Saturday, August 27, 2011

Westerville, Ohio

Randy and I are in Westerville, Ohio.  I hate to call this little city a "suburb," since that makes it sound like an appendage, and it is not that at all. This is a really fun and upscale place !

We left Akron this morning before noon and drove south on I71 to Rt 13 where we veered off the beaten path and drove through some of the loveliest farming communities of mid-Ohio.  Barns and small towns were delightful to slowly enjoy.  We had to chuckle at one sign in front of a local bar, written in chalk on a blackboard.  It read "BAD CHECKS!" and then gave the name of the man who apparently had written one of those to this tavern.  Ya don't want to mess with a small town dealer, I guess!

We are in Westerville to attend calling hours tomorrow for the mother of our brother-in-law. Our initial plan had been to go north to Cleveland, but with this family occurrence (and construction on I-77N)  we chose instead to come south and spend my final weekend before I go back to school in this lovely little city.

We're not going down to Columbus, which is just a stone's throw further south. We already did that in July.  Instead, we're enjoying Westerville. We are nestled in a room at the Ramada Inn, after a short search of other hostelries.  A bus full of elderly Texans escaping the interminable summer heat of San Antonio are also here, and they all were enjoying our Ohio cool late-summer evening, outside.

The main part of town, State Street, is beautiful with brick buildings. A Graeters Ice Cream shop seemed to be a huge draw, and people were lined up into the street awaiting what I have heard is a marvelous treat.  One older building, in particular, reminded us of the vintage buildings in  Guthrie, Oklahoma, that we so enjoyed a few summers ago. The State Street street lamps are decorated with the most glorious baskets of hanging petunias that I have ever seen in my life.  They must be four feet long, all in bright pink, up and down both sides of State Street. Each small business seems unique and interesting.  It is probably a good thing that we arrived in this part of town after most of them had closed!

We chose a local eatery for our dinner. We actually selected it from its description in our AAA guide. It is called The Old Bag of Nails.  What a name! (Our waitress could not tell us why it is so named, so I leave you in the dark about that, also.)  A stuffed (real) bear greeted us from the wall on our entry, and its friend, a moose, held hats over the bar.  We both enjoyed grilled fish and excellent service at The Old Bag.  While Temperance was very important in Westerville a long time ago, it does not seem to be the rule here today.  Lots of jolly people were enjoying their drinks along with us.  There is actually an area of town honoring the Temperance Movement, which was very strong here.............long ago.

After dinner we walked up and down State Street, and found a little brick-lined alley that led us to a coffee shop called Java Central.  It seemed to be overflowing with customers, and the smell of good coffee permeated the alley. A bluegrass trio was making great music inside, and every seat was filled. Luckily, we were outside the back of the music room, and we could see the crowd and the singers, and hear it perfectly, while we sat at an opportunistically-placed table and chair set.  Randy went inside and came back with a "coffee toffee" drink, which was totally divine.

Back in our car on our way "home" to the Ramada, we stopped at Half Price Books, which called to me from a strip mall.  We spent half an hour there locating a few good audio books and yet another copy of Meatloaf's "Bat Out of Hell" for our return trip tomorrow afternoon. (For only $1, well under half-price.............such a deal!)

Tomorrow we will don our summer darks, offer our condolences, and be on our way home to Akron.  Today we drove through Bellville, Mount Vernon, and Sunbury, Ohio.............the heartland of our state.  If we had stayed on the interstate, we would have missed the polite young lady at the Shell station in Centerburg, and the Amish lady who sold Randy a blackberry pie at the side of the road somewhere along the way.

On Tuesday I go back to school............until I can find an extra day and a reason to be on the road again.

copyright:  KP Gillenwater

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ocean Isle.................AKA "Heaven"

I love Ocean Isle, North Carolina.  It's the beach where I saw my children blossom.  It's where I talk with God openly and freely.  It is sand, shells, sounds, and the most calm ocean experience still available, I think.

The town itself consists of a small ocean museum, a town hall, a church. There are three restaurants and bars. (There IS a new restaurant/bar at the far west end of the island these days, but it's far enough away from the traffic circle that I don't consider it part of the town.)

There are three little shops for tee shirts and beach gear, a coffee/food shop, a gas station that sells bacon, eggs, shrimp, and bait along with the gas, multiple real estate offices, and a couple of non-chain motels.  Only one highrise blights the view, and with a little practice I have come to not see it at all. All the other buildings are beach houses of varying sizes and values. If you want a Waves store, you have to drive over the causeway, off the island, to find that kind of (tacky) shopping experience.

We've just returned from a week in Ocean Isle.  Our little house was supposed to sleep eight, but the three of us, Randy and I and my daughter Meredith, fit in nicely.  One more person might have been too many, actually.

I didn't write Ramblings of Roamers all week because we didn't have Internet service.  I did, however, religiously sit down and hand-write my travel journal each morning.  It is all documented.  I found out that I write more and do better detailing when I type. (Next beach house will have Internet.......)

I don't plan to copy my handwritten journal onto this site, but will just tell the major events, if I could call them that.

Picture me, no make-up except for mascara, a worn blue floppy hat covering my head, a bathing suit from the 80's,  tired beach umbrella hovering over my head, book in hands, sitting in my also aged red and white striped beach chair (with the broken part barely hanging on.....),  and you have the BEST part of the whole week.  Silence, except for the sounds of waves, wind, and an occasional bird call.  I sat just like that for most of the week.  (The NEW swimsuit was in the suitcase waiting to be worn with people who might CARE what I was wearing........................)  A few dips into the ocean each day, a few rides on my old boogie board, feet dug deep into the sand,  I was in my element.  Almost Heaven.

A shrimp boat or two went by throughout the week, and once I even lifted up my binoculars to get a good view of one called the Predator, only because it looked awesome from the shore.  A one-footed sandpiper modeled for me at daybreak one morning. I photographed him because he wanted his picture taken, I could tell.  It was only when he hopped away that I realized he really only HAD one leg.  I went ass-over-tin-cup, as we used to call it, when one humongous wave shoved my boogie board and me upside-down on a very windy day.  Those are the  highlights of day beaching.

Sunrises were seen on two occasions, and sundowns were witnessed each evening.  There are no words for either..................

Shrimp by the pounds, from the grocery on the mainland or from the shrimper himself at a roadside stand, were steamed and grilled at our little beach house.  There were no leftovers..............

We ate dinner at Sharky's twice:  Once with Meredith where we ate a white pizza, and once just Randy and I ordered the "World's Famous Sharky's Vegetarian Pizza," which I have been copying in my own kitchen since about 1984.............the banana peppers are key to the thrill of this pizza. I was pleased to find that mine tastes just like theirs.

We had dinner at The Giggling Mackerel once.  I've called that place everything except its name, as I find it hard to remember, for some reason.  I think I ate an appetizer there............chicken fingers.  At some point, I realized that I was not hungry at ALL...........probably because we seemed to be eating nonstop. Meredith asked, occasionally, "When is the next feeding?"........which sort of sums it up.

