The Holidays

In a commentary on CBS, actor and writer Ben Stein said that his family really got into Christmas even though they are Jewish.  How could one not like a holiday with all those beautiful trees and lights; a celebration all about peace and love?  The Holidays are a wonderful time of year!  Peace and love are a focus and we can truly be  grateful that the vast majority of people across the planet live in peace (if not love) every day of the year. If they did not, the entire world would be in chaos.  However, we do recognize during this season, that some people do not possess what they need and many reach out and help.  They write a check to pay off a lay-a-way, drop coins in the kettles, volunteer in a soup kitchen, buy a toy for an unknown child or deliver some homemade cookies to a neighbor.  Despite all of the commercialism, the Holidays are of time of peace, hope, love and giving.  And of course, the season is one of great spiritual meaning for Christians around the globe!

One of the highlights for me during the Holidays is getting together with friends and family.  For us it begins with the party we host each year for our monthly dinner group.  They are a diverse group with passion for the Appalachian Trail in common; the kind of friends you've known for years, ones you can depend on in good times and in bad. Checking out Christmas lights with Gary and Laurie, caroling at Bill and Laurie's and Emily and David's, dinner with Dick and Kathy; activities fast becoming traditions.  Gretchen and I are very blessed that our daughters and their families can visit during the Holidays!  The house is filled with the sights, sounds and smells of the season; presents under the tree and stockings hung by the hearth, carols emanating from the snow globe, kids in the house, and the smells of turkey and dressing wafting through the air.  Maggie is beautiful in her Christmas outfit, and Kelley and Seth are doing a great job as new parents.  Henry is in constant motion, opening presents like a champ and singing Jingle Bells provided we are not asking him to sing.  Katie and David are expecting in July and with luck we will be holding baby Alexander next year as we did Maggie this year.  Maggie will join Henry motoring around the house and add her voice to the sounds of the season.  Our time together is short but so delightful.   We are blessed!  As the younger generations depart, Gretchen and I settle into our easy chairs by the fire exhausted, reflecting on the great time we had!  Unfortunately, Sally came down with the flu last week and was unable to join us over the holiday.  We all missed her and hope she is feeling better soon!

And how about that murder mystery? Who did it? Was it Desiree or Captain Mal? Or some other nefarious person?
Throughout the year, may peace and love be with you and yours!


Global Warming?

Finishing a 34 mile loop in Glasgow, the bank thermometer read 68 degrees!  Now I know those thermometers are famous for reading a few degrees high, but 68 degrees on December 16th; that's hot for Central Virginia.  Now I know we can't link a day or a week of abnormally warm weather to Global Warming, but it is sure nice to be able to ride a bike comfortably even in mid December!  The ride took us north to Buena Vista via River Road and then south to Natural Bridge.  Riding the loop counterclockwise calls for climbing, lots of climbing.  Nothing steep, but a lot of elevation gain mile after mile!  One stop gave the ride an international flair; a visit to Foamhenge just before we entered Natural Bridge.  If you do this ride, the end is a treat as there is a 6-7 mile roll into Glasgow where you can glide quickly over the pavement with little effort expended!


Feels like Winter

It feels like winter but biking is still on the agenda.  Two weeks ago David took us on a ride, part of a trio originating in Red House he is conceptualizing, that IF ridden all on the same day would add up to 107 miles; a century plus.   Today's ride (36 miles) took us toward Pamplin with the lolly part of the pop just south of town.  The entire area is great for riding with rolling hills through farmland and little traffic.  Now about that century, I'll be out of town the latter part of ......!

We've been wanting to get Gary and Laurie on a beautiful ride through the orchard country in Nelson County so last Saturday we headed north.  When Gretchen and I first did the ride it was 12 miles but we scouted out  a route that extended it to 20 miles and took in Bland and Leonard's own stomping grounds around Massies Mill and Pharsalia.   Pharsalia was a plantation owned originally by Thomas Massie of whom Bland is a descendent.

