ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAYS 45 & 46 – Saturday and Sunday, July 28 & 29, Asheville, NC

Saturday morning we arose in our Charlottesville Inn and tottered off to the kitchen about 7:45 AM.  Breakfast at the Cedar Spring Inn doesn’t start until 8 so we were a bit early. Ms. Innkeeper reminded us that we shouldn’t sit down and expect breakfast.  Of course not, we replied we just wanted to stand around and drink coffee.  I wonder why these people had a desire to become innkeepers.  They are certainly not the warm, fuzzy types that you figure would want to do it. Anyway, Mr. Innkeeper asked where we were off to today. When we replied Asheville he asked if we were planning on going there in one day.

Uh oh, we thought.  In our minds Asheville was just a hop, skip and jump away from Charlottesville.  But no, it turns out that it is over 350 miles away.  We ended up leaving much later than we would have for a long trip and spent a long day getting to our new lodging at the Sourwood Inn outside of Asheville.

The inn is at 3500 feet and has no air conditioning.  The temperature was fine but the humidity made everything feel damp.  We had dinner at the inn and turned in. On Saturday we met Mr. Innkeeper who engaged us in a conversation about whether one could be good without god. He gave us some tracts to read and we figured we would be quizzed in the morning.

Well, what’s the most important thing to do after breakfast?  Find an internet site of course.  Unfortunately, internet is not offered at the Sourwood Inn.  So once again with my trusty computer on my lap we went out trolling for a connection. We found one at the Sleep Inn.  People have been really nice about letting us park ourselves in the lobby of their hotels.

Next we went to the Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate

This is a huge mansion built by George Vanderbilt whose major occupation in life was being rich.  His grandfather and father had made the fortune.  George’s job seems like a good one.  We took the audio tour which highlights about 60 rooms.  Then we went to the winery. The wine was okay, not great, and mostly the grapes come from California anyway.

After a long day we returned to the Inn, had dinner, and retired to our damp room.  We finished reading the tracts that the innkeeper gave us but when we went down to breakfast on Monday morning he was nowhere to be seen.  But that’s okay, John and I had some interesting discussions about whether progress is a positive thing or should just be a concept without a value judgement attached.

 

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ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAYS 45 & 46 – Thursday and Friday, July 26 & 27, Charlottesville, VA

Help! I am crippled in my blogging by staying in places where there is no internet or at least no internet except in the public spaces. So I am playing catch-up and trying to remember what we did.

We drove to Charlottesville through a lot of traffic in the D.C. area. It seems that the urban environs are reaching further and further out. We found our lodging down a windy country road about seven miles outside of Charlottesville. It was a really beautiful spot. But we had arrived too early. Mostly we just wanted to drop off our perishables so they wouldn’t overheat in the car during the afternoon.

Cedar Spring Inn

Cedar Spring Inn

We were met at the door by Mrs. Stern Innkeeper. “You cannot check in now. Check-in is not until 4 and it is only 1:30!”

” Oh, please Ms. Innkeeper, take pity on our wine and edible gifts, and let them check in now. We won’t stay ourselves but will wait until the appointed time” we beseeched.

Apparently we were pathetic enough as she led us to our room (which was totally ready to be checked into) and allowed us to make our packages comfortable. (To be fair, the Cedar Spring Inn has been the best place we have stayed- great breakfast, good bed, superior sheets, beautiful inside and out with friendly guests with whom we talked and drank wine for hours.)

Leaving our lodging, we went to Montpelier, the home of James Madison. Let’s see, what do I know about Madison? – founding father, short, married to Dolly Madison, did something with the Constitution. Well, I found out he is just about the most important American ever. Madison was a voracious student of all things. He had a keen sense of history and the place that the founding of the United States had in it. He was a meticulous record keeper which gives us incomparable insight into our own history. He is the founder of the Constitution and writer of the Bill of Rights. He was concerned about making a Bill of Rights not because of granting rights but because writing them down might limit them.

Montpelier

Montpelier

We saw Montpelier in a state of transition from the house that the duPonts bought and renovated back to Madison’s home in 1809. We were fortunate to see it while before the walls are plastered up and while its 18th century skeleton is exposed. The tour was exceptional. We really came out with a new appreciation of James Madison.

Renovations

Renovations

On Friday we went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home. While I’ve always thought of Jefferson as one of the greatest men of all time, it became apparent that he was complex and paradoxical. Taking the tour made him seem very human. He had a tragic personal life losing his wife and almost all of his children. He held slaves but abhorred slavery. He died in debt. I wish I had pictures but my camera ran out of battery juice right before we left for the tour.

