Monday, July 16, 2007

Trains, Planes & Rental Cars - October 2006

(Note:  this is our journal of a wonderful 3-week trip we took in October, 2006).  As I start to write this, I’m sitting in our sleeper car on Amtrak and I just got back in the car after stopping in  Ottumwa, Iowa.  We were out of doors for the first time since about 6:30 a.m. October 2, which was when we got on the train in Salt Lake. And it is hot, hot, hot in Ottumwa – 88 degrees, one of the attendants said, but it feels like 100.

Bev having "Happy Hour" in Ottumw, IA
The train left Salt Lake very late – it was supposed to leave at 3:45 a.m., but it left about 7 a.m. because of freight traffic between Elko and SLC. Apparently, freight trumps Antrak, so Amtrak waits while the freight goes by.  Actually, everyone we talk with on the train says Amtrak is almost always late – it’s that age old question, “Why can’t they get the trains to run on time?”

The line of folks getting on the train in Salt Lake.

We have a sleeper car, which has two seats that can be made into a single bed, and an upper bunk which folds down. There is not much storage (nor much room for anything else) and extra bags are kept in a storage area near the car entrance.
Bev on her half of the sleeper car.
The food has been very good – we order off of menus and between us have had beef ragout, roasted chicken, burgers, pizza, omelets, French toast and wine and beer even.

The cars themselves are a little shabby – but it’s not the accommodations, but the views that people seem to be traveling for. According to the trip literature, this is one of the most scenic Amtrak routes. It goes through the eastern Utah scrub brush,  over the Rockies west of Denver and then into the farm lands of the prairies and the Midwest.  

The last of the bright yellow aspen trees, somewhere in Colorado.

We saw miles and miles of this view in the heartland of the U.S.
We take our meals seated at tables with two other travelers, and that’s been a highlight for me. First were Ruth and Mark, a retired farmer’s wife and her son. Ruth and her husband, who died 8 years ago, had traveled to all 50 states (Vermont, Oregon and Washington were among the most beautiful, she said.) She and Mark had taken the train from Iowa to the west coast, stayed over night in Sacramento and then return the next day. They were counting the wildlife (Ruth saw a moose in the river during lunch but the rest of us missed it). Ruth had wanted Mark (who she said had had gone through special education) to see the views. Ruth, her husband and sons, including Mark, has raised hogs, sheep and done grain farming, and Ruth told some endearing stories of Mark’s gentle touch with animals about to give birth. Mark just rolled his eyes and smiled – Jim said he’d probably heard his mom tell these stories many times.

Next we sat with Jane and Jim a retired couple from Lodi, CA but originally from Iowa who were making their 12the trip on the train. They said the trains are never on time, but loved the scenery and Jim (Jim from CA) said you just don’t talk to people on planes or anyplace else, really, where you engage in conversation they way you do on the train --- being in the same boat, to mix transportation metaphors, seems to encourage it and it was fun to talk with people at the meals. They were traveling to Iowa for Jim’s Explorer Scout reunion and for Jane's brother’s 50th wedding anniversary.

At lunch on Wednesday we sat with Ralph and Carol, retired teachers from Missouri who had been visiting Ralph’s brother in Grand Junction. They’ve traveled on several trains before, including a trip to New Mexico. Carole was wearing a t-shirt from a winery – there are quite a few in Missouri, she said, including some that operated during prohibition because they made sacrament wine which gave them a dispensation, I guess you could call it.

I especially liked being able to see the rest of the train and we took curves.
What do I like about the train? The slow pace is a wonderful way to start our trip – it puts me in a slower, “what can I see that’s new” mode that I like. It’s so pleasant to watch the scenery just sitting in our car, the observation car (which has bigger windows including windows that cover part of the ceiling), or the dinning car (instead of trying to look and drive at the same time) and the view of the stars as were rolling along was spectacular (I saw the big dipper in Nebraska and the handle was pointing right at the earth). And rocking back and forth and listening to the train whistle (I have to find out if there is a meaning behind wooooooooooo-woo versus woo-woo) and accompanying noises is an experience. I’m glad we are doing this.

