Homeward Bound

As with most road trips, once we start heading homeward, our sense of adventure wanes slightly. But we still try to break up the trip home with a few activities, mostly focused on stretching our legs between long hours of driving.

We left Wilmington, NC, on Wednesday morning, aiming for Dismal Swamp State Park in Camden County, NC. The name itself made us want to check it out. We found a boardwalk loop and other walking trails along a canal. As usual, we heard more birds than we actually saw. A foursome of deer surprised us on one of the trails. Or maybe we surprised them.

The park was on the North Carolina/ Virginia border, so we crossed into Virginia soon after leaving there. Wednesday night, we parked overnight at Chesapeake Golf Club in Chesapeake, Virginia, as part of our Harvest Hosts membership. Their restaurant was closed, so we took a ride downtown to eat supper. Then, we had the parking lot at the golf club to ourselves for the night.

Golfers started arriving early on Thursday morning, so we drove to a nearby Walmart parking lot to make our breakfast in the van. Then, we were off to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel before the traffic got too heavy. It was 79 degrees out, as it had been for days, but the wind was gusting. The bay waters were choppy, but strangely we didn’t feel the gusts while driving across the bridge. The bridge-tunnel spans about seventeen miles. It was an experience, for sure. I unexpectedly found myself a little motion-nauseous by the end. Here are a few pics taken as we crossed.

Just over the bridge, we found the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. We needed to get out and stretch our legs anyway. As you can see, you never know what you’ll find at one of these places…

After that adventure, we made ourselves lunch in the van and got back on the road. We left Virginia for Maryland, made a pit stop somewhere in Maryland or Delaware where Mark made a new friend. Yes, that’s a pedal-powered car!

The temperature dropped from almost eighty to the mid-sixties as we traveled north. We arrived at Fordham & Dominion Brewing in Dover, Delaware, late Thursday afternoon. Just in time for Mark to sample their beer, share some Treehouse with a few people, and order barbecue from a food truck, before the trivia night crowd packed the place.

We retreated to the van where I joined my chorus rehearsal via Zoom. At 10 p.m. we heard faint music which we slowly realized sounded like Taps and was probably coming from the Air Force base nearby. Felt like we were being sent off to sleep in style. We spent the night parked at the brewery as the temps dropped into the forties.

Friday morning, after hitting yet another Walmart parking lot, we drove to Blackbird State Forest in Smyrna, Delaware, for a little exercise despite the cold wind.

From Delaware, we drove up to Poughkeepsie, New York, to stay at a Holiday Inn for our final night. The temperature had dropped into the thirties by the time we arrived and promised to drop into the teens overnight. We left the heat on in the van all night to keep everything from freezing. In the morning, we blew as much water out of the lines as we could before we left the hotel parking lot. Light snow fell as we finished up and pulled out onto the road.

The snow got heavier for a while, but then tapered and stopped completely as we entered Massachusetts via the Pike. We were glad to leave the flurries behind because we knew our driveway at home was already covered in snow and ice from the recent storm. And we’d heard reports that another storm would be coming in a few days. To our surprise, we arrived home to find that some nice neighbor had cleared a spot for us in our driveway.

At the end of another adventure, lest you think it was all fun and games, let me remind you that no road trip is flawless. Life doesn’t work that way. But that’s OK. We may have had a glass jar full of homemade maple-rosemary nuts come flying from an overhead cabinet and smash on the floor, and a leaky cooler that soaked my camera bag and sheet music and ruined my Peterson’s bird book. But it’s all part of the adventure. Hope you enjoyed it. We did. 🙂

Yet Another Wilmington…

If you’ve been keeping up, we left Wilmington, MA, last week on our way to North Carolina to visit our friends, Cathy & Don. You can read the previous blog entry here.

We camped for two nights at Andrew Jackson State Park in Lancaster, South Carolina, and spent some time at Anne Springs Close Greenway on the way back to Charlotte. I forgot to mention at the end of the previous post that we stopped by Middle James Brewing in Pineville, NC, after hiking at the Greenway on Sunday.

On Monday morning, a week from the day we left home, we awoke to our final day in Charlotte. Cathy & Don were on grandparent duty, so we all drove over to Little Sugar Creek Greenway and walked for a couple of hours. Mark squeezed in a run while we were there.

The weather was beautiful and so was nature all around us.

Monday afternoon, Cathy & Don took us on a brewery walk not far from their neighborhood. We visited Legion Brewing,

Burial Beer Company,

And the favorite, Resident Culture Brewing.

Monday night, we enjoyed a home-cooked meal with Cathy & Don, their daughter, Kelly, and her husband, Mike. And on Tuesday morning we said our good-byes. Time with good friends goes by too fast.

