Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Forced March Home.......Staunton and a Winery.....or Two

We left the Outer Banks yesterday morning, and we're managing to take as long to get home as we can. We know the party's over.  The last hurrah was at Ace Hardware in Kitty Hawk.  Great store.  We always have to go there for something, and even though we didn't need anything, it was a ritual.

We didn't stop until outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, where we had an impulse stop at King Vineyards. We'd met some lovely people, the Hulls, from Richmond, who told us a lot about Virginian vineyards. The King Vineyard was like being in Napa. There was a bridal shower going on at the patio, and a wedding rehearsal taking place out in a field near the polo fields. No kidding. This place even had horses walking around out there, and also all the people were beautiful. Maybe there was some magazine shoot going on, and we were in the wrong place, but we sipped and then bought a bottle of good cabernet franc. The place was like a movie set. I truly hope that the weather was as beautiful and the sky just as clear for the wedding today that we watched being rehearsed there. What a gorgeous setting for a wedding!
We drove on to Staunton, Virginia, where we had made a reservation at a motel we'd stayed in back in 2002 with all of our children on our way to the OBX. Staunton is nearly midway between home and the beach.

That's not "STON ton"........It's "STAN ton."  We learned that from our AAA book yesterday. We'd heard some folks say "Stanton," and since I teach reading, I just knew it was STONton........wrong again.  Someone told us this morning that the way they know you're from Virginia is if you say Staunton with a short A sound.  Well, I am NOT from Virginia, but if I wanted to be, I might qualify now!

Staunton is very old.  It was untouched by battles of the Civil War, so its buildings go back further. Really really old. There is an eleven-block historic part of town which is just a fun place to walk and shop. It is also the home of the Woodrow Wilson boyhood home and his Presidential Library. We've been here before, and always walk around that building. We can see Wilson's Pierce Arrow in his glassed-in garage, and enjoy the library gardens.

 We had dinner at 22 Beverley Street, at Emilio's Italian Restaurant, then went back to get a good night's sleep. 

This morning we visited a National Cemetery, where bodies of Civil War soldiers were buried, and the cemetery was dedicated in 1867. There are over 500 soldiers from that war who are in graves marked "Unknown Soldier," and many of them are in graves marked "Two Unknown Soldiers."  There are also over 230 soldiers whose names are on the stones. We parked in the sole parking space while we traipsed over this hallowed ground.
Then we parked on Beverley Street again and walked into the gates of the Trinity Episcopal Church which has been there since 1746. What an awesome sight! Surrounded by the graves of its deceased members and flowering dogwoods and boxwoods, this ancient brick building was the epitome of "quiet" in the early morning hour that we were there. I had wanted to go inside as there are twelve Tiffany stained-glass windows in this one building.  If you've never seen a Tiffany, you really need to be INSIDE the building to really see it. Unfortunately, we were there too early to get inside, and the Parish House was still closed.  We walked around the church, I walked the labyrinth in the garden, we read the tombstones, listened to some amazingly wonderful birds that were singing in the treetops, and just as quietly as we had come, we left.

We left Staunton and headed home to Ohio, but we were dragging our heels all day. We never like a vacation to come to an end. We found every possible excuse to stop and see something else.  Just before 10:00, we were at the Rockbridge Vineyard in Raphine, Virginia. The owner opened the door and welcomed us in.  A bit early for a tasting, but we had a sip or two and looked over the beautiful mountain site for their vines. Then we drove on, up into the higher mountain areas where forest fires have haunted the woods for the past few days.  Rt. 64 had been closed yesterday due to heavy smoke, and we were fortunate not to have that problem, however we did see some heavy smoke, and by the time we got to Covington to stop for lunch, the air was thick with white smoke. We were glad to move on.
     Just before we reached Beckley, West Virginia, we stopped to see the Welcome Center for a National Park. We'd never even noticed the sign for it before. It's a lovely learning center about the environment, and apparently we will have to go back to further investigate this place. Park rangers were very helpful. The center itself is a "green" building, built within the past eight years, and they were proud to show it to us.

We decided to stop in Beckley.  It is far enough away from home that we don't have to explain why we're still not there, but close enough that we can get home in a few hours tomorrow, do the laundry, put the "stuff" away, and get ready to go back to work on Monday.

Thanks for traveling with us.  This is my last official "spring break," you must know by now. I have felt the "sharks circling around my feet" for the past few days, and know that I have to go back to the job.  Next year at this time, if we leave town in the spring, we can set our own deadline.  (From my keyboard to God's ear...........) 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Outer Banks Eateries.....

We've been too busy to post a blog lately.  That's because we've been eating our way around the Outer Banks.  That's not ALL we've done, but eating has been a huge thing for the past few days, and I want to cover FOOD for awhile.

