Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
Get your motor runnin', head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way. -- Steppenwolf, "Born to Be Wild"
Late one recent Tuesday night, my wife got an email from LivingSocial offering a two-day escape to The Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton, Conn. My wife and I have always loved spur of the moment getaways; we looked at each other and simultaneously mouthed "road trip!" This was a definite no-brainer, only an hour's drive away.
Egg sandwiches and hash browns and we're off and runnin'. As I'm about to take my first bite, my wife intones her classic, "Barry, you know I don't like when you drive in the fast lane near the Jersey barriers" mantra. I quietly explain how I'd be more than happy to switch to the middle lane, aka the `helter skelter truckers on a mission to deliver their loads in record breaking time' lane and I begin to get that queasy feeling that we might be on the verge of entering the National Lampoon Griswold Vacation Zone.
A great getaway; I couldn't have scripted it any better. It was two days of perfection: the weather, the inn, the food, the people we met along the way. The meal at the inn was spectacular, and the Notorious Mucho Grande Nacho Grande -- served on a large pizza pan -- at the Ivoryton Tavern & Cafe was a tasty, mountainous treat. Great conversation with Butch and Donna added to the time we spent there; we learned a lot about the once thriving Ivory business in Ivoryton.
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Ever since I was a kid, I've had a serious getaway Jones. Sundays usually meant Sunday drives, getaways to Westchester or Connecticut. Most of the time my dad would just go where the road or his instincts led him. His internal GPS always got us to a great comfort food emporium -- diner, drive-in or dive. Sometimes we ended up in Stamford to go see a first-run movie.
I remember with great fondness all the family summer trips to Canada -- Montreal, Toronto, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick -- Cape Cod, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. I also remember how my parents always started conversations with the locals or fellow tourists. We ate at some great restaurants suggested by the locals.
Getaways have always been food for my soul, a break from the usual. In today's crazy, layers-of-stress filled world, where time off is often at a premium -- Americans take less vacation time compared to other countries -- getaways provide just what the doctor/therapist ordered.
My favorite spur of the moment getaway was buying a one- way ticket to London, hours after hearing that my friend Lewis had fallen madly in love and had changed his mind about going to Europe with me.
By chance, I met someone I knew on the flight and then ended up staying at a hotel where I met, and then hung out with, the British rock band, "Black Widow," who took me around to some of their favorite local haunts. It was the perfect start to what turned out to be a year filled with one incredible moment and adventure after another.
After a year back in New York City, I was hit with a jolt of wanderlust and the next thing I knew I was off to Amsterdam. Another year filled with more adventures, special moments and special people.
The two years I spent traveling in Europe were incredible and unforgettable. Since I went there on my own, I make the extra effort to connect with people and have the good fortune to meet lots of interesting people and make some great friends,
I'll never forget hanging out with Elmyr de Hory, the greatest and most talented art forger of all time, on the island of Ibiza, and the Dutch actress who let my French girlfriend and I crash in her pad in Amsterdam for a few weeks.
There's the Dutch diamond cutter I met in a small restaurant in Amsterdam who waxed eloquent about his profession and then showed me how to cut a diamond in pictures drawn on a napkin; he also took an interest in my life. The French guys I met in Montmartre who invited me to stay with them for as long as I wanted became great friends. Every morning they went out early and returned with baguettes, Brie and sausage.
Then there was the French man who picked me up hitchhiking and went out of his way to stop and pick some strawberries, because he couldn't let me leave his village without tasting their fabulous strawberries. He was right.
It seems that people are always running away from something or running toward something. For me, the getaway is all about running toward a new place, experience or adventure. I have always been a running toward kind of guy and look forward to the next getaway and the people I'll meet along the way.
Barry Halpin is a prevention specialist for Liberation Programs, a substance abuse healthcare agency based in Stamford that provides substance abuse counseling to adolescents and their families in Darien. He's also the director of the countywide Peer Players, an adolescent theater company. Check out his blog at http://blog.ctnews.com/halpin/; email him at email@example.com.