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAYS 43 & 44 – Maryland boat trip

Ducks in a row

Ducks in a row

After getting all our ducks in a row, like John getting his hair cut and me getting my nails done, we headed off to the bounding main.

“Yo, Ho, Yo, Ho, a pirate’s life for me.”  Or at least a boater’s life for me.  We spent a couple of days on the Miles River with my sister, Peg, and her husband, Ted, then headed to St. Michael’s.

Peg on their boat

Peg on their boat

We lived aboard and docked at the Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s.  It was a really interesting museum and we also wandered around the town, shopped and ate at places where our esteemed Vice President, Darth Vader, spends some of his off-time.

Not swabbing the deck

Not swabbing the deck

John and I are big people, he is tall and I  am wide. I think that boats are manufactured with smaller people in mind. Here’s a picture of John doing deck chores.

Peg and Ted's boat, JustUs

Peg and Ted’s boat, JustUs

We had a great time at Peg and Ted’s both on land and on their boat.

Now we head west.

 

 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAYS 38-42, FRIDAY THROUGH TUESDAY, JULY 20-24, 2007 to Maryland

 

 

 

Ferry across Deleware Bay from Cape May to Lewes, DE

Ferry across Deleware Bay from Cape May to Lewes, DE

Just post- and pre-posting a few days. We made it across a choppy Delaware Bay and to my sister, Peggy’s, in Maryland. We went to a party and did a lot of dancing. Today, Sunday, until Wednesday we are heading out on their boat, Just Us. We are going to St. Michael’s and motoring around to other places. I won’t have an internet connection so no posts. I should have lots of pictures and narrative when we get back.

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 37, CAPE MAY, NJ – THURSDAY, JULY 19, 2007

Greetings from Cape May, New Jersey’s southernmost beach town! After driving through torrential rains we arrived in picturesque, Victorian Cape May. I know that this whole region really needs the rain but perhaps a gentle shower every few days ago would be better than the cats and dogs it rained on our trip here.

Welcome to Cape May

Welcome to Cape May

We stayed at the Queen Victoria B & B. It is one of many restored Victorian houses here. We had a lovely room on the first floor with access to the front porch. John and I went out and took a walk along the beach and through the shopping area. We stopped at the wine store for supplies for al fresco dining on the front porch. We sat there and had our wine and munchies and waved at the horse drawn carriages and tour trolleys that went by.

Queen Victoria B and B

Queen Victoria B and B

The other night we were in Cape May we ate at another Victorian hotel. Our dinner at the Union Park dining room was really good. We decided to have a small plates experience by ordering mainly from the appetizer menu. This way we were able to sample their gazpacho, tuna with seaweed salad, duck tart, foie gras with buckwheat blini, scallop with manchego potato cake and shrimp and scallop pad thai. Since there are only a couple of bites of each thing, you do not get overfull. Another big plus for this restaurant is that they allow you to bring your own wine and there is no corkage fee.

After an exciting few games of skeeball, we were ready to call it a night.

 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 36, RED BANK, NJ – WEDNESDAY, JULY 18, 2007

We left Boston early on Wednesday with a goal of making Cape May around dinner time. But the most important thing to do was stop in my hometown and see my house, the houses of my relatives and go down to the beach. Beach, you see, is what we called it. All the folks from north Jersey and New York who polluted our roadways in the summer called it the shore. But those of us who lived here on the Atlantic just went to the beach.

I’ve got to say that Red Bank was looking pretty good. First we stopped at my great-grandmother’s house. She lived on “the other side of the tracks.” But she had a great, big yard where we played ball and she grew corn where Peg and I would hide. Her brother lived right next door. She was alive until I was 8.

Then we went to my old house. It looked pretty good. There were moms outside and lots of kids. We got out of the car and introduced ourselves. Courtney, the woman who owns the house, invited us in. (Who says NJ-ers are unfriendly!) They’ve made the house their own but it still looked like the house I grew up in. It made me a little teary. We visited both my grandparents houses and my sisters’ old houses. I am really glad we stopped.

The Old Homestead - 120 Wallace St., Red Bank, NJ

The Old Homestead – 120 Wallace St., Red Bank, NJ

Max’s

Truly could any Jersey girl from the shore not stop at Max’s for the definitive lunch at the beach? Here’s John at Max’s enjoying an onion ring and a hot dog. If you click in on the picture and get the big size you can read all the posters on the wall. Plus at all the tables there is a commendation from Governors going back years. The hot dogs are served with a pot of sauerkraut. A lot of fun times of my youth were spent in Long Branch (where Max’s is). It used to be that Max’s was right on the boardwalk and you could sit at your seat and watch the Atlantic crash on shore right under the restaurant. Unfortunately that Max’s burned down and while the decor on the inside is the same, the location is a bit inland.

