Thursday, September 29, 2011

An Up and Down Week

 It's been an odd week here in Virginia.  We arrived with the intention of meeting a fellow blogger, but continuing health issues on her end put the kibosh on that.  We were saddened by the fact because we had been talking about meeting for the past two years, but certainly Denny and I didn't want to use up her meager energy resources.

We're parked backed up to the north fork of the Shenandoah River just a few miles north of the Shenandoah National Park, so naturally a trip to the park was on our agenda.  Which means that the weather absolutely refused to cooperate and it rained for most of the week.  On Monday the skies cleared in the morning so Denny and I hopped into the truck for a brief foray into the park, knowing we had to keep it fairly short since we had a 2 PM tee time in the afternoon.  The views from the various overlooks within the first five miles of the park were wonderful and while the air wasn't fall-crisp the humidity was low enough to get some decent photos.

We bumped into a man that had stopped in the middle of the road, finally pulling off so we could go by and asked if perhaps he had seen a bear to cause him to stop like that.  Indeed he had, but his camera wasn't ready so he missed his shot.  And we were that close to having seen the bear also.
It was shortly after that that our luck ran out and we ran into rain clouds at the 2400 foot level of the hills and there were to be no more photographs or magnificent views from the scenic overlooks--the fog/clouds totally obliterated the roadway and we crept along for another twenty miles before exiting the park to return to the campground.
We did get to see a waterfall in our travels--it's just that it happened to be on the eighteenth green of the Blue Ridge Shadows Golf Course where we played later that afternoon. Oh well, beggars can't be chosers!
Another disappointment this week was in the fact that I had to cancel our reservations to camp on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Hurricane Irene destroyed large sections of Highway 12 on the Outer Banks and we wouldn't be able to get to our campground as the road repairs have not yet been completed.  So there's another item to put on our "someday" list.

What we have gotten accomplished are minor "honey do" jobs and routine maintenance on Black Beauty  so we're hoping our fuel mileage will increase once more with the new fuel filters and oil change.  The tires on the truck and the rig have both been checked because we're pulling out today, heading for Williamsburg.  The last time we were in the Williamsburg area we stayed at a campground that was located right next to the railroad tracks and at 2:30 in the morning we were awakened by the blast of a train whistle and thought we were going to get run down it sounded so close!  Even closer was a poor young couple in a tent literally right next to the tracks (which were actually hidden by a thick line of trees and bushes)--when we spoke to them the next morning they truly thought they were going to die because it sounded to them like the train was right on top of them!  Memories!

And I guess Denny and I will have to eat the entire apple/blueberry pie he baked for Skippy all by ourselves.  The sacrifices we make, sometimes!
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cleaning Up

Despite the recent rains, Denny and I have been busy cleaning up the rig in between sightseeing and playing golf. So many campgrounds no longer allow you to wash your RV so the Beast was looking pretty grungy, especially his bug splattered front cap. We were given permission to wash the rig here and took advantage of that fact, including washing the exterior windows and I even scrubbed the smoke film off the underside of the awning. Camp fires do leave an oily film on surfaces, especially when folks burn whatever they can put their hands on, which is what we ran into at a campground in Massachusetts.

That being done, I decided to look around on my blog and see what I could clean up, such as links to bloggers who no longer maintain an active blog. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the link to my own fulltimer's website, RV Vagabonds, was not working. After some double checking I discovered my web hosting service had changed the ISP address on my site so I had to correct that also. Talk about feeling like a dunce for not paying more attention! Updating that web site will be my next big project, I guess.

I also corrected the map down in the lower right hand corner of the blog. The one that lists all the states we've visited? You will note that there are no longer any blank states there. Yep, by stopping here in Maryland Denny and I have now fulfilled our first goal of visiting all fifty states. We still have to play golf in Oklahoma before we can say that we've played golf in all 50 states but then we'll have fulfilled our secondary goal. Yes, we could have done all that in a couple of years but we were in no rush, having no "home" to return to other than the one on wheels. Next month we'll be returning to Myrtle Beach, which is where our fulltiming life began, making the cycle complete.

