Any Excuse…

We received a wedding invitation for a Thursday night in June in Newport, RI. So, of course, we thought, what a great excuse for a van trip!

We spent the first two days in Tiverton, RI, parking in the driveway of my husband’s boyhood friend. Len grew up two doors down from Mark in Wilmington, MA. They ran track together at Wilmington High School in the mid-seventies. He now lives on a steep hill of a street in Tiverton with a great view of Mount Hope Bay.

Len lives about halfway down the steep street. On our first day there, we walked down the hill and through the brush to the water.

Later that afternoon we checked out Tiverton Four Corners, a quaint area with shops, historical buildings, and an outdoor sculpture garden.

On the morning of our second day, we drove to Colt State Park in Bristol, RI. Mark and Len went off in one direction for a run.

I set out to walk along a path near the woods. But I kept stopping, distracted by the birds and the flowers. I got a few photos, but the woodpecker and the hummingbird escaped before I could catch them.

I changed course and chose a straighter path along the water instead.

Mark and Len finished their run (see the re-enactment photo below :)) And we headed back to Tiverton, where Len convinced Mark to try out his electric bike on the crazy hill in front of his house. Yikes!

We finished the day with a tour of Len’s basement workshop where he repairs glass lamps. He also showed us some of his stained glass pieces from his long career as a stained glass artist. He was full of stories about some of the church work he did. And he named all the different styles, colors, and textures of the glass he used.

Then we scooted over the state line to Fall River, MA, to eat supper at The Tipsy Toboggan. All in all, a nice visit. On to Newport tomorrow.

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.

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. 🙂

What Happens In Virginia…

If you need to catch up on the first leg of our recent van trip, check out From Wilmington… To Wilmington… We left off in Fredericksburg, VA, on a drizzly Wednesday morning. The rain didn’t last long and we pulled out of the KOA about the time the sun was struggling to come out. We spent the entire day traveling and visiting in Virginia.

On the way to our third Wilmington, we stopped at lovely Lake Anna State Park. We hiked, ate lunch, and enjoyed the view.

When we left Lake Anna, we went in search of the next Wilmington on our list: Wilmington, VA. Having no idea what to expect, we were surprised to find it so obscure that we drove by it at first. This is all we found:

Apparently, Wilmington, VA, is an unincorporated community in Fluvanna County. Several online searches yielded very little additional information. So, we moved on to Richmond.

The two Richmond breweries on the itinerary were The Veil Brewing and The Answer Brew Pub.

At The Veil, Mark finished his tasting with a Double Raspberry Fizzy!

We ate dinner at The Answer, where we picked up a four-pack of a special-release dessert stout, Diablo Forever Coconut.

After supper, we drove south for another hour plus to the Holiday Inn in South Hill, VA. We treated ourselves to hot showers and a room for the night.

In the morning, we headed for North Carolina. Lots more adventures to come… 🙂

From Wilmington…to Wilmington…

Do you know how many places in the United States are named Wilmington? Don’t know? (Don’t care??) Well, if the Google can be trusted, there are thirteen. And many are in the eastern part of the country. So as we set out from Wilmington, MA, on another van trip, we thought it’d be fun to step foot in a few alternate Wilmingtons along the way.

After spending Monday morning packing the van, we headed west on the Mass Pike, stopping at Wells State Park in Sturbridge, MA, for some exercise.

The fresh air prepared us for a long afternoon of driving through Connecticut and New York, and into New Jersey. After getting past a disabled truck on the George Washington Bridge on-ramp, we watched the sunset over NYC from the bridge’s lower deck.

We arrived at our first campsite in Clarksboro, NJ, after dark and settled in for a cold night. Check out our site number. 🙂

On Tuesday morning, we headed toward Wilmington, Delaware. Not sure what we expected, but it was more city-ish and crowded than our own Wilmington.

After that, we crossed into Maryland, drove through Baltimore, and into Virginia.

We had to Google the three beautiful white towers. Turns out they’re part of a huge Mormon temple in Kensington, MD. In Virginia, we stopped at Tyson’s Corner Center to meet my brother, who lives and works nearby, for lunch.

From there, we drove south to Fredericksburg, VA, and camped for the night. We awoke to light rain on Wednesday morning. I’ll leave you with this image of our morning visitor.

More Wilmingtons and trip highlights to come… 🙂

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 Few Birds, Brews, and Friendly Visits

In Mountain Views, I mentioned that one of our plans for this van trip was to do some birding. But the weather and our daily routine of driving to the next destination left us less time than anticipated. The day we left Pulpit Rock campground in Decorah, IA, we decided to remedy that.

First, breakfast at Magpie Coffeehouse in downtown Decorah. Apparently, penny mosaics is a thing out here.

We left Decorah and crossed the Mississippi River before noon.

A search for local birding sites brought us to Nahant Marsh Education Center. FYI, it’s pronounced Nay-hant (rhymes with ant), unlike the New England location of the same name.

I pulled my new camera with its new lens out of the travel bubblewrap to try it out. Unfortunately, much more practice and time to adjust the shooting menu are needed. But we saw many red-winged blackbirds there, as we’d already seen just about every day along our route. Plenty of other wildlife, as well. There was even a pair of baby screech owls being rehabbed inside the facility.

