need to start considering sleeping aids.
I’ll do my best to get a couple of additional entries up in the coming days – at a minimum Halloween is tomorrow, so there will be stories to share from this year’s incarnation of Scare the Children.
Posted from Culver City, California at 9:26 pm, May 30th, 2017
Another month, another recap of that month…
In house news, after floors and walls were ripped apart, our home improvements for 2017 are now (probably) complete. The month started with installation of new windows and doors, an event that provided the opportunity to spend a day working in a house with massive holes in all of the walls were doors and windows once lived. The end result of all of that chaos is well worth it – the house is quiet, the drafts have stopped, you no longer get sunburned sitting near the glass, and the dog in the yard behind us is now almost hard to hear. The month ended with new bedroom carpets, because once you’ve shelled out the money for windows, carpet seems cheap by comparison.
In Audrey news, we made an excursion across the LA basin to Chino Hills a week ago to pick up a cabinet she wanted, and on the way home somehow ended up barefoot while touring the grounds of an amazing Hindu Temple that we had seen from the highway – LA is capable of an infinite number of surprises. Later in the month her new band – either called “Soulful Rick” or “Funk Shui”, depending on which band member you ask – was playing its first show at the Venice Art Walk, but since I was going to miss the show due to work travel I got to sit in on rehearsal; I feel strongly that the insightful tips I offered (“play good”, “dress cool”) are what made their show so successful.
In family news, my dad’s side of the family all decided to get together and bring the Holliday craziness to San Antonio for a few days, and I managed to align my work schedule so that I could hang out with two parents, two aunts, and a pair of uncles for three nights. While I spent my days working in a dark basement within the depths of the HEB headquarters they went out and explored San Antonio, but we then got together each evening to watch my mom yell, bang on tables, and otherwise lose her mind during the Cavs vs Celtics playoff series.
Posted from Merced, California at 8:32 pm, December 27th, 2016
December was one of those months that both flew by and at the same time seemed to go on forever. Here’s the recap:
A trip to San Antonio at the beginning of the month got things started, followed by a trip to Spokane the following week for the Commerce Architects Christmas party. The party coincided with a polar vortex hitting the northern states, which for non-meteorologists means SO COLD NO WARMTH CAN’T FEEL FINGERS. We celebrated on the top floor of a 17 story office building with temperatures outside hovering right around zero; at one point I looked out and wondered where smoke was coming from, but apparently when it’s super cold water just magically condenses out of the air into smoke. I very much appreciated living in LA when I returned home.
Life in LA continues more-or-less as usual, although Audrey and I did share much excitement over a new garage door and opener; being a homeowner makes you get excited about really, really dull things.
Christmas was again spent with Ma & Pa in the Bay Area, meaning I got to take the new car on his first road trip; among many other reasons why this car rules, adaptive cruise control is all sorts of awesome when you’re spending many hours on the Interstate. Christmas went according to plan, with Ma pulling off another amazing turkey dinner, Aaron stalking me with a semi-automatic Nerf gun, and the Skipper all kinds of happy when I showed him how to watch nature documentaries in HD on his new Amazon Fire TV.
Following Christmas the annual man-trip began, but for the first night I stayed with Aaron in Sacramento and we went to see Rogue One, since both of our significant others would be unable to tell the difference between a Stormtrooper and a storm cloud. It’s not a high bar to clear to be the best Star Wars movie since the Empire Strikes Back, but this movie cleared that bar with tons of room to spare; it not only looked and felt exactly like it belonged with the original movies, but the story filled in some plot points that made Star Wars an even better movie – to cite the biggest example, George Lucas needs to send the writers a huge “thank you” for freeing him from hordes of nerds who have mocked the original movie for having a moon-sized based that could be blown up with a single missile. Now? Totally plausible.
Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 5:36 pm, December 7th, 2016
Here’s a recap of what the second-to-last month of 2016 brought:
Work continues at HEB in San Antonio, and November saw back-to-back weeks spent in the Lone Star state. While devoting 8-12 hours to travel during the week might not be the preferred way to maximize time on this earth, I’ve been at it enough this year that I’m now getting free upgrades on United and checkin gifts from Marriott, so while I may be tired, I’m tired in comfortable airplane seats. In addition, the amount of travel made one of those fancy credit cards worth the annual fee, and the number of points now queued up towards the next vacation is borderline ludicrous.
The Browns are 0-12. That’s sad but also exciting if you’re a fan of Moneyball, and I may not be able to resist writing a future post about the shenanigans I hope to see pulled off during the next draft.
Our monthly cable bill was stupid expensive, and included a bunch of required “extras” like $15 for “regional sports” (since every Cleveland fan wants to pay for LA sports), $13 for a set-top box that probably cost the cable company $75 to build, and another $25 for taxes and fees. Having finally had enough, we got rid of cable. So far Fire TV and an HD antenna is actually better than the super-premium cable package we used to have; Amazon Prime streams a zillion shows without commercials, so we can now enjoy epic nights of entertainment such as the episode of the Twilight Zone where the guy at the diner has three eyes, followed by MacGyver disarming a bomb with chewing gum. After years of horrible customer service and mandatory fees, the cable companies will only have themselves to blame when most of their customers realize that cutting the cord is a much, much better way to get home entertainment.
For Thanksgiving Audrey and I tried to avoid LA traffic by departing on Tuesday night and staying in a hotel in Visalia, a town that had hidden charms and an unmistakable odor of manure. After working a half day from the hotel on Wednesday we avoided the worst of the holiday traffic on our way up to Ma & Pa’s place in the Bay Area, where Aaron later arrived bearing Star Wars pajamas and a ring toss game that involved inflatable reindeer antlers (yes, I’m 41). Thanksgiving morning included a hike on Mount Diablo that was inexplicably devoid of wild turkeys, followed by another one of Ma Holliday’s amazing Thanksgiving dinners.
The Friday after Thanksgiving we forced the folks to join us for a walk around the Lafayette Reservoir, where the wild turkeys finally made an appearance. After a family lunch Audrey and I departed for the long drive home, stopping at the Merced NWR for sunset. The was Audrey’s first visit to a spot that I head to annually during the man trips, and as the sun set she got to enjoy geese in abundance, hundreds of sandhill cranes trickling in from the surrounding fields, the sun turning the waters red, and two owls who kept up a running commentary – not a bad first visit.
I’m not quite sure what the schedule for December is going to be yet, but with any luck there may be some excitement to share from a post-holiday excursion.
Earlier this month Audrey & I spent a weekend in San Francisco to celebrate her friend’s wedding. The night before the wedding we went to an incredibly fancy dim sum place and were joined by Aaron, who had been at Lake Tahoe earlier and nonchalantly enjoyed the posh surroundings while wearing a swimsuit and flip-flops. The following day we attended the first combination wedding / improv comedy show that I’ve ever been to, an event which included musical numbers, vows that made everyone cry, and comedy skits; rarely is San Francisco boring. On our last day the Skipper met us for a trip to see the bugs & fishes at the California Academy of Sciences, after which we blew his mind by showing him how Uber works (in fairness, I used Uber for the first time on the same trip, and it is magical).
After many years of incredibly solid management, Commerce Architects made the first truly questionable decision that I’ve seen them make when they offered me the opportunity to join them as a junior partner. My career continues to mirror that of Forrest Gump, as I have been successful primarily by blankly staring at someone and then saying “OK”; also, like Forrest, I’ve been lucky with occasional investments in fruit companies.
The rats in the attic are still winning. I’m confident we’re going to eventually prevail and will then get to enjoy a rat-free attic, but like many epic conflicts throughout history, I have vastly underestimated my opponent and my resolve has been tested to the point where I’m fairly certain that the enemy is mostly just continuing the fight in order to mock me.