Are we done? Not hardly. We haven't seen Yosemite, the Arches, Lake Tahoe or much of the Oregon coastline. But we're getting closer to the time when we'll look for a residence that doesn't move. As long as I can find a place on the ocean with a mountain view and no bugs or humidity and a moderate climate. Yeah, not so easy to do, which is a reason we're still out here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day Two of Speed Touring Washington, D.C.

On Day two of our Old Town Trolley tour we got on at Union Station once again and thus got a review of what we had seen the day before from the same trolley driver. We even had the same weather; gray, dreary and misty. I had hoped for a sunny day to showcase the deep red brick of the Smithsonian Castle, which is now a visitor center.
Since the Capitol Building wasn't open for tours on Sunday, Denny and I decided to tour Arlington National Cemetery. Once there, your choices are to wander the huge and hilly grounds on foot or to pay for trolley tour of the three main sites. Denny was all for the trolley tour so that's what we did. There are many, many sections, thousands of graves, special memorials to women, unknown soldiers, chaplains, Afro-Americans, officers--you name it. Of course, the most recognized areas are those of the eternal flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.We are told that the cemetery will be full by the year 2060. Wives and/or children are buried on top of the veteran buried in a site; up to three family members can be placed in one grave site.

This is a quiet place, with most of the tourists observing the requests for silence and respect. The largest crowds are at the site of the eternal flame.
Twin anomalies of the cemetery are the white wooden crosses marking the grave sites of Bobby and Edward Kennedy. Theirs are the only grave sites with wooden crosses.
You are free to get off the trolley tour and wander wherever you like on the grounds. There were many people walking, obviously searching for a family member or loved one among the thousands of matching tombstones.
The quietest spot in the entire cemetery was at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; although a huge crowd was seated to watch the changing of the guards there was not a whisper nor a cough to be heard. The precision and care of the soldiers' routine was impressive and something Denny and I will not soon forget.
The final stop of the Arlington trolley tour was at the Arlington House. Once owned by General Robert E. Lee who lost the home because he could/would not return from the war to pay the taxes in person as was the law then, the mansion sits empty now although it is open to tourists. From the front porch you look over all over Washington, D.C.
It was time to board the Old Town Trolley once again to visit the Museum of Natural History. I knew that Denny would only be good for one museum on this day and I had an item on my bucket list--to see the Hope Diamond.

Denny and I did wander the museum, seeing the displays on mammals, sea life, geology and more, but the hills and steps were taking a toll on Denny's hips, so we called it a day. Although we were still in for an hour's trip back home by Metro and truck, somewhat delayed by the huge throngs of Redskins fans returning from a winning game. Thank goodness they were all going the other way!
Washington, D.C. is not an area to try to see in only two days. The opportunities to learn, see and do here are fabulous and the fact that all of the Smithsonian museums are free to the public is wonderful. Although I wouldn't want to live here, it is a great place to visit.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Speed Touring Washington, D.C.

Allow me to say right off the bat, I am a small town girl. Growing up, going to downtown Dayton, Ohio to view Rike's Christmas displays in their windows or seeing a movie at the RKO Keith was a big deal where you dressed up and rode the bus or Mom took Dad to work so she could have the car to drive us there. So the thought of having to deal with the Metro train's fare cards and transfers was a tad intimidating to me until we arrived at the Largo Town Center lot. There I asked the very friendly and helpful station master to walk me through purchasing fare cards for where I wanted to go. I had picked a weekend for our time to visit downtown Washington, D.C. since the parking was free at the Metro lot and the website said there would actually be spaces available to park there. There were no other passengers around when we arrived, so the station manager chatted with us as he showed me how to purchase the fare cards, pointing out that the fares were also discounted on the weekends (I wouldn't have known that) and explaining the stops and how to find our way back to the Largo stop when we finished our sightseeing. That was certainly a nice welcome to Washington!
I had chosen the Old Town Trolley tour company for our tour as we've had good experiences with them in other cities. Their employees are always friendly and very knowledgeable about their city and are usually able to answer any question you may throw at them. Our thought was to hit some of the highlights of Washington, D.C. and perhaps wander a couple of the museums on our second day of the tour (I chose to book two days, knowing one would not be enough.) With these tours you can get off and on at the various stops at will, exploring that area and then hopping on another trolley when it comes by (usually about every 30 minutes or so.)