This week's ride took the TOF Brothers to Altavista for a 36 mile loop east of town.  Beautiful day to ride with temperatures in the forties, lunch along a briskly flowing Staunton River in Long Island, a great 6 mile roll and of course, a few hills to make it a worthwhile ride.  The boys do scare me.  We have already lowered our cold riding threshold to below 40 degrees this season and David and Gary are talking about riding all winter.  How low will they go?  Will I need down booties, a full face mask, hand warmers?



Thanksgiving is a family holiday and in what has become a tradition, we headed to NC.  Jim and Linda host the entire clan for dinner.  Gretchen and I are grateful to be included and appreciate the work the Alexander's put into the event.  We also enjoy catching up with their extended family even though everyone supports different ACC teams!

The big news this year was announced via Henry's tee-shirt; he's going to be a big brother! Katie is pregnant and is due in July!  What a joy! Katie will graduate in May, take Boards in June, deliver in July and be able to stay at home for a few months with the baby.  That is the plan.  Congratulations Katie and David.  We hope all goes well!

On Friday, the Alexander's go to the Fire Department to buy their tree and we decorate it listening to Christmas music.  Traditions continue on Saturday as we eat breakfast at Elmo's and watch the UVA-Tech football game.  Not good for the Wahoos this year, but maybe next year is our year! We had a great time as always this Thanksgiving.  We know the same is true for Kelley, Seth and Maggie as they celebrate the holiday with the Hill clan in Monroe, NC!


Nelson County Ride

It was a day that required breaking mental schemes. Ride a 49.5 mile auto scenic route through the Blue Ridge Mountains on a bike? Sure, why not. Violate a long held rule prohibiting cycling when the temperature is below 40 degrees. Well, it's not going to be 40 degrees until after noon at lower elevations and we're climbing to over 3000 feet, so we must! Sure, why not. So, the day began at the Devil's Backbone Brewery parking lot in Nellysford. Sunlight, no wind to speak of and the long climb up Wintergreen Mountain to the Parkway pushed the cold out of our awareness. Reaching Reed's Gap in a little over an hour had us psyched for the tough climb was behind us and the 15 or so miles of climbing to Montebello we knew from last year has gentler grades and even some down hill runs. The first long down hill we encountered on the Parkway was face numbing but a stop to view Bald Mountain seven or eight miles in the distance reminded us there would be plenty of opportunity to warm up.

At lunchtime, we stopped at the Twenty Minute Overlook where we met two couples; Tar Heel fans headed to DB Brewery for lunch and to assuage the pain from their team's loss to the Hokies last night. I told them my daughter was happy about the outcome, but David kept his allegiance a secret! The rest of the ride on the Parkway went quickly; beautiful ridge-line views on a bright, sunny afternoon. The turn onto Rt. 56 and its immediate climb found David talking about beer. After a quick stop at the Montebello store, we headed down the mountain toward Massies Mill. It was chilly. I swear I could feel shards of frozen sweat pressing against my thighs when I began to pedal again after the descent. ;-) Upon regrouping, Gary continued the tradition of pedaling in the lead so David and I can draft off him for the six or seven miles to Rt. 151; thanks Gary we needed that break!

Mentally, once we reach the intersection at Rt. 151, the ride is a piece of cake! It is still over 10 miles back to the start but all the major climbs and more than three quarters of the ride are in memory. So we pedal forth and soon the mountain top above Nellysford is under foot and we are coasting ( David in the lead speeding) back to the DB Brewery parking lot. Great ride today. We even did it a bit faster than last year. TOF Brothers picture after the ride, an Eight Point IPA pale ale, and an hour by the fire shows we are no worse for the ride. Will we drive or ride the Nelson County Scenic Auto Route next year? We'll keep you posted but if Gary has any say, we'll.....

Every boy needs his growler! Happy Birthday Gary!!


A weekend with Henry

Henry visited this weekend; our gift to the Alexander's on their anniversary! It was a beautiful weekend to be outside and a visit to the Layman Family Farm in Moneta began our adventure. What a great place to visit with kids. The giant corn maze is the main attraction for older kids, teens and adults. But for younger kids, there is cow train and hay ride, animals to see, a huge jumping bag to bounce on, slides to scoot down, swings to ride, corn cob guns to shoot, pumpkin patches to play in, and snacks to eat!

