19 January 2013

2/17/2013 - Yes, Indeed, We're Wrappin'


Well, one month ago today, we started the final leg of our journey. Sorry to say it has taken this long to finish the blog posts for those 22+ days. When we  started this in September, I had no idea it would take me up to two hours a day to sort through and choose appropriate photos and write the material to do each day justice. And I did not anticipate how much driving, or wining and dining, would wear my brain down by the end of the day, so that my enthusiasm to write at the end of each day was not always there. So if you have eagerly or anger-ly awaited the clamant finale of this trip info, thanks for your patience. All I can say is "better late than never!"

ITIN:
12/27 - Home to Louisville KY
12/28 - to Columbia TN
12/29 - to Fort Rucker to Panama City FL
12/30 - to Tarpon Springs FL
12/31 - to Bonita Springs FL
1/1 to Key Largo FL
1/2 Key Largo (day 2)
1/3 to Key West FL
1/4 Key West (day 2)
1/5 Key West (day 3)
1/6 to Port St Lucie FL
1/7 to St Augustine FL
1/8 to Savannah GA
1/9 - Savannah (day 2)
1/10 to Charleston SC
1/11 to Wilmington NC
1/12 to Fort Eustis VA to Virginia Beach VA
1/13 to Baltimore MD
1/14 to Black Rock Ct
1/15 to Providence RI
1/16 - Providence (day 2)
1/17 - to Indiana / Michigan border
1/18 - to Home


THE STATS:
We traveled a total of 5,217 miles on this trip. We used 116 gallons of gas, costing about $389 dollars. Average miles per gallon was 44.9.

Tolls were about $120 dollars, with the biggest shocker being the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan at $12.

I'm not going to even mention how much lodging and dining cost. And I don't care, as it was ALL worth the price.

We traveled through 16 states (KY, TN, FL, GA, SC, NC, VA, DL, MD, NJ, NY, CT, RI, PA, OH, IN), not including our home state of Michigan.

Last fall on our trip to California and back, we drove through 15 other states (IL, WI, MN, ND, MT, ID, WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, TX, OK, AR, MO)  for a total of 31 states in less than five months. And a total mileage on those two trips of 12,067. That's a lot of miles, especially without a mishap or incident.

We appreciate those who stuck with us. We do not have any more "big" trips planned til October when we hope to get to Europe (France and Italy). In the meantime, we will probably get Up North somewhere and down to East Liberty OH. I will try to fill in at least once a month with remembrances of other trips we have taken over the years.

Gotta work on taxes now, so in the meantime, "Ciao, Baby!"

PS:
Since we started our blog last September we have had 1,896 hits. I can't imagine who might be looking at our blog. Probably just some of the same people checking in to see if there has been any progress. In any case, that seems like a LOT and we really appreciate your interest.

See if you can guess the Word of the Day, somewhere in this post.




16 January 2013

1/17/2013 - Headed Home Sweet Home

Providence RI to HOME

THE STATS:
Alarm set for 7:30am. Woke naturally at 7:06a. Home was calling. Departed Providence at 9:45am on the 17th. Arrived home to Kalamazoo MI at 1:17am on January 18th.

Traveled 15-1/2 hours and 982 miles through seven states today--RI, CT, NY, PA, OH, IN, and MI. We weren't sure if we would make it all the way, but the closer we got, the more determined we were to get home. Mike drove 433 miles and, once sunset hit, Deb drove the rest of the 549 miles. I am absolutely sure that is the one and only all time high for Deb. Never ever came even close to that before and certainly not in the future. I don't know who we think we are--twen-teens? This is how we use to travel in the "old" days (or should that be the "young" days!).

High for the day was 39 degrees. The highest elevation we noticed was at a rest stop near Fishkill NY at 2250'.

Had almost a full tank to start our day. Gassed up in Lake Ari PA, with 330 miles on that tank and 42.8 MPG. Price was $3.59. Again at Broadview Heights OH, with 386 miles on that tank and 46.2 MPG. Price here was $3.24. The next day after getting home, filled up a partial tank. Drove 259 miles with only 39.1 MPG and Kalamazoo price of $3.30. Back to cold weather mileage.

