From East Hampton NY to Raleigh-Durham NC – Oct 26-Nov 15

15 Nov

No doubt about it, I’m definitely not a compulsive blogger.  But, I do think about it, wondering when I’ll make the time to blog.  This past weekend, we stayed with our niece, Rebecca Hubbard, and her partner, Margo Flanagan in a rural area north of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina.  And, my electronic challenges continue to appear consistently.  I’ve temporarily “lost” all of the photographs I’ve taken in the last month.  So, that part of this blog will be somewhat compromised.

After we left East Hampton NY we drove to the Philadelphia area.  The night drive down the Jersey Turnpike, in rain-filled darkness, was an absolute horror.  For those of you unfamiliar with that Turnpike, which included us until that night, it’s like a never-ending NASCAR straightaway with a concrete barrier theoretically separating the trucks from the cars.  The lanes are narrow, visibility was limited, and traffic, on both sides of the southbound divider, was moving at 80 mph.  We finally stopped at a motel outside of Philly, in Gloucester NJ.  This was only the second dump we’ve stayed in.  It was misnamed Quality Inn.  The next day we spent walking the historic sites of Philly.  Visiting historic spots, like Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the room where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, help flesh out our understanding of US history.  For me, possibly, and only possibly, the highlight of the day was my first Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich.  It is unique, and I understand Philly’s pride over this delight.  We also stopped in at the Friends Museum where we met Marlena, a delightful woman from the Bronx  transported to Philly and the Quakers.

Please click on the following (More…) for more of this posting:

More photos are at the bottom of text.

And, on to Newark, DE (pronounced ‘new-ark,’ to distinguish it from the NJ city by the same name pronounced ‘new-erk’) to visit Joanna’s friend from childhood Kenedy TX days, Cecil Dubowski, and his wife, Mary. Cecil and Mary are the chemistry version of rocket scientists, and absolutely delightful.  We had a magnificent dinner at the elegant University of Delaware (UD) restaurant, Vita Nova, which is run by students in the Hotel and Restaurant School.  Not only fun, but great food.  We also went to a play, Oscar Wilde’s comedic “The Importance of Being Ernest” which was put on in the also magnificent UD theatre.  Outstanding production.

Next stop, after, shall we say, lengthy discussion, was Baltimore.  At least for a one day visit.  We spent the time downtown and at the waterfront, and at Fort McHenry where the “Star Spangled Banner” was written.  The waterfront and downtown area were fun.  And, we were equally excited to find a Whole Foods Market, and to see our Half Moon Bay neighbors, Dave and Marianne Holland’s former Baltimore home.  We camped at an Elizabethtown PA campground that night on our way to Amish country in Lancaster country, PA.  Wait, you say, from Newark to Baltimore to Pennsylvania, in one day?  As I said, this planning was the result of, shall we say, lengthy discussion.  What the planning lacked in efficiency, was more than make up by the exercise of interpersonal relationship practice.  Actually, it all worked out well.

The next day, Amish countryside in Pennsylvania, and the small Amish-Mennonite town of Intercourse. Lots of horse drawn buggies driven by Amish folks in traditional Amish clothing, the men wearing traditional clothing.  It was like being on the set of Witness. We walked around the small shops selling tourist junk and run by non-Amish-Mennonite folks.  We walked into an Information Office, and met Ben and Sam, two Amish men.  We were happy to have the opportunity to engage in conversation and learn about the Amish culture.  We talked and joked with them, and a good time was had by all.  Our principal purpose was to get a recommendation for a restaurant.  We ate at a joint across the street with Ben, and had the opportunity to spend an hour with him.  He invited us to take us on a buggy ride, have dinner in his home, and spend the night.  Appreciative of the invitation, we declined as we did not intend to spend the night in the area.  Ben explained that Amish do not pose for photographs, but it’s OK to photograph them while they’re doing something.  So, I did take a couple of candid iPhone shots of Ben while Joanna was showing him our VW.  But, the harsh sun resulted in poor photos.  After lunch, we drove around the countryside and saw life from the streets – lots of horse-drawn farm equipment cultivating the farmlands, and laundry hanging on the line and blowing in the wind.

