Sunday, September 12, 2010

Elizabeth Berg

Hi All!

I'm sorry I have neglected you!  I know, I know, you are waiting for the rest of the Birthday Trip story...and all the news happening now.  I have just been overwhelmed with school and life and school and life.  Five people in my town or from my town have died in the past three days...see, life is overwhelming here!

Anyway, I am writing today just to tell you this...I love Elizabeth Berg!  She writes wonderful novels and a wonderful blog.  I wrote her a letter last year and I just read her blog and discovered that she thanked me online for my letter!!!!  Here's what she said...

"To Sarah of Leesberg, Va: Your purple greeting card and purple ink were fantastico. As was your personal card, which described you as "adventurer, believer, can collector, good samaritan, reader" and about a million other things."

How cool is THAT??

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Miles' Birthday Trip - Part TWO, NYC

In all my travels to New York City, I have never once gone to a museum.  I always wanted to go to but there was always so much else to do AND being from the DC area, I'm so used to free museums that it has taken me awhile to warm up to the idea of having to pay for the privilege.  This was the trip I was determined to change this trend, and we chose the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  By the time we got ourselves up and moving and fed and into Manhattan it was already noon so we only had 90 minutes as we were meeting Katy at the St. James theatre at 1:30pm.  We were very specific in our desire to see the Picasso exhibit though, so 90 minutes was just enough time.  Needless to say there are rooms and rooms of other stuff there that we would both like to see, but at least we've made a start on NY museums.  The Picasso exhibit was lovely.  He had a huge body of work and worked for many many years, so there was a very broad variety of works to see.  I have to say that I liked his ink portraits of his "bar buddies" that he did when he was 18 better than any of his later works.  They were very detailed and small, about the size of a coaster, which means they would probably fit in my budget better as well.

After Picasso we found our way back to the front of the museum and hailed a taxi to take us to the St. James to meet Katy.  We were about to see Miles and Joseph's first ever Broadway Play!  We chose American Idiot which is based on the Greenday album of the same name.  It was a hard charging show that never slowed down.  We all really enjoyed it and we bought the soundtrack on our way out the door.  It starred John Gallagher Jr. who also starred in Spring Awakening, my all time favorite Broadway show.

It was about 3:45pm at this point and by now our donuts from the morning had worn off and we were all starving.  We had dinner plans for later but decided to grab a snack at Dallas BBQ.  My friend Nicole met us there and we had some yummy vittals.  Miles ordered the hot wings and we were all surprised when full wings came out, not just wing pieces.  It was a huge platter of food, but being a growing teenager he hoovered right through them and is still talking about how good they were.  We all enjoyed our food and catching up with Nicole and Katy.  Nicole had even brought Katy a floaty pen which is Katy's favorite thing!

Our next adventure was unexpected and delightful!  My dad's first cousin Carolyn moved from Miami to NYC many years ago and for the most part we had lost touch with her.  Recently she found me on Facebook and contacted me asking if I was interested in family tree information that she had collected over the years.  Of course I was interested!  I know lots about my mother's family, but very little about my father's so this was very welcome news.  I had met Carolyn at least one other time in my life, when I was five years old she was visiting my grandparents and she taught me to tie my shoes.  I thought she was SO cool.  I let Carolyn know that we were coming to New York and she asked if we would be interested in touring her husband Mitch's music studio.  Mitch is a music producer.  Of course we said YES!  So after our snack we called Carolyn and headed to the studio on 9th Avenue.  Mitch and Carolyn were absolutely adorable and we loved spending time with them.  They greeted us at the elevator outside the studio and welcomed us with open arms.  The walls of the studio were covered with photographs of the celebrities who had recorded there.  His studio has been there for many years.  The building is an Art Deco building from the '20's and the windows even open, which is so unusual in offices these days.  We sat in Mitch's office and enjoyed a view of the Hudson River.

Mitch and Carolyn had made reservations for all of us at their favorite restaurant just up the street, Ralph's.  We still had Nicole with us and though she attempted to back out as she felt it was a family thing, we convinced her to stay with us.  We had a lovely dinner at Ralph's, Joseph declared the fetticine alfredo as the best he'd ever had.  We shared a bottle of wine with our meal and then we all ordered desserts which got shared around the table.  Mitch snuck back to the bar and paid the check when we weren't paying attention, which was super sweet of him.  You would never have guessed that we had all just met, it really felt like we had known each other for years, we really were family.  When we finished eating we decided to walk a little and burn off some of those calories.  Carolyn told us that there was a free concert up the street at Lincoln Center so we headed up there.  Sure enough there was Caribbean music echoing from the buildings and a folks of every age dancing in the aisles!  We even saw a guy who was a dead ringer for Albert Einstein kicking up his heels!  I think the name of the band was Mazza Pucci, but don't hold me to that.

After the concert we asked Mitch and Carolyn if we could see their Manhattan apartment as I had always wanted to see one.  They have such a reputation for being shoe boxes and I wanted to see if the rumors were true.  I have to say that although their apartment was small, it was delightful.  I really loved it, it was plenty of room for two people and the location couldn't be beat!  We can't wait to hang out with Mitch and Carolyn again, we had such a good time!

We left the apartment and walked Katy back to her train and then Nicole and the rest of us walked over to the PATH station to head back to Jersey City.  As usual it was well after midnight before we got back to the rig.  Exhausted we fell into bed and didn't stir until 11am.  We called Nicole as she was interested in seeing this RV park in her town that she had never heard of before.  She walked down to where we were and hung out with us for a while.  She even drove the rig from our parking space to the dump station!  Then she directed us to a local diner that she had recently discovered and I had what may have been the best grilled ham and cheese ever!  We walked down to the waterfront to walk off our breakfast and then we said goodbye to Nicole and set off on the next part of our journey!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Miles' Birthday Trip - Part ONE, NJ

School is finally done for the semester and it is almost Miles' birthday so we gassed up the Rallye Girl and headed out of town again.  We had been planning on this trip ever since we bought the rig, as I had asked Miles first thing where he'd like to go for his birthday.  He chose Boston.  I can honestly say I was surprised by the answer although I shouldn't have been.  To be more specific he wanted to go to a clothing store in Boston.  The name of the store is Johnny Cupcakes and the reason this shouldn't have surprised me is because years ago when I took him to NYC for his first visit he wanted to visit a clothing store there as well (Bape).  My child is a clothes horse, what can I say?