THE HAPS:
Although it was 33 degrees upon departure in Providence, at least we woke up to dry weather this morning--no snow or rain overnight. Lugged our own bags down the three flights and fortified ourselves with the same hearty breakfast as yesterday in our B&B dining room. We haven't looked at the map yet, but decided to go home the most direct route as Deb's knees and shoulder are aching mightily. Not sure if it's from all the walking or change in weather. Anyway, we will let Garmin lead the way.

With that said, we will NOT stop in Slippery Rock or East Liberty as originally planned weeks ago. Sorry for last minute changes and updates, but we are yearning for home, having been on the road since Dec 27.

Much of this day is a blur. Traveled in seven states today--RI, CT, NY, PA, OH, IN, MI. That's an all time high for one day for us. Much of the route was on turnpike. We were going for speed, not sight-seeing. First stop was Whole Foods for some travel snacks. We bought Clementines, Odwalla protein juice (one of our faves which is produced in our old town Half Moon Bay CA), pretzels, and water.

Not much regarding RI as it is only 48 miles north to south and 37 miles east to west. We were going east to west and back-tracking on the route we had arrived on, so nothing really new to report. 

In CT we cut north and passed through some new territory on scenic highway CT-9. Passed through the small and pleasant town of Middletown. Near the west side of the state by Danbury, it started getting hillier and we saw several ski resorts.

Arrived at the NY border at 12:35pm. Passed a short distance through the "heel," south of the Catskills and north of the NYC metro area. Smooth sailing traffic here. Saw a new road sign that said "Headlights required when using wipers." Not sure what the safety benefit on that one is. Snow more apparent on the roadsides. Many creeks and small rivers. Crossed the very wide Hudson River near Newburg.

Hit PA at 1:15pm. Longest state trek was PA, 283 miles across. We think I-84 was in the worst condition of any road on our trip. Glad when we hooked up with I-80. We had forgotten how hilly and windy PA is. Some of this drive was through the Appalachian Mountains. Roads were clear but much snow everywhere else. Horses wearing blanket "jackets." Many barns with hex signs in farm areas. 

Almost made a side trip to the Ice Cream School at State College, but came to our senses pretty quick. Hit some snow flurries, but thank goodness they didn't stick. We got a kick out of a few "Beware of deer" signs. Someone had put a red dot at the tip of the deer graphic noses to turn them into Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer. Also saw a cute little bear carving at a PA rest stop. Noticed an exit for Grove City (around 7:45pm), where our cousin Matt hangs out, but no stopping us at this point.



Somewhere is mid-PA Deb took the wheel (at 5:20pm). And shortly after that was a glorious sunset. It seemed like a sign, a colorful brilliant "gateway" to our way home. That spurred us on. Later the moon was nearly half-size and again seemed like a guiding light whenever we were under clear skies.


Another coincidence was that right about this time, the radio started playing the Eagles tune "Standing on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona." We had done just that on our recent "out West" trip. This gave us pause to reminisce. It was a perfect tie-in for the end of this journey.

8:30pm entered OH, moon still ahead. There I-80 is the Ohio Turnpike. Every service area came from a cookie cutter. Kind of sterile feeling, but clean and full of services. Looked for a Taco Bell for the longest time (maybe 100 miles) starting in PA. It was amazing how many exits we passed without a TB. We finally found one in Broadview Hts near Cleveland. We were so hungry by that time that we each had a triple header (three items). The Ohio state line was farther west than I pictured. I thought once we got past Toledo area, we would hit Indiana, but the border is another 75 miles beyond. For some reason that 75 miles was torture.

In IN for a few short miles, hitting the MI border at midnight. It always puts a smile on our faces  when we see that beautiful Welcome to Pure Michigan sign.  Then just a hop-skip-and-a-jump to home. Arrived home at 1:17am. We were so hyped up that we stayed awake til near 3am chatting and giggling. Trying not to bother the neighbors.

ADDENDUM:
This was a very long day. Lots of reminiscing and mindless chit-chat, but we came up with a new game. We were listening to PBS and they mentioned the Word of the Day. In the past we used to get the Word sent to us daily in an email. So the game would be to put that word in our blog each day. Today's Merriam-Webster word was vernissage, meaning a private showing or preview of an art exhibition. Our blog sentence is "We plan a vernissage of Key West trip photos to show our family when we get home."

