Destination: Carolinas

In this third installment of our recent van trip, we finally reached North Carolina. If you need to catch up on our adventures, check out From Wilmington…To Wilmington… and What Happens In Virginia…

We left the Holiday Inn in South Hill, VA, on Thursday morning, looking to take a walk/run before getting back on the road. We found a pleasant trail called Tobacco Heritage Trail in La Crosse, VA. The first sound to hit my ears there seemed like an unfamiliar birdsong, but after checking with a group of locals on the trail, I learned that frogs were making all that noise. More throaty than the ‘peepers’ we have up north, but not as low-pitched as bullfrogs. They were loud, but seemingly invisible, so no pics of them. We saw a few birds and a very small snake along the rest of the trail.

After walking/running the trail, we got back on the road and continued south, arriving at our friends’ place in Charlotte, NC, around four in the afternoon. Cathy & Don live in a separate in-law apartment on the property of their daughter and her husband. Their RV was parked alongside their garage, so we spent the night parked on the street next to it.

It rained overnight and was still spitting on Friday morning. We spent a quiet day doing laundry, blogging, and visiting with Cathy & Don & their new grandbaby, Evelyn. Around 3 p.m., we followed Cathy & Don in their Tiffin RV down to Andrew Jackson State Park near Lancaster, South Carolina, to camp for a couple of nights.

Cathy & Don were gracious hosts, even while camping. We ate supper in their RV and played cards until late. We taught them how to play Pitch. Team Mark & Cathy beat Team Chris & Don in spectacular fashion. On Saturday, we hiked around the park, found the site of Jackson’s boyhood home and a museum that was open for exactly one hour everyday. We hit it about eight minutes before closing.

Saturday afternoon, the four of us piled into our van and ventured over to Benford Brewing in Lancaster, SC.

From there, we checked out The Dream Chaser’s Brewery in Waxhaw, NC. What a cute little town! Perfect for browsing all the Main St. shops. The only drawback was that the whole town closed its doors at 5 p.m. Oh, well.

We left Andrew Jackson State Park on Sunday morning. On the way back to Charlotte, we stopped at Anne Springs Close Greenway in Fort Mills, South Carolina for some easy hiking.

After all that fresh air and exercise, we headed back to Charlotte, ending the day with 5 p.m. Sunday mass at St. Peter in downtown Charlotte.

We spent one more day in Charlotte, but that will have to wait for my next post. 🙂

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…

A Taste Or Two Of Spring

You know that little thrill of licking brownie batter off the spatula just after you put the pan in the oven? (Oh, is that just me??) Anyway, we all like to sample a bit of whatever we’re whipping up in the kitchen, don’t we, — especially if we’re cooking when we’re hungry? It’s so hard to wait. And that’s how this past week felt to me with the tease of a couple of warm March days. I could taste spring!

My first taste involved one of my daughters and the mitre saw she inherited from my Dad. (Stay with me here.) We’re going to be building new garden beds for my backyard this spring. Several weeks ago, we took a road trip to the only two Home Depots in the area that carried the cedar two-by-sixes we needed. Long story, short, we spent an hour or so cutting some into four-foot lengths and trimming the rest to eight feet. We’ve got some work ahead of us still, but seeing them all cut excited me. I can’t wait for gardening season!

The second taste involved another of my daughters. She lives almost two hours away and works as a baker. For both of those reasons, we had’t seen her in person for months. I’d been waiting for decent weather on one of her days off, so we could spend some time outdoors together. Last Friday, the promise of temperatures in the high fifties, or even maybe sixty degrees, was just what we needed. And it did indeed turn out to be a beautiful day!

We hiked a trail at a local state reservation. We watched for birds and talked a bit about photography as she tried out the new camera she got for Christmas. It was midday, so bird activity was minimal. After walking for a while, we actually thought we might not see any. But then a few nuthatches and chickadees flew right across in front of us and sat chirping in the trees for several minutes. We walked on and saw a large black-ish bird fly by at a distance. When we got to the spot, we discovered a pileated woodpecker. A second one flew by a few minutes later. Even though they moved too fast and stayed partially out of view, I took one poorly focused picture — enough for proof, if not for hanging on a wall. All in all it was fun and left me pining for more warm spring days.

Gratitude Spiral: Day 314

Today, I’m grateful for purple finches at the bird feeder. (This photo is of my feeder — no success photographing the purple finches, yet.)

I’ve been feeding and watching the birds for years, and I’ve seen plenty of house finches with their red tinted heads fading into brown streaked bodies. But the other day, I was thrilled to discover a pair of purple finches at the feeder, the red on their heads extending right to their tail feathers under all their brown streakiness. I hope they visit again soon!

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 233

Today, I’m grateful for thistle blooming.

A beautiful purple burst, like fireworks or a cheerleader’s pom-pom, this flower literally sticks out from the sea of other flowers around it. It’s fun to wait and see when the goldfinches will discover it!

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 221

Today, I’m grateful for the family of cardinals that came to the feeder.

I watched the family of four as the adult male flew back & forth from the bird feeder to the branch where the adult female and two young cardinals sat waiting. He fed the young ones as they opened their beaks and flapped their wings wildly. What a gift to witness this precious moment. I keep hoping they’ll be back soon. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 162

Today, I’m grateful for a cup of sugar borrowed from a neighbor.

It’s not for me. It’s for the hummingbirds I hope to see at my hummingbird feeder. I bought a new feeder this year and didn’t realize I was out of sugar. In these days of quarantining, I’m not going to run out to the store just for sugar. But a call out to my neighbors brought a swift reply. So, really, I’m grateful for the neighbor who supplied me, and, in turn, the hummingbirds, with the sweet supply.

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 126

Today, I’m grateful for the sound of birds singing in the dark, just before the dawn.

It sounds like they’re celebrating the new day.

Whoo-hoo! We made it through another dark night!

Yippee! Here comes the sun!

Hey, everybody, I’ll meet you at the feeder!

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 117

Today, I’m grateful for the bright red cardinal that sat perfectly poised atop a broken tree waiting for me to snap a photo with my long, yet somewhat inadequate, lens. I’m learning that sometimes it’s better to enjoy their visits in the moment, through a pair of binoculars, and then let them go, instead of trying to capture an image. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 81

Today, I’m grateful for the Great Backyard Bird Count.

People all over the world count birds in real time to produce a snapshot of the global bird population. This is the first year I’ve participated. Any excuse to just sit and watch birds for a while! Fun!

What are you grateful for today?