By the time we got out of Strasburg it was almost time for Joseph's online class so we got off 66 at Front Royal and parked at the Cracker Barrel.  CB is one of those places that welcomes RV's and you can actually park there overnight if you like.  We were just there for dinner and class though, no overnights yet.  Miles and I amused ourselves on our computers while Joseph took his class.  We had the generator running and the AC on so we were quite comfortable.  

Now you may be wondering how we were all three online at the same time in a parking lot.  Well I am very happy to announce that we are the proud owners of our own little MiFi hotspot!!!  We had gotten so frustrated with searching for free WiFi and with trying to connect at campgrounds that advertised free Wifi but then had such a weak signal that we couldn't even check our email.  We are very pleased with our purchase and so far it is working like a charm!  

When class and dinner were done we hit the road again.  I assured Joseph that he didn't have to drive through the night.  We were headed to Asbury Park, NJ first, but we didn't have a reservation at a campground that night so there was no rush or exact destination.  Once we got north of Baltimore he started showing fatigue and was ready to find a place to plug in for the night.  

Now another aside about our other favorite gadget on the rig.  Our GPS.  We originally bought a GPS on our trip to Myrtle Beach before we even bought the rig, because we had gotten lost on that trip and didn't want to repeat our mistake.  We called that first unit Jill because that was the name of the voice we chose.  Although the unit was supposed to have all sorts of cool features, like traffic notices and exit ramp notifications we never really saw those features work.  I thought I just hadn't found the right commands and didn't really worry about it much.  Several times we would change roads without Jill's permission and she would do everything in her power to MAKE us go back and do what she said, but for the most part we were satisfied with her work.  One day though she simply stopped working altogether.  When we tried to turn her on she just blinked at us.  We weren't sure what was wrong, but the next time we went by a Best Buy we stopped in to see what could be done and the girl immediately took it back and gave us a new one.  Needless to say we were thrilled, it was less than 2 months old and I now know that it never worked correctly because as soon as we plugged the new unit in things were MUCH better.  We changed the accent on our new unit to Australian female, her name is Karen and we like her much better.  She doesn't seem as bitchy when we ignore her instructions for one thing.  ;)  For another thing, she tells us our exit before we get there.  I tell you all this in order to tell you that one of our favorite features of the GPS is the ability to find us a campground.  If you'll recall, on the way home from SML she found us the Shenandoah Valley KOA near Staunton, which was a fabulous place!  This time we weren't so lucky, but it wasn't Karen's fault.  She found us what looked to be a lovely campground near Elkton, MD but when we got there (after midnight) it was dark and locked and there was a gate with a code lock, so we couldn't even find a spot on our own and pay in the morning.  Luckily we had passed a Walmart so we back tracked a few miles and hunkered in there for the night.

In the morning we breakfasted at Waffle House and then headed on to our first destination of this trip, Asbury Park, NJ.  I had just seen a friend on Facebook mention the Silverball Pinball Museum and Arcade and knew immediately that I wanted to find it.  Of course Asbury Park was familiar to me as it is to any Bruce Springsteen fan and as it turns out the Stone Pony is diagonally across the street from the Silverball.  The deal at the Silverball is that it is a museum AND an arcade.  They have rows and rows of old pinball machines and arcade games, including skeeball in working order.  You pay $10 to get in and you can play all the games for free for an hour (you can also pay $15 for the whole day and go in and out all day long, but since we weren't staying we didn't need that option).  We plunked down our $30 for the three of us and got our armbands and headed inside.  I have never been good at pinball and today was no different, I suck at it.  

However, they also had Galaga which was my FAVORITE arcade game back in the day!  I rock Galaga, I even beat Joseph's high score, although I came nowhere close to the high score for the machine which they post on a little placard on every machine there!  When our hour was done (which felt like three minutes later) we went out onto the boardwalk and were planning to walk down to the water's edge and get our feet wet, but the "beach cops" had different plans for us.  Turns out that you have to pay to walk out on the beach there!  I didn't need wet toes that badly, so we turned around and headed to the rig, for some reason though the cops gave us the stinkeye until we were out of siight.  I'm not sure why they were so anxious about our presense, maybe they thought we were gonna turn around and bum rush our way onto the sand?

Our next destination was Hillside, NJ.  In order to tell you why I would be headed to Hillside, I have an embarrassing confession to make.   My guilty pleasure in life is the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo TV.  I have never watched the Atlanta version and I have yet to see the DC version but I love, love, love the OC, NY and NJ versions.  One of the Real Housewives of NJ, Teresa, just opened a pizzarria with her husband Joe.  On her blog one day (yes, I read the blogs too) she mentioned the address of the pizza place and said "If you are ever in the area stop by, Joe will probably be there and I might be there."  Well seeing as Hillside is very close to Jersey City where we were staying, how could I resist.  We found the restaurant with no trouble whatsoever, and even found a nice parking spot for the rig, not too far down the street.  When we entered we were greeted by a sweet man who was very enthusiastic about his menu and making sure we enjoyed whatever we ordered.  We could see Teresa's husband Joe sitting a table talking to some people, so he really does run his business in person.  We placed our order and sat down to wait.  The restaurant was beautifully decorated and a poster of Teresa and a copy of her book were prominently displayed.  When our food came they were HUGE helpings and totally delish!  Joseph got a steak and cheese wrap, Miles got paninini and I got veal parmesan.  The sauce on mine was amazing.  When we were done the cashier asked if we had come because of the tv show and we told him yes and described our rig parked down the street.  He asked if we had seen Joe which of course we had.  He asked if I wanted to meet Joe, which I did also, but I didn't want to bust in on his conversation, he was actually on the phone at this moment, so I really didn't want to disturb him, but the employee assured me that it was fine and called Joe over.  Joe was very sweet asked us questions about our rig and such.

