Rockport Massachusetts – A Sparkling Coastal Gem

Rockport, Massachusetts, known as the “Crown Jewel of the Massachusetts Coastline,” reflects the sparkle and charm of its generous, well-lit carets in the mirror-clear waters of its shoreline and beaches. Facing east is Front Beach, an active, popular spot on Sandy Bay. Off Thatcher Road you’ll find Long Beach-a well protected and lengthy stretch of inviting ocean-teased sand. Located on Beach Street between Main and Granite, Back Beach provides a breathtaking ocean view as you bask in the radiance of its near-white sunlight. Known for its quiet solitude, Cape Hedge Beach at South Street invites you to leave all else behind. A convenient walk from town, yet private and somewhat secluded, is Old Garden Beach-a rather small, intimate and welcoming retreat. For all those who cherish the benefits of reflexology, Pebble Beach (at the end of South Street) is completely covered with smooth, round pebbles and stones. Here, you can walk safely and healthfully, rejuvenated and renewed from the seaside stroll.

Thatcher Island’s Twin Lighthouses, built and first lit in 1789, stand tall as the longest surviving multiple lighthouses on the entire U.S. coastline. Built in 1835, the Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse announces the entrance to Rockport Harbor. Its stalwart beam can be sighted easily from the end of downtown Rockport’s Bearskin Neck. As in many historical seaside communities, lighthouses play major parts in both factual and legendary reports and accounts.

Rockport is home to many charming Bed & Breakfast / Inns. For example, as a guest at the Seven South Street Inn B&B, you’ll enjoy friendly, warm hospitality in a calm, relaxed atmosphere. At the Old Farm Inn located on Granite Street on Cape Ann’s rugged coastline, you’ll find yourself surrounded by five acres of lush green landscape enhanced by plentiful birch trees and flowers. Nearby is the breathtaking coastal terrain of Halibut Point State Park. Or, you may prefer The Inn on Cove Hill in the center of town. This historical site was built in the late 1700s and provides its guests with vivid memories of its colorful past.

Nestled on Pigeon Hill Street is one of Rockport’s major attractions-the Paper House, built in 1922 by Elis F. Stenman. A mechanical engineer and designer, Mr. Stenman’s paper house project began as a hobby. Although the paper was intended for insulation, the entire structure and its furniture were constructed of paper.

Located on Bearskin Neck, the well-known fishing shack has become one of the world’s most famous and easily recognizable structures, especially to artists and arts enthusiasts.

Artists and photographers are plentiful among Rockport residents, and many more visit frequently to capture the brilliant coastal color scheme enhanced by the crisp, pristine New England seaside sunlight. A stroll through town will delight art lovers, as galleries abound displaying works from a multitude of artistic schools and styles-all depicting the awesome splendor of this jewel-lined, charismatic coastline and community. Main Street is home to numerous galleries, including An Artful Touch, Anderson Gallery of Fine Art, Ken Knowles, Mercury, and Mosher. On Bearskin Neck, you’ll find the Kanegis, R. Lerch, and Muse galleries. Also located on Main Street is the Rockport Art Association, devoted to the preservation and development of the visual arts.

The new Shalin Liu Performance Center, named for its generous donor, will be the creative home to many excellent, exciting and innovative performances, including those of the highly acclaimed Rockport Chamber Music Festival, led by Artistic Director David Deveau since 1995. This new venue will facilitate new additions to the festival, such as a jazz series, world music performances, children’s concerts, and extended educational partnerships with local schools.

The story of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts on Granite Street is truly one of artistic innovation. In 1967, Herbert and Ina Hahn bought the last remaining farm in Pigeon Cove, two miles north of Rockport. In less than a year, they transformed the land and buildings into a beautiful miniature New England village-a performing arts camp for teenage girls. The camp was named “Windhover,” the title of a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins about a falcon airborne and hovering against the wind, symbolizing man’s soaring imagination and art’s spiritual quest. Windhover became a non-profit foundation in 1983, and in 1986 completed the transition from arts camp to performing arts center. Along with focusing on creating dance and dance/drama reflecting the community, Windhover Dance Company is devoted to re-constructing and performing the works of two pioneer choreographers in the field of modern dance-Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman.

Rockport restaurants, famous for their splendid waterfront views-especially at sunset-serve fabulous fresh seafood, as well as a varied menu to please many palates. The Greenery at Dock Square offers a gorgeous harbor view along with a versatile menu, excellent grilled fish and lobster, and delicious homemade desserts. At Brackett’s Oceanview Restaurant on Main Street you’ll choose from a large menu while enjoying the refreshing ocean breeze. Ellen’s Harborside, located on Historic T Wharf with its panoramic view of Rockport Harbor, serves highly acclaimed chowders and seafood, as well as Tender Pit BBQ Ribs. Also, along with your meal, Ellen’s is currently offering your favorite wines and spirits. (As history tells it, back in 1856, the “Hatchet Gang” organized by Hannah Jumper, a spinster and seamstress, ran the “demon rum” out of town. This event left Rockport a dry town until April, 2005, when a vote by Rockport residents overturned this 149-year-old “tradition.” At present, several Rockport restaurants are licensed to offer alcoholic beverages along with meals.)