Aside from three separate orders of fried calamari, (one at each restaurant), we went through two bags of salt water taffy, a bag of soft licorice, two packages of Oreos, a package of Vienna Fingers, two Pop Tarts, a dozen eggs, a pound of bacon, a small carton of ice cream, 24 bottles of water, many bottles of 55 calorie Budweiser, and a loaf of bread which we used for tomato sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, and toast.

One night we had a "luau" on our little front porch.  Meredith assembled a kite that looked like a parrot, I produced beach art from the walls of our abode, we strung up some Christmas lights, brought out the low coffee table from the living room, and sat on beach chairs around the table while we ate grilled vegetables and shrimp from Chef Randy.  Reggae music completed the scene. For dessert, we opened up Oreo cookies, used Randy's blow torch to roast marshmallows, smooshed them into the Oreos, and created what Meredith named "Smoreos."  Yum.

Two days to get there: you know we don't do power driving. On the way we stayed in a Comfort Inn in Winston-Salem, NC, and on the way back Meredith and I stayed in a Red Roof in Wytheville, VA. Randy left the beach at the same time we did Saturday morning, but took his truck north to Nags Head to pick up his mother, who had flown there with his sister, from Texas.  Fran will be visiting in Akron for three weeks before she flies home August 16th.

Meredith and I arrived home on Sunday afternoon about 3:30, and I've put everything away, done the beach laundry, grocery shopped, and caught up on my email.  The bills are calling my I know that I am not at the beach anymore, Toto...................

I have a "tan"............I have "Beachwoman" Hair.............that look that screams "naturally curly" to anyone who sees  it....................and I don't plan to tame it until the spell of Ocean Isle seems to fade away........
which I hope will be awhile yet................

copyright: KP Gillenwater

Friday, July 15, 2011

To the Beach, to the Ocean Isle, NC

At 5:00 this morning Randy and I were up and putting the finishing touches on our house and ourselves.  Meredith arrived at 5:30 on the nose, and by 6:10 we were out the door, everything dead-bolted, and we were on our way. Randy is driving his truck, and I am driving my Rendezvous.  The reason for two vehicles is that we will not be driving home together. Now, while that may sound ominous, it's not! It's really a matter of creating the easiest way to get Randy's mom home from Texas, via North Carolina.

On the way home next week, Randy will be taking a side trip to Nags Head, in the Outer Banks, to pick up his mother, Fran.  Fran will be flying north from Texas with Randy's sister's family, then be coming home with Randy to visit in Akron, where she will visit for three weeks, staying in the homes of all three of the Gillenwater siblings, sort of like a time-share event.

We have a reservation tonight at a Comfort Inn in the north part of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and we had to drive approximately 450 miles today to get here.  We made exceptionally good time, but as two of us had not eaten breakfast, by about 9:45 AM we were ready to stop for lunch/brunch.  We ate our picnic of egg-salad sandwiches and fruit on the banks of the Ohio River in Marietta, Ohio.  We sat on the concrete tiers that face the river arena for the stern wheeler boats during the Stern Wheeler Festival Days that we have attended when my sister and her husband lived near Marietta.

We used the restroom at the historic Lafayette Hotel, then we were out of town and back on the road.  We had a few gasoline stops and bathroom breaks, notably one at Beckley, West Virginia, near the Tamarack West Virginia Arts building.

On we drove.  Our GPS unit, Thelma, is so wonderful.  I don't know how we ever got anywhere without her.  At exactly 3:50 PM, just as Thelma had predicted, we pulled into the parking lot of this Comfort Inn. (The funny thing is that Randy has borrowed his brother's GPS unit, Thelma II, and they have actually disagreed on the route to take!!!)  Thank goodness for cell phones car to car.

We ate dinner at La Torrendos, a real Mexican restaurant which is fairly close to our motel.  We have a bit of motion sickness from riding for more than nine hours. (You know that Randy and I don't like "power driving." We're more the ambling type........the "roamers.")

We anticipate a lovely evening and a good night's sleep here.

 We have rented a beach house in Ocean Isle, North Carolina for a week, starting tomorrow. It's the beach town where my former husband and I used to take our kids for beach trips when they were little.  Meredith actually selected the house online and we did the entire rental by computer.  It's a house that sleeps more than the three of us, but we couldn't convince Stephen to leave home with us.  (Meredith's little Yorkie, Boogie, is staying with a friend.)  I cannot believe that I failed to mention the destination.............except in the title...........

.............but I guess that's because we so infrequently HAVE a "destination!"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Columbus, Revisited

Randy and I went to Columbus for my STRS appointment, to investigate retirement, for me.  We arrived early and took a walk several blocks to stroll around the state capitol building. We've decided that of all the state capitols, Ohio's is the least good-looking.  It just doesn't have that regal look that others, with domes, do.

The meeting went well, was well-understood, and we left STRS to go to German Village to The Book Loft, the bookstore with 32 different rooms full of books.  I bought a book about ghosts and a WW cookbook and a pile of greeting cards. Randy bought some construction books.

Then we went to North Star Cafe in Clintonville, north of Columbus, to meet up with Janet Lipkin Fish, who I truly have not seen since 9th grade. We've struck up a friendship via Facebook over the past two years. She is retiring right this minute and had steered me to the counselor I met with.  I had a 6 dollar bowl of soup and Randy had a 14 dollar hamburger. Then we had four 3 dollar cookies..........egads.

We then went to "Short North," which is in the northern part of the city. Lots of galleries and cute little boutiques are there. We strolled around, checked out a few shops and galleries, and decided it was too hot to be there.

Since it was July 1st, Columbus was celebrating what is called "Red, White, and Boom!" and half of the city was not even at work (which is probably why we had no trouble driving around.....) and at night there was to be a huge fireworks display.

Randy and I ordered a big pizza and ate that in our suite at the Comfort Inn, then stood in the parking lot and watched what we could see of the fireworks, rather than be in a huge crowd.  We also took a very short dip in the hotel pool.

On Saturday morning, it was raining, but we had planned to attend "The Gallery Hop" at Short North. Unfortunately, the rain kept a lot of people from going there.  We went in and out of galleries, not buying anything.  We found The North Market, on Spruce Street, (I think) and enjoyed a very leisurely walk through this old city market.  (It is a small version of The West Side Market of Cleveland.)  We ate a couple of samples, and I bought 6 large square screaming yellow dinner plates for summer entertaining at one great little kitchen shop.  A farmer sold me some wheatberries at half what I've been paying at Giant Eagle, also.

We walked back to our car, parked on High Street, and ate coney dogs at Phillip's Coney Island, while we watched Retro TV.....Fess Parker in Daniel Boone, then Robin Hood.  Across the street, at Jeni's fabulous ice cream shop, we had 2 scoops of ice cream for $8.................delicious, cold, and we needed it at that moment.

Home in the late afternoon via Lodi Outlets.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lily Dale, New York, Where "Nobody Dies," and The White Turkey Drive-In

Meredith and I have been to Lily Dale, New York, for two days. We've been to Lily Dale before, you may remember. Actually I went there twice last summer. I didn't tell you much about Lily Dale, because I wasn't sure how you would react to knowing I go there to find some spiritual peace, and connect with others.

