Eastern Road Trip Day 6 – 05/26/2018

Eastern Road Trip Day 6 05/26/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I awoke early on Saturday and read the paper and checked Instagram, before Carol and John stirred at 8AM. Carol served leftover watermelon and delicious pumpkin bread for breakfast. After breakfast we packed our bags and once again set the rental car in motion. On Saturday our destination was Greenville, SC, and after skirting an accident on interstate 85 we arrived at the Embassy Suites and checked into a room.

Angled Bridge over Reedy Creek in Greenville, SC

Jane immediately connected with her friend, Wendy, for some wedding preparation duties, and I endured a fifty-two minute run on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I valued the exercise, but I was not well adapted to the 83 degree temperatures and the relatively high humidity.

Outside Our Hotel

Love the Swamp Rabbit Trail

At 5:30PM Jane and I walked to the Zen Meeting Center, where we joined Wendy, Scott, Erik, Emily and wedding guests for a fun rehearsal party event. We anxiously anticipated the big day, Sunday, when Erik and Emily would become husband and wife.

Eastern Road Trip Day 5 – 05/25/2018

Eastern Road Trip Day 5 05/25/2018 Photo Album

Friday was mostly a travel day. After a quick continental breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express, Jane and I departed for a hike in the Durham/Raleigh/Chapel Hill area. We scanned a website with local hikes and settled on Blue Jay Point County Park, and the eponymous trail within the park.

Me and My Ape Friend

Tree Top Obstacle Course

We arrived at the Go Ape zip course and spent fifteen minutes investigating the various zip options and tree top challenges.The setup looked very interesting, but we decided we were too old for the demanding outdoor activities. After surveying the scene we returned to the rental car and drove a short distance to a parking lot near a large playground, and from there we embarked on a 2.2 mile loop trail.

Falls Lake

We traced the shoreline of Falls Lake, before we eventually circled back to the maintenance road and from there to the playground parking lot. The trail was wooded and rolled up and down small hills and valleys. After the hike we found a Firehouse Subs shop, where we enjoyed fresh sandwiches.

Bridge Crossing

A three hour drive was next on the agenda, and we arrived at Carol and John’s house in Kannapolis by 3PM. Carol and John are my sister and brother-in-law. The four of us chatted and toured the yard until 5:30; when Andrea, Carlin and Theo arrived. Andrea is our niece and Carlin and Theo are her children. Carol prepared crab cakes, and Andrea contributed a tasty salad, and we all enjoyed a tasty dinner. After dinner we undertook a short walk around the neighborhood, before the Safrits departed for home. We accomplished quite a bit on a travel day in North Carolina.

Eastern Road Trip Day 4 – 05/24/2018

Eastern Road Trip Day 4 05/24/2018 Photo Album

Surrounded by Beauty

Greg, Jane, Marcia and I drove to the large parking lot next to Tom’s Cove and lingered on the beach for an hour or two on Thursday morning. May 24 was our last day in Chincoteague, and we soaked up as much beach time as possible. When we returned to the bay house, we relished some cream of asparagus soup made by Marcia from fresh spears harvested from her garden. A fresh salad rounded out a healthy and delicious lunch.

Another Nice View of the Wild Ponies

After lunch we teamed up to clean the house thoroughly, and then we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Marcia and Greg returned to Landis Store, Pa., while Jane and I reversed our direction and departed for Durham, NC. Jane and I cherished the three days spent with my sister and brother-in-law, and we were sad to part ways.

On our drive to Durham we texted Dan to get the name of a restaurant that he introduced us to, when we attended his graduation, and he promptly replied with Geer Street Garden. We made this our impromptu dinner spot, and I savored a pale ale along with a pair of tasty chicken tamales.The meal was superb. After dinner we navigated to Loco Pops, another Dan and Ariel favorite, where we cooled off with exotic flavored popsicles. We fulfilled our final goal for Thursday, as we found a deal at a Holiday Inn Express in Research Triangle and made that our place of rest for the night.