Unlike Anthony’s Pier 4 where we couldn’t go home again to, our stop in Red Bank was full of good nostalgia. My house, my grandparents houses, downtown, the beach – it all looked pretty nice. And I didn’t have time to include the river, and the library where I worked, or Red Bank High. I think it was a good place to grow up.

Max's

Max’s

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 35, BOSTON, MA – JULY 17, 2007

It’s our anniversary! YAY! Today was a day to relive life in Boston. We started out by walking through the public garden. John had never been on the swan boats, so we were paddled around the pond there. What a good idea public gardens are. I think they soothe and inspire the people who pass through them.

Swan boat

Swan boat

While walking around Boston, we stopped at the Granary Burial Ground. The picture is of the marker for the Boston Massacre. Other graves here include the parents of Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and Paul Revere. It is so special to go to Boston and really feel a part of this country’s history. It makes you realize what a patriot is.

Boston Massacre

Boston Massacre

This is the place where John and I got our wedding bands. We just happened upon it as we were walking around Boston. We decided to go in. Well, I found the very piece of jewelry that I have been looking for! So we bought it. It’s very beautiful partly because it just is, and partly because we found it at the very same place as our wedding bands that we bought 35 years ago.

E. B. Horn

E. B. Horn

Lastly we went to Anthony’s Pier 4 for dinner. It was a really bad experience and we ended up leaving before we even sat down. Enough said. Our anniversary didn’t need this place to make it special. The dinner we had on the Anniversary Eve will be the new benchmark for special dinners.

 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 34, BOSTON, MA – MONDAY, JULY 16, 2007

Only one more day to go!

Monday John and I boarded the T (with a Charlie Pass – remember “Did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unlearned. He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston, he’s the man who never returned.”) for a trip to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.  We were especially interested in their current exhibition showing works by Edward Hopper.  There was an excellent audio guide which we used for the exhibit and for the regular collection. But after three hours on our feet we were ready to get back to the hotel and get ready for dinner.

Picture below is Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper

On Monday evening we went to dinner at Aujourd’hui in the Four Seasons Hotel. John had called earlier to make a reservation and to arrange for some special surprises. When we got there the champagne that he had picked out, Perrier Jouet, was waiting. It was wonderful! We told the waiter our story of coming all the way cross country to celebrate our anniversary. He loved it and we were treated to all sorts of special delights the rest of the evening.

We decided to order three courses plus dessert and have the sommelier pair wines. Of course, we ended up getting way more. First came a cucumber juice, chorizo and jalapeno shooter. Next tuna tartare on a base of diced watermelon with an avocado sauce paired with a Cotes de Provence Rose. Then, actually something we had ordered, seared foie gras in white nectarine soup with candied angelica paired with a Bordeaux sauterne. Next we had an elephant garlic veloute with escargot and lovage paired with a Loire sancerre. Our main course was butter poached lobster, veal sweetbreads, asparagus and crisp hominy. We had a burgundy with this from Volnay, a little town in France where John and I had stood with a French vintner in her little cellar with vintages dating back to WWI. Just when we might have exploded they brought over some candies and an Uruguayan port that we just had to try. Yum. Finally a Happy Anniversary dessert plate, mine’s in the picture with an ice wine. John had an apple dessert with grappa.

It was an outstanding meal . We were treated like royalty. All our negative experiences from the day before were totally wiped out.

Aujourd'hui dessert

Aujourd’hui dessert

 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 33, BOSTON, MA. – SUNDAY, JULY 15, 2007

We’ve made it! All the way across the United States. On Tuesday it will be our anniversary. Sunday was a trip down memory lane. After leaving Albany early we arrived in our old neighborhoods by around 11 AM. First we took a quick detour to the old Data General site. It is partially an EMC building now. John called George so they could reminisce about the days of working at DG.

Even though this is not the way we visited our former homes, I thought it would make more sense to post the pictures chronologically. Before John and I were married, I lived in Brookline in an apartment with two other girls. Before too long, one of the girls departed and John left his groty apartment on Peterborough St. in Boston and moved in. We had two bedrooms, a large living room and a tiny kitchen. I had my car, Otis, towed here when I could not find off-street parking in the middle of the winter. It was also the site of the Mad Whistler.

