By MARY RICHE
Of course, I’m referring to readers of our social media posts who tagged along virtually, not in person, through our photos and commentary on Facebook and Twitter.
Welcome to my world, as the newlywed bride of Chuck Offenburger, the man I love, that popular well-known writer and journalist. I’ve admired that he’s taken readers along with him through many deeply emotional personal experiences over his 60-plus years of writing. I’ve witnessed his level of trust in his audience, and it appears they trust him, too. I’ve also lived with his easy-going style the past several months, and it can be deceptive of his deep understanding of self-knowledge. This man knows where he came from, he knows who he is, and he’s clear about the values that ground him. He’s also very convincing about how he wants to live the rest of his life.
I share all of this because Chuck has been nudging me to write more, and I’ve resisted. Until now. Recently, I’ve realized that writing more is likely the most helpful way for me to learn how to expand my personal boundaries and get comfortable as a columnist. More columns. More experience. More expressing my thoughts and opinions. Hoping that you readers hang with me during the start-up learning experiences.
With that as an introduction, here’s my summary of our special honeymoon adventure, a celebration for Chuck and me because we feel so blessed to have found love and marriage at this stage in life.
And start brewing that second cup of coffee, because this is a long one!
On our second day out, we stopped for lunch in downtown South Bend, Indiana.
Our honeymoon tour began on Oct. 1 and covered 18 days, two crossings of nine states, and 3,872 miles by car. We knew our guardian angels were hovering over us the whole time, and we came home even more “blissed out” by a stronger loving relationship than when we started.
We spent precious time with family, and Chuck reunited with college friends. We marveled at God’s artistry seen in the magnificent autumn colors of the turning leaves. We had perfect weather every day and met lots of friendly, helpful people.
We learned again how pervasive technology is in today’s digital world. That smartphone or mini-computer you hold in your hand is about all you need to move around the country these days.
We also used a paper road atlas, but we relied more on the digital navigation system in our car.
Each morning, we’d plug in the address of our destination, learn the distance in miles with an approximate time of arrival. Then, off we’d go. It worked without a flaw, though we did need a lotta faith one pitch dark night in the hills outside of White River Junction, Vermont, when navigation was leading us through some very hilly and dark countryside as we returned to the hotel after a late dinner.
What a difference between the first couple hundred miles traveled and the remaining 3,600 or so. We began on U.S. Highway 30 across Iowa, from our home in Jefferson to Clinton. The Iowa countryside was at optimal beauty, and that two-hour drive was a wonderful conversation-filled sharing of gratitude, appreciation, and anticipation for the adventure ahead.
When we crossed onto the Illinois interstate highway system, it was a noticeable jolt as we encountered more lanes, more traffic and tolls! Some of you may remember Chuck’s tweets complaining about the high toll costs.
People in toll booths on the interstate highway system are mostly gone. They’ve been replaced by rows of cameras that take a photo of your car. Road signs tell you to “roll through” those booths – which seemed counter-intuitive to law-abiding citizens until we “rolled through” a couple of times. Road signs promote web sites that provide a link to either pay online or by U.S. Mail. We did both.
A quick stop on the beautiful campus of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.
Some of our most interesting photos were taken through the passenger car window while the other was driving, and I wasn’t surprised to learn we use different techniques to pass semi-trailer trucks.
I speed and quickly pass, following a valuable principle I learned from my cousin Ellen Roberts in her work as a paralegal at a successful Kansas City law firm defending plaintiffs against major trucking firms. (I call it “hauling a@s” when passing the semis on the interstate.) Chuck follows the speed limit, a valuable principle he learned when traveling 40,000 miles a year as a journalist covering Iowa and beyond for his columns and other freelance assignments.
We handled our hotel check-in process digitally, too. On the day before our arrival at a specific hotel, an email asked us to confirm the reservation, select our room, and accept a “digital key” to open the hotel’s front door and our individual room. Upon arrival, the digital key became “active” and admitted us to the hotel entrance and our room.
The hotel’s “app” is password-protected; additional levels of security allowed us to “hide” our room number and personalize it. You probably won’t be surprised to learn we named our rooms as Darlin’ and Puddin’; our stage and pet names for each other.
While the digital hotel key was new to us, we learned from a delightful 25-year-old front desk clerk in Bath, Maine, that Hilton properties began using them about five years ago, pre-COVID, though COVID made them even more desirable.
Because neither of us was totally comfortable having only the digital key, we also checked in and out with a front desk person, getting metal keys upon arrival and a paper copy of our bill at morning checkout. As a septuagenarian, I could still hear my mother whispering in my ear that “it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”
Some of the strangers we met along the way made the trip even more memorable.
In South Bend, Indiana, we asked a random couple walking down the street if they could point us to where former mayor Pete Buttigieg had lived. They did — barely a block from where we were.