Outdoor activities continued back in Lynchburg with Scuut rides in the neighborhood, a visit to the Linkhorne playground and a visit to the tunnel on Blackwater Creek. Henry is a great age; it's fun to hear him jabber constantly about his world, real or imagined. It's fun to ask him a question like, "Do you want some candy?" and have him yell "NO" before he realizes what he said! It is amazing how much he has grown. Grampa's old body is sorer after a weekend with Henry than after a 40 mile bike ride! It will not be long until picking up Henry and carrying him around is a past activity for Grandma and Grandpa! Henry, you are just a great kid and we love having you visit us!
Grandma and Grandpa


South River Ride

A TOF Brothers tradition evolved this year as we rode the South River Ride again in preparation for the Nelson County Scenic Route (a 50 mile loop of mountain scenery designed for auto driving). The ride begins in Buena Vista and follows Route 60 east to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Continuing north on the Parkway to Whetstone Ridge provides great training for mountain climbing as the first twenty miles are mostly uphill. The rest of the 43 mile ride includes a brake gripping drop from Montebello to Vesuvius and then a fine roll back to Buena Vista along the South River. Great ride today; we ARE ready for the Nelson!


Birthday Trip

Concurrent Andy Warhol exhibits at the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn Museums in DC hatched the idea for a trip to celebrate my birthday! So last Friday, Gretchen and I headed to Manassas because we wanted to explore the quaint downtown we had seen several times on rail trips when the train stopped at the AMTRAK station. The "Fall Gallery Walk" was scheduled for Friday evening. After dinner at the Philadelphia Tavern, we walked around Old Town visiting about 10 galleries and stores hosting local artists. It was a pleasant evening but Gretchen and I had similar impressions. We both felt the crowd and the quality of the art work both fell short of what we find at Lynchburg's First Friday's.

First stop Saturday was the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Air and Space Museum at Dulles. The Center is named after a Turkish immigrant who became a pioneer in the aircraft leasing business and subsequently donated 66 million dollars to establish the museum! I am so glad he did because the Center is an amazing place; the scale of the exhibits is mind boggling. Small balloon baskets hang above large fighter planes. Tiny planes that set speed records during the twentieth century sit next to a Boeing passenger jet. It is neat to walk down an aisle and see the rapid development of engines in bi-planes of the early 1900s, or the evolution of fighter planes during WW II. Oh, there is a space shuttle in residence too! The adjacent picture reminded us of JabberJaws, the laser we borrowed from the Yates each year during sailcamp so Kelley and Katie would each have a boat to sail. We left the Museum and headed to a nearby Trader Joe's (for coffee beans) and on to the Metro stop at Vienna.

The Warhol exhibits were quite different from our knowledge of his works (think Campbell soup cans). In the National Gallery, the exhibit was called Headlines, and it focused on early works where Warhol was reproducing newspaper copy in his paintings adding his own twists. Quite interesting. The Hirshhorn exhibit called Shadows displayed for the first time all 102 paintings of a shadow in his loft that Warhol painted in striking colors with a mop. Displayed on the curved wall of the Hirshhorn (more than half way around the building), it was an impressive hanging of his work.

Saturday was a beautiful day on the Mall and we enjoyed the fall colors as we walked to the Martin Luther King Memorial. It is a dramatic monument opposite the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin. His words etched in stone that inspired so many in his day are strikingly thoughtful and relevant today!

The plan was to end our day in Washington with an early dinner before heading back to our hotel in Manassas. Our chosen restaurant was a highly rated tapas place named Jaleo. To say Jaleo is outstanding is an understatement! The menu is eclectic and we enjoyed every morsel of food and a dram or two of a fine Spanish wine. Gretchen and I reflected on how great it is to be able to enjoy a birthday dinner like this one, how blessed our lives have been, and how long a journey it has been from our roots growing up in Schuylkill Haven!

