Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Computer Issues

Hi everyone,

Just a quick post to say we won't be posting much for the rest of our vacation. The hard drive on my laptop has crashed and tech support has not been able to come up with a solution that we can implement while on the road. In fact, a new hard drive is being shipped to my mom's so we can switch it out when we get back to Jersey. It really frustrates me since this was a brand new computer that my job just purchased for me a couple of months ago. Not only have I probably lost all of my work documents, but all of our vacation photos, which is--of course--the more upsetting to me. No offense to my job.

We left Atlanta on Sunday and drove to Augusta, where we met up with our old high school friend, Terri. We had a very nice visit with Terri and her sweet little mama, had a great lunch at a local spot, and a sightseeing tour of old Augusta. Thanks, Terri, for lots of fun!

From Atlanta, we drove to Charleston, where we are staying at the Mills House Inn right downtown. We parked the car on Sunday and have not been in it since. We've walked a lot and took a bus tour of the historic sights in Charleston, which taught me a great deal of information I never knew or I had forgotten. :) John Calhoun, "the original Rebel" is buried here--he apparently wanted to secede from the Union long before the Civil War ever happened. Our tour guide also told us about some early "Indian troubles," stating, "they were not our friends." I said to Rich, "No, WE were not THEIR friends," and the guide halfway overheard me and made me repeat it for the whole bus. Nothing like getting identified as the resident trouble maker right off the bat. He did acquiesce, "Well, if anyone has any right to complain, it's the Indians." I wanted to take a walking tour called "Slavery and Freedom," but we have not been able to get an answer on the phone to make a reservation, so that is probably out. Last night, we had a fabulous dinner at the Peninsula Grill, one of Charleston's best and most well known restaurants. Today we are going to do some more walking and visit one of the old historic homes, plus we need to do some laundry before we head out tomorrow. We had a ton of great photos that I cannot post now so you will just have to imagine Charleston. It is definitely old southern charm defined. Having a wonderful time other than computer withdrawal. If you are on facebook, check with me there since I will probably be more able to write a quick update instead of a blog entry.

Hope everyone is having a good week so far. I am soaking up the sun. Nice!

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Saturday we went to Piedmont Park for the weekly farmer's market. The day was very sunny and hot.

I bought a pair of locally made earrings and, while in Georgia, of course we had to try the Georgia peaches, which did not disappoint!

Flowers are in bloom all over the city.

After the market, we went to lunch in a little tavern near the park and then drove to the Carter Center. I wanted to see Jimmy Carter's library and museum and especially the Center, which works on peace and justice issues. Unfortunately, everything was closed for remodeling so we just looked around the grounds.

The Freedom Parkway stretches from the Carter Center to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, which was our next stop. The Site includes a large center dedicated to educating people about Martin Luther King's life and the Civil Rights struggle. It was fascinating and moving to see recreations of events that occurred during our growing up years, while listening to some of King's words playing in the background. Seeing signs that said "whites only" reminded me of my own life as a child in another part of Georgia. It is still hard for me to believe that, as a society, we were comfortable treating people so cruelly.

This is the house where Dr. King was born.

And the gravesite where he and his wife Coretta Scott King are both buried. It was a very hot day but there were throngs of people walking in the hot sun to visit this site, school classes, families wearing their reunion Tshirts, church groups and travelers. It just made me think that the dream is still alive and maybe there are enough of us to change the way of the world.

A view of downtown from the MLK site.

Walking to the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

This is where I want to work: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. :)

From there, we went to Underground Atlanta, which is basically a mall under the city where there are still some old Civil War era buildings and streets. It was interesting to see the historical information but otherwise not all that impressive.

Yes, according to the Coca Cola building, it was 94 degrees. Not too bad!

We had dinner at a place called Pittypat's Porch, which also serves "southern" style food. We had fried chicken, ribs, black eyed peas, collard greens, cornbread, biscuits, mashed potatoes, salad bar and desserts of pecan pie and bread pudding. We were miserable afterwards. We have got to stop eating so much!

Back at the hotel, we watched "Gran Torino" on pay per view. This is an excellent movie by Clint Eastwood. See it if you have not already!

