May to July, 2002

Take Me Home Country Roads

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Finally, we tore ourselves away from the Raleigh area, and smelling all the roses as we went, we visited the Outer Banks.  It was absolutely splendid, unlike any place we’d ever been.  Once you visit, you keep this area on your list of return spots.  We had some stormy weather, and had to hunker down for a bit, but it was swell.  We listened to our little weather radio (which we’d nicknamed Sven because its “voice” had a distinct accent), and knew when the winds would howl, and when it would be sunny again and okay to go and explore.  Really fun.  Much of the Banks area is desolate and remote, and great to wander in.  Looking at the houses right along the water’s edge, you see how new most of them are, and remember recent hurricanes.  I wouldn’t think building a house along that coast made any sense, but some would simply say it was the tough American spirit showing through. 

One of the treats along this stretch of coastline is the Wright Brothers Memorial and Museum in Kill Devil Hills.  It’s a great spot, very windy (how perfect), and gives you a wonderful sense of what was happening there almost 100 years ago.  Rick has been reading a book about the technical aspects of the Wright Brothers’ achievements, and has really enjoyed it.

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Another treat is the array of great old lighthouses, spectacular monuments to the power of nature and to the history of the region.  We just couldn’t get enough of them.

From North Carolina we moved on to the Hampton Roads area in Virginia, where we visited the USS Wisconsin, the Mariner Museum, the James River area (we went to Smithfield for a ham, a really, really yummy ham), and stayed in a campground in the Newport News City Park.  It was a most amazing place; go visit it, a real treat.  Probably the highlight of our time here was the Mariner Museum.  It concentrates on Eastern Seaboard stuff, of course, and is therefore different than the Maritime Museum in San Francisco.  Lots of excellent information on the Chesapeake Bay area. 

While in Virginia, we visited several Civil War battlegrounds, each one moving in its own way, and each very educational.  We are saving more for another time, but this trip we went to Petersburg and Manassas, along with seeing some of Richmond.  This was the first time we had visited Manassas together; I believe it to be the finest setting and telling of the “story” in Virginia.  While in Richmond we went to the Museum of the Confederacy; it’s fascinating to see both sides talking about the same war, with very different perspectives on strategy and meanings.  Most interesting at this museum was a whole floor devoted to Robert E. Lee; what a man!   The building held more artifacts than you could imagine, far more than anyplace we had seen.  The uniforms and background information on people who had served were especially neat.  We also spent a quiet misty morning in Yorktown, home of the final battle of the Revolutionary War.  It is an exceptionally beautiful town and setting.

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We ended our Civil War experience for this year by heading on up to Gettysburg, where we spent three days.  It was really a cool place, and the day we toured the battlefields we had exceptionally nice weather, so it was really a treat.  Again, many, many artifacts.  The Gettysburg visitor center and museum area has tragically been given over to commercialism, and we refuse to support this, so didn’t take in the events with a fee attached.  Their loss, not ours, we presume.  But a lot was free, and great.  After hearing about the commercialism, we were concerned, but the battle ground itself is beautifully preserved and a very moving experience.

We stayed in Gettysburg one more day than planned because we found there was a bluegrass festival taking place, and we took it in for a day.  Such a good time!

The day after the festival, moving toward the Jersey coast, we came around a corner in Fair Haven, Maryland, and a highland games celebration was going on.  Screech!!!  We stopped, turned around, parked in a big grass field as directed by very spiffy county sheriff types, and spent several hours listening to bagpipes, looking at guys’ cute knees, etc.  As much as anything else, it was an extraordinarily lovely setting with a lush grass steeplechase course and green, green hills all around.  

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And… screech!! A second stop -- we’d passed a sign for a huge Cat Show.  We halted, did the turn around and park thing, and spent a couple of hours looking at all the exotic tabbies and picking up goodies for our two felines.  Then we came back to the coach, decided Agnes and Jeremy aren’t so bad after all, and drove on.  Jeremy has been nicknamed Lumpus felinus, because he sleeps so much; Agnes is Miss Whinesalot, or simply Anguish.  But we do love them anyway.  And this screeching and stopping thing is pretty cool too.

In New Jersey, we met up with friends and visited Cape May, a lovely old New Jersey enclave. Cape May was bypassed by life about 100 hundred years ago, and has retained its charming seaside village appearance; there are many, many lovely homes from the late 1800s, all charming, many of them B&Bs, and the ice cream at Charlie’s is to die for.  The rhododendrons are in bloom, baby chicks and goslings are about, and everything is green.

