If “hodophobia” is the is the fear of traveling, then I suffer from “hodophilia” — a strong desire to hit the road.

Really, it’s a disorder and I blame my parents (always good to blame them for everything). They planted the seed, by dragging me on their jaunts through Eastern Bloc countries in 1970s. We’d fly on a dodgy, patched-up plane, owned by a now-defunct charter company, and that thing would cough and sputter across the Atlantic, before depositing us in a Western European city. Then my parents would rent a tin can on wheels, and we’d wade into various Communist countries where vacationing Americans were a rare species.

I took the hook. Now I’m afflicted with traveler’s itch: I believe that passports shouldn’t nest in drawers. They should be cracked open and stamped violently by a passport control officer who barks, “reason for your visit!?”

Which isn’t how they behave in Ireland.

My passport was supposed to ride the pine for a year. But I caved 3 weeks ago and Martin caught me in the act… making a call to an airline customer service agent. I tried to disguise the conversation with airport code — “Yes, I’m calling about EWR to SNN, for 4, departure Feb 19…”

Martin wasn’t amused but he knows my track record. I’ve bolted twice to Ireland in February. It’s just this time, I was sneaky and last-minute. I hastily stocked-up on provisions (this year’s requests from overseas: tuna fish, Heinz relish and bras). And I crammed a couple of suitcases full of clothes, collected the kids’ freshly minted passports and off we went.


So here we are in Eire, letting me get my travel fix — to smell Ireland, taste it, and see it again. And all the while, I’m planting the seed for the next generation of hodophiles.

They are already on their way.


Ditching the Itch


Poison ivy is a bit like having kids with head lice: it’s impossible to grasp the misery without firsthand experience.

I always nodded sympathetically when parents shared lice-laden anecdotes, but I didn’t comprehend the gravity until our kids got it.

Poison ivy is a similar beast.

For decades I basked in the fact that I didn’t “get” poison ivy. And I never bothered to distinguish it from other greenery. (Though Martin made it his personal mission to educate me. I was a lousy student, but learned to respond correctly when he gestured at shiny leaves and said, “Okay, now what’s that?”)

I’d seen poison ivy welts and heard itchy tales of woe. But to me, the rash looked like a nuisance, not a serious affliction.

All that changed when I abruptly received notice: My immunity to Toxicodendron radicans had expired.

A few weeks ago — while riding — I was lashed by poison ivy dangling among tree branches. Welts slowly surfaced on my arm and neck.

It was still in the nuisance phase when we arrived at Snowshoe for Xtreme Hike.

“Take a bath in bleach,” one hiker advised after checking my arm. “That’ll stop it.”

Bathe in bleach? How much bleach do you use?”

The guy shrugged. “A cup, maybe two. As much as you can stand.”

At the time, scorching myself with bleach sounded asinine.

But seven days later, I was ready to drink battery acid if it would help.

Weepy welts spread like lava, creeping north and south, shoulder to wrist, and up toward my chin. Blisters also migrated to my other arm. If I sat still, I could feel them emerge. (Writing proved a challenge because my oozing arms adhered to my laptop.)

Ultimately, steroids saved me. But during those days of itchy insanity, I visited websites devoted to poison ivy — and noticed a dearth of medically-sound answers to my questions. Every source trumpeted the obvious: “If you think you have been exposed, wash areas thoroughly within 10 minutes…”

But few sites offered much on managing welts once the damage was done.

I never discovered why scalding water on poison ivy welts evokes an intense feeling of euphoria. (Every medical site condemned hot water for a slew of reasons.)

And I couldn’t confirm whether or not little kids are immune. (As a toddler, Hadley ate poison ivy leaves, and the pediatrician told us that children aren’t allergic to the plant until age 6.) I searched for supporting science, but only found that pediatricians rarely see it in young children.

I did stumble on a poison ivy primer with some neat facts here. And there’s valid info and horrifying stories at

My welts are now faded shadows of themselves. But suffice to say, I feel your poison ivy pain. I get it.

Yet on the misery scale, I’m not sure which is worse: a case of poison ivy, or a houseful of licey kids.

Tough call.


Blisters & Bears


Our crew debated the distance — was it 26 or 28 miles? — but the fact remains: we hiked all day last Saturday.

From long before sunrise (with head lamps) until the dinner hour. We trudged up grassy ski slopes and hoofed across ridges; we slogged through mud, and marveled at spongy, moss-covered forests; we cursed while wading through weedy, abandoned trails.

But we made it.

This was Xtreme Hike 2015, which I previously prattled about here and here. The event raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Our location for year three? Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia.

Noteworthy details:

Maisie and I completed the hike at 5 pm… just a shade under 12 hours.


Mile 23 or so


Martin, hobbled by quarter-sized blisters, limped across the finish line a bit later. 

In the predawn hours one hiker encountered a bear, and she temporarily lost her way while fleeing the scene. (I was elsewhere on the trail, but you hear things when you’re carrying a walkie-talkie.)

The rest of us observed bear treads in boggy patches.



We also viewed a kick-ass sunrise behind Shavers Lake.


And later, majestic mountain views.


Kudos to the crew of 45 hikers who ventured out last weekend.

And a great big “thank you” to every one who donated — especially those subjected to my ceaseless nagging for contributions.

You rock.