Lily Dale is a community which was organized in 1844.  It is just over the New York state line from Erie, Pennsylvania.  It is a home for Spiritualists.  This includes mediums.  Lily Dale has had its share of bad press over early years, but recently it has had mostly good reviews, including an HBO movie about it in 2010, titled "Nobody Dies in Lily Dale."  This movie presented objective reviews from visitors to Lily Dale, and reactions to the mediumship practiced there.

In 2010 Randy and I were in Lily Dale on our summer vacation. You can look back and read about it. I was vague in my coverage of that day, but it was wonderful. The daily schedule does not deviate much.

Visitors first attend a "healing service" in the  Healing Temple.  This is a laying-on of hands and spiritual healing service.  As one who believes in the spiritual existance of all people, this was very easy for me to accept, attend, and come out  feeling refreshed, and indeed healed of some problems I was having.

Throughout the day, we attended some "Message Services" at various locations around Lily Dale. These are led by mediums who take turns going to the front of the groups and delivering spiritual messages from the Other Side to persons in the audience. Many of these deliveries are more than amazing.

If you are not a believer in Life After Death, you might as well quit reading here, but I assure you that I have had many lovely signs from my son in the years since he passed over. Part of the grief counseling that has helped me to grow has been acceptance when I relate these to others who believe.  This, for me, is not a "religion," but a way of thinking and believing. (And for anyone who is scoffing at this, isn't this what we were taught to believe in Sunday School: That part about "life everlasting?")

Randy and I went to Lily Dale in the early part of last summer, and Meredith went to Lily Dale with me the next month.  She and I stayed overnight on the grounds at the Maplewood Hotel, which dates back to 1880. This year, she and I made reservations at the Leolyn Hotel, which is just outside the Lily Dale gate. This is the first year that the Leolyn will be open full-time, due to the influx of visitors who came after the HBO presentation last year. We also wanted a private bathroom, which the other hotel cannot guarantee. Many guest homes have sprung up since last year to deal with the increase in visitors.

Lily Dale may be the most peaceful place one can visit. Our hotel had no TV, no air conditioning, no internet server, and no ice, either.  It didn't matter.  Lily Dale is quiet. No one is walking around yelling into a cell phone or even speaking loudly.  Everyone there is "like-minded," and quietly seeking answers.  The few stores are filled with books, tapes, music, and other items that promote peace, goodwill towards others, and acceptance of everyone. The whole message is love, acceptance and eternal life. I told Meredith that I thought it was a little like going to summer camp.

I had a reading with Janice Dreshman, and Meredith had an art-reading with Bonnie White.

We came home yesterday afternoon via Rt. 20 which is north of the interstate we travelled on our way. There was much construction on I-90, so the unbeaten path called to us.  We followed Rt 20 west to The White Turkey Drive-In in Conneaut, Ohio.  When my kids were little they used to go to Camp Fitch, in North Springfield, Pennsylvania.  Our route to camp went right by The White Turkey, and we always stopped for a turkey sandwich and a drink.

The White Turkey Drive-In was built in 1952. It has roll-up canvas sides that surround the serving arena where young ladies take orders, serve root beer floats, and place orders via the microphone to the kitchen.  Juke box machines are on the countertops so we can order up fifties tunes such as "Twilight Time," or "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation."  The bathroom floors are painted bright red and decorated with white turkeys stencilled onto the floors.  The entire drive-in is immaculate and friendly.  We sat on stools around the counters to eat, as the wind blew and Patsy Cline sang sad songs.

I came home refreshed, rested, and renewed.  Lily Dale is only open during the summer.  That's a shame, because I could use a little peace during the winter.....................

Monday, May 23, 2011

Back to Being a Yankee

Sunday, May 22

I literally had to PRY myself out of that bed this morning, and we are such master packers that we had totally filled our bags and were ready for breakfast in a matter of minutes.  Breakfast is beautiful at this hotel!

Today I had the eggs, toast, bacon, and oatmeal that had cream cooked into it, with a little cinnamon in it and topped with some maple syrup. ............the other patrons were embarrassed by my moans, a bit, I think.  Randy had that Blue Ridge French Toast that I'd enjoyed so much yesterday, and we greeted all the folks we've met on the porch as we ate.

One little tidbit about The Martha Washington Hotel and Spa that we found refreshing:  The coffee mugs and cups at breakfast each day are a comglomeration of odds and ends, as if they had sent someone out to shop the local garage sales and bring back extra mugs and cups...........what we LIKED about this is it took away any air of "stuffiness" that being in this hotel might have had and had that one little touch of "hominess" to it.  Seeing a  man drinking from a leopard-print mug this morning, and Randy having a cup with a Mickey Mouse drawing on it brought in that creature comfort of "We are normal here, in spite of the grandeur."

I also forgot to mention Tea Time yesterday, where Randy and I enjoyed a pot of tea, some cookies and finger sandwiches, served in the luncheon bar area. The tea was served in a Chinese-type metal pot which kept it really hot for the quarter hour we sat and enjoyed a bite between lunch and dinner. This takes place every day from three to four here.

We drove home, listening to our audio book, in gorgeous sunshine, finishing up my chicken from The Tavern for our picnic lunch, and the drive was uneventful until we got close to Canton.  There was a 3-car accident that happened about a mile ahead of us, involving a semi and 2 cars. We sat for nearly an hour and a half in very hot weather while they removed victims and the truck.  Fortunately, we had magazines and newspapers that we had not read, and had cold water. 

We are safely home and back to work in the morning.  Thanks for going along with us!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Barter Theatre, The Spa, and the Day in Heaven................

We were at breakfast by 8:30 in the dining room, where I had Blue Ridge French toast with real maple syrup, fresh fruit, and two slices of Virginia smoked bacon. Randy had eggs, toast, and bacon and then I ate his fresh fruit.

Part of my gift, as if I needed anything more, was a spa treatment, and at 11:00 I was dropped off by Randy at the spa for a facial and a pedicure.  Nothing like this have I ever done in my long life. The facial was done while I lay on a soft bed in a dimly lit room with billowing draperies attached to the ceiling, soft music and Connie, who had magic fingers and all kinds of slippery oils and mists and a soft voice. I slept through part of the facial.

Then Connie took me to the pedicure room, where I got a back massage from a vibrating chair while my feet were submerged and peddied and my toenails were painted, my ankles were massaged, and I again fell asleep.  I am not used to this pampering, but I gotta tell you:  I COULD GET USED TO THIS IN A BIG HURRY.

We spent some time lounging by the hot tub in the bright sunlight (I don't think we're in Ohio anymore, Toto....) then took a short dip in that saltwater pool, read some magazines, and Randy took a little sun nap.

Randy took the car out to investigate Abingdon while I was being primped, and has made dinner reservations.  He had previously arranged for us to see a play tonight at The Barter Theatre.

We had dinner about a mile up the street at The Tavern, a very small building that was built in kidding. It is the oldest building in Abingdon that is still in use.  It's very small as you walk inside, and the ceiling is a bit low, also.  We asked for outside seating in light of the expected Rapture at just our dinner hour, and had a lovely table in the back with boxwood bushes all up the middle of the yard. 

Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson had eaten there, as did a king of France, back in the day.  The roof is totally covered with bright green moss, and the entire place was like going back in time.  I had chicken saltimbocca, which was TWO chicken breasts with some cheese, pesto, ham, and sauce. There was also a pasta salad AND a side salad.  Randy had a ten ounce prime rib with a baked potato.  They rolled us out to the car when we were done, and we have yet to be able to bend fully over.

Randy hired the horse-drawn buggy to ride us around Abingdon after dinner.  The driver, a young woman from town, knew all kinds of interesting things about Abingdon, some gossip, and some amazing tales about our hotel, as well.  I fell asleep in the back of the buggy, but did manage to hear most of the information.  It was my very first horse-drawn carriage ride, ever.  Randy has certainly made this a memorable birthday!

The play was really a good time. It is called  "Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes," and it is all about the life story of Hank Williams (senior) told by Jason Petty, who wrote the commentary and sings all twenty-two songs during this two-act performance.  Jason won the Obie Award for his performance in "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," which was an off-Broadway show in 2003.  Jason Petty was pretty amazing if I do say so myself.

Now, let me put you into my theatre seat for a minute.  My Bucket List had The Barter Theatre on it, not a play about country-western music.  Since I can only hum about two bars of ANY country-western music song, (although I can clap fairly well to some of it, ) I am not what you would call a "fan," by any means.  But tonight, sitting in a box seat in the balcony of The Barter Theatre, I temporarily became  a country-western music fan.  We enjoyed the entire performance, clapped when everyone else did (sort of how I did it at football games,) tapped our toes on the floor, wished we'd worn plaid shirts and suspenders, stood for the standing ovation which was well-earned, and generally got into this foreign genre of entertainment, if only for one night.  (We did, after all, come to see the theatre in action. And we did.)

We have sat on the front porch with our glass of port, talked with a lovely couple from Amherst, Virginia, where we just had lunch in April while we researched Randy's roots.  I am preparing for a soak in the hot tub before retiring.  I have had trouble staying awake most of the afternoon, and every muscle in my body aches. I know it is because I am so relaxed that the tension has temporarily abated, leaving me achy.

I do not know what time check-out time is, but I will be the woman hanging on by her fingernails to the front door as the valets deliver our car to the front drive.  It probably won't be a pretty scene, so I won't relate that.

Thank you, Randy, for a wonderful birthday gift !  An experience..................(and you know how I do love a good experience!)

The Historical Martha Washington Inn, Abingdon, Virginia

Randy refused to tell me where he was taking me to celebrate my birthday.  I took my personal day from school, and we took off from home at 8:20 AM, driving south on I-77. We had audio tapes of Garrison Keiler's Woebegone Boy, so we enjoyed those for part of the trip. (We've save the second half for the return trip.)

The drive was long.  We had breakfast in Cambridge, in the parking lot of our favorite grocery store there:  crab salad for me, and an egg salad sandwich for Randy, then we devoured half of a loaf of soft and freshly baked cinnamon pull-apart bread.  We will diet later.

A few hours later we had a picnic lunch that Randy had brought: fried chicken and a Caesar salad, which we had at a picnic area somewhere in southern West Virginia.

When I realized that a sign said "Abington," I began to "get it."  Randy wouldn't let me look at a map, so I just had to ride along asking questions, which he would not answer. He just kept smiling!

We've been here before, in 2007, on our way to or from The Biltmore in Asheville, NC.........Then, we drove through Abingdon, and I saw the sign for The Barter Theatre, "Virginia's Theatre," or some such phrase,  and we stopped the car to look around.  As it was a Sunday morning, everything was closed up that day, but a little old lady was walking down the street, and she stopped to tell us about this theatre.

It is called the Barter Theatre because starving actors and actresses knew they could come here when they were out of their luck, and they could act here, "bartering" their craft, for a place to stay and a meal.  It was founded in 1933, and fresh produce from the farms were usually what was bartered by the locals to see a play. Many famous people have acted on the stage of The Barter: Patricia Neal, Gregory Peck, Ernest Borgnine, Hune Cronyn, Ned Beatty, and there is a huge list inside the theatre.  Many actors and actresses come here to add it to their list of credits, without the hunger involved, today.                                      

And many famous people have stayed across the street at the Martha Washington Hotel and Spa.  It is enormous and very plush and richly decorated.  It was first a private home for a general and his family, then it was a finishing school for young ladies, it served as a hospital for wounded Civil War soldiers, then became a womens' college, and in 1935 became an inn and hotel.  Elizabeth Taylor, Eleanor Roosevelt,  Harry Truman, Lady Bird Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Gregory Peck, to name a few.  Lady Bird's photo is stationed over the bottle of port in the library, where guests may have a complimentary after-dinner drink each night.

The the first hour, after the valets had delivered our bags to our room,  we toured the hotel, sitting on every wicker seat on the huge columned front porch, trying out all the little tables in nooks and crannies which are visible from hallway windows, and peeking down at the pool area, which is open twenty-four hours a day. (When we stay where there is a pool, we usually miss the use of it due to the closing times, so this is pretty nice.)

We enjoyed the porch, watching a horse-drawn buggy drive into the circular drive, the valets parking the cars, and the guests arriving. There is to be a wedding here on Saturday, and those folks are coming in tonight.

We are in room 218 in the Presidential Wing, where a painting of George Washington hangs in the hallway. Our room is not huge, but is elegantly furnished, with a Keurig coffee maker, a lovely shower area with so many bells and whistles that we are still not sure how to just turn on and off the water, and a bed that feels like "The Princess and the Pea" could take place in it.

Dinner was in the restaurant in the lower level, a rather dark room, with oak walls and room dividers.  We were seated in our own private room, and had Miss Kim as our waitress.  I had huge shrimp with avocado slices and corn salsa on them and Randy had pan-fried quail for our appetizers.  The main course was Kansas City sirloin for Randy (no surprise) and I had enormous scallops with freshly cooked spinach and wheatberries with fresh cranberries cooked into them.  Small servings, but we could not finish it all!  We enjoyed an Australian shiraz to go along with this, and then creme brulee for dessert.  We waddled upstairs to the library to get our after-dinner port.

The library looks like a movie set. There is actually a library of books for guests to read, and those wonderful ladders that can take you up to the top shelf (picture Katherine Hepburn on top looking down at Spencer Tracy.........), leather sofas that could swallow you up, a fireplace, oriental rugs, and dark paneling all around.  Scarlett and Rhett could have played out their kissing scene in front of the fireplace....................and I looked to see if Clark Gable was lying down on the sofa when I first walked in.  (Darn!  He was not.)

We met a couple on the porch: An older man with a far far younger woman.  We drank port with them and talked for awhile, then Randy and I went back to our room to suit up for the pool.

