A Successful Launch in Utah

I was a pretty independent teenager. When I graduated college, I moved away from home — to Delaware, Maine and Pennsylvania. Never all that far away, but out of New Jersey. As a parent, my hopes for my boys meant “launching” them, about making sure they had the skills and mindset to move ably through a world by turns big and small. I always want to be connected to them, but my desire was that they be able to make a home for themselves wherever their lives took them.

So it’s with relief and gratitude that Virginia and I returned on Monday from a trip to see our younger son Kelly in Utah. Kelly, 24, moved to Salt Lake City about nine months ago after a period of time spent adventuring (cross-country trips, Appalachian Trail) and discerning where he wanted to stay for a bit.

We went out last week, picked up him and his girlfriend, Gabby, whom he met in Utah, and headed four hours southeast for a few days of hiking through the nearby parks (Arches, Canyonlands, Dead Horse). A few of Kelly’s friends joined us. We spent three long, fruitful days hiking, cooked up a second Thanksgiving at our Airbnb, got to know each other and generally had a blast. Virginia and I came home feeling that Kelly had found a home — a girlfriend who got him, work that engaged and frustrated him (which is pretty par for the course), and a community that supported and knew him.

He’s 24, there’s a long way to go, and it seems he’s launched. It was a nice, early Christmas gift.

Our Trip to Italy in Pictures

We decided on our family trip to Italy more than a year, and have been actively planning it for 6 months, so it was kinda surprising just how surprising the trip was. We weren’t prepared for just how much we’d find in Rome, the Cinque Terra, Venice, Tuscany and Florence. Here’s what we saw, with tons of photos.



We landed in Rome on Friday morning and took a bus into Termini station, and eventually found our way to the AirBnB apartment, on the west side of town, at Valle Aurelia, near the Vatican—but first, the bus just happened past the Roman Coliseum (above).

After that, we napped—then we started to work through Rome: Forum, Vatican, Palatine Hill, Capitoline Hill, the biggest, baddest equestrian statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius that made me want to watch Gladiator in the Capitoline museum, the Diocletian baths, the Trevi Fountain and Pantheon.




I knew Pompeii’s story but the thing I had to see to understand is just how much of Mount Vesuvius is missing—how much higher it must have been until it blew its top in 79 AD and dropped 10 meters of ash across the countryside, burying this city for a millennium and moving the Bay of Naples back half a mile. Virginia really enjoyed our tour, and wished she had a lot more time there.


This “vertical city” literally falls down the mountain to the Mediterranean Sea. It was gorgeous and one of Virginia’s few regrets on the trip was not buying any clothing there.

Cinque Terra

These “five towns” are a couple hours north of Rome, past Pisa, and totally picturesque. We stayed in Vernazza, which is a one-street town that sorta pours down a mountain to the sea, with an adorable, tiny harbor. Our AirBnB was on the second floor and our bedroom was extremely pink (you’ll know it immediately below). We ate by the harbor on the first night and in a restaurant perched 100 feet up on the second. We also hiked from Vernazza to Monterossa, which is one of the most glorious, beautiful walks you could ever take in your life.


One of those places where East and West meet. St. Mark’s Basilica was strange and beautiful. I loved how different it was than St. Peter’s in Rome. No gondola ride for us.

Tuscany (Artimino)

This was our “time off,” aided by our friend Kris, who directed us here. We relaxed by the pool, hiked around the town of Artimino, checked out the Medici family hunting lodge, ate like kings (and queen), and were treated to a great wine tasting by Cristina.


Florence was our final stop and, in some ways, I wish it had been our first. It had so much to offer, but we were starting to get fatigued. One of my favorite times in our trip was a late afternoon stop at the Piazelle Michaelangelo (it’s his hometown), enjoying a refreshment and looking over the city.

From Florence, we caught the train to Rome and the airport and headed home—well, Pete, Virginia and I did. Kelly booked a flight to Paris and went there on the way to Amsterdam. He comes home Wednesday.

It was great to visit Italy. Even better was the chance to spend uninterrupted time with the boys, which is difficult now that Pete works and Kelly has school and his job as a counselor at summer camp in upstate New York.

Some thoughts

  • We did AirBnB everywhere but Artimino and it was for the most very good. Locations were good, and most of the master bedroom beds were good. The boys’ beds, not so much, though they were good sports. The best place we had was in Rome, with a great terrace. The worst was Florence—centrally located, but right on a small, but busy, road and apparently sitting directly in front of a sewage tank that needs to be pumped out on Wednesday mornings. Yuck! We’d do it again.
  • Speaking of “gig economy” companies, we used Uber, once, in Rome, to get back home from a dinner in Trastaverte. Guy pulled up in a very sweet Mercedes sedan. Uber wasn’t available outside Rome.
  • One bit of curiosity fallout: I am completely intrigued by Michaelangelo. He is simply a transcendent genius. Listening to The Agony and the Ecstasy but I’m thinking there’s a better book to read. What is it, people?
  • Time with the boys was great—and when Kelly left us at 3:30 am on the last day, to catch a flight to Paris, I felt both sad he was leaving and buoyant that he was brave enough to strike out on his own. That he texted us later in the day that he’d befriended his hostel roommate (a 20-something copper miner from the Yukon Territory—you can’t make this stuff up) and was rapturous about the city was icing on the cake. Virginia and I have always wanted to hold our sons close and launch them as adults. This trip felt like confirmation that we could do both. And that was a great feeling for the trip home.



Pete and Grandma in Vegas


About 5 years ago, my mom made the offhand comment to Pete that she would take him to Las Vegas for his 21st birthday.

Five years later, she was good to her word. This is the two of them in the lounge of the hotel/resort/casino Aria.

The two of them spent four nights in Vegas before she headed home and he headed to San Francisco to visit his friend Zack Moore.

Pete told me he didn’t have much money to his name after working a minimum wage internship this summer, but somehow he managed to find enough money to play table games. From his Twitter account it sounds as if it started badly.


before a late rally.


My retirement plans hope he’s right.

Oh, here’s his photo from the Marin Highlands looking back through the Golden gate to San Francisco (with a little photo editing by me).


Return from Unirondack


Kelly had his usual great time at his two-week summer camp in upstate NY, Unirondack. Kevin drove up and retrieved him today, along with another camper, Calder, who lives in Annapolis, Md. It was a lot of driving, but Kelly looks forward to the camp all year long.

Also, Pete is back after his summer session at Bloomsburg. Next up, we’re headed to Rehoboth Beach, Del., for 3 days, then we’ll run over to Baltimore to see Virginia’s family (and the Baltimore Orioles vs. Red Sox at Camden Yards). Should be fun.

Continue reading “Return from Unirondack”

Gettysburg Trip

We took advantage of the boys’ Spring Break for a family-only getaway, to Gettysburg, where only Virginia had visited previously (though she likes to tell Kevin he’s been there every time we re-visit the subject.

The boys were, honestly, not very excited about the trip, but we won them over by signing up for a Segway tour of the battlefield, which was a very cool way to travel 9 miles in an afternoon without ever breaking a sweat (except, of course, when Virginia ran the Stop sign at the bottom of a hill onto a car road).

(Regarding the Segway tour, we went with an outfit you can find at segtours.com. Some of the photos above were taken and shared by them.)

Afterward, we went to the local pub with a huge menu and big portions, and everyone was very happy. Then we retired to the Wyndham, which had an indoor pool. You would think that 17- and 15-year-olds would have outgrown the charms of an indoor pool—but you’d be wrong. It’s kinda amazing. All the fresh air paid off that night, too, as we were all able to go to sleep pretty close to 11 pm.

Next morning Virginia and I left early to get in a tour of the Gettysburg battlefield on our own terms, and after rejoining boys fo rbreakfast, we visited the Eisenhower farm that abuts the national park. Then we headed home before the Kirks arrived for an “Easter Saturday.” Photos from Friday in the next post.

Bar Harbor Day 2

We started the day on the water, sea kayaking to some small islands along the Maine coast. Foggy. A little wild. Then the sun broke through, the water calmed, and the tensions eased.

In the afternoon, Kevin went for a ride “around the mountain,” but his path was closed and he improvised. Virginia hiked the Bubbles, between Eagle Lake and Jordan Pond. The boys spent some down time at the hotel pool.

We met upo at the Jordan Pond House for a late lunch/early dinner, then drove the park loop road, where the boys tried out their bouldering skilz, and Virginia and Kevin practiced holding their breath.

Day ended with ice cream in town. All that was left for Friday was some early-morning exercise—and the beginning of the long ride home.


Bar Harbor Day 1

After a drizzly arrival Tuesday, Wednesday opened absolutely gorgeous, and we had one of those perfect Maine summer days—70 degrees, sunny, no humidity. Virginia and Kevin got in an early-morning bike ride through Acadia, and in the afternoon they were joined by The Boys, who rode up Day Mountain with Kevin (plus another 12 miles or so). We caught dinner on the water, and finished up the day atop Cadillac Mountain. Thursday, it’s sea kayaking and more time in Acadia. Boys have been great and there’s still a day-plus to go before we head home. Feeling blessed to be in one of my favorite places in the world, with people I love.

Lubec and Quoddy Light House

We stayed here after visiting Campobello Island (the Roosevelts’ vacation home on the US-Canadian border—Virginia is an Eleanor Roosvelt fan). It was a rainy day and Lubec didn’t impress. At about 7:45 pm, we went into town because we had seen an ice cream place, but it was closed. Settled on an inn instead. We had to wait 15 minutes, no big deal. When we sat down you hadf two dessert choices—blueberry ice cream or apple crisp with vanilla ice cream. Kelly and I ordered the apple crisp. The waitress asked if we wanted it warmed up. We both said yes. So it was a surprise when both dishes showed up cold. The bigger surprise was that I got a big bowl and Kelly got a small cup. We switched servings and when the check showed up—you guessed it—we were charged the same for both. Thankfully we weren’t charged extra for (un)heated. The place was Cohill’s Inn. If you ever find yourself, god help you, in Lubec, try Frank’s instead. Or get your ice cream BEFORE 6 pm.

That said, the East Quoddy Light House was a gem, as well as the easternmost spot in the US.

Portland and Mt. Katadhin

We stopped at Portland on Day 1 of our vacation, and saw our friends Deb and Dale, who joined us for a Sea Dogs game. Next day, we were off to Millinockett. On Sunday, we hiked Mount Katadhin. It was, in a word, hard—4k vertical feet during a 10-mile hike. Pete and Kelly did great, Virginia and Kevin were feeling it on the descent (and the next day). But we all did it. Mark it off the bucket list.