Of course, after lingering over food and drink at seaside, you’ll want to stroll through town and browse in its many unique and enchanting shops. At Bearskin Neck Leathers you’ll be delighted with the large selection of fine leather goods, including jackets, handbags and footwear. Nearby is Earth’s Treasures, with an appealing display of international products such as handcrafted jewelry, Himalayan salt lamps, incense, candles, gemstones, books and CDs. Then, visit the Blue Gate Gardens on Main Street where the florist and greenhouse provide the very finest choice of plants and flowers.

The two main early industries of Rockport on Cape Ann were fishing and the stone quarry business. This rock-bound cape, once host to countless ship wrecks, now warmly welcomes visitors as its treasured guests-whether they arrive by land, by sea or hydroplane. You really must visit soon! Until then, this sparkling jewel glistens from the golden crown of its sunlit beaches, teasing you toward a taste of its rocky, rugged legends; smooth sifting sand; cool, soothing sea tides; and its own very special brand of New England coastal charm. General source: Rockport Chamber of Commerce (a division of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce): Travel Guide for Gloucester & Cape Ann, MA, 2006-2008.

Copyright 2008 – Ellen Gilmer

A Woman Traveling & Living Solo in a Van – Why?

I am a 50 year young, God loving divorced mom of one adult son. I have spent most of my
life working far more hours than I should. I am very responsible and have always worked
myself to the ultimate (& at times ridiculous) to build other people’s businesses… and I
have been pretty successful at it! At the same time, most of my life I have been a single
parent, so though I made a decent income compared to many women in my shoes, living on
one income and paying all the bills solo, I didn’t have anything extra for savings. Often I
felt like I worked from can ’til can’t, and the only thing that kept me going was the ongoing
motivation to provide a good home and environment for my then “growing up” son.

I have gotten burnt out from time to time amidst the mad crazy pace of management and
business life, but I’ve always ended back in the rat race due to the responsibilities and
demands of being a single mom for the most part. Since my son is now grown and a man on
his own, after my current corporate management “gig” is over (I plan to make that happen
before my next birthday) I will then fulltime and travel using my van as a home base while
supporting myself primarily through my online businesses, occasional consulting and
speaking engagements, and my true passion: writing.

How did I come to discover this free (& honest) nomadic gypsy spirit that lives inside of
me? First, I always have been drawn to small spaces inside, and wide open scenic vistas
outside; love nature, love scenic beauty, love exploring, love uniqueness and discovery of
all kinds. I loved every movie I saw with the actors living in a well kept RV or travel
trailer… actually, although I don’t remember the names of the movies, those are the “clips”
that live in my head: an older woman with a bird on her shoulder sitting at the table of the
nice travel trailer she lived in since her husband died, she was happy and at peace though
others didn’t understand her choices. Another movie I remember vividly was about 2
women who traveled the country heading to Canada (with breathtaking footage along the
way). An unhappy waitress who joins them along the way has a very unique personalized
(too pink and frilly for me but cool nevertheless) travel trailer that she just gives away
without thought when she meets the “man of her dreams”. (What????? Don’t give that
away!!! What was she thinking???) As long as I can remember I have been drawn to the
gypsy life, from the travels to the ornate cozy gypsy wagons, travel trailers, and small
RVs and campers to the biggest perk of all: Independence and Freedom to live life
outside the “societal box”.

When my now adult son was from the ages of 7 to about 14, we often went camping in
various places on many weekends. Not having much money for extras, we also vacationed
as campers. Two of our most memorable vacations camping, were at The Great Smoky
Mountains NP in NC & TN and at the Shenandoah National Park in VA.

I guess where the casual weekend camper took on a whole different mode was in the
whole pre-Y2K frenzy. I found my natural survival mentality becoming more and more
immersed in the preparedness and survival aspect of it all. At that time I thought, “Hey
whether Y2K brings on anything difficult or not, the bottom line is I am living week to
week, what if something catastrophic happened in my life; how would I take care of my
son?” I was supposed to receive $100 a week in child support for many years but long
story short (not worth writing or talking about) I never did. I pursued it for a while
through the courts and child support agencies. But after their not securing anything
worthwhile, the state agency wanted me to sign papers to pay for their costs in finding my
ex “once again” to make him comply! I gave up! Things were very different back then with
the courts and compliance. So I didn’t look to anyone else but myself (& God) to help me. I
ended up buying a $1000 travel trailer and fixing it up so that no matter what happened
we would have a roof over our heads. I didn’t talk about it to people because I knew that
if one didn’t follow the societal guidelines of a big home with a white picket fence or at
least a nice apartment, people thought you were out of touch with reality! But when my son
reached 16, we moved out of our nice luxury apartment into the 24 ft. travel trailer when
they were enforcing a rent increase from $600 to $700 a month (which was pricey for SC
in ’98).

