Friday, December 26, 2014

Tree Peeking in Southwest VA and Southeast KY - October

We took a one day trip up US 23 into Virginia. Somewhere past Big Stone Gap we headed over into Kentucky.  The road cut below impressed Ben more than the trees.  

In Pikeville KY we searched on Virtual Tourist for a good restaurant and came up with a BBQ restaurant.  I had the "sliders" so I could try the beef, pork, and chicken.  All were pretty good. 

There were "Friends of Coal" signs and stickers everywhere!  We were there near the end of October and political signs were also on display.  We saw a few 
" United Mine Workers for Grimes" but very few.  Quite a number of signs for Mitch McConnell.

Nearly every business had the Friends of Coal sign somewhere in their advertising or on a window.

We did see a number of coal mines still operating and quite a number of trains operating filled with coal.  This was on a Saturday.

The trees were brightly colored but the sunshine was not out so the trees were not as brilliant as they could have been.

We continued back into Virginia from Pikeville through Grundy to Lebanon and back down US 11 and I 81 to Tri Cities.

Found this did not ever get written and posted when I posted the December trip.  Ben was going to write and give a good description of the geology but I see he forgot! 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Trip to Asheville NC

We drove across the mountains to Asheville NC to take in a few of the holiday sites.  There is a new light display at the Western NC Arboretum and Jane wanted to view a few of the Gingerbread Houses at the Grove Arcade.  Several years ago a visit to the Grove Park Inn had been fun but it was way more Gingerbread Houses than Ben wanted to see!

We drove the Honda since parking in downtown Asheville is a bit of a challenge – it is certainly different on interstate highways in a low Honda than in our Sprinter Van!  Sunshine and a clear day in the 40’s when we left Kingsport but after we crossed the crest of the mountains at Sam’s Gap the sunshine went away and we had a cloudy day in the 40’s.

We drove first to the Grove Arcade and found a place to eat lunch. We chose Carmel’s Restaurant and had good sandwiches.  

After lunch we wandered around the decorated space and looked at some of the Gingerbread Displays – most were from youth and children and seemed to be from all across the state on NC.  My favorite was this one representing the Three Little Pigs.

We also looked at items in several artist studios – some interesting ideas for future projects. We drove out to the Farmer’s Market and bought some apples.  We wanted to get more butternut squash but none of the fall vegetables were still available – just apples and oranges.

We found our hotel that we had selected near the Winter Lights Location and Ben had a short nap. About 5 PM we left for an early supper at Papa’s and Beer.  We happened upon this California Mexican Restaurant several years ago when they had just opened.  We really enjoyed it and since it was also in the Brevard Road area we thought we would try it again – and so did LOTS of other folks!  There were several birthday and office type events and we waited about 15 minutes for a table.  Can’t imagine what the wait will be later – this was 5 PM on a Monday – well it is Christmas week.  Ben had Pork in a Verde (Green) Sauce and Jane had a combination plate of shrimp and veggies in garlic sauce, a steak taco with chipotle sauce, and chicken enchilada.  All were excellent.

Then we headed out to the Arboretum for the Winter Lights event. A first year display of lights throughout a large part of the area where the plants are the highlight in the daytime. The light displays were designed by someone who had worked at Disney World and they were certainly beautiful. Our pictures do not do them justice as neither of us are accomplished nighttime photographers.

The parking lot was outstanding

This waterfall was in constant motion

Plastic Bottle filled with water - there were numerous ones in different colored lights inside

This "quilt" display rotated lights on and off - see the squares to rt are off

 About 8:00 it began a light rain and we had seen everything once and some displays  twice so we headed back to our hotel.  The one disappointment was the model train display – it was not lighted well so was hard to see – it was also outside and raining….at least I knew it was a model train display.  Some people thought it was a full size train that they were going to get to ride!

Fun evening, glad we went. It was well done but at $18 a person it is not something most families with many children could afford. Definitely worth the time, effort and money for a one time trip.

Return home was uneventful -

Monday, September 29, 2014

On To Edisto Island

The 80 mile drive from Hunting Island to Edisto Island took about 2 hours.  We did stop for about 15 minutes in Beaufort for Ben to make several phone calls. The phone service on Hunting Island this  year was not very good with ATT.  We had camping neighbors with Verison that seemed to have service all the time….I remember we had good service last year…who knows.

