Monday, August 31, 2015

Our Planned Route South to Florida for the Winter…


As our month long stay in the Shenandoah Valley is coming to an end it prompted us  to look for a planned path out of this part of the state. We have really enjoyed visiting with our friends Jerry and Kathleen but it is time to say goodbye. We considered going up into Pennsylvania and over toward New York City but after considerable thought we decided to go ahead and start a slow trek south to Florida. So from here we will simply retrace our path back to the Rockingham County Fairgrounds in Harrisonburg, Virginia to hide out for the Labor Day weekend.

Next we will head east to visit the town of Richmond, VA where we plan see an old friend we have not seen in years. We have never visited there and are looking forward to checking out the city. Next up will be our last stop in Virginia as we will stay for a while near Newport News, VA.


After Virginia we will spend some time near our daughter in North Carolina where we will stay in Moncure, NC for a while and then a bit further away at Heritage Campground in Carthage, NC. We have stayed there before and use this stop as a means of visiting Southern Pines and Pinehurst NC, two places we really enjoyed in the past.

Next we plan to head west across the state of North Carolina with stops in Asheboro, NC, Hickory, NC and finally in Asheville, NC where we plan to stay and enjoy the NC mountains and breweries located near Ashville. From NC we will start a more southerly route as we will 20150826_110251stop in Fair Play, SC for a few days before moving on into Georgia to explore the huge city of Atlanta as well as Stone Mountain, GA. We have always avoided Atlanta and felt it was past time for us to give it a fair visit…

From Georgia we will stay at Hardeeville, SC to once again explore one of our favorite southern cities of Savannah, Georgia. We both really like this part of Georgia. One more stop will be made in Georgia to check in with the kiwis that own the Walkabout Camp & RV Park in Woodbine, GA. The couple who run this park and their kids will be a treat to visit with before we finally enter Florida.

20150819_185114-1In Florida we will find plenty of beach time, coastal fishing and visiting a few friends along the way. We have planned stops near Jacksonville, FL, St Augustine, Florida, Port Orange, Florida, Vero Beach, FL, Pompano Beach, FL and Fort Pierce, FL. If we are lucky enough to score some sites in the Keys during the last week of November we may visit there otherwise we will scoot across Florida to our wintering spot in Bonita Springs. We will be staying December and January at Imperial Bonita Estates (IBE) in Bonita Springs Florida where we are especially looking forward to reconnecting with the many IBE friends we have made there as well as some time with friends who are coming per our recommendation.

Well that is our proposed route but of course we have made no reservations other than at IBE for the winter but at least now we have a plan. If you happen to be in or near any of those areas give us a shout!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What we have been doing in the Shenandoah Valley…


While we certainly didn’t plan on spending a month here in the Shenandoah Valley house sitting we have surely enjoyed our stay. When we decided to stay longer we wondered what we would do here for a month. It didn’t take long to realize that we had the equivalent a small state park all to ourselves. With nearly 200 acres to hike and with the Shenandoah River flowing through the middle of it the days passed by quickly.


We marked out a nice walk of about 2.5 miles with most of it traveling along the the river frontage. With the beautiful red barn in the backdrop there is always a good photo opportunity. The hike is along a dirt road, the river, hay meadows and a forested edge. We have seen lots of deer and birds including wild turkey, osprey, pileated woodpeckers, lots of goldfinches and even a lone bald eagle.


When not hiking we took many day trips out to such cool spots as Washington DC, Shenandoah National Park and Annapolis which we have blogged about in the past several blogs. We also spent one day playing disc golf in nearby Winchester as well as exploring the town. We have found several really nice crafted beer breweries in the area. A couple of really neat ones we visited were in Wardensville, WV (yes we are very close to WV) and one in Middleton, VA. Our favorite beers however are at the one closest to us in Woodstock VA.


I would be remiss to not mention how much fun we have had at the Shenandoah River on this property. I have done a lot of fishing and caught lots of fish. Mostly smaller small mouth bass and some sunfish but still it has been loads of fun. We have access to kayaks so we have been kayaking on the river as well. The Shenandoah River is amazingly clear so one can see all the detail on the bottom thus, we also see fish scurrying about as our kayaks pass by. An occasional green heron, great blue heron or belted kingfisher are often spotted on these floats.


There is also a large flock of Canadian geese that are residents of the property and they hang around the river seemingly lounging throughout the day.  We also often see them grazing on the grasses in the hay meadows. There are a few hammocks down by the river that make watching the geese and the rippling waters of the river one of my favorite pastimes. Happy hours down by the river and on the back deck of the house are filled with beautiful vistas.


