2014 Failure

When Emily asked me the other night how I did with living in the "present" this year, I immediately judged myself a failure since I did not even remember my New Year's resolution for 2014. However, reading last year's blog, I am still impressed with the quote by Lao Tzu.


"If you are depressed you are living in the past.

If you are anxious you are living in the future.

If you are at peace you are living in the present."

But, I still find myself living in the future, while knowing it would be much better to live in the present! Hence, I have printed out the quote to post on the refrigerator so I will not forget it (I am 66) and will work in 2015 to live more in the present!




Katie, David, Henry and Audrey came Christmas afternoon to begin the gathering. The atmosphere of the house changes instantly when grandchildren arrive, with chatter, laughter, running and toys scattering on the floor. Friday afternoon, Kelley, Maggie and Sally arrived and Henry declared, "It must be time to open presents!" What a joy it is for families to gather for the holiday, especially when we are scattered over four states!


Christmas dinner was very merry!


We had a laid back weekend with good food, drink, and enjoying each other's company. Henry loved to build towers with his magnetic blocks, and was otherwise totally absorbed in his Kindle or iPAD. Maggie was constantly telling stories, making faces and laughing easily.



Audrey loved her doll baby, horsey rides and knocking down Henry's magnetic towers! As you can see in the photo above, Henry was quite impressed by my voice reaching his ears from the other side of the playground apparatus!



Thanks Sally, Kelley, Katie and David for coming to spend the holiday with us. Gretchen and I loved having you in Lynchburg! Love to all!



Three Strikes and...

How many times have you been to the ER this year Tom? Let's see, that would be three; stitches from bike mishap #1, punctured lung from bike mishap #2, and a weird intestinal illness that had me under the weather for at least three weeks (haven't been that sick in 30 years). I'm pretty sure I went to the ER more times this year that all the years leading up to this point in my life! Certainly, I don't want to continue this trend. So, no more ER visits in 2015 if I'm to keep pace with my ER visits for the first five decades of my life!


Thanksgiving found Gretchen and I heading for Hillsborough for our traditional celebration. First dinner with David's family...always a great time. Thank you Jim and Linda.



On Friday Gretchen and I took the kids to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham and returned to trim the Alexander's tree with Katie and the kids. The weekend was going well until....


At the Museum.
....the UVA-VA Tech game on Saturday which you can see from the photo below was a dismal affair for Audrey and Grandpa! Oh well, next year!


Thanks for a great Thanksgiving Katie, David, Henry and Audrey!



Baltimore to York Rail Trail

Wednesday, November 5


One of the longest rail trails we have not done in the Mid-Atlantic Region is the one that goes from Baltimore, MD to York, PA following the right of way to the old Northern Central Railroad. We decided to check it out this fall in anticipation of taking the Double Nickels there next spring. In Maryland, the trail is called the Northern Central Rail Trail. Our first stop was to find the southern terminus in Hunt Valley which we did before heading to Gramercy Mansion where we had reservations for the night. Well, Gramercy is a beautiful estate with gardens and an herb farm that serves as a popular wedding venue and B&B. It was built in the early 1900s by the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad as a wedding gift for his daughter! On our arrival, the first thing the owner said to us is we are giving you an upgraded room. She then showed us the room we had reserved which was in the old servant's wing (think small...a double bed filled the space) before taking us to our room for the night; three times the size with a statue in the shower and a wood burning fireplace. I swear I did not mention to her when I made the reservation that today was my birthday!

Just twelve miles north of Gamercy is a restaurant called the Friendly Farm. After Western Maryland football games, my parents would go there for dinner. It is an all-you-can eat, family style, country cooking restaurant located on a beautiful farm. After dinner, my family would head home to PA and my friends and I would head back to Westminister. Gretchen and I have great memories of eating there, so we had to check it out. Well, other than a new entrance and lobby, the restaurant has not changed a bit. We split a chicken dinner (two breasts, two legs, two wings) with all of the normal side dishes including the canned corn and green beans! Our day ended back at Gamercy in front of a roaring fire sipping a good cabernet!


Toasting my 66th birthday!



We had planned to ride part of the Northern Central Rail Trail today but the weather was not in sync with our plans. So we headed to Westminister for another nostalgic experience walking around the downtown and the campus. The biggest change on campus (other than the name change to McDaniel College) was the large trees which now occupy the lawn between the men's dormitories. But then again it has been almost 45 years since I graduated and trees do grow quite a bit over that time period! Lunch at Baugher's ended our tour of Westminister and that restaurant is exactly the same as it was 45 years ago! Gretchen says their ice cream is still really good!