Denny and I explored the Holocaust Museum first. This is not part of the Smithsonian system of museums, however unlike many of the other private museums in town, the Holocaust Museum is free to the public. For the most part you can't take photographs of the exhibits, so I have no pictures but allow me to say this is a must-see for those coming to visit Washington, D.C. I still find it incredible that one man's insanity brought about the deaths of so many people. The people visiting the museum were very quiet as they walked through--it has that effect on you.

Of course at each stop you can wander further afield on your own and find museum after museum and building after building to explore. We chose to hop back on the trolley and ride down to the Jefferson Memorial and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

Notice the people looking upward at the walls at the Jefferson Memorial--they were reading the words of this great statesman, taking the time to absorb the thoughts inscribed there. These memorials are not only awesome for their size and grandeur, but for how well thought out their designs are.

Denny and I enjoyed the FDR Memorial. It stretches along a wide, meandering path, filled with flowers, greenery and waterfalls as well as statuary. It is a place to relax and to think. And to rub the head of FDR's little dog as many have done--you can tell by the shiny yellow ears. FDR's knee has also been rubbed by many a hand.

From the FDR Memorial we walked to the newest memorial; that of Martin Luther King Jr. His words too are engraved along the wall that surrounds the memorial and the two split rocks/mountains that comprise the memorial are quite unusual.

From the MLK Jr Memorial we walked to the Lincoln Memorial--it's certainly not that far but this walking was starting to add up for Denny. Next up; the Korean War Veterans' Memorial, the Vietnam War Veterans' Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.

Arriving at the Korean War Veterans' Memorial I wondered if the fact that it was called "the forgotten war" caused the sculptor of the soldiers to cast the figures in aluminum which gives them an ethereal quality, especially on a drab and rainy day.

This is the first place I cried and it was because of the real veterans being pushed to the memorial in wheelchairs and listening as other visitors bent over and quietly thanked them for their service. There was a quiet and humble pride in the demeanor of these aged men who came to visit this place created to honor them.
Still misty-eyed, I then walked to "The Wall"--that memorial honoring the men of my age group. So many people stood searching for names of those they knew, loved and lost, all under the eternally watchful eyes of the three soldiers cast in bronze behind them.

Walking over to the Lincoln Memorial gave me a bit of time to blink the tears from my eyes before the climb up the stairs to see the statue of that great man. After taking the same photograph as hundreds of thousands of people have taken in the past, I walked to the steps to take a photograph of what was once the reflecting pool. This was perhaps our only disappointment in our trip to Washington; that the reflecting pool has been dug up for repairs and rebuilding. Of course, we had to skip climbing up the stairs of the Washington Monument also, since cracks developed in the walls after the recent earthquake in Virginia. But that iconic view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument was gone.
And way down there across the street and leaning on a concrete pylon was our man Denny, who refused to climb any more stairs on this day, other than the ones leading up into the trolley cars.

Waiting for said trolley, we spied Benjamin Franklin using a bit of modern technology to get around.

There are monuments and statuary everywhere you turn in Washington, D.C.

Denny finally called time out so we boarded the trolley for the final time that day to return to Union Station, our starting point. Of course, we had yet another photo opportunity at the Capitol building as we drove by.
And thus ended day one of speed touring Washington, D.C.

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Friday, September 16, 2011

A Relaxing Week

Denny and I spent last week at a member campground in Long Neck, Delaware and we were able to snag a site with a view of the Guinea Creek, located right across from our rig. The resort is divided into three sections; permanent manufactured homes, seasonal trailer/park model sites and the campground section. Strangely enough, the campground section has the best view of the water. Members can rent a boat dock on an annual basis and there were easily 50 pontoon boats docked along the creek during our stay. Folks would meander down the creek for an evening ride or to pick up their crab pots from further out towards Rehoboth Bay.
Standing at the marina looking towards the campground section of the resort.
If I had been equipped with a piece of string and a chicken neck, I might have been able to tempt this blue crab off his perch on the boat dock piling and into my cookpot for dinner!While we spent many an hour simply sitting and watching the world (and pontoon boats) go by, we did take one day to drive into the town of Rehoboth Beach, which is lined with shop after shop of this, that and the other and there were a lot of tourists wandering the sidewalks and crossing the narrows streets with impunity (or stupidity.) Since neither Denny nor I are shoppers, especially not having any extra room for gewgaws in our tin can on wheels, we headed south on Rt. 1 to find a place where we could wander the beach and search for sea glass. The first public beach we found was at Dewey Beach State Park, where for a fee of $8 for out of state transients one could walk the beach. The gatekeeper allowed us in free of charge since we arrived close to the time that they close up the gate house, which we appreciated since we were only going to spend a short time wandering the beach. But before we walked to the beach we were intrigued by the two tall concrete towers located just off the beach.