34 Garrison Rd., Brookline, MA

34 Garrison Rd., Brookline, MA

After the lease ran out, we moved to Milford (first floor.) At this point I told my parents that John and I were living together, or as my father put it, shacking up. My mother was so concerned about my neighbors finding out that she sent me mail with an outside envelope addressed to John and an inner one addressed to me. God forbid the mailman should know. So we moved into suburbia clandestinely on July 1 and got married 16 days later. I have always craved parental approval. This was quite the step up for us. The rent was $201/month for a large 1 bedroom apartment. It was $1 over our budget and we had to think long and hard before we signed the lease. We lived here two years.

21 D Claudette Dr., Milford, MA

21 D Claudette Dr., Milford, MA

Then we discovered that we made too much to be living at the Rolling Green apartments. So we decided to build a house. Our first house had three bedrooms, one and a half baths, a living room, family room, dining room and kitchen in Mendon on a dirt road. The road is paved now and the house has a number. When we lived there, Mendon did not have numbers for Neck Hill Rd. We decorated in garish 1970’s colors, grew flowers and pumpkins and lived there for 3 years. I worked at Appliance Buyers Credit Corporation and John was doing well at Data General. We decided to start a family. So this is Jonathan’s first house. He had a pretty little sunlit bedroom and he was the best baby ever. But Data General had plans for us. When Jon was 6 months old we were transferred to North Carolina. But that is a story for another trip.

Neck Hill Rd., Mendon, MA

Neck Hill Rd., Mendon, MA

We were transferred back to Massachusetts in 1983. We bought a hole in the ground and a plan for a house in the summer and arrived in October to find – – a hole in the ground. We finally moved into 2 Maria Lane in Hopkinton in February of 1984. This is probably our best-loved house. We lived here for six years. We made friends who are still our friends today. All of us in our little cul-de-sac had kids who were the same age. It was idyllic. But then friends moved away and ultimately we did too.

2 Maria La., Hopkinton, MA

2 Maria La., Hopkinton, MA

It was a very peculiar day for dining. It was like we were the couple beamed down in Star Trek wearing the red shirts. (Wearing the red shirts in Star Trek meant that you were never returning to the ship, or anywhere else for that matter.) John started out the day by filling the waffle machine at the hotel. This machine had slots for four small waffles. He left his waffles to cook as he filled his coffee and got some fruit. When he came back someone had taken two of his waffles.

We continued on to Mendon where we were looking forward to a lobster roll at Lowell’s Dairy. Lobster rolls are lobster salad in a New England hot dog bun. A New England hot dog bun has sides that are like regular bread with the crust only on the top. They are impossible to find elsewhere. Unfortunately, we found out that Lowell’s Dairy burned down three years ago. So no lobster roll and no lunch.

Okay, after encountering a very talkative former neighbor in Hopkinton it was almost 3 PM and we still had eaten no lunch. Any place would do. We stopped at Chili’s in Framingham. We sit down. No one waits on us. We each take a turn going to the restroom. We’ve have empowered the other with our lunch order, but still no one shows. John gets up and goes over to the clutch of waitstaff and asks who is responsible for our table. Could we get someone to come over. They look at us with unseeing eyes. After another 5 minutes we give up. As we walk out, we are asked if we are all set. Yeah, all set to walk out the door.

Finally, we go out to dinner at Legal Seafoods in Park Square, Boston. The picture of the rolls and wine represent the best part of the dinner. They came in a timely fashion and were not overcooked. We ordered lobster. And waited. And waited. And waited. Finally we asked our waitress about what was happening with the order. She says, oh, there’s a big party downstairs and they ordered 18 lobsters so things are backed up. Hopefully yours will be done soon. She comes back to say ours is 3rd or 4th in line. Finally it comes. It is overcooked and dry. But we are hungry!!! So we drench it in the butter so it has a little moisture.

On the way out, the hostess asks John if everything was alright. He says no. So she gets the manager. We tell him that the lobster was overcooked and the service was very slow. I mention about the large party who orders a bunch of lobsters and held up our order. He looks confused. There’s no large party downstairs. There’s no 18 lobsters. There’s only a story made up by the serving person because she screwed up the order. But the bill is already paid (with tip) and we just gave up.

Legal Rolls

Legal Rolls

Tonight we are eating at the highly acclaimed Aujourd`hui in the Four Seasons Hotel. Hopefully, we won’t be wearing red shirts.