As this is a spa, the pool is salt water, and I have never felt pool water so clean and easy to move through.  It was like "lightweight water," is the only way to describe it.  So fresh and calm. Nobody else was in the pool when I was, probably because it was well after midnight. We discovered the hot tubs outside, and they were lit by colored lights that kept changing. One hot tub was above the other, and the water fell into the lower hot tub from the layered levels of water.  A fire pit burned off to the side, and after we had let the water massage all our aches and pains, we sat by the fire pit, just enjoying the calmness and the sound of the trickling water, and good conversation.

We were in bed and asleep by about 2:30........swallowed up in the softness of this marvelous bed.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Sad End.................Day 10, Spring Break

We are home, and arrived about 4:00 PM.  We left White Sulphur Springs in sunshine and a high of about 74 degrees as we travelled along 64W to 77N.

As we drove along, I kept asking Randy what the temperature was, and each time I asked him, it was colder. (I think there was a black cloud over our car.............) and then it started to rain this hideous cold rain as soon as we had crossed over the Ohio state kidding.          Welcome home!!!

However.....................due to an electrical outage while we were gone, we were welcomed by our alarm system beeping at us, then screaming at us when we tried to turn it off............but the worst is that our furnace seems to be on the blink due to the same outage.  It just won't turn on the heat, and it is about 54 degrees here.

It was an uneventful day on the road.  We've unloaded the car already, put lots of stuff away and thrown the laundry down the chute.  I am cooking pasta and a jar of sauce for lack of much else worth eating in the house right now.

My bookbag has that woeful look as it sits by the door, and I know I am back to the grind in the morning.  I will be off on Friday, however, as I had to make a dentist appointment in Poland for that morning.  The next day, April 30th,  I will be marking the fifth year without Philip here, also, so I will be spending part of the day on Friday at Riverside Cemetery, then have lunch with a dear friend.

The best day of spring break is the first..............and the worst is the last.  Alas: This is the last.

We will let you know when we're off again for parts unknown!  Thanks for following along with us!

 I write my journal because it's something I just do.  I am glad to share it with those of you who travel "virtually" with us.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

On The Road Again................Day 9, Spring Break

We were out of Petersburg by 8:30, and on the road headed north. You know us by now.  We did not take the road MOST travelled by, but took some odd road that took us around Richmond and north (I think it was labelled 288?) to Rt 60W which took us through some small towns and through some gorgeous scenery.

 It was a rather uneventful morning until we got to Amherst, Virginia, where Randy's family actually had some roots. There we stopped at the town hall for a few minutes, and realizing that information was not going to just leap out at us, we drove down to the Amherst County Public Library where we asked for guidance.

A lovely lady librarian assisted Randy in locating the records of some ancestral wills which were filed in Amherst in 1779 or so.  We kept looking through the "rare" books that were locked in a case in the library for Gillenwaters until we found some. Since Randy has done some ancestral research, he knew he had the right folks!  We followed this up with the purchase of some goodies from the Friends of the Library book sale shelf, then had our picnic lunch on the table beside the library.  We certainly made this "one stop shopping!" We also did some traispsing around in a very old cemetery there in Amherst, looking for Randy's ancestors, but no markers were Gillenwaters.

On we went, over some rather hair-raising mountainous roads, frankly,  (white knuckles for me, the driver),   until we connected with 64W, and continued the trek homeward until we arrived at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. This is home to The Greenbriar Resort.  We've been here before, enjoyed the tour, but also knew that the evening was approaching and chose to just STOP.  If it ain't broke, don't fix we are staying once again at the Old White Inn on Rt 60 in White Sulphur Springs.  It was built in 1953, and is as clean and neat as the day they opened it.  Their sign reads, "...with an air of gracious hospitality," and that could not be more true.

This little town is one of those that they say "rolls up the sidewalk when the sun goes down," but that is OK.  We actually had a choice between two eateries, The Mason Jar, and East 50, which is named for its own address.  We had eaten at the first on our last visit, so chose East 50 this time, since we could eat al fresco. (It is 77 degrees and sunny here right now.)  Our margherita pizza had far too much cheese on it, but still was tasty. The appetizer wings were wonderful, and the wine was fine.(Have we ever complained about the wine?)  The service was efficient and friendly, and here we are, back at The Old White Inn, about to sit on the front porch to watch the local traffic go by and enjoy the mountains and the fresh spring air.

Home tomorrow.  I am trying not to think about going back to w--k.

copyright:  KP  Gillenwater

Friday, April 22, 2011

Homeward Bound...................Day 8, Spring Break

Spring Break breaks my heart.............because it has to come to a close.  We'd packed and were ready to leave by 10 AM.  Most of the packing was done before we'd fallen asleep, and we skipped the sunrise this morning, entirely. That must mean we were tired. Or resting.  Or forgot that alarm clocks exist.

We drove out of the Outer Banks around 11 o'clock, stopped at the Weeping Radish Brewery on Rt 158 for a box of good beer to take home,  lunch at Mel's Diner a few feet from the Radish, and then chose NOT to drive home the way the map told us to go.

Instead, we drove across northern North Carolina by way of Rt. 158,  skipped the hideous traffic of Norfolk, Virginia and the frantic race past Williamsburg, and opted instead for the slow-go traffic of two lanes through small towns, snail-pace speed limits from 35 MPH to 55 MPH, traffic lights with ordinary people going ordinary places,  doing ordinary things, in ordinary villages.  In other words, it was ALL GOOD.

Several hours later, in cold rain, we arrived at I-95 North, crossed into Virginia, and decided to end the day in Petersburg, Virginia.  We'd spent a day or two here two years ago, visiting Civil War landmarks.  (My own great-grandfather marched through here with his Confederate comrades, we know.) Nice city. Huge history.

We are in a lovely newly-renovated Comfort Inn right off exit 45.  Dinner was exactly what we wanted: greasy fried chicken at a fast-food chain. (Enough shrimp, already.)

It was hard to leave the ocean.   Here's hoping for that lottery ticket....................

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Rainy Daze...........Day 7, Spring Break

You knew it was too good to be true: We'd dodged every possible "bullet" with the weather so far.  Well, today we got rain.  Not a tornado, mind you. Just rain, but it was a cold rain and the wind kept us from being on the beach.

We started out with a trip north to Oregon Inlet to our favorite breakfast restaurant, Sam 'n Omies, which has been there since 1937, and has catered to early-morning fishermen for years.  We've been there once or twice each visit we've made to the OBX, and had to go out of tradition.  We weren't disappointed:  eggs, bacon, toast, coffee. (How could they go wrong, you say?)  That's probably the key.  They can't.  Friendly service, clean atmosphere.

After that we did a bit of shopping. In truth, we had planned to drive to Manteo to visit our favorite privately-owned book store (Manteo Book Store), but we got hung up at our favorite souvenir shop, Souvenir City, and that took awhile.  Once we came out of there the winds had started, the temperature was obviously going to be Ohio-ish, and we decided not to go to Manteo.  Instead, we did some shopping in little stores in Kill Devils Hills and Nags Head, then retreated to our motel.

After finishing up my leftover shrimp from last night, we literally bundled up in jeans, sweatshirts, hats and blankets, and sat on the beach all by ourselves for awhile, with "beach books" in hand.  A Bloody Mary accompanied this venture, and we fell asleep due to the heavy clothing and fresh air within a short time.