If you’re in Hillside, New Jersey, stop by Giuseppe’s Homestyle Pizzeria at 1576 Maple Avenue!

Quantico and Triangle in the Rig

In mid July we decided to take our second trip in our Rallye Girl.  Living with a Marine had taught me a lot about the Marine Corps and I was excited at the notion of visiting Quantico Marine Corps Base and the National Marine Corps Museum.  Joseph was equally excited to show me the base and the PX and he had never been to the museum either.  We looked around online to find a campground in the area and decided on Aquia Pines.  We drove up there on Saturday, after my first week of the summer semester was over.  By the time we got to the museum it was already 3:30 and they closed at 5pm, but since it is a free museum, we went in anyway.  

This museum is truly an amazing experience.  They have really done a good job of activating all your senses.  There were placques to read, videos to watch, and music to listen to.  In some rooms the floor would vibrate to simulate riding on troop ships, at the beginning of the tour you could stand in a booth where the voice of a Drill Sargeant was yelling at you from all directions.  It confirmed for me something I already knew...I would have never made it in the Marine Corps!  I would have lasted about five minutes with people yelling at me and then I would have been a puddle on the floor.  In one room meant to simulate a battle where Marines were freezing cold during the Korean War the room was kept very cold.  

The first day we only got as far as WWI before we ran out of time.  When we left the museum, we moseyed on over to the base and I got to shop for the first time in a PX.  We bought Marine Corps license plate frames for my car and the rig and I also found my favorite perfume for $36 which is much less than the $50 I would have paid at a regular store.  I had been holding out on replacing my almost empty bottle for several months in anticipation of this trip and I was excited to have perfume again, especially at such a nice price!  After the PX, Joseph drove me around the base to show me base housing and such and then we headed into to town for dinner and then back to our campsite.  The campground was decent, although not as nice as some we had seen and although they advertised free WiFi, we were sorely disappointed in the service as we could only log on for 3 or 4 minutes at a time, and not at the same time!

The next day we woke up, showered, lazed around a bit and then headed back to the museum.  We spent about 4 more hours and made it as far as the Korean War in the history of the Corps before I was on overload and had to leave.  We still have to go back to do the sections from the Korean War to the present, but it was a lot to absorb and I just couldn't take anymore that day.  We had a late lunch/early dinner at the replica Tun Tavern (the original is where the Marine Corps was founded in Philadelphia!) in the museum and then once again headed back to our campsite.  We were actually scheduled to stay another night in the campground and we did hang out until about 10pm, but we were so annoyed with the WiFi situation and worried about getting to school the next day, that we decided to head on home so we'd have or normal commute on Monday morning.

Monday, August 2, 2010


When we finally got home from our Lake trip we unpacked and got our laundry started. We were still pouting because we didn't want the adventures to stop. We drove up to Winchester in our car which felt very weird after being in the rig for a week. We went to the Camping World store there though, so we were still traveling in our souls! After shopping we stopped for lunch and while we were eating my sister called. My sister lives in Brooklyn and was feeling lonely because her roommate was out of town. She didn't have to ask us twice to come visit! We could hardly get home fast enough to pack up and take off for New York City.

Now, I know you are wondering where on Earth we thought we were gonna CAMP in New York City. Well for once Dear Reader, I am one step ahead of you. It so happens that years ago when I was married we travelled to NYC on a regular basis, but we couldn't afford to stay in the expensive hotels in the area. We usually stayed with friends, but I researched camping options (we were tent campers) so that if our friends' couches and floors were unavailable, we'd still be able to go visit the big apple. While Joseph was throwing our snacks and computers and clean laundry into baskets to carry out to the rig I looked up the Liberty Harbor Campground which I had found way back in the day. It still existed, but by the time I called it was after 5pm so I got a voicemail when I tried to make a reservation.

Liberty Harbor is in Jersey City where two friends of mine live or have lived. It has been my gateway to Manhattan for years. So directions were not an issue, from the time we left the house until we got off the turnpike I knew exactly where we were, and finding the campground turned out to be a snap. We pulled into the gatehouse and although we didn't have a reservation the night guard assured us there was room and took our information. We drove through the gate and were simply amazed at what we found. It was nothing more than an asphalt parking lot with 50 or more motor homes, fifth wheels and travel trailers. They were all parked close together just like a regular parking lot, but down the center lines of the rows were electric and water hookups. I think it is a truly amazing and beautiful idea. Whoever owns that parking lot is making themselves a mint. It was a random weeknight and the place was packed. It turned out that the campground was actually completely booked, even though we had found an empty space, and in the morning they informed us that although we couldn't have a regular space with hookups, we could still stay in lot, off to the side and pay for the privilege. We were happy to pay for a safe parking space though, we have a terrific generator for power and they had a nice bathhouse . They are located only 6 blocks from the PATH train and they have a view of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

So here we are in NYC, we headed over to Manhattan around noon and our first priority was some good new york pizza! We got off the PATH train at the WTC and started walking north. Within a couple of blocks we found our heart's desire and had a slice. We texted Katy and let her know we were headed in her direction and got subway instructions. Now, as many times as I have been in NYC, I have never taken the subway unless I was with a local. It just seemed entirely to confusing and I really didn't want to be lost underground. Katy has been living there for a while now and was confident of her subway directions, so we trusted her and headed underground. We found her work with no trouble at all. She works for an adorable portrait studio on the upper west side, Portrait Bug, you can even see her pretty face on their website! She introduced us to her co-workers and showed us some portraits she had shot that morning and then just before her quitting time, her boss came in and we got to meet her and her husband as well. After we left, we made our way to several landmarks that I have always wanted to see including the flagship Tiffany's store, Trump Tower and St. Patrick's Cathedral. We also found a Tad's Steakhouse which is one of my favorite places to eat in NY. It is just a hole-in-the-wall chain, but the food is always good and the prices are great, especially for Manhattan.

