Monthly Archives: April 2013

2013 trip three, NM and VA, April 28-29

Today, Monday, will be the fertile farm lands of Illinois; the gently rolling hills and forests of Wisconsin; and the last stretch of interstate 94 in Minnesota.

Yesterday began with the rolling hills of West Virginia which quickly changed into the coal mining trains, electric power plants, and Manufacturing areas of West Virginia.

The mountains of eastern Kentucky transformed into the rolling horse breeding areas of Kentucky. Very green and lush. Indiana, as usual, was just a blur.

This will be the last post until at least the end of day Friday, May 3.

Trip three, while focused on two state, covered 16 states and over 7,000 driving miles during seven weeks.

West Virginia waterfall.

West Virginia waterfall.

KY farm

KY farm

IL farm

IL farm

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 27

New River and gorge

New River and gorge

New River bridge

New River bridge

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Today was an easy day. We drove from the east coast of Virginia across to its western terminus with West Virginia on I-64. Virginia still had blooming trees, green grass, and pleasant vistas. Except, of course, for the truck traffic along interstate 81 that brought back fond memories of Pennsylvania.

West Virginia has been hilly with valleys interspersed among the hills. One section of US 60 bills itself as a very twisty, curvy road but after our previous experiences with the Road to Hana, it was a drive in the park. So far the trees in West Virginia seem to be less budded out than in Virginia.

This was a shorter driving day so that we could experience the new River Gorge by Hawks nest State Park. This area has a deep coal mining background. Rail traffic goes along the bottom of the gorge. The bridge is 3000 feet long and it is an 875 foot drop to the river. One day a year they close the bridge and allow foot traffic, rappelling off the bridge, para sail, etc.

We hiked down part of the way to the bottom of the gorge for additional vistas. The area is known for its rafting and rock wall climbing. Once again, we chose not to participate in those activities. Plus once a year people can bungee jump from the bridge.

Ed April 27. 8:30 pm

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2013 trip three, NM and VA, April 26

Trip Three is coming to its conclusion. Tonight is our last night in the Williamsburg area. Saturday morning we head out. Two more nights on the road until St. Paul. Saturday’s lodging at Hawks Nest Sate Park on the New River in West Virginia should be very scenic. (www.hawksnestsp.com)

Since yesterday went late and was a full day, we took it easy today. We drove to York River State Park less than 20 miles from here. Way back when it was owned by a signer of the U.S. Constitution, John Blair, Jr.. It is next to Camp Peary, an armed forces installation rumored (according to Wikipedia) to be “The Farm”, a covert CIA training site. We did not try to find out if that is true.

We spent several hours walking along the various trails. Only a few flowers were blooming but all of the trees are fully leafed. Osprey, deer, and blue herons were visible.

We wrapped up the week by walking through Colonial Williamsburg and had dinner at the Kings Arms Tavern.

Minnesota here we come- a chance to visit family and re-stock the car before leaving May 3rd for trip four-the far west.

York river state park-creek estuary leading to river

York river state park-creek estuary leading to river

hiking at York RIver state park

hiking at York RIver state park

Osprey nest

Osprey nest

Flowers at Colonial Williamsburg

Flowers at Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg Capitol

Colonial Williamsburg Capitol

Ed April 25 10 pm

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 25

It was a long but enjoyable day. It started out with a bit of a biting breeze. We were glad that we had several layers of clothing with us, particularly during the morning. By late afternoon, people in Norfolk Virginia were walking around in shorts and T-shirts.

Our first stop was the Norfolk Botanical Garden. This garden is 3 to 4 times larger than the Lewis Gintner Garden we saw yesterday. The Norfolk garden offers tram rides, we took two. One was the general layout and one was for the azalea flower tour. We also spent several hours just walking and enjoying the gardens.

Norfolk botanical garden

Norfolk botanical garden

Norfolk Botanical Garden

Norfolk Botanical Garden

The Norfolk garden is not just flowers, but has trees and shrubs much like the Minnesota Arboretum. The design of the garden is such that there will be blooming flowers during every season of the year. It is located immediately next to the Norfolk airport, leading to an interesting juxtaposition of beauty and commerce. A short walk from the visitor center leads to a ridge looking down immediately at the airport runways.

