Ending the Summer with Weird

Here’s another thing you’ll have to explain to me…

By Sergey Zolkin

By Sergey Zolkin

Hair has become the new art medium. I understood why Tom Hanks used his hair to weave a rope in The Castaway , but why….

Are people using their hair to weave hats and coats? Knitters? Weavers? Help me out here.

As much as I hate sending you somewhere else to look at this weirdness … there’s too many pictures of it.

Take a peek then please stagger back here because I really want to know….

How would you feel about wearing a human hair vest?  

Posted in Change, Choices, Enough, Humor, Life, Satire | Tagged , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

A Tube of Tea, please?

I don’t get it.

You’re going to have to explain it to me. Sure, sure, when it comes to a hot day on the beach nothing’s better than a cooler of drinks. You’ll find me head down, bottom up, clawing through layers of chipped ice, looking for a soda.  I used to drink beer, but it just gives me a headache and flabby gut now.

Sometimes I run into bottles of home-brewed root beer  or sparkling peachy ciders. Heavenly Hoopla. Pop the top on that! ! It doesn’t take a huge effort to make home-sodas. You can start a batch of ginger ale tonight and be drinking it by tomorrow evening.

But what in the name of summer holiness is canned tea?  Why would anyone want to can the stuff?

Every time I run across a 99 cent, 23=ounce tube of canned  tea, I scratch my head. For 99 pennies,  I can brew up enough tea juice to satisfy a work gang. It’s not rocket science.

See the great explanation of this stuff at: bubbleteaology.com

I understand you may have to pay more for novelty gunk thrown into tea like: those chewy boba tapioca balls in bubble  tea (which have NO flavor or nutritional value whatsoever).  But that’s still only tea, sugar, cream, and tapioca bobas.  No mystery there—just chewy lumps in your sugared drink.

Dallas Cowboy Fan and I recently went into an artisan tea shop located in a caboose which was curiously parked no where near a train. The lower walls of the train car were stuffed with clear quart jars of “tea debris.” We dutifully smelled and sniffed sticks, leaves, and berries. Then we climbed ladders to sit 6 feet up in tiny booths to enjoy our cups which were 8 oz, $5 each, (which was a bit unnerving, but I think the the zen music was supposed to even out my tea confusion.)

And yet, I’m still befuddled about canned tea. For example, the Arizona tea company reported a billion bucks in sales last year for their fructose/water/tea mixture.

A couple of years ago, the uber-secret recipe was for Coca Cola was published by This American Life who’d found it  inadvertently displayed in a graphic accompanying an old ad. Coke denies it. They still maintain the “current” recipe is in the vault and only 2 executives know the formula and those two people can never travel together.

You can look at the recipe here. It’s rather tedious. I’d just buy a can instead of going through all the work to denature cocoa leaves.

So just for you, dear readers, and for the sake of cookery journalism, I’m going to reveal the ULTRA-X secret recipe of MeeMaw’s Summer Tea

  • Throw  5-8 bags of tea in a gallon jug of water.
  • Screw the lid on so the bugs, wasps,  and muddobbers don’t take a dip.
  • Set in sunshine 3-5 hours (depends on how hot it is. Go by the color).
  • Sweeten to taste.

Sorry canned tea companies if I put you out of business. It’s just that some changes (like canned tea) will have to be explained to me.

‘Fess up!! How many of you are tubed-tea-drinkers?

Posted in A Laugh, Cooking, Humor, Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

A Man’s Candy Bar

In addition to graduations and strange U.S. national holidays: National Bubba Day (June 2nd), National Moonshine Day (June 5th), and National Paul Bunyon Day (June 28th), the month of June hosts Father’s Day(always the third Sunday in June).

So, I decided to get Dallas Cowboy Fan and Scout some sweet snacks, but it has to be manly candy. The stuff they can stick in a golf bag/ backpack/toolbelt/ fishing vest/ coveralls/ spacesuit and eat when it darn well pleases them.

I scanned candy sales and man-blogs. Here’s what men are chomping after their beer and BBQ.

wasabi kit cat

A wasabi-flavored Kit Kat

5: Kit Kat
A worker at Rowntree’s York factory suggested the company produce a “snack a man could take to work in his pack.” The bar was born in 1935 “as the best companion to a cup of tea.” It went through name changes and packaging changes, but after WWII settled on the present-day red wrapper and branding. If you live in Japan, you’ll be familiar with over 200 flavors of KitKats: ginger ale, soy sauce, and banana, etc. They are often bought as good luck gifts because “Kit Kat” sounds close to the Japanese phrase “Kitto Katsu” (a knock off of “sure to win”)

Source: KitKat.com, TheHersheyCompany.com, SymphonyIRI Group


Number 4: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar

Thank Milton Hershey for wanting everyone (not just the rich) to enjoy chocolate. In 1894 he set up his factory in Pennsylvania and charged a nickel for a bar. It helped that he had a contract with the U.S. Army, sending 30 pound blocks to the troops overseas. Soldiers continued buying the nickel bars after they returned home.  (SideNote: Hershey’s also makes Kisses, allegedly so-named because that’s the sound the machine made when smooching out chocolate blobs during manufacturing).