We did sit on the beach and read, read, and then read some more. Pure joy as far as I am concerned. I also managed to get one horrid sunburn on my lower legs and feet, out of pure stupidity.  I have never gotten any "color" on my calves, so just assumed they were immune to sunburn. So wrong!  My feet even swelled up over this mistake in judgement, and I am suffering all the way home.

But back to food....................Goomba's
We went to Goomba's one night, in search of good shrimp. We'd been there before and had fond memories of delicious Jamaican-flavored shrimp by the pound.  Goomba's is such a fun place...........bright colors, and the ceiling in the dining room is made to look as if you are underwater while you eat.  This time we ate at the bar, but still had to go shoot a couple of photos of the dining room to share with you. Goomba's is bright an cheerful, also.  It's the kind of place that makes you happy you came there.  We ordered a pound of the spicy shrimp and a plate of calamari.  The calamari was only rings, but very tasty. I like the tentacles, too, as they are crispy, but they didn't include them.
As much as I had loved their spicy shrimp last year, this year they were highly over seasoned and I literally had to wipe the extra hot seasoning off with my napkin before I could eat the shrimp.  We still enjoyed the atmosphere and the servers were delightful.

Sam 'n Omies

We've been going to Sam 'n Omies since our first trip to the Outer Banks together.   We like to go there for breakfast, as sometimes the place is full of fishermen on their way to go get a catch.  Their motto is "Everyone needs to believe in something.  I believe I'll go fishing."  This is actually a quote from Henry David Thoreau, and they give him credit for it.  The food is always good, the servers are always wonderfully polite and helpful.  This may be our favorite place, but we really haven't eaten anything but breakfast there, in all the years we've gone to the OBX.  Nothing fancy, just good food.
We didn't have anything fancy this time, either. I had an egg and toast, and Randy had the full regalia of eggs, toast, and some kind of fish cake.  I had to buy the tee shirt this year, though.  All those's time for a tee shirt.
Dirty Dicks, our newest discovery..........although everyone else already discovered it....
Who knew that all those people were right?  We just wanted some SHRIMP and we wanted it NOW. So we followed the rumors and went to Dirty Dicks. After we'd been seated, I saw a sign saying that if we were seated at the bar between 3 PM and 7 PM, we could get a pound of steamed shrimp for only $10.99!  Since it was twice that much on the wall menu, we moved to the bar. (a no-brainer) where we met Nick, the world's friendliest bartender.  We ordered a pound of shrimp (perfectly seasoned) and a plate of calamari,(also perfectly cooked) and a couple of cold beers.  We enjoyed talking with Nick while we ate, then ordered yet another pound of shrimp, and kept right on talkin'.    We didn't get the crabs at Dick's, but we certainly got the shrimp and calamari! So good!
The very next day, we didn't even discuss it. We just made another trip to Dirty Dick's and ordered the shrimp and calamari.  If it ain't broke, we don't need to fix it!
You can see we "modeled" the signs and the food for you.  Eating out is part of the fun of a vacation.  Just in case you go to the Outer Banks, we've done the footwork for you.

Monday, April 9, 2012

OBX and The Cavalier

We have arrived at our main destination! Our Easter Sunday started off with a lovely walk through Colonial Williamsburg. The crowd had not yet arrived, and we watched part of a church service held on the grounds of the historic Episcopal church. By noon we were out of Williamsburg, and on the road for the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We are in room 53 of The Cavalier Motel in Kill Devil Hills.  It is about five blocks from the Wright Monument where the first flight took place.  This is our 4th or 5th time to stay here. We've been on the far left, the middle, and this time we are on the furthermost end over on the right.  The beach is outside our front window. We have everything we need for comfort.  No kitchen, but a frig and a microwave. We brought our coffeemaker. Dinner last night was a Domino's pizza, delivered fresh to our door. 

We might not leave this place.  We will be here until Friday morning, so if there is no further post, just imagine us sitting in the sun (it will be 73 and sunny here today) or possibly visiting an art gallery on a less than sunny day.  We've been here many times (not always at the Cavalier)  and know where we like to go.

So I am off for the day............and will enjoy breakfast on the beach with Randy, who is water coloring as I type.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

From Gettysburg to Williamsburg..........Again and Again!

Before I forget again, the name of that fabulous painting in yesterday's blog is the was on the tip of my tongue when I started typing.  I had it in my head several times today!  Well, in case I don't add it before I end this entry, I can at least add a photo of the building that houses it.  I failed to mention that there is a very fine museum attached to this cyclo-thing, too.  We spent about an hour yesterday in the museum, and learned a lot about Gettysburg.  I will add the picture of the cyclo-building/ museum. It is actually the new zillion dollar Visitor Center of Gettysburg, which has moved out away from the downtown area. I bet you can guess which part holds the circular painting.