The next day we left the rig earlier and made our way all the way over to Katy's apartment in Brooklyn. Katy needed food and had other errands to run, so we ran around Brooklyn with her including a trip to Costco. Katy didn't have a Costco card but I do so she was able to stock up on a ton of frozen foods that were reasonably priced. Her local grocery stores don't have the variety of frozen choices that she is used to and she hates buying fresh food and then having it go bad before she has time to eat it. She was a very happy girl, and I was actually able to add her to my account while we were there, so she can go back. After all our errand running we met up with my friend Nicole for dinner at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant at 519 Hudson and 10th Street. This restaurant had been on my list of places to try for quite awhile. I actually first saw it on Sex and the City. The food was really good and we were glad to have searched it out. It was really good to see Nicole and have her finally meet Katy. On our way out we walked through a movie or television taping. Not sure what show it was but they were filming street scenes outside another restaurant as well as filming a scene inside a restaurant, so we just moseyed our way right on down the street.

We headed back to Katy's house in Brooklyn because our brother (CAB) was on his way up from Florida and Joseph and I wanted to surprise him. He had no idea that we were already up there and I had been very quiet about it on facebook all week to keep him in the dark. We went to all this trouble because CAB loves to surprise people in this way, and it was nice to be able to do it to him for once. Once CAB arrived and was suitably surprised we played a trivia game which is pretty much a mandatory activity when a group of us in are in the same room. By the time we left it was close to midnight and by the time we got back to the Rallye Girl it was after 2am and we were EXHAUSTED.

CAB wanted to see our rig and Katy had to work the next morning so he left Brooklyn with her and came to find us in Jersey City. We hung out for a while and then we drove him back to the PATH station and we headed home. We love NY and were thrilled at how well the Liberty Harbor Marina RV Park served our needs. We know we will be back there soon!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home is Wherever We Are!

When we left Smith Mountain Lake we decided to drive up through Bedford, VA. We had both been wanting to go the the National D-Day Memorial which is located in Bedford and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Once we got to town we decided to find some food first, so we drove around until we found a shopping center with multiple restaurants. One of the choices was something called Huddle House. I had never heard of HH but Joseph was familiar and said it would be right up my alley so that is where we went. We asked our waitress about free internet (we are learning to ask now). She confirmed that they did have wifi so Joseph ran back out to the rig to get our laptops. We ordered breakfast foods even though it was mid-afternoon and our meal was EXCELLENT! We even got dessert which we don't normally have, but their key lime pie seemed too yummy to pass up.

When we were finished we dropped the laptops off in the rig and walked over to a Goodwill Store and then a Tractor Supply store to get some shopping done. Then we headed back to the Welcome Center and WWII Memorial. Imagine our surprise to see two other motorhomes not only parked on the grounds but hooked up! They actually have 3 RV sites there for overnight stays!!! You can only stay one night but it only costs $25! We enjoyed the Welcome Center exhibits and then headed back to the Memorial. It was a very bright, hot day and there was NO SHADE. I wished mightily that I had an umbrella to use as a sunshade. (I have since added two umbrellas to the permanent rig inventory.) There was so much to read, dozens of plaques with long involved descriptions of the people involved. We read all of them for a while, but then it became overwhelming as did the heat and we had to skip through to the "important" stuff. The whole time we were walking along we could hear simulated gunfire from part of the exhibit. When we got to the part where the statues of boys were climbing up onto the beach it became more and more emotional. Realizing that most of those boys who died were only a couple of years older than my son Miles made me very sad and emotional. After catching our breath and walking through the rest of the sculptures we made our way to the gift shop. I love museum gift shops because they always have a nice variety of items that can be gifts for others. This time I was thrilled to find a book about the Boys of Bedford. If you are not aware, the reason the National D-Day Memorial is in the tiny town of Bedford, VA is because more men (boys) per capita were lost from Bedford than anywhere else in the U.S. Bedford lost a total of 19 boys in that one day alone. We also found some Marine pins for My Marine.

Soon we were pulling out of Bedford and headed back north towards home. The further we got from the lake, the longer our faces got! We did NOT want to go home. We did not want our time in our Rallye Girl to end. We stopped in Staunton to get gas and just on a whim I decided to get out our GPS and see what she could find for us. One of the most wonderful functions on our GPS is that once she has found a satellite you can ask her for local restaurants, gas stations, hotels and CAMPGROUNDS!!!! So I asked Jill where the closest campground was and lo and behold there was one within six miles of where we were sitting! Now picture this, we go driving down a dark country road. We see the campground sign which is also dark. We drive down a long winding driveway still in the pitch dark and suddenly we round a bend and below us in a bowl of a valley is what looks like a city of lights. Compared to the tiny, quiet state park we had been staying in all week, this place was a bustling metropolis. We couldn't believe our eyes. There were motorhomes and travel trailers and tents in row upon row. Most of them either had interior lights on, or exterior strings of xmas lights, or bonfires or all three! We pulled up at the office to see if they even had space for us and while Joseph was inside I sat in the rig with the windows rolled down and marvelled at the spectacle before me. There was a karaoke contest going where one song was was country and the next hip hop, there were teens running in and out of the camp store buying ice cream and such, there were dogs everywhere and little Seamus was trembling with excitement on my lap. Joseph came out a few minutes later after securing us a spot, there were only a few left so we were lucky, but the funniest part was that the reason our particular section was still empty was because there were no cable tv hookups down there...okay, I know we are freaks for needing wifi where ever we go...but cable tv? Really? Our spot was right by the river and yes we DID have wifi!!!! We were so excited it took us several hours to calm down enough to go to bed. It was probably 2am before we got into bed and we laid there talking and laughing for at least another hour. Somehow it felt like a reprieve, we didn't have to go home after all! Our vacation didn't have to be over! Now what is REALLY funny about this is that we are retired, so we are technically always on vacation...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

We like to Eat!