1/16/2013 - Yes, Indeed, We're Walking

Providence RI (Day 2)

THE STATS:
Temp maybe 32 degrees and got into the low 40s. Outside of that nothing special except the very unexpected snow scene upon wake-up.

THE HAPS:
Woke up to 6-8 inches of heavy wet snow. Even though the steep hilly streets here are cobblestone, I was chicken to drive. TV news said it would get up to 40, so we took our time for the snowplows and temp to make the snow disappear. It didn't disappear, but it slushed up.

Randy fixed a nice fresh fruit plate of melon, big blackberries, and blueberries, along with yogurt and scones. As we were the only guests, he cooked made-to-order cheese omelets and crispy bacon. Soaked up the delish coffee with real half and half.

T had school business til late afternoon, so we were on our own til then. We headed for Atwells Street on Federal Hill to the Little Italy area. First stop was Costantino's Deli. Fabulous displays of cheese, olives, bread, meats, beans, olive oils, vinegars, and you-name-it-Italian. Also, a little gift shop (we bought a V & O set and two limoncello glasses) and café tables so you could eat the sandwiches you just bought on the spot.


Continued walking the whole street up and down. Saw DePasquale Square, which looked to be the heart of the area, although nothing happening at this time of year. Stopped by Roma's for an espresso (for Mike) and latte (for me). Stopped by the Euro Bistro for a Tuaca (for Mike) and a Chianti (for me). Stopped by Pastiche (pastry shop highly recommended by T), but it was so packed we moved on.



We still had time to kill. As we are big foodies and have had sooo many delicious meals on this trip, we decided at the last minute to go the Culinary Museum at Johnson & Wales University, College of Culinary Arts. It displayed food history facts; chef uniforms over time; famous chef info (although we had already seen Julie Childs' actual kitchen displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., so hard to beat that); historical tools and appliances of the cooking trade; a number of reconstructions of kitchens, drive-ins and diners; food products over time; things used in airplane kitchens (close to our hearts), Howard Johnson waitress uniforms; and oh so much more. We would recommend this museum to any food-a-holic.



Back to the B&B to drop off stuff and the car. My sis was right, this is the worst place to drive. Too many one-way streets, lane shifts, lanes ending unexpectedly, have-to-turn lanes. Just a mess and quite intimidating to someone unfamiliar. Soooo, even though it was cold, wet and slushy, off we went a walking.


First, headed toward the capital building. Thought we would tour it but ended up just taking a few exterior shots. Then to the RISD Museum Store, where they sell products developed by the art students. Very cool stuff, but nothing we really need and pricey. Then just started walking along the river and into the hip district we ate in last night. We wanted to see the old buildings in daylight and browse the stores. We got a little lost, as none of the streets are square, and walked a lot farther than we had anticipated. But we saw a lot of interesting stuff. There is a collage of architecture here--very old mixed with new. Also saw Big Nazo's, a neat store that sells theatre props like the giant man-eating flower in Little Shop of Horrors. Lots of futuristic monster stuff, too.

After miles of walking today, Deb's knees started aching. So about 4:30pm we headed back to the B&B to await T's call. When she called, she advised she had a late lunch and a long day and needed a few winks. In the meantime, we munched on fruit and pretzels.

She called a little before 8pm and told us all about her exciting day at MIT, where they were exploring a collaboration between MIT and RISD. She was pumped to say the least and we were glad she had a productive day.

We ended up saying our good-bys and thank-yous over the phone. It was pretty nasty and cold out, and no need to visit in person for just a few minutes as I would just get all sentimental anyway. Besides this gave us time to do some blog catch-up.


Goal 2) complete. On our way home tomorrow.






1/15/2012 - Visting Teshia the Long Way (MI to RI via Key West)

Black Rock CT to Providence RI

THE STATS:
Woke up to 37 degrees cold. Yeow, winter is back! 127 miles driven with moving time of 2'23". Highest elevation so far since leaving Kalamazoo--489' just east of New London. Providence is 79'. Price of gas cheaper as we headed south from home, up in the Florida area, back down heading north from FL, and started back up when we hit the Chesapeake Bay area. Today bought gas in Mystic CT. Priciest so far at $3.87 per gallon. Average MPG 49.3. Still not bad mileage.