Mid-afternoon we left the Intercourse area and drove to Washington DC. We spent the night at a National Park campground in the DC suburb of Greenbelt.  Quite an amazing experience to be in a quiet wilderness amidst the commotion of a city.  Early the next morning we went to the nearby Greenbelt Metro station took the train into DC.  Freezing cold, we got off the Metro at the wrong station.  Lost, we wandered around, heading towards the National Mall, until we finally found an open restaurant that served breakfast.  Warmed and energized, we continued on to the Mall.  At the Newseum the current day’s front page from fifty newspapers was on display in frames.  All headlines, except the SF Chronicle, were about today’s national election.  The Chronicle’s headline screamed out “Giants Win It!”  A strange feeling being so removed from such an exciting event.  We went to the office of our Representative, Anna Eshoo, to get House and Senate gallery passes, and to leave our backpacks.  Then we took tours of the Capitol and the Supreme Court.  Quite touching to be physically present in such important and familiar sites, especially the House and Senate Galleries and the Supreme Court courtroom.  We had lunch in the Capitol restaurant.  The rest of the afternoon we walked the National Mall to the Washington Monument and the White House (which we toured with Reva years ago when she was an intern in Al Gore’s Environmental Office).  Back on the Metro to Greenbelt.  The Metro has a distinct sci-fi feeling to me, reminding me of the future in Back to the Future – the central stations have trains on two levels, heading in four different directions, with huge domed tunnels and people scurrying about in all directions.

Another night in the Greenbelt campground, then off to Front Royal VA and the northern entry to the Shenandoah National Park/Skyline-Blueridge Parkway a ridge-top road that runs from here to The Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee.  We went along the Parkway a short distance, and took a hike in the woods.  The next day started out on a serious drive down the Parkway.  We drove some 50 miles to the first open campground.  This was a harrowing drive, topped only by the Jersey Turnpike, as a heavy fog limited visibility to an unsafe distance in front of us.  We saw more deer than cars on the road.  Fortunately, we didn’t hit any of either.  The next morning the fog had lifted and we had a beautiful drive.  Most of the fall brilliant colors had passed, and many of the trees now stood naked.  The views from the ridge afforded sights of the Shenandoah Valley to the west, and another valley to the east.  On one pullout we had a VW picnic overlooking the Shenandoah.

We ended the day in Staunton VA to spend the weekend with Joanna’s childhood friend, Winona Emerson. Staunton is a delightful small city, nestled in hilly country to the west of the Parkway.  Staunton has some fine restaurants, which we enjoyed with Winona.  A fine Shakespearean repertory company plays in the Blackfriars’ Theatre.  We went to a production of John O’Keefe’s 1791 wildly funny “Wild Oats.”  A wonderful production.  The theatre was built in traditional Shakespearen style, the audience on three sides, including several seating on the side of the stage and above the stage.  As in Shakespeare’s day, the play was presented with the house lights up.  Here’s a bit of irony – we’ve now attended two plays on this trip, both with Joanna’s childhood friends from Texas, and both about two brothers separated at birth and reunited at the final curtain.

After Sunday brunch with Winona in Staunton, we took off down the Blueridge Parkway again.  We took detour trips into the Virginia towns of Lynchburg and Roanoke, and to Appomattox Courthouse National Park.  Appomattox, of course, was the site of Lee’s surrender to Grant ending our Civil War.  Very interesting, educational, and moving.  Darkness arrived, and it was time for us to bed down for the night. The nearby campground we had spotted earlier turned out to have two defects, aside from resembling a parking lot adjacent a highway – no bathrooms and an outrageous overnight fee.  So, we actually considered a Walmart parking lot, but decided against it where, at different times, we were approached by questionable characters wanting to sell us prepaid legal services.  And, the Walmart manager said it was OK with her if we spent the night, but she couldn’t guarantee that the police wouldn’t roust us.  So, a fine motel in Lynchburg where Joanna got to see this week’s episode of Dancing With The Stars. The next day, in Roanoke, we found the new Taubman Museum.  A surprising structure reminiscent of Frank Gehry’s Bilbao Museum.  No wonder, the architect was a student of Gehry, Randall Stout.  A very dramatic building.

Heading east again, we stopped in Charlotte VA to spend time with our friends, Eric and Susan Marder,their delightful daughter, Grace, and Susan’s older son, Tyler. We had a most excellent dinner prepared by Eric and Susan.

Next, winding our way further east, for  a wonderful weekend with Rebecca and Margo (see first paragraph). We spent time with Rebecca in her office, and at the country barn where she volunteers helping challenged kids learn to ride horses.  That night, we met Margo after work, and Rebecca and Margo made a delicious dinner of grilled fresh tuna and salad.  Mostly, we just hung out at their comfortable home with them, Idgie the collie, Sidney the cat, and Dandy, the elder cat.  Relaxing and fun.

Today, we’re off to check out Durham and Raleigh, and head out to Charleston SC on the Atlantic coast.

Ummm, I’m now sure what I’ve done now, but I think I’ve added a photo gallery.  If it works, I’ve learned something new.  If not, I have more to learn.  Anyway, as of this moment my intention is to add more photos from this segment of the trip, as soon as I find them.