After my last post about Smith Mountain Lake, I thought I'd write another one where I just discussed the restaurants we visited and the terrific food we ate. From the first time we drove through on our way to the campground I had my eye on a new place called Tuscan Tavern. I don't know why it caught my eye, it was in a strip mall and didn't look fancy or anything, but there was something about the name that called to me. At any rate, it was a couple of days before we actually stopped there, but it was worth the wait. We took the plunge for lunch one day, we were both starved and pasta was exactly what I was in the mood for. It turned out to be quite nice on the inside and was obviously new. Our waitress was an Italian lady of about 50 who was the owner's wife and the owner of all the recipes. I can tell you that her veal parmesian was the bomb! She took very good care of us and when we got to the register to pay we met her husband and found out the full story. I love family owned and operated restaurants like that where they feed you like you are family. They are very sweet people and we will definitely eat there whenever we return to the lake.

There were several Mexican restaurants in the area but the one that caught my attention was a brand new, huge place called El Torrito. We went there for dinner the evening after we had been on the water all day. We were hot and tired and sunburned and Mexican food seemed to just fit the bill. We drove the rig up into the parking lot and got ourselves dressed for dinner. On our way in the door Joseph noticed that they had free wifi! Since wifi had been hard to find this was good news, but we decided to worry about the computers later. We went on in and ordered our new favorite beer Bud Light Lime. We had bought one of the tall boys at the grocery store the night before and decided it was our perfect summer beer. Along with the beers came chips and salsa and our other favorite treat at Mexican restaurants...the white sauce! Does anyone know what this stuff is, other than yummy??? We love it, we discovered it at our local Mexican place and were thrilled to see it was available elsewhere! We each ordered chimichangas which have become my go-to choice these days thanks to my friend Wren. I don't know if it was the sunburn or the day on the water or what, but that meal was DELISH! The place was hopping so I'm glad to see they are doing a good business and will hopefully be around for a good long time.

When we were done eating we decided to see if the wifi signal reached all the way out to the far side of the parking lot where we had parked the rig. We were in luck! We were able to sit out in the rig with our puppy and relax in our own environment. We got some funny looks from patrons going in, I guess they thought we were weird for sitting there in a parking lot with our generator and lights on, playing on our computers. We didn't care, we were having fun! We love being at home where ever we are!

On our last morning at the lake we stopped into another place we had passed every single day and I'm so glad we finally did. It is called the Blue Bird Bakery and Grill and it is adorable. It is funny what you notice when you are on the road with no tv or internet for a few days. The first thing we look for now is free wifi, but we also hadn't seen tv in days and this place had big screens all along the walls and behind the bar. All the tvs were tuned to ESPN or CNN and we were getting our first news in days. The food was great and the waitress was very friendly and invited us to walk over into the bakery before we paid our bill...which of course meant we added some baked goods to our tab! Smart girl! We got some funny looks from other patrons for sitting there with our laptops. I'm sure they were shaking their heads at the fact that "some people" can't step away from the computer for five minutes...we have decided that before we hit the road on a long journey we are gonna have to install our own internet because we really do feel cut off when we can't get online.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Library Girl

In all my excitement about owning an RV and traveling all around the country with My Marine, I only had one big concern. Books! It sounds crazy, I know! The problem is that I have always been a library girl. I got my first library card from the Handley Library in Winchester when I was five years old. My parents took my brother and me to the library every 3 weeks like clockwork, we all got a large pile of books and plowed through them with glee. As a result of this early training in frugality, I very rarely buy books. There are three reasons for this, one of the reasons is that once I have read a book I'm done, I'm not the type to read and reread the same book over and over again. There are way to many books in the world for me to limit myself to stories I already know. Secondly is the expense, why would I pay for a book when the local library will let me borrow it for free?? I feel so lucky to live in a country that is blanketed with free libraries! Thirdly is the clutter. While I love books and love perusing shelves of books, I really don't want to have a houseful of them. I have always preferred small houses and right now I'm sharing living quarters with Mama and My Marine so we have enough furniture and "stuff"; that it is a blessing that I haven't bought every book I ever loved and toted them around with me.

But how can I be a library girl when I will have no fixed address and won't be in the same place for very long? This was a real concern for me and I brought it up to Joseph and everyone else that I discussed our travel plans with. Finally I asked my dad about it. He and his wife have owned a motorhome for several years now and he is also a reader and a library user, so I knew he'd have already faced the same issue. He had an immediate answer. Yard sales! Well of course! Used books. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that yard sales would be just one option, most libraries have used book shelves where they sell off duplicate copies of books, and there were also thrift stores, not to mention actual used book stores.

Since this revelation I have bought books at the Waynesboro Library, the Smith Mountain Lake Library and the Goodwill Store in Bedford. I have also been given piles of books by my dad and my friend Gramarg. I now have a lovely shelf full of books in Rallye Girl, at least 30 books and I have invested less than $20! The best part is that when I am done with them, I can trade them out for others or leave them in campgrounds or coffee shops for others to enjoy. This makes me supremely happy!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Smith Mountain Lake or RV trip #1

Our first real trip in the RV was set to start Sunday June 20th at Smith Mountain Lake, which is one of my favorite places on Earth. My grandparents had a house there when I was a child and I spent every summer there from the age of five until I was 13 or so. I booked a campsite at the state park there the minute we found our rig. Since we didn't want a repeat of our adventures in Linden, Joseph (aka My Marine) spent several days out at his dad's going over the engine with a fine toothed comb and replacing whatever needed it. He also learned the ins and outs of the generator so that we would have electricity when needed. The generator turned out to not have any problems at all, it just hadn't been run much by the previous owner and the battery was dead. I think his dad was impressed with our purchase but he would never admit it as it is a Ford and he is a Chevy man.

By this point we had named our rig Rallye Girl and gotten our title and tags and such. She is a 1986 Fleetwood Jamboree Rallye. She is 28 feet long and can conceivably sleep 6 and seat 7. As far as we can tell from her paperwork she was originally purchased here in Virginia and we are the 4th owners. We know that she has been as far west as Colorado as there was work done on her out there back in the '90's. She is in excellent condition considering the other rigs we looked at and the price couldn't be beat.