Eastern Road Trip Day 3 – 05/23/2018

Eastern Road Trip Day 3 05/23/2018 Photo Album

Wednesday featured warmer and more humid weather with highs approaching 85 degrees in Chincoteague, VA. We took advantage of our twenty-four hour bike rental and completed another ride to Assateague Island National Seashore Park, where we again explored the OSV (Over Sand Vehicle) beach.

Birds Loving the Beach

I grew up near Philadelphia, so most of my previous beach experience revolved around the New Jersey shoreline. Jane and I loved the natural beauty and remote feel of the Assateague beaches and particularly the OSV area. The white sand oceanfront was bordered by woodlands; and the absence of commercial establishments, boardwalks and hordes of sun worshippers was refreshing.

Pretty Dune Photo

Funny Creature

We returned the bikes by noon, and then Jane and I stopped at Pica Tacqueria for tacos. Greg and Marcia returned to the bay house, while Jane and I drove to Snug Harbor to rent two single sea kayaks. Snug Harbor was located on the east side of Chincoteague across from Assateague Island. We paid for a one hour rental and crossed the bay to the Assateague Lighthouse, where we spotted one lone wild pony. On the return crossing we detoured to a narrow channel and paddled for five minutes to a point, where I snapped a pair of distant photos of a herd of wild horses.

Looking More to the Left

Jane in a Developing Love Affair with Kayaks

After kayaking we returned to the bay house. For dinner on Wednesday we visited AJ’s next to Eel Creek for a delicious meal. Conveniently a putt putt was located on the other side of Eel Creek a short distance from the restaurant, so our foursome engaged in a spirited round of miniature golf.

Marcia Shows Off Her Putting Skills


Eastern Roadtrip Day 2 – 05/22/2018

Eastern Roadtrip Day 2 05/22/2018 Photo Album

Ready to Cruise

Wild Ponies!

Our first order of business on Tuesday morning in Chincoteague, VA was to rent cruiser bikes from Jus’ Bikes on Maddox Road. The four of us then departed on a 2.5 hour bike ride to Assateague Island National Seashore. We crossed the bridge on Maddox and then curved along the paved road, until we stopped at the Tom’s Cove Visitor Center to obtain information.

Fun Pair

We continued a short distance and climbed a sand dune to obtain a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean. With this landmark checked off we turned around and retraced our path to the Wildlife Trail, and we skirted Snow Goose Pool and connected to a service road that delivered us to the OSV (Over Sand Vehicle) area. The beautiful remote beach in this area became our favorite spot, and we participated in some serious beachcombing.


After our Assateague Island introductory adventure we returned to Chincoteague and stopped at Jolie’s along Maddox for fried clam strips. We knew they were not a healthy choice, but the salty air created a strong craving. Greg and Marcia returned to the vacation house after lunch, while Jane and I stopped at Jus’ Brakes for a seat adjustment. Afterward we cycled to Main Street in Chincoteague to explore the downtown area.

Relaxing Form of Fishing

Upon our return to the bay house Jane and I jumped in the rental car and returned to the downtown area for fuel and groceries. Tuesday evening featured a tasty dinner prepared by Marcia and Greg, and this was followed by a game of Ticket to Ride and a card game called Golf. Tuesday’s weather was quite nice with high temperatures around 75 degrees. Day one included much exploration and discovery, and we were delighted with the results.

Marcia Walking the Plank

Eastern Roadtrip Day 1 – 05/21/2018

Eastern Roadtrip Day 1 05/21/2018 Photo Album

Jane and I flew from Denver, CO to Charlotte, NC on Monday, May 21, 2018. This was the beginning of a two week trip to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. In order to catch our 7:05 flight we drove to the Central Park light rail station and boarded the A-Line at five o’clock.

We arrived in Charlotte by 12:30PM, rented a Hyandai Sonata and completed an eight hour drive to Chincoteague, VA. Needless to say it was a long day. Along the way we ate lunch at Wendy’s and dinner at a Subway, and we stopped at a scenic overlook on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel to snap some photos.