Itching to use our National Park Senior Pass at least once this year, we decided to return home via Skyline Drive. It was a beautiful day for the drive, but climbing south out of Front Royal, it quickly became apparent that winter had descended on the Blue Ridge. Snow still lined the roadway from last week's early storm and the trees had dropped their leaves. Still, Shenandoah NP is always beautiful and we were surprised and pleased to see that every parking lot was filled with the cars of hikers and cyclists enjoying the outdoors.

Thanks Gretchen for a great birthday celebration!


TOF Brothers Update

We have been riding but the app I was using to write this blog was not in service! Two rides were in Amherst County. The first took us from Elon, around the valley by Father Judd and up over Tobacco Row via Wagon Trail Road. That found us heading back to Elon on Route 130 with pie on our minds. This time Woodruff's Store was open and we ate lunch and even took apple pies home to share! The second ride started off 130 near the Parkway with the first stop at the Ottie Cline Powell memorial. Ottie was a 5 year old boy who wandered away from a school in the Pleasant View valley in the fall of 1891 and disappeared. His body was found in the spring on top of Bluff Mountain, about 10 miles to the west and over 2000 feet above the valley floor!

Continuing the ride from the memorial, we traced a figure eight through Pleasant View north to Route 60 and returning via the Buffalo Springs Turnpike to 130 and our starting point. David was "the man" on a bike this day; he really rode long and strong! Great show Dave!!

Total miles for the two rides was about 75 miles.

Sold on the ride to lunch idea, we began one day at David's house and rode to Altavista. It's a downhill trek to Altavista and that means a slight grade returning, but overall a great rolling ride with little traffic and great rural scenery. The Main Street Cafe is a fine lunch stop. Riding a bike 38 miles on a beautiful fall day; great way to spend a few hours!

Last week's ride started in Fincastle and headed southwest through the valley bordered on the east by Tinker Cliffs and McAfee Knob; well known territory for all AT hikers in the region. The lolly pop (think Sugar Daddy) was very hilly with a side trip to the famous hiker stop, the Catawba Store. Good training ride for our upcoming Nelson County loop which Gary announced would be the week of November 14th! Total miles 39 (40 on Tom's speedometer)!



Recently, we went to see our new granddaughter in South Carolina. This blog was delayed because the app I was using did not work when iOS5 was introduced. I just found a new app that works with Blogger and the iPAD!  The trip got me thinking about the word family.  It's a word that brings many connotations to mind; perfect TV families of the sixties, Archie and Meathead, mob families focused on crime, tribal families that rule villages and regions, royal families, religious families and the nuclear family with its many variations. But it's the nuclear family with its extensions that most of us experience and cherish; moms, dads, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great grandparents and cousins.

The family is were we spend our time and expend our energy.  It's where relations begin, are cultivated and grow.  Marriages are planned and celebrated here. Husbands and wives learn to live and work together as a family. It's where dads learn to provide, moms to nurture and the reverse as well!  It's where children grow with love, learn how to live with others, fail, retry and experience success. It's where they develop physically, cognitively and emotionally. The family transfers values from one generation to the next; moral, spiritual, cultural and political. It's where kids learn about responsibility, about motivation and work ethic and about healthy life styles.

Distance in our mobile society makes it more difficult for family members to gather, but we do; for births and birthdays, anniversaries and marriages, graduations and holidays, reunions and visits and of course funerals. It is always fun to be with family members who have moved to other locations. So it was in August when we gathered in SC for Maggie's birth and later for her homecoming! We look forward to gathering for other special occasions in her life, and in the lives of other members of the Alexander, Arenz, Bender, Bolton, Gorman, Hill, Olmes, Phelps and Morgan families. We are all indeed blessed for the strong, extended family we all foster and enjoy!


Chesapeake Bay Fall 2011

October 4th

Arrived in Deltaville with plans to get SunShower in the water and spend the night at Norview Marina. I asked if they could put me in a slip with a floating dock because last spring I stayed here on a fixed dock and could barely get off of the boat at low tide. The amicable staff put me in a a slip large enough for 50 foot yachts and there was one on each side of me!