Sunday morning we packed our clothes and our computers and lots of snacks and drinks and cleaning supplies and anything else we could think of that we might need. We set out late in the morning with first goal being a stop at my dad's house. We were only 10 miles down the interstate when problems began. First she started running hot and before we could even get to the next exit which was less than a mile away she overheated. We pulled over and Joseph got out and lifted the hood. Evidently the cap hadn't been tightened enough on the radiator when it had been checked last, and it had come off allowing all the fluids to boil off. We let things cool down a little and then we we nursed her to the exit, riding about 5 miles an hour for about 50 yards at a time on the shoulder until we got there. Four gallons of antifreeze and we were back in business. We decided to take route 11 instead of 81 so that we wouldn't have to travel as fast and so that if the rig overheated again we could stop more easily. We made it to Dad's and then on to the lake with no further issues.

We didn't end up arriving at the lake until around 9:30pm. It was dark and quiet, but the office for the campground was still open and we got our map and site assignment and set off into the woods. Joseph parked and hopped out to set up the exterior systems while I rearranged the interior from "travel" mode to "home" mode. By the time he was finished so was I. This has now become a routine for us and we both finish our duties in under five minutes and are ready to relax. We did indeed relax. It felt so good to finally be "away" in our rig. We slept late, lazed around the campsite and took our good old sweet time on any errand or project. This was our first chance to really relax together and although we had plenty to do, we didn't really have deadlines...well, except for one, but more on that later.

We spent our time on Monday and Tuesday solving rig issues, fitting her out with new rugs and dishes and things to make her homey. By Tuesday afternoon we were desperate for internet, not only because we missed being online but because Joseph had a paper due that needed to be written and uploaded. We had yet to see any signs or advertising for free wifi. One of the lucky things was that I had spent enough time at the lake that I knew my way around the local towns, so we had been shopping at Walmart and Kroger and Autozone, we had eaten at several restaurants and we had passed tons of other restaurants and businesses, but not one mentioned free wifi. One of the lovely new buildings that we had passed every day was a library. Now I am a library girl anyway so I was curious to see this new library, but I was also pretty sure that they would have wifi. We pulled the rig into the parking lot around 4pm and we weren't sure if the library would be open past 5pm. As it turned out the library was open til 8pm and we had signal out in the parking lot, so Joseph wrote his paper and I played online to my little heart's content.

After he uploaded his paper we had accomplished all of the "work" that we needed to accomplish and we could finally play! We had been at the lake for 3 days and had yet to see the water except when crossing the Hales Ford Bridge, which we had done several times a day. I know, sad right? Staying at the lake but never enjoying the water! Wednesday was the day to change this. We rented a pontoon boat from Parrot Cove, which is my favorite marina, and I took Joseph to see the dam and my grandparents former property and just to enjoy the water, the boats and the houses. We had our cooler full of drinks and snacks and they even let us take Seamus on the boat which was a pleasant surprise. We were out on the water for 4-5 hours and although I spent almost all that time under the roof of the boat, I ended up with a TERRIBLE sunburn that turned into sun poison and still bothers me weeks later!

Thursday morning we had to contemplate moving on. We had to leave the campground for good by 2pm. We really didn't want to go, we wanted to spend more time on the water, we wanted to spend more time in the rig. We simply didn't want the trip to end. We moved very slowly that morning packing things up and putting the rig back into "travel" mode. We were very happy with our new little home though. We put her through her paces and she came through with flying colors.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Trial Run

Recently My Marine and I bought a used RV. It isn't big and it isn't fancy but it suits us to a T. We planned our first trip to be to Smith Mountain Lake which is my favorite place on Earth. Before we went there though we thought it would be a good idea to take a test run and see how everything worked. This turned out to be an excellent idea as you will soon see. We decided to drive to my Ex's and pick up Miles for dinner. This would also serve the purpose of showing off the rig to Miles. We also decided to take the poodle with us to see what kind of road dog he would be. My Ex lives about an hour away so this was an excellent test run of the engine. We got up there with no trouble at all, picked up the boy and went to dinner at Olive Garden which I had been craving. We had a lovely visit with Miles and Seamus the wonder poodle proved himself to be an excellent RV dog by not barking or whining or anything when we left him alone in the rig. We dropped the boy off and went to Wal-Mart, this errand had two purposes, one was to buy some "stuff" we needed to make the rig homey and the other was to see if there were any overnighters there and perhaps join them. Did you know you could spend the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot for free? S'true!! When we got there, there were already two rigs parked for the night, but they were dark and quiet so we didn't get to meet our neighbors. We did shop and enjoy ourselves and when we got back outside we had to decide whether to go "home" or stay put. When we tried to start the generator we had no luck, so that made our decision for us, no electricity, no thanks. We headed home. At this point it was around 11 or 11:30 at night.

While we were testing systems we decided to test our GPS. It has a menu choice to locate campgrounds so we decided to see if we could find one. The closest one listed was in Haymarket, VA. We followed the directions off the highway, through a neighborhood, out into the countryside, up a find a farm house that was dark. There was a sign back at the road saying it was a camp ground, but there was no evidence whatsoever that anyone was camping there and we were not about to knock on the house door as now it was after midnight. So we set off again towards home. About 20 minutes from home a belt broke. We didn't know what it was at first, all we knew was that the engine had lost power and it was 1am and we were on a desolate highway. Luckily we were close enough to home to know what was at the next exit so we got off there. We kept driving west but we were going much slower and we didn't know how long we would last or what damage we might be doing to the engine. When we got to Linden we pulled into the Post Office parking lot which was well lit and My Marine got out to assess the damage.

It turned out we had broken a belt, which was minor but certainly not fixable at that moment. Lucky for us there was a bathroom and a bed with fresh sheets available!! Also lucky for us, the parking lot was level, so we didn't have to worry about rolling out of bed or sleeping with the blood rushing to our heads all night. We climbed into bed and spent our first night in our new home. It wasn't a very peaceful night. I must say that the people of Linden, VA love their post office!!! It was visited all night long!!! There was a LOT of mail to go out and it had to be out no matter the hour! I never knew that country post offices had such night time traffic!

