Lake Bomoseen, VT

There is nothing as peaceful as staring at the rippling waves, watching the weather change and a pair of osprey fishing.

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Sunbathing in February

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My darling dog has cataracts but from the side you can see her pretty brown eyes

I got some better photographs from the holiday weekend (not over yet). The daily practice of shooting and writing means that I see something every day that I haven’t noticed before. Fact, last year my definition of duck was basically duck. Now I know four different kinds of ducks! Did you know there is more than one kind of goose?

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Snow goose enjoying black plastic environment of Brooklyn

The parks put this black plastic all around our “lake” to control the invasive phragmites. I was told that they will be taking it off this summer. Perhaps I will assist.

Did you know that the lake is fed by our drinking water? Catskills water, treated and piped in. That doesn’t seem remotely sustainable. The park should probably redesign our water features to use local resources. I never considered that they were using drinking water until BBG redesigned their water features to recirculate rainwater. Country girl mistake assuming water comes out of the ground, not from hundreds of miles away.

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even the turtles were sunbathing yesterday: Red Eared Slider

Red eared sliders are common in the Park and were introduced as freed pets. They brumate, not hibernate, so they can wake up when it is 60 degrees in February to bask and then sink back to the bottom of the lake and not breathe or eat for a few weeks when it gets cold again. Probably a good technique that helped them score a spot on the top 100 most invasive species in the world.

New York Times Rage

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Every time I think I should subscribe to the NYTimes, they publish an infuriating, contentless, unfactchecked, article like this on on “sustainable” travel. Why don’t they hold all the sections of the paper to the same standards? Travel is an extremely lucrative industry and there are thoughtful journalists and critics who should be included in reporting, not just industry flacks and a series of lies and confusion about what is sustainable. Argh!

Book Review: Overbooked by Elizabeth Becker

If the tourism industry were a country, it would be the fifth biggest carbon emitter in the world.

Richard F. Smith quoted in “Overbooked

According to this well written study (Becker is a journalist who has written extensively about Vietnam and Cambodia since the seventies)- the tourism industry is much more destructive in every way than I had thought. In my travel musings I had naively focussed on things like the carbon footprint of flying, or cruise ship waste dumped directly into the ocean. Becker’s book goes through a much denser and diverse litany of problems with the industry, starting with the complicity of freelance travel writers and the culture of travel writing in general that thrives on freebies  and advertising and almost never publishes a negative review. That’s partly why I’ve never heard of the problems with global tourism in Venice, Dubai, Cambodia and the other regions the author examines for case studies.

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3 nights in Oregon- why not!

It is dispiriting reading for right before a long planned vacation abroad. Becker manages to keep her taste for travel through many years of research, disturbing tourism conferences, a week on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, in badly polluted China. She seems to be arguing not for or against tourism but instead that we must acknowledge that it is one of the huge forces and products of global capitalism. We must get over dated opinions and isolationist approaches (in the USA) to the industry and see what is happening before we can choose intelligently.

I am about to embark on my 9th (!) trip to the UK. My first took place in fabulous 1990, and set the course for the rest. But that’s a blog post for another day. Check out this book and join my sustainability book discussion group, once I get settled on my return.

Traveling On Amtrak

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How Emily Feels about Trains and this Journey

I am a rail fan and would like to take public transportation everywhere I can’t walk or bike. It fits into my Slow Travel Philosophy. And the idea of taking a sleeper train got stuck in my head and I knew the only way to get over it would be to go through with it.

My earliest memory of trains is a scenic trip my grandfather and I took from Greenfield, MA through the Hoosac Tunnel to North Adams when I was five. I see that Amtrak, after 20 years of only freight traffic has started running annual excursion trains on that line. I also took a memorable 6th grade trip to Washington on the train from Springfield. As a teenager I took the Montrealer from Brattleboro to Montreal for a brief adventure and loved the dining car breakfast where I chatted with an older traveler companionably over eggs. Exploration in Europe during and after college was train travel, I took the Eurostar from London to Paris and lines in Germany, France, Spain, Italy and England. And I would take the train home to MA from New York when it worked with my schedule and my budget.

In December, feeling stuck in winter and the moving process, I hatched a plan to take the train to Denver to attend an important conference. I lined up schedules and vacation days and did extensive research on the current rail experience. The best book I read was Waiting on a Train by James McCommons, a snapshot of the state of passenger rail in 2008-2009 and a plea for investment in the rail system to support communities and our economy. It hinted at the dramatic history of the railroads in the 19th century, but focussed on the present and McCommons traveled 20000 miles by rail to research his book.

