Sunday, June 28, 2009


Does anyone know what these three things have in common? If you said Pennsylvania – you’d be absolutely right. R. and I are on the road again. This time heading to find all three.

Frederick, Maryland is our first stop – OR NOT – with me behind the wheel. I flat miss the exit (R. informs me as we sail by our intended turn-off).

“I didn’t see the sign,” I tell him.

Silence fills the air. I’m sure R. is either satisfied with my answer (highly unlikely) or so stunned, he’s finding it hard to respond.

Before he can formulate words, I add. “I don’t look at signs. I just drive. Half the time I don’t even know what the speed limit is.”

Laughter erupts from the passenger seat.

“What’s so funny?”

“That explains so much about your driving and why you don’t drive in Houston. You COULD get lost and never be found.”

Oh HA!! HA!!!

Since I missed Frederick, R. directs me to our next stop – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We locate the Visitor’s Center and they offer a couple of tours for us to choose from. We decide to go on a self-guided one (yes, R. is driving).

With map in hand, we take off. The barn in the picture below is #1 on the tour and where the Civil War began.

R. takes his time driving through the tour and pulls off at the different statues along the way.

This one depicts the men who fought from North Carolina.

This is The Valley of Death

This is for the Pennsylvania regiment. Elaborate with statues of men standing at attention on all four sides (one we recognize as Abraham Lincoln)

Our visit to Gettysburg put a face on the Civil War for me and I’m ashamed as to how lightly I’ve taken it through the years. Maybe the appreciation of history is finally sinking into this head of mine. Guess it’s about time.

While R. and I are learning about the battles, the ‘kids’ are clamoring about our next stop. I try to shush them, but Randy is almost beside himself.

“Can you guys hurry up? The place is going to close before we get there,” the little bear growls (oh, I mean says).

If you’re wondering what he’s referring to – it’s Hershey, Pennsylvania. Home of the:

As we park at Hershey’s Chocolate World and get out, I thought Ray and Randy would faint from the aroma surrounding us. Trust me I have to hold their hands or they’d take off and Hazel and I would find them head-first in a vat of chocolate.

We’re not a foot in the door and R. stops and buys all of us a goody for our walk around the facility. People, I’ve never seen so much candy in one spot. And they came in every shape and size imaginable, too. I think the boys (R. and R.) thought they’d died and gone to heaven.

At 3:30 we go out and catch the Hershey Trolley. All of us enjoy the trolley ride around the town that Milton S. Hershey established back in 1903. The guides tell the history of how milk chocolate got it start and gives out samples we can savor along the way.

As they show us the Hershey grounds, the tour guides point out the plant where the chocolate (and other goodies) are made. There is also a huge amusement park, concert venue and a rose garden which Mr. Hershey gave to his wife many years ago on the property located next to Chocolate World.

Red Rose Motel - Our day ends in the quiet town of Rheem, Pennsylvania at the Red Rose Motel. Cozy little cabin, comfortable bed and cool breezes blowing through the window. Dreams of sugar plums – oh I mean chocolate dancing in all of our heads.

This morning the family is on the road to Lancaster County – Amish country and I can’t wait. As a quilt lover, these stops excite me as much as the chocolate did the boys yesterday.

We see our first horse and buggy and I’m transported back in time. I look over and see the Log Cabin Quilt Shop and the most magnificent quilt I’ve ever seen. I instruct R. to pull in as fast as he can (but warn him to be careful not to run the Amish family down).

I marvel at the black and white quilt hanging by the front door (which you can't really see in the photo-sorry). Every part of my being wants the beautiful masterpiece, but I don’t buy it. I purchase a wall hanging with the same pattern. Yes, I’m selling my house with the black and white bathroom, but who says I won’t use black and white to decorate my next place.

Amish hospitality and workmanship welcome us into every store we browse through. R. finds another walking stick and buys it. We are getting quite a collection.