In the morning My Marine got out there and opened the hood and started doing what he could to get us back on the road. After a while a man walked up with a cup of coffee in hand and asked if we were "broke down". Nah, we always sleep in post office parking lots and play around under the hood. It is our favorite entertainment. He turned out to be a real nice fellow though, he gave us the number of his mechanic who lived down the road and made "house calls". We never got his name or the name of his mechanic, but the mechanic did come about 30 minutes later and figured out what we needed, ran to town for the new belts, came back and installed them and never stopped talking the entire time. He was just what we needed and I hope we are as lucky when we are somewhere far from home.

We got back on the road and made it home with no further incidents. We were so glad that we had practiced first!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Happy Girl

Folks, I am such a happy girl these days I can hardly stand myself. I know that society doesn't much like it when someone actually admits to being happy, people don't like it when you have something they don't, but I can't help it, I am happy. I have been in a relationship with Joseph aka My Marine for a little over 2 months now and I am extremely happy and content.

Although I had been told by previous dates and boyfriends that I was looking for something or someone that didn't exist, I found it! Joseph is affectionate and sweet, and caring and nurturing every single day. He tells me I am beautiful, he tells me he is proud of me and probably most important of all he shares my dreams.

We both have a dream of finishing our college degrees. He is working on his online at Kaplan University and I am on year 27 of my degree at George Mason University. A few months ago when I was registering for the fall semester I discovered that there were only 3 classes being offered that I needed and they were all being taught during the day. This meant that I would miss another semester because I was working during the day. This caused much angst and soul searching on my part, should I give up on school (again) or should I quit my job and concentrate on school til I finished. Considering I only need 8 more classes to graduate, that seemed like an excellent option, but how would I support myself while I did that? I don't have any debt, I live with Mama so I'm not paying rent, but I do buy the groceries and have a cell phone bill and need gas and insurance for my car. When I talked this over with Joseph his response was immediate. He told me to quit my job and he would help me with my living expenses while I finished my degree. He is already set to graduate next May and if I can get all the classes I need, I could do the same! I gave notice at work the very next day.

Dream number two that we shared was to own and RV and travel across the country. In order to pay my tuition I had already planned to cash in some investments that I had, so I went ahead and cashed in twice as much, half for tuition and half for an RV. We commenced our search for a decent motor home that we could afford, that had a good engine, that didn't smell, that was a nice size. It took a couple of months of diligently reading the Craigslist postings from all over the state, and checking out the ones that seemed to fit our criteria on paper. We saw some real duds, rattle traps, engines that wouldn't start etc., but last week we found our girl! She is a 1986 Fleetwood, Jamboree Rallye and we have dubbed her Rallye Girl.

So yes, I'm a happy girl. Three of my lifelong dreams are being realized with the help of this wonderful man, I am in a fabulous partnership with a wonderful man who speaks my love language, I am finishing my education (finally) and I will be hitting the road to see this great nation in person.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Why Yes, I am a Power Puff Girl, Why Do You Ask?

My sister Katy's friend Amy posted this on Facebook today and I was immediately inspired. I passed the link on to several friends and we have decided to start "team ARKing" on a weekly basis. We call ourselves the PowerPuff Girls...we shall remain anonymous, you can think of us as Pink, Green and Blue. I am Pink. We may ARK on YOU soon, so watch out! We are gonna try to do something as a team every week, but we can also do stuff on our own. I started a list of possibilities, using Robyn's list as a base, but we have added several more and are up to 50 at this point. Now that I have the plan in my head I want to run right out and start carrying groceries and washing windshields and pumping gas for folks. Funny how that whole giving thing just takes over sometimes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lime Chicken Picante does not contain Marinara Sauce

Tonight I am making Lime Chicken Picante for Mama and Joseph and Wren. I am receiving lots of help with all this cooking because I am the only one of the four of us who is currently working...not that the rest of them aren't busy, but they don't have to be at work for 8 hours a day, nor do they commute another 3 hours a day...but I digress.

I originally got this recipe from Rachael Ray's 365 No Repeats Cookbook, but I have modified it and made it even easier. We already had chicken and lime juice in the house so Mama is marinating the chicken breasts in the lime juice all day. I was checking the cupboards for the other ingredients and I said:

"Do we have any salsa?"

Mama: I have this (opens the fridge and holds up a jar of marinara sauce).
Me: No Mama, that's marinara sauce, I need salsa.
Mama: What's the difference?
Me: Well, one is marinara and the other is salsa.
Mama: But they are both tomato sauces...
Me: Mama, one is Italian and the other is Spanish.
Mama: They are both red, what makes them different?

Do I really need to explain this to her? She is a grown woman, she loves to eat, she reads constantly, does she really not know the difference between salsa and marinara?

Me: Marinara sauce is made with pureed tomatoes and Italian spices, salsa is made with chopped tomatoes and peppers and onions and Spanish flavors.
Mama: Well...
Me: Mama, I'll send Joseph to the store to get salsa, don't worry about it.
Mama: Okay, if you think there's a difference. You're in charge.

So, Mama is marinating, Joseph is grocery shopping, Wren is showing up and I am cooking. I will probably be the last one there, but they will wait, because I am in charge!

The recipe if you are interested is:
marinate chicken breasts in lime juice for the day or at least 30 minutes in a glass pan
pour a jar of salsa over them and bake in the oven for at least 30 minutes or until done
mix a package of Lipton Rice and Sauce Spanish Rice
open a can of refried beans and heat in the microwave
when the chicken is done, scoop a portion of chicken into the middle of each plate, cover with some of the salsa from the pan, put a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt on top, put refried beans down one side of the plate and spanish rice down the other. Ta Da! Super Easy! Super Yummy! Please don't use marinara sauce...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Learning to Drive

I remember how much I loved learning to drive. It is so scary at first and then when you start getting the hang of it, it is just so flipping cool! When I finally got my license at 17 and then my first car at 18 I was a happy, happy girl. My first car was a 69 vw beetle that had been in my family since its birth and I had wanted it for my very own since the age of 4. My sister was a toddler when I was 18, so I was thrilled to have an escape from the house. A boyfriend installed a cool stereo and fashioned me a hand made speaker box for the backseat...remember those bugs just had a hole behind the backseat, nowhere to install speakers. I would cruise the back roads of Shenandoah County blasting The Police and Genesis and Prince and all my mix tapes.