Jane at the Scenic Overlook

My sister, Marcia, and brother-in-law, Greg, greeted us at our lovely beach house accommodations, when we arrived at 6399 Pine Drive at 9:30 PM. Our road trip was in progress.


New Zealand Day 21 – 02/07/2018

New Zealand Day 21 02/07/2018 Photo Album

We drove from Twizel to Christchurch on February 7, and upon our arrival we checked into a hotel across from the airport, returned the IMAX, and repacked our bags in preparation for a 9:40AM departure on Thursday morning. None of us looked forward to a day of travel back to the States, but Jane feared it the most, as she acquired a cough and sore throat during our last few days.

Lake Tekapo on Our Way to Christchurch

Most of the road trip from Twizel was characterized by rolling farmland and pastures. We stopped at a rest area in Rakaia, and a statue of a huge leaping salmon caused me to initiate some online research. I learned that the Rakaia River is New Zealand’s premier salmon fishery with runs occurring in the January through April time frame, but salmon fishing was not in our itinerary.

Rakaia Is the Salmon Capital of the South Island

We arrived at the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch by 3PM and quickly checked into our rooms. The hotel provided a shuttle service, so we decided to return the rental car as soon as possible to remove one chore from our morning list. John remembered that we needed to top off the gas, and that resulted in a fairly time consuming nuisance adventure. We used the phone app to navigate, and it led us astray twice, before we found the Allied Petrol Station. All the pumps were occupied by commercial vehicles with large gas tanks. We patiently waited for a pump to free up, but when we punched in the credit card information, it requested a PIN. We shrugged our shoulders in disbelief and embarked on another circuitous route to a BP station. This unwelcome tour of the airport surroundings involved circling endless roundabouts. Fortunately we eventually hit pay dirt and topped off at the BP.

With this task in the rear view mirror, we continued back to the airport car return, and shed the IMAX. The Hyandai minivan provided workmanlike transportation, but no tears were shed, as we said goodbye to the cumbersome boxy road warrior. At first we were perplexed by the walking path back to the Sudima, but after a false start we figured it out and crossed a busy roundabout and returned to the hotel.

Both parties completed additional packing, and then we rendezvoused at the lobby and strolled to the nearby bus stop. Twenty minutes elapsed before we boarded the number 29, and the Metro bus efficiently transported us to the Christchurch bus exchange. High Street was highlighted on the map as an area containing shops and restaurants, and its proximity motivated us to pay it a visit. We stumbled across a cool outdoor bar/food spot called the Smash Palace. A bus was situated away from the street, and it was converted into an outdoor bar. We approached the Kiwi bartender, and each ordered Bodgie brews, since they were on a happy hour special.

Brews at the Smash Palace

After finishing our brews we explored more of Christchurch and found O.G.B, a trendy restaurant in an Old Government Building near Cathedral Square. Upon the completion of our dinners a brief walk of two blocks delivered us to an ice cream shop, where Brenda and John indulged in a cup of frozen dessert. Throughout our wanderings in Christchurch we were amazed by the ongoing construction, as the city continues to recover from the major earthquake in 2011. The devastation must have been massive, in order for the effects to endure for seven years.

Christchurch Cathedral Displaying Damage from the 2011 Earthquake

We wandered back to the bus exchange and returned to the Sudima. I set the alarm for 6:30 in order to catch our 9:40AM flight from Christchurch to Auckland. We were about to return home, and memories of three weeks of travel adventure and spectacular scenery dominated our thoughts.



New Zealand Day 20 – 02/06/2018

New Zealand Day 20 02/06/2018 Photo Album

With our base camp established in Twizel we prepared to explore the Mt. Cook area. Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in all of New Zealand at 12,218 feet. However, we were low on breakfast treats, so Jane and I hiked to the Town Center Cafe & Bakery. Here we spotted breakfast pastries on top of the counter, and we used some of our remaining NZ $’s to purchase two sultana scones, two blueberry muffins, and one apple crumble. Jane and I split the crumble, when we returned to our room.