Perhaps I look a bit different than when I roamed these grounds as a student?


After lunch we headed to the Jackson House B&B in Railroad, PA. It's the only lodging on the rail trail, built in 1859. The current owners have done a great job renovating the building and we will definitely stay there with the Double Nickels. Dinner tonight was at a local Italian Restaurant which we will not revisit.



Today dawned clear, cool and a bit windy; a good fall day for a bike ride. We headed to York. The trail winding through beautiful farmland is in great shape and it terminates in downtown York; two blocks from the Mudhook Brewing Company. Lunch with a tasting flight convinced Gretchen and I this was a good place to eat! Yesterday, we talked to a local who suggested Wyndridge Farm in Dallastown as a good place to eat. So we headed there tonight for dinner. It was absolutely packed....and well worth the wait!



We wanted to ride a portion of the rail trail in Maryland to see what it was like, so after breakfast we left the B&B and headed south to New Freedom. Passing through the town, we saw the Northern Central Railway excursion train loading passengers for their history oriented run. FYI, we saw President Lincoln boarding the train! The trail in Maryland is more narrow south of the Mason Dixson Line as it passes through Gunpowder State Park. After a short ride, we loaded the bikes, stopped for a quick lunch and headed to Frederick to meet Sally for dinner.



Sally met us at the hotel and we headed downtown for dinner. We ate at The Orchard Restaurant, another great choice that serves fresh local food with an Asian flare. During our meal, we concluded that we had embarked on a fine tradition, meeting in Frederick to celebrate our birthdays! So with Sally's and mine behind us, we now look forward to getting together in February for Gretchen's birthday! Thanks for dinner Sally, we had a fun time. After dinner, we strolled around the town center, then Sally took us on a tour of her alma mater, Hood College. As always, it was great spending time with you Sally!




Road Trip Kentucky/South Carolina

Wednesday, October 15th

Gretchen and I are on our way to see one of the few remaining National Parks we have not visited...Mammoth Cave. Driving past Covington toward White Sulfur Springs, the fall foliage is gorgeous, at its peak with spectacular light! It's the kind of fall scenery we thought we would see last year in Vermont but alas, it was not to be found. Tonight, we will stay in Winchester, KY, since it is blue grass country and we plan to dedicate a few days learning about horses! Walking around Winchester to get our steps, it is obvious the town has seen better days. So,we decided to drive to Parris to see what it was like and to locate Claiborne Farms where we have a tour reservation tomorrow. The countryside is beautiful with its bucolic fenced in horse farms.


First stop was a tour of Claiborne Farms, home of Secretariat. The tour is free (just tip the guides) and it was the best thing we did in the horse country; probably due to our tour guide Doug, one of the stallion grooms. CF is a huge operation; 3100 acres, 50 barns, 550 horses, six million dollar annual operating budget. We were allowed to get up close and pet the horses. The stud fee for the Farm's top stallion is $125,000.00! The fee is paid after the foal is born, stands and drinks milk. The stallion stood at stud 120 times last year!


I believe Gretchen likes horses better than dogs!


Following back roads through beautiful horse country, we arrived at our second stop, the Kentucky Horse Park, just in time to grab a sandwich to eat during the International Horse Show. The Park houses a variety of horses from countries around the world and the during the show, riders in costume parade the horses around the ring. The Park has numerous competition venues and can house over 2500 horses for events. It is a huge sprawling place and it is the home of the International Museum of the Horse; a very educational, well done museum associated with the Smithsonian.


After a full day of walking and learning about horses, we were up for a brew and headed to Country Boy Brewing Company in downtown Lexington. After sitting awhile, enjoying a couple of dark beers, we decided we were tired and might just try the Fork in the Road Mobile Galley in the parking lot. Well, what a great choice. The food was Asian infusion and we had okonomiyaki pancakes and a Godzilla kimchi dog! Really good!

A trip to Lexington would not be complete without a stop on the Bourbon Trail and we obliged by touring the Woodford Reserve Distillery; the oldest working distillery in the U.S., circa 1780. The tour was great! Gretchen and I tasted the bourbon but we can't say we liked it. However, that is more a reflection on us rather than the products of the distillery! The distillery has great lunches but we did not bring any Woodford Reserve bourbon home! Next stop...Mammoth Cave!