New Jersey didn’t hold us very long.  After a lovely time exploring Cape May and vicinity, we trooped back into Pennsylvania, first stopping in Wilmington, Delaware to visit the lovely Winterthur Gardens and then the Brandywine River Museum in Chadd’s Ford, PA.  The gardens are lovely and the museum is very special in its own way.  The museum is in an old grist mill, recently restored, with bare beams and white walls.  It houses an important collection of American art, including major works by NC Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, and Jamie Wyeth, three generations of work by one family of incredibly talented artists.  We both enjoyed the exhibits a great deal; and the setting was incomparable.

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From there we trucked on over to Pittsburgh to see the Pirates play.  They were lousy, and lost badly.  But we didn’t care – we had a splendid time.  We were there to see a fun game.  The park is new, lovely, and similar to Pac Bell Park in San Francisco.  It was a balmy evening, and a huge full moon rose up and shimmered over the city skyline beyond the right field fence.  Who could ask for anything more?  The park is right downtown, next to where the Steelers play, and you can see all the bridges while you’re watching the game.  Very cool.

Pennsylvania is a big state, but we made inroads where we could, wandering around and ending up in the Allegheny National Forest, settling down close to the river, near Warren.  Following our new motto – Brake for Fun – we took the motorcycle out for a ride every day we could; it’s incredibly lovely.  The rolling hills were of continuously changing shades of green, with yellow, blue, pink, and white wildflowers everywhere (cows in the fields standing knee-deep in new grass and flowers).  The trees with new leaves mixed with the darker pine trees; hill after hill after hill.  We camped right off a scenic by-way, with beauty everywhere.  Our overriding plan for this year has been to follow spring north, and we’ve been successful beyond anything we could have imagined.  Right around the corner from us is blooming dogwood, the same dogwood that we saw in Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi three months ago.

What a bunch of lucky ducks we are.  Our camping spot sits in a grove of trees with the afternoon sunlight filtering through, birds are chirping, and there are chipmunks everywhere, many of them little guys chasing each other around like all kids do.  (So how come some places are filled with chipmunks, others with squirrels?  Does anyone know the answer?)

When you head east out of the Allegheny Mountains, you get to travel on US 6, a charming, scenic road full of small, well-maintained towns, each with a cemetery that appears older than time itself.  County seats with old courthouses, freshly painted old houses currently serving as B&Bs; it’s a great ride. There’s a lot of local pride in these towns, and they care about their history. 

With a current goal of ending up at Lake George in New York, we started meandering in a northeasterly direction, visiting Cooperstown on the way.  By now it must be obvious that we’re baseball fans; it was important to us to make the pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  It’s a great spot for lovers of the game.  Cooperstown is a beautiful small town on the edge of a lovely lake, a great destination.  Many, many hotels and B&Bs have an early 1900s feel to them, and there are several shops selling neat stuff.  A reminder for us that we were in New York was that you could get anything you wanted saying Yankees or Mets, but Giants?  Who Giants????? It was fun. 

Late in the day, getting ready to push on to a further destination for the night, a vicious thunderstorm came through – large wind, trees going over, lightening and thunder, all the usual suspects.  Rick absolutely soaked himself to the skin running back to the coach because we had left some windows open a bit for the cats.  He had to completely change clothes before walking back, fortunately after the rain stopped.  Later on, a second round of the same weather came through so we stayed put in the Chamber of Commerce parking lot.  Sirens and fire trucks dominated for quite a bit; then later the rain totally cleared, the evening was beautiful, and we walked around town enjoying ourselves.  What a change!

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We ultimately reached Lake George, in a beautiful area of the Adirondacks, in plenty of time to attend Americade, the largest touring motorcycle rally in the nation (honest, they keep telling us this, so it must be true).  Zillions of bikes and bikers; but much more of a family event than Daytona was last March, so it has an entirely different (and friendlier) feeling.  Rick took demo rides on the latest beasties, and we attacked the vendor booths with a vengeance.  We stated emphatically to each other that we didn’t need a thing, but ask me later what all we bought! 

Oh yes, one other adventure on our way to Lake George -- we stopped at Howe Caverns.  One of the schlockiest sightseeing places around (ah, Rick says it wasn’t that bad), but we stopped, just like we did in 1994, to take appropriate pictures and buy appropriate postcards for family members.  I stayed in the coach with a bag over my head.

