Saturday, May 22, 2021

Fun Times in Boston with Sean & Will

 We returned home on Monday night May 10th and that very Friday we drove (the Prius this time - big gas mileage difference) down to Boston to visit our youngest son Sean and our son-in-law, Will. They bought a single-family house in Dorchester near Savin Hill around two years ago. The weather was lovely until Sunday when we did have some showers. Sean had taken the afternoon off on Friday so we went for a beautiful walk along the harbor starting from the Kennedy Museum and continuing on to the South Boston beach. That night we enjoyed drinks out in their deck overlooking their big backyard with their neighbors Joe and Eileen. I brought dinner with me, a Beef Ragu with Ramps, which I served over orzo, with a garden salad. Scott and I forage for wild ramps every spring near our home - so good.

You can see a little of their deck in the background while Sean has fun with some Romaine.

Saturday they had bought tickets to the Monet exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It was a real treat to return to a place we have spent so much time. I took art classes at the Museum's School for many years before we moved to Vermont and we've been members there for a long time. Sean and Will are very active members! That night we had two parties - first with Jason and Dan for drinks and then Sarah, Jesse, and Dave for dinner. Party, party, party - life visiting them! Fabulous time with all of them and wonderful food. 

Scott snapped this photo of Heather, Will, and Sean in the mirror under the Sargent Ceiling.

Sunday morning was beautiful so we drove downtown to the Seaport district and walked along the harbor. We chose Davio's for lunch as it was Sean's favorite restaurant for his birthday celebrations when they were on Newbury St. This location is right on the harbor and we sat outside admiring the ships and sailboats going by.  When we first bought Scott Free we spent a year at the Marina just across the bay in East Boston. 

Here's a great view of the harbor walkway looking towards downtown from the Seaport area.

Sunday afternoon we had a Jack & Jill virtual shower for Caitlin and Brett, soon to be Mr, & Mrs. Silverstein. Packages had arrived in the mail for us with the party theme, Hawaii. We wore colorful sunglasses and leis and enjoyed cookies and chocolates. Next, we had planned to attend a party at a trendy bar where Sean had taken a cocktail course. It was a bit of a reunion with his classmates. But late afternoon showers shut down the outside dining and the bar was too crowded for us at this point in time, so we passed. 

Marinated vegetables to go on the grill for dinner - notice the ramps on top! They were accompanying steaks, shrimps, and sausages. 

Instead, Will made some wonderful grapefruit cocktails for us (with fresh ruby grapefruit juice, Amaro, gin, and Aperol). And there were plenty of great leftovers for an easy dinner. The next morning Scott and I drove home, stopping for a walk and ice cream with Russ & Marty Wolf in Concord, Mass. What a fabulous weekend!!!

Will shakes up his Grapefruit cocktails with a

Enjoying the Monet exhibit, distanced and with

Sean & Will

Looking away from the previous photos at the 
Seaport at a small Marina area,.

That's Davio's restaurant across from the harbor
walk. It's enormous with lots of outdoor seating.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Some Thoughts on Our Trip Cross-country

 What we were not surprised at: We love being on the road. Scott and I get along great in close quarters, in this case even closer quarters than our boat. Our experience in the past was repeated in this trip - people everywhere were friendly and helpful. The Southwest area of the country is endlessly fascinating to us Northeastern people. We have some wonderful friends and family across the country. Segregation is alive and obvious in most of our country. Boy that was sad. Our experience on this trip would not be the same if we were an interracial or a black couple. We did meet some of both and a few black families but the RV world is white in general and the communities we visited were the same. Big exceptions we noticed, large cities in the south, southwest, and San Diego.

Here's Baby and Junior just before we left Vermont 12/20/20 after 3 feet of snow.

 What we were surprised at: It is cold in the southern states of our country in the winter! We had snow in Texas and Arizona. We never did take out the summer clothes we'd packed in the truck, never used the air conditioning, and always needed at least one of the two comforters. Trains, most at least a mile long, one after another, paralleled both of our routes going west and then east. Death Valley is beautiful and the south rim of the Grand Canyon is not a commercial strip mall (OK you probably knew that but I had formed prejudiced opinions). Pretty good wine is made in states like Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and North Carolina, with the notable exception of fruit wines. Tap water in most of the country might be safe but it tastes terrible. We ended up buying gallons of "spring" water to drink. Getting gas took planning - first the price, second how to enter and leave the station safely with a trailer behind us. This is embarrassing, but I had never shopped at Walmart before this trip (the evil empire) but we had a strong recommendation from friends that the PU outside was easy and the website friendly (and they are all over the south). We ended up shopping there almost exclusively before we had both vaccines. Then we switched to Whole Foods (I know it's Whole Paycheck) and stores like it, if available. Parking at Walmart was always easy and NOT at Whole Foods. 