That night we camped at Rock Island/ Quad Cities KOA in Rock Island, Illinois. Nice waterfront site.

We got on the road by late morning the next day and stopped for lunch at The Lone Buffalo by Tangled Roots Brewing Company in Ottawa, IL. The food was good, but not much to say about the beer.

After lunch, we crossed into Indiana and headed to a friend’s house in Valpraiso. Chuck and Tiffany and their two boys were perfect hosts. (Thanks for the use of your laundry facilities, Chuck & Tiff.) The boys were coming and going with youth baseball, so we only managed a photo with one of them.

The next day, we landed in Muncie, IN, to visit more cousins. It was great to see Jamie and Andy again and to meet their kids who, by way of their natural curiosity, taught us a few new things about our van.

We brunched with Jamie and family the next morning. My Aunt Janet stopped by, too. Then, we were off again, heading toward Ohio and the next brewery. Hit a bit of traffic on the way.

Little House In South Dakota

If you’re just joining us, you may want to start at the beginning of our adventures with Maiden Voyage and Whirlwind Visits. When we last checked in, we’d spent a rainy day driving through Custer State Park to Mount Rushmore. Sesame Street’s It’s A Rainy Day played in my head. If you don’t know it, look it up. You’re welcome, in advance, for the earworm.

After Mount Rushmore, we headed for Rapid City, South Dakota, to dine at Firehouse Brewing Company. The food was very good but the beer was nothing to write home about. We bought a much needed warm blanket at Walmart and settled in for the cold, rainy night at a KOA campground in Rapid City.

The next morning, we got on the road early and headed east on Interstate 90. The flat land and endless views offered another song for my internal play list: I Can See For Miles and Miles by The Who. We crossed the imaginary line into Central Time and crossed the Missouri River. There wasn’t much else to see until an Ingalls Homestead sign popped up near De Smet. I was so excited! Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books were some of my favorites growing up. We had to stop.

The buildings on the homestead were all replicas, but the land itself is the land Charles Ingalls homesteaded. The Surveyor’s House and the First School are actual buildings from Laura Ingalls’ childhood. So cool!

We treated ourselves to a hotel room in Sioux Falls, SD, that night with dinner at the local Red Robin. And the next morning we were off again, headed toward Forager Brewery in Rochester, Minnesota. The sun came out! So, of course, the Sesame Street theme song seemed appropriate. Yes, I sang a couple of lines. Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away

At Forager, Mark enjoyed a couple of beers: Antiquated Methodology and Kaleidoscope Kookaburra. He bought two crowlers of the latter on the way out, which he subsequently shared with friends along our route. Sorry, none left to sample when we get home.

We left Forager, aiming for Decorah, Iowa, and another brewery called Toppling Goliath. But guess what popped up before Decorah — another Laura Ingalls Wilder sign! We had to stop. Again. We pulled into Burr Oak, IA, and found the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum.

Decorah and Toppling Goliath were not far Burr Oak. There we touched base with Eric, one of the brewers, whom Mark had met in 2018 on a previous brewery road trip. We ate dinner and Mark ordered a beer flight: DDH Pseudo Sue, King Sue, Scorpious Morchella, and Term Oil S’mores. No favorites among them ’cause they’re all good! He followed that with an Assassin 2022. After dinner, we sat outdoors for well over an hour listening to seventeen-year-old Carter Guse play his guitar and foot tambourine while singing songs from the fifties to the present. He even took requests. Very entertaining!

We tore ourselves away from the music and checked in at Pulpit Rock Campground in Decorah for the night. More adventures in Iowa and beyond coming soon…

More Mountain Views

Since picking up our new van in Colorado, we’ve been on the road back to New England. To read about the beginning of our journey, check out Maiden Voyage and Whirlwind Visits and Mountain Views.

After leaving Rocky Mountain National Park, we stayed overnight in the parking lot of a small pottery shop in Loveland, CO. The next day we drove from Colorado, through Wyoming and Nebraska, all the way to Hot Springs, South Dakota. The mountains gave way to flat land stretching all around us for miles. The crosswinds tried to shove us off the road a few times, but we prevailed. Dixie Chicks’ Wide Open Spaces played in my head. I may have sung a line or two. 😉 Grazing cows and baby calves dotted acres and acres along the highway. Life Is A Highway by Rascal Flats joined my internal playlist, followed closely by Woody Guthrie’s This Land, when we saw what could only be described as a “ribbon of highway” in front of us.

We set up camp in Hot Springs, at the first of many KOAs. By “set up camp” I mean we replenished our water supply, did laundry, and figured out how to open our awning. Right before it started raining.

The rain would stick around all the next day. We started at The Mammoth Site in Hot Springs, SD, in the morning. It’s the site of an actual archaeological dig uncovering piles of Woolly and Columbian Mammoth bones. Fascinating!

It continued to rain as we drove north to Custer State Park through the Black Hills of South Dakota. From Custer State Park, we took highway 16A up around steep curves, hairpin turns, switchbacks, pigtails, and tunnels to Mount Rushmore. Not a drive I’m eager to repeat. Eeek!

Mount Rushmore was impressive, even in the drizzling rain.

That night we stayed in another KOA in Rapid City, South Dakota. Another adventurous day on the road. And more to come…