We have done a few chores for our friends (the owners) along the way as our big thank you to them for inviting us to house sit.  It is such a beautiful place to be and with a such a fantastic kitchen which we have especially enjoyed.  Our foodie needs have surely been met during our stay as we have whipped up some of our favorite dishes. There are also lots of windows in the home which bring the outside in providing views of the valley below.  Its been great and the time sure has been flying by as our month is going to be up before we know it…

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Visiting the Nation’s Capitol, Washington D.C.


Since we are close to Washington DC while here in the Shenandoah Valley we decided that we should revisit our nation's capitol. We visited DC several years ago and it was Sharon’s first visit to the capitol city but during our last visit the reflecting pool was drained. Also the Washington Monument was damaged and being repaired due to the unusual earthquake that hit the area back then. Therefore a return trip was in order for her to see these sights and few others  we missed last time.


As we did last time we drove over to the Metro Station at Fairfax, Virginia but unlike that visit we came on a Friday after 10am so we were able to park in the metro parking garage for $4.85 for the day. Last time we came before 10 only to discover the lot was full and we had no quarters to park at any of the coin meters causing us to have to drive another 4 miles to the Falls Church Metro. We did come prepared with lots of quarters this time just in case the garage was full.


The metro was on time and took less than 30 minutes to arrive in the heart of DC. We exited the train at Federal Triangle and walked toward the Washington Monument. We were immediately mesmerized by all the buildings with such stature surrounding us. We were happy to see that the reflecting pool was full of water and the Lincoln Memorial was glimmering in the water as a mirror image of its actual self.


We walked the length of the rectangular pool to the Lincoln Memorial then looked back at the Washington Monument whose reflection also glimmered in the pool. It was great seeing all of this NOT under repair/renovation this time around. After we walked around the reflecting pool we were hungry and decided to walk over to Chinatown for lunch.  On our way to Chinatown Sharon saw a vintage Good Humor Truck with its driver decked out in the all white uniform.  As we stopped for a photo, he offered us free ice cream.  Wow!  That was lucky! We continued over to Chinatown Express which had been written up in the Washington Post. We enjoyed our meal but to be honest it wasn’t as good as we hoped. Our before lunch double caramel chocolate ice cream bar however was a big hit !


After lunch we headed to our main event for the day as we planned to spend a good amount of time exploring the Smithsonian Museums. We only briefly enjoyed them on our previous visit to town. We spent a good hour or two in the Museum of Natural History. The dinosaur skeletons, the minerals, and (yes) the Hope Diamond were all highlights of the museum.


After we left the Museum of Natural History we spent some time (less time) at the Museum of American History. We were trying to find the archives so we could see the Declaration of Independence but could never find it. We did come across the Francis Scott Key exhibit and were fortunate to see the flag that was his inspiration for our national anthem. We were amazed at how large that flag was…


After leaving the American History Museum we were pretty tired so we began to head back to our Metro when we realized we were at the Smithsonian Metro. So we went down the stairs and caught the train there which saved us from walking an additional half mile to the Federal Triangle station. Man were we glad to sit down especially after we looked at our smart phones that informed us we walked nearly 9 miles this day…Whew!

Yes we had anther great day on the road of retirement…

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Historic Annapolis Maryland…


Annapolis Maryland had always been a place I wanted to visit.  The reasons were the Naval Academy and my love of ocean side towns.  This dream was realized while we were staying with our dear friends Jerry and Kathleen in the Shenandoah Valley. Their location made our visit to Annapolis a relatively easy day trip.


Once in the city I was immediately awed by its charm and historic feel.  The layout made for an easy walkabout and there was plenty of free parking once off the main thoroughfares.  We certainly did not get very far very fast because every turn is picture worthy. I slowed John down for sure as I seemingly snapped pictures at every turn.  Our first stop was the Naval Academy football stadium.  It is actually much smaller than our Kyle Field at Texas A&M but a thrill to see nonetheless.  I had only previously seen this stadium on TV at the famed Army/Navy game.  It was awesome to see the blue and gold stadium and imagine the excitement that is there on game day.


Next we meandered into the downtown area soaking in the charm of all the beautiful historic buildings and narrow roadways from days gone by.  The Maryland State House presides over the town and was a joy to visit.  It is the site where General George Washington resigned from military service and there are wonderful exhibits depicting this historic moment.  The State House was also our original Nation's Capital and the structure is amazing considering it has been in use since the 1700's.  Man, they knew how to build back then!