Set up for dinner at the Jesse Owens Museum and Park in Alabama

What was different this year: Due to COVID, very few museums were open but the ones we visited later in the trip (only allowed a limited number of people and everyone wore masks) were great. We learned a lot at those out west, like the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Pretty much all the Visitor Information Centers, and often the bathrooms at the National and State Parks were closed. We look forward to another trip where we are able to enjoy all the lovely places we saw more fully. There were surprisingly excellent restaurants which we were able to enjoy outdoors, usually eating early for lunch or dinner (even in cold weather, dressed warmly as they had fancy heaters of all kinds). After we had the vaccines we did eat inside occasionally but aside from a few exceptions, they were distanced tables and everyone wore masks, until they were eating if customers. The few exceptions were where no one wore masks but the restaurant was sparsely populated (very rural spots) and attached to our RV site - like the breakfasts at the Terlingua Ranch in Texas. 

Taken on May 19th at the end of our trip, the same driveway as above although pointed in a different direction and in much warmer weather.

We have pretty much decided to keep Baby and Junior (our trailer & truck). It was a long debate but since we plan to sell Scott Free next spring when we bring it back to the U.S., we will be using it the following winter. And we have already planned a series of short trips with them these next couple of months. Now we have to figure out a place to store the trailer for next winter safely. You can be sure we'll be heading back across the south of the country again!

Monday, May 10, 2021

Family Visit Time

 We started our trip with Christmas at our son James and his family in Washington DC and now we're back at close to the finish. They live in the Capitol Hill District which has some of the loveliest, although small, gardens around. We left "Baby", our trailer, at an RV Park outside the city and moved in with our son and daughter-in-law Morgen. Kolya is our newest grandson. He'll be 3 on August 1 and is totally adorable. We Zoom every Sunday so he does remember us - he calls us Mimi & Pa sometimes and other times Grammy and Grandpa. 

Kolya is showing off his "Stop" sign for his Brio train set.

Due to the Pandemic, everything is pretty much closed in Washington, and James and Morgen have had only one shot with their second ones coming up soon, so we stayed close to home. Of course, we visited the local parks and the Arboretum for outdoor play, but otherwise, our only trip was to Morgen's parents' home where we had a wonderful dinner outside in their beautiful backyard. Morgen's sister Claire and husband Bill joined us with their two children Grace and Nora. Karl and Kris had just purchased a one person (at a time) trampoline set. James and Scott helped Karl set it up and Kolya and his cousins took turns having fun!

Kolya enjoying the trampoline.

Our next stop was my sister Paula's in Maryland. Again, we left Baby at a local RV park while we stayed with her. She has also only received one shot, but hasn't been out of the house, other than that one time to receive the vaccine, in one and one-half years! We hadn't seen her in person since last October so it was wonderful to spend the week with her. We managed to go through a good-sized to-do list, a few every day, which felt good, Scott is a great repairman but we also managed to get in the complex's George to accomplish the rest! Of course, we enjoyed many great meals together and on Saturday James, Morgen and Kolya came for a lovely visit. We sat outside for most of the time and when inside, wore masks and kept the not totally vaccinated distanced. It feels SO GOOD to be totally vaccinated, but even having one is good. Scott and I managed one good hike during the week out at Rocks State Park up to the King and Queen seats - nice spot. 

My younger sister Paula and I 

But the end of our trip is now in sight. We left Paula and drove north to Mahlon Dickerson Recreation campground in northern NJ for one night to break up the trip home. It was Mother's Day and the weather held out for us to enjoy a late lunch outside before the heaven's opened up and it rained until the next morning. Today we drive home to Vermont. 

Our late lunch all set up at our last campground of the trip on Mother's Day!

This has to be the first time I managed to get 
ahead of Kolya - he's a demon scooter!

Fresh out of his bath with Mama!

I love this combination of the 
purple jacket and yellow boots!

Enjoying dinner at Kris & Karl's house (Morgen's
parents) here with her sister and brother-in-law,
Claire and Bill

James and Morgen

James makes great cocktails - here in their garden
we have Aperol Spritzers.

And he's a terrific cook too!'Pasta
with Peanut Sauce!

We had a fun outing to the National Arboretum, the
only thing open as all the museums are closed in
Washington. The azaleas were in full bloom!

Saturday, May 01, 2021

Blue Ridge Parkway Day Five and the Skyline Drive

 We left the Franklin County Distillery in Boone's Mill after a lazy morning (cell coverage for a change) and rejoined the Blue Ridge Parkway just east of Roanoke. It was another gorgeous day. Our first stop was the Explore Park, a 1,100 acre multi-use recreation area run by the Roanoke County Parks that has ropes courses, biking trails, kayaking and canoeing, summer camp, horseback riding, and several campgrounds. We walked around but everything was closed, then went down to the river access on a narrow road that luckily we didn't meet anyone coming in the opposite direction!