What don’t I like? Being with Jim makes anything fun. But if I had to change something though, I’d give us a little more room in the sleeper car. Plusher surroundings would be nice, but not a must have. Like the attendant at the SLC station said, “traveling by train is for people who aren’t in a hurry and want to see things you can’t see anyway else.”—Bev.

Jim: As usual Bev has written an articulate description of our adventure so far. Not much that I can add. Travel by rail is definitely not for everyone. If you need to get there in a hurry and must be there on time . . . drive or take a plane. My favorite part of the trip so far was east out of Glenwood Springs, CO along the Colorado River. The river looks like it would be great for leisurely kayaking (my favorite kind) a few little rapids to make it interesting and plenty of places to pull up and camp or picnic. –Jim

October 7, 2006 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time

We are sitting here in Mom’s TV room watching Ohio State play Bowling Green. It’s 14-0 Ohio State at the end of the first quarter. Jim keeps flipping over to the Stanford – Notre Dame game, which is 14-3 Notre Dame.

So, back to something more exciting…

 After I last wrote we made it into Chicago but about four hours late – so we missed the train that left at 5:30 p.m. That put us on the train that left at 7 p.m. and got in at 4:02 a.m. That train was on time. Bob and Suzie, bless their hearts, picked us up at the train station and we had a very fun, two-hour breakfast at Denny’s where we were the only customers. Then they took us to the car rental pickup at Cleveland-Hopkins airport where we arrived before the they opened – but we got our small SUV, which is what we wanted – a jeep Liberty. Then two very tuckered people (well, me at least) drove to Mom’s in Wellington.

Since we’ve been in Wellington we’ve done some cleaning for Mom, walked five miles around the very lovely and new Wellington Reserve which takes in the south side of the old reservoir, walked five miles around the up ground reservoir (a walk that started out in the fog), got some very good Americanos at the Bread and Brew, gone to the AAA in Oberlin to get an Ohio guidebook (where we were told the Serpent Mounds are in Canada), had lunch with Mom at the Wellington Diner, have taken many drives and have generally had a very nice time.

The Wellington Reserve

Tomorrow we will leave Wellington and head to Ohio State in Columbus and then toward Maysville, Kentucky. I’m glad we stayed an extra day here – it’s just relaxing. I told Jim I could see us getting an RV and parking it in Mom’s driveway in a few years as a stop on a retirement adventure. And, as I sign off, it’s middle of the second quarter and the score is 21-0. – Bev.

Ohio Stadium.  O-H-I-O.  Many of you will just think I'm spelling the state, but fellow graduates will know what I mean.
Bev at her alma mater.

October 8, 2006 9 p.m.

Serpent Mound, a 1,330-foot-long, three-foot-high prehistoric effigy mound near a small southern Ohio town called Peebles. 
 We’re at the Hampton Inn in Maysville, Kentucky. We left this morning from Mom’s at about 8:15 and were at the Ohio State Union by 11:15. Took Highway 42 instead of 71. After years of seeing the U and Utah State, OSU looked huge. Jim and I walked the perimeter of what I’d call the old campus – High Street to Woodruff, over the River and then up 11th Avenue back to High Street. A lot of the buildings along the west side of campus that I had classes in are being refurbished or gutted. Then we drove down High street though downtown Columbus which was hopping for a Sunday (or any day actually).