On our way back to Herndon, R. drives. I’m navigating us through the back roads of Pennsylvania and Maryland – and NOT doing such a fine job, I might add. But I have to come to my own defense – PA or MD don’t waste their tax dollars on road signs (I'm being a bit snide). At one point I think R. thought we were lost and never going to be found. Thankfully a neighborly gentleman (and a cop) gave us directions and we were on the road again.

Until next time – love ya!!!!


PS: I hope you’re enjoying the PS’s as much as I am – today is a doozer. Some of you are aware that there is a town in Lancaster County called Intercourse. Yes, you read that right. Oh, how I wanted to mention it, but didn’t know how to tactfully. Mr. R. found the perfect solution – a street sign announcing an OB/GYN conference. Priceless!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


I’m sorry I’ve started the last two blogs out with complaining, but my feet DO hurt!!! That’s because we're on the road again in Washington, D.C. I know I wrote about it in an earlier blog, but this one’s sooooo much better. The ‘kids’ got out of the car this time and into the action.

And as always, our road trips can’t start without the signature song or a mishap (you should know that by now). Humor me while I share an important discovery – I shouldn’t be allowed to drink coffee on road trips (do we sense a reoccurring theme here-HA!). Anyway, R. finds us a parking spot and we rush to the nearest restroom, which is at the Jefferson Memorial.

People, Elvis could have been belting out Can’t Help Falling in Love on the steps and I would have whipped by him with barely a nod - that’s how desperate I was (TMI).

Oh, darn it, I just thought of another funny. This one happens in the bathroom. I lay my stylish little number (remember previous blog with my umbrella) on the side of the sink and put my hand under the faucet – it automatically comes on and my purse falls into the sink and gets soaked before I can retrieve it (no need to ask why I’m a writer, stories just happen when I’m around)

Anyway, we leave Jefferson behind and go to the Washington Monument. I can’t believe I’m standing next to something I’ve only dreamt of seeing. The granite exterior glistens in the morning sun and seems so much taller than I imagined. As we turn to leave I catch a glimpse of the White House in the distance. Amazing!

From there we find the Visitor’s Center and the woman gives us a detailed map of the area and our trek around DC continues. Next stop the Renwick Gallery. And you’ll never believe, but the security beeper goes off again. R., do you have to get so up-close-and-personal with the outlandish fish?

The White House looms in front of us and lots of people (some protesters) stand outside the fence. The ‘kids’ ask if they can get their picture taken with the Obama girls, but I tell them they have to settle with one with their dad.

I put the 'kids' away on the way to the next monument. This memorial is the one and only reason I’ve always wanted to visit Washington, DC.

I find their names in the book and we head to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The black granite walls etched with of thousands of names – one name I knew, another from my hometown overwhelms me. Tears spill down my cheeks at the sight of so many lives lost.

James Caniford dated my sister Debbie. Six months later he went over to Vietnam. His plane was shot down and they classified him as missing in action. As a teenager I wore the bracelet with his name on it and held out hope they’d find him. Last year they did – a single tooth found identified him. They brought him home and he is buried at Arlington Cemetery. On another day R. and I will go see if we can find his grave.

Gerald O'Connor is the other name I look up on the wall. I don't know him, but he and his family are a part of my life. The O'Connor family lived in Herington, Kansas and I graduated with one of his brothers.

Thank you both for your sacrifice for your country – and may you rest in peace!!!!

I thought this a fitting way to end for today’s blog. The inscription on the statue reads: What is past is prologue.

Profound words!

The people immortalized in the monuments R. and I saw today began our story – now it’s our responsibility to carry their message of hope to future generations.

Love ya,

PS: As we walked to the car I caught sight of a bus and couldn’t help taking a picture of what was written on the side. This word describes it all.

My feet hurt, but my heart feels so very blessed. I knew we’d walked on hallowed ground.

Monday, June 15, 2009


My head hurts because of all the history I’m taking in on our travels through Virginia and beyond. And today’s destination (Colonial Williamsburg) fills it up even more.

As with all the other blogs, I have to start out with a story. Mapquest informs us it’s only a three hour drive from doorstep to lamp post, but with R. and I - trips sometimes take on a mind of their own. After going 15 miles out of our way - we find out one should put the exact address in for where one is leaving from OR getting to where one is going take one a tab longer than planned.