October 5th

Today was the kind of day sailors live for! Blue cloudless sky, warm with 10-15 knot winds, 1-3 foot seas and a broad reach all the way from Deltaville to Cape Charles! I sailed SunShower farther today (23 nautical miles) than any time since we bought her. Saw a small menhaden fleet (3 ships) fishing at the mouth of the Rappahannock River and then a large fleet (10 ships) steaming up the Bay towards Reedville, I presume.

Got a slip in the Cape Charles Harbor Marina; a new massive floating dock complex that is really nice. I just hope they plan to build a better bath house and limit it to paying customers. The restrooms were basic but clean. Cape Charles is a beautiful town to walk around. It was first developed as a railroad center for the New York Railroad. The company ferried rail cars across the Bay by barge and then took them north by rail. The Eastern Shore Railroad continues operation to this day, however very sporadically. For decades it supplied Eastern Shore towns and took their goods to markets on mainland Virginia.

I have never sailed into Cape Charles before and it has been a goal for years; checked off as I write!

October 6th

Walked around Cape Charles this morning for exercise after breakfast and stopped in a coffee shop for a cup and wifi access. I do need my daily crossword puzzles even at sea. The winds shifted to the northeast over night so I headed across the Bay on a broad reach just like yesterday! It's a 15nm jaunt to Mobjack Bay and today's sail was exhilarating with 15 knot winds and 2-4 foot swells. The sound of SunShower plowing up the waves or surfing off them was mesmerizing; just a great experience. Once in Mobjack Bay, I plotted a course for the East River with porpoise swimming alongside. Anchored at a spot just downstream from a sailing, kayak and rowing center Matthews County is developing at William's Wharf, the site of an old ferry dock. It is a tranquil setting with Canadian geese honking their way north and a pair of owls hooting on the western bank. Sailing distance today about 20 nm.

October 7th

Winds were in the 5-10 knot range today so I spent the time sailing and motoring around Mobjack Bay. Checked out the North River first then sailed across the bay to the mouth of the Severn River. The entire area is very unspoiled and rural; a very pretty setting. Got a slip tonight at the Severn River Marina. It is a small marina with basic facilities but it appears to have a bustling maintenance business. Looking forward to a shower and recharging my electronics! Thirty plus years ago I anchored with Garland in one of the rivers off of Mobjack Bay, but it all looks brand new to me now!

October 8th

It's time to make my way back north to Deltaville and the wind is forecast to be 5-10 knots from the.....NORTH! The day began with a beat out of Mobjack Bay, the only problem was I sailed out the southern end and made no progress north. So I motored to the New Point Comfort Light and since the breeze was pretty good, I tried to sail. Two beats brought me back to the same marker; SunShower could not make progress into the wind and waves. Hence, the motor was cranked again and hopes of reaching the "Hole in the Wall" were abandoned. I ducked into Horn Harbor and decided to stop at a marina for gas since I had motored quite a bit. Arriving three minutes before closing I pumped 5.5 gallons into a 6 gallon tank! Spent the night in a small quite anchorage just beyond the marina....beautiful! The nights are clear and cool with the moon waxing daily. It was a great day for Zen on the Bay today!

October 9th

Repeat of yesterday, only less wind and smaller waves. It's motor time! And many hours later, I arrived back at Norview Marina in Deltaville. I used to get frustrated with days like today, but I have learned that the Chesapeake is a big place and at times the wind will take you far to a spot you want to visit and other times it will not. The latter is what motors do best, even on a sailboat! And sailors can still enjoy being on the water, listening to the waves, watching the wildlife, and the other boats. After eating canned fare the last three days on the boat, I got to go to a restaurant tonight; life is good.

October 10th, Columbus Day

What better way to celebrate Columbus Day than to sail! Garland and I used to meet at Smith Mountain Lake on this day each year. It was our ritual; if only our BSA bosses knew! I had hoped to get a short sail in today before pulling the boat out of the water at high tide. Alas, this morning, there was not the hint of a breeze on the water that would warrant raising a sail. So, it was time to prep SunShower for the ride home. It has been a fine trip. I got to explore two spots I've had on my list for years and got several outstanding days under sail. Can't wait for my next trip in the spring!