Afraid that we'd miss something, we decided to rally and go to Duck, which is in the northern part of the OBX. We've stayed there a couple of times, too, and always like a place called Scarborough Faire to do some tourist shopping.

Randy wanted to go to dinner, later,  at Elizabeth's, a lovely upscale place run by Leonard Logan.  We had a marvelous dinner there years ago which we fondly remember as being romantic and lush.  Today we were there at about 2:00, and since dinner wasn't going to start being served until 6:00, we decided to forego that plan. (

However, they did let us into their attached "gallery" where we could enjoy a glass of good wine while we talked with the artist-in-residence, one Brad Price, who also serves as the chef for Elizabeth's.  Brad has done some lovely work, and one landscape of his was truly awesome.  Brad is a self-proclaimed "self-taught" artist, who has found some good teachers along the way to help him find his artistic path.  We bought a small print of his which portrays a fishing boat, done in bright may see this one in our kitchen in a few weeks. ( ( I cannot get his website up, but this is the one on his card. Keep trying.)

We finished up our Scarborough Faire shopping and drove on back to our motel.  Along the way we went by "Sawyer" several times..........Sawyer is the old Nags Head house we rented back in 2002 when we spent a week there, introducing our children to each other, including Randy's mother and also his first grandchild, Abby.  There's a little piece of my heart (Thanks, Janis) left behind there............we had a good time that summer.

We finally did eat dinner at The Jolly Roger, a small little place we'd been to years ago.  The wait-staff dresses like pirates, and the ceiling is covered with Christmas balls in the room we chose to eat. (I know that I've mentioned those hanging globes in my other blog, as our back porch has the same decor, but I believe I gave credit to the wrong restaurant when I mentioned it.) Randy had a steak, and I had a flounder dish which left some taste bud still wanting, but the atmosphere was fun, the servers were helpful, and the colors of the ceiling were cheerful.

We are back in our motel, and now we have the heater on instead of the air conditioning. Our beach books are calling our names, and we still want to sit outside even though it's quite cold, because tomorrow we head back to Ohio...............where there is no ocean, hot OR we'd better enjoy it while we can and take it in, no matter what the weather.

I told you I'd tell you about the Beach People today, but since they, apparently, are NOT from Ohio, they had better sense than to try to sit out there on that freezing cold beach today, and I have nearly forgotten all their foibles and eccentricities by now...........except for the lady with her entire back totally tattooed..........that image is imprinted in my memory, and I can tell you about that later.  Today I was telling you about GOOD art.  :)

It's been a relaxing day........................but the "sharks are swimming around my feet," as we head home in the morning.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beach Daze.................Day 6, Spring Break

1. Got up
2. Drank coffee on the beach
3. Sat on the beach
4. Read my "beach book"
5. Had small breakfast
6. Made a salad for lunch
7. Sat on the beach
8. Fell asleep on my "beach book"
9. Read some more
10. Sat on the beach
11. Read some more
12. Went to Tortuga's Lie again for yet another pound of shrimp
13. Drank some wine while we sat on the beach and read our "beach books"
14. Came inside to watch American Idol
15. Will go back outside to sit on the beach, drink some wine, and then come in to read the "beach books"

The end of Day 6
Stick around for tomorrow, though............I've been doing a study on the Beach People..........I have to look up from the book occasionally.................
The weather has been wonderful. It was in the low 80's today, sunny all afternoon. No rain. No tornadoes.  Life is good.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunny Days................Day 5, Spring Break

Randy woke me up with all his rattling. He was making coffee at 6:30 AM, was fully dressed, camera in hand, and ready to hit the porch for the sunrise.  I had to get up out of guilt and joined him, dressed in my bathrobe and wrapped up in a quilt.  We sat on the beach in our chairs and watched the sun come up and the dolphins play in the water.

Breakfast and lunch were served on the tomato sandwiches and also turkey sandwiches.

No wonder I kept falling asleep in my beach chair.

We didn't leave our chairs until 5 PM when it was time to drive a mile down to the Kill Devils Grille (milepost 9) for another pound of shrimp,( this time steamed in beer), and an appetizer, then back to resume relaxing.

I started a really good book titled Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger, and have had my nose stuck into the pages of it most of the day with a few breaks to use the binoculars to watch dolphins pass by. The binoculars made it so I could see their smiling faces as they leapt up into the air. 

Aside from moving around from sun to shade and back, that is just about the extent of the goings on of the Roamers today.

Ho hum.   Sorry so short, but that's all folks!

Monday, April 18, 2011

To the Sea, To the Sea.......................Day 4

Randy pointed out to me late last night that I had failed to mention what he considered to be a "highlight" of yesterday's drive to the Natural Bridge non-visit.  Remember when I mentioned all the sideshows that the neighbors had created along the way to the "main event?" 

I forgot to tell you about FOAMHENGE!

 If you are familiar at all with Stonehenge, then you can imagine the same thing, except this one is made entirely out of large pieces of Styrofoam, like packing material.  No kidding.  We were driving along, looked up, and there it was...............Stonehenge........only there were funny signs telling us it wasn't really Stonehenge, it was Foamhenge.........made of huge blocks of foam stuff.  One sign said it was made in a week by "4-5 Mexicans and 1 crazy white guy working non-stop." There were some signs threatening to arrest us if we write on the foam or deface it, but I saw that some others had already done that.  In short, it is like being at the real Stonehenge, only it's NOT.  We did walk through some red clay mud to get up the hill to see this fun thing, though. Google it. It's been on the Discovery channel and some other TV networks,  apparently.

Today we drove from our motel to Historic Williamsburg, parked our car in a one-hour lot, and walked up and down the Duke of Gloucester Street, a good two miles at a brisk pace, taking in the ambiance of the history of Williamsburg.  We've been there before, have seen the main events, bought the gingerbread, eaten the stew, and all the wonderful things that make Williamsburg Williamsburg.  We were happy today to be able to do the Reader's Digest version of Historic Williamsburg. It was still lovely and delightful. We enjoyed watching the families with the tri-cornered hats on their little boys, locking their chilidren into the stockades, and bringing back some lovely memories.  One hour later, we were back into the car and headed southeast for the beach.

I will not give you the details of the stops for groceries and gas, but we arrived at the Cavalier Motel around 3 PM. It is in Kill Devils Hills, very close to the Wright Brothers Monument.........and in the middle of the Outer Banks. Let me say Mile Marker 8.5 and that should tell you where we are, if you are familiar with the OBX.  We've stayed north and south of here over the years, but this is one of the best kept secrets on the OBX, we think, so this is our third stay here.  We're in unit 40, oceanfront, with a mini-kitchen.  That means no stove.  Just a microwave, and we also had to run out and buy a coffee maker this evening. Bare bones, but still a winner.

There seems to be Biker Week going on in the OBX, but that is not bothering the survivors of two Sturgis events in South Dakota, and we are just going with the flow.............

We've already done some "beach time," and got some sunshine. We unloaded our "stuff" within half an hour, and were sitting on our beach chairs with a glass of wine by 4:00.  We've watched some surfers, fed old bread to hungry gulls, got the TV control working and found out how to connect to the Internet.