Spectacular Setting Prompted Two Photos

The Prices rolled by and picked us up at 10AM, and we continued on to a campground near Mt. Cook Village. The parking lot was jammed, and we nearly found ourselves locked in a big city traffic snarl, when a huge tourist bus attempted to turn around on a narrow dirt road loaded with pedestrians and parked cars. John somehow managed to execute a U-turn in advance of the bus, and we parked on the shoulder along the entry road. A longer walk was a preferred trade off to sitting in the van among the parking lot chaos.

Breathtaking View to the East

First Swinging Bridge Over the Hooker River

The tramp was a three hour round trip undertaking, and it ended at a glacial lake, where we enjoyed spectacular views of Mt. Cook and surrounding peaks. The glacial lake next to our viewing point was filled with dense silt-laden glacial melt. The guidebook suggested that floating icebergs would be visible, but we only noticed one small one near the outlet of the lake. The river that carried gray sludge through the adjacent valley was more impressive to me, and we crossed it three times on suspended bridges supported by sturdy metal cables. Jane formulated an exit strategy each time we crossed one of the suspended structures, in case it collapsed during our time hanging above the river.

Deep Slabs of Ice and Snow Near the Peak

Numerous waterfalls cascaded down the steep slopes on both sides of the river, and several significant ribbons of rushing water disappeared in a rubble of gray boulders and gravel. It was obvious that this was the source of the dense gray sedimentation that converted the water into gray sludge.

Tasman Lake and Tasman Glacier

After we returned to the minivan, we detoured to another trailhead to view the Tasman Glacier. The sign informed us that the viewpoint occurred after a fifteen minute walk, but it neglected to tell us that the trail was a continuous climb up steps. The view at the top was interesting, as another glacial lake appeared just below a massive block of gray and charcoal ice. The return hike was tricky, but not physically taxing.

Lots of Snow Up There

Upon our return to the IMAX we sped back to Twizel, and the Prices deposited us at the Lakes Hotel. After a brief happy hour with snacks, Jane and I sauntered across the highway to the convenient wood oven pizza truck. On Tuesday night we ordered a meat pizza to demonstrate that we were not in a deep food rut, and after ten minutes it was baked and ready for our consumption. It disappeared in the same amount of time that it required to bake.

Wednesday is a travel day to Christchurch, and Thursday we make our return to the USA. This was a bittersweet thought, as we neared the final day of our long anticipated New Zealand trip.

New Zealand Day 19 – 02/05/2018

New Zealand Day 19 02/05/2018 Photo Album

My earliest recollection of following professional sports was the 1959 World Series featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers vs the Chicago White Sox. I was eight years old at the time. More vivid memories play out in my mind, when I recall the !960 World Series in which Bill Mazeroski blasted his game winning home run in the ninth inning to defeat the New York Yankees. Since I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, I also have rich recollections of the 1960 NFL championship game at Franklin Field, when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the Green Bay Packers. At the impressionable age of nine I worshiped the Philadelphia heroes of that team including Norm Van Brocklin, Tommy McDonald, Pete Retzlaff, and Chuck Bednarik. This glimmer of success encouraged me to become a lifelong Eagles fan, and although they fielded some impressive teams under Buddy Ryan, Dick Vermeil, and Andy Reid; they never managed to win a Super Bowl. I anxiously followed the 2017 Eagles, as they built a huge lead in the NFC, but my heart sank when Carson Wentz left the game against the Los Angeles Rams with a torn ACL. I was hopeful, but I realistically expected another disappointment in the playoffs.

Monday, February 5 was scheduled to be another relatively long travel day, as our foursome drove north and west from Dunedin to Twizel, a town close to the center of the South Island of New Zealand. I hoped for an earlier departure, but we managed to climb in the IMAX and leave the Euro 315 by 10AM. Since Super Bowl 52 began at 4:30PM Mountain time on Sunday February 4, I did some quick calculations and determined that the game began at 12:30PM on Monday, February 5 in local time. Actually I made this determination prior to our departure for New Zealand, since I clung to the small hope that the Eagles could advance to the big game. I was not certain that I could find a television in New Zealand tuned to the NFL Super Bowl, and with a planned stop along the way, it was now obvious that we would not reach Twizel by 12:30.