Resource: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hershey_Company

Number 3. Snickers

Introduced in 1930, it was named after a favorite horse in the Mars family. High in protein with dairy and at least 16 peanuts, it’s gained notoriety lately by being a deep-fried treat in Scottish fish and chip shops and U.S. state fairs. Celebrity chef, Antony Thompson, created a Snicker’s pie, containing 5 of the candy bars and each slice providing over 1,250 calories.


Number 2. Reese’s Peanutbutter Cups

Harry Reese was actually a shipping foreman for Mr. Hershey, but here’s another reason it’s a Man-Candy. Ol’ Harry said, “Well, heck, I can make candy and millions, too. He followed his dream, working out of his basement in 1923. In 1963, after he’d gone to the great chocolate factory in the sky, his six boys took stock shares in leiu of cash and merged into a subsidiary of Hershey’s. In 2013 after 50 years of stock splits, the original shares are valued in excess of a billion, kicking out $31 million annually in cash dividends. (Way to celebrate Father’s day, huh?)

Resource: Wiki-Reese. Photo-Hersheys.com

Number 1.    M&Ms

Most folks know the story. The candy was copied from British-made Smarties (chocolate pellets surrounded by “hard panning” to prevent the chocolate from melting in soldiers’ pockets during the Spanish Civil War. The son of Mars Co. (Frank Mars) and the son of the prsident of Hershey Choc. Co.,  William Murrie, combined forces hence the M and M.  The agreement used Hershey chocolate which was advantageous because Hershey had control of the rationed chocolate during 1930. Brand Marketing is quite aggressive with the “spokescandies” turning up everywhere, so it’s fun to note one very important missed opportunity.

In 1982 the company rejected the opportunity to be in a new Steven Spielberg movie, E.T., so Hershey’s took a chance with their Reese’s pieces. It’s estimated that Reeses’sales increased 300% due to blockbuster exposure.

Resource: wiki M&Ms

You know I write about change

… and obviously June holidays have changed, but whether you’re celebrating, National Onion Ring Day, (June 22nd) or National Sunglasses day (June 27th) get the guy nearest you a candy bar and tell them one of these stories.

Photo by Liane Metzler

Photo by Liane Metzler

Posted in A Laugh, Appreciation, Change, Choices, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Changes in The Last Send-Off

What do you mean we can't bury Grandma in red?

What do you mean we can’t bury Grandma in red?

I’ve been absent  in the name of research, spending time with morticians and gravediggers. Thank heavens no one died. It was for a novel …not a horror novel. It’s a coming of age story, but one of the things that became wildly apparent to me was the CHANGE in the way we treat death over the last 50 years.

Like any newsy research, an author doesn’t get to use everything she’s discovered, but I want to pass along a couple of fascinating observations…

GROWING UP in the ‘50s.

Save the dress:

My grandparents (and every old person I knew), had one good dress or suit in their closet which they might wear on special occasions, but they’d be sure to let their nearest relative know, “This is the dress you need to bury me in.” It didn’t matter that the clothing was twenty years old or two sizes two small. The mortician could fix that. Even before people were dead, they were planning what to wear.

And then there was a wake:

But because we’re Lutheran, we didn’t call it that. It was visitations at my grandparent’s house, and all of us kid-cousins (who’d been banned to play in the yard) were constantly in trouble. These were the days before attentive parents provided toys and activities, so we hooligans made our own amusement: digging for worms, having dirt fights, or sneaking under the fence to explore the crawl-space beneath the Baptist church down the street. If we were caught and scolded back to the yard (to continue flinging dirtballs), an adult would come out of the house and yell at us for being too rowdy or noisy.  “For the love of saints! Be quiet out here! Your uncle is dead! Have some respect!”

We couldn’t figure out why a dead man would care about our ear-splitting screams. And why did the adults get to laugh and tell stories that carried down the block?

Funeral Parlors

We don’t call them funeral parlors anymore, but that’s what they did…provide a safe pest-free place to sit with the deceased. When funeral homes bundled their services into packages, many of our family activities went away—moved to a more professional, air-conditioned, padded-chair visitation room where there was nothing for us kids to do but kick each other and dare the youngest cousin to go touch dead Aunt Mildred’s hand.

And then the popularity of cremation brought an end to even more childhood exploits.

CHANGES FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY…New traditions are beginning.

Living Funerals:

Who isn’t curious what people will say about you when you’re gone? These ceremonies are mostly being embraced by folks with a “fatal” illness. A small group of friends or family family gather to tell the dying person the heartfelt things he/she wouldn’t have gotten to hear at their funeral. The benefit is that it breaks isolation. Lots of folks don’t feel comfortable visiting a dying person. They don’t know what to say and feel uncomfortable about visiting.This ritual has become about gratitude and closure for the living and the dying.