During our checkout process in Buffalo, New York, Marcello, the front desk clerk, told us that Buffalo’s classic City Hall was not to be missed. That extraordinary structure was only a three-block walk, with an observation deck on the 28th floor providing almost as nice a view as you get at the top of the Bell Tower back home in Jefferson, Iowa!
Above the American Falls at Niagara Falls, N.Y. In the background is the skyline of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.
Mary Riche on the steps of the classic City Hall in Buffalo, N.Y. A viewing deck on the top floor offers a 360-degree view of the metro area.
The scenery along our way was captivating; sometimes we captured it in our photography.
Seeing Niagara Falls was both mystical and magical. Watching the mist rise and disperse. Seeing the sunset through the mist. Standing at Bridal Veil falls and feeling blissed at every level. I know it was Mother Nature, though I’m pretty sure I saw the Holy Spirit in that mist too. I was speechless, and we were both near tears more than once.
Another scenic “a-ha” moment came at the bottom of Quechee Gorge, Vermont, descending on a trail that was barely visible from the bridge at the top. My nephew’s daughters swim there in a pool of water, unimaginable from that bridge!
The flagship store of the Simon Pearce luxury glassware and pottery company, also in Quechee, Vermont, sits on a river with a waterfall, next to a covered bridge. We were there when the sun was rising over the hillside of autumn colors for more breath-taking moments as we each soaked in that splendor.
Equally impressive was the glassblowing happening in the lower level of that flagship store. We both had many questions for Christian Wakeman, a younger artisan who learned this skill on site after his career as a furniture maker ended during the pandemic. Watching him turn a blob of crystal into a water glass was both rhythmic and hypnotic.
A visit to Cannon Mountain Franconia Notch State Park in Franconia, New Hampshire, included a trip to the mountaintop on a tram. We cut short a hike on the Vista Trail when the pine-tree lined trail ended, and there was no barricade separating us from that cliff and the valley below! However, the scent of Christmas from those pine trees stayed with us as much as the view when we turned around.
Mary on the front porch of the home of early women’s rights leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Seneca Falls, N.Y. The columnist plans another column later on Stanton and our stop in historic Seneca Falls.
I learned about the process of applying “henna tattoos” – made with a special type of dye – in a conversation with five girls who are students at Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H. We were sitting on a bench near the Squamscott River there, enjoying sandwiches from the Fly By deli when these ninth graders, also on lunch break, set up their tattooing operation on a nearby floating dock. I approached them by identifying myself as an older, curious, and safe woman interested in their work, and they were friendly as they answered my questions about the ink, what motivated them to do this, and how long they’d been friends. That information also cinched my fleeting thought about getting a henna tattoo.
In Bar Harbor, Maine, a chatty guide in the visitor center for Acadia National Park tipped us to the “local non-tourist” beach for a view of that evening’s sunset that was breath-taking! That night, we left our paper road atlas at a restaurant just outside of Bar Harbor, after filling our bellies with lobsters and lots of butter – which probably oozed into our ability to remember much else.
I was somewhat surprised to see docents of all ages, it seemed to me, at the Baseball Hall of Fame. This museum is open 362 days each year, and the memorabilia is endless. The section devoted to how media has covered the sport was of particular interest to me, since Chuck started as a sportswriter at the age of 13 at the Shenandoah Evening Sentinel. I shot one of my favorite honeymoon photos of Chuck in that wing.
The Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland has no docents on their six floors of memorabilia. I wanted to do more than hum along with Paul, John, George, and Ringo in the Hall’s current special exhibit on the Beatles. This spectacular display included footage beyond what Peter Jackson used in his recent Beatles documentary of their 1969 impromptu concert on their Saville Row rooftop in London.
As incredible as all the sights we experienced, the time with family was unquestionably unequaled and the best.
Seeing my younger sister, Bette Riche Bobcowski, and her family was overdue, and we didn’t miss a beat as we eased into a conversation filled with information and overflowing with laughter. Ironically, she’s been married to a guy named Chuck for 52 years, so we had Chuck B (her hubby) and Chuck O (my hubby).
Sisters Mary Riche (left) and Bette Riche Bobcowski, together again, this time in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Bette and Chuck B, who live in Blackwood, N.J., have daughter Jennifer and son Chris. Jennifer remained on her job back in New Jersey, while we and her parents were visiting with Chris and his family, who moved to Vermont almost two years ago for his job as a CRNA, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, in the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H.
Chris and his wife Sunny, a sister Sagittarian (we were both born on November 29th – 30 years apart), and their two daughters Lily, 14 years old, and Violet, 11 years old, now live in Norwich, Vermont, across the Connecticut River from Hanover. The girls attend school in two states – Violent in Vermont and Lily in high school in New Hampshire – in a school district that stretches across a state line. Does that also happen at the borders in Iowa?