Today we drove to Augusta and had lunch with our old high school friend Terri, then on to Charleston where we are spending the next two nights. I'll add more photos and catch up on those portions of the trip tomorrow.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Leaving Asheville and on to Atlanta

Here are few more sights as we headed out of Asheville. I wanted breakfast and we ended up in West Asheville at the coolest little cafe where we sat out on the patio and chatted with our server. She was wearing a pink tutu with shorts under it, then had cut off a pair of pants and made little leg sleeves out of the pant legs, tied with ribbon, worn over combat boots. Loved it! Come to find out she grew up in Kenai. Her parents are still there.

Should have taken a picture of her but we left the camera in the car. Breakfast was divine--I had breakfast bread pudding with a hot compote of fresh blueberries and whipped cream on top. All home made. Rich wanted to know what made it "breakfast" bread pudding. Just the time of day, I guess. He was teasing me about having dessert for breakfast. It was delicious. And, of course, I had to have sweet tea. Man, I am going to be a sweet tea addict by the end of this trip.

We saw this on the road as we were leaving.

On to the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway.

We took back roads through the hills of NC and boy, did some of them wind around like crazy. It made the trip a lot slower but we really didn't mind too much. We finally arrived in Atlanta yesterday evening. We had pricelined a room and got the Marriott Marquis downtown for $75. We love priceline! We are on the 39th floor with a nice view of the city. Last night we walked to the Sweet Auburn Bistro where we had wonderful "southern" food--fried chicken, pork chops, mac&cheese, collard greens, cornmeal pancakes, peach cobbler and strawberry shortcake. Oh, and sweet tea. We could hardly walk back to the hotel.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Asheville, NC

We arrived in Asheville yesterday afternoon and got a room just off downtown so we can walk anywhere we want to go. Lots of cute shops, cafes, restaurants, and interesting sights to see. At Malaprop's, a local independent bookstore, we bought several more books to add to our collection, including one called Nikolski that I accidentally came across. It's a novel by a Canadian author named Nicolas Dickner and involves several characters who all have a sort of loose connection to the Aleutian island. Weird, huh? Later, we had dinner at a little place called Salsa which served Mexican-Caribbean food.

Today we slept in, then walked to the Tupelo Honey Cafe for breakfast (me) or lunch (Rich). I had some yummy sweet potato pancakes with peach butter and candied pecans. Not to mention the southern special--sweet iced tea. I usually don't sweeten my tea but when in the south, what can you do? And I have to say that people in the south definitely know how to make iced tea!

We stopped in the 10,000 Villages shop and bought a few little things, then back to a local artisans shop that we had scoped out yesterday and purchased a nicely carved rolling pin for Rich, some soaps, and some photo greeting cards, all made by local folks. We love supporting the community we're visiting.

The Basilica St. Lawrence
This guy was guarding the entrance to the market.

The view as we walked back to our hotel

We've had a lazy and relaxing day. I sat out by the pool with my book till I started feeling like I was burning and probably needed to go inside. I think it's in the 80's today--I'm loving it! Went to the hotel bar and ordered up some iced tea (sweet, no doubt) to take to the room. Now we are considering dinner.

Road Trip

We have been discussing and discussing what else to do on the rest of our vacation. We considered going to Europe since plane deals have been good. We thought about another cruise. We pondered Hawaii and Mexico and the Caribbean. We have talked for months about renting a car and having a leisurely road trip. Every day, we'd get asked, "So what are you doing next?" and each of us would say, "I don't know." Honestly, it took us forever to decide. I told Rich I think I actually do better when everything is planned out in advance. This last minute spontaneity is not me! We searched the internet and discussed some more and, although everything sounded appealing, I just felt kinda tired and wanted to relax rather than spending more time on planes and running from one place to another trying to see everything. The road trip won out, which I think was really Rich's first choice anyway. We left NJ on Monday about 3:30 PM, intending to drive till we were ready to stop. We ended up at the historic Hotel Strasburg in Strasburg, VA, but not without traffic fun first.