Newspapers such as the NY Times have “advance” or “draft” obituaries of famous pre-dead persons, so they’re ready to be published the moment the notice comes across the newsline. They’ll even phone the pre-dead for an interview. Now you can write your own obit and have it on file so you can “make sure the paper got it right.” (No guarantee anybody in your family will use it, though).
Video Messages/Obituaries
Here’s a dandy DIY project. Folks are making videos and delivering their own obits to be watched at their funeral. Or…maybe you’d like to leave someone a message  that you would’ve never uttered in life?  A company will allow you to create any message you choose and they’ll send it for you after you’re dead.

There are other changes in the “send-off to the great beyond.” But for now…tell me your stories.

What’s a ritual you REALLY dislike at Funerals?
The food? Noisy kids? Speeches? Let’s talk.

Posted in Change, Humor, Writing | 30 Comments

And Where is Your Final Resting Place?

If you haven’t selected one yet, you may want to contact your favorite university.  Because this blog is about change…AND…I dug this up while researching another book…I’m sure you’ll want to know…

Campuses are constructing columbaria—Walls which will hold cremains.

The first one was built on the University of Virginia over 24 years ago. When alumnus Leigh Middleditch, Jr. couldn’t get into the university’s cemetery because it had run out of room, some of his friends helped finance a memorial wall with 180 niches.  Sorry, there’s no more room in the wall now. All of the niches have been sold (in case you were getting your hopes up) $1800 each. Maybe you can get in on phase 2.

For universities, these final resting places can build strong bonds of committment. The main hope is that people will also  remember their favorite school in their wills and estate planning.

The columbarium at Richmond circles a garden near the chapel. Students can be seen there, taking a thoughtful moment away from the noise and hurry of the campus.

Schools with Existing or Planned Columbaria include

  • Centre College in Kentucky,
  • Notre Dame
  • The Citadel
  • University of Richmond
  • Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas
  • University of Virginia

Like a stadium, sometimes the vaults get cheaper the higher up you go. Room at the bottom can go for around $5,000, the top $2500.

It’s just another way to show your school spirit with the “Final Homecoming.”

Happy Halloween Wherever You Rest

by Helmutt Wattrott

Posted in A Laugh, Choices, Lent, Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Packing List and What I Wish I’d Done Differently for the Coast to Coast, U.K.

33. Elaine's Tea Room to D. Wisk

At Elaine’s Kitchen. A sheep farm in the middle of fields and fields.

For my regular blog readers who’ve read this far about this trip, thank you.  I hope you had a good time and a good laugh. I understand that you may not care about an equipment list.  But…it may help you if you’re planning some other hike. Either way, thanks for joining me on this journey.

If you’re saying to yourself, “I’d like to do that.” Then I’m telling you, it’s an amazing life experience. and worth all the work. Hopefully, this  will help you plan. This is my revised list after I returned from the C2C. It is geared for hiking the trail in late July to early August.  And no….I don’t work at REI or Amazon, but in case you don’t know the gear I’m talking about or where to get it, I put some suggested places to look it up).


  • 1 pair zip leg pants
  • 1 pair of pants that convert to capris ( i.e. Columbia Sportswear)
  • 1 pair quick-dry shorts
  • 2 moisture wicking short-sleeve tops
  • 1 long-sleeve soft knit top (after hike)
  • 1 long-sleeve upf, ventilated hike shirt.
  • 3 pair moisture-wicking socks (Smartwool)
  • 2 sports bras
  • 2 pair 16-country underwear (i.e. Ex-Officio)
  • 1 pajamas (or scrubs)
  • 1 boots (broken in and water proof.) NOTE: I wore my faithful ankle-high leather Montrails. This is my second pair I’ve owned. I LOVE these boots and never regretted the weight. I preferred the support and sure footing on the long and grinding paths. I also outfit them with Super feet orthotics for even more support.
  • 1 pair after-hike shoes (i.e. Keens)
  • 1 pair after-hike thin socks.
  • 1 bandana: I know a lot of people like buffs, but I’ve always found a bandana more useful, like tying on ice packs, tying gear to my pack, and flagging down other people.)
  • Rain gear (jacket and pants)
  • 1 pair of UV cyclist sleeves: easy to peel off of arms. They protect from the sun
  • 1 pair of thermal cyclist sleeves: I wore these every morning until I warmed up. (REI)
  • 1 pair gaiters: I carried them, but never used them. Probably if I were doing the C2C in May—I’d have have needed them more (or maybe on that very last bog hole).
  • 1 thin fleece jacket (surprisingly, I needed this several times and was VERY glad I had it.)
  • 1 fleece stocking hat