But we get to Colonial Williamsburg with plenty of daylight to spare. Signs point to the Visitor’s Center and we pay admission to see the sights, but first there’s a movie they want us to watch. The woman says Jack Lord stars in the film (for those of you who don't remember him - he's the HUNK from Hawaii 50 and always said, "Book 'em Danno" in the coolest sort of way).

Unfortunately, my honey (Mr. Lord, that is) didn’t cause my heart to do its usual pitter patter. Instead, I want to laugh when he appears on screen because he’s wearing a mauve (I’m being kind-it’s pink) suit coat and trousers, and he’s sportin’ a ponytail. So much for swooning after him today.

Next stop is the Governor’s Palace. A guide (dressed in period clothing) takes us through the enormous home. It’s beautiful, but I thought the colors choices were interesting (and ugly) in the dining area, but the molding around the doors and windows – stunning.

We tour the shops in and around Colonial Williamsburg (and there’s lots of them). About 3:00 o'clock we decide we're starving and start our trek up and down and back up and back down Duke of Gloucester Street looking for something to eat.

Unbeknownst to us - the historic eateries all close at 1:30 to start preparing for dinner (which starts at 5:00). Seems kind of strange it would take them 3 ½ hours to get things ready, but that’s what the sign says. Hot, tired and hungry, we trudge to the main street and find a small sandwich shop and devour a belated lunch and some much needed shade.

Refreshed, we leave the quaint community behind and we're on the road again. This time to Norfolk, Virginia (only 60 miles away). As we near our destination, imagine our surprise when the last three miles of the journey includes a tunnel – or I should say an UNDER WATER byway (no photos taken here ‘cause I’m too freaked out and if you think I’m kidding ask R.)

He assures me we’re not going to die or drown and I feel much better. We find a place to stay near the water and settle in for the night (that is, after more nourishment - just in case everything closes down early).

Then it's off to bed we go! Tomorrow's another day of seeing the sights.

Morning brings sunshine and blue skies and a walk on the beach. Can't miss
out on collecting seashells from the seashore.

Here is where we buys tickets for a special boat ride. R., me and the 'kids' get on board of the Victory Rover Naval Base Cruise. The captain takes us out and along the way he gives us a bird's eye view of the seaport, world’s largest naval base (home of the Atlantic Fleet: Destroyers, Guided Missile Cruisers, Submarines and more (yes, the last sentence was from their brochure-couldn’t have said it better myself).

The captain rattles off the names of the ships, their weight and cost faster than a gunner could shoot off a round of ammunition at the enemy (I hope I have this lingo right). Every ship we passed seems enormous, but then the crown jewels of the Navy fleet came into view - the aircraft carriers.

I know the women quit reading a while back, but I know I've got the men's attention. These monsters impressed the socks right off of me. I can't believe they house 6,000 Navy personnel. The captain said they're floating cities, decked out with a movie theatre, fast food restaurant, stores. All the comforts of home.

Hey, guys, I’ve got an idea - if you have some loose change lying around, you can pick one of these babies up for around $8 BILLION DOLLARS. It’d be great! You’d be the first on your block to own one. HA!!

The captain and his crew announce our cruise is finished. Guess it’s time to head back to Herndon to plan our next adventure. I wonder where we’ll go???

Love ya,

PS: Had to leave you with a funny. They follow us wherever we go and this one brought a definite chuckle. My Texas friends will totally understand this person's thinking!!!! Gotta love ingenuity.

Monday, June 08, 2009


In the last blog I gave you a hint about something I’ve always wanted to do – a dream of mine (other than seeing Washington, DC and getting published again). Did any of you catch what I mentioned?

Now before you go back and see if you can find the clue, I’ll save you the trouble. My dream has always been to hike the Appalachian Trail (all 2,174 miles). Start out in Georgia and traverse the hills and valleys on the rugged trail towards the finish line in Maine.

Sound crazy? Yes, but it’s still my dream and I fulfilled it today (well I should say a small portion of the infamous trail). Let me give you a play by play.