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Chalk this next one up to it’s a small world. Once again, we met a couple from Minnesota. This time, the couple lives in Mendota Heights, just across the river from our condo. Plus, they were staying at the same time share in Williamsburg that we are.

Lunch today was in the Garden Café, catered by a local Greek restaurant. Not quite as nice as yesterday, but still pleasant and supporting the local economy.

Our second stop was in downtown Norfolk. We visited the Gen. Douglas MacArthur Memorial. Today’s history lesson was about world wars one, two, and the Korean War.

VA International Tattoo Festival

VA International Tattoo Festival

Our final event was the Virginia International Tattoo Festival. http://www.vafest.org/2013/tattoo-main. “Tattoo” here refers to and I quote: “derives from the cries of the 17th and 18th century Low Country innkeepers who, as the fifes and drums of the local regiment signaled a return to quarters, would cry”Doe den tap toe”–Turn off the taps! The sound of the taps caused the innkeeper’s customers to depart and return to the barracks. Over time, the words of that cry evolved into the term “tattoo”,which now refers to what developed into a ceremonial performance of military muscle by massed bands.

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Given the Hampton Roads area heavy concentration of military bases, a tattoo held here is both natural and well attended. This year it is held for four nights. Groups came from Norway, France, Canada, the UK, and Australia besides the US. It was a true pleasure to watch.

One other dose of current history. While we knew of the heavy military presence in the area, we had not known, or remembered, that NATO has a major command headquarters here, the Allied Command Transformation vs the Allied Command Operations-which may be in Europe.

Ed April 25 11:55 pm

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 24

What a difference a day can make! Warm weather. Sun. Colorful flowers. Good lunch. Today’s post includes more pictures than usual, just because the park was beautiful and the day gorgeous.

Lewis Gintner Botanical Garden RIchmond

Lewis Gintner Botanical Garden RIchmond

Lewis Gintner Botanical Garden

Lewis Gintner Botanical Garden

Valentine Richmond History Museum

Valentine Richmond History Museum

Just a home on the way to the Gintner

Just a home on the way to the Gintner

The day began at the Valentine Richmond History Museum in downtown Richmond. Once the home of an early and wealthy Richmond family, it now houses details of the history of the city of Richmond. A docent tour brought us in to the house, normally off limits to casual gallery attendees. The sculpture room of Edward Valentine was also on the premises. Inside photos of the museum are not allowed, so the scene from the outside patio is shown above.

The museum cafe is catered by Sally Bell’s Kitchen, a local long time cafe. Box lunches are the fare but they were great. An eggy potato salad almost as good as Chris’-with a sweet pickle slice on top. Cupcake (chocolate-chocolate for Ed, White-white for Chris) was scrumptious with frosting all over except for the bottom. A small cheese wafer. And the sandwiches were great too. It more than made up for yesterday’s fiasco.

The afternoon was spent at the Lewis Gintner Botanical Gardens, one of the top gardens in America-or so the sign stated. We were impressed. The layout was great, the blooms fantastic. This is what spring is supposed to be like. We spent 2.5 hours just walking around enjoying.

The final event of the evening was a presentation by a local person who does one man Benjamin Franklin shows. It was informative and re-informed us of the multitude of Franklin’s accomplishments.

As a bonus, AAA membership saved the cost of one admission to the Valentine and the Gintner was free due to Como membership. All in all, a very pleasant day.

At Gintner

At Gintner

Ed April 24 11 pm

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 23

The day dawned overcast and misty. Sunshine was promised by 10 AM. We headed out early to the Petersburg area. Our first stop was at the Petersburg National Battlefield Park.

Petersburg Virginia was subject to a nine month siege from July 1864 to the end of March 1865. It was the longest siege of any city in US history. Gen. Grant believed that the eventual submission of Richmond depended upon taking Petersburg first. Petersburg was responsible for supplying Richmond with food and ammunition.