THE HAPS:
We had two goals on this trip: 1) spend Deb's 65th in Key West and 2) visit our niece T in Providence RI at her grad school RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). Mission one was accomplished. Mission two starts now.

We left Rock Island at a leisurely 10:40am. Took a last minute side trip to New London, CT, where Mike's dad graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy and where his mom and dad got married in 1942-ish. Mike had viewed a photo of his parents coming out of the chapel with crossed military swords above their heads. How romantic!


But we had no idea where the school or chapel might be. The town visitors center was "closed for the season," so we went to the train station hoping to get some info. The clerk said the academy was now located in Kings Point NY, and that was that.

We decided to walk around downtown anyway even though it was cold and damp. It was old and raggedy with upscale stores mixed in with abandoned buildings. Nice murals painted on buildings to liven it up with color and a cool whale tail sculpture in the city center park. There was a lot of old and interesting architecture, but probably not a place we would want to live even though it is on the water. On one street corner we saw two guys hawking laptops out of a paper bag to cars driving down the street. At that point we decided to hot foot it back to see if the loot was from our car. Thank goodness, no.

Back on the road, we cruised by Groton CT, proclaiming themselves to be the submarine capitol of the world. Mike thinks Scotland may disagree. Stopped at the Rhode Island visitors center. It was "closed for the season," but had some port-a-potties available. Very stinky though, so passed. Even though it had a canine rest area area, gave it a zero rating. I really don't get this "closed for the season" thing. Michigan gets much more snow and everywhere is open all year. 


My sister had recommended the Old Court B&B, as it was handy to T's. We booked the first floor due to we had a lot of stuff and did not want to haul it up a bunch of steps. Randy met us at the door and offered a nicer room (at the same rate) as we were the only guests for both nights of our stay. We said OK, if he would help with our luggage. He was half mountain goat, I guess, as he strapped everything on and took it up the steps to the third floor all by himself. The room was spacious and cozy. Décor, mostly late 1800's with very low-to-the-floor seating (guess those folks had shorter legs) and reinforced bed. Nice bed and nice bath.

T met us here at 2:30pm and began the "T" tour. We started at the living specimen rooms, displaying taxidermied animals (included a beautiful swan), human skeletons, etc. These are mostly used by drawing students, but the area is open to any student who might have a need for flora or fauna inspiration. They even had live fish tanks.

She is one of seven grad students in her class in the furniture design program and I think chairs are her fave. Next she showed us her work desk and then her work shop area in the woodworking building. We also saw the student store, the museum store which we hope to browse tomorrow, and a display of miniature chairs.


Then we went to the Media Collection area. They had a huge room filled with samples of any kind of "media" you could think of from simple paint color chips, granite and marble to foam made from mushrooms, aluminum honeycomb, etc. I can't begin to name even 1% of the items there. It was so fascinating.

Last RISD stop was the library. It is in an old building with high ornate ceilings. All the books are art and design related. Nearby Brown University has other topics and they share resources. There are study cubbies and art related puzzles waiting for folks to fill in the pieces. All very cool and artsy, of course.
We weren't quite ready for dinner so stopped at a place called Harry's Burger Bar to wet our whistles. There is a life-size black and white cow statue at the entrance and the walls were painted a cowhide pattern). T's dad had mentioned we should check this place out and especially try the Old Speckled Hen beer, which is nitrogen infused. Mike and T had that. Not being a beer drinker, I tasted it. It was one of the mildest I've tried, but I ordered some kind of berry cocktail that came in a martini glass. More my style!


Next T came up to our B&B room to check our digs. We grabbed the car and some laundry and went to her place. Great place for a young single. A one bedroom with up-to-date décor. Creek next to her patio. And dressed to the hilt with T's artsy, innovative, personal touches. Suits her well.

We dropped off the 6-pack of Coronas we had been carrying around for 10 days and the two cigars Mike bought for her in Tarpon Springs. Did a load of laundry while we chatted and picked a dinner place, catching up on all things T, Kalamazoo, her parents, Gramma, and us.


