Thursday, May 21, 2009

New England Vacation

In the summer our Granddaughter Jodi turned 13, Jean and I took her with us to New England for a two week vacation. Well, we DID end up in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, but our FIRST stop was on the east coast of Maryland - at Ocean City.

We initially just planned on a short vacation for the two of us, but an interesting transaction with the Social Security Administration, encouraged us to extend the vacation to two weeks, and include Jodi.

Let me explain the SSA transaction:

When I turned 65 five years earlier, though I applied for, and received, Medicare benefits, since I was still working full-time, I did NOT apply for Social Security benefits at that time. We all knew that you couldn’t apply for SS benefits while you were still employed full-time. Didn’t we?

Our understanding was that, at that time, if you DID get Social Security AND were still working, for every two dollars you made, your SS was reduced by one dollar. So….it was foolish to apply now for SS and have your benefits cut. Right?

(The Internet site of the Social Security Administration indicates that NOW, when you reach retirement age, you get full benefits, EVEN if you work.)

In late 1994, I was randomly talking with the Social Security official (Larry Todd) who was on a regular WEEC program ABOUT the benefits of SS. As part of our discussion about my age, and mentioning that I had not applied for Benefits, he said, “Why not?” “Well, I’m still working full time.”

“Maybe that’s not a problem”, he said. “I’m sure you don’t make a large amount of money while employed by a non-profit entity like WEEC, do you?” I replied, “Uh….no.” He then asked me how much WAS my salary at that time. I told him, and he implied that I should look into it, to see if I SHOULD apply for benefits.

I applied to receive SS benefits - retroactively to when I turned 65. The application asked for my age, as well as my present salary (no longer required), in addition to other pertinent information. At the same time, I opted to have benefits deposited directly into our Savings Account - whenever that would be.

The regional office of the SSA in Chicago contacted the local man about me, and suggested that since I was a “Corporation President”, I could set my own salary, and make it so I COULD get Social Security. He and I talked about it and I assured him that I had NOTHING to do with the amount of my salary, and that a Board of Trustees sets it. He understood, and passed that along to Chicago.

We rather forgot about it.

In maybe January or Febrary of 1995, I casually looked at our Bank Statement, and, lo and behold, there was a deposit in excess of $5,000 in our Savings Account. I was stunned - and disbelieving. Until, I remembered the SS application.

The next month, ANOTHER deposit, similar to the first, was made.

That’s when we decided on a two week vacation - and as a second thought, asked Martha if Jodi could go with us! Wonder of wonders!

It was the summer of 1995, and we drove east to the DC area, then east of that to Ocean City.

You should have seen our car! We bought from Sears a large hard plastic, easily accessible carrying case and installed it on the top of the car. Looking back, it’s a wonder the wind didn’t blow it off. However, it WAS secured tightly. No mis-adventures with the car.

(Oh…..I did damage the right rear view mirror while backing into a parking place someplace in Massachusetts.)

We put up in a Hotel right on the beach at Ocean City.

How did we happen to choose Ocean City? From a promotional brochure, is my memory. We took advantage of some special deal offered by a Hotel on the Beach. Looked like a good deal to us.

Of course, we got out our swim suits right away, and sat on the beach, waded in the ocean, walked up and down the beach, watched some young people build sand castles, etc. We were ecstatic!

Though we had the hotel reserved for a whole week, after 3 or 4 days, we got bored and checked out, then drove northward. Jodi’s DEAREST desire was to see some whales on the ocean. It seems to me that that was when the “Free Willy” craze was on. All the kids liked whales.

(In that two week period, I think we must have taken 5 or more trips with the Whale Watchers.)

On the first “whaling” trip, we were on the starboard side of the Whale Boat, when suddenly over the PA system we heard: “Whales on the port side!!” I turned to look at Jodi, and she was nowhere in sight. In a split second, she had crossed to the other side.

Other times we saw otters, seals, all kinds of birds, and other sea animals.

When we left Ocean City, we went north on a course that I wish I could reconstruct, but so far cannot. We just traveled and “sight saw” until evening, then looked for a Motel. One of the ongoing debates we had was “what is a good Motel?” Many times, I would see something and suggest we might stop there, and invariably, Jodi AND Grandma would say, “But, Grandpa. We want a NICE motel!” Right! Running dialogue - and a LOT of fun!

Except for sight-seeing along the way - such as New York City - we just drove north, hoping to get to the New England Coasts to find some “Whale Watchers”.

After New York, I think we just took the Interstate (such as it was in 1995) up into Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Not having a previous plan, nor any official information, we just looked at a map and drove.

A very interesting site we ran on to in New Hampshire was Mount Washington. We were driving south, and saw a sign for the driving entrance to Mount Washington. There’s a Cog Railway that climbs directly to the summit (more or less) on its 3.1-mile track, while the 8-mile Auto Road winds its way up Chandler Ridge on the east side of the mountain.

We chose the Auto Road - never imagining how steep, and potentially treacherous it was. We discovered that going up was a “piece of cake” compared to coming down. I’ve never been on such a steep slope as that was. Jean was nearly apoplectic. I don’t know what we’d have done if Jodi wasn’t along to keep talking to and soothing Jean. “That’s OK, Grandma. We’re all right. Grandpa is right on the road”, etc.

After descending, we went farther south, then east on a state highway, and shortly found a real nice country style Motel that we “put up in” for the night.

Since this was 14 years ago, I don’t remember the exact sequence of the stops and routes we took. I just remember “snippets” of the various spots. So, I am just rambling, mentioning things as I remember them. Well……..I guess that’s what I do on ALL of these postings. That’s really what “free association” writing is all about:

the spontaneous and uncensored expression of thoughts or ideas, in which each one is allowed to lead to or suggest the next.

Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

In Massachusetts, we did go through Hyannis Port, made famous by the Kennedy family. In fact, we stayed there one night - in Hyannis, actually.

Though we, of course, stopped at a number of places - if only to stay the night - we purposely spent several days and nights at Bar Harbor, Maine. Jean and I had been there previously, and we wanted Jodi to see the sights there, as well as do more “Whale Watching.”

(Of course, the local pronunciation of Bar Harbor is “Baaaa haaaa ba” or, Bah Hah Bah.)

Another site not far from there is the Cadillac Mountain. We drove to the top of that, and when the clouds are clear, the view is terrific.

Near there also is the Acadia National Park, and includes a “drive through” park that features Wild Horses roaming freely. We spent considerable time there looking for and observing the horses - of all sizes. Jodi was ecstatic. She couldn’t get enough of that.

I’ve written this much without any input from Jodi. If I can get her to remember something, I’ll include it. If not, I’ll just go with this.

(She mostly confirmed what I have written, though being sure I mentioned that not only was Jodi wanting a “nice motel”, but so was Grandma!)

It was one of the best vacations Jean and I had!

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