  • 1st Aid kit (make your own in plastic bag)
  • Ziploc bag of (Kleenix, bio-degrad TP, women’s pads, hand sanitizer)
  • vitamins (I put daily dosage in tiny plastic jewelry ziplocs)
  • ALLERGY medicine…DON’T IGNORE this item…you’ll be sorry. The pollen is FIERCE!
  • Any prescriptions


  • Duct tape. (Don’t leave home without it!!! You can buy 1” tiny cylinders at REI or make your own by wrapping tape around a 2” golf pencil
  • Vaseline/Socks: NOTE: The best blister prevention is a good fitting pair of boots. But every long distance hike trip I’ve ever done, I’ve found coating my feet in Vaseline and covering with socks while I slept, kept skin soft, pliable, and resistant to other problems. I didn’t get any blisters on the C2C.
  • Friction Block (by Bandaid) (for in-between toes—makes them slide)
  • Fungal crèam (if this is a problem)
  • Gold Bond powder– for heat rash which you get in the most interesting places.
  • Corn cushions (to separate toes)
  • bandaids
  • Tiny Swiss knife that contains scissors for cutting duct tape and toenail care

ADDITIONAL LEG Stuff—optional aids

  • 1 pair of compression leggings (Runner’s World) Not for hiking, but feels GREAT in after-hike recuperation
  • Knee brace –band-type (In case knee starts swelling or aching—which inexplicably happened to several hikers)


  • 1 small back pack (NOTE: Don’t crap out and use a piece of junk. I was very glad I carried my Ospery 35 liter daypack that has a lightweight frame. It saved my shoulders from a lot of pain.  I suggest you wear your daypack around home for several days and see if it pulls on your shoulders.
  • 1 waterproof pack cover (REI)
  • Extra ziplock bags
  • Broad-brimmed hat with chin strap (It’s windy on top of crags)
  • Sunblock
  • Headlamp (I never used this, but it goes everywhere with me for those just-in-case scenarios.)
  • Sunglasses (Used Once! Well, you have to give me points for optimism)
  • 1.5 liter Platypus water bag and hose
  • Journal/2 Pens (if you’re a writer. If you’re not a writer bring a book or sketch pad)
  • Travel snacks (I brought too many. Buy them when you get there)
  • Sewing kit: (Needle/thread/safety pins…yep I needed to make repairs TWICE)
  • 3’x3’ square of Tyvek (If you can get your hands on a small piece of this waterproof moisture barrier that is used to wrap houses before putting the siding on…it’s GREAT. It packs flat and small, and you can whip it out to sit on no matter how wet or how much sheep doo is around).
  • 1 pair trekking poles (NOTE: I always use poles when I hike. They take a lot of stress off my knees and hip flexors. On the C2C, they were invaluable in crossing bogs and streams, beating back thistles, helping me push uphill, and they kept me from a couple of nasty tumbles on slippery slopes.) Just don’t lay them down and forget them like I was always doing. God bless the folks who ran after me, waving my trekking poles!!


  • Voltage adapter/ plug converter
  • Phone/ ipod/i pad earbuds and cords
  • NOTE: We brought a charger to field charge phones, but never used it. We never left the GPS app running. Only turned it on when needed. Then turned it off.


  • Extra debit card: I created a new account for a preloaded debit card.  That way if I lost it, the risk was minimal and nothing (autopay) was tied to the account that I’d have to change.
  • Credit card with chips and 4-digit pin.
  • Wallet to carry money (and all the coins you’re going to get.)


  • Passports
  • Luggage carrier’s instructions
  • Guidebook
  • Medical Insurance card
  • Booking numbers for train tickets and hotels


  • Gaia GPS Navigation App: This $20 app for iphone was very handy (2015). The GPS waypoints are available to download from the Trailblazer.com website. Of course, you won’t leave the app running all the time, but when the need arises, you can turn on the app. Let the satellites find you, and establish your position to the path. HINT: Practice with your GPS at home. Take a class.  Several people we met had navigation devices, but weren’t sure how to use them—so they weren’t very helpful to them.
  • Compass—I bet I pulled my compass out of my pocket at least 10-15 times a day to check direction and trails.
  • Maps—we used Stedman’s maps. We also had Harvey strip maps, but only looked at them once. If you think you’re the type to go OFF TRAIL. I’d definitely recommend Ordinance Survey Maps.


As small as you can get it. Remember, you’ll be carrying this loaded suitcase UP and DOWN several flights of steep narrow, narrow staircases EACH MORNING and EACH NIGHT (after you’ve hiked all day).  The luggage carriers put maximum weights on luggage, but you DON”T want to be hefting the maximum weights. Be nice to your back—it has to support  you 192 miles.