Then we took 23 south through rolling farmland, and then visited the Serpent Mound, which I've always wanted to see since I was a kid.  Then it was across the Ohio River and into Maysville. Bev

October 10, 2006 3 p.m.
Bridge across gthe Ohio River.
Jim: We just entered Tennessee from Kentucky through the highway tunnel under the Cumberland Gap. So I guess I have some catching up to do. Yesterday (Monday the 9th) we did some sight seeing around Maysville. It was a beautiful morning on the south bank of the Ohio River.
The floodwall is quite impressive but we were wondering why there wasn’t one on the Ohio side. Maybe they’re better swimmers over there. Maysville has lots of buildings from the 1800’s. Row houses, churches, shops which provided good photo opportunities.
Mural painting in Maysville, KT.
We also did a short tour of “Old Washington” where we saw the site where Harriet Beecher Stowe saw a slave auction that was the inspiration for her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.
We drove from Maysville to Lexington through the Kentucky bluegrass/horse country. Large well tended farms with sleek thoroughbreds grazing on green (not blue) grass. Although we did see some of the classic white fences I would say most were actually painted black. Very picturesque. We stopped for lunch in Lexington before heading south to Berea. We had some fried green tomatoes which was a first for me although I had seen the movie.

We arrived in Berea about 4:30 and checked into the historic Boone Tavern hotel, which is not a tavern, and I don’t think Daniel Boone ever stayed there. But a charming place none the less. We had time to take a walk around the town which is centered around Berea College. Quite an interesting place actually. Brea College has courses in many of the crafts of Appalachia and there are innumerable shops where you can purchase items made by the students. Berea College students do not pay tuition but instead work 10-15 hours per week in various businesses in the town. Owned by the college I assume. 80% of the employees at the Boone Tavern are students.

October 12 noon

We are on Highway 40 heading east out of Winston- Salem. Last night we stayed at a Comfort Inn in Mocksville, NC. Jim picked Mocksville because it looked like it was a reasonable driving distance, and it worked out great. Tonight we will stay in Greenville, then take the ferry to Ocracoke on Friday afternoon and stay there Friday night. Saturday we will stay in Kitty Hawk, which is only 100 miles from Ocracoke, which will be a nice because it will mean a more leisurely trip up the coast.

We’ve don ea lot since Jim wrote last as we were leaving Berea -- -which I really liked, by the way. It’s small, friendly, full of trees and just a lovely town. I really liked Kentucky and would like to come back and spend more time there. I told Jim that I had always thought of Kentucky as being an unsophisticated place, which I am embarrassed to admit. Must be my Ohio prejudice maybe. But our quick trip through there made me want to spend more time there – on our retirement RV trip maybe? The tour books say that 50 per cent to the population of eastern Kentucky do not graduate from high school, and that 30 percent of the people are functionally illiterate – but that is certainly not the area we saw.

We had dinner at the Boone Tavern. Jim continued his education regarding southern food with spoon bread (later in Lexington he had fried green tomatoes and in Cherokee, NC I ordered hush puppies – he only ate a bite but I thought they were great – like being made with corn meal, although Jim said they tasted like the outside of a corn dog, which is true). The meal was very good and very interesting. After Berea, we drove south toward the Cumberland Gap area, also a beautiful place. The Cumberland Gap is the only east-west opening from North Caroline into Kentucky. Daniel Boone used it, and two of his sons were killed in the area when he was leading in groups. The Cumberland Gap is the path people took that opened up that part of the country to western migration. We hiked on the Wilderness Road, which was part of the actual path Boone took. We also hiked to an area where you could see and set foot in corners of Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. From there we drive south to Gatlinburg, which was a shock after being in such unpopulated areas. Downtown Gatlinburg, and Dolly Parton’s hometown of Pigeon Forge which we drove through right before it, was packed with people. I told Jim it looked like you took the Utah State Fair and plunked it down in the middle of Park City. The buildings are modern and look like lodges, but there were two Ripley Believe it or Not places (including an aquarium), four fudge stores, T-shirt stores, four pancake houses, a place called “God’s Country,” water slides, miniature golf, NASCAR World, etc etc. Whoa. Fortunately, we stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast called Laurel Springs, run by a man from Minnesota named Garth who married a southerner named Belinda. They were wonderful host – carried in our bags, and generally lived up to everything you’d think of in a southern host. Garth and Belinda had taken a yearlong RV trip and have been to Utah twice. They made us what was definitely our best breakfast so far – fruit, bacon, French toast, cranberry bread. Our room was the “fern room” with fern imprints around the top of the walls of our small sitting room. That night we had dinner in a big log cabin-looking building where the wait staff were all dressed like forest rangers. We drove into the Smoky Mountains National Park after dinner and got a few peaks at the vistas.