I’m so glad I took the trip. I experienced many of the frustrations that I had read about or seen on video reviews. I didn’t arrive in Denver well rested, despite having a quite comfortable roomette for both nights of the 45 hour journey. However the pace of the trip suited my mood although I didn’t read much or write anything on the trip too busy staring out the window at snowy upstate New York along the Hudson and dramatic thunderstorms on the plains in Nebraska. I loved the communal dining and chatting with the unique folks who choose to travel long distance by rail.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was how much my marriage has changed me. As a single person in my twenties I loved traveling alone and the flexibility and freedom I felt. Now, I wanted nothing more than to sit in our room at night and discuss ad infinitum with Nick every little observation from the train and the stories I’d heard over my veggie burger. I wanted him to have seen it all. It was a bittersweet pleasure how much I missed him, especially once I got to Denver which is full of breweries to explore and our mutual friends here for the conference.

Actual tips for travelers:

  • Think about what you are doing when you get to your destination. I met a couple who were going to Denver for one day from Pennsylvania. For them, the round trip train journey, not the destination, was the meat of their vacation. I found that I didn’t have a lot of energy for tourism once I arrived in Colorado, because I was so stimulated by the trip.
  • Consider purchasing a travel immersion water heater if you like tea, oatmeal, or Ramen Noodles. Although the sleeper cars have free coffee in the morning, I want to drink tea approximately every two hours, every day of my life. And a homemade oatmeal mix would have been a great alternative to the rich, salty, animal based breakfasts.
  • Although meals are included for sleeper car passengers and there are cloth napkins and tablecloths and metal silverware, the meals are frustratingly served on disposable plastic plates! I was seated with an Amtrak Executive traveling who explained that this was a shortsighted cost cutting measure since 2014. He knew that many travelers choose the train for environmental reasons, from talking to folks on all his business trips, but certain legislators nickel and dime the service without considering sustainability.
  • I tried the vegan enchiladas and the vegan burger and was quite pleased with the burger. My dining companions pointed out that the “best value” was the steak, and my waiter insisted on bringing me sour cream for my enchiladas, but I am happy there are options. If I take the train to Florida next year I will choose the Silver Star so I can choose my own food and keep it clean. With a trusty immersion heater.
  • Although I thought I would hate having the sink and toilet in my roomette on the Lake Shore Limited, it was actually convenient and I preferred the layout to the Zephyr. I slept in the top bunk and enjoyed the view out the upper window. But the shower was nicer on the Zephyr.
  • I took advantage of the layover in Chicago to walk by the lake and stretch my legs. If I’d been more confident that my train would arrive on time I would’ve scheduled lunch with my wonderful cousins, but I hated the idea of leaving them waiting while I sat on a track somewhere in Ohio. (some of McCommons’ trains were 14 hours late)

Have you done this or another train journey that you would recommend? Any other tips for first time travelers?

NYTimes 52 Places to Go- St John

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Clickbait with beautiful photos and video.

St. John USVI makes the list at number 4 because there is a proposed disaster of a mall and marina development coming for quiet Coral Bay and the paper is encouraging us touristic monsters to visit before that happens. Which will encourage the developers, no doubt. Or perhaps the writers are sneakily trying to get us to help the islanders protect the bay.

I get drawn into the epic photography featured in this piece and imagine a life where I visit all 52 locations in a year and walk into the fantasy world described and pictured. Luxury but close to people and with an artistic eye. Immersed completely in the beauty of these locations, not for the few instants I focus on the image, but for a whole year and perhaps ever after.

Escape!

I’m so glad I have this blog and the goal of turning those fantasies into something useful. Last night I attended a Parks department training on how to become a Shorekeeper right here in NYC. I plan to adopt a piece of a local park and work to protect our bay. Start where you are. Long Island once looked a hell of a lot like those sleepy island paradise shots.

This weekend I’ll scope out my site and take lots of pictures.

 

Walking tour of Guilderland

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I walked the 4.5 miles from my hotel ti my conference this morning. As I walked I thought about my slow travel principles- go slow, look and listen carefully, and stay local. How could I get the most out of my limited time?

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I knew I had a nine hour meeting ahead of me with lots of unhealthy food on offer- I needed exercise! Also, spring has finally arrived and I wanted to smell it. And finally I wanted to have a physical experience of the place, not ride in a car.

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I knew my colleagues might see me walking and think I was weird or poor or lonely. I wanted the walk more than I wanted to fit in.

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It was totally worth it.

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I saw so many things I couldn’t see from a cab or car. It also gave me empathy and a new way of thinking about the topic of the conference. I will write about that on my other blog- for this one, I say listen to your body and start walking and looking carefully.