 

 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 32, ALBANY, NY – SATURDAY, JULY 14, 2007


We left Henrietta for our next overnight, Albany. It is almost anniversary time! On Sunday night we willl be in Boston. We were originally going to go to the Matt Brewery today but their tours did not start until 1 PM. So we opted for the Ommegang Brewery which is near Cooperstown.

Ommegang Brewery

Ommegang Brewery

Ommegang was founded in 1997 and they were recently bought by Duvel, an old, old Belgian Brewery. We took the tour and tasted the beer. I liked the Witte. It is kind of like a hefeweitzen. John liked the Ommegeddon, a hoppy, wild yeast, lambic type beer. John also got a T-shirt with the Beeriodic Table on it.

Beer Lover

Beer Lover

Tonight we ate at the 99 Restaurant and Pub. I had a baked dish of lobster, crab and scallops with breadcrumbs and John had scrod. Yum, yum and yum. How I miss shellfish from the cold waters of the Atlantic.

Starting tomorrow there will be lots of pictures of the places where John and I met, fell in love, got married, lived, etc. It will probably all be quite mushy. I told John tonight how special he has made this trip for me. He has an incredible wealth of information that illuminates every place we go. I cannot imagine a better companion. Of course after I told him that, I had to explain why I was so important as well. Seriously, I have to at least be smart enough to ask interesting questions!

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 31, HENRIETTA, NY – FRIDAY, JULY 13, 2007

On Friday, we left Niagara Falls, Ontario. We got up early because the traffic on the Peace Bridge backs up as people who are entering the U.S. are scrutinized. Luckily the agent found nothing amiss with us. Years ago, in the 70’s, we were regularly searched at the border. I think their hope was to find out that John was a draft dodger.

US Immigration

US Immigration

I’ve got a mule her name is Sal…

We drove to Lockport, NY for a trip down the Erie Canal. We got on the boat and motored down the canal to the locks. Originally this was the site of the Flight of Five, an engineering feat. You have to rise almost 50 feet up the escarpment. Now two locks replace the original. The entire operation of raising and lowering the boasts is totally done by gravity and the flow of the water.

Her name ain't Sal

Her name ain’t Sal

We get through the locks and then were on a clear stretch of the canal. At this point the captain put on the Erie Canal music. I am a little disappointed. I know that if had said to us mostly older people that there’s a bridge coming up and what do we sing, we would all have broken into song. I missed doing that. BTW the reason that it is 15 miles on the Erie Canal is because that is how long the mules worked until they were relived by another team. Then the first team got to ride on the barge.

Erie Canal lock

Erie Canal lock

Next we went to the Heschell Carousel Museum in North Tonawanda. This was a workshop where carousel animals were carved dating back to the 1800’s. Wurlitzer did and still does have a large manufacturing capacity in North Tonawanda. They made band organs for the carousels.

Herschell Carousel Museum

Herschell Carousel Museum

There is a self-guiding tour through the workshop and a display of the carousel menagerie. At the end there is a working carousel. John rode the carousel but I was afraid my stonach would revolt.

Pale rider

Pale rider

Later we got to Henrietta, NY for the night. As is our luck, we went out to dinner at Pizzeria Uno which lost our order so we got a free dinner.  The waitress kept assuring us that the pizza was on its way. We waited a long, long time for the non-existent pizza. Good thing it was free.

Anniversary Trip, Days 29, 30, Niagara Falls, 7/11 and 12, 2007

After a very rainy trip from Ohio we arrived at Niagara Falls, Ontario around 3 PM. We are staying at the Sheraton on the Falls. Here is a picture of the falls from inside our room.

Actual picture of Niagara Falls from our hotel window

Actual picture of Niagara Falls from our hotel window

We wanted to make sure that we got a ride up to the Falls on the Maid of the Mist so that was our first endeavor. We donned our blue slickers and got aboard. It was fabulous! Even though there is a lot of trashy touristy stuff at Niagara Falls, the boat ride is great. You get up really close to the falls. The roar and the spray really make you aware of how powerful they are. In fact the boat ride was so good that we went back the next day and stood on the other side of the boat where it is even more intimidating.

Mister Mister in his rain gear

Mister Mister in his rain gear

Here’s a picture of the brave little boat facing the falls.

Maid of the MIst

Maid of the MIst

Then we took a walk along the escarpment down to where the water flows over the edge. It is amazing. It has this glowing green color as it tumbles over the precipice.

Over the edge

Over the edge

We also had a couple of okay meals in the dining room of the hotel. Food, good, view, amazing. The biggest drawback of the hotel was the fact that you had to pay for internet and then it did not work. No more booking non-internet hotels!