Edisto Island is quite different from Hunting Island.  It is a much larger island and has a “town” that Hunting or even St Helena Island does not have. We stopped at the Sea Cow Eatery and had a  hamburger which was OK.  Then found the campground.  It was about 1:15 and they would not allow check-in until 2 so we toured around the island and arrived back at the campground a little before 2 and got checked in. Nice campground with brand new bathhouse which is just across the road from our site.  The campsites have some undergrowth around them and we are really only close to one other site.  We are not going to put up our table tent as we will only be here the one night.  There are two area of campsites in this park - ours is in a wooded area about 1 mile from the second which is near the beach.
Our Site

Bath House across Road

Not too sure what we expected but so far I am not too impressed with Edisto. There are probably 10 or so restaurants, lots of rental houses, a golf course, one grocery, a gas station or two and a couple little convenience/gift shops. We walked around the campground, read a bit and at 5:30 drove back to the restaurant we had picked out as the “best” from our drive around tour.  We chose the Old Post Office Restaurant and it was upscale and very nice. Small with great service and good food.  Jane had Shrimp and Grits which was very good. Ben had Crab Cake and Beef Medallions.  The beef medallions were excellent but the crab cake left much to be desired. Too much seasoning to taste the crab.  Jane even remembered to take a photo for Margaret who enjoys the food photos (not very good photo but we remembered)! 
Blurry Shrimp and Grits

Back at camp it was cold – well not cold but 72 so it is either get out the jacket or get inside the Sprinter and watch TV kind of weather…..I have written the blog so it is going to be get inside ! We watched a couple more old TV shows and an old movie.

Another good thing about this campsite is the 3-G phone service is good and I can get a bit of news and such on the phone….they also have an ice dream truck that just came by – too cold tonight for ice cream!  Not sure if we have WIFI here so this may not get posted until we get home!

We did drive through the beach campsites and they are close to the water and seem nice - it is much smaller than the wooded area we were in. We finally saw some shore birds here - they have been scarce on this trip.

No WIFI at the camp so I am posting when we got home.  We left camp about 8:30.  Had breakfast in Walterboro and lunch in Hendersonville. We listened to Brian Kilmeades - George Washington's Secret Six (spy ring of the Revolutionary War).  We were home about 4:00.  Sunshine and pleasant drive.

While we saw little sunshine at the beach, it was a pleasant relaxing trip.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Still cloudy and moving on

Wednesday afternoon continued to be cloudy, rainy off and on, and very windy.  We closed up camp about 5:00 and drove back into Lady’s Island for dinner.  We chose the popular seafood restaurant – Dockside.  This is a two restaurant chain with sites in Beaufort (really across the bridge on Lady’s Island) and in Port Royal. We enjoyed a bowl of hot She Crab Soup – hot as in temperature not flavor!  The thermometer said 65 and we were chilly.  To our dinner we added salads and split a Seafood Platter.  All the food was excellent but we forgot to take photos.  In fact the food was so good we are considering going back for a second night! 

We drove back to the campground – 16 miles from the Beaufort bridge to Hunting Island.  There are several restaurants about halfway – and we have eaten at several of them.  We have not been to a bad restaurant here to be honest.  It was getting just dusk at 7:00 as we got back to camp. 

The evening was quiet and cool so we again did not need the air conditioner for a pleasant night’s sleep.

For some reason camp was very quiet this morning and we did not even wake up until 8:00.  We had been expecting the cloud cover to break today but as I write this at 3:00 it was still very overcast – no blue sky at all.

We took two long walks on the beach today – one at high tide and one at low tide.  The beach is very smooth and gently slopes out to sea.  There have been many oak, pine, and palm trees downed as the beach has eroded  The root structures on all are very shallow. The surf comes within a few feet of the campsites that are nearest to the beach.  Our campsite is about 200 yards back from the beach.  We can hear the waves but due to a shallow hammock of trees we can’t see the surf from our site.  There are 4 campsites down the short road between us and the beach.  There really are not any bad sites here – they are just a bit closer together than we prefer.
High Tide

Low Tide

Walks, reading, a bit of computer work, and lunch have occupied our day.  We are going back into civilization to eat dinner tonight.  We will only have made two trips back into town and one across the bridge to buy seafood.  Last year we explored Port Royal and Parris Island and did not see much reason to go back. 