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Ride for Pie Failed

TOF brothers headed out to Woodruff's Store with visions of peach pie dancing in their heads. But on arrival, a sign declared it was vacation week and not a pie was to be found. Gary was distraught!

But we rallied and rode back to Lynchburg for lunch on Main Street. Good ride (34 miles) on a beautiful fall day. First break in the summer heat we have had!

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Friday noon and a call from Kelley indicated she was being admitted to the hospital immediately! Her pregnancy was going fine until a few weeks ago when she began to have a few symptoms indicating pre-eclampsia. Pre-what? It's an autoimmune condition where the body begins to reject the pregnancy; a serious threat to both baby and mother. Tests at the Grand Strand Medical Center indicated Kelley's condition was getting pretty severe and Baby Hill would need to be delivered. But the approach of hurricane Irene called for her immediate transport to the McCleod Medical Center in Florence that houses the regional NICU that could best handle a 31 week old baby.

Kelley's conditions was deteriorating quickly and the doctors said they needed to do a c-section as soon as the 48 hour steroid treatment to mature the baby's lungs was complete. So at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday (August 28th), Kelley was wheeled to the operating room to deliver. Seth said the baby was born squealing and breathing on her own; a healthy, beautiful baby girl (Margaret Elizabeth Hill, 3lbs-6oz, 17 inches tall).

Rachel and Wes came to visit on Sunday and were present for the birth and we all got to see Maggie later in the evening!

Monday, the doctor in the NICU said Maggie was doing fine. The nurses indicated she was really feisty and actually big for a baby in their unit; the average baby weight is closer to 2 lbs! We all got to hold Maggie; a treat we did not expect!

By the time we left for home on Wednesday, Kelley and Maggie were doing fine, something pink was purchased and Aunt Katie was on her way to meet her niece. The doctors indicate it will probably be 4-6 weeks before Kelley and Seth can take Maggie home. Overall, we could not have hoped for a better outcome. A very serious medical issue was resolved with mom and daughter as healthy as could be expected! A tip of the hat to the McCleod Medical Center, a great facility with a wonderful staff!

What a great blessing grandchildren are! They renew life through their innocence, laughter, and discoveries! They remind you of things long forgotten from your children's childhood, and are just a treat to be around. And so Maggie, Grandma and I look forward to our times with you; holding you, reading to you, playing with you, giving presents to you, and most of all loving you!


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It is Henry's third birthday and where are we? At a gymnastics school of course, with kids (and parents) running, jumping, squealing, laughing and swinging.

The scheduled time in the gym is one hour and as time goes on, the din subsides and the kids slow down and it is evident that an hour is just the right amount of time. So now it's on to cake and presents!

Gymnastics is a good idea for a party for three year olds. They have a lot of fun, they're contained in one place, and they wear themselves out which makes bedtime a more pleasant experience! Happy birthday Henry, Grandma and I can't believe you are three and such a big boy!

I stayed on to watch Henry because his preschool had a teacher workday and we went to the Life and Science Museum in Durham. What a great place. We spent nearly four hours there and never got to the main building; touring the Butterfly House and outdoor sections.

Henry's impressions? He loved the train ride! Told his mom the butterflies hatching from their cocoons were scary and after him. And he loved the trucks in the sandbox where we spent over a half hour.

Henry, you are just a good kid. I love going places with you and being your PaPa!

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Weekly Bike Ride

David and I rode from Rustburg intending to go 48 miles. BUT, a missed turn at 36 miles landed us in Sprout Spring not on the way back to Rustburg. Consulting the iPhone, we figured it was best to backtrack, a decision that resulted in extending the ride to 58 miles!

David had to call it quits after 48 miles, a very respectable showing considering how much he has ridden this year! I returned to Rustburg, retrieved the car and some very large iced teas and we called it a day. Time....6:00 p.m.! I was so tired last night I couldn't even write this blog entry. The TOF Brothers should be back to full strength in the near future as Gary returns from vacation next week.

The Reynold's Grocery store (defunct) where we stopped for a break, has the sign below on it's side wall.