Sheraton on the Falls, Canadian side

Sheraton on the Falls, Canadian side

Niagara Falls rainbow

Niagara Falls rainbow

Anniversary Trip, Sheffield Lake, July 11, 2007

Our next stop is at Sheffield Lake outside of Cleveland.  We are staying at a B and B which turns out to more like someone’s house and we are in staying in their spare room. The setting is lovely, right on Lake Erie but the road by the lake is a jumble of old and new architecture and industry.

B and B at Sheffield Lake

B and B at Sheffield Lake

We found a place to do our laundry and looked about Sheffield Lake and the neighboring town of Avon Lake. We expected to see stately old homes on the lake edge. You know, the kind of places that the upper crust of Cleveland built at the turn of the century. There were very few. What is going on in these two towns is that people are buying up the old properties, tearing them down, and putting up McMansions. I am amazed that they don’t have some sort of ordinances to protect historic properties.

Backyard looks over Lake Erie

Backyard looks over Lake Erie

I am also including a picture of our car packed up and ready to go. We figure we have used everything we brought with us. We have used the folding chairs for extra seating in hotels and the small table as a computer stand. We have also used the chairs and table as our outdoor entertainment center at the Fourth of July fireworks. We have used the extra sheets three times in place of scratchy sheets. We use our gym bags for single overnights so we do not have to lug our suitcases in. And of course we use our trusty computers for blogging, email and catching up on what is happening in the world.

Our car is packed and ready to go!

Our car is packed and ready to go!

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 27, CHICAGO, IL – MONDAY, JULY 9, 2007

John with Bryna and Moe

John with Bryna and Moe

Today we went out to Skokie to visit John’s cousin, Moe, and his wife Bryna. They seemed so happy to see us and shared pictures and we talked about our families. Moe is actually John’s second cousin. Since John is the youngest in his generation he was actually first cousins with Moe’s mother. He even has a second cousin who is older than he is!

Bryna and Moe have five boys. Wow. They have two sets of twins and one single child. The single child is between the two sets of twins. As a middle child I wonder what it would be like to be that middle child! We met one of their older boys, Asher, at lunch. He was a very nice young man. He and his brother who have just graduated high school are off to Israel for a year next month. We wish them a safe and wonderful visit.

Later we went to the site where Bryna and Moe are building their new house. It has to be very large to accommodate all their family. In the basement they are going to have a basketball half-court. What a good way to insure that all the kids will want to congregate at their house. We had a good visit, took some pictures, and extended an invitation for them to come see us in California.

Rainy Chicago

Rainy Chicago

Shortly after we left Moe and Bryna’s the sky darkened and the wind picked up. Then there was a torrential downpour! Rain in the summer is pretty exciting to Californians. It made the drive back into Chicago a little difficult but the temperature went from 96 to 73 in a matter of minutes! I’m hoping for better temps as we head east.

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 26, CHICAGO, IL – SUNDAY, JULY 8, 2007

I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a cold sore. Uh oh, who is stressed out about visiting with John’s relatives today.  But there was no reason to be anxious, John’s cousin Bruce and his wife Lois plus their son and his wife and their daughter and her husband as well as five grandkids made us feel like we really are a part of the family.

There is no sense in going into why John stayed away for so long but when we were at his dad’s funeral it became very clear that it was time to reconnect.We had a really nice time at Lois and Bruce’s house for lunch.  We enjoyed the repartee between Bruce and his kids (reminds us of home) and were even targets for a few barbs ourselves, a real sign that we were accepted. Tomorrow we will have lunch with John’s second cousin, Moe and his wife, Bryna.  Having broken the ice today, it will be much easier tomorrow.

Worst part, though, I brought my camera but forgot to take pictures.

Later we went out to eat at Quartino. It is an Italian place serving small plates with an extensive Italian wine list.  The food was very good but the ambiance was terrible.  What is with these Chicago restaurants that they equate noise level with enjoyment?  John and I had to shout at each other to talk.  The waitperson had to shout at us to communicate. Plus we were sitting next to an open kitchen with pots banging and people shouting.  And our table was in the traffic pattern from the kitchen.  Every time a waiter came out he banged into my chair. Finally towards the end of dinner, when asked whether we were enjoying everything, I told the waiter that it was the most stressful meal I had ever had.  We got moved to a quieter table and comped for dessert. We should have said something sooner.

I think the noise and the bustle of the city is just too much for me.  Next time we’ll stay further out in the hotel for country mice.