Last stop of the evening was dinner. Picked up a bottle of Riojo (Spanish red wine) to BYOB to the cream of the crop tapas bar next door, Flan y Ajo. Standing room only to start with, but it was overlooking the tiny 5x8 kitchen, so we could see all that was happening. Even had a leg of ham to carve dried shavings off for a tapas dish (far right). After one course, got two stools. Mike was the last man standing, but no issue.

We had a cheese plate, Clementine slices with anchovies (Mike had TWO helpings of this), herring on bread, assorted olives, olive oil for bread dipping, and hot potato chunks with cheese and soft fried egg. Mike had a flan dessert. Every bite was scarfed down, critiqued, and given an A+.

Desserts for T and I were at nearby Circe. Very chic black and white décor (not cow-like black and white, more vintage 40's). T had pumpkin crème brulee, while I had polenta apple crisp with home-made vanilla ice cream. Eyes bigger than tummies. Each had only a few bites. Mike had a Portuguese porto. A great way to top off a cherished evening with niece T.

15 January 2013

1/14/2013 - Deb Does Driving

Baltimore, Maryland to Delaware to New Jersey to New York to Black Rock (a neighborhood of Fairfield), Connecticut

THE STATS:


Deb is not a good passenger in high traffic or busy city driving. A real butt clincher for her and, yes, she (why am I talking in third person!!) realizes it is a "control" issue!!! Anyway she drove all day today, so didn't take notes on her raggedy steno pad. Mike wasn't bummed as he got a chance to view the sights for a change.

We drove from the hotel to downtown Baltimore (to the aquarium) and on through four new states for a total of 250 miles. Almost all of it was heavy traffic on I-95 and the NJ Turnpike. Drive time was 5 hours even. Driving stress time was double that. Elevation finally going up. From lower Alabama to Baltimore was hanging in at less than 10 feet above sea level. Right now in Fairfield CT it is 89.

THE HAPS:
Big stop was the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It is a bit of a misnomer as it does not "belong" to the US like the National Zoo (a bit of a rip off in advertising if you ask me). The other little thorn was one of the two main buildings is being renovated. Some areas were closed and lots of extra stairs involved to get between levels. We did see some of the back areas though. Even though it does not live up to our fave Monterrey (CA) Aquarium, all in all, it was pretty nice.



The featured display was Australian Wild Extremes. This included three stories of bee-u-tiful and colorful birds (emerald dove above), reptiles, amphibians (snake necked turtle - spooky and couldn't get a good pix), fish, all in a tropical forest /river set-up (so tropical that it fogged up my camera!!). Very informative guides that pointed out things we might not have seen like a frog about the size of a penny.




Next we went to the fishy area with lots of tanks, large and small. There we saw starfish, anemones, coral, crab, octopus, puffins, penguins, frogs, snakes, turtles of all sizes, seahorses, and many fish species. Of course there were two large tanks--one was Shark Alley with various types of shark and the other an Atlantic coral reef display. In both of these you took a spiral ramp down and the huge tanks surrounded you as though you were walking through water.

Other special exhibits included the stunning Jellyfish Invasions (with eight unique  species), the dolphin show (we passed), the kids area (we passed), and the amazon river forest with lots of tropical fish. They also had many interesting large format close-up photos of various water fauna, so you could really see details of eyes, lips, camouflage, etc. Not the real thing live, but very cool for photo fanatics like us.

At one point we did get fooled. We looked down over a railing and saw a 30' or so pool with a string ray swimming around. Then there were two and three and six and then a shark. It was amazing. And even more amazing to figure out it was a digital "pool" and not real sea life at all.



Baltimore is located on the Inner Harbor of Chesapeake Bay and the aquarium itself is surrounded on three sides by water. So there are nearby historic ship tours that include the USS Torsk (a 1944 submarine), the Lightship Chesapeake (built 1930 and served in place of a light house), US CG Cutter Taney (last ship floating that fought in Pearl Harbor and also served in the Viet Nam war), and the frigate USS Constellation (built 1854 and the last sail-only warship built by the US Navy).

It was closed, but there is also a  concession where you rent paddle wheel dragon boats to explore the bay on your own. We did not have time to tour any of these, but will save that for another time. By the way, traditionally US subs were named after fish and the Norwegian torsk is a relative of the North Atlantic cod.