One young deer came right into our campsites this afternoon. A neighbor lady fed it pieces of an apple and that kept it close around for everyone to get great photos.  I really think it might have taken the apple right out of her hands.

We made it back to Dockside for dinner and enjoyed the great She Crab soup and scallops again.  Another good night's sleep and we broke camp and are headed 80 miles north to Edisto Island and State Park for one night.  Want to scope it out for a future trip. Hard to believe it can be better than Hunting Island but we shall see.
Excellent She Crab Soup at Dockside

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Deer, More rain and cold!

Tuesday was a rainy day with a stiff breeze from the north.  Reading and a little computer work was all we accomplished.  We did both walk over on the beach a bit between showers.  The surf which is normally very calm was rough with waves breaking far out into the water.  We had seen shrimp boats on Monday but none today. 

Ben worked on reading several emailed documents from the North Carolina archives regarding his Great Path Grant research.  The documents handwritten in the 1780’s were difficult to read to say the least. Jane accomplished only writing the blog and completing book two of a 5 book series about WW2 in South America.   

Near dusk we had a group of 7-8 deer visit our campsite. They were within 20 feet of our site. Most of them small  We are near the end of the campground so they had come out of the woods.  Always when we have camped here before we have had numerous racoons; but so far this year none.

Supper was flounder, shrimp and hush puppies along with slaw. Good day for getting the skillet out and frying since it was cool.  We did not run the air-conditioner at all last night (Tuesday) and it was 61 upon rising.

There was still rain on WEDNESDAY morning but gradually it stopped and just remained overcast.  The surf remains rough but perhaps if we continue to have no rain we can walk the short distance to the WIFI hotspot near the camp store for a little internet this afternoon.   That means I can post this blog.  Not much exciting happening but a very relaxing time away from everything.  Certainly glad I packed some long sleeve shirts and my fleece jacket!  I had been telling myself that when I got home from the beach I would be ready for fall....guess I am ready now!

View to North

Hunting Island Light to South

North Carolina and on to South Carolina

We left home Friday about 10:00 headed for the annual North Carolina State University H Square reunion.  First stop was in Mount Airy where we thought we might have lunch at Snappy’s.  Too many people had the same idea so we ate at an old time lunch counter down the street.  We ate a fairly good hamburger and were soon back on the road. 

We arrived in Durham just as Daniel got home from school so we had a good visit and got caught up on all the recent Pokemon and Cub Scout doings.  We ate a very good dinner at a BBQ joint which was a family run business.  BBQ pork, brisket, pork chops, ribs, catfish and all the southern sides you can think of…we all ate too much. In fact we put half of our meats in the refrigerator in the Sprinter for another night.

Saturday -After a good night’s sleep we visited a bit, packed Jeff and Daniel off for the cub scout camping trip and headed to Raleigh and Ben’s college friends reunion.

A great lunch and visit was had by all.  There were a few sad moments as the group discussed the members who had died this past year.

About 2:30 we loaded ourselves back into the Sprinter and headed south towards Charleston where we planned to spend a night and then visit Fort Sumpter before heading on towards Hunting Island. We continued listening to our book on CD and arrived in North Charleston about 7 PM.  Since  we had eaten a late lunch and we had a microwave in our room; we ate our leftovers and a few items from our camping food.  We were both too tired to think about hunting a good restaurant.

Sunday - Sleep and we were up for breakfast at the Waffle House next door to the hotel.  The Pecan Waffle was very good as were Ben’s eggs, bacon and hash browns,  We had not been to a Waffle House in years…it was a good quick breakfast.

The boat to Fort Sumpter left from Patriot’s Point in Mt. Pleasant to the north of Charleston.  It was an easy 10 miles there and we looked around a bit before time to load the boat.  It was a beautiful day and the ride over (30 minutes) was smooth.  We had visited Fort Sumpter when we lived in Charleston – 50 years ago – since this was our first home after we were married. The only memory of the visit was the metal cannon we bought there – we still have it!  Jane wanted to get a passport stamp for our book so we needed to visit again.