I am reminded of those days as I attempt to teach my darling boy how to drive. He did great in my sister's car which has an automatic transmission, but our first attempt in my car with a manual transmission did not go so smoothly! The worst part is that the accident was ENTIRELY my fault! I feel terrible, and now my sister has hidden her car from us so that we don't do any damage to poor Myles is gonna have to learn on a stick first. But I've gotten ahead of myself as usual.


Once upon a time there was a tall, handsome boy who got his learner's permit and was excited to get behind the wheel of a car. His mother was equally excited to teach him as she remembered so fondly her own driving lessons. Mother and child went to the high school parking lot in the dark of night and practised turning corners and stopping at invisible stop signs and using blinkers and mirrors. Once the Mother screamed out "Watch out for that kid on a bike!" To test the boy's reflexes and braking abilities. He passed that test with flying colors but I think he had the shakes for about 10 minutes, because he thought there really was a kid.

That night we drove from Strasburg to Toms Brook and back and he did a great job. The next time I had him overnight I drove partway home and then had him take over. He drove from where Route 7 crosses the Shenandoah River all the way home. This involved getting onto and off of 81, which is a big deal as it is a busy highway!! The next morning he drove from the house to Hamilton where traffic was really picking up. He was doing fine and could have driven all the way to his dad's house, but I got a phone call and couldn't concentrate on what he was doing and talk on the phone at the same time.

The next time I picked him up I was driving my car. He groused that he was hoping to drive and I explained that his aunt was less than pleased that we were using her car for his lessons and that he was welcome to learn to drive stick. He refused. 20 minutes later he relented and asked for a lesson. I pulled over into a quiet parking lot to give him the basics and get him started. He got behind the wheel and drove to the other end of the parking lot. We switched seats so that I could turn the car around and then he got behind the wheel again and drove to the other end. We switched, I turned, we switched...I FAILED TO STRAIGHTEN OUT THE WHEEL! When he let off the clutch and hit the gas the car made a sharp left, went over the curb, over a small tree, down a 25 foot embankment and into a ditch, mere inches from 65 mile an hour traffic!!!!

It was one of those slow motion things, I was stomping the brake on my side of the car which obviously was doing no good, and I was yelling "brake! brake!" His foot was on the clutch as hard as he could push and was yelling "I am! I am!" Luckily he found the brake at the very last moment, so we eased into the ditch and did hardly any damage to the car at all. We were fine, the car was fine, all was fine. I had to call a tow truck to get pulled out and he had to pull us back up the embankment. When we told him what happened he laughed and said "Don't feel bad son, when I drove a stick for the first time I went right into a brick wall and my Mama was NOT happy!" I think that made Myles feel a LOT better.

Monday, April 5, 2010

No Need

One of the many things that Perry has said to me hit me as such a deep truth. I have been mulling it over for weeks now and the more I think on it, the more true it seems to be. I'm paraphrasing and I know I won't do his words justice, but it was something akin to:

When you start a new relationship you should not start from a place of need, but rather from a place of completeness. Then your two complete souls can circle and dance and be together, but not be needy or clingy towards each other.

With that in mind, I no longer intend to search for men on or craigslist or any other dating sites. Searching in that way denotes need, I have no need.

I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and that people come into your life and leave your life exactly when you need them too. At this moment I have lots of wonderful people in my life. I have no need of anything.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hello Again!

Hello Friends,
I am back. Sorry I was gone so long, several of you have chastised me recently for not posting and I really don't have any excuse except for the old "if you don't have anything nice to say..." adage that my Mama pounded into my head as a youngster.

The good news is that I'm back. The reason I'm writing today when I haven't written for so many other days is that I watched "Julie and Julia" this morning and it reminded me how much I enjoyed writing, although I have NO intention of tackling THAT feat!

Let's see, you need to get caught up on my doings:
  1. Left Sheldon in December, but remained friends.
  2. Moved back into my Mama's house where I grew up.
  3. Signed up for a class that I thought I would LOVE.
  4. Hated professor but loved subject so attempted to stick with it.
  5. Dropped class before committing harikari or murder, but still read all the books, cause I really did like the subject matter.
  6. Met someone new who we shall call Perry.
  7. Gave up snow for Lent after suffering through several freak snowstorms.
  8. Had my heart almost broken by said Perry.
  9. Read a very large pile of marvelous books, with only a couple duds. (Join Goodreads to keep up with my reading list.)
  10. Slowly moved crap out of my childhood bedroom and moved my stuff in.
  11. Began hanging out with Sheldon again, a lot.
  12. Registered for Summer school.
  13. Decided that living with Sheldon was NOT an option, but after many conversations and compromises, being his girlfriend might not be so bad after all.
  14. Bought tickets to see the Eagles, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, James Taylor, Carole King, and Fiddler on the Roof with Harvey Fierstein.
  15. Started exercising and actually losing weight! Down 9 pounds!!!!
  16. Started teaching Myles how to drive
  17. Reconnected with an old high school friend who we shall call Joseph. Not Joe, Joseph.
  18. Was responsible for Myles's first car accident while trying to teach him how to drive a manual transmission.
  19. Was reminded in a very sharp, stinging way why Sheldon and I cannot be in a romantic relationship.
  20. Ate Easter breakfast and dinner outdoors on the front porch because the weather in Virginia is absolutely perfect.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

10 Things to look forward to in 2010

  • 34 days until the Superbowl!
  • 39 days until Olympics start in Vancouver!
  • 55 days until the beginning of the NASCAR season at the Daytona 500!
  • 71 days until Miles can get his learner's permit!
  • 75 days until the first day of SPRING!
  • 90 days until Opening Day for Baseball!
  • 96 days until my 45th birthday!
  • 168 days until the first day of SUMMER!
  • 224 days until Miles' 16th birthday!
  • 301 days until Katy's birthday!