We wandered a bit more around the wharf. Cops rode around on Segways. We saw beam from the WTC that was placed in honor of all the Maryland folks that died in 9-11. Ravens signs were everywhere, in hopes they would win the Super Bowl and they did!! Saw Federal Hill from afar. Then we asked a security guard where was a good place for a seafood lunch. He started rattling off a bunch of places. We asked him to narrow it down to "where would YOU eat lunch?" He said Phillips Seafood.


Wow, what a great recommendation. This endeavor has been around for some 55 years and started as a crab processing venture. It is very classy, but accepting of us in our keep-warm sweatshirts and jeans. The decor is model ships of the USS Constellation and others, historical photos of their business, and other historical memorabilia. And the food could not be beat. Mike ordered a dozen raw oysters. He was in heaven with six types to compare. I had a shrimp salad sandwich. Mike topped it off with our last order of Key Lime pie on this trip.

Then headed out for the thrill ride of a lifetime, destination unknown. Drove through downtown Baltimore through John Hopkins Hospital area, then a residential area with run down brownstones that we had seen often on TV on crime shows (and are even more apparent now that we've been there in person). First leg was the New Jersey turnpike. As busy as it was, we were glad to take it. It was kind of like two turnpikes going side-by-side each way. Trucks were not allowed on one of them, so just speeding cars to compete with. I think the toll on that section was $22.

Late dusk was closing in as we hit the NYC area. I wouldn't really call it rush hour as I feel it must be this busy all the time. We bobbed and weaved to make each junction switch called out by the Garmin. Only one really close call where we entered on the left side and had a quick exit on the right side shortly there after. It seemed others were cautious or wary or just use to it, so somehow we made it through without car-to-car touching. I had no idea which bridge we would cross into Manhattan on, but it was a thrill at the George Washington Bridge to see Mayor Bloomberg's Welcome to Manhattan sign. I think that one cost $13. How can folks afford this on a daily basis!!?

Mike was trying to get a good shot of what we thought was the Manhattan skyline, but night shots are hard to do when you are driving. We think this is a glimpse of the Empire State Building if you can find it (white lighted building to left of middle?)

Traffic continued to be a tough go. Deb finally had had enough at Black Rock, near Fairfield CT. Checked in. No restaurant open within walking distance except pizza. We decided to try Taco Bell, cheap, fast and easy. Wrong. Directions from the clerk did not jib with our understanding and we got lost. Not a good physiological time for this. Decided we would try anything, but nothing open!!

Finally found at a little place called The Chelsea in downtown Fairfield. It looked innocent enough, but turned out to be high class and I, at least, felt out of place at that moment in time. College student types dressed in their trolling best. All very chic-chic and I wasn't in the mood. But I got over it when the wine and food arrived. Mike had their $14 burger. I was sticking with the Taco Bell idea no matter what and ordered an inside-out taco (all the stuffings around the plate and a taco filling concoction shaped in a wedge and deep fried, laying on top). All pricey, but good.

Back to the hotel, very pooped, and ready to see our niece T in Providence the next day. Yay ...


































13 January 2013

1/13/2013 - The Blog is A Fog

Virginia Beach VA to Baltimore MD

THE STATS:
Drove 277 miles today (100% in the fog). Moving time 5'44". Gassed up at Wye Mills MD at $3.33 per gallon. Drove 449 on the tank with 50.6 MPG. Wow! Thank you, Sparky (Mike's name for the Prius). Temp was 48 when we woke and 42 when we checked into our Baltimore hotel. I think it got as high as 55 during the day. Back to wearing socks again.

THE HAPS:
This day was a bit of a blur, literally, mainly due to the fog. It transformed from heavy in a few places, mostly medium, and occasionally light-ish, but never gone. So, hard to review the great sights we drove by.

Arose about 8am and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the beach off our fifth floor balcony. First thing I spotted was a fellow giving thanks to the ocean, I expect. He was sitting yoga style on the wet sand and a few minutes later rose and threw his finger tips toward the sky for a moment, then walked off. I know how he feels. We miss the foggy mornings by the beach in Half Moon Bay and will be forever grateful for the 20+ years we lived there.


Some "The Birds" excitement. I think the folks a balcony or two down from us were throwing out bread because there was a huge flock of seagulls that instantly and insanely swarmed around for a few minutes. It was fascinating and a bit spooky to watch, but none landed on our balcony or got caught in my hair!!