I found there was a beautiful resort campground near the infamous Charleston gardens
and historic antebellum homes on the outskirts of Charleston, SC not too far from my job
as a purchasing manager for a national high-tech manufacturing company. I spoke with my
son (who was always very adaptable and always ready for a new adventure) about how
much I could save. I took him to the beautiful resort campground with a large lake, White
Ibis and Blue Heron nests right behind the area we would be parked in, and beautiful
amenities all housed in cedar wood buildings. On top of all that we were only a couple miles
from where the islands and swamp areas merged with the ocean and all of it in the up and
coming area of town with trendy and new shopping areas and restaurants. We stayed
there over a year. We thoroughly enjoyed it there and I was able to save enough money to
fund much of his first year of college as a result of the reduced costs. After I moved
back to upstate SC, and to a new job we were in not so beautiful grounds and it wasn’t
nearly the same experience, but still worked out fine for the time.

There were a lot of things I learned about myself between the Y2K revelations (and the
time period thereafter) and moving from the beautiful grounds to not as nice facilities in
SC as I was saving monies for my son to go to college. I found that people were generally
pretty enjoyable to get to know. I loved that everyone seemed to be on the same level
when out in the camping world… whether doctor or janitor, people were people without the
normal dictates that society normally labels people with. (That’s the way it should be
everywhere in my opinion!) As far as the travel trailer, I adapted very well to the small
space and made it homey and enjoyable just as I had prior to our apartment.
I remarried during my son’s last year of college and moved out west. Unfortunately, it
became a bit of a nightmare. About 2 1/2 years ago I found myself in a crazy, dangerous
situation and as a result left my now ex husband, and traveled back across the USA by
myself in a 97 Dodge Dakota with a truck camper. I literally left everything behind and
was very short on money. That was right after “Katrina” so gas was high (about what it is
now!) so I only stayed in a hotel one time in 3 months and stayed in camp sites about 5 days
total. Most of the time I stayed overnight at Walmarts and Flying J’s and while still in the
west; at a few Casinos. I always tried to park near other RVers so I wasn’t out there
isolated. One time at one of the casinos there was a man picking up a vehicle for someone
at the casino and saw me step out of the back of the camper and started flirting with me,
soon followed by trying to talk me into he coming in to the camper with me to “visit”. He
kept “nicely” trying to work his way into the camper. I finally got in a few words and told
him “my husband” was due back any second, “no thanks” and went back in and shut the
door. It was at night and I was going to go into the casino to use the restroom and maybe
get a bite to eat. I decided not to take the walk to the casino with him out there. I was a
little uncomfortable but the story about a husband to return any second seemed to do the
trick.

I found everyone other than that man, to be very kind and genuine to me and I never felt
threatened other than him. I did feel scared a few times until I found everyone so kind to
me. Even when there were more truckers around me than RVers, they seemed to be more
protective of me than threatening in any way. I do think that a woman traveling alone
should make sure she is not isolated if at all possible for safety reasons. When I go
fulltiming I will be using my van instead of a camper or RV that is more conspicuous. Being
in a van, I feel more comfortable to park in more areas as it is so unassuming as compared
to a camper or RV. Even if I go out of the van I can use the driver side door to exit if I
feel it necessary, so no one will know I am basically living in the van unless I feel
comfortable enough with others for them to know.

A few safety targeted suggestions especially geared for women:

If possible park near other campers/RVers/ travelers at campgrounds, Travel
Centers (IE: Flying J’s), Walmart or Casinos.

Consider an inconspicuous (stealthy) rig/vehicle. (I personally prefer a van
specifically for this reason.)

Once you locate your spot to park don’t go in and out of your rig any more than
necessary.

Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself, especially when boondocking/dry
camping. (IE: If like myself, you have magnetic business signs on a white van, remove
them before you arrive to where you will park.)

Although we have free choices in life, some choices may speak what you don’t really
mean to say. So be aware of your clothing. If you wear daisy duke shorts and a top
exposing your naval and hips and/or a neckline cut “way down to there”, you will most
likely draw attention to yourself that is not safe for you!

Be prepared for emergencies so you don’t have to unnecessarily exit @ night: Keep a
portable “potty” of some kind in your rig. I have a non-flushable Reliance Hassock
Toilet that uses disposable bags.