On the way to the fourth Wilmington of our trip, we saw an amazing sight. A huge, I mean HUGE, flock of white birds, probably Snow Geese, flew over the highway, looking like a murmuration of starlings. It was impossible to get a clear photo, as we were driving about sixty mph, but here’s what we saw:

It was mesmerizing! And a little distracting for the driver. 🙂

We continued on to Wilmington, North Carolina, where we stayed overnight at the KOA there.

Our journey south was over now and the rest of the trip would be directed north, toward home.

The Last Leg

In A Few Birds, Brews, and Friendly Visits, we traveled from Iowa, through Illinois, to Indiana. From Indiana, we entered Ohio.

Columbus, OH, was our target destination — the home of Hoof Hearted (say that out loud a few times) Brewery & Kitchen. Mark had been there before. This time, he sampled Permanent Marker Pen Disguises and Steel Toed Aqua Socks. Yes, those are actual beer names. And he bought a four pack of the Steel Toed Aqua Socks for his sister.

That night, we stayed at the Logan/ Hocking Hills KOA in Logan, OH. The owners were super nice and even upgraded our site to one with a patio. 🙂 Beautiful view of the hills. And we had a surprise visitor: a cedar waxwing in the tree above our patio.

Jamie and Andy recommended that we visit Hocking Hills State Park. A few of our fellow KOA campers also mentioned Old Man’s Cave to us, so we checked it out (in the rain).

We couldn’t find an available campground or Harvest Hosts site that night, so we stayed in a cheap (somewhat sketchy) hotel in Altoona, PA. The next day we were off to Equilibrium Brewery and Tap Room in Middletown, NY.

Our Harvest Hosts site, The Castle Fun Center in Chester, NY, that evening proved to be less fun by night with the constant highway traffic, poor wi-fi, and gently sloping parking lot. However, I did find a family of geese for entertainment.

The next morning felt less like a cross-country road trip and more like just driving home. We headed up the Taconic Highway in NY, then hooked up with Interstate 90 East. Before we knew it, we were back in Massachusetts!

Back in MA, we pulled off the Pike and travelled north to Holyoke for a hike at Mount Tom State Park. Not too many birds to see, but a beautiful butterfly greeted us. And the view wasn’t bad either. We could actually hear cows mooing down below as we took in the view.

We took a detour to Tree House Brewing Company in Deerfield that night where Mark enjoyed some of his favorite brews, while I enjoyed the decor.

We treated ourselves to a nice hotel room in Northampton, MA, and in the morning, dropped by our youngest daughter’s place around the corner to say hi!

Back on the Mass Pike (90 East), we stopped at Tree House Brewing Company’s Charlton location to pick up a beer order for Mark’s siblings who own Knotty Pine Design & Consignment in Hudson, MA. We delivered the beer to Hudson and headed for home.

In case anyone thinks this road trip sounded ideal, please know that I neglected to mention the struggle to regulate the temperature in the van overnight, the frequent Walmart visits for all the things we realized we needed along the way, the oatmeal that boiled over on the induction cooktop right down the front of the fridge to the floor, the prescription driving glasses resting comfortably at the bottom of a marsh somewhere, and the overhead van cabinet that’s coming loose from the wall, among other things. Just thought it appropriate to interject a dose of reality.

All in all, we had quite the adventure. And can’t wait to do it again!

P.S. The line from one of my favorite John Denver songs played in my head. (Ok, I sang it out loud.) Hey, it’s good to be back home again…

Biking, Birding, and Brews: A Vermont Vacation…

IMG_0181On Sunday morning, with our bikes secured to the roof of the Subaru XV, a bit of luggage and two empty hundred-quart Coleman coolers in the back, we pulled out of our driveway and headed north. We had reservations at Smart Suites in South Burlington and a semblance of a plan: to do some biking and some bird-watching, and to investigate the local craft beer scene. Those who know me well might be confused about that last part. But keep in mind that a good marriage is built on mutual respect, which means a good vacation includes compromise. Let’s just say that my husband has a built-in designated driver! And I come in pretty handy when there’s a one-case-per-person limit. For my part, I got to choose our accommodations: amenities and a good deal beat a room with a view.

After pulling over at a covered bridge on Route 9 in Southern Vermont
DSC_0550to eat a lunch freshly prepared at the Vermont Country Deli, we arrived at our first destination: Southern Vermont Museum of Natural History in Marlboro, Vermont.
DSC_0566A small place with big name. Here, we got an up close view of a lot of dead birds. But it was fascinating…really! The museum houses the collection of a man named Luman Ranger Nelson, who was able to preserve more than two hundred bird specimens of the northeastern United States in the early 1900s ( a time when humans beings were still in denial about our ability to render a species extinct). A few live, rescued birds also reside at the museum. My favorite were a pair of tiny screech owls. 🙂

Outside, we took in the tri-state, hundred-mile view…

…then headed north to Burlington.