We awoke at our motel which was The Quality Inn at General Lee's Headquarters.  We took the tour of the small museum in the actual headquarters, saw the former barn that housed Lee's beloved horse, Traveller, during those three days of battle, and met the loveliest lady named Kathryn who runs the gift shop.  She told me that about 1997  a Civil War soldier's remains were discovered by men excavating for the railroad near our motel, and that a full military funeral was given for this soldier. Kathryn actually met the relatives of the soldier (I did not ask how they recognized him.) and they stayed at our motel for the funeral days.   I must look this up and find out more.

The museum held interesting artifacts. My favorite was a photo of a survivor of the battle who then showed off his leg, and had it photographed, to show his wounds. There was also a Confederate belt buckle which had a bullet hole through it. The belt buckled had saved a young soldier's life.

I had purchased a CD audio tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield.  It has two disks, and takes two hours, according to the box and other tourists.  It took US nearly FOUR hours to follow this tour...........we are tour-challenged, apparently.  We had to backtrack, get out of the car at all "major events," and we each had our own idea of what qualified as "major." And of course we had to take five or six photos of everything.  Randy had to climb two towers to look over everything, even though he had climbed those same towers the last time.  I was taking 300 photos to make a slide show production for my students.  We might have been slow, but we were thorough.  I did convince Randy to skip one stop on the that point I was staring at my watch, knowing we had a four-hour drive ahead of us.

But, before we left town, we went to the Farnsworth House and had an icy cold beer at the Sweney's Tavern, which is part of the house. It was quaint and fun with period-dressed servers. When the film Gettysburg was being filmed, the actors and crew of the film spent a lot of time in this tavern. There were movie items in glass cases on one wall, and a framed poster for the film near the bar. The autographs and 'thanks for good times' notes surrounded the photo, and I had to take a close-up shot of Sam Elliot's notation! It was worth the stop.....................
Then, Thelma led us out of Gettysburg onto Rt. 15S, and we drove directly to Williamsburg, where we have a room about a fourth of a mile from Colonial Williamsburg. This is our fourth visit to Williamsburg, VA. Last year you might remember that we strolled the streets one morning for an hour, and then went on. This year we are going to do the same thing, but it's a good place to find motels and good food. We have stopped at Pierce's Barbecue in Lightfoot, VA, a mile out of Williamsburg for years. It has become "tradition." Today we broke that tradition, and decided to have a more elaborate dinner, since out lunch had been hurriedly eaten at a Tour Stop beneath a Civil War soldier statue.
We put our "stuff" into the motel room, combed our hair, and drove the two blocks to Christiana Campbell's Tavern.  We ate seafood and pasta, enjoyed the music of a Scottish singer and guitarist, took a few barbs from the Christiana Campbell impersonator who asked if Randy had planted his crops yet, and if not why was he vacationing!  We are now happily situated for the night.

P.S.   The name of the round painting place is CYCLORAMA.   It came back to me.................Cheers!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Gettysburg, Again...........and Again.........

Despite being totally exhausted from work, last night we set 4 AM as our departure time this morning. We actually pulled out of the driveway at 4:35, which is pretty good, don't you think?  Reservations had been made for tonight and tomorrow night as we work our way to the Outer Banks for five nights of beach sitting, even though the weather will be cold.

We honestly only stopped three times between Akron and Gettysburg, which is also amazing for us. We set "Thelma, " (our trusty....we seem to have forgotten she tried to kill us once....GPS unit,) and off we went, 76 East to 30 South at Breezewood, PA.  We didnt even have to think.  When Randy fell asleep, I sneaked my audio book (The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor Brown....a charmingly delightful book)....into the CD player and just drove along, oblivious to traffic or anything else.

Randy had driven the first leg, through our first gas tank fillup near Lake Milton, then on until our "breakfast stop" at the PA rest area stop, then it was up to me for awhile, as the sun had finally come up.  When I leave for school each morning at 6:20, it is what I call "pitch black, " but I gotta tell you that 4:30 is pitchier and blacker yet. Our third stop was in Breezewood to gas up for $3.99 a gallon. Yikes.

We realized that some of these small towns south of Breezewood have grown into larger cities. so the winding and mountainous road from Breezewood to Gettysburg (all 63 miles of it) was wrought with low-gear mountain declines, visions of a jerky ride onto a runaway truck ramp, blocked traffic at lights, and generally slow motion.

We arrived in Gettysburg just as Thelma had promised, 11:47 AM.