The next morning we left as early as we could (well, not all that early, as Belinda and Garth started serving at 8:30 – but we were the first ones down there.) We went to the visitor’s center and watched the film on the park and then bought some books about the Appalachian Trail, which crossed the entire park. I asked the visitors center park ranger “If you could only take one hike, what would it be?” After rolling her eyes, she suggested one to Alum caves and it was great. The tour books said that it couldn’t be beat as a Smokey Mountains Park hike, and it was just beautiful. It meandered along a stream, past huge rhododendrons and yellow birch. We took a lot of photos. We hiked through a arch that was created by the erosion and cracking of the rock – not by wind an sand like those in Utah. We met some interesting people on the hike too – we talked longest with a retired teacher from Michigan who said she’d done this hike five times and was with friends who had done it about 15—if you keep going you get to a lodge where you can stay all night and they cook meals for you. Sounds like another idea for next time. But the park was amazing – you can see ridge after soft ridge of mountains with smokey clouds between them.

We left the Smoky Mountains about 2 p.m. and drove to Cherokee, which is where I’d stay next time. It’s very touristy, too, but more tasteful, I guess you say – less garish that Gatlinburg. The Cherokee Indians who remain after the Trail of Tears – the forced march of the Cherokee Nation from the Smokys area to Oklahoma – have a reservation nearby and also a casino and other stores (we at lunch at the Little Princess, also run by the Cherokee and where Jim tasted the hush puppies). We saw a school and 22 school buses – all lines up in numeric order at a stop light – on there way to pick up kids a the end of the day.

Then we took a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The sign at the entrance said not to use it in ice, snow and fog and I can see why – it was foggy and with all the curves a place to drive very slow. After that, it was the long hall to Mocksville and a stay at the Comfort Inn. In the morning when we got up we were able to make reservations for our next three stops: Greenville, Ocracoke and Kitty Hawk (this has been a great trip, but it’s pretty much of a lick and a promise whirlwind. Like Jim says, it’s really getting to DC via a long route. We need to comeback in the RV, park, and spend however much time we want exploring the area.)

October 13th 5:30 PM
Jim: We made good time from Mocksville to Greenville. Mostly all freeway and we didn’t take many detours. Except to find the closest Starbucks (in Winston-Salem). It would have been nice to spend some time sightseeing in Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill but that wasn’t on the itinerary for this trip. As I drove Bev read from the tour book so we had an idea of what we were missing.

After a few wrong turns I found the motel in Greenville and we unloaded all our bags and headed out to dinner. Bev found a BBQ restaurant that was rated best in the US (by National Geographic in 1979). We got directions from MapQuest which were pretty flaky so we took a very roundabout way to find the place. The Sky Light Inn in Ayden is about 20 miles from Greenville or about 40 miles by the route we took. Ayden is another small NC town where every over house and building has a historical marker in front of it. I continue to be amazed at all the history this part of the country has seen. The restaurant is on the edge of town in a brick building toped by a replica of the capital dome (or something like that). You order your BBQ at the counter. A small, medium or large “tray” which comes with cole slaw and corn bread. The coleslaw tray is stacked on top to the BBQ tray and the cornbread (not Johnny cake!) is stacked on top of that. There are about 10 well-worn formica tables to sit but most of the customers were getting take out.
We ate in and it was excellent. Even the coleslaw and I am very picky about my coleslaw.
After dinner we drove back to the motel using the shorter route. Bev spotted a grocery store and we stopped for some supplies. Beer and chips. The store (Lowe’s) had the best selection of micro brews that I have ever seen in a grocery store. I found a local IPA (Mash House) that was very good.