Tour Boat to Ft. Sumpter
Inside the Fort

Looking Back to Charleston
We have visited several if not all of the costal forts along the southeast coast.  Most are much better preserved than Fort Sumpter – the others probably did not have the constant bombardment that Fort Sumpter received during the Civil War.  We could see the 3 miles back to Charleston.  We were on the island for about an hour and it was adequate time to see everything.  There was a small museum which told their story well.  The ranger also gave a short talk.  Back on the boat for the 30 minute ride back to Patriot’s Point.
We decided to skip Fort Moultrie and found somewhere to eat lunch.  Ben was hungry and not willing to spend time researching for a good restaurant – which takes all of 5 minutes – so we pulled into J B ‘s .  It was OK but certainly we could have done better with a bit of research on Trip Advisor.  Jane had not charged her phone so could not research without plugging into the car power – reason for no research on trip back to shore.  We had OK po-boy sandwiches – Jane shrimp and Ben oyster. 

Huge Cooper River Bridge
Back in the car we headed south to Hunting Island – right through the center of Charleston on US 17.  We passed about a block from where we lived. Nothing here resembles what Charleston was like 50 years ago.  We ate lunch near where the Lori-Lei was – on the Mount Pleasant side of the Cooper River.  The bridge is new, large apartment buildings, and much built up where before was only marsh.  The hospital where Jane worked covers many blocks now and it was one large building then – Medical College of South Carolina Hospital.  The Navy base where Ben worked is completely gone now – closed a number of years ago.  There is a submarine base somewhere near Goose Creek but we did not see it.  There were Navy ships up ad down the Cooper River then – now container ships. I assume the Battery remains the same as it was even 100 years ago but we did not drive there.

About 2 hours south of Charleston we turned east towards Beaufort and Hunting Island. Here nothing had changed since last fall when we camped here.  We found our campsite (19).  We are camping on the original side of the campground this year.  Usually we are so late getting our reservation we have to stay on the newer side which is a bit further from the beach.  This side of the campground is more open with no undergrowth.  The high pines provide shade but there is more breeze and less bugs. 

The down side of this part of the campground is you are much closer to your neighbors.  We have 3 campsites right on top of each other. It is barely 6 or 8 feet to two of our neighbors and maybe 20 to another.  We just adjust.  Later this fall I will make our reservation and get a better site. I can’t seem to remember it until spring and by then the good sites are gone.  Reservations are 11 months ahead only.

Weather was comfortable but a bit warm for sleeping so we were glad to have our air conditioner. We were lazy and settled for listening to the waves crashing on the shore and watching from afar and did not venture out to walk on the beach.

Monday - Morning brought perfect blue skies with a bit cooler weather than Sunday.  This trip to the beach was to be a do nothing but relax and eat seafood trip.  The phone service and internet service is helping us do nothing since both are fairly non-existant at our campsite.  Occasionally we have 1 or 2 bars of phone – enough for a call to come in and then frequently cut off.  Ben had one business call that took 3 tries to complete.  We did stop at the wifi hotspot near the campstore to check the weather.

Ben went to the beach for a little sun – Jane continued reading her book.  Mid afternoon we headed to Gay’s Seafood to buy shrimp and fish to take care of meals for 2 days.  The shrimp as usual was excellent – however the price has gone up from last year.  $9 for a pound of large shrimp.  I think it was $7 last year.
Jane cooked Shrimp Scampi for dinner and it was very good – the unusual 2 pot meal.  Most of our camp meals are 1 pot meals with perhaps a veggie cooked in the microwave.  Not much desire for dish or pot washing for this camper!
The rain called for has still not arrived but we closed down the table fly expecting the rain during the night.

Ben had put lots of TV shows on his hard drive so we watched a couple old shows and read.  Tonight we watched Northern Exposure and Jag.