My first thought was I wonder if K.W. was the store owner? Did he die of lung cancer? The Marlboro Man was truly a great ad campaign but I think the proposed pictures the FDA wants on cigarette packages (like in Europe) are a lot closer to reality. ;)

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A baby shower was scheduled this weekend for Kelley and my job was to get Henry out of the house in the morning so the preparations could proceed quietly! Off to the PAL playground at Linkhorne Elementary we went. It is one of those expansive playgrounds with wooden towers and ramps kids can explore. It was fun to see Henry look around trying to figure out how to get to the big slide.

He finally did and from that moment on, he always took the same circuitous route to the slide. I even had to follow him several times so I could go down the slide! An hour passed quickly and we headed downtown to see the "water come out of the sidewalk"! Henry was not sure he liked the water that much but he loved watching the construction workers laying drainage pipe across the street! Next stop, McDonald's for lunch where I discovered the playground is really better for older kids. But Henry got Coke so life was good! A stop at the bakery to pick up the cake for the shower ended our adventure.

I know ten years from now, Henry will not remember anything from these days, but Grandpa will. Perhaps I'll drive by Linkhorne with him and tell him how proud he was when he figured out how to get up to the big slide. And he'll say, "Really Pa Pa, I don't think so"!

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Bike Ride

Checked out another Charlottesville Bike Club ride today. As always, the map and cue sheet on their website was perfect. The James River Valley Ride (44 miles) started in Scottsville and was a great ride. A bit hilly but mostly long grades and a lot of places to roll! The last 20 miles were slightly uphill so it was a workout as the day got hotter. I cut it short by two miles when I got to Route 20 after 36 miles and the cue sheet said to to left (away from Scottsville) only to turn right in a half of mile and follow a parallel road north back to Route 20. I couldn't bring myself to do it! I turned right and rode into Scottsville on Route 20!

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Riding the steel rails north to Brooklyn began early for the Morgans (7:38 a.m.) but what a nice, relaxing way to travel. We arrived on time and made our way by late afternoon to the Blue Porch B&B in a multi-ethnic neighborhood of Victorian houses in the middle of Brooklyn.

The proprietors welcomed us to their beautiful home and gave us a quick orientation to the area. As hosts, Trudy and Paul are very friendly, helpful, interesting people who make sure your stay is very comfortable and pleasant. We highly recommend the Blue Porch to anyone traveling to NYC.

After relaxing and freshening up long enough to let thunder storms arrive, we headed out on foot to a local restaurant. It is so neat to be in a place where blacks, whites, Jews, Muslims, Afghanis, Asians, etc. all live and work together in a safe, tolerant neighborhood. The diversity makes life so much more interesting. The drops, then rain began to fall and a down pour found us in front of a restaurant full of we figured this must be the place to eat. The food was great at The Farm on Adderly which it turns out is one of our host's favorite restaurants. Tired from the day's travels, we headed back to the B&B and retired for the night.


Today's main event was to head to Broadway to see Memphis. On our way, we walked through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; a beautiful place that was suffering a bit from the recent drought and heat.

Likewise, we were suffering from the heat and dripping wet from sweat as we walked along the paths seeking shade! Back on the subway, we cooled down and headed for Times Square.

We ate a nondescript lunch, took in the sights and queued up for Memphis in front of the Shubert Theater.

When we were seated, the first thing we noticed was the two lead parts were being sung by understudies. Well, it didn't matter...they were great and the show is fabulous! You laugh, you cry, you sway, and you clap and tap to the Memphis beat. Memphis is also a very serious commentary on race in the U.S. in the twentieth century.

After the show, Gretchen and I took the subway to 14th street where we walked on the High Line Trail for a few blocks. The trail is an abandoned elevated railroad that has been converted into a beautiful landscaped walking path (currently a length of about 17 blocks). With views of the Hudson River, gentle breezes and great people watching, it was a fine place to stroll even on a scorchingly hot day!

Heading home on the subway, we realized it was after 6:00 p.m. So we decided to stop in Brooklyn Heights to eat dinner and then checkout the Promenade at sunset. Jack the Horse Tavern provided a wonderful meal (scallops and red quinoa with and olive carmel sauce plus sea bass with large couscous and a red pepper sauce plus a tasty pale ale) and we arrived on the Promenade at sunset were we watched the day fade and the lights come on in the Manhattan skyline. Quite a sight, not to be missed.