Explore Park has not only multiple campgrounds but this Tavern (not open of course). 

We didn't have far to go this day as we had reservations at the Peaks of Otter Winery, which is just off the Parkway. We had the leisure to stop at every look out and hike several short trails. The Appalachian Trail runs along this section of the road and crosses every once in awhile. We saw a number of through hikers and some section hikers. Our son James hiked from the start of the trail in Georgia to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Waynesboro before stress fractures in his feet caused him to abandon his plan to finish hiking the whole trail that season. Later that summer he did another section up in New Hampshire and Maine. 

Doesn't this entrance to the AT look inviting with its picnic table?

The Peaks of Otter was another beautiful spot and our campsite looked out at an apple orchard with one of the 3 Peaks of Otter beyond. This is a fruit winery and although we enjoyed our tasting, we're not as fond of fruit wines as grape based wines. We did buy one bottle of apple wine. Your stay at Harvest Host locations is free for one night but they ask you to spend at least $20 there on their products or services. That's never hard and in fact, we always spend much more!

The view out our dinette window at the Peaks of Otter Winery in Bedford, VA. That's Flat Top Mountain in the distance, one of the 3 Peaks of Otter Mountains.

The next morning was another lovely day and we left earlier as we had a long day ahead of us. We had 85 miles to finish the Blue Ridge Parkway and then planned to do another 40 miles on the Skyline Drive before exiting to spend a night at the Brothers Craft Brewery in Harrisonburg, another Harvest Host member. We stopped at the Falling Water Cascades for a brief hike and then the Apple Orchard Falls, passing the highest point on the Parkway in Virginia (3950 feet vs the highest point in NC which was 6053 feet). 

I love these yellow flowers as I've said before and this photo actually is pretty accurate for a change. The parkway is so lovely in itself interspersed with distant views.

A very interesting stop was the James River and Canal. We walked over the bridge and saw a small section of the canal which was started in 1785, half-completed in 1851, and abandoned in favor of a railroad route. This River, before it was damed several times, was a major route west for settlers. Another 60 miles later we completed the Parkway and started immediately on the Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park. We wanted to finish the Skyline drive the next day before continuing on to Washington DC to visit our son James, daughter-in-law Morgan and grandson, Kolya. We really want to return one day and spend more time here hiking and camping. Although we did see a lot, one week is still rushing through the area. A more leisurely visit, later in the season when evrything is open would be great. 

One of the locks on the canal is still visible here next to the James River.

The Skyline Drive felt very different from the Parkway. It isn't manicured and is left pretty natural. The Parkway verges are mowed and have various fences and stone walls. The Skyline Drive has many more Visitors Centers, Hotels, Restaurants, and Campgrounds and they were almost all open. We exited on Route 33 and drove 21 miles to our next overnight stop, the Brother's Craft Brewery. We shared the parking lot with 2 other RVs and despite being near the road, it was pretty quiet at night. They brew a large collection of beers right on the premises and sell beer retail as well as at the bar. They do not serve food but our bartender helped us order pizza, which was delivered hot in only 20 minutes and we ate it sitting outside on their terrace enjoying several beers. It was excellent! Scott had a board ZOOM meeting for Rights and Democracy that night and happily, there was plenty of cell service.

I love these gnarly trees and they frame the distant mountains so well.

The next day was overcast and cool but we soldiered ahead on the Skyline Drive. The distant views were not as nice but the road itself is always lovely. Still, it took a while for the 70+ miles and we then ran into construction delays on the highway to Washington. It was later than we hoped getting settled into our next stop, Cherry Hill RV Park in College Park, MD. Our trailer will stay there for 5 nights while we visit our son James and his family in Washington. More on that in my next post,

We often saw farms just off the road, here hay has been rolled up and left for pick up.

We hiked down to Falling Water
Cascades and looked up to the 
parkway bridge overhead

Falling Waters Cascade

OK, I'm a sucker for trees in the foreground.

The AT leads invitingly off the Parkway. We would love to do some more hiking here one day.

Just one lovely view after another.

The wine tasting room at Peaks of Otter Winery

There were a number of lakes along the road.

White Rock Falls

This was an inviting start to a trail

We followed it for a while until it petered 
out in a maze of rocks.

A view up the James River from the bridge,.

White dogwoods bloomed along both the Parkway
and the Skyline Drive everywhere.

I believe these magenta small trees which were
also common are redbuds.

Here's a closeup of one.

Views along the Skyline our last day.

It was quite overcast for most of that drive but
still beautiful.