AND, YAY! ROGER FEDERER WON!


 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 25, CHICAGO, IL – SATURDAY, JULY 7, 2007

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

On Saturday we arrived in Chicago.

Chicago skyline

Chicago skyline

After watching Wimbledon in Moline as long as we dared, we checked out and made our way to Chicago. Surprisingly, the countryside in Illinois was the countryside I’d imagined for Iowa, flat with cornfields. We set our GPS for our hotel and made our way in through the traffic. After weeks of being in small town America, it is kind of a shock to be in a big, noisy city.

Since it was already late, about the only thing we did was go out to dinner at the Bluewater Grill. We have mixed reviews on this. John gives it a B and I give it a B-. John’s B is based on spotty service and ambiance. I think we have consensus on one thing; Chicago restaurants are way too noisy. It is as if you prove your worthiness by your decibel level.

We started out with the calamari. Verdict, overcooked. You’d think in a seafood restaurant they’d get this right. John had the cod special which he could make some sense of. It was a piece of cod on top of a melange of chorizo, chicken, tomato and onion stew and that was on top of chickpea puree. Okay, so perhaps a Portuguese farmwife was making a stew with the odds and ends of the week. All of a sudden her husband who has spent the day fishing comes home and has a cod that he has caught. Given that, the dish makes sense and the fish was cooked beautifully.

Now my dish is harder to make sense of. I had scallops. We told them that we wanted them rare. This was a good thing because they came out just on the more well done side of rare. Anyway, along with the scallops, there were were ravioli stuffed with lobster and parsnips and a underneath the scallops, spinach, tomatoes, chives, walnuts and fennel. What? How do these things go together? It’s like a farmer/fisherman in New England somehow warped time and kept things that he grew, fresh for the entire season and then his friend Giovanni stopped by with some pasta sheets just at the same moment when he had some leftover lobster and caught a few scallops. Lobster and parsnips? That ended up tasting like ravioli stuffed with parsnips with blobs in it. Kind of like that awful tea with tapioca in it.

Here is an idea for my dish. Make a salad. Put the spinach, tomatoes, chives and fennel in it. Follow that up with a pasta course of parsnip/pear ravioli with walnuts in a butter sage sauce. Finally serve the scallops on a bed of wild rice pilaf with some seasonal veg. Makes a lot more sense.

Tomorrow we are visiting some of John’s relatives and we will try another restaurant.

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 24, MOLINE, IL -FRIDAY, JULY 6, 2007

With Bobbi and Dale Hansen at John Deere

With Bobbi and Dale Hansen at John Deere

I have to say I didn’t even know there was such a thing as the Quad-Cities which are Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa and Rock Island and Moline, Illinois. We came to this area to visit our friends Bobbi and Dale whom we know from Marco Island. They showed us around and really gave us a great tour.

First we went to the John Deere center which was right across the street from our hotel. There were all sorts of farm equipment, new and antique. Both Bobbi and Dale worked for John Deere and they are knowledgeable about many of the things that John Deere makes. There were also roving docents to answer questions. And of course we had lots of questions like, does the cotton picker remove the seeds? Answer, no, but they are working on it. It pulls up the plants, strips off the cotton bolls, does some washing of the cotton and compacts it into a large bin. These very large cotton bales are then taken to another facility and ginned. There’s also a big gift shop where cute presents can be bought for a cute grandchild.

The happy farmer

The happy farmer

We saw Deere headquarters and had lunch at the Deere country club. At the golf course they are getting ready for a big televised tournament next week.

After lunch we went to Bobbi and Dale’s house and watched a little Wimbledon. It was fun to watch with other people who enjoy tennis. Most non-tennis people find it boring.

Guns

Guns

Later we went to the Rock Island Arsenal museum. Rock Island made all sorts of munitions and everyday objects for soldiers since the civil war. There is a large display of guns, memorabilia and even a stuffed horse. There were some little boys there who were all agog at the horse and wanted to know if it was real. Of course, I was ready to kid them but then their father came along so I had to be good.

From there we went to one of the dam and lock combinations on the Mississippi River. We got there just in time to see a tugboat push some barges through and the big bridge that carries cars and trains over the Mississippi to pivot 90 degrees to let the tugboat through. It was fascinating! There were also some displays about the locks and the interesting fact that none of the dams on the Mississippi are for flood control. There is just too great a volume of water to control. The locks are solely for commerce.

Mississippi lock

Mississippi lock

We ended up our day having a nice dinner overlooking the river from the Iowa side. Thanks so much to Bobbi and Dale for making our visit memorable.