Rainy Day at Moeraki

Initially our route skirted the coast, and it was here that we stopped and completed a twenty minute round trip beach walk to inspect the Moeraki Boulders. We discovered a series of spherical rocks that were formed on the ocean floor a long time ago. For some reason the east coast of New Zealand contains around twenty-five of these globes, and many display fissures and cracks. We touched and leaned on several and snapped some photos, and then we settled back in the IMAX and continued on a northeastern path, until we veered to the northwest just before the town of Oamaru.

A Collection of Round Stones

For the next several hours we followed the Waitaki River, until we turned right on route 8, and then found the Lakes Hotel in Twizel. As explained in the first paragraph, I possessed a strong interest in the Super Bowl, and I frantically attempted to follow the game via my ESPN app and gametracker. This ploy actually worked fairly well for a time, as the Eagles built a 15-3 lead in the first quarter and early going of the second. Unfortunately we then passed through several sections of rural country that generated the dreaded no service message on my mobile phone, but the Eagles amazingly survived my absence.

Once we arrived in Twizel, we stopped at the Lakes Hotel, but a sign announced that the receptionist would not return until 2PM, the prescribed check in time. Not wasting any time we found the Twizel town center, and a woman at the information center directed us to the Top Hut Sports bar. John or Brenda prefaced our question about the Super Bowl by asking if she was familiar with the American game. She was clearly a bit offended, as she replied, ” we do read and watch television here in New Zealand.”

Sure enough when we entered the Top Hut Sports Bar, we were surprised to see five screens carrying the big NFL contest. I intently watched the remainder of the second quarter, and then Jane and I took advantage of the Super Bowl special and ordered two “American hot dogs” for NZ $6 each plus two craft beers.

Super Bowl 52 Champions

The Super Bowl developed into one of the best ever, and my beloved Eagles survived the Patriots’ second half surge to become the new NFL champions. I was quite surprised by the number of customers in the Top Hut on a Monday afternoon watching American football, but we later learned it was a holiday in New Zealand called Waitangi Day. After the post game trophy presentation and interviews, when I admittedly choked up while listening to the Nick Foles interview, we returned to the Lakes Hotel, where we discovered that a credit card snafu left the Prices without a room. The receptionist called the nearby Mackenzie Country Inn and secured a room there for our traveling companions.

Wood Fired Pizza Dinner Across from the Lakes Hotel

Once Jane and I unloaded our suitcases, we completed a one hour hike on the Twizel Walkway. This elevated our hunger, so we returned to the town center where we visited the Ministry of Works (restaurant), Jasmine Thai, and Top Hut; but all were extremely busy and required excessive wait times. We toyed with buying something at the supermarket, but eventually we returned to a wood fired pizza oven food truck across from our accommodations. It proved to be a great move, and we finally satisfied our burgeoning appetites. Being able to watch the Philadelphia Eagles become world champions surpassed my wildest expectations for February 5.


New Zealand Day 18 – 02/04/2018

New Zealand Day 18 02/04/2018 Photo Album

Sunday was a very active day for Jane and I in Dunedin, NZ. On Saturday we reserved mountain bikes from Dunedin iBikes, and Nick delivered them along with helmets on Saturday evening. He also suggested routes, so on Sunday morning we began to check them off. Our first ride took us east along the northeastern shoreline of Otago Bay. During this one hour ride we joined in the Masters Games, as a large group of race walkers shared our track.

I Liked My Hired Bike

Cruise Control Now

After we returned to the CBD (Central Business District) we headed northeast until we found Baldwin Street, allegedly the steepest street in the world. A crowd of people choked the base, and many groups accepted the challenge and ascended the six blocks of pure vertical. I wish I could announce that I completed the climb on my mountain bike, but I turned around at the location where the grade shifted dramatically and then returned to Jane for some photos. After surrendering to the hill we elected to swing back to the Euro 315 to remove some layers, as the 46 degree F temperature at the start quickly rose to the 50’s F.