R. and I climb into the car ready for a day of hiking. We’ve got water, granola bars, maps and Randy and Hazel. What more do we need? Nothing. We've got it under control or so we thought.

As R. drives to Shenandoah National Park (via Front Royal, VA) the rain comes. Our familys' song goes from "On The Road Again" to "Rain, rain go away. Come again another day." And our lively chant works (for a while).

Now's a good time to share a funny before we start our trek on the Appalachian Trail. R. makes his way through the picturesque town of Front Royal and he spies the Visitor’s Center sign. A couple more blocks there’s another one, but this one says, Visitor's Center Here (see picture below).

“You can’t be serious,” I hear R. mumbling as he gets out of the car to check out this interesting phenomenon.

I can’t resist making this a Kodak moment, asking R. to pick up the receiver. He complies without question and poses (see picture above again). You might notice he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the moment. That’s because he’s getting ready to yell at me.

“Would you hurry up? Some guy’s keeps saying hello.”

I want to laugh, but contain myself and we get back in the car. So much for a cheery heirloom picture to hand down to the ‘kids’.

Our travels continue and we find the REAL Visitor's Center. The nice gentleman there gives us more maps (like we need them) and tells us Front Royal is having a craft and wine fair today. It's early so we stroll through the booths, but nothing catches my eye. I'm ready to get hiking.

R. turns onto Skyline Drive and pays the fee to enter Shenandoah National Park. With yet another map to add to our collection, we're ready to find the Appalachian Trail.

As we've already noticed - the trail is not very well marked. We actually missed it somewhere in Georgia. I thought they'd have a honkin' sign announcing where it crosses the road. Guess oversized placards don't go hand in hand with the pristine beauty of nature.

Instead of missing the trail again, we stop at Dickey Hill ranger station and ask Ranger Rob for the precise place we'll find it. He point to the spot on the map and sends us on our way.

Speaking of Ranger Rob (or whatever his name is), this is a good time to segway to another photo opportunity. This involves one of God's creation and the sight of it almost made me turn and flee the national park.

Notice the man's hand in comparison to the wasp. I don't know about you but I believe we're talking mutant creature here.

R. quickly diverts my attention to the map and my GOAL, which is only 10.3 miles away at Compton Gap (per forest ranger-remember I didn't want to miss the trail). I forget the anomaly and we are on the road again.

Truly, people, I didn't think 10.3 miles could stretch so long, but they did. Then again, it might have something to do with all the stops we make for more family Kodak moments.

At exactly 10.3 miles R. pulls into the trail head and I'm only a few feet from the Appalachian Trail. I want to do a happy dance, but other hikers are hanging around their cars and I don't want to embarrass myself. And I guess kissing the ground is out of the question too, but I sure wanted to do something to show my utter delight.

We walk a few steps and my little feeties touch the Appalachian Trail. No words can express the joy I feel and sharing it with Mr. R. - is truly another dream come true. Thank You, Lord!!!!!

The fog settles in around us as we start our hike. The park's beauty is breathtaking. I'm in awe, but that doesn't stop me from babbling on and on (like that's a surprise). "R. I can't believe we're on the Appalachian Trail. WE ARE ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL!"

He doesn't say anything and I think I know why - he's as overwhelmed as I am. I decide to put a lid on it and enjoy the peace and serenity surrounding us. Again thanking the Lord - this time for giving us (me) this gift of His wondrous beauty.

It starts to sprinkle, but I don't care. It's magic out here in the forest and I don't want to miss a moment of its splendor.

All too soon our day is over, but we know we'll be back. Next time we'll spend more time on the Appalachian Trail (maybe even hike all 2,174 miles - you never know).

Stay tuned for more adventures in our Back East Bloglog.

Love ya,

PS: I almost forgot - I found the perfect stick for R. to use as a walking stick. Totally amazing how much it helps on the trail. So at the Elkwallow ranger station, he bought me my very own. COOL. Now we're official.
And who can forget the 'kids?' Randy found his very own walking stick, too!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sights! Sounds! Scenery! (and Sonic!!)