Today was dedicated to going to a Yankee's game at the new stadium in the Bronx. Luckily, we found our seats in the shade. A really good stroke of luck because it was so hot we would have had heat stroke in the sun. Great entertainment, good pitching duel and a 4-2 Yankee victory over the Orioles made for a fun day.

By the time we got back to the B&B and cooled down, it was time for supper. We walked to Courtelyou Street and ate at Mimi's Hummus. Great hummus, whole wheat pita bread to die for and intro to a new dish for us called Shakshuka Eggs (eggs in a Moroccan style tomato stew) was a delightful meal; with tastes not found in our area of the country! I really need to get into making my own hummus!


Exploring the neighborhoods in Brooklyn was the agenda for today; Gretchen and my 41st anniversary! How is that possible? First stop was Coney Island where we strolled on the boardwalk for a few blocks. It was really hot in the sun even at 11:00 a.m.!

Obviously, we didn't visit when all the rides and masses of people were there, but it is clear that Coney Island has seen better days. Oh well, quickly on to Brighton Beach; an easy stroll down the boardwalk if it was not so hot. Brighton Beach is the Russian enclave in NYC which is evident from the cyrillic letters on the storefronts and folks speaking Russian everywhere. We strolled the street under the elevated trains and explored some of the shops. The food stores are really unique with prepared Russian dishes and canned and packaged goods from Russia and former eastern block countries.

Successfully riding the subway to one's intended destination, takes hands on practice and our next two stops today gave us plenty. First, we made our way to Williamsburg where we strolled the yuppie section outlined on the walking tour card we had. We stopped for a nice lunch at a cafe filled with locals (but we both swear there was MSG on the salad...bummer). So we thought that a beer at the Brooklyn Brewery would wash the MSG from our palates. Unfortunately, the brewery was closed! So it was on to Brooklyn Heights via Manhattan where we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Clouds moving in, a nice breeze and great views made for a worthwhile stroll even on a very hot afternoon. After a stop at Jacque Torres Chocolates, we walked through Brooklyn Heights and found the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we got there so we could not see the Tiffany windows in this historic church that was a stop on the underground railroad. Dinner back in the neighborhood at The Ox Cart (sword fish burger, homemade blueberry, cherry, peach pie and a good Valpolicello) topped off the day.


Ground Zero was our first stop today. It is a hub of construction activity with the memorial taking shape and one of the skyscrapers rising from the ashes. Good views are available from the World Financial Center and the Winter Garden to the west of the site. On the east side is Saint Paul's Chapel, Manhattan's oldest church (1766), and a shelter for rescue workers following the bombing of the Twin Towers.

A late lunch at Chelsea Market and a pale ale at the Chelsea Brewing Company, passed the time until our afternoon sail on the Adirondack III, a sailing schooner that took us down the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty for wonderful views of NYC's skyline. Good sailing in 10-12 knot winds. I even recognized Steven's Institute of Technology on the NJ side where I had attended many conferences. (BTW, we had walked through the second floor of the Chelsea Market building on the High Line Trail a few days ago and did not know it existed!) Back to Mimi's Hummus for a quick dinner and we retired for the night.


Visiting NYC certainly puts you in a different world than we experience in central Virginia. All of the hustle and bustle, the ethnic neighborhoods, the culture and entertainment makes for a lively visit. The temperature was 90-95 degrees here during our stay and we were amazed at all of the large residential buildings that do not have air conditioning. Although the subway cars are air conditioned, the stations are stifling! Considering the living conditions, the commutes and the pace, we wondered if living and working in the city knocks a few years off of the life span of residents? We were amazed at the quality of the food in the small neighborhood restaurants; absolutely one of the highlights of our trip! I really do need to made my own hummus and maybe whole wheat pita bread! We had a great trip and boarded the train to Lynchburg tired but filled with great memories of the City and it's people! Wonderful anniversary celebration!


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