Coast to Coast Path by Henry Stedman

Luggage Carriers:
Coast to Coast Packhorse
Sherpa Van Coast to Coast
See internet for others

U.K. Train: Planner
Manchester to St. Bees

Other peoples’ packing lists on the internet! (very helpful)
Thirty Ways of Walking
Following the Arrows
Walk With Me-Tyler Burgess

What I Wish I’d Done Differently:

 The most frequent regret after doing the C2C Trail is: “I wish I had taken longer.” I thought this meant that we should savor each day. Sit on benches. Visit with people. Not hurry our steps to get in each evening.  We did that, but now I realize it also means SCHEDULE rest days.  I said to myself, “Good grief…the fell runners do it in two days. We’re fairly fit.  Fifteen days is PLENTY of time.”

And it IS plenty of time to walk. WALK.  EVERYDAY. DAY AFTER DAY. But part of the experience is exploring.  If we were to do it again, we’d schedule 2-3 rest days, so we could take more sidetrips and explore the wonderful areas.  It would also help us return to the trail more invigorated.  We’d probably take off to explore, Grasmere, Richmond, and possibly Grosmont (so we could ride the steam trains to Whitby and Pickering). We’d also break up that 21 mile haul between Osmotherly and Blakey by stopping at Claybank.

If you’re in the planning stages go to trip advisor, read the reviews, and take the frequent advice: SCHEDULE MORE TIME.  If work keeps you from taking more days, then consider breaking up your trip. Do one half now and the other half later. (We hiked with some people who had done this.)

So our dream trek would be an 18 or 19 day adventure. That sounds like a long time.  But

Happy Trails

Happy Trails

to walk across an entire country and drink it in…eighteen days is just the beginning.

May you have blue skies, smooth trails, and good companions wherever your next journey leads.

Thanks for reading.



Posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, England, Humor, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , | 30 Comments

The Final Frontier. One More Doozy Bog To Cross: Day 15: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 15: Grosmont to Robin Hoods Bay: 15.5 Miles

Surprise! Surprise! This is the first day that my back doesn’t hurt. The sun is shining , pigeons are cooing, and…wait a minute….

More Moors.

More Moors. Walking to the horizon.

I just realize that we heard doves at dawning. Was it that way yesterday? That seems strange because through most of this hike, we’ve been awakened by sheep baaaing beside the windows. At what point in the geography did our alarm clocks change?. The ubiquitous sheep have disappeared. Even the grouse song is gone—replaced by common birds and a few gulls.

The first step outside of Grosmont treks uphill and continues upward at a heart-knocking slant.  We make good time to Little Beck, another stream, dancing through a forest. It seems Wainright has a penchant for wooded glens so muddy it requires big stones to tread through it.

As we slip and slide from stone to stone, I notice when we’d started hiking two weeks ago, the Elderflowers in the woods had been creamy-white and fragrant . Now most of the blooms have dried up and are brown. Even the blackberries which hadn’t opened their flowers when we started at the Irish Sea, now have knobby green fruits on the vines. It makes me a bit melancholy to see evidence that time has kept rolling along, but while we were wrapped in this adventure…it had seemed to us that it had stopped.

44a.To RHB

I think the trail ambles up here to look at this not-so-special tree on this moor.

It’s best not to look at a map at this point. The trail meanders far south, only to amble off to the far north again, and I’m wondering why we don’t just head  straight for the sea. At Falling Foss Waterfall, we step over several dogs in order to  sit in the tea tents. At almost every pub, there are dogs. Big and little.  They are all welcome. The well-behaved canines thump their tails a couple of times if we talk to them.  Mostly they curl up and ignore the world.

Dallas Cowboy Fan and I are tired. We’re mustering ourselves for the last push. At the Tea tents several people wish us well and luck to the end of the journey.  At this point, I suppose we look like well-worn travelers.

As we continue ambling, I’m grumping about the trail’s incessant meandering. After a bit of road walking, the trail cuts across…MORE MOORS. Hooo Boy!  Low, soggy moors. The path fans out in fifteen directions due to hikers trying to find a way across the bogs. There are duckboards floating on top of one of the swamps. There are stones for long-legged jumpers on other bogs. I’m doing my elf-hop across tufts of grass through the worst of it.

And KER-SPLASH…I go down. One leg—knee deep in swampy water. I had almost made it through. I have a few choice words for Mr. Wainright.

We range through cow paths and finally exit from the moors through a drainage ditch. A honkin’ DRAINAGE DITCH!! slippery and choked with weeds. Now, I’m really cursing the trail’s ignoble passage into the final stage.  Eventually we come out on a road called “Back Lane” and a sign that says Robin Hood’s Bay is only 2 and a half miles. Whew! Hooray!

Following the official C2C  along the Back Lane (and through a trailer park) we find signs that indicate  we’re now THREE  miles away from Robin Hood’s Bay.

Whaaaat??!!  THE TRAIL IS GETTING LONGER THE MORE WE WALK ????? I’m really using some choice vocabulary now.  At this point, I suspect Wainright was simply roaming around because he didn’t want to go home.