Teeth Sculpture at Our Turn

The last leg of our cycling adventure was to power our way east on the Otago Peninsula. The initial couple of miles were a bit dicey, as we maneuvered through a mix of city streets and bike paths. We stopped a helpful cycling couple at one point and asked for confirmation that we were headed toward the Otago Peninsula. Not only did they assure us, but they also outlined the next two turns including a “left at the teeth”. Sure enough after another kilometer we encountered a series of eight sculpted teeth, and just as they suggested, we were on the Portobello Cycle Track heading northeast.

Unfortunately the off road trail ended halfway through our outbound trip, and the remainder of the ride was along the narrow shoulder of Portobello Road. We survived and returned to the Euro 315 by 12:30PM, and Nick stopped by at 2:15 to retrieve the bikes.

Lighthouse Is Where the Royal Albatross Hang Out

The Otago Peninsula ride peaked our curiosity, so we studied some maps and our guidebook after lunch. John and Brenda were scheduled to be picked up by a commercial tour service, so the rental minivan was available to us. We jumped in the Hyandai IMAX and completed the 45 minute drive to the tip of the Otago Peninsula. This was my first extended stint driving the IMAX while steering from the right side and driving in the left lane. It was certainly a challenging start, as Portbello Road was a two lane highway that twisted and curved endlessly along the contour of Otago Bay.

The Royal Albatross Centre was situated at the end of the road, but a $30 NZ charge for the guided tour dissuaded us from that option. Instead we took advantage of the plethora of information in the Royal Albatross Visitor Centre. We educated ourselves on the various species of albatrosses and shags (duck-like bird) and their life cycles and studied photos in case we were able to observe any of the large resident birds. We exited the visitor center and began our self-guided nature walk.

Looking North from the Viewing Platform

The Pacific Ocean (east) side of the point featured three wooden viewing platforms. We stood on all of them and marveled at the powerful wind and surf in front of us. We now attempted to put our recently gained knowledge of the appearance of shags and albatrosses to use, and we peered intently into the sky north and south along the coastline. Much to our satisfaction we spotted six albatrosses, as they glided in the strong air currents along the ridge high above. In addition several shags flapped their wings and powered their way by our viewing platform. Jane carried the binoculars, and they were invaluable for zooming in on the majestic albatrosses.

At Least Seven Seals in This Photo. Three in the Water.

Once we soaked in the bird watching spectacle, we crossed the parking lot and descended to Pilots Beach on the bay side of the point. Another viewing platform existed here for observing the arrival of the blue penguins, but we decided against waiting for the 6-8PM show. Instead we chuckled at the frolicking fur seals on the rocks to our right. In total eight chubby mammals occupied the rocky shoreline.Three glided about in the water, while the others lazily basked in the warm sunshine. I was amazed how clumsy these creatures were on land, yet they morphed into sleek water acrobats once they entered the ocean.

We Stopped at Wellers Rock. Who Knew?

After the multiple wildlife shows we began our return drive along Otago Bay to Dunedin. After ten kilometers we noticed a sign for Wellers Rock. Since my last name is Weller, I could not overcome the desire to stop and investigate the origin of the name of this landmark. A rectangular plaque was embedded at the base of a large rounded rock next to the bay, and it stated, “1831 – 1931, THIS TABLET MARKS THE LANDING PLACE OF WELLER BROTHERS (WHALERS) WHO FOUNDED THE FIRST WHITE SETTLEMENT IN OTAKOU (OTAGO) IN 1831”. I eagerly snapped a photo, and I was shocked to learn that I had famous ancestors in New Zealand!

We continued on and returned to Dunedin. We changed into comfortable clothes for dinner and visited The Reef, a seafood restaurant four or five street numbers away from our hotel. Jane ordered a shellfish bowl, and I chose prawns. Oohs and ahs echoed about the dining room when my dinner arrived, with eight shrimp displaying heads and antennae. The large orange prawns were stacked on a metal skewer that dangled over my plate from an L-shaped hanger. It was a striking presentation. We savored our meals and reminisced about our wonderful day in Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula.

Complete with Beady Eyes, Legs and Antennae