If you have windows in the “living spaces” in your rig, as I do in my van, make sure to
prepare your vehicle to reveal as little light as possible. (IE: Apply a dark tint to the
back windows, additionally cover them with shades, etc.. Also, put some kind of
divider between the front and back of your rig or put sun shades on the windshield
and side front windows to keep anyone from being able to see into your living areas.

Keep the noise level way down. If you watch TV or listen to music, use earphones.

Stay aware of the sights & sounds around you. Know where you are parking and what’s
near your parking site. Also, only use one side of your earphones so you can hear if
someone comes near your vehicle.

Have some kind of protection available. I am personally not one to carry a gun, so I
have pepper spray handy just in case. Have you ever been sprayed by that stuff?
OMG!!! It is definitely effective enough to buy you the time to get safely away if
needed. Keep a cell phone charged up, with service in range and within your reach if at all
possible.

Most important of all: Exude confidence (not arrogance) that you are where you are
supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to be doing. If you give off fear and
uncertainty, that will most likely concern others around you. However, if you smile and
wave and give off confidence in who & where you are, that will go a very long way to
keep you safe and alleviate suspicions of passers by.

I have now lived and traveled in several “portable and mobile” dwellings (travel trailer,
pick-up camper and van) for various reasons, as well as enjoyed camping and the
community that stems from campers, frugal travelers and RVers. I have always loved the
freedom the portable lifestyle offers. For many years (since the pre Y2K days) I have
been the member of RV, Camper Van & Boondocking online groups, browsed newsletters
and own tons of related books. Now my spare time is filled with preparing to go back out
there, but this time for an extended time period, maybe forever… who knows? From
building businesses online to making preparations with the basic gear needed, including a
few extras like a laptop with a long battery life & a cell phone with national coverage, to
sprucing up my 97 GMC Safari Van to ready it for travel, and yes even finding cool
products to live well along that venue… My eyes sparkle and a smile settles deep within as
I get closer and closer to my life becoming more and more mobile/portable and less
dependent on the normal bricks and mortar of society. I am preparing with anticipation to
the soon coming day that I take my life full time on the road. By my 51st birthday you may
pass me down the road, or maybe we will sit next to each other at a little mom and pop
diner in a quirky little town… or just maybe we will meet each other at a planned get
together with others of like mind along the way! I look forward to it! See you along the
way…

By: Brenda Curtiss of http://www.LordandCurtiss.ws

Yarra Valley: Melbourne’s Sweet And Sparkling Sensation

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when Melbourne is mentioned? FOOD! Yes, this Victorian City is screaming restaurants as its offers the best food choices with the ambiance of your choice from European to Asian. In accordance to enjoyment of the best food choices, indulge into the best wine in all variety there is.

In the outer suburbs of Melbourne lies the Yarra Valley which is the wine region that can be visited and explored in a one day wine tour. Included in the list of its famous wines are Chardonnay’s, Shiraz and Cabernets, Bianchet, and Mas Serrat to name a few. In order to experience the Yarra Valley Wine at its finest and understand how it came to be, plan a wine tour. Throughout the day, you’ll be guided by a real wine expert, experience cellar door tasting at Yering Station, Yering Farm, and Rochford Wines.

As you immersed yourself to one of the world’s primary grape-growing region, you’ll feel like you’re in the setting of the movie “A Walk in the Clouds”. Yarra Valley has Victoria’s earliest vineyards. The earliest being planted at Yering Station in 1838 and has spread rapidly until the 1870’s. There was a period of which dairy products became the primary focus so the wine production ceased in 1921. However, it regained its importance and replanting began in the late 1960’s. At present, the Yarra Valley is recognized by the world as a primary producer of world class wines in all varieties. It offers sparkling wines at its finest.

Imagine yourself learning from the experts of wines and the art of wine tasting with one of the world’s prominent producers of best wines. You can pick your preferred glass of wine and bring it to lunch and dine in a restaurant surrounded by the glorious valley with rolling hills nurtured by the Yarra River. That is what I call a learning experience in classic relaxation.

Have you ever thought about what makes a wine sparkle? And to top it off, how come aged wine tastes better? In Australia, winemakers aim to pick their grapes at 17 to 20 degrees brix in order to avoid high sugar levels. High sugar levels in grapes more often than not produces still wines as opposed to decreased levels of sugars. As the fermentation process ensues, the bubbles are produced by the amount of the carbon gas that the process creates. This actually causes weak glass bottles to burst even prior to opening. Also this carbonic gas makes that cork-popping a fun moment when opening a bottle of wine for celebration.

In the subject of aging wines, aged-wine tastes better only if it has that balance of grape tannins, acidity, and fruit. In other words, not all aged-wines taste better, but if a wine has the perfect combination of components, the process of aging makes it bolder and richer in taste, flavor, and scent. This basically creates the notion that aged-wine has the upper hand of the younger one. So the next time you were offered a wine, you’ll know what to choose after the wonderful Yarra Valley tour!