 Randy and I have been here together before (and I must remember to look back and find out when that was, because we cannot remember...) and I have been here two other times, once with my children. There were lots of memories along the way as we drove past Pittsburgh and signs for StoryBook Forest near Ligonier.  I stifled a tear at Bedford, remembering a wonderful day there with three little people discovering early history, and I've seen shadows of those same kids posing at monuments this afternoon, for funny photo shots.

Ten miles out of Gettyburg, we stopped to photograph a very old house, built well in its day, but left to fend for itself long ago.  A local Barney Fife pulled up to be sure we weren't going to ransack the place, I guess. All we stole were some photos.

We first drove to the main square of Gettysburg, got out of the car, and promptly forgot which street where we had parked it.  We revisited the square, shared a fairly good turkey reuben (but not as good as Primo's in Akron), at a little pub called The Pub. (I have spent the last fifteen minutes trying to find the photo of this place.....couldn't remember it was called The Pub.....?  I must be very tired....)

On two early trips to Gettysburg, I have been to the Cyclo-thing.  Forgive me, but it's late.....I cannot remember the name of it. I want to call it the Cyclodrama, but I don't think that's it.

 It is a roundly displayed painting of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It was painted a few years after the battle by a French man.  When I have seen it before, it has hung in a round building, and has been lit up while a person explains the battle events.  When Randy and I were here before, we didn't go to see it for some reason, so this was his first time to experience it.

If you read my other blog, you know that I like to give "experiences" for gifts, if I can.  I owed Randy a 129th Month Anniversary kidding.  So today, I bought him a trip to the CycloWhatever.

Since my last experience there, this painting, over 130 some years old, done by this French man and his team of artists, has undergone a multimillion dollar renovation. It took several years to do it, and the painting, which is longer than a football field, hangs like a shower curtain around the outskirts of the new Visitor Center. There has also been an addition of a 14 foot top area added to the painting, which gives it a skyline, and while the painting may hang down, it sort of comes to rest on the bottom. A diorama or base of actual "things" have been added to draw the eye of the observer into the painting to make it 3D. The colors have been enhanced, and the painting has been meticulously repaired.

While we stood on the round plateau overlooking this humongous painting, Randy and I were THERE AT THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG.  It was literally breathtaking. With lights and a sound track, this was wonderful.  We later learned that this has been the largest and most expensive restoration of a painting ever done in the world.  Randy said it was a pretty good "experience gift," too.

We then went to see the Gettysburg National Cemetery to see where Lincoln delivered his short but memorable speech.  I have just finished teaching the Gettysburg Address to my 8th graders in language arts..............what it means, and vocabulary words in it..........but before I get to that part, I always teach a mini-history lesson so they "get it," (if they're going to get it) to understand the historical significance of the speech.

 I wear, on my left hand's middle finger, the wedding band that belonged to my great grandmother, Missouri Ann Powell Propst.  Her husband, my great grandfather, Sydney Rudolph Propst, fought in the Civil War, for the South. I am their youngest greatgrandchild. I have deep feelings about this war, and I always hope that my students will see this battle's importance, to understand not only the beauty and meaning of the ten sentences that Lincoln wrote and said, but also feel something about our country's history.

Anyway, Randy and I traipsed all over the cemetery trying to find, again, the location where the speech was delivered.  I wanted to "take home to my students" the photos of the place that I had just taught about, since most of them may never ever get to visit Gettysburg.  It was important to me to show them a photo of the location. I took it and many more to take back to my classes, and some brochures for the one kid who I recognize as a history buff in the making.

By now our feet were killing us, so we checked into our motel for the night, which happens to be at the Headquarters of General Lee, right next to the battlefield. ( I believe there are four graves outside our window.)  We can see the entrance to the battlefield from that window. There is a museum attached to our motel, and we will visit it in the morning.  ( I will let you know what General Lee's Headquarters look like today....) We are at the Quality Inn on Buford Drive.

 There is also a restaurant and a microbrewery on the grounds of this motel.  That's where we ate fried fish and chips at the Appalachian Brewing Company.  The beer was not cold enough, but the fish was good. We walked off a little of it seeing the grounds of the Lutheran Seminary across the street.

We are now safely tucked into our comfy motel, sore feet and all.  In the morning we have a battlefield to revisit, a museum to check out, and many more miles to drive before we sleep.

Thanks for traveling with us!

"In great deeds something abides,
  On great fields something stays,
  Forms change and pass; bodies disappear;
  but spirits linger....And reverent men
  and women from afar, and generations
  that.....we know not of....(are)....drawn
  to see where...great things were suffered
  and done for them...."

Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Gettysburg,  Oct. 3, 1889