Eclipse-Watching In Atlanta

It’s a festive, communal atmosphere in the Atlanta airport right.  Rather than the normal mass of hurrying, grim-faced travelers, friendly people are crowding the windows, passing eclipse sunglasses back and forth, and craning their necks to see an eclipse that is supposed to be 97 percent of totality.  Outside it’s like twilight.

It’s easily the most amiable, neighborly feeling I’ve ever experienced in an American airport.  Too bad it only occurs during eclipses!

In Linwood Park

On our one-day visit to Vermilion for the VHS Class of ’75 reunion, we spent the night in rooms in Linwood Park.  It’s the first time I’ve been to Linwood Park, or even heard of it, and I’ve been going to Vermilion for about 40 years.

Linwood Park describes itself as a “family park,” but it really reminds you of an old-fashioned American summer colony.  Located right on the shores of Lake Erie, it is a quiet enclave of white wooden cottages with lots of kids playing outside on the wide, shaded lawns, a nice beach, a small store, a candy store/grill/ice cream shop, and a tabernacle.  We stayed in rooms above the ice cream shop and treated ourselves to the beach before and after the reunion.

Visiting Linwood Park is like taking a throwback journey to an earlier, more relaxed, pre-cell phone and social media America, when riding bikes and playing on a playground and treating yourself to some penny candy was all a kid wanted on a fine summer’s day.  It’s hard to believe it’s still here — but it is, just like it’s been for more than 100 years.  It’s worth a visit.

Seat Shrinkage

A recent federal court ruling has confirmed what those of us who travel frequently already know:  the passenger seating space on airplanes is shrinking.

A lawsuit brought by a group called Flyers Rights challenged the Federal Aviation Administration’s failure to consider regulations to address minimum standards for passenger seating.   The passenger space issue involves two basics of airline travel — the width of the seats themselves and the seating “pitch,” which is the distance between the rows of airline seats on a plane.  According to Flyers Rights, the width of the seats has declined from 18.5 inches in the early 2000s to 17 inches now.  And the airlines are constantly reducing the “pitch,” too — from 35 inches to as low as 28 inches.  Narrower seats, and tighter “pitch,” allow airlines to cram even more seats onto planes.

28up-legroom-master675Because nobody really cares about passenger comfort on planes, the Flyers Rights lawsuit was argued to the court as presenting a safety issue.  Flyers Rights contended that the combination of shrinking seats and expanding passengers would make it harder to evacuate passengers in the event of an emergency and might also cause more passengers to develop deep vein thrombosis and blood clots because they can’t move their legs.  The federal court hearing the case ordered the FAA to at least consider these issues and decide whether to issue new regulations.

Anybody who travels much knows these passenger space issues deep in their bones.  Most flights these days are totally full, and it’s not difficult to feel like a sardine as you wedge yourself into your narrow seat, put your carry-on under the seat in front of you and thereby restrict your leg room, and then find your legs clamped when the person in the next row up “reclines” their seat by a few inches, directly on top of your kneecaps.  And the cramped feeling is exacerbated when, as is often the case, the person sitting next to you is overflowing their designated seat space.  If, like me, you typically work on a plane and need to retrieve things from the carry-on under the seat, you need to make many minute adjustments, and cram your face against the seat back in front of you, just to reach your carry-on and get out pen, paper, and reading material.

It’s hard for me to believe that any actual study would show that an airplane is as readily evacuated with narrow seats and 28 inches of space between rows as it would be with wider seats and 35 inches of passenger maneuvering room.  But forget the safety issue for a minute — I’m wondering whether any airline will start marketing itself as the humane airline that actually offers more leg room for those of us in coach.

Hey, a traveler can dream, can’t he?

Keeping Maine On The Brain

We’re back from an all-too-brief trip to Maine.  We ate lots of seafood, hiked around, got out on the water, and gulped down as much of the salty, energizing shoreline air as our lungs could stand.  We enjoyed temperatures that never got above the 70s and evenings where the thermometer dipped down into the 50s, windshirts and hoodies were required attire, and windows were kept open for optimal sleeping conditions.

When I get back from a vacation, I always try to hang on to the relaxed vacation mindset as long as possible.  I hope to retain some Maine on the brain — for a few days, at least.

Harpsichord Heaven

On our last night in Maine we went to the St. John Episcopal Church in Southwest Harbor for a harpsichord concert by Gavin Black.  The concert benefited the Westside Food Pantry, which serves several of the surrounding communities.

Mr. Black played Bach’s Overture in the French style, which consists of an overture followed by a collection of short dances.  The piece allowed him to use both keyboards of his harpsichord and, through various minute adjustments in the position of the keyboards, extract all of the different sounds a harpsichord can produce.  Interestingly, he used a tablet device to display the music and “turned the pages” by means of a foot pedal.  The encore was a short piece by Couperin, one of Bach’s older contemporaries.

After the concert we went down to the basement of the church for a chance to talk with Mr. Black, who explained that a harpsichord is much closer, musically, to a lute than it is to a piano.  It’s an interesting instrument that produces lovely, distinctive music when played by an expert like Mr. Black.  It’s particularly well suited to the sinuous, complex compositions of the baroque era.

The little church, with a colorful (and sea-oriented) stained glass window above the altar, was a pretty spot for a concert, with good acoustics.  It was a treat to end our trip with some beautiful music and a chance to contribute to a good cause, too.

Aboard The Frenchboro Ferry

I’m a fan of the Maine State Ferry Service.  That’s because the MSFS provides regular ferry runs from points along the mainland to the islands found up and down the Maine coastline.  If you’re a landlubber like me and just want to get out on the water, you don’t need to charter a boat — you can just hop on a ferry and move from point A to point B the same way the locals do.


Yesterday morning Kish and I took a ride on the Bass Harbor to Frenchboro ferry. For a mere $10 a person, the ferry takes you away from the harbor, past islands and working lobster boats, to the tiny island town of Frenchboro.  If you’re just along for the ride, like we were, it’s a pleasant two-hour trip.  And if you see a porpoise, as we did, it’s an even better deal.


When the left the dock at 8 a.m. sharp, some morning fog was still hugging the islands, wrapping them like a moist gray blanket, as shown in the photo above.  On the open water, though, it was a brilliant, blue sky day, with lots of activity from the lobster-catching contingent.  


After we cruised into the snug harbor at Frenchboro, a gaggle of locals came on board.  For them, the ferry is routine stuff, and they sat up front, chatting away without a second glance at the no doubt familiar scenery.  Kish and I, on the other hand, sat in the back, the better to get unimpeded views of everything going on around us.  How often do flatlanders from the Midwest get a dockside view of a real working harbor and fishermen who think nothing of knocking back a can of beer at 9 a.m., the better to kick start their trip to the mainland?


When we looked into taking a ferry ride, the woman behind the desk at the ferry office recommended the Frenchboro ferry as more scenic than the Swan Island ferry, which uses a much bigger boat that also carries cars and trucks.  It was good advice.