Representative defensive measures at Petersburg

Representative defensive measures at Petersburg

The trench warfare, foreshadowing World War I, took a tremendous toll on the soldiers and the Petersburg residents. When Petersburg was finally taken in early April, Richmond was evacuated by the Confederate government immediately thereafter. Gen. Lee surrendered at Appomattox within a week.

After the battlefield, we began our first day visiting the Virginia garden week sites in Petersburg. The garden tours are better described as house and garden tours. It is a fund raiser for the garden clubs and their members have arranged multiple floral displays in each home. However, it was still pleasant, entertaining, and educational. A second stop had a display of botanical paintings.

There were eight stops on the tour. Most were homes. One of the stops was a neighborhood pocket park that had been reclaimed from an overgrown ravine over the last several decades. One of the founders of the effort was a 70-year-old woman living across from the park. She devoted thousands of hours to the task. Today, the park is a testament to her and the neighbors of the area.

Reclaimed ravine now Marie Bowen Gardens

Reclaimed ravine now Marie Bowen Gardens

At another location, Centre Hill mansion, we met two sisters from Stillwater Minnesota. They fly out to either Virginia or South Carolina to attend their garden events each year. The mansion was featured in the recent movie Lincoln. Chris and I have decided we must see it again to locate the scenes and locales that we have visited the last several days.

There was a distinct disappointment in the tour, however. Homemade goodies and treats were to be served at the last stop. It appeared to be store-bought lemonade and cookies however. We passed. We drove to a home cooking restaurant south of the city which of course had closed for the day half an hour before we arrived. Well, one of these days we will learn to double check the hours of everything. And the sun came out as we headed back.

We took an “alternate route” to Williamsburg and used the free VADOT ferry over the James River to shorten the driving route. The ferry runs every 25-30 minutes. We were the fifth to the last car on and just avoided having to wait for the next ferry.

View from the James River ferry

View from the James River ferry


Ed April 23 8 pm

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 22

At First Landing state park

At First Landing state park

Lunch at Virginia Beach

Lunch at Virginia Beach

King Neptune in Virginia Beach

King Neptune in Virginia Beach


Monday was a dreary, blustery, wet day in Virginia Beach. It dampened our enthusiasm for visiting multiple locations. We went through the Hampton Bridge Tunnel, a smaller version of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Our first stop was at First Landing State Park. This was the first location where the Jamestown settlers landed before eventually setting their colony at Jamestown Virginia.

The park is more of a hiking and camping location although there was a educational display about the landing and the ships. We took the slow route along the ocean. We passed the older resort area, the military base area, and then the modern, fancy resort area. This section of Virginia is loaded with military bases. In addition, there seem to be multiple military museums in every town of substantial size.

Since it was not a great day for hiking, we chose not to. We turned around and heading back to Williamsburg. The evening dinner was a very nice restaurant called the Jefferson. Their stuffed boneless pork chops were excellent.

Ed April 23 8 AM

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 21

A short post this morning. Yesterday was Sunday and a day of rest. You all were in church, right?

The Marriott timeshare is very nice and we slept in also. Chris was able to read the Sunday New York Times, a rarity for her.

VA Living Museum

VA Living Museum


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Most of the afternoon was spent at the VA Living Museum. Originally a project of the Junior League and Rotary, it morphed into a organization based on the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to show the varied and diverse ecosystems and animals of VA. With the coast, the plains and the mountains, VA is a good state to utilize this concept.

There was an interesting display of home designed bird houses.

unusual birdhouses on display

unusual birdhouses on display

While not high-powered, the time was well spent. It should help orient us as we travel around this week.

Thinking back, it has been an interesting couple of months learning about early history of the US. We have been in Santa Fe with the Spanish-Mexican heritage. We have visited St. Augustine, another early founding city. This area represents the first Engligh landing on the continent, as well Revolutionary War (Yorktown being the final major battle) and Civil war battles. Finally, we were able to learn first hand of the settling and Americanization of Hawaii.

Enjoy your day.