IMG_0197On Sunday evening, Church Street in downtown Burlington provided window-shopping, a stroll (under an umbrella), and dinner. The Farm House Tap & Grill became our new favorite! (We ended up there three nights in a row.) My husband enjoyed his first taste of Hill Farmstead’s Conduct of Life. (That’s a beer — for those who have no more of a clue than I do!).

Monday morning saw our first beer run of the week. A delivery of Heady Topper from The Alchemist brewing company was set to arrive at Route 7 Liquors in South Burlington between 10 and 11 a.m. We showed up early and got in line.

Our reward: two cases of Heady Topper!

Lots of ice needed to keep things cold for the week!

The drizzle of Monday morning let up enough for us to get in a bike ride along the shores of Lake Champlain…

At lunchtime, we checked out the Fiddlehead Brewing Company in Shelburne, bought a couple of growlers, and a wood-fired pizza at Folino’s next door….

then headed to the Switchback Tap Room in Burlington for a quick beer flight.

The rain moved back in, so we decided to hit the Roxy Cinema in Burlington for a movie before dinner.

Tuesday morning, we made our first attempt at bird watching along the Intervale trail. Unfortunately, it rained on our birding parade…
DSC_0634and we had plans to pick up two more cases of Heady Topper at the Winooski Beverage Company.

So, we waited in line outside and the truck arrived incognito. A few minutes later, they unlocked the doors and snaked us in an orderly fashion through the store and around to the back to pick up our one-case-per-person!

Afterwards, we made one more attempt at the Intervale trail, but it was already late morning. There was evidence of wildlife, but no bird sightings. 😦

A quick stop at the hotel to shower and pack a lunch, then we ran into Burlington for one more case of Heady Topper (are you counting??) at City Market…
DSC_0647…then off to the Shelburne Museum. The main attraction for me here was an exhibit called “Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic.” Remember the I Spy books? They were Wick’s creation. My kids loved them and the photos impressed me. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the exhibit. We found several other interesting exhibits there, as well: paintings, photography, historic buildings, and quilts, among others.

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Wednesday morning, the City Market in Burlington was expecting a delivery of Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine. No lines and hardly a wait!

DSC_0685After that, we headed back to the Shelburne Museum, since admission pays for a two-day pass and a headache on my part had cut Tuesday’s visit short. This time, we explored the inside of the Ticonderoga.

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It was late afternoon when we stopped at Shelburne Farms, just down the road. I had originally wanted to take a tour and see the cheese-making in progress, but it was too late in the day. So, we shopped: three-year aged cheddar (soooo good!) and a birthday gift for one of my daughters. My husband rode his bike from the farm back to the hotel…that was all the biking we ended up doing for the week.

Thursday morning brought sunshine for our second birding attempt. Back in Winooski, we started at Salmon Hole. The plan was to start there and then drive up to the Ethan Allen homestead trails. We ended up spending three hours at Salmon Hole instead! The following photos are not the best quality, but they were indispensable in helping me to identify some of the birds we saw…

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We also caught glimpses of a cardinal, Canada geese, some type of plover, a slew of black birds, and a crow.

On Thursday, we had a dinner invitation from friends, Tom and Patty, who live in Stowe, VT. Our plan was to drive through Waterbury and Stowe to Greensboro, about an hour north of Stowe. There, we hoped to find Hill Farmstead Brewery. And we did… miles off the paved roads, up on a hill. The place was hopping!

Dinner at Tom and Patty’s was great! My husband brought a few non-Vermont beers to share: Trillium Vicinity, Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, and Trillium Pot & Kettle oatmeal porter for desert. He also shared one of the growlers we bought at Fiddlehead Brewing Company.

The view of the mountains from their front deck was amazing! I even got to do a bit of bird-watching while my husband shared his beer finds with them. A large bird hid in the tall grass of their sloping side yard. They thought it was a wild turkey and I couldn’t tell, even with binoculars. So, I took a few photos. The bird was well-hidden and I couldn’t  see it when I came down the slope onto even ground with it. Here’s the very fuzzy glimpse I got…I’m thinking ruffed grouse?? Any other guesses?
DSC_0871Friday morning we packed up and checked out of our hotel. We planned to drive south, down Route 7, all the way to the top western corner of Massachusetts, where our youngest would be graduating from college on Saturday. Along the way, we had to stop at Robert Frost’s former house in Shaftsbury, VT.

No photos were allowed to be taken inside. But the highlight for me was seeing the original scratching of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” framed in the room where he wrote it. 🙂

Friday night, we landed in North Adams, MA, at the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. All in all, it was a full week and fun Vermont vacation!