Go to the tippy, tippy point...and walk in.

Finally! The North Sea! Go to the tippy, tippy point of land..and walk in.

Finally, we reach the sea. Though beautiful, the cliff walk goes on until my feet are numb.  This last day has thrown everything at us, bogs, hills, mud, and  steep stone steps up and down, UP and DOWN, the cliffs.

We arrive in Robin Hood’s Bay.  We suffer culture shock.  The streets, alleyways, sidewalks, beaches, and restaurants are crammed with people. So many people—too many people—after days and days of quietness. (And maybe that was why Wainright wandered around and took his time getting here.)

WE toss the pebbles we’d picked up on the west coast  into the North Sea, and then go to the Bay Bar. Two C2Cers are already there. Four others arrive, and it is a quiet, but satisfying celebration.

By tomorrow morning, before the town and the tourists awaken, we’ll be waiting on the sidewalk for Bus 49 to take us to the train at  Scarborough and a plane to take us across the ocean to plumbing problems that “are kinda fixed.” (“I snaked the lines and put off-brand Drano down them,” Scout says. “They drain…most of the time.”) We won’t think about what lies ahead. I’m sure that as the sun comes up over Robin Hood Bay, we’ll be thinking about the other hikers across the C2C, lacing on boots and beginning their day.

Of the 26 people that we started with, 9 made it to the end.  13 dropped out. 4 persons we lost track of. We hope they make it.

And we expect all of our paths to cross again someday because that’s one of the things we’ve  learned on the amazing C2C: You never know who you’ll meet around the next bend in the trail.

We’ll be taking home more than memories. (I’m taking home the Little Magic Pillow!) We were shown many kindnesses: encouraging words from locals, extra flapjacks or candy bars  in our lunch sacks from good-hearted hosts, and I fondly think about the wizened fella who dresses in his tweeds and sits outside his cottage each morning so he can help hikers through a tricky passage, calling out, “Compt this a-way. The trail’s be passin’ behind that barn.” I experienced what hospitality means to a weary traveler. My hope is to carry that graciousness with me into my regular life.

But for tonight…we’re headed to the pub. Dallas Cowboy Fan needs to lighten his pockets of those heavy, heavy British coins.

47.The Bay Bar


Next: Resources/Advice: What to Take If You Go On the C2C

If you’d like to read more stories, check out the “Books” or other Blog Posts in the ribbon above.  And thank you, thank you for reading!

Posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, England, Humor, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Harry Potter, I’m Waiting At the Station with Father Brown’s Pear Drops: Day 14: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 14: Blakey to Grosmont: 13.75 Miles

I look outside and see rain with low clouds hanging over Carlton Moors and take another Advil. By now, our 14th English breakfast has lost all novelty.  I order porridge with bacon crushed up in it, which seems to amuse  the waitress.  She’d never had that combo before.

41a.Fat Betty

There’s actually a lot of wrapped snacks on top of it.

Suited up in our rain gear with pack covers, we again begin walking across the moors through the fog and mist.  I interrupt our striding to stop at Fat Betty.  For some reason this stumpy landmark of a cross exists without explanation. Tradition requires that you take a snack and leave a snack.

I leave one of my favorite nut-bars.  Dallas Cowboy Fan grouses, “Who wants to take anything that’s been lying out in the rain, for who knows how long?”  Finally he has the brilliant idea to leave coins. He feels pretty smug and triumphant about this because at every opportunity on this trip, he tries to pay with the “weird coinage.”  He says each time he buys something, he gets heavy money back (instead of paper bills) and it’s dragging one side of his pants down.

Off he goes, but I call him back. We HAVE to take something. Tradition demands it!  I take a few of the coins he just laid down. I don’t mind having my pants dragged off by money.   He frowns at the whole offering, finally tweezing between his fingers a tiny single piece of cello-wrapped hard candy, grumbling like an old badger that it’s probably laced with LSD.

After hours of hiking, the topography slowly changes. Trees appear along with old terraced houses built for the early ironstone miners. We know the calendar has flipped from July to August, but we’ve lost track of the days.  When we discover that it’s Sunday, we’re concerned—usually every store closes on Sunday in the country. Fortunately, one place has stayed open  (Bless you Glaisdale Tea Gardens!). We get cheese and onion toasties and huge slices of coffee cake. Through the windows, the owners point out we’re only 8 miles from our final destination. “Just over a couple of hills.” But it’s going to takes us much much longer to get there.

43.Egton Bridge to RobinHood Bay

Gotta get back to Egton Bridge

We leave and follow soggyy tracks beside the River Esk. I rip my hat from my head, flogging the hundreds of  black flies buzzing us. And in doing so, I pop the BB-size stud out of my ear. It’s a memento of another hiking trip, and Dallas Cowboy Fan thinks he can find it since he’s pretty good at finding golf balls in the rough.  I think he’s nuts, and besides, I’ve been wanting to get some new “English” earrings.  But……… I’ll be jiggered! Due to his persistence, we find that ear stud even though it’s jade green. Buoyed with our success, the sun decides to break between the clouds. We pass through the quaintest town of the whole C2C: Egton Bridge. Grand stone houses surround an uninhabited island on the river.  An old toll road leads us on to Grosmont. The toll fares are still displayed in shillings.