If you don't hear from my tomorrow it means we are becoming Beach People for a day...............but since this is also my journal of the vacation, I probably will feel the need to at least write down what we've done.

Once off the beach, we drove to Tortuga's Lie, a shellfish bar and grill in Nags Head, (milepost 11) and shared a pound of steamed shrimp and a salad. We're sitting on the front porch listening to the ocean waves and staring at the moon that just rose up over the beach grasses and dunes.

It just doesn't get any better than this.....................................

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Unseen..............Day 3

April 17, 2011

This morning we both were awake at 6 again. Darn!  We apparently need "sleep in" lessons.  After our motel breakfast we packed up and went to see Lexington, Virginia.

Lexington is the home of Virginia Military Institute, the "West Point of the South," which opened in 1839.  It is awesome looking.  Having been to West Point once, I could see that VMI is quite similar in its appearance. The buildings have tops that reminded me of a castle fortress.  Stonewall Jackson is in statue form in front of one of the main buildings.  Uniformed students walk solemnly around the campus.

We had dinner last night at Applebee's and the place was full of students, as Washington and Lee University, founded in 1749, is actually right next door to VMI and we found out that they share some of  classes.  Washington and Lee is absolutely gorgeous, many buildings of red brick with white pillared buildings. (Robert E. Lee served as its president at one time, and George Washington donated money to begin this school.) Since all the blossoming trees are blooming, tulips and daffodils abound, and all the trees and grass are bright green, it is an incredible sight for two Ohioans, fresh from the unrelenting winter of 2011.

This morning we visited the grave of Stonewall Jackson at one end of Main Street, in an ancient cemetery filled with CSA markers on old stones,  and the grave of Robert E. Lee and his horse, Traveller, at the other end of town.  Lee and Traveller are buried at Washington and Lee, one in the chapel, and one just outside the door.  It was a fairly nice walk through old streets lined with antique shops and bistros.  The uniformed and un-uniformed students walked to and fro, mingling.

The city had an ecumenical Palm Sunday event going on, also, which was upliftingly nice to see.  As our walk began, we encountered a throng of people gathering in a park midtown.  Clerics in black robes led a group of parishioners carrying palms, led by a bagpiper playing "Oh, Shenandoah," through the streets of Lexington.  As our walk intertwined with the parade, we realized that this group of mixed-Christians was going from one church to another, stopping for prayer for unity on the front steps of each church.  This involved many churches, as we noticed nearly every denomination within the boundaries of the historic district. We got the gist of this parade: Christians should stop berating other denominations of Christians, and follow Christ's lessons.

Now, I know that you are waiting breathlessly for my report about the Natural Bridge of Virginia.  It is about 12 miles out of Lexington, and the drive there was so lovely with the sun out, flowers abloom, a wild animal zoo on the right, a pink Cadillac luncheonette on the left. Every home entrepreneur between Lexington and the Natural Bridge had put out a sign and was in some kind of business.  The drive was truly beautiful in spite of the blight.  Then, voila!  We arrived at the Natural Bridge Entrance where we could buy tickets, go to the huge souvenir store, use the restroom, buy ice cream, have our photos taken with some wax museum people, and then go out the back door to actually SEE the Natural Bridge of Virginia!

Now, if you have not read my yesterday's entry, telling of the mishaps we have had trying to SEE this thing, you need to do that. Suffice it to say that at least 3 attempts have been made to get me there, not counting the several other trips by where, "Did we miss it or what?" was uttered too late to go back.

Today was the day, and I marched myself right up to the ticket counter to buy the tickets.

"Two adults for the bridge, please,"  I said, pulling out Valerie, my Visa card. "Are there any discounts for AAA or seniors?" I added.

"No," replied the sweet young thing at the counter, "but the Bridge is not open just now, due to the heavy rains we had here yesterday."

I gasped.

She went on, "But it might open at noon, if you want to buy your tickets anyway."

"What if it doesn't open at noon?"  I asked, nearly wheezing. "Would I get a refund?"

"No refunds.................but we can give you a rain check," the sweet young thing said, politely.

I slid Valerie back into her case, whispered, "We can't use a rain check. We are travelling, but thanks, anyway,"  and moved away from the counter, too dazed to speak.

I did take a picture of a post card of the Natural Bridge, right there in the souvenir shop, however, and then bought a post card for my journal.  I have "seen" the 7th wonder of the natural world, apparently, as closely as I am going to see it anytime soon.  We decided, as we drove on, that there is some reason in the plan of the Universe, that Kim is not supposed to go there.   Yet. 

We drove to the foot of the Blue Ridge Parkway for our picnic lunch.  There's a lookout place that has a huge rock right at that location, where we have been before. In 2002, we took all four of our children there for a view of the mountains before we continued to the Outer Banks for our "Beach Buddy" week vacation.  It brought back tender memories while we ate our sandwiches at a picnic table there, freezing, in the very cold and windy noontime weather.

From then until 5 PM we just drove, following Rt. 64 east through the mountains of Virginia, to Williamsburg, where we had an ulterior motive:  dinner at Pierce's Barbecue Pit.  I don't know how many times we've been there, but sometimes it has been going AND coming that we've stopped for the world's best barbecue sandwich.  Tonight it was chicken BBQ, and on the way home it may be the pork.  The place is a gold mine for the owner. It's open every day of the year but Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving, 10-9.............and there is standing room only every time we've been there. (No, I don't believe that I am related to these Pierces, but if I were, I'd be sure to ask for the sauce recipe!) Tonight we sat at a picnic table, outside.  Spring is here in Virginia!

We checked into a Windham Motel here in Williamsburg. It has wicker rockers on the front and side porches, where we enjoyed a glass of wine before hitting Pierce's BBQ.  We did one short trip through the business district of Williamsburg, "just to see it," and are tucked into our room for the night.

The scenery we've seen today has been breathtakingly beautiful.  We are in love with the mountains, the sun, the flowers, the green grass, the leaves on trees, the smell of mown grass.  The good news is that we know it's only a short time until we get all of these wonderful things in Ohio....................except for the mountains.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The March to the Sea............Days 1 and 2.........Spring Break 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I am writing this from the Comfort Inn in Lexington, Virginia.  We've spent two days on the road and have travelled fewer than 350 miles.  You might want to say we're moving at a senior pace.  It's OK......we're on the road, out of town, away from obligations.

I pulled into the garage after school on Friday to find that Randy, alias "Mr. Packer," had staged all the bags and cases on the garage floor and was ready, sleeves rolled up, to pack my Rendezvous to the gills.  He did. We started the car, pulled out of the driveway, pulled back into the driveway, pulled out, pulled in, drove two houses up the street, turned around, pulled back in, out.............and then I had my glasses, and we were ready to roll.

It was a very quiet drive.  My nerves were shot from school....(Governor Kasich should come and try to keep 93 eighth graders under control on the day before spring break starts............he might revise his SB5.)