Since R. is off on weekends (for the time being), we’re on the road again every chance we get and the funnies keep finding us at every twist and turn of the highways.

Fredericksburg, VA: Here we find the Visitor’s Center and right off they ask if we want to take the city tour. If we do—the trolley’s waiting. I nod but ask, ‘where is the ladies room?”

The Visitor’s Center lady points me in the right direction and alerts the driver to wait for us. I make my much needed pit stop and then board the trolley. Without looking up, I know all eyes are zeroed in on me-the person holding up their tour. I smile as I take my seat and in my most confident Toastmasters voice announce to the driver, “you can start the tour now.”

He maneuvers the trolley to different spots where battles of the Civil War took place and points out famous homes to us. One in particular was where George Washington’s mother lived.

I glance over at R. during the tour to see if he's having as much fun as I am and he’s napping. Guess reliving all this history is too much excitement for him to handle in one afternoon.

After the trolley ride and a little bit of shopping, we’re on the road again.

We have another important stop to make. Sonic is calling my (our) name. YES, you read that correctly. We love their cherry limeades, but couldn’t find one in the Herndon area. A Google search found the nearest one a mere fifty miles away in Fredricksburg (where we are at the moment).

Without GPS or address, we drive aimlessly around town searching for our favorite refreshment. R. finally pulls into a convenience store and gets an address (like that will help us on unfamiliar roads), but Praise the Lord we locate Sonic and our thirst is quenched and our weekend trip comes to a close.

The next opportunity to travel on the road again takes us to LEESBURG, VA. There we stop for lunch before driving to see the Morven Mansion. They wouldn’t let us inside because it’s being renovated (oh, how I hate when that happens), but thought you might like seeing what I hope my next house looks like.

With more places to see we head to WINCHESTER, VA and stop at the Visitor’s Center. For some reason I’m thinking the Appalachian Trail (another place I've always wanted to visit) is just around the corner. It’s not. R. and I check out the map the woman gives us and find that the Shenandoah National Park is a tad farther than our time allows today. This will be a trip for another weekend.

But on our way out of town, R. spies a cemetery (this is the entrance). Never seen him get so excited. As I drive up each row, he yells out dates on the tombstones. Some of the early ones (dated back to 1700’s) we can barely read, but others from the 1800’s are easier to make out. This astounds me that the etching has stayed for generations.

Our travels continue and on our way back to Herndon we stumble onto a treasure in the tiny little town of MIDDLESBURG, VA. In the middle of town sits the The Red Fox Inn (see, which has been in operation (non-stop) since 1728.

We decide to check out the historic inn. Maybe have dinner (if it’s not toooooo expensive). The hostess greets us and shows us a menu. Prices are within reason (and I’m hungry) and she seats us next to the bar, mentioning that it was used as a table to operate on soldiers during the Civil War (good to know-hope they’ve disinfected it since then).

Our waitress comes over and R. asks about their beers. One catches my fancy–Dead Guy Ale. Could you turn down something named that? I couldn’t. When the bottle arrives—I read it. The label states it’s for the rogue in all of us – (funny, no one ever told me - HA!)

We order and while we enjoy our fare of fried chicken and a cheeseburger, the hostess comes over and gives us more history of The Red Fox Inn. Her narration brings the old place to life and we ask her if we can sneak a peak at one of the rooms when we’re done. Much to my surprise, she says yes.

After we finish eating and pay our bill, the young lady hands us a key and upstairs to the third floor we go. As we enter, light streams through the dormer windows and highlights the antique furnishings inside. A step stool stands ready to help guests get into their bed at the end of a busy day. Lace doilies adorn the end tables and bureau. I’m ready to go back downstairs and check-in, but know we have to head home. Tomorrow is another work day for Mr. R. and I need to finish this blog.

If we venture on Hwy. 50 again, we’ll be sure to time it just right to stay at The Red Fox Inn.

Love ya,

PS: More sights – sounds – scenery to come in our Back East Bloglog. Maybe even another Sonic sighting. Never know.