The original reason for this trip was to check Mammoth Cave off of the short list of National Parks we have not visited. We arrived at the Park in the late afternoon in time to secure tickets for a tour in the morning. After checking into the hotel, we walked the trail system around the headquarters area to get our steps for the day! The hotel is typical of many NP hotels, basic but clean. It is the only option anywhere near the park headquarters.


We went on the River Styx tour this morning. No other tours go deeper into the Cave and it certainly had variety, from the cavernous Rotunda below to small passages one has to bend down and wiggle through.




Many of the passages have graffiti, the picture below is from a group who toured by torch light in 1855!



Perhaps, the River Styx is not what you would imagine? It is a small body of water as shown below. The Echo River that visitors once took boat rides on is very close to where the picture was taken. But there are no longer boat rides and the Echo River is closed to the public due to an endangered sightless fish!


River Styx


FYI, the River Styx tour is only possible in the summer and fall. All of the lighting is temporary, removed in the winter, because many of the deeper passages on the tour are flooded during the spring by water from melting snow and spring showers. Mammoth Cave is well off of the beaten track, you have to plan to visit the park. But to us, it was well worth the effort as it was not only bigger, but quite different geologically from any cave system we have visited. Many more tours are available and they only take visitors on a very small portion of the 400+ miles of passages discovered to date in the cave system. The Park is quite large with hiking trails, bike trails and opportunities for canoeing and kayaking. We had no idea! It's mid-afternoon and time to head toward South Carolina; our destination tonight is Knoxville, TN.


Sunday was comprised of a pleasant trip from Knoxville to Murrell's Inlet, arriving in time to eat dinner with the Hills. Monday we met Kelley's friend Suzanne and went to the new development being constructed on the old Air Force Base. Suzanne daughters, Mackenzie and Maci, are Maggie's best friends and they have a great time playing together.


The girls at the old aircraft display park.


Maggie is taking dance lessons this fall and was quite pleased to don her ballerina outfit and show Grandma the moves she has learned. How sweet!



Today we went to the education center at the state park. They have a feeding time several days a week that you can make rounds with the ranger as she feeds the animals in the center. It's really quite instructive.


Maggie showing Grandpa how to drive the boat at the center.


We finished the day off with a brew and a good meal at one of our favorite restaurants, Quigley's Pint and Plate in Pawley's Island.




It's been a good visit and it was nice to see Maggie, Kelley and Seth. Thanks guys for your hospitality! Tomorrow we head for Lynchburg.





Back in the saddle.

After three weeks of 10,000 steps per day, it was obvious that my weak knee would not stand for this level of active walking. So, coupled with the fact that I really missed biking, I made a conscious decision! I told Gretchen I needed to get back in the saddle again! Sunday (9/28) we dropped my road bike off at the bike shop to recouperate from its accident and headed to Piney River to ride the Blue Ridge Rail Trail on our mountain bikes. It was a beautiful day and it felt wonderful to be on a bike again!

So great that we had to celebrate down the road at Wild Wolf!


Henry's Fall Break

Katie came to Lynchburg with Audrey and Henry for the weekend before Henry's break. We had a great time going to Day in the Park on Saturday.

Sunday before Katie and Audrey went home we went for a walk on Blackwater Creek!

Monday we went for a walk on Percival's Island, ate lunch at the Depot and then we went to the orchard for peaches. Henry and Grandma got ice cream!


Tuesday we packed a a lunch and drove to Roanoke to visit the Mill Mountain Zoo. We saw the Star on the mountain above Roanoke and had a fun visit at the Zoo. Henry's favorite animal was a big green lizard! He also liked the train ride!

Wednesday Henry and Grandma tried to go to the Fire Station but the trucks were gone. We started to go to Woodruff's Store for lunch but Henry complained of a bellyache. So we came home and Henry had a quiet afternoon watching videos and sipping Sprite!

Thursday Grandma and Henry got to tour the Fire Station. He got to sit in the truck and in the ambulance. The firemen gave Henry a backpack filled with goodies and a hat. He asked for another hat for his sister, which was a very nice thing to do.

Friday was the last day of Henry's break. We loved having him visit. Grandma and Grandpa were really impressed with how well Henry is reading! Maybe he can read this blog with his mom or dad? Friday afternoon we took Henry to Danville to meet his dad and sister.

It was a busy week and I think we tired Henry out!



Something Changed

Swift...on the ground...pain...what happened? We were just finishing a ride to Woofdruff's Store and taking the bike trail home. David says a dangling limb caught me, lifted me off the bike and slammed me to the pavement. Gary telling me not to move, David going to get Gretchen and Laurie. Am I OK? Conscious, no bones sticking through skin, some scrapes, chest hurts, can't breathe easily.

An hour later Gretchen and I are in the Emergengy Room, the rescue squad giving the report to the nurse. A CAT scan shows I have a partially collapsed lung and I'll need to be admitted to the hospital. As I write this 10 days later, I'm getting a bit better each day. I no longer have the stabbing pain when I breathe deeply, and my chest is feeling more normal. A few more weeks and I should be back to full strength. In hindsight, I was very lucky; no head injury, no broken bones or back injury...just lucky. However, I now know what the term "physical trauma" means. I have experienced it once and have no desire to do it again!

"Something changed inside me ....", the opening line from a Sara Groves song describes what I feel subconsciously.....deep inside. I no longer want to ride a bicycle. After 44 years of riding a bicycle as an adult, tens of thousands of miles, I'm done. One would think that would be a difficult decision to make; particularly since so much of my riding is with close friends; Gretchen, the TOF Brothers and the Double Nickles. But it wasn't a difficult decision. In fact it wasn't a conscious decision at all. "Something changed inside me", deep inside, I'm different.

TOF Brothers

Last ride was 38.7 miles which gives me a final tally of 1,148 miles this year.

Double Nickles



Henry's Sixth Birthday

August 20th, the day before Henry's sixth birthday, and he has a half day at school so we are heading to Hillsborough. No matter the generation, kids grow up so fast!

Grandma reading Henry's birthday card.

Henry really liked the scooter we got him. It helps when mom tells you what he really wants! He is a coordinated little guy which was apparent during his first rides down the cul-de-sac.

It was a cul-de-sac birthday celebration with all of the neighborhood kids joining in the fun. Katie baked 40+ cupcakes!

Henry, Grandma and I really enjoyed celebrating your birthday with you. It was a fun time. And to think, you are six years old. Wow!


Bad Adventure #3

Well, I was wrong. Bad adventures do not come in pairs, Gretchen and I had a third. Monday (7/28), we headed north to Union Springs on Cayuga Lake to pick up the boat for our scheduled Erie Canal trip. When we stepped into the cabin of the boat, there was an odd odor which we thought smelled like a petroleum distillate of some kind. After spending a half hour on the boat, we found the odor was stronger in the rear of the boat near the gas tank. It did not smell like fresh gas, rather it smelled like some gas had spilled and was not cleaned up. We knew we could not spend a week on the boat. Gretchen was getting a headache after only an hour in the cabin. I called the owner and told him we could not do the trip and asked for our money back. To his credit he agreed with no hassle. Did I mention the boat was billed to be " hotel clean" but had cat and human hair on the cushions, an empty water bottle and used tissues stuffed behind the TV, cobwebs in the corners, dead bugs on the curtains and the AC filter had not been cleaned in years. Oh, and there was a big hole where the refrigerator was supposed to be! Leaving the marina, we were frightfully disappointed because we really wanted to cruise on the canal, go through the locks and visit the small towns along the way.

The hour was late and we headed to Ithaca because we remembered the Moosewood Restaurant from our visit with Sue Dapcic four decades ago! Sampling the fare at the Moosewood on that trip prompted us to buy one of their cookbooks and incorporate vegetarian items into our weekly menus.

We called Sue to tell her we were remembering our visit with her as we waited for our meal. The restaurant is still packed, and the food excellent. The last minute deal we got at the Lakefront Inn was super, with its Tuscan style rooms and excellent breakfast! Bad Adventure #3 is beginning to fade.

View of Cayuga Lake from our room at the Lakefront Inn.

Home after another night in the Olmes B&B (Thanks Pris and Phil), Gretchen suggested we take our inflatible boat to the dealer in Annapolis for warranty repairs. It will be a good road trip for our 44th anniversary she said; yep, that is not a is 44 years! So Friday we headed to Annapolis, then to Baltimore for an Orioles game. Walking around the city brought back memories as we lived in Baltimore for over two years after we were married. What a wonderful job the city has done with the waterfront. None of it existed in the early '70s when we were residents. Great fun at the to eat Boog Powell's barbecue, drink some Goose Island beer, and act like a die hard fan (even though we can't name a player or tell you what place the team is in) the Orioles won!

On the way home we stopped and walked around historic Fredericksburg. What a neat downtown! We discovered the Saturday farmer's market and had an excellent lunch at Sammy T's. Great road trip, Gretchen...what shall we do next? Bad Adventure #3, just a glimmer in memory!

Looking forward to 45 my dear!