Tuesday- There was little rain during the night but it began about 8:30 just as we had finished breakfast – not a thunderstorm but a slow gentle rain that looks like it might last most of the day.  At least that was good for Jane to get herself off the lazy streak and write up the blog.  There just was nothing much exciting to say – but we must maintain the historical record of our travels.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Rest of the Story…..

After 11 hours of sleep we got up and felt almost normal!  Not too much to report about our travel down I -81. The weather was nice, we stopped near Harrisburg at a Cracker Barrel to pick up a book on CD.  All the ones I had gotten from the library were way too long.  Usually they are too short for our travels – this time they were all too long – I got the only decent one that was less than 8-12 discs and off we went…

Clear weather and lots of nice farms along I 81

We stopped for gas once and for lunch at a Taco Bell.  Only time on our trip and we had one of Ben’s favorite travel foods – Taco Loco.

Taco Bell

About 3 PM we reached Lexington Va where our long time friends Steve and Margaret now live.  We have been good friends for longer than the 50 years we have been married so we had planned a little celebration with them. After lots of catching up on life – we had a great dinner that Margaret prepared and celebrated with a champagne toast!  Thanks Jenny and Nic for the champagne!

Steve popping the cork

A toast

and a great dessert

Good friends, good food, good conversations and memories, good nights sleep, good breakfast and we were ready for the last leg of our journey.

Saturday was a great travel day with fair weather but a little overcast – good for driving.

We reached home about 3 PM.  One good thing about traveling light as we did this time there was little unpacking to do!  A quick trip to the grocery was in order if we were to eat.

Only bad thing was the power had been off at least once and kicked our modem out; so we had no internet.  Too tired to deal with that we watched a little TV and went to bed early.

It is now Sunday AM and internet is back up, Jane is finishing the blog and we will enjoy a day of catching up around home before we get 3 weeks of mail tomorrow – not as bad as it was years ago since most communication is on line these days.  Guess that is also on the “to-do” list – reviewing the emails to see if we missed things during our off again on again coverage over the last weeks. Ben for sure has lots of work email to review.

This was a fun trip and quite different than most of our adventures.  We need to consider a bit before planning another trip that is dependent on primarily all public transportation. One comment of mine is my photography started out OK but did not hold up very well near the end!  Luckily the old Dell made it through the trip.  Now back to my learning curve on Windows 8!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Port Angeles WA to Pine Grove PA

This will be hopefully a somewhat accurate report on our 33 hour travel day from Port Angeles Washington to Pine Grove Pennsylvania.  This is not our intended plan for travel back to the east from the northwest – but it is what it is.
Sunrise from Red Lion Hotel

We left the Red Lion Hotel at 5:30 AM to check out, walk about 1 1/2 blocks to the bus stop for the Dungeness Coach Line.

Dungeness Coach Bus

This company runs a twice a day run between Port Angles and several other towns on the Olympic Peninsula, several downtown Seattle Locations (including the AMTRAK Station) and SEATAC Airport that is located about midway between Seattle and Tacoma. Bus was there on time and we left with about 10 other individuals on a small maybe 20 passenger bus.  We traveled through numerous small towns, across the Hood Canal in a long bridge, took a 25 minute ferry ride across Puget Sound, and down I-5 into downtown Seattle.  Puget Sound was really a continuation of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca that we had crossed when we came back into the US from Victoria..  Seattle is a huge city – we saw the Space Needle, lots of Starbucks and Seattle Coffee shops, and it looked like it would be fun to explore.  The AMTRAK station is right downtown.

Puget Sound from Ferry

Upon arrive about 9 AM at AMTRAK we got a phone call about another change in our travel on the Empire Builder.  We talked to the ticket agents and it seemed the mudslide of last week was not completely resolved. We would have a detour in North Dakota that would make us 5-6 hours late getting into Chicago.  Since there is already an issue of perhaps being late due to lots of oil transport in the North Dakota area.  We would most certainly miss the connection with the Chicago to Syracuse train meaning finding a hotel in Chicago and waiting another day until 9 PM at night to leave Chicago for Syracuse.  All in all it was not worth the effort and trouble so we did what we had considered when AMTRAK first called – we canceled the train and made reservations on a plane.