From the State House it is an easy walk downtown.  The many shops and businesses were booming as this happened to be move in day for the Naval Academy Students.  Our friends recommended we make a special stop at another 1700's structure, the Middleton Tavern and it did not disappoint. The bar inside was magnificent but it was a little too early in the day to partake in the oyster shooter our friend recommended!


I was so surprised to find that just beyond the tavern is the entrance to the Naval Academy.  We loved the harbor views there as well as watching the male and female students unpacking and moving in.  A real highlight was the Chapel.  What a beautiful sanctuary it was and I would have loved to have attended a service there. 


After the Naval Academy we made our way to St Mary's Catholic Church adjacent to where our friend Kathleen grew up.  She told us that it has a series of tunnels beneath it that slaves used as escape routes.  How interesting!  Down the street we crossed the Eastport Bridge to make our way to Kathleen's favorite tavern, Davis Pub.  She said we had to have a beer and crab cakes there, so we did (and they were divine).  What an awesome place it was and a perfect ending to a dream-come-true day!  Annapolis is a place I could live.  It was wonderful and I cannot wait to experience it again one day in the future!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Shenandoah National Park–Skyline Drive and a Hike…


Since we are so close to the Shenandoah National Park we decided that while Katie was here we should take her for a ride through part of the park. This blog is a bit out of sequence since we did this while Katie was still visiting but I was without my computer due to multiple attempts to upgrade to Windows 10. I am glad to say that now I have finally been successful in upgrading my computer to windows 10. I have even upgraded Sharon's 1.5 year old laptop which fortunately had no issues with the upgrade.


Anyhow, the three of us left the Tom's Book area and drove to the north entrance of the Shenandoah National Park. We had to purchase another America the Beautiful Pass as ours had expired. This may be the last one we need to buy as it wont expire till September 2016 and I will turn 62 the following June. Then I can finally buy the $10 lifetime version of the $800 per year card we have been buying. One of the few perks of aging I guess…


The day was pleasant enough but once we drove into the park and started to gain elevation the temperatures dropped a bit and made the weather even better. Sharon and I drove this part of skyline drive before but Katie had never been on it so we pulled out on nearly ever turnout to take in the wide expanses of the Shenandoah Valley below. We feel this drive is one that everyone should experience at least once. This day we drove a bit over 32 miles of the entire road which is about a third of then entire skyline drive.


At each turnout we were rewarded with fantastic vistas, butterflies and beautiful wildflowers blooming. Mostly summer plants were in bloom at this time as we saw lots of sunflowers, black-eyed susans, milkweeds and thistles. The thistles and milkweeds were swarmed by the many butterflies in the mountains.


About 10 miles into the skyline drive we pulled over to hike one of the many waterfall trails in the park. Most waterfall trails in Shenandoah National Park are accessible at various parking lots along Skyline Drive but they will usually involve hiking downhill at first. This, of course, meant we would have to walk back up! The trail we chose was the Lands Run Falls hike which was 1.3 miles Round Trip. I highlighted the round trip part because we thought it was 1.3 miles long and 2.6 miles round trip.


To make a long story short we passed some small (I mean really small) falls at about 0.6 miles. We continued on down the steep hill until we reached 1.3 miles and there was no sign of any waterfall anywhere! So we continued another 2- 3 tenths of mile until I finally gave up and realized we weren’t going to find the waterfall deciding we should turn back. The hike back was all uphill and not a lot of fun since we didn’t see the falls. We did see some fantastic trees and to prove we were tree huggers we took the above photos (these are for you Sherry and David). When we got back and re-read the hike details we realized the little falls we saw at 0.6 miles was the waterfall we were looking for. Oh well, we had a great hike nonetheless..


We continued on the scenic drive until we at last reached the end of our segment and turned off toward Luray. We took the back roads into Woodstock, VA and stopped at the newly opened Woodstock Brewery.  Our friend Ashley whom we met two years ago arranged to meet us at the brewery.  While waiting, Katie, Sharon and I had a nice craft beer (okay an average craft beer) and laughed about our hike to the falls… Once Ashley arrived we had a blast catching up hearing about her husband, baby girl and her new job.  Ashley's smile lights up a room and we really enjoyed reconnecting with her.   A perfect ending to another great day here in the Shenandoah Valley.