July has come upon us, and it’s getting hot and goopy.  Despite our best intentions to maintain perpetual Spring until Fall arrives, we have indeed wandered into some unavoidable Summer.  If you sit perfectly still, and there is a nice breeze, all is well.  But if you move around much, the juices flow.  And the women don’t just “pink” or “glow”, they sweat like horses pulling a heavy wagon.  And along with the humidity come the thunderstorms.  While in New York we were out on the motorcycle, seeing Niagara Falls, and didn’t close up the coach.  We returned to a very soggy household; a big black thunderstorm had come through and dumped on everyone.  The cats aren’t smart enough to close the windows… at least not yet; we’re working on them.

While wandering around in Pennsylvania, we stopped in at the Chevy dealer in Jonestown for a day to get some service done to ‘Arvey, and made a quick foray down into Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Touched all three states the same day.  We stopped by Manassas for a repeat visit, then headed for Harper’s Ferry and Antietam.  These are tiny, in-a-corner areas of these states, and we got delightfully and thoroughly lost several times.  We found ourselves cruising through Fairfax County, Virginia, through some of the prettiest (and probably highest-priced) real estate within 5 states.  I know that’s where many famous people have their “country estates.”  We could see why.  Beautiful, lush, green, rolling hills with bundled hay drying in the fields; picture-perfect. 

Harper’s Ferry was a neat experience.  They do a good job of telling the story of John Brown and what he was trying so fruitlessly to accomplish; evidently Mr. Brown had been a loser for a long time, and despite being an abolitionist, he had some pretty weird ideas.  And perhaps he wasn’t very smart.  No wonder they nabbed him and hung him.  The small town is a historic site, and has been kept as it was in the 1850’s; it’s easy to see why it was an important location during the Civil War, being the confluence of two important rivers, and easy to see why the North and South traded the place back and forth a half dozen or so times during the war.  A very worthwhile stop.

Our visit to Antietam was not as good; we had waited too late in the day to get there (need I suggest we were lost again?), and we had to get back to Pennsylvania to check on our motorhome.  But we did stop, and spent a short while out in the battlefield.  It was a terrible, bloody battle, accomplishing little, as with so many of them.  Again, a lovely spot, being maintained just as it had been during the War.  As we started back, we could see enormous black clouds forming ahead of us.  We kept moving, but so did they.  They won.  We spent the last 60 miles riding in a gargantuan thunderstorm, during rush hour traffic through Harrisburg, PA, with all the roads torn up.  Riding hell.  But Rick the trooper got us through in good shape, somewhat soggy and sweaty (‘twas not a cool rain, natch) and we survived to tell the tale.

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Heading back into New York, with a rejuvenated motorhome, we spent an eventful week near Rochester, visiting Rick’s family and seeing the area. In Rochester, we saw not one but two games played by the Rochester Redwings AAA baseball team; they lost to the Columbus Clippers, but whomped the Pawtucket Red Sox.  Go Wings!  Rick’s family put on a great shindig for us; 60 or so extended cousins, etc. all chatting away.  It was a great experience for us.  And we ate “hots.”  You’ve got’chur red hots and your white hots.  Both very local.  Both yummy.  And you sure wouldn’t want to say to anyone “they taste just like regular hot dogs to me.”  Not on a bet.

Our last stop before leaving New York was Niagara Falls.  We’d been once before, but had to stop by again.  We were heading for Indiana, by way of Detroit, so the falls were a natural.  West of there, we traveled over some of the worst roads in the universe; things came loose on the coach we didn’t even know we had!  We’ve decided that one day we’re going to compose a piece of music titled “Roads and Rattles:  A Concerto for Percussion.”  But the highways got better as we left Michigan and moved down through a corner of Ohio and to Fort Wayne, Indiana to visit the national Gold Wing motorcycle gathering.  

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Also in Indiana, we stopped for a few delightful hours at the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, home of the most beautiful Art Deco showrooms ever constructed and full of the most beautiful automobiles ever built.  We’d loved this place in ’98 and couldn’t wait to get back.  If you’ve never seen this place, run do not walk, to get there.  It’s a treasure, and worth the search.  The cars are fabulous and the setting is the old factory and showroom and is on the national historic register.  Great spot.  Even Jeremy liked it...

But bummer; the heat and humidity of a mid-west summer were getting to us very quickly and we decided to scoot further north in hopes of finding cooler breezes along Lake Michigan.  Catch you later.

Rick & Kathy

  See more photos from the US & Canada in 2001 to 2003 

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