As we near town, the screech of a train whistle makes us look at each other. In a few minutes the chuff-chuff-chuff of the engine travels across the countryside. We pick up the pace. This we gotta see!!

The one-street former iron-smelting town is dominated by the station and intermittent comings42a.Grosmont Train and goings of steam trains. We can get up close and personal with the big ol’ magnificent monsters hissing white vapors  and belching smoke. These locomotives were part of the Hogwarts Express and were featured in the first Harry Potter movie. We’re also able to amble through a loooooong tunnel and visit the old loco sheds.

We bump into Brits John and Mary, another pair of C2Cers, in the railway shop. They

Queen Victoria made jet popular, wearing it as

Queen Victoria made jet popular, wearing it as “mourning jewelry” for her beloved Albert.

explain the uniqueness of a local stone called Whitby Jet, (wood from the Monkey Puzzle tree which has been compressed in the cliffs for a million years …really…I’m not making this stuff up.)  Well, say no more… I can get jewelry crafted by a local gal, from local jet stone, with a portion of the sale helping the local locomotive museum. Even though I found my lost earring, how can I resist the opportunity to wear British Monkey Tree fossils?

Our B&B is part of the Geall Art Gallery, beautifully adorned and right beside the depot. Once again, we wish we had more time to hang around. What’s not to love about a town that has a bookshop with overloaded shelves and a village store with jars and jars of multi-colored pence candy?  I buy 50p of pear drops. The clerk tucks it in a bitty paper packet just like they do for BBC’s Father Brown.  I sit at the station, drinking Elderflower juice (yep, that’s what the bottle says) and waiting for Harry Potter to arrive.

“Pear drop?” I offer Dallas Cowboy Fan as he strolls past like a local.

“Nope. I ate whatever that candy was that I picked up at Fat Betty,” he calls over his shoulder and keeps going. “It was good.”

It looks like he’s headed toward the Tavern.

I’m guessing he plans to unload more heavy coins.

NEXT: Day 15: The Final Frontier: One More Doozy Bog to Cross: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast.

Posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, England, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

What Happens in the Moors—Stays in the Moors: Day 13: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 13: Osmotherly to Blakey-21 Miles

Of course, the path starts out lovely and elf-like through the woods. Immediately we40.The Cleveland Way begin climbing through country estates of moor after moor–each one getting higher, and my eyes getting bigger and bigger at the “rollercoaster gradient” (as the guidebook charmingly calls it).  I had expected a rather “flat” day of walking. By the time we’ve gone a few miles, we’ve reached nearly 3800 feet of accumulated ascent.

41.More Moors. to GrosmontEarlier, we’d stopped at Lord & Stones Tea Room for a second breakfast.  Now we stop at ClayBank Top ( a wide spot in the trail) to eat our packed lunches.  It’s one of the few places we can get a phone signal, and if we had any sense, we would call a B&B to come get us. (HINT: Stopping over at Claybank is the No. 1, item on our “If-I-had-To Do-It-Over List.” There’s only one inn within the moors (and we aren’t even close to it yet), but B&Bs from the surrounding towns will pick you up and drop you back off the next day.)  Do it…or you’ll find yourself doing strange things. . . out of tiredness.

I know I said I would stop taking shortcuts, but I lied. The first chance I had, I asked locals for secret byways across the moors. I was told, “There aren’t any.” Curses.

The trail stretches out as far as we can see in front and behind us.  There’s no one around. Mile after mile. And another mile. Then another. A little hike-crazy, I sing show tunes to pass the time.  Dallas Cowboy Fan walks faster in an attempt to get away from my Broadway Revue.  But he has begun to talk to sheep….and keep up their end of the conversation.  Sometimes he’s interrupted by grouse, harking, “Ralph, ralph, ralph,” as they fly away.  And I ralph right back at them.

31.Burger Richmond

Throughout England, I NEVER received a burger less than 6 inches tall.

Then we talk to each other. Bad jokes. tired-stupid laughter. Stories we’ve heard before.  Stories we don’t want to leave in the moors. We hone the “Where-Can-We-Hike-Next List.”   Of course, food is a topic.  But we’ve discovered from previous long hikes, there comes a stage when appetite disappears and eating is simply a function of intaking fuel.  This is the second time on this trip, we’re really not hungry, and not even discussions about the piles of potatoes, yardages of sausages, or uber-stacked hamburgers we’ve been served in England sound good. Eventually we settle into the quiet zen of walking, our legs roboting along in automatic strides, our poles thumping the beat. A light mist begins to fall. And the miles roll on.