I told Rich I did not want to spend all day every day in the car--definitely wanted to get out and wander and enjoy the sunshine that had mostly eluded us so far on our vacation. We got to the outskirts of DC only to find traffic backed up for miles and miles due to a bad accident on the highway (and then a couple of other smaller ones once we were already stopped). It literally took us 2 1/2 hours to go 3 miles. Not my idea of fun. Quite a few cars were speeding down the shoulder and then trying to worm their way back into line, as if that was really going to help them any. Eventually, we made it through all the delays and wanted to get past the city before stopping, which is what led us to Strasburg. We like to stay in local places when possible so we bypassed all the corporate hotels along the highway and meandered through town till we found the Strasburg, which was once a private hospital for the patients of a Dr. Bruin back in the day. We got the "summer special" for only $69 and wondered why the rates would be cheaper in the summer. The rooms were all left open so customers can actually stroll through and choose the room they want--each a little different in size and decor and amenities. And a continental breakfast was included. Sweet! We got up early the next morning and took a walk through town. We noticed that the confederate flag is still in vogue in these parts.

Rich is deliberating over possible gigs for semi-retirement and thought this one looked good.

A local man noticed Rich taking photos and came over to chat with us. He was a Navy vet and widower who has lived in the area for years and owns an antique shop. He was walking his dog named Holly and said that Holly "makes" him sing the "Howdy Doody" song to her every day, but he has to say "Holly Doody" instead. Hmmmm. We can't quite figure out how the dog "makes" him sing it, but okay.

An old church and cemetery in Strasburg

After our walk, we packed up and drove out to the Shenandoah National Park, planning to drive the 105 mile long Skyline Drive. What a gorgeous area this is, and the weather was nice and warm so I was in heaven.

We stopped in the gift shop to browse, finding a book about the mountain families who were displaced by the government in order to establish the park. Well, if that doesn't give me something to ruminate over. I had no idea that several hundred families were literally kicked off their land and told to relocate so we could have this national park. Apparently most national parks were developed in places where no one was actually living but the Congress at the time (1930's) wanted a park in the East, close to Washington DC. Virginia lobbied for the park and noted that there were a "few" small farms that were basically "worthless" so it wouldn't matter (and besides, the people were ignorant, crazy and criminal). Wow! My enjoyment of the Shenandoah was somewhat sullied at this point. I bought the book.

I kept hearing the song "Shenandoah" in my head. Love that song. Had to play the Springsteen version on my ipod for Rich.

We stopped at one of the park stores and were surprised to see a mama black bear on the ground right there in the parking lot. People had gathered around to take photos so she climbed up into a tree before we could get the camera out. She had three babies in the tree with her. She was not at all bothered by the humans, though I did have a little bit of fear that she might climb down and start charging us. Everyone kept a respectful distance and watched the four of them climbing the tree and eating leaves. So cute!

As we motored on, a deer ran alongside the road and then sprinted in front of us. Luckily, we had slowed way down to get a photo.

The rest of the day was pleasant and we aimed for Roanoke to spend the night. We had a terrible time finding a hotel in the downtown area--there was a big hotel and conference center but it was full and there didn't seem to be any more in the vicinity. We stopped at a convenience store and the guy pointed us toward a Days Inn a little further away. We have stayed in Days Inns before and found them to be just fine. We walked in and the desk clerk was a little terse and unfriendly, but what the heck. We went to our room and I was immediately struck by the horrible stinky smell. I sat on one of the beds to look up some stuff on the internet and realized that the comforter stunk like really bad BO and appeared to have never been washed at all. Even Rich, who is much more easy going and accepting of "whatever" than I am, was amazed and appalled by the smell. We made a very quick decision that we would be moving on, refund or no refund. I went back to the desk and told the still unfriendly clerk that the room was stinky, the comforters needed to be washed, and that we could not stay. He made a face, did something on the computer, and asked if there was anything else he could do for me. I said no, we were leaving. He told me to have a nice day. I did not ask if he was refunding our money and he didn't volunteer. At that point, we didn't care. Bye-bye, Roanoke. Your downtown looked interesting and we wanted to browse, but we have to move on. We won't hold one unfriendly clerk and a stinky room against you, but we ain't stickin' around.

We traveled a little further to the nice little town of Martinsville, where we had a very clean and nice smelling room at the Jameson Inn, a fabulous Mexican dinner at a local joint, and a good night's sleep.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jersey Round Up

It's really hard to blog on vacation when there's so much going on! I have to admit that I don't have the patience for blogs that have a thousand photos on them and seem to go on and on. However, since I have not done anything much and the New Jersey portion of our trip is done, I am going to annoy myself and probably everyone else with a long post and many photos. Feel free to browse quickly.