 

 

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 23, MOLINE, IL – THURSDAY, JULY 5, 2007

Iowa, I apologize. I didn’t even take your picture.  Most of your landscape I saw at over 70 mph.  We had to get to Moline, Illinois, and we figured you were just a flat cornfield with an interstate.  I was wrong. I’m sorry.

For everyone who has ever contemplated a drive through Iowa, take your time.  Look around. It’s really pretty. There are rolling hills and lots of trees, along with lots of agriculture. There are clean, attractive rest stops with wireless internet.  There are lots of those brown signs pointing to interesting historical and natural sights. If I had the planning to do again, I wouldn’t blow Iowa off.

When we got to Moline and checked in, there was a beautiful John Deere pail filled with all sorts of goodies from our friends here whom we are visiting. I’ve been a little nervous that they’ve been thinking, “Why are they coming here? We just know them slightly from Marco Island.” But tomorrow we are getting a great tour of the area and we’ll all reconnect and discuss Wimbledon, Moline and the prospects for another great winter season in Marco. Many thanks to them.

John Deere pail of goodies

John Deere pail of goodies

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 22, VERMILLION, SD – WEDNESDAY, JULY 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July! We are celebrating in small town, Vermillion, SD. After eating a gargantuan breakfast provided by our innkeeper, we spent much of this morning trying to find a wireless signal. Who knew it would be so hard? This is a college town except it is like a college ghost town. I know it’s summer but, seriously, you’d think there’d be some students around. And you would think that these students would have wireless connections. But no. Anyway, we did find some nice people at the Holiday Inn Express who let us sit in the lobby and check our mail and blog.

We had a quiet night last night at the winery B and B. Very quiet. In fact the only noise at the winery were the noises that we made. Just us alone in a winery. Pretty dangerous for the wine I’d say. But the innkeeper locked the elevator and we couldn’t go downstairs to where the wine is.

Buffalo Run Winery

Buffalo Run Winery

We also took a trip into Nebraska on the 4th. We’ve never been to Nebraska and it’s just across the river. We stopped at the Missouri River Mulberry Bend overlook. There were lots of pretty flowers along the trail. We also learned that these adjacent points in Nebraska and South Dakota are the westernmost reaches of the Eastern forest. I’ve been thinking that Vermillion looks a lot like my childhood home in NJ and I think the trees, along with the 20’s and 40’s, architecture are the reason.

Purple flowers in Nebraska

Purple flowers in Nebraska


Around 9 we went to the town park to see the fireworks. Since Vermillion is so far west in the time zone, the fireworks didn’t start until 10 PM. We spent part of the time chatting to locals. I think they were a bit taken aback at first by these chatty Californians but they warmed up and we had a good time. Then the fireworks! They were quite spectacular for a small town. The finale was better than any I’ve seen. It was a fine Fourth of July.
Vermillion fireworks

Vermillion fireworks

ANNIVERSARY TRIP, DAY 21, VERMILLION, SD – TUESDAY, JULY 3, 2007

Note: Today, Fourth of July, we had to spend part of the day trolling for bandwidth. Once again some nice hoteliers (Holiday Inn Express) have allowed us to sit in their lobby and use their wireless. Although staying at a B and B is fun for funkiness, I’m not sure it’s worth giving up the internet.

Today we moved on to Vermillion, SD. We like the idea of spending Fourth of July in a small town. We understand that there will be fireworks and a beer garden at the local park. We have our lawn chairs and a portable table with us and plan to be there.

On the way we stopped at the Lewis and Clark Lake Recreation Area and walked around. It had to happen sooner or later, humidity and mosquitoes. One of the mosquitoes managed to find its way under the collar of my shirt and bit me four times. I hope it made itself sick!

Lewis and Clark Lake

Lewis and Clark Lake

Then we went to the National Music Museum on the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. The museum has an incredible collection of instruments. For a small fee you get admission and an audio tour, so not only do you get to see the instruments you get an explanation and a chance to hear them play.

National Music Museum

National Music Museum

There are many very old, ethnic and unusual instruments. There are also famous ones such as a set of Stradivarius strings and B.B. King’s guitar, Lucille.

Stradivarius Collecion

Stradivarius Collecion

We made our way to our lodging which is a room at the Buffalo Run B and B located in the Valiant Winery. Yes, a winery in South Dakota. Of course we tried some. The local wine is quite sweet but they also import grapes from Washington so they have a wide variety. We are the only guests here. The winery is closed tomorrow. It’s kind of spooky.