After a long while, we round a bend between hillocks and I shout. Through the distant haze, I see the red roof of the ONLY inn on the wide, wide moors. By the time we reach it, the bottoms of our feet are numb and both of our water bags are empty.

I chug a pint as soon as we reach The Lion.  We’ve jumped ahead of most of the other C2Cers. Only 6 other people made the long haul today.  After dinner, we slip into our Swing-A-Cat room (my term for “It’s so small, you can’t swing a cat without hitting the walls).

It doesn’t matter. By now we’re used to rearranging rooms, sticking tea trays in drawers and chairs in amoires.  It has a tub to soak in. The heat and the drying racks are on.

Rain is tapping against the window—and after 21 miles, we’ve finally made it inside.

NEXT: Harry Potter, I’ll Meet You At the Station with Father Brown’s Pear Drops: Day 14: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, England, Humor, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Another ShortCut; Another Mistake in Marital Bliss: Day 12: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast

Day 12: Danby Wisk to Osmotherly-9 miles

Okay. I’ve become a rebel. A malcontent. I LIKE using the public right-of-ways across private land and shouting (with fist raised), “Power to the People!!” I have now learned that wherever we go,  there’s a back way the locals use to get there.

I study our maps, wondering why Wainright has us traveling so far north today, just to have us turnabout and wander the same distance back south again. I’m starting to question Mr. Wainright’s thinking. I don’t see any eighth wonder of the world we might miss, so I  seek out locals with hidden knowledge and sidle up to them asking, “Hey, um…do you know a shortcut to Osmotherly?”

And they do!  Take the road. Goes directly there. No circling around. Yes, walking on pavement is really hard on the feet and back, but this shortcut has wide, grassy right of ways to hike on. It’ll cut 3-4 miles out of the day.

Hot Dog!!

Dallas Cowboy Fan isn’t so thrilled, but he lost his vote on the 3rd day when he elected that we traverse the “HIgh Road,” the ever-lasting ridgeline climb along Helm’s Crag.

So, looking forward to a day without sheep or mudslick trails, we take off.  My feet are pacing to the beat as I hum the Wizard of Oz’s “Follow the yellow brick road.” We make wonderful time along the sidewalk that partners with the road.

Then the sidewalk ends.

Before us are knee-high weeds and thistles. Walking on the asphalt is out of the question. Traffic is buzzing past like it’s a Mad Max movie. If I didn’t have a hat with one of those neck strings, it would blow off with each passing lorry. Dallas Cowboy Fan stomps through the nettled puckerbrush, his hand clamped to his head to keep his Dallas Cowboy ball cap on.

At one point, we climb under trees and crawl under a fence so we can walk at the edge of a wheat field, away from traffic . I get a handful of stickers for the effort—AND the wheat field soon ends. Dallas Cowboy Fan is walking in front of me, parting the grasses and stepping over road debris.  I’m pretty sure I can see steam coming out of his ears.

After two and a half hours of tramping through knee-high weeds, we come to the A19. Now, if we had taken the original Wainright trail, north of here, we would’ve had to run across this motorway, dodging 6 lanes of traffic.  But this shortcut leads us through a nifty underpass, onto a lonely road. Road noise falls away, and we’re suddenly standing next to a sign, announcing we’ve reached the moors.

Within 30 minutes we’re sitting at the oak tables in the delightful Golden Lion in Osmotherly, having a pint. And who should we find there? KIM. Kim, the 24-year-old Berliner, who we’d first met 12 days  and 143 miles ago,  who’d banged up her knee a few days ago, whose journey should’ve ended. And yet, she’s still moving forward.

And that’s one of the joys of the C2C. No matter the trail. The difficulties. The Not-So-Smart shortcuts.  There’s an inexplicable delight in the surprise meeting of our other sojourners.

Osmotherly is an enchanted village for a hiker. The wide windows of our room in the Golden Lion look down on the town center where John Wesley preached at that market table (next to the tractor going down the street). Tidy, terraced cottages whisper of the flax workers who used to labor at the mill. There’s even the Boot & Coffee Shop (in addition to 3 pubs). And to add comfort and homey-ness , each table at the Golden Lion is graced with a lit taper (even at breakfast).


Ding dong ding. Every 15 minutes all through the night.

As we drift off to sleep in the best, firmest bed that I’ve encountered so far on the trip (with Little Pillow snugged under my back), Dallas Cowboy fan says, “Okay. I admit that it was nice to get in early and have some exploration and rest time, BUT NOW….NO more shortcuts, okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

Just then the church bells begin their slow toll in minor keys,  and THAT should’ve foretold me:  I’D AGREED TOO SOON.

NEXT: What Happens in the Moors—Stays in the Moors Day 13: Walking Across England: Coast to Coast



Posted in A Laugh, Change, Coast to Coast, England, Humor, Traveling | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments