Vacation: Last Stop, Portland

It was only suppose to be a five hour drive.

We heading towards Portland, Maine. The quickest way and most scenic way was to drive through the Green Mountains. Again, lots of rural area. Not a big deal. All of us enjoy the scenery. On a different type of vacation would have done some hiking and took some pictures.

The traffic was thick, but steady as we traveled through the mountains. Lots of tourists seeing the sites on this Saturday. As we come out of the mountains and to a town on the edge of the New Hampshire state line we came to stand still traffic. It took 2.5 hours to travel the next 15 miles. I dont know what was going on in the New Hampshire town but the town as we crossed the Maine border had a fair which caused the traffic halt. I never would have guessed it.

Green Mountains

A scenic drive through the heart of the state becomes much less interesting at night. We finally arrived at the hotel, about ten miles north of Portland. It was 9:30pm. We passed a restaurant called The Muddy Rudder, which we decided would be a good place to eat. The place looked fancy but had a laid back feel once inside. They were about an hour to close and very few customers. This was our lobster meal. Because when traveling in Maine one must eat lobster.

In my belly

We were all wiped out. Briefly discussed going into Portland but decided for the hotel instead. I was up and ready to travel around 9am, but my friends slept a couple more hours. We had a decision to make. Watch football or travel the coast. Football won out. We watched the early games at a crappy sports bar, luckily all four of our favorite teams played early.

The one thing I wanted to do in Portland was go to The Great Lost Bear. The Bear is regarded as one of the best beer bars in the United States. It's easy to see why. Many local drafts on tap and a fine selection of Euro beers. If I lived in the area this place would be my go to bar of choice. A nice atmosphere, a person could spend a decent amount of time just looking at the decorations, and very friendly staff. They also had good food as we all ate and drank beers for a few hours.

Great Lost Bear

I would have content staying there all night and drinking, which is what the day turned in to, but some a couple of the other guys wanted to go other places. I gave up my driving responsibilities for the evening as Tom volunteered to be the designated driver. This might have been the first time ever for him to do so. Disappointed, we left the bar as I did not want to make the trip all about what I wanted to do.

We found a place called Brian Boru. It reminded me of a bar I would have hung out in college. They had a musical act playing and the place was fairly packed. Lots of young maidens for the eyes.

Brian Boru

We drank for a few hours and tried to find another place to quench our thirst. Everything was closing as it was around 1am on Sunday. So we traveled back to the hotel for sleep.

The original plan was to travel to Salem, Mass for awhile, then back home. After drinking all night, we knew no one would want to get up early to do this. So another audible was called: Sleep in and start the travel back to Fort Wayne (then to Indianapolis for the other three, then on to Nashville for Paul).

We took off about 11am and though another scenic ocean side drive through Maine would be cool. Wrong. We did not see hardly any ocean, except in the distance and the traffic was terrible. This stretch of highway was just one little town after another. I would have never guessed so much traffic. Do a good amount people on the East Coast get Columbus Day off work?

We spent a lot of time in the car and finally stopped at Eerie, PA. Slept and hit the road at a good time. Got back to my house around 3pm. This would have got everyone back at a good time, especially Paul since he had the farthest to go and had to work the next morning.

All in all, a good trip and a much needed one for myself. I needed a few days of escape from my personal life. We didn't get to do everything we all wanted. Too much ground to cover in too short of time. Would have loved to see more of Maine, particularly upstate coastal. Maybe another time with a little more planning.

Great friends, awesome beer, cool scenery, and tasty food outweighed the other tiny mishaps. Next summer we should do a trip to the Northwest... or maybe down to Texas.

Who knows if any trip will happen. But I'll go on another one.

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Vacation: Next Stop, Burlington

The morning surrounded us with lack of sleep and too much fine wine. But Vermont awaited. So we endured and traveled on.

The scenic route through upstate New York is the way we chose. Through the heart of Adirondack country. Winding roads, small town after small town, trees abound, and lakes a plenty was the view. The beauty the cool.

The constantly changing speeds combined with curves and hills was not as pleasant. It made me a tad nauseous. It made Tom extremely sick, leading to multiple pull over on narrow roads. He blamed the ills on delicious country cheese we picked up. No one bought it.

The day took much longer than anticipated but the scenery was worth the extra time. As dusk neared, we finally hit the state line and the ferry ride into Vermont.

My first ferry ride

Destination for the day achieved we decided to find a hotel in Burlington. We drove around for quite awhile searching for a place (not my favorite thing to do as I like to get hotels in advance). Finally got a room, cleaned up quickly, and headed to the Church Street Marketplace. If you've never been there, it's a section of downtown with nothing but shops, eateries, and bars. Plus part of it is sealed off so car traffic cant pass through. Personally, I love cities with this type of central area for things.

It was happening on this Friday night. The people were out in full force, especially the local college kids. I wanted to try The Farmhouse, as its known for good food and brews but when we discovered a 1.5 hour wait, we jettisoned. We ended up at a place called Ken's Pizza and a grabbed an decent pie.

After walking around a we decided to check out Vermont Brewery. Glad we did. Superb quality of beers crossed my lips with many inexpensive samplers. My favorite being the Vermont Smoked Porter.

Vermont Brewery

We were all getting tired so it was time to go back to the hotel. A wise decision to sleep in was made and I awoke feeling refreshed for the first time in days. We decided to end up Portland at the end of the day (wanted to try Bar Harbor but didn't think time would permit) and thought it'd be a good idea to check for hotels. Good idea because they were few and far between. Reservation booked, it was time for a couple of other stops in Burlington.

The first stop was a kick ass liquor store. I needed to purchase some brews that I cannot get back in Indiana. Then it was off to Magic Hat Brewery for some more sampling. We were too early for the tour, but managed to sample just about every thing on tap. Cant believe how much different #9 tastes fresh out the tap. There's much more of an apricot taste not usually present in the bottles.

Magic Hat

Having put the other guys through enough of my microbrew fixation, it was time to get some grub. We ended up back downtown, were it was even more crowded than the evening before, and ate at some sports bar. We then walked around a bit and ventured down to shores of Lake Champlain. I failed to see Champ. Disappointment ensued.

Lake Champlain

It was the middle of the afternoon and we decided to tackle the shorter five hour driving distance to Portland, Maine. If only it was that simple....

(To Be Continued)

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Vacation: First Stop Niagara Falls

A group of friends were heading out to the Northeast on a vacation. They asked me to come along. I wanted to but didn't think I'd have the time. October is in the middle of the Fall busy season at my job. Well, luckily there was a gap and I was able to make the trip.

So the four of us (Tom, Burke, Paul, and myself) hopped in brand new 2011 Jeep Patriot and headed East. Now when I say brand new Jeep, I mean it was purchased two days before the trip.

My first new vehicle

The plan was to head from to Niagara Falls to Burlington, Vermont to Bar Harbor, Maine to Portland, Maine to Salem, Mass and back to Indiana in 6 days. Hefty goals and a lot of miles and four people wanting to see and do different activities.

On Wednesday evening Paul traveled from Nashville to Indianapolis where he picked up Burke and Tom. Then the trio came up to Fort Wayne and slept at my house for a couple of hours. At 8am we headed out for the 7+ hour drive to Niagara Falls, NY.

We made it through the boring ass drive called the Ohio Turnpike arriving at the Park late afternoon.

The Falls are a thing of beauty. We walked up the trail to view the roar of the rapids as they strolled over the cliff barreling below. We went to the observation tower to witness the mist rise from below. It was the kind of spectacle I could have watched for hours.

We then hiked around the trails over to Goat Mountain. There we witnessed the Falls at a different angle. Burke noticed little observation decks at the base of the Falls. We knew that we had to go down there. The decks were called the Cave of the Winds.

The Cave was pretty damn awesome. You get to the bottom and the rushing winds of the Falls blows hard. The mist covers your body. At times, gallons of water splashes over your entire body.

Dusk had sneaked upon us. The three hours at Niagara Falls flew by in what seemed liked minutes. We decided to get a hotel, grab some food, and drinks. I found a tapas & wine bar a few blocks from the hotel called Wine On Third. I highly recommend this place. A friendly staff, great selection of wine, and nice food.

We drank many bottles

The four us sat around, ate, drank, relived pass memories and age old arguments. Exhausted, I bailed around 12:30am and headed back to the hotel. The other three stayed and kept indulging, a couple perhaps too much. It happens.

After another short night of sleep we woke and got around to head out. Next stop was Burlington, Vermont. Another good 7hrs of driving, maybe more as we decided to take the scenic route through the Adirondacks awaited.

(To Be Continued)

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Goodbye My Friend

Saturday afternoon I received a text from a friend, Scott. It stated to call him immediately. I sensed something was off and quickly called him. When he said "You may want to sit down for this", my fears were realized. What I imagined was correct, but never would have guessed to whom. Our friend Paul Kurtzman had unexpectedly passed.

I was shocked. Paul was only in his early 40's and healthy. He worked out and ran regularly. He was in good physical condition. And that morning he passed away while at the gym from a heart attack.

I spent the rest of the day with tears in my eyes and anger in my soul.

I got to know Paul through going and traveling to wrestling shows about six years ago. It may sound a bit odd to most, so I'll clarify. A bunch of people from all over the world became friends by following a wresting promotion called Ring of Honor. The one man, named Greg helped to bring many of us together through his generosity of hosting fan gathering. So now I have a group of what I consider close friends that stretch around the globe. It's strange and rather cool how we have all come together become true friends and not just a group of people with a common interest. Trips become more about hanging out with pals than the wrestling. We aid support to each other in times of need. And many of communicate via the internet all the time.

Paul was one of those guys. He lived in Quincy, Mass. He was husband, a father, and a grandfather. He was a strong religious man but never shoved those beliefs upon any person. And quite simply one of the best human beings I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was a genuine person; always willing to listen, to talk, and/or give advice. I really cant say enough good things about the man.

I always looked forward to the two-four times a year when I got to see Paul in person. Like I said, he was just a great person to hang around whether it was was at a wrestling show, drinking a fine ale, site seeing, or munching on some food at local eatery. He and his gracious family have opened their home to me before on road trips. I traveled the roads with him on a couple of occasions. Now all I left are stories of the past with no new ones to be written with him as a character.

Over the last few days many of us in "the little wrestling circle" have been talking about Paul on our forum and Facebook. We've tried to turn our grief into positive remembrance, as Paul surely would've wanted it that way.

Paul. Spring 2011. Atlanta

Honestly, my words here doesn't do justice to the man. But right now, it all I can muster.

I miss you buddy.
But I will never forget you.

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