Bev is now writing this. Last night Jim did laundry at the hotel, bless his heart (we stayed at a Best Western in Greenville) and folded it to boot. This morning we drove toward the tiny town of Swan Quarter, where we were to catch the ferry to Ocracoke Island. It is very flat and grassy and marshy in that neck of the woods. We visited Muskamakeet Refuge, which surrounds a huge lake that several groups of people tried to drain in the late 1800’s early 1900s – some accounts I’ve read said to harvest the peat; others said to take advantage of the rich farmland. They were able to drain it for a while, but not permanently, and it was deeded over to the US and turned into a refuge in the late 1930’s. While there we saw many turtles, two huge blue herons, a fish that actually was bobbing to the surface so that we could see his eyes, diving ducks, some sort or muskrat creature, and an amazing number of birds. There were all sorts of animals all over the water.

The ferry left at 4 p.m. sharp for the 2 ½ hour ride. The tugboat type ferry can hold about 30 cars – there were about 20 on our trip. Jim said that the ones he’s been on before have an area “below” where you drive the cars and it is rather nasty and fume-filled. Not so with this one. And, it’s actually not all that cold. When I’m in the wind, I need my sweatshirt, but it’s comfortable outside and we sat there quite a while with me reading out loud from a guidebook to Ocracoke. North Carolina has an extensive ferry system between the mainland and the barrier reef island, of which Ocracoke is one. This one cost us just $15 for the car, and the ferry from Ocracoke to Hatteras, which is the next one we take, is free.

October 20, Friday evening about 8:30 p.m

Bev here. Neither one of us has written since we were physically on the ferry over to Ocracoke, so we have a lot of catching up to do. At the moment I am sitting in a very nice Marriott in Morganville, WV. To re cap what we did today (Friday, October 20) it consisted of a lot of unfortunate car incidents – nothing serious. It was a bad omen when we could not find out way out of Brookie’s parking lot in DC (you can’t go out the in, duh.) Then we had difficulty getting out of DC with all the traffic at Wisconsin and M St, plus there were those wrong turns further on. Then, there was an accident on I-270 North that literally stopped traffic. We sat there for an hour and 15 minutes. We were fine listening to a CD of Terry Gross interviews with funny people (Al Franken, etc) -- but when cars at the top of the hill that could actually sees what was ahead of them started turning around in the grassy median of the freeway and going in the other direction, we decided it was time to do the same. On the plus side -- the stretch of highway going east along northern Maryland, which includes the Cumberland area, is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Who knew? Not I.

But back to what happened after the first ferry ride. We got off at Ocracoke, which is the name of the village and the Island. The island itself is about 16 miles long and the village had about 700 year-round residents. One of it’s claims to fame is that it was frequented by the pirate, Bluebeard, who would tie his beard with ribbons and put smoking matches in his hat to make himself look more ferocious. (I’m not quite clear on how ribbons make you look tough, but he was a feared warrior.) It’s also the home of a lot of ships that sit at the bottom of the ocean – the Gulf stream and another ocean current converge and create rough water, plus the sands of the barrier reefs constantly shift, as do the islands). We stayed at a place called the Anchorage Inn, which was near the ferry stop. After a short walk down the road just to explore, we ate dinner at a place called the Pelican Inn. Our waiter was a guy who said he lived on the island year-round and was planning on visiting Costa Rica after the restaurant closed the end of October.

The next morning we got up early and walked around the village. We went to a light house which is the second oldest in the country and a British cemetery (a British ship helping the US was sunk by German U-Boats; when the bodies of four men washed up, they were buried and the cemetery made British property, but it cared for by the Coast Guard.) From Ocracoke we took a slow drive plus another ferry ride over to Hattaras. That part of the barrier reef is for the “fun in the sun” crew – beach house after beach house, built on stilts to help them make it through wind-caused floods. We took photos at a place called Oregon Inlet, which was caused by a hurricane, and stopped at some other places along both the ocean and the sound. That night we stayed at an exquisite bed and breakfast called the Bald View in Kitty Hawk. It was on the sound side of the island, filled with antiques and memorabilia like a certificate stating that some of the oak trees had some connection to the Wright Brothers. It was owned by a dentist (whose last name is Bald) and run by a woman named Angie who had moved to Kitty Hawk 6 years ago from Maryland. The next morning we drove along the ocean and took several hours to explore where the Wright Brothers took their first flights, which was actually on Kill Devil Hill just south of Kitty Hawk – but apparently their letters home were postmarked Kitty Hawk, so that town got the glory. There were markers that denoted how far the flights had gone – Wilbur flew the first one that lasted 12 seconds and went 59 feet I think – I should probably check my tourist book). The fourth (and last flight in that set of tests) was the longest and flown by Orville.