After an hour or so, we talked.................and haven't stopped talking since.  That's the best thing about our road trips:  There's no distraction, nobody else to converse with, and since we're in the car together we TALK about everything and anything. It's good for our marriage, and good for us as individuals.

We only drove 150 miles to Marietta, Ohio, where we stopped at the Comfort Inn there and pulled in for the night.  Not far, but definitely far ENOUGH to feel the "vacation" starting.

We'd had a stop at McDonald's en route, and had an "extra meal" at the hotel restaurant before working on a blog entry for my Shoestrings blog and then sleeping deeply until 6 AM this morning.  My internal clock is still set for 6 AM...............and by the time it resets itself, it will be time for it to go back to 6 AM.

Today we woke to pouring rain. I mean POURING RAIN.  We had our motel breakfast overlooking the pool, with a group of insurance people from the Woodsman Group.  They didn't look very happy, frankly.  Probably because THEY were going to spend the day in a big ol' meeting at that hotel.............and WE, on the other hand, were ON THE ROAD............and away we went, rain or not!

What did we see today?  Not far south of Parkersburg, WV, we stopped at the Coldwater Creek Outlet Store, a place I've wanted to visit for awhile but never drove by at the right time.  It's nice, but I wouldn't make a special trip to go there, frankly.  I bought a couple of tee tops and a piece of jewelry, looked at everything else, and was back into the car within 45 minutes.

In Charleston, WV, we stopped at Central Market, which is located right underneath the freeway in the center of town. We'd been there last spring on the way home, and liked it.  We bought some spices at the Purple Onion, tasted some cheese at the wine shop, and bought some sliced turkey to take along for lunch.

An hour or so later we had a picnic lunch at a West Virginia roadside park.  By then we had outrun the rain, and the sun was shining............and THERE ARE DAFFODILS, TULIPS, AND LEAVES ON THE TREES DOWN HERE.  I emphasize that to be sure that my Ohio friends are jealous.

We began an audio book which we are still "iffy" about............after disk one we audibly voted to try to make it through disk two.  IF we go forward with this NINETEEN disk story, I will tell you the title.  Right now we're not enamoured with it, however.

Remember that crazy book, 1,000 Things to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die??? Well, it was thrown into the car at the last minute, and THAT is why we are in Lexington, Virginia for the night.  There's this place called "Natural Bridge," that I have personally ridden by or driven by at least fifteen times.  On three of those occasions, I have actually PLANNED to see this scenic wonder.  On two of those trips, I've gotten lost or missed the exit ramp, and the other time I was plainly and stupidly lost.  WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE NATURAL BRIDGE tomorrow, or else!

We also read in our book about some historic things to see in Lexington, and if you remember our trip two years ago when we spent nearly ten days in Virginia seeing Civil War locations up the wazoo, then you can figure out what's here that we're going to visit tomorrow!

Right now we are going to comb our hair, remove the coffee-stained shirts, and head out for dinner and a short drive through Lexington, Virginia to be sure we have the lay of the land for tomorrow's excitement.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mohican State Park in Loudonville, Ohio..........a Quick Getaway for Two

We found a "deal" on a state park website..........One night at Mohican State Park, just under sixty miles from home............for one price.  We got a night in one of those fabulously soft and deeply-bedding king size beds,  a DVD movie of our choice to watch in our room, a bag of popcorn to pop in their microwave, AND dinner for two in their lovely candle-lit dining room overlooking a lake.  With the click of a mouse button, we had a reservation.

On Saturday morning we drove, via the Smucker's Store near Orville, down to Mohican.  The Smucker's Store is not a discount outlet for Smucker's, but is instead a place where you can see all the varieties of products that the Smucker's Company now produces.  Amazingly, many of them have never been seen in any of the grocery stores where I shop. I bought a jar of peanut butter bearing the Jif label, mixed already with honey.  How come I never see that on a shelf?  I also bought some Valentine's cake frosting that comes with little Valentine hearts to sprinkle over the cake.  We looked at all the types of Folgers coffees, Martha White mixes, and lots of expensive cooking gadgets before we left the barn-shaped store.  It's a fun place to wander around for awhile and they gave us a few samples of things that were yummy.

Once at Mohican we checked in, and felt as if we were in a ghost town. Granted, it was extremely cold, and we were there by one o'clock in the afternoon on a Friday, but we were the only ones there for quite awhile. The pool was vacant, but it seemed too cold on the outside to get wet on the inside.  No hot tub, either, so we just looked.

We had lunch in the dining room. I had an appetizer for my lunch, and it was a small pizza made with a thick cheese and sprinkled with balsamic vinegar sauce. Quite tasty.  Randy had a sandwich.  Our waitress was very polite, as we found with every staff person with whom we came into contact.

We spent part of the afternoon sitting in front of the fireplace, reading.  I had taken my own magazines and books, of course, but they have a free lending library or book swap location where you can feel free to leave books and take one in exchange, which I did. I left a pile of magazines behind for the next reader. I didn't take a book, either, as you know I have enough for all of mankind already......

We chose "The Lovely Bones" for our DVD flick, and they gave us a bag of microwave popcorn and pointed out the microwave for whenever we wanted to pop it.

Our dinner was not our favorite part of this weekend.  We ordered steaks, mine medium rare and Randy's well-done. They arrived in the same undercooked condition, still kicking on our plates. They were also swimming in some kind of gouda cheese sauce with onions: most unappealing.  There was a mountain of carmelized brussels sprouts on the side of each plate, also...........and one of them would have been enough.  We sent our steaks back for recooking, and when they reappeared, they had shrunk to half-size, and Randy's even arrived with a second baked potato plopped on one corner of the plate.  The gooey cheese did us in, and we both packed our dinners into take-home boxes...................but they never made it home.  We couldn't stand the smell of the brussel sprouts, and the grease from the steaks prohibited our eating them later.  Too bad, as the dining room atmosphere was peaceful and inviting.

The movie was so-so, but that's not their fault. I had to hide in the bathroom while Randy narrated part of the movie to me, as I got a little queasy and don't like closed-in feelings created by kidnapping movies. It was a fairly well-told tale, though, and we did have the popcorn to keep us busy while we watched it. I am a real hoot in a horror flick.................

Sleep was fabulous. Our bed was heavenly...........huge and soft and welcoming. It was nine A.M. before I opened my eyes to the sunlight streaming into our room from the lake view. What a lovely sight!

After a breakfast in the dining room where we watched others eat a buffet of pancakes, bacon, eggs, waffles, and so forth..............and I had my non-fat yogurt which I had brought from home, and Randy had eggs and toast................we dressed heavily and went for a very short walk around the lodge. 

We saw ice fishermen on the frozen lake, saw the pawprints of coyotes that had prowled around the lodge's trash cans as we slept, heard the howling wind through the treetops, and then hustled back inside the warm lodge before we packed up and left for home. Our bottled water had frozen in the car. It was freezing outside!

Mohican State Park was lovely in the dead of winter.  I am sure it is busier at the lodge during the summer months, but I am glad we were there during the starkness of cold. It just seems fitting to be out there in the chill, with the snow and the quiet. We do plan to go back, but we won't order the steak again.............