Ben working on Plane Reservations at AMTRAK Station Seattle

Waiting Room at AMTRAK - beautiful but few services - no food at all

I really wanted to see what the AMTRAK travel was like – to compare with the excellent service on VIA Rail in Canada.  Well I hate to judge all of AMTRAK on this experience but they sure did not measure up too well in our limited experience. Ben used the internet on his new Kindle to work out air travel home.  Most flights east leave early morning or are what is known as “red eye” flights – leaving in the late evening…so that is what we ended up with since it was now about 11:30 and we had missed the morning flights.  While this sounds crazy – the best available  connection was through ATLANTA!

If we had known this a bit earlier we could have just continued on our Dungeness Coach on to SEATAC airport!  About a block from the AMTRAK station was a Seattle Light Rail station. We found we were near Chinatown!  I suppose some might have taken the opportunity to explore downtown Seattle but we had our luggage and to be honest were a bit frustrated with the situation. We hopped on the Light Rail and before we knew it we were further south along Puget Sound and arrived at the huge SEATAC Airport. We got tickets for light rail from a kiosk; since we did not have the correct change we used a $20 bill and got 14 $1 coins for change! We must have walked at least a mile finding Delta, getting our tickets from a computer, finding a place to eat lunch, and then a place to read, charge up kindles and phones, and people watch.

We spent the afternoon near an arrival area and it was interesting watching people. One group of about 20 people was welcoming their family member home after his retirement from the Army – he had served 20 years.  They had quite a celebration.

About 5 we checked 2 of our bags and made our way through security, took a train to our gate, and spent the evening reading and people watching from inside the security area near our gate.  We had dinner and enjoyed the down time – but it was a lot of sitting, walking, and watching!

At 10:45 we boarded our 4 hour and 10 minute flight to Atlanta.  Instead of gaining 1 hour each day on our way west – we lost the 3 on this one flight – arriving in Atlanta about 6:20 AM. I realized too late that the small TV screen at my seat could have shown me where we were. It was very clear and since I did not sleep well I saw lots of cities – only one I identified for sure was Houston. Also saw a nice sunrise.
Having flown seldom in recent years – by choice – things were different than we remembered.  Mobile phones, tablets, etc and all kinds of technology were integrated into the travel. The airport food was better than I expected – not great but certainly good. Both this flight and the one from Atlanta to Syracuse were 100% full.  The Delta staff were very helpful and pleasant.

Sunrise from plane near Atlanta

In Atlanta we were lucky – came in to Gate 25 and left from Gate 20 – or the other way around! So we did not have to hurry from one part of the airport to another. We had 2 1/2 hours between flights – just enough time to drink some coffee, eat a muffin, and sit a bit more.

Our flight to Syracuse left Atlanta on time at 9:15 and were in Syracuse  by 11:15. The Syracuse airport is not huge like Atlanta and SEATAC – we picked up our checked baggage, got the van out of long term storage lot  and were on I-81 headed South in 45 minutes!
Leaving Syracuse Airport
 We were both tired – Ben slept more than Jane.  We were going to drive until Ben felt too tired to drive and then we would stop.  We ate lunch in a small town in rural New York.   Our book on CD that we had listened to on the way to Syracuse still had 2 CD’s so we listened to them. We stopped about 4 in a very small town just north of Harrisburg PA.  We laid down for a nap and woke up 2 hours later to eat dinner at a recommended Pennsylvania Dutch Restaurant – The Red Lion !  (name of our hotel in Port Angeles).  This small town had 4 chain motels, a few fast food restaurants, a mobile home factory, a school, some churches, grocery, and a few shops.  Lots of homes that appear much as they must have when the town of Pleasant Grove was founded in 1832. Then a few miles on the other side of the town was the Red Lion.  It was good food but way too much of everything.

Made final arrangements to visit friends in Lexington VA – they have been so flexible with our ever-changing schedule.

Not a very exciting day or two days – but we sure used lots of types of transportation - small bus, ferry, Seattle light rail, light rail at SEATAC airport, 2 airplanes, and finally our Sprinter.  We sure covered a lot of miles. Not how we planned to end our trip but we are nearly home and have had a fantastic time.  Even this travel did not end up being as difficult as I had thought.  Tired though - going back to sleep!