Then it was on to Williamsburg. Wonderful area, lousy hotel – that about summed it up for me. (Changed rooms because ours was so bad and ended up in one next to a barking dog.) And what is it with the south’s love of the pancake house? I think the best way to do Williamsburg is like this: Go to Colonial Williamsburg without a ticket (like we did) and walk around for a half a day or so to figure out exactly what you want to do. Then the next day, get there early (or will they let you buy tickets the afternoon before?) and buy the tickets for what you want. Williamsburg also sells audiotapes that you can listen to as you take a self-guided tour – that sounded good. When we arrived we listened to an introduction given by one of the many people dressed in period costumes, and then just walked. We saw the Governor’s Palace, a coffee shop that was an architecture dig (think of all the potential for future archeologists once Starbucks has been around a few hundred years), a garden shop, the post office, and on and on. It was very pretty.

About 3:30 or 4 we left for DC and Brooke’s condo. Once we got close to the city we called Brooke and I put her on speakerphone – she guided Jim right to the apartment. Her place is tiny – only 715 square feet, she said, and has very clean lines. Jim says it’s perfect for the young professional woman. She lives in Glover Park, which is north Georgetown.

On Tuesday, our first full day in the city, it was raining so we decided to start with the museums. We went to the Museum of Natural History where we saw the big elephant in the entryway that has been there for just about forever, the dinosaur exhibit, an exhibit about Sikhs, the hope diamond and the other gems on display and more of course. Then we went to the National Portrait Gallery, which I love. We saw the portraits al all of the presidents and read the accompanying stories about them in order. All are done in a realistic manner except for JFK’s, which is impressionistic. I like this display because the stories with the portraits discuss what was important in each presidency, what was going on at the time the portrait was being done (Eisenhower asked the artist if he could try his hand at it himself, which he did; afterwards took up painting) and often what the subject thought of the finished artwork (Reagan said, “Yep that’s the old Buckaroo” while Johnson thought his portrait was ugly.) After that we went to the Archives where a nice guard let us in the exist so we didn’t have to wait in line- we saw the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, and more. That night I was tuckered – I took some Nyquil and was asleep by 9. Jim did laundry and folded it (again). What a guy. Brookie has been sick too, and came home from work early.

The next day (Wednesday) we took one of the tour buses to Arlington National Cemetery. There we saw something that I thought was out of the ordinary – the guard being relieved in the changing of the guard ceremony made a mistake. As he was putting his gun it position as he was doing some of his very last hand/arm movements, it appeared that the gun brushed some of his medals and two items fell to the ground near his feet. After the change ceremony, the new guard marched to a small tent. A few minutes later a solider in a non-dress uniform came out, saluted at the tomb, picked up the medals, saluted again and left. Then the new guard came back out and resumed duty.

We walked across Memorial Bridge to the Lincoln Monument. Then we visited the Vietnam Memorial, Korean Memorial, and WWII Memorial and, with very sore feet, walked back to the tour bus where we and a group of Danish students (one looked like he was trying out for a part in the Rocky Horror Picture Show) drove past the Aerospace Museum, the Capitol, and Union Station. We got off the bus figured out where NPR is located 635 Massachusetts near the China Town Metro. By that time we wanted a drink, and China town was not looking as friendly as Dupont circle. Both the tour book and Brookie recommended a place that serves over 1000 kinds of beer. I did a beer test and decided I like Pilsner. That night we took Brooke out to dinner to a place called J Pauls and she took us on a car and foot tour of Georgetown.