While I am battling rats and spending my hours building grocery store websites, Audrey is spending some of her time with the Threshold Choir and will be helping ease the pain of dying people by singing to them; clearly any good karma I experience in this life is merely bits that were directed at her but instead hit the bald guy by her side.
Posted from Culver City, California at 5:41 pm, December 30th, 2015
Here’s the final recap of 2015:
Audrey celebrated her birthday at the end of November, and in addition to a birthday dinner at Ruth Chris I took her to a ghost tour aboard the Queen Mary. After a fancy dinner at the ship’s nicest restaurant we were led on a tour to every haunted spot from bow to stern, including the lower decks where POWs were held during WWII, the now off-limits and very fancy swimming pool, and the huge engine room, hearing stories of all manner of unfortunate events, past hauntings, and ghost cats. Audrey enjoyed the creepiness, and I liked seeing the inner workings of one of the largest ships ever to ply the Atlantic.
In between back-to-back work trips to San Antonio I co-hosted a caroling party, thus combining one of Audrey’s biggest joys in life (singing) with one of my biggest fears (singing). Audrey’s professional singer-friends impressed the neighbors with their voices, and her mom brought a giant bowl of delicious meatballs so I got to impress everyone by consuming massive quantities of meatballs.
Prior to Christmas I got a text from Aaron saying that he “just broke all of the bones in my ankle”. He later clarified that he is “still learning how to avoid trees when snowboarding” and that he didn’t hurt himself, instead “a tree hurt me”. Upon arriving home for Christmas I found him with his leg in a cast propped up on the couch looking about as stir crazy as a person can be. Despite his lack of mobility Christmas was still fun – there were shenanigans on Aaron’s knee scooter, and Ma delivered a holiday turkey that again let me show off my food-devouring skills.
2015 was another good year in what has so far been a great life, and with 2016 starting with a scuba diving trip the crystal ball predicts that the undeserved good fortune just might continue on a bit longer. Hopefully everyone reading had equally good years – best wishes for 2016!
The Skipper is much, much better than he used to be at taking pictures.
Posted from Culver City, California at 7:55 pm, November 28th, 2015
Thanksgiving has always been a big deal for the Holliday family – in 2000 I was working in Singapore, but embarked on the 17 hour one-way flight just to be home for two days during the holiday. Since then the Thanksgiving travel has been less extreme, but no matter what it takes everyone still sits down in front of a giant turkey that my mom will inevitably say will be too dry or too overdone – this year’s bird somehow ended up cooking upside-down, which my mom was convinced would ruin it; it was delicious, as always.
The 2015 Thanksgiving odyssey started out Wednesday before noon when I finished up a half day of work and Audrey and I attempted to beat LA traffic. “Beating” LA traffic is an impossibility, but it wasn’t quite the nightmare that it could have been and we only sat in traffic jams for about thirty minutes before we were out of the city’s boundaries. Our lunch stop in the Central Valley was crowded beyond belief – the line was around the counter, past the door, and through the eating area – so plan B ended up being Subway and a few bags of trail mix from the gas station convenience store. Many more miles of driving took us to Harris Ranch, site of the “salt pie” of Thanksgiving 2011 fame. After seven-and-a-half total hours of driving, including a detour along a curvy road in the hills above Livermore, our journey finally ended in Concord with Audrey slightly carsick but otherwise unharmed.
The following day on Thanksgiving morning, Aaron and I headed off for a hike on Mount Diablo, and he won the animal-spotting contest by finding a very seasonal flock of wild turkeys eating someone’s yard near our trailhead. The jaunt through the woods was followed by a day of much lounging, a delicious meal of much gluttony, and finally a card game that involved much losing on my part. Post-Thanksgiving we joined Ma & Pa for breakfast, made a brief visit to the Cosumnes River Preserve, and then visited Aaron’s new place in Sacramento before spending an evening out in downtown Sacramento and a night in a downtown hotel. Today we braved traffic back home – the seven hour return trip was long, but nothing compared to a flight from halfway around the world. With any luck next year will be much the same, and the Holliday family Thanksgiving tradition will continue.