(On a strictly personal, non-honeymoon point, my sister searched her home until she found her Sunday School pins for 11 and 12 years of perfect attendance during our childhood. She had read my earlier column on Offenburger.com about my “unanswered question” in Sunday School. I’m really impressed that she had kept those pins and even more impressed that she could find them after more than 60 years!)
In Oxford, Ohio, we visited Chuck’s son Andrew Offenburger, his wife Maria, and their three daughters. I attended my first swim meet in Miami University’s recreational center pool. Three of the best swimmers were Chuck’s granddaughters, all talented athletes. Equally interesting was my discussion with his granddaughter Lindsay, 15, about Taylor Swift’s newest album; with his middle granddaughter Casey, 11, about the latest Lululemon accessories; with his youngest granddaughter Audrey, 7, about what she loves more about gymnastics than swimming – proving that “girl talk” is ageless.
It was a special privilege for me to watch Chuck communicate and engage as a grandfather, as a father, and as a father-in-law. More of my favorite honeymoon photos include Chuck with Andrew and the granddaughters. Each new interaction over those three days warmed my heart, and this family adds another blessing to our marriage.
A backyard chat for Chuck Offenburger and his son Andrew Offenburger in Ohio.
On west in Carmel, Indiana, on the north edge of Indianapolis, we had a great visit, even if a quick one, with Sam Spade. I’m one of the lucky adults who parented Sam when he was growing up in Des Moines, and we’ve maintained a close relationship even after his father and I divorced decades ago. He treated us honeymooning newlyweds to lunch at one of his favorite spots near his home in Carmel.
We had a three-hour non-stop conversation with Sam, and I found myself mentally playing a version of “This Is Your Life” as I pictured him as the young boy when we first met; the teenage singer and dancer in Roosevelt High School’s swing choir; the soloist in Matins Choir at Plymouth Church; the All-State vocalist; the Indiana University Hoosier grad; and now a husband. There were more heartwarming moments, too, although we missed seeing Laura, his wife, a literary agent who was attending a convention in Munich, Germany.
Mary and Sam Spade in Indiana.
This first extended trip as a married couple, traveling by car, worked so well that plans are now finalized for a second driving honeymoon tour that begins mid-November and includes a wedding gift of a week in a Marco Island, Florida condo, followed by a few days in Nashville, Tennessee. We’ll be inviting our friends to join us again – virtually via social media as we share photos and commentary.
Chuck thought the costs might be of interest, so here are a few.
Today’s cost of a hotel room includes several taxes above that basic room charge. For us, our 15 nights in hotels totaled $2,900 plus another $655 in taxes. All but two of those nights were at a Hilton hotel property; one was at a Marriott, and the other was at the 1874-vintage The Inn at Cooperstown, N.Y. Two nights were with Chuck’s college friend’s home in Peterborough, N.H.
We started with a full tank of gas, stopped eight times for more and came home with 133 miles still available to drive. Gas total was $425. We paid an additional $49 in tolls, though we may have another invoice coming from either Ohio or Indiana.
We paid $10 for parking (on the U.S. side of Niagara Falls) and nothing for our four hours walking through the grounds. An adult admission price for the Baseball Hall of Fame is $22; we were there twice; an afternoon and a morning for a total of $88.
An adult admission to the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame was $35 or a total $70 for our day. Both Halls of Fame were worth every penny.
My lifetime pass, purchased years ago, to our country’s national parks allowed us free admission to Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Our meal total, including meals we bought for family and friends, totaled $1,484 for lunches, snacks, and dinners. Hot breakfasts were included with all our hotel rooms.
How do you measure the value of this adventure, aka our honeymoon?
As important as this financial tally is to both Chuck and me, here’s the bottom line: It was the priceless trip of a lifetime!
It was chilly enough on top of Cannon Mountain in New Hampshire that Chuck needed to buy a sweatshirt, so why not one with that state’s classic motto?
Watching artisan Christian Wakeman blow glass at the Simon Pearce glass company’s flagship store in Vermont.
Twilight at Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine.
On the campus of Bowdoin College in Maine.
Historic Doubleday Field, the mythical “birthplace of baseball,” a half-block off main street, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, N.Y. This stadium, which has hosted major league exhibition games in the past, is now the home field of the Cooperstown High School Hawkeyes. But teams, and even whole leagues, from around the country often rent the facility to play games there.
Lifelong fan Chuck Offenburger spent plenty of time reading the plaques of the Hall of Famers enshrined at the fantastic mujseum in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Mary outside The Inn, the historic hotel where we stayed in Cooperstown.
In downtown Cleveland, Ohio.
At the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland.
Sunday morning in a great college town coffeehouse, Kofenya, in Oxford, Ohio.
One of the best photos that’s been taken of the two of us was snapped at the check-out counter of the flagship store at the Simon Pearce glass and pottery company in Vermont — by one of the sales clerks!
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