Thursday, our last full day in DC, I wanted to take Jim to the Newseum. Alas, it’s still closed and will open in early 2007. So we walked down to the National Cathedral in the morning. I remember being so impressed with it as a kid as Helen Keller is buried there and she was one of my heroines. The kid and I had gone to Christmas Eve services there in 1999 and I wanted Jim to see it. Then we went to the Holocaust Museum. We spent more time there than at any other place, and I read the display explanations more thoroughly than any other exhibit. The entire place is very subdued and dark. Jim, why don’t you take on the explanation of the Holocaust Museum from here?

One very nice thing we did every day in DC was to go to the local Starbucks, have coffee, and read the Washington Post. But on our next trip we have to visit the Newseum, Capitol, Whitehouse, Aerospace Museum, turn NPR (tours held every Thursday at 11 a.m., Alexandria, Mount Vernon, and Monticello.

On Friday morning we left DC and Brookie, and our drive out of DC is described earlier. After leaving Morgantown, WV we had a great drive on I-19 to Clarksburg. We drove along a river through all of these picturesque WV homes and the old stores that were once probably thriving before the highway came along. We also went by what we thought was a nuclear power plant but were later told by Carl Davis that it was probably a cooler for a power plant that was burning coal . West Virginia was lovely, with beautiful fall colors and big rolling mountains. I really liked both West Virginia and Kentucky and would like to explore both a little more. They just seemed comfortable, smaller (which I like), friendly and lovely.

We took Route 50 to Highway 33 and got to Carl and Sandy’s about 3 p.m. They have completely remodeled their home —made a living room out of the area where the garage was, turn four bedrooms into two suites, and Carl is remodeling the kitchen and making the cabinets himself. We talked, and talked and laughed and laughed. It was fun. They had bonfire and barbeque in their back yard Saturday night and on Sunday we went to brunch.

Then it was on to Columbus and a run up I-71 to Moms, where we arrived at exactly 5:30 p.m. on October 22 – the exact time to the minute Jim had told Mom we would arrived.

We stayed at Mom’s from Sunday through Thursday. While in Wellington this time we walked at Findlay State Park, took Mom to Medina to get a blood test, did some more chores for her, did laundry and generally just relaxed. It was a good way to unwind from the trip and get ready to come back to Salt Lake. And Mom is the best hostess there is. (She had cookies and a pie waiting or us when we got there and made us a meatloaf dinner on our second stay – and she’s the one with the broken hip.)

Lessons learned:
Take hiking boots if you are going to do any kind of trail hiking.
When reserving a room at a chain, make sure the name of the place includes “Inns and Suites.” Otherwise you get what we got in Williamsburg.
Pack lighter. I took several shirts and a jacket I never even wore.
Take a plastic bag of laundry detergent.
Devise a good way to file digital photos and download them every night.
Bev: Get a slightly larger Ameribag.
A small SUV works well.
Don’t take coach on the train.
Get a car GPS system so we get lost less. We didn’t get lost all that much, but the few times we were (especially at night) were frustrating.
I was worried that we did not have all of our reservations made before we left SLC, but it worked out well. If we’d traveled at a peak vacation time (although some of the books called October peak because of leaf season) it may have been a problem.
Be flexible.
Even if you are trying to cover a lot of territory, don’t try to drive more than 200 miles a day – it is, after all, supposed to be relaxing. 100 miles a day is even better if you are trying to take advantage of the sites.
Do take the ferry!

Best view from the car
Bev: Smoky Mtn Natl Park, northern Maryland, West Virginia
Jim: Ocracoke ferry, Smoky Mtn Natl Park, Bev
Most memorable
Bev: Hiking in the Smoky Mtns
Jim: the Mall in Washington DC

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Getting Started . . .

We (Bev and I) are new at this "blogging" stuff but thought it would be a good way to stay in touch with friends and share experiences. Here's a picture of us on our honeymoon in Tikal (Mayan ruins in Guatemala).