I am backtracking a little bit, just to get everything covered. Here we have Aidan shucking some corn on the cob at my Mom's house before everyone else arrived.

Aidan had to have some dental work done and my sister in law found us the most wonderful pediatric dentist, Dr. Wendell Holdbrook, along with his fun and excellent staff. We ended up spending several hours with them one day and they were just the best. You can tell that they only work with kids. Aidan was not scared and did not get upset at all.

Then Sarah and Elle arrived and we literally spent 3 hours in bumper to bumper traffic from Philly back to Mom's (which usually takes 30 minutes). Luckily, we had lots to talk about and Elle to keep us amused. Later, we had to indulge in some frozen custard, a Jersey tradition.

Bonnie came in the next day and got picked up by my sister in law Patty while the rest of us headed down to Ocean City and checked into the house we'd rented.

This is out of order, but my niece Kristinn, her husband Tim and kids Gabe and Sofia came down later in the week to join us. Tim, Rich and I are working on something in the kitchen. Well, I was probably just watching.

Aidan was a little fish and loved the water, even when it was freezing cold.

My mom with Elle, her great granddaughter.

Sarah and Elle
Sarah and Bonnie with cousin Billy, my brother's youngest.

Aidan and cousin Becca. They are close to the same age and were two peas in a pod.
Elle loved the playground.

Sofia and Tim at the park.
The very cool house we rented in Ocean City. Lots of room and lots of character!

Bonnie, Sarah, Tim, Sofia and Kristinn

Gabe, Aidan and Sofia
Elle loved Tim. She missed her daddy and started saying "Daddeeee" and "Mommeeee" while she was with us. She was so interested in everything the kids were doing and wanted to be in on everything!

Kristinn and Sarah

Elle loved riding on the bike with her mommy.

Rich and Mom relaxing and reading in the house. We had lots of room to spread out and everyone could do their own thing without getting into anyone else's way. The weather was not great for our week at the shore but we managed to go to the beach a few times anyway, went for some walks, talked and laughed, read books, and took the kids to see the movie "UP" one day when it was pouring down rain. We also had some mean games of Scrabble, Cranium, and Telephone Pictionary. If you have never played the latter, I will give you the instructions and you will laugh your @$% off.

We did enjoy sitting out in the yard on one of the warmer days. Our next door neighbor kept us entertained by blaring rock and roll out his window every afternoon. We thought maybe we should have a street dance.

Sarah and Bonnie
The kids befriended a neighborhood cat and followed him around. He was very patient and let them pet him, even turning over to have his tummy rubbed.

Out for hoagies at a deli in Ocean City. YUM.

Bonnie and Rich as we celebrated Rich and Kristinn's birthdays. Yes, Rich and I are both now 55, which entitles us to the Senior Discount at the Eagle store on Mondays and free access to all the Community Center's equipment and programs. Yippppeee!

Happy Birthday, Kristinn!

Gabe and Aidan climbing trees. They were big buddies and had a good time together.

Boys buried in the sand

Kristinn, Tim and Sofia

Elle, Aidan and Gabe enjoying the water one last time.

Our last morning in Ocean City

Jane, Bonnie, Mom, Sarah, Kristinn
Mom with some of her grandkids and great grandkids. We had a small group this year--missed everyone else! Too soon our week was over and we had to say goodbye. We all went out to breakfast together, then went our separate ways. Rich and I took Bonnie straight to the airport and she didn't even get to stop by Granny's house or see anyone else. That's what happens when you are teaching summer school and have to get back! Sunday we took Sarah, Elle and Aidan to the airport and helped them get checked in. I was sad to see everyone go. It feels very weird to be without Aidan since we had him for about five weeks. We loved having him and hope he will be able to come back again another time.

Sunday was Rich's bday and Father's Day so Mom and I took him out to dinner and then we just got things ready for the rest of our vacation. I had a doctor's appointment on Monday; we picked up a rental car that afternoon and left on a road trip to see some more of the country. We are in Virginia tonight but I will start posting about this part of the trip tomorrow!