Others were walking their dogs on the beach, surfing on the smallish waves, spooning hand-in-hand, checking for treasures in the sand with a metal detector, jogging, other sea shore stuff.

Before heading further north we wandered the beach street to see what was what. When Mike was at Fort Eustis in the 60's, he and his buddies would come here for R&R. He said at that time there were no hotels on the beach side of the street, just sand and sea. Now it is filled with scores of high-rise hotels. On the other side of the street were the stores, bars, and cafes type things that he remembered. This IS tastefully done. A happy medium between Santa Cruz CA, Hilton Head, and Myrtle Beach. We'd come back here (in off season).


The biggest thrill of the day was crossing Chesapeake Bay. The bridge-tunnel divides the Bay on the west from the Atlantic Ocean on the east. It is considered one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World. The toll is $12 one-way (or if you return add $5 more). Yikes! But you cross a bridge-tunnel-bridge-tunnel-bridge situation that spans 17.6 miles. Construction started in 1995 and the first traffic crossed on April 19, 1999. The original cost to build was $197,185,777. Yes, the commas are in the right place.


The views on the drive were pretty non-existent (because of ... guess what?), except for the healthy looking gulls on the railings and light posts. It was still a pretty cool scene. Please note the "brunell" even has its own gift shop with t-shirts and VA made products. We didn't stop.

After getting back on solid land we saw cotton, potato, sweet potato, and tomato farms. Some vineyards, produce packing plants, antique stores, and mostly ordinary houses (except some beach mansions right after you got off the "brunnel").

This Virginia peninsula hangs off the mainland from the state of Maryland and is completely unattached to the rest of VA. Check a map and you'll see what I mean. No real towns on the main highway north, so we took some side / business routes to check out some of the smaller bergs shown on the map. Still not much to talk about, at least where we diverted.

Mike and I are always on the lookout for crazy business combos. One we remember from the past is broasted chickens and night crawlers. We've seen many others I can't think of off-hand, but today we saw one business selling bacon, ham and fireworks, and another selling wigs, haircuts and hats. Guess you have to be creative to keep in business around here.

Another creative endeavor and the second most exciting thing for the day was lunch at The Great Machipongo Clam Shack. And this was the most interesting place we've eaten in a long while. First off, they were playing late fifties / early sixties music like Run Around Sue and From Bobby Socks to Stockings (Lynn, you would have been in heaven). The décor ranged from a bulletin board papered with paper currency from around the world to real maps to "exaggerated" and neon colored paintings of sea life to lots more stuff just hanging on nails -- souvenirs, cooking utensils, fish identifying posters, signs of all sorts.

Mike finally got his clam strips and I had yet another half-pound of steamed and peel yourself shrimp. Also shared some she-crab soup that was flavored differently from what we eaten previously, but still good in its own way. Even though this was a shack, they had a full bar and a drive-up order window. And they were watching the macho sport of BOWLING on the tube!!

Clientele were families to fisherman to a couple of tourists (us). Things for sale were oyster-shucking knives, California wine by the bottle, t-shirts, cookbooks, nuts, and (you will never believe this) six full-size and three smaller freezers full of crustacean and fish products. There was a huge variety and all looked freshly packaged. The Alaskan King was $29.99 a pound and you grab the legs of your choice.

Some people were coming in for lunch and others were coming into the same room for their seafood groceries. This was a very cool beachy bar / cafe / seafood market / knick-knack / souvenir shop and it all worked. To boot, in the bathrooms were dozens of post-it notes with people's philosophy instead of graffiti. Very cool!


Continuing on to Baltimore MD, we traveled on Harriet Tubman Highway and saw a huge stockyard of FEMA trailers, a half-dozen tombstones in the middle of a corn field, some goats grazing next to the highway (no fence between us), and one huge wind turbine (may be part of a community college program).

Arriving at this night's hotel, we found a disappointment as it was in the middle of an industrial area. No restaurants around, so ate in the hotel (which we rarely do). Hotel and restaurant were both mediocre. We've had great luck up until now in both regards, so had to have an off day sooner or later. One nice thing was it had a very international staff. Every one's name tag also had their country of origin and they all seemed happy to be working in the good ol' US of A.