Ed April 22 8 AM

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2013 Trip Three NM and VA; April 20

So this is a two day post. Friday the 19th was a drive day without much excitement. We left eastern Tennessee and made it to Richmond VA. Our original plans were to spend Thursday night in Cherokee North Carolina. However, Chris spotted that the road over the Great Smoky mountains to Cherokee was closed due to a landslide. It was not to open until mid-May. We adjusted our Thursday night plans and spent the night in Dandridge Tennessee.

The drive over the Great Smoky Mountains was very scenic. The roads satisfied my desire for curvy, up-and-down road. We were surprised by the width of the Great Smoky Mountains as they lasted much longer into North Carolina than we expected coming from the west. We were in and out of the rain for most of the morning but by noontime we were ahead of the heavy showers which hit Richmond late that evening.

At the Virginia State Capitol

At the Virginia State Capitol

We started Saturday morning by visiting the Virginia State Capitol. The docent gave an excellent tour. The capital was designed by Thomas Jefferson. It was the first new seat of government designed after the American revolution. The US Capitol in Washington DC may have been based on it.

The recent movie “Lincoln” was filmed extensively in this building and in the city of Petersburg. During the Civil War, this building housed both the Virginia legislature and the Confederate Congress.

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We followed this up with a tour of the Tredegar Ironworks. This is a national historical monument along the James River in downtown Richmond. The displays here discussed the two battles of Richmond in 1862 and 1864 as well as the role that the foundry played in manufacturing Confederate cannon and ammunition.

One set of falls on the James River

One set of falls on the James River

After a walk along the James River, we attempted to find a place for lunch. Our efforts at two different locations proved fruitless. Long waits and lack of parking were the main difficulties. We ended up driving to Williamsburg and checking into our timeshare. This will be our location for the next week as we travel to various cities in the area.

Sorry Minnesota, it is very green here.

Ed 4/20 9:30 pm

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2013 Trip Three, NM and VA, April 18

We could not resist. We had started the day just west of Memphis in Arkansas. I-40 was nice enough. The trees were blooming, the topography was interesting (eastern US mountains), the truck traffic was pleasantly challenging as they passed one another slowly going up the hills, and the wind was strong but no more than we had been used to from NM and the last few days. (The Weather Channel has been on 24/7 “storm mode” for the tornado possibilities in OK through IL, winter storm Yogi blowing from CO through the Twin Cities to the UP of Michigan but we have been lucky enough so far to be between various storm systems.)

Visitor center Memphis

Visitor center Memphis

So we took an adventure, or as Chris calls it, an alternate route. We were about 40 miles shy of Knoxville heading for Dandridge which is east of Knoxville. We made a semi-circle around Knoxville to the south on curvy, hilly 2 lane roads, going through small towns, past Tennessee Valley Authority dams and lakes, through the foothills of the Great Smokies.

The ride was pleasant, We did not get lost. We did not have enough time to take a hike though. Sarah was kind enough to send us a picture of snow in St. Paul so we sent her back a picture of green mountains in TN. The dogwood are starting to bloom, eastern red bush are coming out.

Dogwood along I-40. Sen Al Gore Sr of TN born near here, authored interstate highway act.

Dogwood along I-40. Sen Al Gore Sr of TN born near here, authored interstate highway act.

The area seemed prosperous. Homes were solid and well tended, less vacant commercial buildings. Small town Americana-we even got behind a school bus discharging its kids, frequently two to three per house, once with the kids’ dog running out to meet them as the bus drove up.

View of Great Smokies from Foothills Parkway

View of Great Smokies from Foothills Parkway

The end of the drive brought us back to reality as we drove through Pigeon Forge TN, home of Dolly Parton shows, mini-golf, large hotel complexes, huge billboards advertising one thing or another. (Lady Bird Johnson’s efforts to rid American highways of billboards were long ago and evidently not effective.)

So, today is on to Richmond. Don’t know if we will try another alternate route. If we are lucky, Saturday will not have rain and we can explore the town a bit before we land in Williamsburg.

We had planned to spend much of August visiting KY and TN but a few weeks ago we dropped that idea in order to spend more time in the Canadian Rockies and WA state. I guess we will have to visit them next spring when Knoxville holds a dogwood festival showcasing the dogwood blossoms and garden tours.

Ed April 19 5 AM

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