According to the placard at the base of the closest tower, in the early 1940s there was a line of eleven of these towers built along the Delaware and New Jersey coast lines to watch for German submarines. During the war the submarines were shooting down an average of one U.S. ship a week, including a destroyer off the Delaware coast which caused the loss of 100 American sailors. The towers were simply to watch for any enemy boats and then triangulate the ship's location between the towers so the nearby artillery locations could be advised where to shoot. The towers were simply for observation and contained nothing but an inner stairway; no heat, no weaponry, just slits for windows to look out. It's finding these kinds of things that make our travels so interesting and so educational.

Denny and I did get our round of golf, so we are able to check off Delaware from our goal of playing golf in all 50 states. We're down to Maryland and Oklahoma. I still can't believe we didn't play golf while we were in Oklahoma City, but according to Denny's records we missed the boat on that one. The rest of the week was spent with piddling little chores, chatting with the neighbors, walking Patches and watching the wildlife, including the ever growing fairy ring of mushrooms in our yard.

Early morning and dusk weren't bad, either.We learned that there isn't any sales tax on food here and that the sales tax on new purchases such as cars, boats and houses is very low. There might even be an exemption on the state income tax for our pensions since they are through a government agency. Combined with the proximity to beaches and the serenity of the resort, we might add this area to our "places we could live" list. Because those folks riding in those pontoon boats sure looked relaxed and happy going down the crick.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Flash Floods, Food and Factories

Our week in photos:
We had to try a Whoopie Pie, made here in Lancaster, PA.

We drove through Bird-in-Hand, Blue Ball, stopped at Intercourse and didn't make it to Paradise--all here in Pennsylvania, of course.

Thanks to inattentive drivers, Amish horse and buggies are now equipped with flashing red lights and rear view mirrors.  And still people and  horses are killed when drivers in automobiles don't yield to them.

Our first stop was at the Intercourse Canning Factory.  There is a viewing area of the canning line and a large storefront where they sell salsas, jams, chow chow, saurkraut, pickled EVERYTHING and souvenirs.

The store was canning pickled eggs today.  I asked two different employees how many eggs they pickled in a day's work and neither one could tell me.  I guess they just worked there.

Next up and right across the street was the Intercourse Pretzel Factory.  There was no one actually making pretzels that day so one of the employees simply explained the process to us.  Then we were given the opportunity to make a pretzel by hand, as that's how it's done here.

You cross one end over the other and then cross it again.

Then you grab each end and fold them down to the other side and voila', you have a pretzel.
Of course, the pretzel makers here at the factory use the spin and twist-in-the-air method, which we all tried.  This is my dismal attempt.  It's definitely not as easy as it looks.

All that work made us hungry, so upon the advice of Don and Vicki, we headed to the Shady Maple Smorgasbord in East Earl, PA.  As did every other senior citizen in the county.
Denny really isn't in pain, despite his appearance.  And this is but a small segment of the several buffet lines that make up the vast eatery that is Shady Maple.
Last night we heard sirens which I thought were tornado sirens but there were no alerts on the weather radio so perhaps it was flood warnings because all the rivers and creeks here are reaching flood stage quickly.  I'm hoping we have no trouble getting out of here when we leave tomorrow for the state of Delaware. 

This is a beautiful area and in addition to eating a lot of fat food (there is also a small shoo-fly pie in our refrigerator) we have been gorging ourselves on the local peaches, green peppers, tomatoes, apples and sweet corn.  The farms here are lovely as is the countryside.  It is fun to drive the back roads looking at the farms and watching the hard working Amish and Mennonite families harvest their crops with their huge Belgians and big mules.  Farm stands offer fruit and vegetables unmanned, relying upon the honor system of payment.  It is a step back into the past here, and a most welcome one.  I could live here.
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